December 5, 2012 by Charlie Eisenhood in Interview, News with 3 comments
Jonathan “Goose” Helton will have his name in the history books as the first professional Ultimate player to be named the MVP of a league. Last year, playing for the American Ultimate Disc League’s Indianapolis Alleycats, Helton was a dominant force with 32 goals, 64 assists, and 46 blocks across the course of the season. He led the AUDL in both assists and blocks.
Ultiworld spoke with Helton yesterday about his experience in the league, his thoughts about the ever-growing 2013 options, and where he plans to play next season.
One thing is certain: Helton will be back in the AUDL. But he is holding out on announcing which team he will be playing for. Helton is a native Chicagoan and reportedly tried out for the Windy City Wildfire, the city’s new franchise. But he has already shown the willingness to travel to play. So where he’ll end up is unclear.
But he made clear that he was excited to be playing again in the AUDL. “I have to say, strictly from a players’ perspective, it’s a lot more fun to play in the AUDL,” he said. “Not because the competition level is where it needs to be yet, but because playing in front of a crowd is very energizing. And it’s not just the crowd itself, it’s the whole show. You walk out, you’re announced, the other team is announced, there’s a national anthem, there’s a halftime show – it’s a really great production…One of the great things about being on the Alleycats was that we had somebody who was on staff who would carry half-and-half water-gatorade in a flavor that you liked and ran it out to you on the field. Little things like that.”
Like many AUDL players, he praised the on-field experience as well, citing the single-game format and refereed action as big pluses. “I like just playing, and playing as hard as I can,” he explained.
Helton also played this season for Chicago’s elite club team Machine, which made it to quarterfinals in the USA Ultimate Club Championships, earning them a spot in the Pro Flight of the new Triple Crown Tour (TCT). He plans to play for Machine again this year in the TCT.
He wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about the restructuring. “I think there were a lot of other ways to go about what they’re trying to accomplish than the way that they did it,” he said. “I’m a fan of very particular things and then other things I think were unnecessary. I’m glad they decided on a structure that would eliminate, for elite teams, having to go to Sectionals.”
One thing he didn’t like was the name ‘Triple Crown Tour,’ which he finds confusing. “It’s not something easy to explain to a person who wants to be a fan,” he said. “Like, if I have to describe that to my parents, which I’ve tried doing, it doesn’t sink in. I think that’s one of the inherent problems. If we’re wanting to bring in spectators, we want it to be explainable. And I’m not sure that that particularly is.”
Despite the issues he has with the TCT, he doesn’t expect the new proposed NexGen league — which he called an “assumptive takeover of existing elite club teams” — to take its place. He explained:
[quote]Had that model come out a year ago or two years ago, I’m sure it would be met with very different reception. Maybe teams would have been immediately turned on to the fact that, ‘Oh, maybe we can no longer be spending quite as much money on a five year lookout basis and maybe we can be making money. That would be really great.’ And it’s an easy transition, it’s, ‘OK, where do we want to play, guys?’
Now, it seems like a tough thing to have happen. [NexGen founder] Kevin [Minderhout] has proven himself to — as many people have said online – to be able to get things done…He’s got some street cred in the ultimate community, he’s got a great product. But it’s gonna be tougher to get a whole team buy-in than a player buy-in; that’s essentially one of the major distinctions with MLU/AUDL versus NexGen. That may be hard to do. You’re going to ask a team to essentially walk away from USAU…or have a season that doesn’t end. I don’t think teams are gonna do that.[/quote]
Ultimately, though, he sees the increasing options as really great for players and for the sport. “From a player’s perspective, it’s pretty cool because you’ve got a wide spectrum of what you may be looking for…What a year for Ultimate in 2013, right?”