The Race Toward Legitimacy

by | August 21, 2013, 3:51am 67

On Monday, USA Ultimate filed a takedown notice against Pitt’s 2013 College Championships Highlight Reel. The reel featured footage and commentary from ESPN’s coverage of the tournament.

Yesterday, news broke that the Lancaster, PA-based team, the Heva Havas would be required by USA Ultimate to change their club name for the series (A Heva Hava, for the uninitiated, is a cattle farmer that aids in the reproduction of calves). Their jerseys, appropriately, feature a bull mounting a cow.

Earlier this year, Pits and Pendulums, a Mixed team from Charleston, South Carolina, was also forced to change its name, becoming “Pluff Mud Panic” (apparently USA Ultimate has a problem with thinly-veiled references to sexual intercourse).

In February, I wrote about ultimate losing its “Mojo” in the form it is represented in the MLU and AUDL. USA Ultimate, it appears, is not far behind. In socio-economics, the term race to the bottom refers to a mad dash towards deregulation and lower wages in free trade systems. In 2013, I think we can coin a new term: ultimate is now suffering from a race toward legitimacy. In the last few years, as the chance to market ultimate as a “legimate” product has loomed closer and closer, organizing bodies appear to be falling over themselves in a race to remove anything that could potentially damage the sport’s image — but at what cost? How long can these organizations clamp down on self-expression before the players and teams start to rebel — and is it worth it?

There are still teams out there that are pushing the lines as far as legitimacy goes, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see USA Ultimate continue to whitewash any rogue elements as the premise of national broadcast coverage from Frisco looms nearer. So stay frosty, club teams, because there are surely more crackdowns in the works.

And if I have to defend a silly logo of two bovines fornicating to make it stop, then so be it. I’m throwing down my gauntlet. Free Heva Havas.

Feature photo of the Heva Havas at the Chesapeake Open by Pete Guion

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  • Ferg

    Mixed YCC winners as well.

  • Leaguevine

    RT @skydmagazine: Wednesday Dumps – New Hodag Website…PBR Sponsorship…Black Tide Offense – #ultimate #hodags #b …

    • jones smith

      ok, not according to the USAU site.

      Better Ho's and Gaurdin
      Better Ho's and Gardens

      Better Hoes and Gardens
      Better Hoes & Gaurdin (listed in 2011 write up at least)

      The first two can easily be misinterpreted by those not knowing ultimate as offensive. The last two will be offensive to the EAR of a casual listener.

      I suspect all references to Ho's and Hucking F(word without the initial H) will likely be banned. Gungho (Northwestern) is likely ok. Except their urging of "Let's go Hos"

      USAU had best stay away from Poultry Days….

  • Adam

    The explosive growth of youth ultimate has brought a great new group to our sport. This includes youth players and their parents. Most events these days feature youth teams, youth as volunteers or just there to watch. This new group does comment/complain about some of the names and jerseys. What is an appropriate bar to set to further encourage this important growth? At what tournaments?

    • Panda

      Do you have any evidence to support this, I'm curious, have there been formal complaints made?

      My only experience comes from playing the YCC teams at tournaments around the bay. They seem really happy to have the opportunity to play club mixed teams at competitive tournaments, and don't seem to be squeamish about playing Fluffer.

      • Spirit Championships

        Panda, your team should just play the Spirit Championship Series. We aren't chasing corporate sponsorship so we can allow teams a lot more freedom on their team names. You can play against the high school all star team who call themselves Jailbait. Or their older brothers and sisters Barely Legal. Kids can be creative too when you don't stifle them.

  • this is a really pointless commentary; socioeconomic references with absolutely no input from usa ultimate or the related teams? Pick up the phone and talk to someone in charge before navel gazing and decrying the growth of your sport. If you want the sport that you love so much "to be taken seriously", look at your role and write seriously.

