This topic is not useless, but I find that my thoughts on it are fairly disconnected.
A phrase that reminds us to respect each other and the game makes sense even if it is not as effective as some would like preventing players from cheating or acting like jerks. We are really just codifying the idea that Ultimate players should practice good sportsmanship, That has value, I hope.
A lot of people discover Ultimate after some bad experience with another sport. Turned off by the win at all costs attitude of little league or youth soccer they find the culture of Ultimate inviting. To some degree Spirit of the Game helps us maintain that valuable difference, even if those who battle for a national championship only think of spirt as a kind of anachronism.
But as much as possible I hope the top teams try to invest a little preparation time into playing with good spirit.
For the record, the team I help coach, Ironside, sets as one of our main goals to be considered a fair team, a team our opponents want to play. Honestly, I don't know how we are doing. The scoreboard supplies a clear metric of whether or not we win a game. How we are doing in terms of earning the respect of other teams is harder to tell. No doubt we have made some dubious calls. This year and last we have had a few tiff's against various rivals. Our fault? Theirs? Depends on who you ask. No matter, I assume it is on us to do better and have tried to make myself more accountable for this to the leadership of other teams. Not easy though. What happens on the field should (I think) be the player's responsibility and, like everyone else, I often see with biased eyes. When I hear my players say something incendiary I get on them right away but every once and a while its me saying "are you serious" with that call. We all have to police each other in this respect.
(I am a big fan of the Farriker award, but not sure what team spirit ratings do. Maybe Farriker award nominees should have to put in the spirit score for their own team?)
It's worth remembering that there is a difference between cheating and not knowing.
We all put a ton of time, effort, and money into what we do and all that makes the dragging toe or little bump that would never get noticed in summer league seem huge in late October. We all want shape the reality in our favor. Of late, I think top club teams have come to recognize this and are ever more comfortable just going to the observer. That we are getting more and more qualified observers helps, obviously.
You may not know John Bar or Stu, but there was a time when everyone in Ultimate knew those guys. They went to every tournament and the sport was small enough for such guys to be at every party. (Is there a spot in the hall for them?) It was one of them who said that the arguments in an Ultimate game were not what kept us from getting on T.V. In fact, if we want higher ratings, what we should do is get a microphone and camera in on the arguments. Fans would love that. And unfortunately, that's probably correct.
Last note, from the showcase game at ECC. Ben Wiggins burns his defender (a former teammate, Seth Crockford) up the line. As he does so, he says something excitedly to the effect of "I got you, Seth". But as Ben catches and throws, Seth has not slowed down, never thought about marking Ben. He just runs after the throw itself, which he blocks from behind. Now, I don't know if Ben and Seth are buddies, and maybe you think what Ben said was "not spirited," but it led to one of the best blocks I have ever seen, and no one was smiling more after the block than Ben himself. If we are enjoying ourselves, and smiling the way he was after that play, we are playing with spirit.