I figure there are three great and universal tragedies in Ultimate Frisbee.
The first is that our best layout grabs are always followed by our worst ever throws (and a lecture from a smug nerd on “the conservation of greatness, dude”).
The second is that we’re all complicit in the twisting, dirtying and breaking of our bodies for what is, without the bells and whistles, a children’s toy.
The third and final tragedy is that we know how hard it is to be good, we know all about the challenges of being elite at an (until recently) entirely self-funded and ridiculously named sport, but that outsiders and dog walkers and rugby players do not.
Tragedies one and two are, not unhappily, here to stay. But tragedy number three is about to face the music.
The Australian Ultimate League is two days away, and when it arrives we’ll dive, together, into the weird and wonderful world of semi-professional fandom. The quickly approaching prospect of Fantasy Frisbee has the nerds and seasoned ‘Bink’ players among us freaking out.
The phrase “strong shirt sales” is no longer a joke - Timocles will have to make it his middle name by deed poll. There are very official non-disclosure agreements floating in the ether and bright, nigh-on technicolour jerseys have been shipped around the nation. Discs with sponsors on them are being thrown for the first time. Legitimacy is the word of the day.
For so long Ultimate has been played with empty bleachers, or with bleachers filled entirely of hecklers waiting for their flights home, or with no bleachers at all. The AUL and it’s video-on-demand grandstands are going to change that. From September 6, our community will finally be privy to a feeling that fans of more established and televised sports have enjoyed for decades. We will have the game-day excitement, felt vaguely in the gut, that my team is playing today.
The AUL will be the first truly gender equitable professional sport league in existence. It will be the reimagining of our lightning-fast disc movement, our hundred yard hucks, our body launching at all angles and heights for a beautiful bit of plastic, into something we can show the world. It will pack all of our sport into a technicolour product that we can support, be proud of, and share.
We can take highlight reels to the water cooler, to affable Uber drivers, to sceptical uncles at Christmas. Commit bald-faced lies to sport shoe employees no longer, you can redirect them to the Melbourne Flames Facebook page. It’s an exciting new dawn for our funny-named sport, and the outsiders and dog walkers and rugby players can eat their hearts out, and my Alex Gan jersey is in the post.
Every sport has a turning point. Up until 1968 High Jump was a scissor-kicking game, where you would sprint straight at a two-metre high bar like a maniac and writhe and convulse your way over it. Dick Fosbury and his infamous flop turned it into a sport of grace; he took it to literal new heights. All sports histories are littered with these what-if’s. The NBA had no shot-clock until 1954 and it was illegal to throw the ball forward in American Football until the early 20th century. Swimming goggles weren’t permitted until the 1976 Olympics. Baseball bases used to be run clockwise. Volleyball was once a nine-innings game. And maybe most pertinent to us, is the birth of World Series Cricket in the 1970’s, which revolutionised the speed and colour of the sport and made the players into international professionals who didn’t need a second job.
The AUL might just be our Fosbury flop, our shot-clock, our World Series Cricket, and now is the time to get behind it. How often in sport do you get the opportunity to be there on the ground floor, to literally make it viable with your membership fees, and to be able to say in twenty years time, “Yeah, I’ve been with the Canberra Freeze from the start”.
Ultimate Frisbee has legs. You know all about it’s potential, you’ve been trying to convince coworkers and sceptical uncles for years. Ours is a special sport, with a good, unique, marketable ethos, and a fundamentally incorruptible children’s toy at its heart. And now it’s got momentum. The AUL is taking Frisbee to new heights, and we’re going to help carry it there.
Support the Australian Ultimate League and help us put an end to tragedy number three. Pick a city and buy a membership if you haven’t already. Make a fantasy team, put on your Alex Gan jersey, and dive into the weird world of semi-professional fandom. The water is colourful, the water is warm. I’ll see you Thursday.
Find out more about the Australian Ultimate League, including air times of games at https://australianultimateleague.com/