    • Anon

      That's Skyd for you

    • Freedom Fighter

      Have you tried to pick up the phone and call USAU, INC. lately? And who said that we all want the sport to be taken seriously. There are plenty of people taking the sport way too seriously these days, as evidenced by this censorship. Keep up the good work Skyd

  • Panda

    I don't feel welcome by the USAU anymore. They forced my team to officially change our name last year two days before sectionals, which had the grand effect of causing many existential crises in the middle of huddles as we asked who we were. I highly doubt that by pushing people like me and my awesome, incredible teammates aside, USAU is making ultimate a better or more welcoming place.

    We've taken it to be our mission statement to apply our team name to ultimate around us, to preserve and encourage ultimate as we value it, for the comradely, silliness, and spirited competitiveness it provides for us and our opponents. Because this brand of ultimate is effectively under attack.

    (on Fluffer*)
    *named after a teammate's cat…


  • guest

    I appreciate the work Skyd is doing (presumably for close-to-free) but there really should be some sense of context and perspective before writing something like this. The UPA/USAU has made teams change their names many many times, probably going back decades. Did you put in a call to the USAU asking how many times this had happened? Is this an outlier year? Were they particularly punitive this year? Or did they offer some rationale that was different from in the past, indicating a change in attitude? I don't know. But I wouldn't write before I did.

    • Two of the most famous cases were Whoreshack->Ror$hack and Meth->Method at 2005 Nationals (told to change names between Regionals and Nationals).

      Nice RSD thread from back in the day:

      • jones smith

        Jacksonville mixed team

        Jacks on Jill (bad)
        Jacks on Jills (better, but still likely offensive)
        Jacks 'n Jills (good)
        Jacks and Jills (no offense possible, but much less fun than Jacks on Jills)

        How did Yo Mo Fo Go Ho.. I mean Yomo Fog Oho… aka "Fog" with a Weeds logo on their shoulder survive?

        Heva Havas played in a tournament with possible real coverage. Was anyone in the adult ultimate community offended..probably not. Would a passerby be offended? possibly.

        But should we ban disease names

        Mad Cow?

        Offensive nicknames?
        BHG (Better Hos and Gardens)?

        Should we prevent the GOP from their juvenile homophonic (not misspelled!) cheer


      • Liam

        Very good context, Ryan. I'm still going to stubbornly argue that this proves my point:

        In 2005, team names that were considered in violation of the policy:
        – Whoreshack
        – Meth

        In 2013, team names that were considered in violation of the policy:
        – Heva Havas
        – Pits and Pendulums

        Seems like interpretation has suddenly gotten a bit stricter.

        • 2012 also had Dutch Rudder and Fluffer changed.

          2013 may also include Ambiguous(ly) Grey?

          • Kyle Weisbrod

            2005 also had "Jailbait" (HS Girls team) changed and Florida was forced to not use the initials for their team ("University of Florida Ultimate Club Team") on their jerseys.

            Teams have considerable latitude in naming their teams. The community is asking for USAU to work to gain a higher level of legitimacy for the sport. Seems fair that they are acting on those community requests to present the sport in a way that will achieve those goals. It's obviously a tough balance between autonomy and the desires of the overall membership, but I don't think USAU is out of line here.

          • Guest

            What could possibly be wrong with "Ambiguously Grey"?

          • Bob

            This is just a guess, but I wonder if the origin of the name was a play on the Ambiguously Gay Duo.

            Even if it was, the name does stand on it's own as a reference to people wearing grey in ultimate pickup games (being neither on the "light" or "dark" team).

          • Guest

            So now "gay" is a bad word to even make a passing reference to? This whole situation seems totally ridiculous and completely arbitrary.

      • Meth –> Method (2005) –> Scientific Method (2011)

        • Guest

          In that interim period they were MethOD, meaning Meth Overdose.

          Also no one has mentioned the most noteworthy example: Truck Stop. (At one point Truck Stop Glory Hole)

    • Liam

      Very fair point. This is an opinion article, but you're correct in that there's no excuse for some background investigation.

