Dom Joly: Five amazing secrets of the Frisbee

Weird World of Sport: Iraqi bakers started the practice of throwing the boiling hot bread from person to person

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The inventor of the Frisbee died last week. Walter Frederick Morrison died at the grand old age of ninety at his home in Utah. A Frisbee "historian" Phil Kennedy was quoted as saying that Mr Morrison had originally got the idea when throwing a metal cake pan about on a beach in California. I love the idea that there is such a thing as a Frisbee "historian." How many are there? Just the one or are there hundreds of prestigious universities crammed full of them? How much history is there to document in the world of Frisbee? Admittedly, it's interesting to find out that the Frisbee was invented at the height of UFO fever in the US and so it was originally known as the "Pluto Platter." Then Mr Morrison sold his invention to a company called Wham-O and they changed the name to Frisbee as kids were already calling it this after a well-known pie ... that, surely is about as much history as anybody might need to know about the Frisbee.

Maybe there are differing views as to the exact history of the object? Surely the Ancient Greek use of the discus could be seen as a slightly earlier version of the flying disc? Perhaps there were opposing factions within the world of Frisbee who dispute the salient facts as much as people do those in the Kennedy assassination? I decided to dig a little deeper and, sure enough, uncovered a multitude of different Frisbee historical facts. I simply present them all for your delectation – it is up to a proper Frisbee historian to verify them...

1 Although the Ancient Greeks used a wooden discus in their athletic events, they also had a circular weapon that was used in battle. Known as the Frisbuskion, it was about two feet wide and took three Greeks to hurl at the approaching enemy. Although it did not fly on its own, it could travel up to nine feet if thrown correctly. The enemy would be squashed under the object and then finished off with a spear. This was the origin of the phrase "beware of Greeks bearing discs" that was later bastardised into gifts.

2 In areas of Aquitaine during the Middle Ages arose a curious tradition of patella throwing. The average kneecap, when removed and honed, is the perfect Frisbee shape. Although smaller than the average Frisbee, the locals became highly skilled at using these "frisknees" and a distance record of 122 metres was set in 1422. It has never been broken, possibly because the Pope declared the practice to be "immensely unseemly" and banned it under threat of excommunication.

3Those of you who are James Bond fans will no doubt remember the infamous Oddjob and his razor-edged hat that he used to such great effect. A lot of Frisbee enthusiasts assumed that the idea had come from the Frisbee itself. Not so. Oddjob was supposed to be Korean and the practice of using hats as a weapon is a very ancient one in Korea. The original throwing hat – the chukka – was used by warrior monks in Nothern Korea in the 12th Century. This flat, almost beret-like head cloth had five spikes around the edge. Later on this was developed further into something that resembled a bowler hat. The top was hard and reinforced to be used as a helmet while the spike were retained for throwing purpose. The use of razor-blades on the edge was an idea had by Cubby Broccoli. Sadly, two props men were to lose several fingers while testing the device.



4 In Iraq people used to throw Arab mountain bread for sport. The bread is circular shaped and cooked over a boiling hot metal dome suspended over a fire. When the bread was ready it was whisked off the metal but was too hot to handle and would almost melt onto the skin if held for any length of time. Iraqi bakers, therefore, started the practice of throwing the boiling hot bread from person to person. This quickly developed into a craze and bread-throwing became the one of the most popular pastimes in the country until the early American sanctions after Gulf War I made bread too valuable to chuck about.



5 Walter Morrison was uncle to Doors' singer Jim Morrison and early royalties from the Frisbee paid for the band's first recording sessions.

Long shot?

Surely somewhere, there is a member of the England football team who lives a quiet life with his wife, doesn't go "dogging" at the weekends and drives a Fiat Punto? Now that would really be a story...

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