Frisbee: Don’t Sell Out

Tristan Gavin

Illustration by Lya Hernandez.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Frisbee. I think it is a great game and one that should be enjoyed by the masses. The commercialization of the game and attempts to make the sport marketable through Major League Ultimate (MLU), for example, has pushed Ultimate toward something it is not: a big-market sport.

Frisbee is not baseball, basketball, football or soccer, but I think that is alright. If you see sports as culture, which I do, then Frisbee is a counterculture of sorts. Frisbee has thrived because it isn’t mainstream and because it defies the norms of  most sports.

Part of what makes Frisbee great, in my mind, is the lack of referees and the easygoing nature of players, which allows the game to be self-regulated. This aspect of the game allows it to break out spontaneously at places like Ankeny Field and to be played at high levels of competition without need for a third party viewer. Frisbee isn’t a sport to be watched, anyway; it is a sport to be played.

By turning Frisbee into a professional sport, the MLU has done away with a lot of what makes Frisbee so wonderful. By adding referees and yard lines, the MLU has tried to make Frisbee appeal as a spectator sport, and has ultimately tried to make the sport something it will never be.

Through its countercultural appeal, Frisbee is popular inasmuch as hipsters are popular. Both intentionally differ from the norm, and find a fan base consisting mostly of college students who also like Birkenstocks.

I have friends who are among some of the greatest players in the country, and they deserve to be recognized for their prowess. I simply do not see the professional Frisbee model achieving this any more than increasing the coverage of college and club-level play. The MLU has not, as far as I have seen, brought anybody new to the sport, but rather has only appealed to those who already play it. Frisbee fans aren’t going anywhere, though, and not having a professional league has not historically, nor would it presently, alienate its fan base.

I absolutely think Frisbee should be more popular, but I think people should play it, not watch it. The overregulation by MLU is an uphill battle that may take away from the sport, rather than give it the popularity that it deserves.