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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / August 18.
  • ESPN shows Ultimate live, now can Frisbee make the Olympics?

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    ESPN2 broadcast Ultimate live on Sunday night, introducing the sport to a large cross-section of people who had never seen it before.

    ESPNU will also rebroadcast the U.S. Open Mixed final — won by Seattle Mixtape over Minnesota Drag ‘n Thrust — on Tuesday when it transforms into “ESPN The Ocho” for the day.

    “Unfortunately, Cotton McKnight and Pepper Brooks will not be on-hand to provide colorful commentary of all these great events,” ESPN said in a press release.

    For Ultimate — a fast-moving, 7-on-7 team sport that was invented in the late 1960s at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., and combines elements of football, basketball and soccer — appearing on ESPN2 was a major benchmark for a sport that is ascendant.

    **Ultimate is played in nearly 100 countries and there are formal WFDF member associations in 76 countries as of today.

    **ESPN regularly features highlights of the professional American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) in its Top 10 plays.

    **Alec Baldwin recently narrated a documentary on the sport, “Flatball – A History of Ultimate,” directed by legendary New York player Dennis Warsen.

    **Bleacher Report also recently featured how former FBI Director James Comey played Ultimate in college.

    Eventually, Ultimate hopes to make the Olympics.

    Paris will host the 2024 Games, while Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics.

    Governed by the “Spirit of the Game” in which the sport is self-officiated, Ultimate is played in Open, Women’s and Mixed Divisions. And the fact that it can be played on the same field by both men and women — liked mixed doubles in tennis — probably helps its cause for a worldwide audience.

    Robert “Nob” Rauch, the President of the World Flying Disc Federation, believes Ultimate has a real chance to be showcased in one of the coming games.

    “The Olympic Games is a business, with NBC as a key partner, and being able to demonstrate the attractiveness to a broader viewing audience will be one of the criterion on which the sport will be judged as a potential new sport being considered for inclusion in the Programme,” Rauch told ZAGSBLOG.  “However, this is not the only element on which we will be judged, with attributes such as attractiveness to youth, gender equity, and our spirit of the game also contributing to our chances.”

    Both France and the U.S. have strong Ultimate communities, which also bodes well going forward.

    “It is very positive that the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games will be in Paris and Los Angeles, respectively (subject to final confirmation on September 13 by the IOC),” Rauch said. “France, as one of our largest national associations,  has a very strong flying disc program, from the school level through elite competition, and France is ranked in the top 8 national Ultimate programs.  There are over 5 million active Ultimate players in the U.S.,  and the U.S. is consistently ranked first in the world.  Having a large local participation and fan base, and the potential for a strong performance in the Games, are important considerations for host cities as they make their recommendation to the IOC for sports they would like to see included. Coincidentally, we were recently able to showcase the sport with our World Championship of Beach Ultimate in Royan, France in June, and we will be hosting the World Ultimate Club Championship next summer in Cincinnati, Ohio.”

    Having ESPN showcase a competitive game on Sunday night with several exciting huck plays (deep throws) and defensive layouts also couldn’t have hurt Ultimate’s cause.

    “Ultimate has just begun to test the waters with linear television broadcasting, such as with WFDF’s broadcast of the World championship finals last summer on CBS Sports or with USA Ultimate’s coverage on ESPN2 last night of the US Open Mixed Championship,” Rauch said. “This is a great next step as this ‘pushes’ content out to a larger, non-endemic audience and, hopefully, expands the viewing audience following the sport. ”

    **Across an Ultimate career that has lasted almost 30 years, Adam Zagoria has competed in College, Open, Mixed, Masters and Grandmasters Nationals. In 2013, he captained the Westchester Ultimate Summer League championship Gold team. His team also won the WSL title in 2011. Zagoria is the co-author, along with Tony Leonardo, of “ULTIMATE – The First Four Decades.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.