Flatball Radio Debut Brings Storytelling To The Big Stage

“So a team is in a vertical stack, and they are calling an iso,” I say into my iPhone, struggling to remember exact details of the tale I had been told so many years ago. “And the thrower yells ‘iso hooking-up-with-so-and-so!’ and two guys cut. They arrive at the disc at the same time.”

I take a breath, arriving at the punchline, the only part of the story you really need to remember in order to retell it.

“And as the two guys simultaneously catch the disc, one guy says to the other, who is so-and-so’s boyfriend, ‘I’m so sorry!'”

On the other end, Matt Mastrantuono unleashes a hearty chuckle, though not for the reasons I would have predicted before launching into the story.

“That’s funny,” he says as his laughter subsides, a slight aftershock of giggling escaping his throat as he continued. “I’ve heard that one before.”

Matt Mastrantuono loves a good story. The 27-year old Oregon transplant — hailing from the birth state of Ultimate, New Jersey — is best known in the Ultimate community for telling the story of his team, Portland Rhino, in his 2012 film Chasing Sarasota. The film’s release went around the US and even went global. Chasing Sarasota was the type of story that connected with our community yet somehow connected our community, too. Now, Mastrantuono aims to share more stories from within the Ultimate community and do as much, or more, with Flatball Radio.

“This project is going to be able to document stories that have never had a place before,” Mastrantuono said to me in an interview, “I want Flatball Radio to be a place where Ultimate players can come together and celebrate how our sport moves us, makes us laugh and creates deep, human connections.”

The Flatball Radio project is built around live storytelling performances. The debut later today (December 3rd) at Market Theater in Seattle is essentially a pilot program (note to our Seattle readers: tickets are still available).

Mastantuono, who is the show’s executive director, and co-creator Tyler Kinley (of Sockeye fame) have been working hard with six incredible storytellers in preparation for the event. Ben Wiggins, Dominique Fontenette, and Gina Phillips (of The Ultimate Mistake) are just a few of the voices who will share their tales on stage. There will be high quality cameras rolling to record the event for digital distribution.

“There’s nothing better than watching a compelling storyteller tell you their tale live,” said Mastrantuono when I asked him why the need to start live.

It isn’t just about Ultimate. It’s more about the people and stories that populate it, rather than the 175 grams of plastic that unite us.

“The themes and the emotions and the things that they talk about are something people can relate to. Real human stories that have emotions that anybody can connect to whether you’ve played Ultimate or not,” explained Mastrantuono.

“We have stories about friends and family committing suicide, about people coming from broken homes, about a player’s mom getting cancer midseason,” Mastranuono paused, before adding, “Then again, we have a story about fart metaphors.”

The quest hopes to bring lively anecdotes to light and to give brilliant storytellers an audience. Kinley’s extensive reach in the Ultimate community helped locate people that he “knew could command the stage and tell a good story.”

But the real challenge is that you have to go beyond just getting exciting people, tossing them a microphone, and shining a spotlight on them. The entire team met three times in Seattle, designing a timeline, brainstorming the content, and honing their craft. There’s a feedback process between the directors and storytellers that allows them to revise and refine their performance. It’s not unlike the Ultimate practices they’ve all attended over the years. The nervousness, however, is different.

“We’ve never done this before. With something like Chasing Sarasota, it was easier because I had a final product. I have a movie that was the center of an event,” admitted Mastrantuono, “The anxieties and chaos behind a first time event are the things that are adding up right now.”

After the “right now” passes for the Flatball Radio team, they’ll set about preparing for digital distribution. What happens from there is uncertain.

“A lot is hinging on this first event and seeing how the live performance and the digital release goes. We need sponsors and we need the support of the community,” explained Mastrantuono.

If successful, the duo of creators will consider other options for future stories. Whether that be an audio podcast, an active story blog, or user submissions, Mastrantuono says they are open to exploring other mediums. The goal is making content that is accessible and quick to consume. One dream would have the team sending the live storytelling events around the country, following in the footsteps of Mastrantuono’s feature film.

Flatball Radio pilot program, if successful, could ensure its story continues.

***

I wasn’t entirely shocked that the hook-up story had made its way across the United States. I always suspected it was the type of story everyone seemed to be a couple of degrees of separation from; everyone had a teammate whose roommate’s brother was there, or something. Perhaps it is merely the collective fiction of our Ultimate culture — a suburban legend worth a few laughs.

“Man, from coast to coast, strange how we both know that one,” I said, vocalizing my observation. “I guess it is just one of those stories we tell.”

  1. Keith Raynor
    Keith Raynor

    Keith Raynor is a Senior Editor and the College Content Manager at Ultiworld. He co-hosts our Deep Look podcast and does play-by-play and color commentary. He coaches UConn Rise, the college's women's team. You can reach him by email (keith@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@FullFieldHammer).

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