Saturday, June 29, 2019

Medellin Revolution Win 2019 Premier Ultimate League Title

Congratulations to Medellín Revolution for completing an undefeated season in the 2019 Premier Ultimate League. With a familiar roster, Revo entered the season as heavy favorites and posted a (5-0) record in the regular season - 4 games of which were on the road. Revolution began their season on opening day of the league, and finished on the last game of the season.

In the postseason in Atlanta, the team from Colombia battled Atlanta for a 1-goal win in the semifinals, and went on to win the finals the next day; a 20-14 (9-7 halftime) victory against Raleigh Radiance. Revolution end the season with a perfect (7-0) record and claim to the first title of the Premier Ultimate Leagued in its "pilot" season.

Felicidades, Revo!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Premier Ultimate League 2019 Championship Weekend

After a 9-week regular season, the Premier Ultimate League will host its inaugural postseason PULayoffs in Atlanta this weekend. The semifinals feature: 
  • New York Gridlock (4-1) versus Raleigh Radiance (3-2); Radiance beat Gridlock by 9 goals in week 5.
  • Medellín Revolution (5-0) versus Atlanta Soul* (2-3); Revolution handily beat the Soul in weeks 1 and 3. 

Semifinals will be played tonight (Friday), and the championship game will be played the tomorrow at 12:30pm.

Promotions from PUL:

*Austin Torch (3-2) finished in 4th place in the final standings - one spot above Atlanta. At the start of the PUL season, the PUL Board of Directors voted to give the host city (Atlanta) an automatic bid to the playoffs.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Part 4: A Conversation about Major League Ultimate with Nic Darling

Below is the final portion of a multiple-part series documenting our conversation with Nic Darling, Executive VP and Founder of Major League Ultimate (2012-2016). In this installment, Nic talks about the MLU disc, his sales pitch, and MLU's sports content.

Part 1:

Part 2: 

Part 3:

This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

The "Disc"-ision
SLUDGE: Let's talk about Major League Ultimate disc. In retrospect, would you choose Innova again?
Nic Darling: 100% and I would do that again because it was the best thing—not only for the MLU at the time, but for the sport. And I still believe it, and I think that people's failure to understand that and embrace it is a failure that has hurt the sport. My first call when we decided to do this was actually to a product manager at Wham-O, and we had a really interesting conversation. But it ended up not going anywhere at a certain point because their disc just wasn't usable in its form. We tested it and had a lot of throwers throw with it, but it just wasn't a usable disc in our feeling. And Wham-O expressed some interest in creating a "professional ultimate disc", but their product life cycles are really long and trying to get that done in the time frame we were trying to do it in was impossible.

My first call when we decided to do [a new league disc] was actually to a product manager at Wham-O...but it just wasn't a usable disc in our feeling.

So then I called Innova, and they were immediately very interested in what we were doing. I still have a huge amount of respect for that company, they were amazing partners to work with. I had the same argument with them, the Pulsar that was out at that point was not good enough to play in our league. It lacked stability and the distance wasn't great on it. And I'd played with their golf discs long enough to know that they had the capabilities engineering-wise and technology-wise to make something better, and they were interested in doing that. And it turned out our timing was really good. They had been talking about doing something anyway, and so over the course of a number of months, they sent us a variety of different molds to test, different plastics to test.

We had throwers in a bunch of different cities around the country try them, tested them out all over and eventually landed on the Pulsar. Innova invested a good amount of money into the process. They invested a ton of frisbees into the process, including thousands and thousands which we gave away to schools and to kids and to youth programs and that was what they were really passionate about, was getting frisbees in people's hands. We still had a couple of years left in the deal and I don't see any reason that would've stopped being a positive relationship going forward. I also stand by the disc itself. I like it better. I like throwing it better. I can say now that because of my tiny, little hands, I like catching the Discraft a little bit better because the rim is a little lower and it's a little curved. But I prefer throwing the Pulsar.