      I have an e-mail in to USA Ultimate in order to find out the answers to these questions. The 2013 Club Series Guidelines state the following:

      "USA Ultimate reserves the right, at any time, to alter, or require a team
      to alter, a team name, player or coach nickname, team logo, jersey
      graphic, or uniform and/or suggest alternatives at or in conjunction
      with a USA Ultimate program or event should USA Ultimate
      personnel determine that the existing name, logo, graphic, or uniform
      might hinder the mission of the organization or the goals of a specific
      USA Ultimate program or event. This includes, but is not limited to,
      sexual references, profanity, drug references, and any discriminatory
      language or graphics. Alterations must meet with the approval of USA
      Ultimate personnel."

      The part I find interesting was that Heva Havas was allowed to compete under this name, despite being a team that has existed for multiple seasons. Also, the fact that the name isn't by any stretch of the imagination offensive is all the more puzzling.

      In any case, the point of the article is less about individual anecdotes, but rather the bigger debate between self-expression and legitimacy as ultimate is further thrust into the public eye.

      • Josh

        STOP THE PRESSES!! You mean to tell me that in order for me to eat my steaks, cows have to reproduce in the only way that mammals have evolved to do so?! I'm so offended by this!!

    • Liam

      Here's the response I received back from Andy Lee at USA Ultimate:

      "The guidelines surrounding team names and imagery have been in effect for at least 10 years and have not ben modified recently. The rationale for these guidelines has remained the same since their initial implementation. Although we’ve had a national television contract for more than a decade, the current level of attention, publicity and exposure is at an all-time high, thanks to current television partners, internet broadcasters, ultimate-dedicated websites like Sykd and Ultiworld, and recent features in major publications or mainstream media platforms like CNN, the New York Times, SB Nation, Washington Post and to name just a few. With this rapidly increasing visibility across various media platforms, a new playing structure for the club division, unprecedented participation, record membership numbers and more kids learning about and playing the sport than ever before, we certainly have a responsibility as the national governing body of the sport to maintain a positive image. All of these factors have led to a sense of heightened awareness of team names and visual identities. "


      "We don’t specifically track this in terms of numbers, and it varies from year to year. Some years it’s a few, other years it’s a dozen or more. The sheer number of teams makes it a challenge to catch each and every team name, logo, or jersey design that violates our guidelines, or can be considered offensive – approximately 2,000 teams play in our competitive championship series structures. So if a few slip through the cracks each year, it’s mostly because of that. In this particular case, it wasn’t clear until it was brought to our attention, in part as a result of competing a higher profile event."

  • Jizzles

    I thought that the Eastern Youth Conference champs the Lexington Hucking Fooligans would be on the block, but instead they get full-page pics and writeups in the USAU mag.

  • Guest1

    Ambiguously Grey forced to change to Ambiguous Grey… sigh.

    • Guest

      What is wrong with the name "Ambiguously Grey"?

  • Kevin

    Interesting opinion piece

  • Guest

    I will echo a couple of the other comments here. How do you even write an article like this without getting the perspective of USA Ultimate on either of these issues. That would make for much more interesting reading and a much more balanced article. Just seems like sour grapes from Skyd because you don't agree with the decisions.

  • I feel like the fairest way to handle this is for all offended parties to get on a team. They can ban these not-really-offensive-at-all team names if they beat the team in question. That or just quit being sissies.

  • Marian

    Ok, call me ignorant but I just googled Heva Hava and Fluffer. Yeah, can't imagine any responsible sports league thinking either of those names are appropriate for a team.

    • Guest

      Since when is USAU a sports league? I though they were a players association.

  • Huckin

    I am guessing there is a good reason why Pittsburgh's video was taken down, but hard to tell without any context from either Pitt or USAU. If I had to guess, it probably has to do with copyrighted material, maybe owned by ESPN.

  • Pitt's video contained footage that was legally owned by someone else, not that surprised it was removed. Youtube takes down content that is not legally owned by the uploader or contains gross/malicious content all the time. I'm sure they'll have another video up shortly.

    As for Heva Havas, honestly, who cares? USAU can force teams to alter offensive or gross names. It's not like that's a new statute. They've been able to do it and have exercised this right for a long time. Don't be juvenile when deciding on a team name. Simple solution.

    • ultimatesamwood

      Except that we aren't exactly sure that all the names being changed are, in fact, juvenile.

