National Championships 2022: Pat’s Field Pass Watchability Rankings

Not all streamed teams are created equally.

Denver Molly Brown's Manu Cardenas. Photo: Greg Pettus --
Denver Molly Brown’s Manu Cardenas. Photo: Greg Pettus —

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2022 Club National Championships is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

Look at how far we have come.

In little over a decade we’ve gone from following Nationals on physical DVDs that got mailed to you several weeks (months? years? Who knows.) after the games were played, to an extravagant on-demand cornucopia of games that can be plucked and discarded on a whim, like so many Caesars being fed grapes by eunuchs.1

With the advent of Field Pass and the ability to bounce between five live games at once, ultimate connoisseurs are now faced with a previously unimaginable number of options to choose from during each round of play at Nationals.

We understand the kind of anxiety that this might create. It’s your ever-dwindling time you are spending on these games instead of fucking around in an Excel doc at your “job,” and you’ve got to make it count. With all of these options, how do you know you’re watching the right one? Should you just go with the primary streamed game? Abandon all control and let Keith Raynor make decisions for the both of you on the Field Pass channel? Get overwhelmed by all of the choices, fail to enjoy any of it, end up inadvertently watching like three hours of cooking videos on Youtube while wondering in the back of your mind whether any of these chefs have been canceled, then see the setting sun outside your office window and rue a wasted day?

Now, while Barry Schwartz might call all of that the “Paradox of Choice,” we here at Ultiworld prefer to think of it as an “opportunity of choice!” An opportunity to watch an absolutely wild amount of ultimate over the course of the next four days, productivity and attention span be damned.

To provide a little help in navigating these abundant waters, we’re – well, I’m – putting together a watchability ranking of all the teams at Nationals that will help guide you through the most extensive live coverage of ultimate in the history of the sport. Some of these teams are already slotted into the streaming schedule while others will play their way onto your screens, and you’ve got to be prepared to get the most out of your brief time on this earth vis-a-vis your streaming choices.

The formula to determine these rankings is proprietary, in that they don’t correspond to anything other than a general vibe check about which teams are most likely to produce a compelling spectacle on the field. This is categorically NOT a ranking of the best teams, or the teams with the best players, or the teams with the most aesthetically pleasing jerseys (although all of that helps). This list does not contain the multitudes of a team’s season, all of the lives who came together to take the journey that led them to this place in time. You are all special, I promise! But you are also all content now. Them’s the breaks.

What this is, is a list designed to do one simple thing: when your moment comes, and you’ve got to click on a link, making sure you don’t mess it all up and watch some boring garbage. Bon voyage!

Tier 1 – Putting the “Pass” in Field Pass

48. Madison Mad Men
47. Cincinnati Omen
46. Minneapolis Pop
45. Atlanta Ozone
44. Virginia VAult
43. Ames Chad Larson Experience
42. SoCal Condors

Congrats to these teams for making Nationals! You did it! Have a great time. Seriously. Take it all in… Extra congrats to CLX for making it back to Natties after an eternity on the shelf. They get bumped up a couple spots on nostalgia factor… It’s semi-disrespectful to have Condors down here, but they are missing some really key players and watching teams struggle without all of their horses can be kinda depressing.

Tier 2 – If you have a dear friend on the team.

41. Chicago Nemesis
40. Washington DC Grit
39. Huntsville Space Force
38. San Francisco Nightlock

Grit make it into the second tier as a first time Nationals team because as a no.11 seed they have multiple wins over other Natties teams and have been knocking on the door of being a legitimately elite team for a few seasons… Space Force makes it here, despite the sneaking suspicion that they might be wildly overseeded, because they are undefeated (mostly against teams that amount to sentient traffic cones, but still…)

Tier 3 – If you have a more medium-level type friend on the team.

37. Denver Love Tractor
36. Pittsburgh Temper
35. Boston Slow
34. Durham Toro
33. Atlanta Dirty Bird
32. Pittsburgh Parcha
31. Austin Doublewide
30. Portland Schwa

A few teams here like Temper and Slow who seem like they could be at 10-10 with a pool one seed and provide some moments of drama before falling off the pace down the stretch… Dirty Bird could be great or borderline unwatchable. Admittedly it’s a risk, but c’mon, aren’t you at least intrigued about what their jerseys are going to look like?… Doublewide games tend to involve a hearty dose of observer activity, which is a minus for watchability, but they did just beat Bravo, which makes them more intriguing than they would otherwise be. If they sucker punch (literally or figuratively) Sockeye in pool play, their ranking could be subject to upward revision.

Tier 4 – Definitely better than most other stuff you’ve probably got going.

29. San Francisco Polar Bears
28. Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust
27. Vancouver Traffic
26. Seattle Riot

I’m pretty intrigued by Riot, regardless of whether they are an uber-talented young team that is about to shake up the bracket with fearless play and put respect back on the team’s name, or, if they are.. not that. And are just kind of okay now? They are still Riot, and it’s like “woah, it’s weird that Riot is just kind of okay now. Do they feel weird about it? Should they? Hmm…” Two interesting outcomes!… Admittedly a low ranking for no.1 overall seed in the Mixed division Drag’n Thrust, but they are just sort of a normie team. I don’t know what to tell you. Start some beef with another team, or run some off-kilter pull pays, or suck really bad for a while in an interesting way and then get good again, or something.

Tier 5 – Noise

25. Madison NOISE

I don’t know what to make of NOISE. Neither do you. Let’s move on.

Tier 6 – Worth tuning out in a semi-important Zoom call to watch.

