A scientific exploration of the winner of the decade.
June 16, 2020 by Patrick Stegemoeller in Opinion with 0 comments
Who won the decade? It’s a complex and nuanced question, but with the pseudoscience of bracketology, we can arrive at an answer.
‘Winning’ in and of itself can be a tricky concept. What does it mean to win the battle but lose the war? To win the war but lose your dignity? To win the fields?1.
Wins on the field matter, but so do wins off it. And so does generally embodying the general notion of ‘winning.’ Winning can take many different shapes and sizes, but rest assured that one of the nouns below will have done the most winning and therefore will have “won” the decade.
A few technical points before we dive in:
The 32 entities were determined by me/crowdsourcing the Ultiworld Slack, and were then seeded by Daniel Prentice, Ultiworld’s most objective person. The results of each matchup in the bracket are determined by a very intricate algorithm that is much too complex for me to explain. The important thing to remember is that it’s not me arbitrarily deciding who wins each matchup; it is the notion of pure truth flowing through me, following gravity’s rainbow to an unimpeachable result. Trust me, the results are final and deeply meaningful.
The Lizzo Rule: This is about who won ultimate in the decade, so we’re only accounting for what entities did so far as it relates to their life that can tangentially be connected to ultimate. So, in this bracket, Lizzo can only win in proportion to the impact she has had upon the ultimate community, not the world at large.
The Brodie Rule: Brodie Smith certainly did a lot of winning this decade, both on the field (two club titles, one college title) and off (parlayed a trick shot video into a legitimate social media career). But the biggest win of the decade for the Brodster was leaving ultimate altogether, to become the sort of person who makes a living posting Instagrams about Formula One racing and making YouTube videos with titles like “WHAT’S IN MY MOUTH.” It was definitely the right career move, but it also disqualifies him from this bracket.
And that’s it. Those are the rules. Here are the nouns, seeded from 1-32 and then placed accordingly into four regions.
2. Alex Snyder
4. Kurt Gibson
5. Callahan Videos
7. Jimmy Mickle
8. Colombia Ultimate
9. Gender Equity Movement
10. Off-hand Backhands
11. Jack Verzuh
12. Dylan Freechild
13. North Carolina
14. Beau Kittredge
15. Evan Lepler
17. Matty Tsang
18. Alex “Dutchy” Ghesquiere
20. Dom Fontenette
21. Mitch Dengler
22. Kaela Helton
24. The Titcombs
28. “The Youth”
30. Tank Tops
UNC Wilmington Texting Scandal Region
#1 Revolver vs. #8 Macklemore
The preeminent team in the men’s division, and the most successful on-field team in the world over the past decade, is too important to go down to all but the strongest opponent. And, yet, Macklemore is deeply underseeded here. The Venn diagram of ultimate party culture and the aesthetic of “Thrift Shop” is nearly a perfect circle. And not just in the US. Ever been to a European frisbee party?
For years now, I’ve blamed Seattle for the black hole that is Macklemore, a pied piper of white guilt protest anthems for people whose whole personality fits inside their Fjallraven daypack. But it turns out that his cultural legs come from more than the Emerald City, because European frisbee players love Macklemore. They can’t get enough. When “Can’t Hold Us” comes on anywhere in the EU, everyone freaks out like they were hearing the Beatles for the first time in 1962. Seattle, I’ve been laying the faux-woke corpse of our culture at your feet for years, but it seems like Euros are equally guilty.
It brings me no joy to tell you this, but we, as a community, are basically Macklemore. A (largely) white, well-meaning doofus trying to embody the dream of a woke new world, but constantly stepping on the rakes of our own privilege and then claiming those bruises as solidarity. Five USAU titles and four international gold medals from Revolver leaves a slightly larger footprint, but never forget that the vast majority of ultimate culture this decade was embodied by this guy.
#4 AUDL vs. #5 Matty Tsang
Give props to the AUDL: few thought the league would make it this far. It fought off competition from Major League Ultimate for top talent, secured legitimate sponsorships, launched a streaming platform, and has franchises in virtually every major market. The league has come a long way from the days of Rochester vs. New Jersey, and it says a lot about the tenacity of the early owners and believers that the AUDL is not only still rolling but picking up steam. Of course…they aren’t really making any money, right? Maybe next decade, the AUDL can emerge as a truly profitable entity, but right now it’s still in wobbly-kneed adolescence. Matty Tsang, meanwhile, has winning on lock in the here and now. He won three club titles with Fury to start the decade, left, then came back and won two more. He has WUGC and World Games titles. And, well, he just seems like a really cool guy.