I had a great conversation with Innova about the Pulsar. We went out, we talked to players maybe after the second year, and they gave feedback on the disc and what they liked, what they didn't like. And I went back, and a lot of what players didn't like is when I throw inside out, I wanna leave it way inside out, and have it flatten, and I want it to tail off this way. At the end of the conversation, Innova's like, "So, they want us to make our disc worse? I don't understand. They want us to engineer the good stuff out of it?"  It was very confusing, because they're disc engineers.

SLUDGE: I remember at the end of the first season, there was a player survey and one of the questions was about, do you like this disc? Do you remember?
Nic: Yeah, I do remember. By and large, people didn't care, or they claimed not to. Some people liked it, a bunch of people didn't like it. But the most people were just like, "Whatever." And I think a lot of 'em too, because we explained it better probably to the players than anybody else, a lot of them got that the reason you're on the field is 'cause these guys are putting money into this. If we didn't sign that deal, we wouldn't be able to do a lot of the other stuff that we're doing. It's always the case. And that's a hard thing for people to remember. It's a business.

If you pay for it, if you pay dues, then you should expect to get what you're paying for and to get what you like out of it, to an extent. It's still a democracy, 'cause there's a lot of people paying for it, it's aggregate power.

And we still believe that players deserve a disc that can do what it needs to do. Otherwise I would have followed that Wham-O trail, and probably been able to chase more money. But the Wham-O disc just wasn't good enough to do what players needed to be able to do with it on the field; the Pulsar was. [The Innova Pulsar] was different and that was frustrating to some players.

Brandon Malecek is a good example. He got super frustrated because it didn't do what he expected it to do. But he still was a ridiculous thrower, and he could put that thing 100 yards on a line. But a lot of players, in their response for that survey, were like, "I don't care."

SLUDGE: Any other disc vendors that were in the conversation?
Nic: Oh yeah. We had actually some early conversations with Vibram, creating a new type of ultimate disc. I always think the disc has a lot of room to evolve.

SLUDGE: I remember you mentioned on Cleats & Cufflinks about having a tracker or sensor in the disc.
Nic: Oh, I had a good conversation with the people at Intel about that. There's so much cool stuff you can do.

SLUDGE: I assume MLU utilized a football field because the lines were there and better for optics, right? But playing or having experience for four seasons, and having played club, what do you think is the optimal size field?
Nic: For those that were playing in MLU, the larger field is definitely optimum. On a club field top level players are too fast, too strong, that space is not enough to really get everything out of them, I don't think. I love the big swing passes, I love the long set up puts and the way these guys go. I don't think it's an appropriate field size for amateur, rec league players necessarily, or for youth players.

For those that were playing in MLU, the larger field is definitely optimum. On a club field top level players are too fast, too strong, that space is not enough to really get everything out of them.

SLUDGE: Do you think a 53-yard wide field is accurate?
Nic: I wanted to set it at 50.  But once we said 53 we kept it. Because, statistics being as important as they were to our organization, Luke, we really wanted to make sure that we had just total consistency in field size. I come from a soccer background, so I'm not as much of a stickler about that. Soccer fields have a range, and I'm fine with that. But people were very adamant that it had to be the exact size, which is fair.

SLUDGE: What about retaining the 10-yard end zones? It bothered me that end zones were extended into the playing field.
Nic: It drove me nuts. I tried to convince everyone that a 10-yard end zone was enough. I can't remember why I lost that battle. I definitely fought for the 10 yard end zone, to just use the football end zones. It is a different sport, so the bigger end zone do make some sense to me, because of the way the disc floats. It's a little tougher to get it to drop exactly where you want it to. But these guys are good... feel like that adjustment could easily be made, and I think visually it would have been a lot better. But I did love the way it looked when I got to paint the lines. But yeah that was the big driver. It didn't make any sense, there was no real way to take it to real television. I can go to ESPN three, right? You just send a video they'll put it up. To go to a real TV and play on a football field but play with a weird sideline that was just cutting in the middle, it looked terrible.

Soccer had this problem in the US when they used to play on the football fields in New England and things like that. The MLS was playing on football fields and it just looked terrible. And we struggled with that all the time at MLU as we constantly were looking for stadiums or venues where we could paint lines. They just don't exist unless you have a lot of money. MLS stadiums were great, PPL park was great because of that but tough location.

