Monday, December 31, 2018

Best Of in 2018

Yet another full year of ultimate! This blog published 100+ posts this year covering topics related to the sport of ultimate. Thanks for visiting and reading when necessary.

2018's Best-Of based on traffic Top 18 Posts in '18
18. MLB's MVP Mookie Betts credits Frisbee throwing

17. USA Player Stats from 2018 World U24 Ultimate Championships

16. AUDL Opening Day

15. Women players in the AUDL

14. NFL's Nick Foles has Ultimate Frisbee skills

13. United Ultimate League: unsuccessfUUL Crowdfunding

12. Review of AUDL jerseys (2017 season)

11. AUDL betting lines

10. Prize Money Won during Triple Crown Tour (2018 Season)

9. Results of 2018 Club NationalsU24 WorldsWUCCWMUCCYCCWJUC

8. CHART: Medal History at WFDF World Ultimate Club Championships

7. Madison Radicals win their 1st AUDL Title

6. Retrospective on MLU: A conversation with Nic Darling

5. Ranking of AUDL Team Cleats

4. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau Addresses WJUC 2018

3. Comparison: Seed vs Finish of Club Teams at 2018 Nationals

2. Maplewood, New Jersey Proclamation of "Ultimate Days"

1. Q&A with the Indy Red organizers

Past B-O's:  2017.. 2016 .. 2015 .. 2014 .. 2013 .. 2012 .. 2011 .. 2010 .. 2009 .. 2008

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Sky is Red Documentary Drops Teaser Trailer

The Sky is Red met its crowdfunding goal last year. The documentary aims to film the untold story of the push for gender, race, and class equity in the growing world of ultimate frisbee from 1968 to the present. The film will help REDirect the focus of what has historically been images of white men playing the sport of ultimate.

Watch a glimpse of The Sky is Red:
The Sky Is Red Documentary Teaser Trailer 2018 from The Sky Is Red Documentary on Vimeo.

Visit the Sky is Red website and consider supporting their efforts.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Part 1: A Conversation about Major League Ultimate with Nic Darling

It has been 2 years since Major League Ultimate decided to shutdown. MLU completed 4 seasons with memorable innovations until the abrupt stoppage in December 2016. SLUDGE spoke with Nic Darling about many various MLU topics with Nic who provides candid behind-the-scenes insight.

Nic Darling was the Executive VP and Founder of Major League Ultimate from late 2012 until December 2016. During Nic's tenure at MLU, he became the face of the organization as the host of MLU's podcast Cleats and Cufflinks, the lead in MLU's 'Speaking Ultimate Frisbee' segments, and was called on to broadcast some games.

Below is part 1 of multiple part series documenting our conversation.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

December 2016
SLUDGE: Take me back when you found out about the decision to cease operations of Major League Ultimate.
Nic Darling: We had just moved into our new offices. There were hints a couple of days before this, that this was a possibility.

SLUDGE: Were the hints communicated to you? Or you were just sensing them?
Nic: Kind of communicated. It was like stuff got wishy-washy that wasn't wishy-washy prior. I had some inkling of what was going on. We talked very, very regularly with all the major investors. But yeah, the final decision was still a surprise on some level, even though maybe it shouldn't have been. But you could see the context. There were three days where I'm thinking, "Something bad is coming, and I'm not really sure what it is. What's going on?" And then three days later, it's like, "Okay. That is what's going
...a huge surprise to everyone...We had some deals in the works that I was really excited about. You could call it a shock. There were just a couple of days of oddness that preceded it.
This is still a huge surprise to everyone here, because new offices, new ticket sales team, all this good stuff going on. We had some deals in the works that I was really excited about. You could call it a shock. There were just a couple of days of oddness that preceded it.

I'm pretty direct, or had been at least for the year prior to that, where we had some deals moving forwards for financing and I would be ask the investors, "Are we good? Everybody's on board, we're okay? Are there any metrics we need to be able to hit to make sure we're good?" And so, we would do check-ins.

