America enjoys sports. Many consider baseball as the country's "national pastime" even though football, and often basketball, pull better ratings. While soccer and hockey arguably boast the best athletes in the world, Americans would rather drink Bud Heavy and watch drivers turn left in NASCAR than embrace European football.

After the big six, there's golf, arena football, women's basketball, lacrosse, and ultimate frisbee.

Ultimate frisbee is hardly some game just for granola eaters and college students -- so don't try to equate it to hacky sack. Since ultimate is comparatively new, most people simply do not understand the amount of skill, agility, and energy it takes to play a game that is constantly moving. The field is 80 yards long, and players can throw the disk the full distance, and execute full-out diving catches, which might make even a defensive star like Houston Texans' Ed Reed look like a chump.

You won't recognize ultimate's young star players on the street, but that doesn't mean it's not a sport--or a great one at that.

Chris Mazur, one of the star players of the MLU (Major League Ultimate), and the New York Rumble took the time to discuss the sport, the misconceptions and the growing popularity of the game.

I feel like a lot of naive people--myself included--have this image in our head of ultimate frisbee being a stoner, hippie sport. For instance, the first thing that comes to my mind is that scene from the Jeremy Piven flick, PCU. Are you guys just a bunch of burnouts listening to the Grateful Dead and tossing around the "bee," or is everyone super in-shape, hard-nosed athletes?

Certainly the latter. We have a pretty heavy schedule every week with one practice, three workouts, and one or two games. Generally, our team trainer writes work outs split up to be two nights at the track and one night in the gym. Then generally most of the guys will supplement there own workouts on off days, depending on what they personally need between strength building, fast twitch agility, or recovery for injuries.

Can you explain the very basics of the game?

The easiest way to explain the game play is compare it to a few other sports. For game play, it has many similarities to both soccer and basketball. Played seven-on-seven, teammates pass the disc back and forth. If the disc is dropped, hits the ground, thrown out of bounds, or intercepted, possession changes instantly. The other team picks it up, and tries to score in the other direction. So like soccer and basketball, the game play is consistent movement and lots of passing. The object is to catch the disc with at least one point of contact in the endzone, and score more points than the opposing team over the course of four quarters of ten minutes in length.  Field size is 53 1/3 yards wide, 80 yards long, and twenty yard endzones.

When did ultimate frisbee become a professional sport? And how many professional leagues and teams are there now?

It started last season with the American Ultimate Disc League. I played for the Connecticut Constitution, which ended it's season in a law suit. Crazy. The winner of the first year of the AUDL (Philly Spinners), saw lots of flaws in the business side of the league, and decided to start a new competing league: Major League Ultimate. Check out more details about it here.

[Assuming there are multiple leagues] When do you think there will be one big professional ultimate league? Is it more complicated then just joining forces (i.e. different rules)?

Rules are the same on both sides, so no issues there (see: rules). At some point the leagues will have to meld into one league. At this point, they are both relatively stubborn about doing that because they both think they have the better business model. Currently, the better players are all playing in the MLU. This could influence a merger into the MLU.
Major League Ultimate Frisbee Photos
Sandy Cannetti /

Are your games televised or streamed live somewhere? Has there been some sort of recognition from big sports outlets, like ESPN, that you guys exist?

Every week, one game on each coast is streamed live. All games are recorded with multiple camera angles and commentators, and then made available for free on YouTube during the week following the game. Check out the YouTube channel to see a bunch of games. At this point, we have had one or two plays featured on 'Sportscenter's' top plays every single week. In a normal game of ultimate, you'll see upwards of ten to fifteen breathtaking, full extension lay outs by players on either offense or defense. As a result, there is no shortage of great highlight material.

When do you think, realistically, ultimate will be consistently broadcast on television, or have a huge internet following (if you stick to just live streaming)?

The following is already very large. This past year in particular is the first time it's reaching the general public far more. ESPN and USAU made a deal to broadcast three major tournaments over the club season. Recently, they did the first full weekend of coverage on ESPN 3 and ESPNU for the college national championships. Got some great ratings and opened the eyes of many fans finding the sport for the first time. The next major broadcasting will happen over fourth of July weekend for the US Open. The next will be at the end of October for the club national championships held in Texas.

How helpful do you find social media for "spreading the word" about ultimate?

Social media has advantages to spreading the word for sure. The MLU and each team have extremely active social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The one big downfall is how limited you are to your own network. You have to find people and have them follow or friend you, and then you can hit them with tons of great content. If there isn't already a relationship, hours and hours of content will be lost on blind eyes.

Do players have brand sponsors? If so, what are some of the biggest sponsorships players have been receiving?

The league controls sponsors so far, so no individual players have sponsors. As a team, we are sponsored by the sports drink Body Armor. We met with reps from a major car company recently to have them sponsor the playoffs. The league itself is sponsored by an apparel company, a glove company, a disc company, and a few others.

Do ultimate players clean up with the ladies?

Only the redheaded ones. Actually, if treated like a nerdy hobby, it generally becomes a decent talking point with girls that have nothing to do with it. In the ultimate community, the better players "clean up" in the game of love.

How do you recruit new players? Are there particular schools that are known for their ultimate programs? Are there open tryouts?

There are absolutely open try outs for pretty much every team. Quickly turning into closed tryouts though to keep the level of play as high as possible. Getting new players from colleges is a blessing, because they generally don't have any bad habits to fix. Lots of college programs have storied histories. Right now, some of the top programs (in no particular order) include: Oregon, Pittsburgh, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Carleton, Texas, Colorado, and Harvard.

What are the fan turnouts like at games? Are fans really into it?

The fan turnout has been a mixed bag this season. In CT last year, we would have between 500-1500 per game. This year, we have had between 400-1000 at our home games. Around the league, attendance has been similarly staggered. In Vancouver this past weekend, I believe they cracked 2,000 for a record.

Compared to other professional sports, at what age do ultimate players hit their peak? How long do you think you'll be able to play for, at your current level of play?

I'd say the peak ages are between 24-28. Although, with the sport becoming so much more competitive in college, you see players at the top of the game starting at 21 some times now. Very similar to other professional sports, you will have some outliers. I will probably play into my mid to late 30s.

After you're done playing, do you see yourself becoming an ultimate frisbee general manager of sorts?

I would love to stay involved with the professional leagues as they develop over the years. I hope the ground work we are laying in these first years will enable a long standing professional sport. Certainly will spend some time coaching when I can no longer run, and then hope to spend time behind the scenes on the business side as well.

Is there anything else you'd like the viewing public to know about ultimate frisbee or your team, the New York Rumble?

So much to say. I've personally [received] some press this season for having a good year, which has been really cool. Lots of stats here. And last year we were in Men's Fitness and Sports Illustrated. Then hit some shows like Fox and Jimmy Fallon. So we definitely have some interesting press out there.

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