Winner: Matty Tsang
#2 Colombia Ultimate vs. #7 GroupMe
Colombia Ultimate overcame all number of structural barriers to become the biggest threat to US supremacy on the international level. GroupMe burned bright during the middle chunk of the decade and became the preeminent way to organize everything from pickup to legit club teams. Not quite enough, though, and, besides, Slack is better.
Winner: Colombia Ultimate
#3 Gender Equity Movement vs. #6 The Titcombs
The Titcombs are big winners this decade from the massive success of Five Ultimate (including an extremely well-timed sale to Savage right at the end of the decade); the on-field exploits of Qxhna, Rohre, and Xtehn; the acquisition of the Seattle Cascades; and generally being a ‘thing’ in the community. Of course, as Daniel Prentice points out, they are also some of the biggest losers of the decades (still waiting on that Riot title…). Meanwhile, the Gender Equity Movement has made gender equity the lens through which all discourse on the sport happens. It advances.
Winner: Gender Equity Movement
Language Penalties at Nationals Region
#4 Evan Lepler vs #5 Alex “Dutchy” Ghesquiere
The closest call here is in the 4 vs. 5 matchup, with Evan Lepler squeaking out the win over Alex “Dutchy” Ghesquiere. This decade, Dutchy went from a guy playing on Revolver to a guy coaching Revolver, Scandal, and the US National team with a trophy case stuffed full of medals. His greatest accomplishment is a toss up between reaching the top of the pyramid of National team coaches and casting Fury off their eternal throne in his first year coaching Scandal. With a different opponent, he would be cruising into the second round.
But perhaps no one has increased their standing more this decade than Evan Lepler, the glow-up king.
In the ultimate community, Lepler was a guy who had played at Wake Forest and not much else. Then came the ESPN deal. From the first moment he flickered across our streams, sunburned and drowning in an oversized bowling shirt masquerading as a polo, he has been the voice of legitimacy in the sport. He’s been involved in every important USAU event of the past seven years. He’s been flown around the world to do a job that literally didn’t exist before the decade started. He’s going to be in the hall of fame.
Look at this god.
Winner: Evan Lepler
#1 Alex Snyder vs. #8 Pedialyte
#2 Jimmy Mickle vs. #7 Lizzo
#3 Offhand Backhands vs. #6 Compression
The rest of the matchups in this region are fairly one sided:
Pedialyte made the leap from sick babies to degenerate adults, but Alex Synder won five club titles and multiple world championships, was OPOTY at 34(!) years old, and flexed her way into the 2020 WUGC tryouts and on to the team despite quasi-retiring last year.
People from fall league to the pro leagues are covered head-to-toe in Compression gear because it Makes. You. Elite. Or at least more elite than Offhand Backhands.
It’s going to be tough for anyone to take down Jimmy Mickle, and Lizzo doesn’t quite get there. She became a major figure in the community after featuring in Jesse Shofner’s iconic Callahan video and has since been the soundtrack of basically every party tournament since. In 2019, she went mega-famous and became ultimate’s memestress, but there wasn’t enough volume to get past one of the best players of all time who was on the radar all decade long.
Winners: Alex Snyder, Jimmy Mickle, Compression
SportsCenter Thirst Trap Region
#2 Boston vs. #7 Weather
Weather pulls off the biggest upset thus far, partially as a result of being criminally underseeded. It chased Nationals out of Boulder, Rockford, and even Sarasota. Sarasota was a carved-into-marble tradition by the standards of ultimate’s relatively short lifespan, and the move to Frisco in 2013 was like moving the Masters from Augusta. But it was just too windy. Do you know how hard it is to get frisbee people to change their behavior? To do something different that they have a habit of doing? Almost impossible, and yet Weather made it happen. Boston was definitely a thing this decade, peaking with the 2016 sweep in club and pumping out oodles of youth talent and five panel trends, but Weather cruises.
#4 Beau Kittredge vs. #5 Streaming
Look, I understand that the selection committee has a reason for everything, but both Beau Kittredge and Streaming seem radically underseeded. Arguably the greatest player of all time in a decade where he won basically everything under the sun and a seismic change to the way the sport is consumed matching up in the first round? I suppose ours is not to reason why. Look, Streaming is undoubtedly a gamechanger, but it didn’t really flourish until later in the decade and it seems like it’s real impact won’t be fully felt until next decade. It could have – nay should have – made it deeper, but it’s not taking down Beau in round one.