There was always anxiety… The rug can be pulled out from you at any moment when your business is based on investors. It can disappear in a second. My first startup, a software company that I was in, we had a patent lawsuit that came up. Investors were like, "Yep, we're done." And, we're done. And we're just done. And it's just the way these things go... There's only so much protection you can build in, so you always have a background level of anxiety.

There was something different with this one. And I don't have a good explanation of what exactly happened, oddly.
...there was still a long way to go before [Major League Ultimate] was turning a profit.
I know the basics of it; there was still a long way to go before this company was turning a profit. And while that seemed to be pretty well communicated between all of the parties involved, I started to get the sense in those days leading up, that it wasn't as well communicated as I thought.
I would have been less surprised if we chose to end operations right after the end of the 2016 season (July 2016) than I was after making several positive moves through the fall.

SLUDGE: Unpack that for me.
Nic: Okay. I would have been less surprised if we chose to end operations right after the end of the 2016 season than I was after making several positive moves through the fall. An investor-funded business always has a certain amount of uncertainty and the time of most instability is when the end of an agreement is in sight and the next round of funding is not yet secure. By the beginning of December 2016, I was fairly confident that we had secured funding for 2017. After the 2016 MLU Championship [August 2016] I did not yet have that confidence.

SLUDGE: Any other issues, in retrospect?
Nic: The problem is that there were different philosophies as to how the company was gonna run over the years. So some people thought, "Hey, maybe we can make this sort of a subsistence thing, and we can find some mechanisms for leveraging people's volunteerism and stuff and just running things that way." But in the last year or two we had a shift, to  "Let's make this a real company, let's run it like a real company. Let's go find what we need to survive. So let's find new investment, let's find this." And that started to be the philosophy through 2016, and it felt like that's the direction we were headed in. So yeah, there's some surprises there. And I still don't have all of the background reasons why the plug got pulled.

SLUDGE: It seems like you - of all people - deserve to have those answers.
I think I could have them, probably, now, if I wanted to go back and have the conversation. I just haven't. For me, another thing that I think is important to understand is that this job, for me, was really brutal. It was more than double full time. I worked constantly. I missed weddings, and parties, and family events, and anything you can imagine. I worked every day, I worked every night. During the season, I traveled all the time. And there was certainly a part of it being over, once I finally got over the shock of that, and the painful part of having to lay off a bunch of people, and all that stuff, where I remember I was sitting in the office by myself cause I was closing everything down, and I'm like, "Maybe this is for the best. I'm tired. Drinking too much, and I'm stressed out, I don't feel good. Maybe it's not all bad."
"Maybe this is for the best. I'm tired. Drinking too much, & I'm stressed out, I don't feel good. Maybe it's not all bad."
And I rode that feeling for months. And that was the time period where I could have sat down with the people involved and got better answers, and I just never really did. I don't think that there's anybody that wouldn't give me the answer. The investors are great, I still have a lot of respect for them. They treated everybody really well with the exit, which is abnormal when a company closes down.
The investors are great, I still have a lot of respect for them. They treated everybody really well with the exit, which is abnormal when a company closes down.
I'm pretty sure I could probably get better answers. They're probably just gonna tell me it's my fault. I don't know if I want to know that.

SLUDGE: How much future planning was already done for the next year's (2017) championship game?
Nic: We always had a challenge, in that, the reason it was in Philly is cause MLU headquarters was in Philly and the production level that went into that was really hard for us to do anywhere else. Now it looked like the 2017 championship was going to be determined not by us but by the title sponsor. We were in conversations with a few different companies to title sponsor that game and that would've had a large determination on where we held it. Both the size of the venue, the type of venue, and in the end, probably the city location.

We were in conversations with FOX Sports and Comcast to do a live national broadcast of that game.