      What's wrong with Ambiguously Gray? And I had no idea what Heva Havas was until the name change was implemented.

      Want to get kids to read a book? Ban it.

      • I love hearing Ambiguous(ly) Grey mentioned because it always reminds me of Stephen COlbert and Steve Carell in perhaps their greatest voice roles of all time.

        Also, yeah, aside from the obvious innuendo, there's nothing that wrong with it and dropping the -ly only serves to heighten that a change was made, it doesn't remove the innuendo.

        Knowing what a Heva Havas is now, it's fairly gross when you have to explain it. And I can see why you wouldn't want to have that awkward conversation with new viewers. Their logo is a work of art though, can't argue with that.

        • guest

          How on earth can Ambiguously Grey be offensive? First of all its common for a new player to show up for pick-up wearing a grey shirt and for it to be ambiguous which team they are on. But much more importantly, since when does USAU have a problem with Grey people. Sounds pretty homophobic to me.

  • First they came for the Heva Hevas…

    • TitusTradewell

      …then they waved to everyone else, happy with their names not being chosen for a deliberately provocative reason.

    • Dr.pepper

      They forced Bohica to change names last year.

      • Anon

        Oh yeah, Bend Over, Here It Comes Again. Another brilliant name for a sports team.

        • insider

          But Yo, Mother F-cker, Go Horizontal gets a pass? Yeah, that's what YOMO FOGO HO stands for. Did Bohica have the option of changing their name to Bo Hic A? Guess Colorado teams get a pass.

  • geoff

    When I'm talking about the most competitive teams in the sport (i.e. the ones competing in the USAU series) and explaining the game to outside folks or high school players that I coach (or their parents), not having to explain lewd names or animal sex acts seems like a perfectly reasonable thing.

    Don't make a "controversy" out of nothing.

    • Panda

      We are not a "most competative" team, but still compete in the series. The USAU series is the only end-of-season tournament structure around, and historically, has been the series for all club team, even for those like ours, whose end-goal is not nationals. We don't expect to be covered by ESPN anytime soon, but we are a bunch of adults who have a slightly risque sense of humor. This isn't about being juvenile, or immature, and it isn't nothing.

      • geoff

        i meant competitive in the sense of not playing some "who gives a crap" tournament.

        And yes. It is nothing.

      • Spirit Championships

        I guess your state coordinator hasn't been doing their job. <a href="” target=”_blank”> The Spirit Championships are for teams that play Ultimate for the love of the game, not for a minuscule chance to be on TV.

  • Boe

    Didn't Natives have to change their name? I wonder how USAU would feel about the DC team being named the Redskins. If it's legitimate enough for the NFL….

    • guest

      The Natives had a change in leadership and wanted to rebrand themselves without losing their Select flight status. They were about to successfully do this by appealing to USA Ultimate about the "politically incorrect" nature of their old name and thus Chicago Club was born.

  • "Heva Havas" is an entirely legitimate name. It is a perfectly real Pennsylvania Dutch term, not to mention an actual job. The team is from Lancaster, PA, the heartland of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Banning the logo, fine. That makes sense. But banning the name it's entirety is the equivalent of finding that "gynecologists" is an unacceptable word for inclusion in a team name. Perhaps that is the line USAU is taking going forward, but it seems silly to me. A farmer whose livelihood depends on cows reproducing for commercial farming enterprises hardly seems like the type of subversive activity that needs to be censored from on high. I get that people may not like it, but you need a better reason than your discomfort to censor people in America. For full disclosure, I am on Heva Havas, and I speak solely on my own behalf, and do not claim to represent any official position of the team or any of its affiliated members.

    • Steve

      Actually, "Gynecologists" would probably be an inappropriate team name as well.

      • Guest

        Care to show us which dictionary you're reading out of has "inappropriate" written next to these words?

        • Guest

          Care to show us what dictionary has inappropriate next to words?

        • This seems intentionally dense. There is no objective set of criteria for what makes an inappropriate team name. As Justice Potter Stewart said regarding obscenity "I know it when I see it."

