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Ultimate at the DC United Game

July 20, 2009

So these new posts that were supposed to be coming… they haven’t been. Bummer dudes. For what it’s worth, I really do want to write about Ultimate, and I have unfinished write-ups from both Nationals and Solstice that I do plan on getting up here. I just haven’t finished them for one reason or another. But they’ll be here sometime. Yeah. For now, let’s pretend that there have been a few posts between now and when I said I’d be posting a lot and move on from there.

I went to the DC United game yesterday, where Ultimate was showcased at halftime with a Truck Stop v. Truck Stop and Scandal v. Scandal game on opposite ends of the field. Aside from not delivering on the food that was promised for the tailgate (the beer was there),  WAFC did a pretty good job of organizing and hosting a good time for all involved.

The “game” itself was strongly tailored to fit both the time constraints at hand (15 minutes; the rest of halftime was taken up by the usual youth soccer game) and the perceived demands of a crowd that assumedly wanted to be entertained. 

To start, there was little introduction and players lined up along endzone lines that were clearly marked with those small round cones. When a score was caught, players virtually sprinted back to their respective endzone lines and the disc was promptly pulled. Megan McVey, a Scandal player, told me after the game that the organizers had instructed players to avoid calling fouls or picks so that play would be fast. 

They also told them to keep it flashy. Truck Stop’s game started with a a huck on the second throw of the point, and after the turnover, the same play was completed going the other way. Defenders seemed to ease up on their initial deep coverage to encourage these throws, only to make up ground and either a. get skied, b. sky their man, or c. layout huge. Aside from the fact that this kind of play attracted more “oohs” and “ahs” than Truck Stop’s typically conservative style would have, I had no problem with it because I will never have a problem with any game that involves numerous jump balls and Brian Stout.

Seeing Ultimate being played in front of a crowd of eighteen thousand in RFK Stadium was obviously pretty cool. I made sure to look around and see how things were being received by the non-WAFC crowd, and I definitely think while a lot of people used the break to go to the bathroom or buy refreshments, there was a good amount of interest among the soccer fans. I noticed that those paying the most attention were the ones wearing United jerseys, which makes me wonder if it meant that the more dedicated sports fans were interested because they were curious about Ultimate as a legitimate athletic competition. This is, of course, based completely on the probably inaccurate assumption that wearing a jersey of the team you support makes you more interested fan. Correlation =/= causation, or something like that. 

Overall, I’d say that the WAFC exhibition was a success. Matt argued that it was too rushed, which, from an Ultimate fan perspective, I might agree with. But as far as showcasing our sport to a demographic (soccer fans) that might be remotely interested, I think the format chosen was the best option. My only disappointment was with the announcing, which was simply a PA guy reading a script with generic information about how Ultimate is a non-contact, self-refereed sport and blah blah blah. I had talked to WAFC President Bryan Steffen before the event about helping with the announcing, but he told me that the script had to be used because DC United didn’t want the liability of WAFC people on the mic. Oh, well, beggars can’t be choosers.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m hoping that video of the 13-12 Australia v. Japan game at Worlds pops up somewhere because it sounds siiiiiiiiick.


Edit: WAFC’s own write-up, along with some photos, can be viewed here.

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