SLUDGE: Was it ever considered, for some departments of MLU to continue as an offshoot?
Nic: Absolutely. [Production Manager] Matt Gray and I batted that idea around a lot. We looked at different ways of doing it. I think he even shot a couple of games for the AUDL, as a kind of test of the thing. But there's just no money in it. There never was money in it. You have to monetize it and nobody on the AUDL side was doing that. We looked at other sports, and there were more possibilities there. But everybody wanted to pay the barest minimum for that kind of coverage, so there wasn't really a lot to do with it. Now, again, given some time and some runway, could we have spun up a media company out of that, that might have been able to work around Ultimate? Yeah, it’s possible. I think there's an opportunity there for sure...just like there's space around any sport. But you gotta find corporate partners, it's the only way to make it happen. Gotta find people with money, who have something to sell.

But there's just no money in it. There never was money in it. You have to monetize it...I think there's an opportunity there for sure...just like there's space around any sport. But you gotta find corporate partners, it's the only way to make it happen.

SLUDGE: The other two efforts that I thought MLU had that was of value were the Fantasy platform and the stats system.
Nic: That was great, wasn't it? The fantasy thing was insane. Stats, fantasy, our websites, all that stuff, we way overachieved on all that. 

SLUDGE: Back in December of 2016, you said that the stats would remain intact and online, but stats have since been removed.
Nic: I was actually surprised to see the main site had come down, and the [stats] portion of it. We were working off of...I can't remember, Luke would know better…I think Google Cloud services for that, and that was one of the expenses that got dropped by the investors. We still have the data, but the system isn't there to publicly display it.

SLUDGE: How invested were you in the MLU?
Nic: Most of mine was sweat equity. So I made very little money for a long time. [chuckle] And that's how I have equity. But that equity gets diluted over the years as you bring in more money. And in the end, when things go south, part of that shutdown deal is... those brand assets, anything, gets taken by the investor that has the most control. So I don't have control of those assets anymore. 

I think there's plenty of opportunity to do something with [MLU assets]. I don't think that that's a closed door at all. In fact, somebody approached me a bit ago with an idea, and I passed them on to the investors.

However, I think there's plenty of opportunity to do something with them. I don't think that that's a closed door at all. In fact, somebody approached me a bit ago with an idea, and I passed them on to the investors. I don't know what conversations are happening now and, again like I said, it isn't 'til this conversation that I've thought about it, but I have kind of...since February [2017] I think is when I finally finished up everything with MLU... I've just shut it out. I haven't paid attention to it. I haven't... I mean, I still need to get the trophy to the investors, I haven't done that. So the MLU Championship trophy is sitting in my house.

SLUDGE: Do you ever have any "aha" moments related to the MLU?
Nic: Oh, I have those all the time. I have those at the gas station sometimes. [chuckle] Retrospect is a beautiful thing. You look into the past and you can always make the right decisions and the right choices. And those constantly occur to me. This is something we could have done or this is the way we could have done that. And frankly that occurs to me in anything that I do. I have a lot of tendency to be looking backwards at what I've done and trying to learn.

One of the things I think we could have done that we actually talked about earlier in the years of the MLU and that just didn't get traction with all of the stakeholders, was taking some lessons from what players associations do and trying to blend that to what we did as a league.... I am constantly coming upon ideas that we could have applied at MLU to engage the players more fully that would have had a positive effect on that part of the MLU business. 

"How could we have done a better job engaging the players in the actual process of running and growing the league?" That would have been a more effective method than paying them $15 extra dollars a game.

It just depended on the level of buy-in, which goes back to that, "How could we have done a better job engaging the players in the actual process of running and growing the league?" That would have been a more effective method than paying them $15 extra dollars a game. Right? And I think we all knew that. We just couldn't figure out how to do it, with all of the other things that we had to accomplish.

Now we were always strangled for resources, not just monetary but human. And so as thin as we were stretched, some of those would have been difficult to accomplish without significant buy-in from our investors and people understanding why it was important.