          I think we can (almost) all agree that no one wants to see the New York Gynecologists on ESPN in the semifinals of the USAU Club Championships. I think it's reasonable to also not want to have ESPN announcers explain Heva Havas to the viewing audience or for that matter a parent who is taking their kid to watch a series event.

          • jones smith

            Try the Beavis and Butthead test.

            If Beavis and Butthead would be snorting/laughing about a name after saying it or seeing the logo, then it probably is not appropriate for an association (USAU) which is attempting to make the game more visible. Keep using those names for most tournaments, leagues whatever. Just not for the national championship series.

            100 good deeds can be undone by one false move.

          • Regardless of the larger discussion, I wouldn't mind having a team called the NY Gynecologists on ESPN. Maybe it would help connect people with the real issue of the Ob-Gyn shortage:

            I wouldn't be concerned about explaining what a gynecologist or a Heva Havas is to my kid. Call me old fashioned, but maybe if we were more responsible in communicating about sex on the whole we wouldn't get all blushy and nervous when we tried to talk about it or have fun at its expense.

            Sports probably isn't the place for this discussion though. It'd be easier to go where everyone else has boldly gone before.

  • gguest


  • guest

    Pennsbury Peyote

  • guest

    How about we just choose respectable names to begin with and decide that we're mature enough to stop chuckling at things on the level of poop jokes. It's one thing to have a laugh, but something else entirely to defend a clearly deliberate attempt to be subversive or inappropriately suggestive. I for one prefer to focus on my game.

    • lookout

      good idea. lets all quit playing frisbee and get real jobs while we're at it.

      • guest

        Or go by Fucktards and wear clown suits. Seriously? I came for the game… why are you here? Ultimate rightfully deserves the same respect as any other professional sport, so why would anyone competing in a legitimate forum want anything less than a serious name?

  • Brandon

    Team names have nothing to do with legitimacy. Redskins, Braves, Indians, Chiefs, were established and are still being used despite the cries of Native American groups. Ultimate isn't the NFL or MLB and their sports seem to be pretty legitimate. Irish Americans have tried to get Notre Dame to change their logo to no avail. The NCAA is considered pretty legitimate, too. Parents scream louder than smaller interest groups and minorities. Anything that can be construed as sexual or offensive to children is not OK, because that requires a real conversation with a child about the world they live in. This censorship has nothing to do with the names or how offensive they are or aren't. It has to do with the people who complain the most.

  • Kathy

    The comparisons here to national sports leagues are increasingly apt, because the NFL, etc. are businesses based upon a sport. They are first and foremost businesses and must protect the interests that accompany the financial aspect of their venture. The sport and the players are the products, packaged and marketed and licensed and sold. I'm a huge sport fan and I don't denigrate this approach. I have, however, contrasted this corporate business approach with the culture of Ultimate, as I discovered it. Instead of an either-or debate, let's frankly discuss the spectrum of options this amazing sport should provide us. I do understand and value the desire to "mainstream" ultimate, and I equally value the incredible diversity and tolerance found across the Ultimate communities – where a team with strict discipline and uniforms and all that embodies this emerging mainstream movement can find itself taking the field against amazing athletes, perhaps men in dresses, who heartily enjoy potty humor and have a suggestive and clever team name … and the compete for the love of and respect for this game. An organization who continues to foster that culture will continue to find a broad base of support, among players and spectators.

  • Heva

    Check these bad boys out

  • Havas
  • other anon

    …some Colorado teams that have escaped for unclear reasons: sack lunch, box lunch, mamabird

    Yomo Fog Oho was started by a UPA board member? count them in as well.

    …holes and poles had no problem back in the day as they were another team with UPA roots, but pits and pendulums gets burnt…

    …conspiracy… or just some folks at HQ looking the other way… or ignorance…

    go seamen!

  • hatin' on cockf

    How has Colorado's B team been able to keep their name? They play in the college series, and cockfight can be taken sexually, it implies violence, and mentions a form of animal cruelty.

    • jones smith

      They can play the PimpDags and everything cancels out. PimpDags, by the way, makes Hodags seem unsavory.