24. Toronto GOAT
23. New York XIST
22. Denver Johnny Bravo
21. Seattle BFG

Let’s be honest, BFG would be higher if their jerseys weren’t consistently badXIST have some of the best female-matching players in the division, and it is genuinely fascinating to see how other teams react and attempt to dude-ball them to death… A lot of people are calling GOAT as a potential sleeper team, and if that’s true then awesome. If it’s not, then you get to see a bunch of bid-stealing Canadians get their heads beat off. It’s a win-win!

Tier 7 – Miss the next train to not miss their next point.

20. Fort Collins shame.
19. Washington DC Scandal
18. San Francisco Revolver
17. Ann Arbor Hybrid

Will be awesome to not only see Claire Trop be maybe the best player at the tournament for Scandal, but also play the “who is Scandal’s second best player???” game that can keep you puzzling for hours… Revolver checks a lot of the same boxes as Riot, but with the added element of 1) being better and 2) having a truly heart-breaking 2021 Nationals that adds some spice to this season. Remember them having the disc on universe point against Ring and Machine and losing both of those games? They sure do!

Tier 8 – Contemplate sending the link to a non-frisbee friend to prove that this is a good use of time.

16. Chicago Machine
15. Raleigh Ring of Fire
14. San Francisco Fury
13. Boston Brute Squad
12. Vancouver Red Flag
11. Washington DC Truck Stop

A handful of teams in the “so good they are kind of boring” zone, and one team (Truck Stop) that is so boring that they are really good. What elevates Truck to the top of this tier is they have the “this is their year” buzz, which generally either means you get to see a team become the fully-realized version of themselves in the crucible of competition, or you get to see a team implode and realize that they may have just blown their best shot. Another one of those “win-wins”… Look, no one has any idea what Red Flag – they of the borderline-pathological-commitment-to-launching-hucks-into-double-coverage mentality – are going to do at this tournament. They made the finals at WUCC this summer. They finished third at Northwest Regionals this past month. They could maybe beat anyone? They could definitely lose to anyone. Drink up me hearties, yo ho.2

Tier 9 – Tell a bold-faced lie to a loved one in order to watch this team.

10. Philadelphia AMP
9. Toronto 6ixers
8. Seattle Sockeye
7. Seattle Mixtape
6. Raleigh Phoenix
5. New York PoNY

Teams that could be so good they are boring, if not for the fact that they all seem to have a slightly tenuous control on their own narrative in an immensely watchable way. For some, it comes from having a couple individual players who are such unstable yet magnetic elements when they are on the field that you can’t take your eyes off them. For a couple others, the appeal comes from being on the edge of the truly elite, not knowing if they can really get there until they do, needing to jump in with two feet to find out. And then there are AMP and PoNY, who know they have all the pieces but find themselves wondering how many more times they can put them together, how many more autumns these old war horses are going to see.

Tier 10 – Forget the stream, just fly to San Diego.

4. Atlanta Chain Lightning
3. San Diego Flipside
2. Portland Rhino Slam!
1. Denver Molly Brown

Each one of these teams is so unmissable, they get their own l’il blurb…

Chain Lightning are the tipping point team of the men’s division. They just beat Ring at Regionals, and now will almost certainly get a shot at both Machine and PoNY/Sockeye. If they are the real deal, they could throw the whole bracket into chaos. They’ve got a bunch of great recent college stars, John Stubbs in his absolute prime, Nicky Spiva swimming back upstream to his natal waters to lay his eggs and drop bombs, and international icon Tom Tulett in a position to prove that he belongs on the list of best players in the world. Let’s *deep breath* goooooooooooooo…

In terms of questions that this Nationals is posing, “how good is Flipside actually?” is right up there. The bottom tiers of this list are littered with first-year Nationals teams, but Flipside are so loaded with talent and played with such verve all season that they fly up the rankings here just as they did the USAU algorithm. But apart from their exciting players, what makes this team so watchable is the question of its ceiling. The high-water mark for them thus far is being a team that almost beat Fury, which puts them in the same company as Phoenix. Can they actually beat Fury? How about, oh I don’t know, 6ixers in pool play? Is this a new force in the division that will replace Riot as Fury’s chief competitor? Are they a first-year team that’s about to get wobbly legs in the bracket and flame out spectacularly? Are they both? It’s all in play, and we’re all desperate to find out.

I don’t think Rhino Slam! have ever played a boring game at Nationals. It’s really that simple. In a world of dink-and-dunk dominator offenses, they play with an infectious high-energy style that runs on eye-popping trust throws and a complete lack of fear. Watching Rhino try everything makes you believe you can do anything. Clear hard, full-field hucks, can’t lose. Remember in quarters last year when they gave up three points in a row to face universe point against Truck Stop, then Owen Murphy chucked the first downfield look into triple coverage and it worked? That was insane. We don’t talk about that enough. Anyway, go watch Rhino.

This is it. The single most watchable team at Nationals, and the only one that was going to be in this spot. Molly Brown will either finally win their first National title in a coronation of eternal glory and vindication or they will fall into a gaping chasm of cataclysm and despair. They’ve been too good for too long without winning for the case to be anything else. That alone would vault them up these rankings. But it’s not just the emotionally apocalyptic stakes the team is playing with that gets them to number one, they are also just one of the most purely pleasurable teams to watch play the sport. Claire Chastain, both of the Cardenas twins, Lisa P, Nhi Nyugen, Sam Peletier… just a roster loaded with players who all do incredibly compelling things on an ultimate field. Incredible drama and incredible friz, what more can you ask for?

  1. Let it be left unsaid where Charlie Eisenhood finds himself in this analogy. 

  2. I know that flag thing isn’t explicitly pirate-themed per se, but they play like it is, and actions speak louder than branding. 

  1. Patrick Stegemoeller

    Patrick Stegemoeller is a Senior Staff Writer for Ultiworld, co-host of the Sin The Fields podcast, and also a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn.

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