Monday, July 01, 2013

Pro Ultimate League article [NPR]

New Pro League Tosses Its Disc Into The Frisbee Game
by Tyler Greenwalt [6.24.13 . NPR]

You know that flying disc you threw around in college or use to play fetch with your dog? Well, now people are being paid to throw that same disc professionally. They aren't paid much, around $25 a game, but all of the expenses — travel, lodging, uniforms and insurance — are covered by Major League Ultimate.
On Sunday, the eight-team league concluded its first 10-week season in the nation's capital. Roaring heat melded with roaring fans as players ran, dove and spun the disc through the air during the final regular season game between the New York Rumble and the Washington DC Current.

A Sport On The Rise
The league, founded last year by seven members of the Ultimate Frisbee community, decided to build upon the league they left in 2012 and make the sport more spectator-friendly. That meant changing the rules a little by including referees, adding a time limit and changing "do-overs" into turnovers.

Jeff Snader, president of the new professional league, suggested forming the group in August 2012 to friend and colleague Nic Darling. Darling, who is now the league's vice president, thought the first game wouldn't be played until 2015. But Snader, sensing a strong surge in the sport, wanted to get going more quickly.

Nine months later, Major League Ultimate, the second professional Ultimate Frisbee league in the United States, played its first games. "We're doing something most people say is impossible," Snader says. "It's even, to some people's minds, crazier than lingerie football or something."

Snader thinks Ultimate Frisbee is right on the brink of national stardom. On May 31, the International Olympic Committee officially recognized the World Flying Disc Federation, the international governing body of all flying disc sports, and Ultimate Frisbee as a sport. ESPN has also featured highlights on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays and SportsNation multiple times over the past few weeks.

"The reason I think Frisbee has a chance is because of how extreme it is," Snader says. "People hear Frisbee and think 'no way is that professional.' And then they see it and they're like, 'Wow. ... How have I been missing this?' "

But with these rule changes, Major League Ultimate looks to help fans understand the game better and quicken the pace of the game. The rule changes also give the players the opportunity to concentrate on playing.

"We wanted to free them up to do what they do best, which is play the sport," Darling says "and to give them the opportunity to do that without having to worry about making calls or arguing about calls or being accused of making bad calls."

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