Fighting Friz


Standing on the northern end of Mill Creek Park (47th Street and Broadway) last Monday evening, you could hear the melody of a familiar Woody Guthrie song in the distance. Protesters had gathered around the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, clutching signs expressing their opposition to immigration reform and co-opting “This Land Is Your Land” as a rallying cry against immigrants. The crowd was energized, cocksure and hot as hell.

A couple of hundred yards away, in the shady end of the park, the mood was different: happier, calmer. A group of about eight guys rode their bikes around in the valley between the two jogging trails that straddle the Plaza park, throwing Frisbees back and forth. A woman walking her dog stopped.

“Hey,” she called out. “What do you call that, Frisbee biking?”

“Uh … we usually just call it friz,’” one of them answered, flicking a Frisbee with his right hand while balancing on the handlebar with his left.

“You made it up, right?” she asked, not waiting around for an answer.

Between the months of April and October, Monday night is bike friz night for this crowd of mostly male bike enthusiasts, semi-rugged types in their twenties and thirties.

“I first heard about friz through some guys up in Maryville [Missouri] back in the fall of 2000,” says Nate King, a 31-year-old kindergarten teacher. “But we’ve been playing down here at the park since last summer.”

The game is fairly simple: Players split into two teams, ride around on their bikes and try to pass the Frisbee to other team members (generally between two and five on each team). The object is to complete a pass to each member of your team without turning the disc over to an opponent; if you can do it, your team gets a point. If the opposing team intercepts a pass, it gets a point.

There’s one tricky part: Players in possession of the Frisbee aren’t allowed to touch the ground with their feet. Picking up a loose disc off the ground becomes infinitely harder when you can’t use your legs to balance yourself. Scrums develop, and riders usually need to get momentum on their bikes in order to swoop in and grab the disc.

“There’s definitely about a 30-minute learning curve for first-time guys with the ‘no foot on the ground’ thing,” King says. “But eventually it becomes second nature.”

Considering that a Frisbee is involved, it should come as no surprise that friz is more about grace and finesse than aggressive competition. Scoring rules exist, but not once on that Monday night did anyone call out a tally.

“Most of us know each other from Earthriders [a local mountain biking club], so it’s more of a casual, friendly environment. But we’re always open to newcomers,” King says.

Check it out for yourself at 6 p.m. Mondays.