Reply hazy try again

by | April 3, 2014, 5:42am 11

Thus far, my articles have stemmed from events that quickly and clearly demonstrated something useful I felt I could provide, be it information or a certain viewpoint from an informed place. Every morning I read every ultimate-related article on every site I can – Skyd, Ultiworld, Reddit, even heading to RSD once a week or so just to check. I read every comment with keen interest, my patience for snark growing every day.

This way, I try to stay attuned to the pulse of ultimate, to know where viewpoints are coming from. I Gchat more than I should with lots and lots of people (most likely annoying them), getting opinions and viewpoints from all over. This includes friends and players across the country on various teams and at most every level of play.

And I say all of this because right now, I truly don’t have a good sense of what’s going to happen in the coming years.

USAU has made their position clear: they’re moving forward with their long-term strategy, and that does not include partnering with any current pro leagues. They’ve seen enough companies or pro leagues or what-have-you rise and fall in the past, and they will not be budging on their statement. It may be the most clear and direct communication I’ve ever read from them, and they are not ones for take-backsies.

That said, what’s fascinating right now is that individuals are slowly becoming more and more educated about USAU and the mission and vision of the organization because they are questioning it, seeking ways to poke holes in either which could contradict their refusal to partner with the pro leagues. These leagues have forced their way into the conversation through aggressive promotion of the sport (or, at least their version of it, according to USAU), and they have some strong support from players and fans alike.

The divisions between our community are many and confusing. USAU is an organization with clear and transparent mission and values – they make their priorities clear time and time again, even if those priorities frustrate some. Furthermore, and I can attest to this personally, they act on behalf of the best interest of their members according to the feedback they solicit, following the guidelines that they were based upon.

However, USAU cannot offer salaries. They can’t cover costs. They will not partner with any organization they deem to go against their core principles. They are the tortoise, taking the surest route towards their goals while moving slowly enough to be careful not to misstep.

The MLU and AUDL offer salaries. They pay for expenses. However, they also offer things beyond this – recognition. Fame. Notoriety. Self-respect. The respect of others, like parents, girlfriends, peers. This is not to be taken lightly — I could tell, myself, that my parents only really recognized ultimate as “legitimate” in my life when I got second in the world; until then, it was a distraction from my career development. Does USAU offer these things? Sure — just look at me — but it is different. Playing in a stadium in front of a crowd week after week with individuals paid to craft storylines to showcase you and your team — these are draws for many individuals who spend countless hours honing their skills only to have their parents wonder why they’re wasting their time with a non-sport.

Yet the MLU and AUDL are not player-run, nor are they transparent in their mission and values; they are companies. They will make money off of the sport, and they will act to that end. This, too, is not something to be taken lightly; the pro leagues, if successful, will make a lot of money, and it’s not guaranteed to trickle down to anyone but those in power. The monumental changes that could come from such a large change are best left to another post — conjecture is only worth so much.

Finally, there is a final factor that makes me question the future of the sport, and that is the individual economics of choice for any player considering the pro leagues. At present, in my anecdotal chats with numerous elite club players nationwide — all of whom can or could play for a pro team — their considerations for doing so are all on an individual basis; essentially, does this make sense for me, as an individual? Time, money, competition, friends — for these players who could do both, these are the main deciding factors in playing pro or not.

Yet these economics, when taken on an individual level, leave out certain hidden factors that would matter to some. These hidden factors include much of what the USAU core values include, which are essentially “built-in” to what we know as ultimate today. Gender equity, player representation and control (the extent of which USAU is really player-controlled some validly question, but it simply doesn’t exist in pro leagues), a focus on spirit of the game and the culture and community of the sport. These are factors which, in my conversations with players thus far, don’t enter into whether they will play pro or not.

And, that makes sense. Nobody believes that their individual participation in the pro leagues is hurting women, or dismissing spirit, or turning their back on the culture of the ultimate community — rather, they are simply taking advantage of an opportunity that if they didn’t someone else would, and, it looks fun! And their friends are playing, and their parents are proud of them, and you get to wear sweet new jerseys with your name and number on them and get flown places to play a single game as a professional athlete. This stuff is fun.

