The Mainstream: Good or Bad for Ultimate?
By: Ryan Saba
By: Ryan Saba
The topic of getting ultimate into the mainstream has been talked about a lot recently, mainly due to the inception of the American Ultimate Disc League (a new professional ultimate league). I talked about what would have to happen across all sectors of the sport in my last article in order for ultimate to get to the mainstream, but another question arose from that article that I personally had never considered. Do we really want ultimate to become “mainstream”?
Ultimate has the potential to become one of the biggest sports in the United States. It’s fast paced, requires a strong degree of athleticism, and combines major aspects of football and soccer to make a game that is exciting and fun to play. That being said, it is not well known throughout the country. Most colleges and universities in America have ultimate teams and seeing discs fly across college campuses is not uncommon, however, the extent of most peoples’ ultimate knowledge goes as far as knowing that the game requires a “Frisbee”. There is a huge untapped market of former high school standouts in the collegiate world that would, in all likelihood, be excellent ultimate players (or cutters at the very least). If ultimate were to become more mainstream, the game would almost certainly become more competitive due to the increase in athleticism and, as long as they are properly trained, talent.
In addition to an increase in players, getting ultimate into the mainstream would also mean in increase in sponsorships and advertising. Not from ultimate companies such as Five and Savage, but from unassociated corporations such as CORT (a furniture rental company). Companies that want to advertise to college kids will flood the sport with advertisements and, more likely than not, team sponsorships. College Nationals will be brought to us by Target, and your favorite college team will have a giant Red Bull logo stamped across their jerseys.
Now that our fictional ultimate universe has become “mainstream” and has been flooded by advertising and new players, a couple of things are probably going to happen to the sport. First and foremost, the “Spirit of the Game” aspect is probably going to falter. When a sport has commercial backing and a large population, it needs to become as official as possible. The “Spirit of the Game” is not an official, legitimate way of doing things in the mainstream. Referees would become the norm (similar to the way the AUDL is doing things) and observed and self officiated games would be a thing of the past in college ultimate. After all, who wants to watch a game that has players bickering constantly over things like a travel when a referee could come in, make a swift decision, and allow play to continue in a matter of fifteen seconds? The answer is no one. The sport would become faster, but would also lose some integrity in the process.
Now that we have an idea of what our alternate “mainstream” ultimate universe looks like, what do we think of it? The traditionalists say “HELL NO!” to the idea of referees and corporate America. The progressives welcome referees with open arms, want Red Bull on the front of their jerseys, and most importantly, want to see ultimate grow across America. They want to see massive amounts of people at their games rooting for their team, and want to see the day where College Nationals are featured on ESPN. Traditionalists, on the other hand, want to keep ultimate relatively small and, by being small and off the beaten path, awesome. They don’t want the majority of people to know what ultimate is because it is their game and is sacred to them, and having the sport saturated with outsiders and corporations would be just awful.
Similar to politics, neither side is right or wrong. It simply comes down to different views on what the sport should be. I, for one, am a progressive. I believe the benefits of getting ultimate into the mainstream exceed the costs of giving up some of the integrity of the game. I think that having big corporate sponsors and fully refereed games is exciting, and would truly push the sport to a brand new level. I respect the views of traditionalists, but I feel as though it is time for ultimate to shine in the spotlight it deserves.
Readers, what are your views on the “mainstream”?