Comment Of The Day: Ultimate On ESPN

This comment from WaterAndSand on our post about ESPN taking Ultimate more seriously deserves a post of its own.

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The whole deal is surprising to me because ESPN is all over novelty clips, especially when there aren’t a good lot of plays from the big 4 to fill their highlight reel, AKA summer. Off hand: The kid who did the soccer style handstand flip on a basketball, swishing from across court, Brodie’s frisbee clips, the guys who do the same thing with crazy basketball shots, and to a different extent with the crippled table tennis shot.

If you watch SC every day, you could go on and on with these. All of them appear on ESPN fairly often, but for some reason when you couple that novelty factor with a game mostly seen on college campuses, and underfunded at best, it’s no longer as attractive, no matter how impressive it is. Ultimate is stuck in limbo between being one of those novelty clips, and the coverage of a more established small-market sport.

I think you’re right about the youth factor. There aren’t any youth ultimate leagues that I’m aware of anywhere, but there are programs for the big 4 all over the place. Those are gigantic sports industries where a kid can live the dream, get drafted, get famous, get paid, and retire as a sports hero. That isn’t available in Ultimate right now, and until it is, it’s going to be harder to get people interested and give them access.

For what it’s worth, Ultimate does an incredible job of sustaining itself as it currently does. The onus for the growth of the game is almost entirely on the players, and from my perspective, they do a great job with the limited exposure and fans they get. I wonder if there’s any cues you guys could take from soccer for growing the game in that sort of sponsor-heavy big-name environment fostered by ESPN and the notoriety of famous high-dollar athletes. I’m sure they’ve been griping for ages. USA national team plays at Jamaica tonight, and it’s hardly accessible stateside. Why?

Broadcast rights.

If ESPN isn’t willing to pony up for the biggest sport in the world, it is going to take something special for them to give Ultimate its due. To be fair, Ultimate is still relatively new, and I’d say it’s climbed the ladder pretty well thus far. The culture of ESPN is changing and is much more favorable to getting coverage of this type of game than it was a decade ago. With the dedication of Ultimate players, it won’t be surprising to see the sport continue to fast-itself into relevance, including best-of-the-best and more. Hell, I could even see them picking up coverage of a national championship if the scheduling is there.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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