MLU Store
SLUDGE: It was reported there was 500+ orders at the end of December 2016 after the MLU had ceased operations.
Nic: That was awful, totally forgot about that until you just brought it up.

SLUDGE: Sorry.  After all of that hard work that you've done for four years, were you surprised at this reaction of so many people showing interest with their wallet?
Nic: I don't know. I think people wanted to grab a piece of history. We expected it. So it wasn't surprising. I expected people to come out. We always sold stuff, people bought stuff, but just never on that scale all at once, but we were also dirt cheap. [chuckle] But, yeah, piling all that stuff, that was a rough couple of weeks, getting those orders out.

That's another thing people forget, we ran an entire retail store as well. That was crazy. 

SLUDGE: It must have been hard for you since you're already dealing with this cease operations, but then still having this obligation to send out all those swag orders.
Nic: Picture an old cowboy movie, and your horse dies, and you sit there, and you watch the vultures come down and get the horse.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Ultimate: The First Five Decades

Ultimate history repeats itself by publishing another tome chronicling the 50 years of ultimate.

ULTIMATE–The First Five Decades, Vol. II (2005-2018)

• Recap of Volume I
• Introduction
• Chapter 1. Ultimate Plants Its Feet (2005-2009)
• Chapter 2. Divergent Visions Take Root (2010-2013)
• Chapter 3. Competing Priorities Bloom (2014-mid-2018)
• Chapter 4. Local Disc Organizations and Leagues
• Chapter 5. Equity & Diversity in Ultimate
• Chapter 6. WFDF and World Overview
• Chapter 7. Where Does Ultimate in the USA Go Now

Price: $39.50 plus shipping & tax

(US shipments will begin in February.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Matthew "Rowan" McDonnell: 2018 AUDL MVP

In October, Matthew "Rowan" McDonnell won the AUDL MVP for the 2018 season. Rowan becomes the 5th player to win the Most Valuable Player in the 7 seasons of the American Ultimate Disc League, and the first player from the East Division to win the award. Rowan made the First Team All-East AUDL in 2017. The MVP is quite an accomplishment for someone who only discovered ultimate in seven years ago.

In early October, The Washington Post ran a hype article for the DC Breeze player, and Rowan was quoted in a Washington Times article in July 2018.
Rowan's stats were impressive - 4.7 assists/game, 3.8 goals/game, and 393 completions (95.50%), plus 1.1 blocks/game on defense - over 10 games of the Breeze's 14-game regular season.

AUDL is selling a commemorative poster of Rowan:

Rowan's local (New London, Connecticut) paper published a profile of the AUDL MVP.

Rowan recalls his first time witnessing an ultimate Frisbee game; it was in 2011.
Rowan: "I didn't even know what it was, but I felt immediately hooked. The first thing I saw was this kid throw it 70 yards, and I was like wow, I want to do that."
East Lyme native carves out career in Ultimate Frisbee [The Day]

Later in the article, Rowan admits: "All I knew is that I wanted to play Ultimate."

Rowan continues: "Shaping my life around a fringe sport was never easy. But I purposely chose to do that because I figured, if I kept getting my name out there, and if I kept coaching and gaining experience for myself, it would eventually allow me to make a career out of Ultimate."

Rowan (Th-rowan?) McDonnell is a member of of the DC men's club ultimate team Truck Stop, coach of the American University women's college ultimate team, and founder of American Ultimate Academy in Washington, DC, which offers trainings and summer camps.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

All Bashed Out Honors Former Ultimate Teammate

Long before Philadelphia Flyers' famous mascot Gritty debuted, the Masters Division club ultimate team from the Northeast Region All Bashed Out featured their own. A summer article highlighted the heartfelt honor to their former teammate. However, the article was incorrect on how All Bashed Out involved the puppet. Instead of starting 6-versus-7 for the first point, as the article stated, ABO's seven players would be on the line with one player holding the yellow puppet to begin the first point of the game.

