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Google, Apple Go Head to Head in Ultimate Frisbee

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Every few weeks during the spring, stalwarts of the Internet economy — companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo — meet on an open field to shout out their brand loyalties and throw things at each other. It's not the downturn in the economy that has blood pressures high. It's ultimate Frisbee.


It's springtime in Silicon Valley. Every few weeks, cornerstones of the Internet economy - companies like Google, Apple and Yahoo - meet on a open field to shout out their brand loyalties and throw things at each other. It's not the downturn in the economy that has blood pressures high. It's ultimate Frisbee. Reporter Malia Wollan was on the sidelines for a critical Google match up.

MALIA WOLLAN: For decades, ultimate has been popular among the tech-savvy elite of Silicon Valley. It's a hybrid sport, like football mashed up with soccer, played with a Frisbee. Plus, it's self-refereed, appealing to the libertarian ethos of most computer engineers.

Mr. YOON-JIN KIM (Software Engineer, Google): One thing that engineers universally have is sort of like this loathing of management. They like to feel empowered. You don't want to be told what to do.

WOLLAN: That's Yoon-jin Kim. He's a software engineer at Google. Kim's ankle is sprained, so he's not playing the game today against Apple. But he is limping along the sidelines, sizing up the competition.

Mr. KIM: Mainly engineers, from the looks of it. Ultimate is known to be kind of a nerd sport. I take part in that, actually. There's a lot of nerds who play it.

WOLLAN: All of the nerds from Apple are wearing shirts the color of Granny Smith apples, with the company logo on the front.

Mr. KIM: Yeah. Are we keeping score in any way?

Unidentified Man: Five-two.

Mr. KIM: Five-two? Yeah, it was three-three at one point.

Unidentified Man: Yeah, does anybody have any idea what the score is?

WOLLAN: Sometimes, when the techies pick up their Frisbees, the darker side of the Internet economy manifests itself out on the field. Last year, when Google played Facebook, things got tense.

Mr. KIM: They look young, and they run like mad. They could outrun most of us, basically.

WOLLAN: With a 24-year-old CEO at the helm, Facebook is young. The company got its start in the Harvard dorms in 2004.

Mr. KIM: I think a lot of them were, actually, were like hardcore ultimate players at Harvard, and they kind of wanted to prove themselves as new kids on the block, that, you know, they were like the team to beat. And right now, they are.

WOLLAN: Google lost the Facebook game months ago, but Kim is still bitter about the defeat. This game is mostly smiles and chit chat, as much an excuse to run around as a real competition.

Mr. KIM: You don't necessarily have, like, prizes or anything. It's more about pride. Nothing more than that. But pride means a lot in this valley, I guess. Looks like Apple is really kicking Google's butt right now.

What's the score? Do you know the score?

Unidentified Man: I think that - I don't know.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

WOLLAN: The sun is setting as the Apple-Google game wraps up, turning the Diablo Mountain Range a golden color. Players filter off toward the parking lot with sweaty faces and grass-stained knees. No one seems to know or care whether Google or Apple came out victorious in the end.

(Soundbite of beeping, car engine)

WOLLAN: In the car, Yoon-jin Kim insists the game was, without question, a clear win for Google. It's after 8 PM, and outside, the sky is dark. The laid back vibe of ultimate is wearing off, and Kim is going back to work.

For NPR News, this is Malia Wollan.

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