Legitimizing The Sport

Twitter was buzzing yesterday over the news (first reported by Ultiworld) that USA Ultimate had required Pennsylvania club team Heva Havas to change its name for the series. That buzz has now been codified into an op-ed by Liam Rosen that decries the “race towards legitimacy” in ultimate. Too bad.

First of all, a “Heva Hava” is a farmer that assists in the reproduction of cows. You can google it for the more graphic details.

While I certainly have nothing against the perfectly valuable service that heva havas perform, can anyone seriously say with a straight face that it is a legitimate team name for a sport? Can you imagine the ESPN broadcast team talking about the Heva Havas on the air?

For many years, USA Ultimate has been requiring teams to change their names if they are deemed inappropriate (often for sexual reference).

Here is the text of the letter from USA Ultimate — sent by Byron Hicks — to Heva Havas:

[quote]Each year USA Ultimate Staff along with the National Directors review the names of teams that have registered for the Championship Series. This process has become more important with the increased media exposure that the sport is seeing in print, television, and on web based information sites. Unfortunately this means that a lot of the team names that have been allowed in the past, including some that have been in use for the last few years, will no longer be permitted.

After review it has been decided that your team name will not be allowed for the 2013 Series or future USA Ultimate competition. We will need you to submit an alternate team name by Monday August 26th. We will then change your team name on the event roster and in the Score Reporter.

We understand that your team may have already purchased uniforms or made other financial decisions around your team name. We will not require that you change any of these things for the 2013 season.

I know this is going to come as a shock and a major disappointment to your team but this decision is final.[/quote]

The reality is that we cannot have it both ways at the highest levels of the sport. We can’t have ESPN coverage, increased spectator interest, more sponsorships, and a sport that people take seriously while simultaneously allowing clever, but inappropriate team names.

In his op-ed on Skyd, Rosen seems to want to head in the other direction from the current trajectory:

[quote]Ultimate is now suffering from a race toward legitimacy. In the last few years, as the chance to market ultimate as a “legitimate” product has loomed closer and closer, organizing bodies appear to be falling over themselves in a race to remove anything that could potentially damage the sport’s image — but at what cost? How long can these organizations clamp down on self-expression before the players and teams start to rebel — and is it worth it? There are still teams out there that are pushing the lines as far as legitimacy goes, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see USA Ultimate continue to whitewash any rogue elements as the premise of national broadcast coverage from Frisco looms nearer.[/quote]

Whitewash rogue elements? Asking a team to change their name is whitewashing?

The fact is that USA Ultimate did extensive polling and surveying of the membership base as they put together their most recent strategic plan. The result was clear: players WANT increased media exposure and WANT a move towards legitimacy. Therefore, increasing the visibility of ultimate is USAU’s number one priority.

Yes, that is going to come with some costs. Just as a player would not be allowed to scream “fuck you” on the field without a penalty, teams aren’t going to be able to have names that reference cows having sex. It’s not whitewashing, it’s just common sense.

  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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