Now, I’ve been criticized by friends, teammates, and detractors for not putting my own opinions out front, for not taking a stand. Yet I don’t find that appropriate, as my goal is and will continue to be to provide the necessary information to make informed decisions that you believe yourself rather than make you think like me. Right now, it’s necessary to understand that the players determine the fate and direction of the leagues, and that when left to individual choice, it is the responsibility of each individual to truly understand how their actions will help to determine the short and long-term direction of this sport rather than just for themselves.

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  • mossdismossdat

    If you need ESPN or youtube to justify or explain yourself to your family, then

    A.) you've never really tried to explain ultimate before
    B.) Ultimate is genuinely frivolous
    C.) your parents are idiots for needing stuart scott to yell them into understanding their son.
    D.) take a deep breath…it's okay if your family doesn't think ultimate is the end-all-be-all that you think it is…That's okay.

    • mossdismossdat

      *if you need…

    • mossdismossdat

      If you need 'individuals paid to craft narratives' about you to generate self respect and respect from your family and girlfriend…then…that's a problem. Is that kind of acceptance genuine? Isn't it just perception? That might be important for USAU or AUDL or a business trying to grow the sport, but this article is about personal life decisions.

      • anon

        It's true — people should not need outside validation to justify themselves to themselves. Thanks, way to go.

        The fact is, they do. Players simply do crave validation from their parents and peers. That's what Tyler's saying — not that it's right or wrong, it just IS.

        • mossdismossdat

          Okay…I think I might not be getting it because I'm friends with Evan Lepler on facebook, so he was already commenting on my sweet skyz and Ds.

          Also, I'm not saying that people don't have legitimate need for external validation. I'm saying that having ESPN provide it is silly. ESPN is silly and to see a player like Tyler, who, as far as I can tell, has the respect of everyone in the sport, saying that it's an important factor in his thoughts on playing frisbee is troubling.

    • Anon

      Completely agree. I think ultimate is in a pretty good place right now. I've never had anyone look down on me for playing it, and most people I've talked to seem to know what it is.

      We don't need to sell ourselves out to gain legitimacy. Sure, it could stand to grow a little, but baby steps…

    • guest

      you should probably tell more people how to think – it's really effective

  • alex axworthy

    nice article, Tyler!

  • Tyler, your article will help the sport continue to mature as it makes decisions of which paths it wants to take. Many thanks!

  • jedimax

    Thanks Tyler,

    1. I dont know if you annoy everybody. Sometimes it is very nice to chat with you (other players). Only in rare cases it's annoying, but most of the time chatting is a solid factor in getting information/opinion and evolving our community. I also read every ultimate ressource I can find (which make evolves from "dont spam us" into "you can do our facebook page")

    2. When was the first time your parents watched you play? My Girlfriend and my mother have seen a few games, but they dont take it serious. It is a hobby I do in my free time, but other things have should always come first (like business, job, family). My GF dont understand what I see or why, but she respects, that Ultimate always comes first. And she is okay with it (if she gets enough of my time for herself), because she loves me. Until people around us the hard work we put in and the professionality, there cant be a real respect for a game. (I guess my mother only like it, because it is better then playing WoWarcraft 40 hours a week.)

    3. If I read between the lines, I can read a "It is good that we have both: pro leagues and UASU". Is that a kind of opinion from you. Although I am living in Germany. I follow the ongoing the discussion and see a necessity for both organizations.


  • SFBay

    "Gender equity, player representation and control (the extent of which USAU is really player-controlled some validly question, but it simply doesn’t exist in pro leagues)"
    Tyler, I would argue that the pro leagues do offer quite a bit of player control in that players can negotiate for contracts, perks and terms. I don't know the details, but Beau Kittredge certainly negotiated for salary, etc. And I've heard that several Revolver players on the SF Flamethrowers negotiated player/coach roles. So right now in the Bay Area where competition for players on the pro teams was particularly fierce, players have been using what leverage they have to dictate some terms. I'm not sure if this trend will continue in the future.