August 31, 2015 by Charlie Eisenhood in Livewire with 11 comments
Matthew “Skip” Sewell (recently interviewed by our Sin The Fields crew) did a Q&A with Ultimate Interviews about his new beach tournament, Miami Vice.
Lots more at the link, but I wanted to highlight this answer about the future of pro ultimate (Sewell has played pro ultimate and was a major partner in the MLU until he left last year) that I found quite compelling.
In the short term, I think you’re already starting to see a power shift as older elite players (Jeff Graham in Boston, Sam CK in San Francisco) and younger players making the elite leap (Khalif El-Salaam or Henry Phan in Seattle) are choosing to prioritize pro over club. Elite club ultimate is expensive. For players just coming out of college or older ones with real adult responsibilities, it’s a huge ask to give up entire weekends at a time and thousands of dollars per season to play. Pro is providing a competitive, high-profile experience to those same players at no cost and with less time demands. If the trajectory continues, I see a point in the next five years where a pro league championship is considered to be the defacto national championship for men’s ultimate.
In the long term, it really depends on how deep into the red each league is prepared to go. Historically, it’s rarely the first attempt at professionalizing a sport that succeeds. In the US, the first professional soccer league (NASL) ran from 1968-1984, but didn’t have the financial resources to keep going. That effort though seeded an entire generation of players and fans that now have made soccer (via the MLS) the fourth major sport in America. Whether the current leagues are around for the long term or not, I do know that once a sport has crossed the threshold into pro in the US, it never goes back to just being an amateur/club pursuit.