All Bashed Out puppet

From the Global News' article (July 2018): 
An American ultimate frisbee team participating in the Ultimate Frisbee World Championship this week in Winnipeg will start the tournament a man short, in memory of their teammate who passed away after a battle with cancer.

The team from New York, dubbed All Bashed Out, have been playing either with or against each other for more than 10 years. About a year ago, their good friend and teammate died of colorectal cancer at the age of 33.

"This team has kind of morphed into a memorial team for him," Lucas Murphy told Global News on Sunday.

This time of year is particularly hard for the team, as July 28th was their friend's birthday.

It has become a tradition for the team to start tournaments with six men on the field, while a puppet on the sideline acts as the seventh.*

"We have a puppet act as an avatar for our friend because he was really into puppets," Murphy said. "We were a close group of friends that were mean to each other, so we say, 'that puppet is just as good as he is.'"

*UPDATE: The puppet starts with All Bashed Out on the field.

Sandy Canetti (Ultiphotos) captured All Bashed Out  on the first point of the WMUCC championship game:

All Bashed Out won the silver medal in the Masters Men Division at WFDF 2018 World Masters Ultimate Club Championships.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Oddball AUDL Gift Ideas

With the gift season in mind, here are some unusual AUDL team products that still need to make it out of Research & Development:

Austin Sol Shade Tent

Minnesota Wind Chill Windbreaker

Raleigh Flyers Fly Swatter

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Prize Money Won by Club Ultimate Teams in Triple Crown Tour 2018

Fifteen (15) club ultimate teams won prize money totaling $29,750 during the 2018 Triple Crown Tour season; each division had five (5) different club teams win money. Seven (7) teams pocketed multiple TCT prize money wins — AMP, Brute Squad, Fury, Love Tractor, Mixtape PoNY, and Revolver.

New York PoNY sits atop the prize money leader board with $7500 which includes their Triple Crown bonus. Boston Brute Squad won the most prize money in women's division with $4500 and Philadelphia AMP topped the mixed division in prize money with $4000. Collectively, these 3 club ultimate teams won over 50% of the prize money in the 2018 season.

RELATED: Prize Money Leaders in 2017

Updated from September 2018

Thursday, December 06, 2018

San Francisco FlameThrowers: AUDL Trailblazer

It came as a great shock that one of the more successful American Ultimate Disc League teams was folding.  San Francisco FlameThrowers posted a 45-25 (.642) regular season record, advanced to the postseason 4 of their 5 seasons, twice finished 1st in West Division (2016, 2017), had an interesting mascot, participated in the first semi-pro mixed ultimate game, and won the AUDL title in 2017.

Beyond their on-field performance, the FlameThrowers were an exemplary franchise. Let their stated values and mission live on as the benchmark for all current and future AUDL teams.

OUR VALUES: Passion, Excellence & Improvement


We are passionate about the sport of Ultimate. A team sport played with a flying disc instead of a ball. A team sport played by athletes of all kinds, across gender formats. We love playing it, and we love watching it. And we are equally passionate about creating opportunities for the sport of Ultimate to have a positive impact on society by promoting teamwork, "Spirit of The Game", equity, and conflict resolution.


We believe in striving for excellence on and off the field. On the field, we will strive to win through the effort of our players, the intelligence of our strategies, the energy from our fans, and the sheer joy of play embodied in the Spirit Of The Game. Off the field, members of the Flamethrowers organization strive for the same levels of excellence across all areas of our lives. We believe that the pursuit of excellence, in and of itself, is at the core of success, and that all associated with the team will be proud to be a part of that pursuit.


We acknowledge that the sport of Ultimate reflects the imperfections in society at large. Male participation is significantly higher than female participation, and there is a severe lack of racial and economic diversity. We believe that striving for gender, racial, and economic diversity is critical to making the sport of Ultimate the best that it can be. We intend to play a positive role in helping to improve access to opportunities for everyone to play at the highest level and showcase their talents to the world.

