Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Ultimate Frisbee Goes Pro" by TIME

Ultimate Frisbee Goes Pro [TIME; 10.7.13]
Disc warriors fling hippie past as they launch a professional league and cross over into SportsCenter
By Sean Gregory

You may remember Ultimate Frisbee — a team game that combines elements of soccer and football with a Frisbee — from your college days. Grad students hogging the quad, treating an intramural game like it was the World Cup. But Ultimate players may soon show up on ESPN, where they might finally attain status as genuine athletes, not a bunch of toked-up hippies tossing saucers.

In March, USA Ultimate, the sport's governing body, announced a two-year agreement with ESPN, which aired the college championships on ESPNU in May and the elite U.S. Open tournament on ESPN3 in July and will stream October's national championships. Frisbee has even gone pro. Investors have launched two leagues: the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), which just wrapped up its second season, and Major League Ultimate (MLU), which debuted this year.

The game is growing. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, participation in Ultimate is up 27%, to 5.1 million, over the past six years. The demographics are ideal for advertisers. More than half the Ultimate players fall in the key 18-to-34 age category, and 27% of them earn more than $100,000. Which makes sense, since so many players pick up the game at elite universities....

Ultimate is easy to play - and follow. At the top amateur levels, the field is 110 yd long, including 20-yd. end zones, and 40 yd. wide.The game is seven vs. seven; you try to advance the Frisbee up the field by throwing it to teammate. The defense attempts to deflect or intercept it and gain possession. Once you catch the Frisbee, you must stop as quickly as possible, then pivot and make the next pass. Reach the end zone, you get a point. First to 15 wins....

So far, ESPN doesn't mind the observers. And the network's opinion is all that really matters right now. ESPN likes the pace of play....

Ultimate's bigger challenge is losing the stoner stereotype....The game's name just feeds this perception.

More... [Login required]

"Alternate" TIME cover
Nearly 40 years before the above article, TIME [May 26, 1975] published a sports piece about "Ultimate Frisbee - the nation's newest intercollegiate sport." Described as "a zany mixture of razzle-dazzle football, playground basketball and soccer," and played with"galloping giddiness." Tournament teams were described as "platoons of demented discus throwers."

No comments: