Ultimate has a very important place in my heart; It's because of Ultimate that I came out when I did, and it's why Outsports exists today. On a whim, I went to UCLA to play in a pick-up Ultimate game one Saturday in 1996 (I had played in college). It was there I saw one of the most beautiful sites I'd ever laid eyes on: A UCLA player named PJ Henry. Six weeks later I came out (thankfully, PJ was gay too), PJ soon introduced me to Jim and his flag football league, and the rest is history.
Ultimate is an incredibly open, welcoming place for gay athletes. In over 20 years of playing competitive Ultimate, I've experienced just one incident of homophobia. It was 10 years ago, and I had just caught a 50-yard score on one of the defending champ's top players. I did some funky little move in the end zone, to which he said: "Fag dance." He didn't know I was gay. It was the only time I physically attacked somebody in sports; I think the only reason I didn't get ejected was because the other players knew I was gay...and hated the other guy anyway. Still, that was the only incident I ever experienced. Hell, I heard worse in four years of high school cross-country.
So I was thrilled to hear about the creation of the first professional American Ultimate Disc League (they can't use the word "Frisbee" anymore - that whole trademark thing and all). Last weekend was the league's kickoff, and the games got some buzz with a key play from the Indy AlleyCats even making SportsCenter's Top 10 plays (No. 6 in the video below). AlleyCats player Brodie Smith (on the receiving end of the top 10 play) is quickly becoming a star (a video of his crazy non-edited trick shots video is below).
One gay Ultimate player who emailed me this week said an HRC sticker was present on one of the Columbus Cranes player's equipment "buckets" during their innaugural game last weekend. A spokesperson for the Cranes, Molly Moses, confirmed that the player has had the sticker for years (though she has no knowledge that any of their players is gay). Without being asked, she said:
The Cranes support human rights for all groups and in no way do we discriminate against any group of people.
Aside from it being gay-friendly, Ultimate is the most excited sport I've ever seen. No sport has the number of big plays on offense and defense that Ultimate has. "Touchdown" scores of 70 yards -- all of it in the air -- are not uncommon. And while we see occasional lay-out catches in baseball, Ultimate players do it routinely...with no glove.
Right now the AUDL is only in the Midwest and Northeast, but they're hoping to expand to other parts of the country soon. Some AUDL games are being broadcast online; You can find more info at the league Web site. You can also see a recap of the game between the Detroit Mechanix and the Blugrass Revolution (Lexington, Ky.) below.
Hat tip to Mark Y.