OUR MISSION: Grow, Unite & Sustain

Grow The Sport

We believe that growing participation in the sport will increase the positive impact of Ultimate, and we believe that showcasing the best athletes, competing at the highest level, will inspire new participation. We want to grow the sport of Ultimate at all levels and across every division (open, mixed, and women). We also believe that spectators and sponsors can provide the support to fund the growth of the sport at all levels, and in all communities, and we intend to continue and increase our efforts to bring new players and fans to the sport.

Unite With Others

We cannot grow the sport alone. You can't play a team sport without teammates and a team can't play a game without an opponent. To accomplish the first part of our mission we must work with others. This means supporting organizations like the Bay Area Disc Association (BADA). It means participating in a professional league, the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). Working with others inevitably involves compromise, but it also allows us to achieve more than we could alone. We look forward to expanding our partnerships with Ultimate organizations whose mission and values align with ours. It also means working with the Ultimate community, particularly the youth in our community. We are committed to the SOTG and we insist that our players, coaches, and staff model that behavior on and off the field.

Sustain Progress

We want to bring our sport to hundreds of millions of new players, and it is simply not possible to do that in a few short years. It is the Ultimate community that will sustain us over the course of this long journey, and it is the participation and support of the players, coaches, parents, fans, and countless others that will enable us to succeed. All of the owners of our organization have been members of the Ultimate community for decades, and it is an integral part of our passion for the sport. We cherish the opportunity to give back to the sport of Ultimate, and we are always searching for new partnerships and creative new solutions that will help us to bring Ultimate to as many people as possible.

In a parting email, the FlameThrowers continued their graciousness. Their email text in full:

Dear Friends of the FlameThrowers and the Bay Area Disc Community,

As some of you will know by now, the FlameThrowers will not be playing in the AUDL in 2019. We are sad to have made the decision, but we just did not see a way forward to create a sustainable business in this market.

When we contacted Josh Moore over 6 years ago and began our journey with the FlameThrowers, we had a vision of professional ultimate taking its place alongside the great spectator sports. While we always knew there would be challenges along the way, the FlameThrowers ownership group believes that those challenges warrant a pause.

We are incredibly proud to have represented San Francisco ultimate and the Bay Area in the AUDL and to the world at large. We are delighted to have been at the forefront of providing women opportunities to play on the same field as men. We are thrilled to have won the 2017 AUDL Championship and seen our players featured on ESPN’s Top 10 as well as receive numerous AUDL accolades. And we consider ourselves fortunate to have given those amazing players an opportunity to showcase the joy of the sport.

For those that think about Ultimate as a spectator sport, here are some of the key things we’ve learned on this journey. First, Ultimate is incredibly spectator/fan-friendly and we continue to believe people will watch it. Second, the Ultimate community by itself is not large enough (even in the Bay Area!) to provide the fan base necessary to support a team financially, but broader awareness of the sport still lags far behind, as seen in the difficulty in landing a significant sponsorship after several years. Finally, operational excellence takes time to build and requires great relationships with service providers and partners; we thank them from the bottom of our hearts for all they did over the years.

Our hopes for the future include continued involvement in spectator/fan-focused ultimate, particularly in a more gender-equitable format. We have advocated for more local flexibility in game formats and believe that experimentation at this stage of spectator Ultimate’s development is critical. And we have long hoped for coordination between the AUDL and the USAU to ensure player safety and reasonable workloads over the season.

We wish all those competing, producing, and otherwise involved in the AUDL all the best in 2019 and beyond. And we again thank all the players, partners, youth groups, Laney College, Bay Area Disc Association and countless others for supporting us along the way and helping make the FlameThrowers a reality.

The FlameThrowers sign off with "Flame On!"