Winner: Beau Kittredge
#3 Jack Verzuh vs. #6. Kaela Helton
Another potential GOAT goes through to round two here, as Jack Verzuh sees off Kaela Helton. Verzuh has a very credible claim to being the greatest college player of all time, barnstormed the club division as a teenager, and has become a key figure in social justice movements within the sport. The easy win here for Jack shouldn’t diminish the decade that Kaela had. A million titles with Fury and the US National team, getting in on the ground floor of GPP (which almost made the bracket itself), and coming out on the right end of this whole thing is quite a way to spend ten years.
Winner: Jack Verzuh
#1 Fury vs. #8 Tank Tops
It’s telling of Fury’s programmatic dominance that they seem slightly less essential in the 2010s than in the 2000s despite winning five titles in the past ten years. They sweep the floor with a balled up Tank Top and then throw it in the trash.
Buying AUDL Franchises on Craigslist Region
#2 Callahan Videos vs. #7 “The Youth”
The wildly underseeded “The Youth” scythe down bloated no. 2 seed Callahan Videos like Florida Gulf Coast gleefully dunking on a bunch of Winklevii.
I’ve written plenty of words already about Callahan Videos, but here’s a quick timeline. They exploded into the public imagination in 2012 with Nick Lance’s video, perhaps the single most iconic piece of ultimate ephemera this decade. 2013 was the beginning of the golden age, as an uptick in reasonable footage and craft behind the camera gave us a year with videos that seemed genuinely important as well as entertaining. That energy maintained for a few more years, hitting another peak in 2016 with the Shofner/Babbitt duo carving out space on the Callahan Video Mt. Rushmore. But in the later third of the decade, the boomtimes turned to bloat. A lack of new ideas and a glut of content drained the spark from Callahan season and turned it into something closer to a ceremonial gesture than an event. It was just like the arc of television over the past twenty years. The Sopranos and The Wire changed everything, then we got a steady digest of incredible shows during the Mad Men/Breaking Bad/Community/Game of Thrones era as the industry started really ramping up, which gave way with tragic inevitability to the bloated drudgery of market efficiency and saturation of the present, where everything is a 6/10 that runs together with everything else.
You can’t doubt the importance and impact of Callahan Videos — the specter of “Kobe Nguyen, Callahan winner” hangs over college ultimate because of her video — but in this house, falling prey to a late capitalist doom spiral is not considered winning. “The Youth,” meanwhile, are on the other end of that spectrum and advance to the next round.
Winner: “The Youth”
#3 Dylan Freechild vs. #6 Mitch Dengler
Let’s pour one out for the dancing Mitch Dengler gif, as the man in orange (the big clementine?) exits early at the hands of Dylan Freechild.
There are larger conversations about spirit and the soul of the game that “Mitch Dengler vs. Dylan Freechild” actually captures pretty neatly, but here we are, just looking at the bottom line of what each achieved this decade. There’s no doubt that Dengler becoming a legit celebrity of the game solely on the basis of knowing the rules is quite an achievement, but Freechild’s star shone brighter.
Winner: Dylan Freechild
#4 North Carolina vs. #5 Dom Fontenette
More pouring out of ones for Dom Fontenette, who battled bravely but could not withstand the entire state of North Carolina. Her resume, in short: After creating early buzz in her youth by assembling Stonehenge, she became an elite contributor much earlier than anyone predicted, putting up bonkers stats against the Persians at the battle of Thermopylae and becoming the first player to slay the mighty Minotaur of Crete and steal the lightning of Zeus in the same calendar year. She added to her trophy case by receiving a Knighthood from Queen Victoria for rescuing the crown jewels from Moriarty and is credited with creating the modern Iditarod after mushing a team of sled dogs through the arctic wilderness to deliver all that medicine to those sick kids in Alaska. She stretched her prime out longer than even her biggest fans expected, pioneering the “motown sound” with Mr. Berry Gordy and winning two world titles with Riot in 2014 and 2018. All very impressive, but have you seen Anne Worth cutting in open space?
Winner: North Carolina
#1 Kurt Gibson vs. #8 Gear
Look, people fucking love Gear. It’s just a fact. Sunhoodies, compression bullshit, resistance bands, foam rollers: you name it and some summer league hero is willing to pay the Titcomb siblings exorbitant amounts for it. People do not necessarily have the same affection for Kurt Gibson. But this isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about winning. And that’s all the explanation this one needs. Kurt moves on.
Winner: Kurt Gibson
Here’s where things stand after round one:
Round two coming next week!
While certain west coast elitists may believe otherwise, I will die on the hill that it is showing up to the fields first, not leaving last. Blood has been and will be spilled again over this conflict. ↩