SLUDGE: That painted field for the 2014 MLU Championships was beautiful.
Nic: I remember the game between DC and Vancouver really well, because that's the first time we got to paint our field - just amazing. And, I remember the Vancouver guys when they landed saying they saw it from the airplane.  It was hard to go back to a football field.

SLUDGE: One area, though subtle, that distinguished MLU was not allowing hats. You look at how players wear their hats, and it's all different. Take it away; it's all the same.
Nic: Oh yeah, that was me. That was almost solely me. I was dying on that hill. It's a field sport. You don't wear hats in a field sport. Nobody wears hats in a field sport. Some people wear helmets. Maybe we should wear helmets.

SLUDGE: Did MLU’s hat ban help when approaching potential sponsors?
Nic: Yeah, so my pitch and my idea was, "Look at this sport, people, advertisers, content marketers, anyone who's in marketing branding for big companies, right now is looking for content." They're looking for content that they can brand, that they can collaborate with, that they get on top of. And they particularly like sports content because it's immediate. And so little is immediate now. DVR, Netflix, all these things takes all the immediacy out of content. I can watch whatever I want, whenever I want.

MLU's particular sports content was attractive. The type of athletes that we had, even if you want to go down to the way players look, the way they dress, these things all fit really well with a lot of brands we're looking for.

MLU's particular sports content was attractive. The type of athletes that we had, even if you want to go down to the way players look, the way they dress, these things all fit really well with a lot of brands we're looking for. So there were a lot of positive brand attributes that I thought we could leverage, and I thought there was a lot of opportunity there. But we had to approach it from that being the primary objective. And I don't think we always did that, and I think that hurt us sometimes.

There were a lot of choices that were made that I think were frustrating to players on some level, but were super important, because each thing that we did like that... So the ‘No Hats’ thing is a great example. The ‘No Hats’ rule let us get future apparel deals, because we showed that we had a level of control over our product. And I used it in pitches. I was like, "Here's what Ultimate looks like in the club level, and here's how players dress, and how they wear hats." We said no hats, our players agreed, because they understand that it's important. And that's why Puma, Canterbury, that's why you should work with us, because our players are committed to what we're doing, and are able to be disciplined in these areas that are important to you.

I used it in pitches...."Here's what Ultimate looks like in the club level, and here's how players dress, and how they wear hats." ... And that's why you should work with us, because our players are committed to what we're doing, and are able to be disciplined in these areas that are important to you.

And this is a problem for every sport, by the way. Uniform rules are a problem for everyone. What socks are they wearing? What knee braces? What shoes? What under-gear? So the hat thing had a lot of reasons behind it. Aesthetically, it's better. It's better from an aesthetic level, better packaging. From a gameplay level, it makes more sense. How many guys throw their hats off when they're going out to play. Now you've gotta go fetch a hat. It's gonna slow things down. There were all sorts of reasons. And what if you throw your hat off, and it hits a guy in the face who's going for a disc? Is that a foul? Is that an intentional foul? There are all those reasons, but the biggest one is the one, that some people had trouble understanding was that was the example of what it would mean to future partners that we could make those kinds of decisions and stick to them.

SLUDGE: Can you talk about some of the constraints about why they weren't interested in it?
Nic: Sure. I mean those reasons were endless. Some primary reasons; the sport's not established enough, the audience size needs to improve. Depends on the brand, what they care about more, whether it's live or it's online. But there's certain metrics you need to hit to crack anyone's interest level. So, it just depended on who you were talking with. Certainly, it's always... The main things were audience size and overall reach, overall engagement, 'cause we were still building all those legs. The positives were, everyone loved the demographics. The sport made sense to people, relatively quickly. They could see it, they were like, "I get it. I get what's happening."

The sport made sense to people, relatively quickly.

SLUDGE: Did they know what ultimate frisbee was? Or did you have to show them something?
Nic: Some people knew, some people didn't. Everybody knows somebody who plays, it feels like, but they don't necessarily understand what the actual sport is, or what the level is. The first year was like pulling teeth.

Some people knew, some people didn't. Everybody knows somebody who plays, it feels like, but they don't necessarily understand what the actual sport is, or what the level is. The first year was like pulling teeth.

