Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Frisbee-tossing catches major-league wave

  • Print

So far in this, the second season of Major League Ultimate, the Boston Whitecaps, last season's champs, are leading the Eastern League, while the San Francisco Dogfish, whom they faced in the first season's championship game, are once again top dogs in the Western League. Will they clash again at next July's finale?

The excitement is almost overwhelming. Yet incredibly, many Americans still do not realize that Ultimate, or formalized Frisbee-flinging, is now a serious sport. In the championship game, held in Philadelphia this past July, leaflets were handed out explaining that games are played seven to a side, typically on an American football field with the goal posts removed. Players score by catching a thrown disc, often with an athletic flourish, in the opponents' end zone.

Plastic discs have been chucked across beaches since before the Second World War. Frisbee, still the best-known brand, was registered in the 1950s by Whamo, and attempts to codify the game's rules date back to the 1960s. Only last year, however, did MLU. begin as the sport's first centrally managed profssional league.

"We wanted to create a spectator sport from what has largely been a player-driven experience," says Nic Darling, an MLU official.

However, an older organizing body, USA Ultimate, also has been working to professionalize the sport. Separate from the MLU, it has created the Triple-Crown Tour, a series of tournaments for elite teams, which operates somewhat like European football's Champions League.

Previously, USAU chief Tom Crawford says, "it was random teams in random cities. No one was ever sure who was going to play. It was impossible to sell that."

In March ESPN, the cable-sports giant owned by Disney, bought the rights to broadcast the Triple-Crown Tour in full for an undisclosed amount. Now USAU is seeking a big-name sponsor.

Small firms are benefiting from the sport's growth. Five Ultimate makes the official uniforms -- baggy shorts and shirts, made of stretchy fabric -- for hundreds of teams worldwide. Started in 2006 by five siblings in a Seattle garage, it now employs 23 full-time staffers.

Ultiapps is a mobile app that allows coaches to track players' performance. Its data have been used to power MLU's online fantasy league. Tushar Singh, one of Ultiapp's founders, thinks a whole new economy can form around ultimate.

"People can start making livings as funds are injected at a sponsorship level," he says.

Unlike basketball and baseball, ultimate has no millionaire stars. Players get only modest stipends and travel expenses. Surely the big money will come, however.

Chucking around a Frisbee may seem frivolous to some, but there was a time when throwing a big orange ball through a hoop or even hitting a ball with a stick seemed to be nothing more than a bit of pleasant exercise, certainly no way to make a living.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2013 A9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Mayor Bowman reacts to Caspian investigation

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Now that former cabinet minister Theresa Oswald has entered the NDP leadership race, do you believe the "gang of five" rebel ministers were right to publicly criticize Premier Greg Selinger's leadership?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google