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Ultimate Frisbee history: Appearances on American TV

This post is part of the Best Ultimate Frisbee websites project

It’s not often that Ultimate Frisbee gets mentioned in the press or on TV. Most people are still hopelessly ignorant of one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Well, considering some of the other “fastest growing sports”, we are in some interesting company.

However, there is good news. According to this article on CNBC, Ultimate Frisbee saw a 20.8% increase in participation in 2008, good for #1 on the list. At least we know we’re kicking lacrosse’s butt, another sport claiming to be the “fastest growing sport.”

Now the question is: If Ultimate is growing so rapidly, why is no one paying attention?

That’s a good question. My take on the matter is that as a sport Ultimate is still very young. The vast majority of players are either current college students or recent grads with only a few years of working experience. So on the whole, the Ultimate Frisbee community doesn’t have that much pull in society when it comes to affecting change and making decisions. Unless you’re a mover and shaker, the media doesn’t really care how much you care about Ultimate.

However, the fact that almost all Ultimate players are college educated and ridiculously good looking means that they are heading up in the world. What will happen is that as more Ultimate players reach the upper levels of companies and organizations, our collective pull will cross the tipping point of wide recognition.

The best Ultimate Frisbee highlight videos

Until that day, we can scrap together bits and pieces of media coverage and give ourselves a pat on the back for being the stepping stones that helped Ultimate reach its peak.

1976 Frisbee World Championships

The earliest footage I’ve seen. The bit about Ultimate comes at the very end.

1978 National News

With Tom Brokaw! Guts looks fun, we should play it more.

1978 Special Edition

Watching this report, it sounds like Ultimate would have exploded in the 80′s. Oh well.

1989 ESPN Amazing games

A feature on Ultimate and the legendary NY/NY team of the era. I would be scared of Ken Dobyns if I played against them…

1991 MTV sports

“If something looks like it’s too far in front of you and you’ll never get to it you have a motorcycle, keep going!” Motorcycle Ultimate, now there’s an idea worth pursuing.

Bill Nye the Science Guy

Bill has been known to be an Ultimate supporter, and here he gives a physics lesson on how a Frisbee works.

2000 National Geographic

Coverage on the club nationals in Sarasota Fl.

“When I go to my grave … it’ll be as a frisbee player.”

The Disney Channel

I love how the kid thinks the Tomahawk (hammer) is only thrown by the “pros”.

ESPN cold pizza

Tony Leonardo and Adam Zagora go on the show to promote their book on Ultimate history.

ESPN Sports center

Sports center, we’ve made it to the big times!

Watch this entire game here

Bonus clips

ESPN cheap seats

More about freestyle Frisbee than Ultimate, but it’s worth a mention. Pretty funny.

It’s possible that Ultimate Frisbee may just skip the television age altogether and skip forward to the web 2.0 live streaming age. Seeing the reports of the UPA live streams of club nationals gives me great hope.

Let’s keep up the good work guys!

The Best Ultimate Frisbee websites project

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  1. December 11, 2009 at 10:27 am | #1

    Cool, I had no idea that there is actually this much coverage of the sport. We usually have a hard time getting any media exposure at all, let alone television air time; even if it is for a big tournament such as our Windmill Windup tournament.

    I think your observation of ultimate being a very young sport is spot on as being a problem in getting media attention. With time the number of lobbyists will increase and we will see more coverage. In the meantime I think everyone should be pitching in, by making sure all their friends know about the sport (and better yet; start playing it :)

    • Andy Huang
      December 11, 2009 at 12:12 pm | #2

      I was surprised myself at all the coverage Ultimate received back in the 70′s. I guess it’s one of those things that’s worth a news story once in a while. Luckily it has persisted and grown into something much bigger unlike many of the other alternative sports.

      Haha, I wouldn’t mind being an Ultimate lobbyist. Work in D.C. hobnob with the politicians.

      I think Ultimate should definitely seek to become more commercialized. That’s the only way to get real sponsorships and money into the sport to keep it growing. Let’s face it, nothing gets done without money nowadays. And the longer we stay away from it, the more it hurts us.

  2. December 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm | #3

    Wow, who would have thought a frisbee had so much history!

    I personally imagined that somebody just threw a plate and then came up with the idea, but hey what do you know? I think Ultimate is a great sport, and it should definetly become more official! So many people do not now about it unfortunately.

    If only these peope could read your post haha :)

    Thanks again, I look forward to your replies!!

    • Andy Huang
      December 24, 2009 at 1:43 pm | #4

      There are always interesting things to see if you’re willing to dig deep enough.

      Ultimate is growing, and has to overcome the obstacles that are holding it back. Unfortunately many of those obstacles aren’t from the outside, but from people who play but don’t want to see Ultimate change and grow. Hopefully it’ll become more popular and more official in the coming years.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Mike
    April 6, 2010 at 9:07 pm | #5

    One interesting thing is that the championships that the NY Ultimate team won was at T.C. Williams High School, the same school that the movie “Remember the Titans” is the focus of.

  4. Lau
    November 29, 2011 at 5:34 pm | #7

    I’m hoping you might be able to lead me to a video clip on ultimate that I can no longer locate. It is an american sports program that mocks lesser known sports, and it has taken the footage of the NY Heat (Ken Dobbins era) leading up to Nationals and converted into a really funny segment… I’m an addicted player, so this comes from a place of great esteem for the sport, but the footage is classic.

    thanks in advance

  5. Lau
    December 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm | #9

    hi, thanks for trying. That’s the original footage that they used, but the show is a bit of a mocumentary of ultimate.

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