You had to really hit people over the head with it hard. But by the third year, you were like, "Oh yeah, I saw that on ESPN," or, "Yeah, you guys were on Comcast the other day, I saw that." That's what you have to do. You have to keep making strides. And we also developed partnerships like with Whistle Sports. That was a big partnership, because that got us into a lot of places we couldn't get otherwise, and it got our content to people who wouldn't have seen us otherwise. All those little moves that we made were important too. But yeah, there were still things to overcome. How many eyeballs can you deliver me, and how much do those eyeballs care about what they're seeing? And if you can't make a compelling case for those two things, you're not gonna land anybody.

Like when we went to pitch Fiat... So [MLU Sales Associate] Burt Katzen, I think was the guy who had made the contact and warmed up that deal. And then Jonathan McQueen was the sales manager at the time, and he had worked with the guy a little bit. And then I always did our pitches for big deals, so I could write the pitches and I could build the decks. And so I wanted us all at this meeting, and I felt like we should show up in force, the three of us out there. But financially, we didn't wanna spring for three flights and hotels and all that stuff, so we drove to Detroit. And I drove us straight through. I can't remember where we stopped, but almost all the way out in one day. And then we finished it up and did our meeting. 

We bootstrapped so many things so that we could spend the money elsewhere. 'Cause it's like, if we spend it there, then we can't invest it here. And we need to invest it here. So it was constant decisions. I traveled everywhere by BoltBus. I'd go up to Boston on the bus. I'd go to New York on the bus. I'd go to DC on the bus. And I'd go for big meetings, I'd pack my suit and try to fold it up. You were always playing that game of how can we scrape enough here, so that we can spend it over here where we think it matters more. That's the startup decision making process.


Friday, June 21, 2019

On This Day: Ultimate Frisbee Game Was First Publicized

On this day (June 21) in 1969, the sport of ultimate Frisbee was first publicized in a Newark Evening News article. Columbia High School student Joel Silver, contributing as a "Special Writer" for The Newark Evening News, introduced the team game of Frisbee (without ever mentioning it by name) to the people of New Jersey in a story entitled "Frisbee Flippers Form Teams."

From the article:
"There is a new sport at Columbia High School (CHS) in Maplewood-frisbee. Every day, students from the 10th through 12th grades take part in the newly popular game. Though many may consider the sport to be immature, these high school students are joining the thousands of other people in the country who are enjoying the fun and exercise of the game."
The inaugural game played in the springtime between the two CHS teams - the Council (included president of CHS Student Council) versus the Columbian team (sponsored by the CHS newspaper) - was mentioned:
"In the first meeting between the teams, the Columbian team won by an 11-7 margin."
Silver boasts:
"A number of frisbee-ers hold varying degrees in the International Frisbee Association."

The Newark Evening News was an American newspaper published in Newark, New Jersey. At its apex, the newspaper was widely regarded as the newspaper of record in New Jersey. Its last issue was printed on August 31, 1972.

[H/T Ultimate: The First Four Decades]

Friday, June 14, 2019

Ooops! UFO

Sorry I'm late. I boarded a Frisbee by mistake.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Premier Ultimate League Teams Celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month with Colorful Logos

June is Pride Month and many Premier Ultimate League teams are celebrating with colorful team logos.


* Columbus' Ohio-state-paw logo did not change - it's always been rainbow color!!

Monday, June 10, 2019

AUDL All-Star Game

The American Ultimate Dis League is in its 8th season, yet this is the first year the semi-pro ultimate league hosted an All-Star game.The 2019 AUDL All-Star Game was played on Saturday, June 8 in Madison. Team KPS won 28-27 (17-11 halftime) over Rowan's team in sudden death overtime.

All 21 AUDL teams were represented with at least 1 All-Star. The 6-team East Division sent the most players with 10.

 # of TEAMS

Breakdown of All-Stars by AUDL Team
Five AUDL teams had multiple All-Stars while the other sixteen AUDL teams had one player. Madison had the most (5), followed y New  York Empire (4), and then Los Angeles Aviators (3); San Diego Growlers and Raleigh Flyers each were represented with 2 players.
All-Stars by Team