Artículo en The Guardian sobre la evolución de las disciplinas del disco volador durante la pandemia

(artículo original en The Guardian)

Disc sports keep on growing – and aim to expand their empires

Ultimate and disc golf emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever. Now they are looking to move into TV and games

Ultimate could be an Olympic sport one day
'Unbelievable': disc golfer throws 247ft birdie to push contest to a play-off – video

Watch for flying discs.

No, not on a college quad. On your TV. In a Major League Soccer stadium. On your gaming console. Amid your options for gambling. Maybe even in the Olympics one day.

Disc golf (not frisbee golf or “frolf,” no matter what George said on Seinfeld) and ultimate (not ultimate Frisbee) emerged from pandemic hibernation stronger than before, making their way on to various US TV networks. Most athletes have day jobs, but as each sport progresses, a few more people may be able to make a living throwing and catching.

Both sports fall under the umbrella of the World Flying Disc Federation, which is recognized by the IOC and includes some other disciplines like freestyle. Recognized sports aren’t quite an elite club of sports on the verge of a jump to the Olympics – don’t expect to see air sports or floorball anytime soon – but the WFDF made a serious push to get at least one of its disciplines into the 2024 Games and will do so again for 2028. Upon missing out on the Paris program, the WFDF released a gracious “thanks for thinking of us” message, a sharp contrast from the more petulant releases from other sports that missed out.

Ultimate is a bit farther along than the WFDF’s other disciplines. The college game has hundreds of teams, with championships on ESPN’s farther-flung networks.

Professional ultimate has had a few fits and starts. Game clocks and referees are routine in other sports, but they run counter to the self-officiated tradition of ultimate. And many players boycotted the league in a gender-equity movement that didn’t come to fruition as many had hoped.

But the AUDL (American Ultimate Disc League) has survived the boycott, a rival league and the pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 season. Its championship weekend, which starts on Friday, will be at DC United’s Audi Field.

“I’ve reminded owners – we’re not in the ultimate business, we’re in the entertainment business,” said AUDL commissioner Steve Hall.

And that entertainment may be more accessible on more platforms soon. The weekend games will be on Fox Sports 1,
 capping a season of Fox Sports 2’s weeknight replays of the live broadcasts on the AUDL’s site. The league also has international deals. The Fox deal is up after this season, and the league has retained heavy-hitting Wasserman Media to look ahead.

On the gender issue, the Premier Ultimate League features pro players from
 across the gender spectrum. The league also resumed operations after the pandemic, opting to go on its own rather than try to fit into the AUDL.

“They said, ‘We would like to take the lead,’” Hall said.

The news isn’t as good in Australia, where a mixed-gender league co-founded by
 women’s Australian football/ultimate player Cat Phillips has gone dormant.

Ultimate is unique, though, in the sense that it already has a thriving club game for men’s, women’s and mixed teams, which means the governing body of USA Ultimate runs its own events, some offering
 modest prize money. The Pro Championships over Labor Day weekend had some games on ESPN3 online, with rebroadcasts set for ESPN2 later in September. Players overlap between the AUDL, PUL and USA Ultimate, leading to extreme travel for athletes like the DC Breeze players who competed in an AUDL playoff game Friday night in Washington, then took a red-eye flight to play for traditional club powerhouse Truck Stop the next afternoon in Colorado.

The schedule conflict, though, doesn’t mean the organizations are at odds. Without the schedule-ruining scourge of Covid, the AUDL hopes to finish its season before the Pro Championships each year. USA Ultimate has worked with the AUDL and PUL in an advisory role.

“We have pretty regular communication with both leagues and often discuss how we can better support each other,” said Andy Lee, USA Ultimate’s managing director for marketing and communications. “As we emerge from the pandemic and continue to recover ourselves, I’m sure those conversations will formalize a little more and continue. While there is currently no formal relationship with the AUDL, the dialogue is pretty regular and positive.”

One sticking point is the name of the sport. “Ultimate” draws puzzled looks from people who don’t already know the sport and may immediately think of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with flying fists rather than flying discs. “
Disc sevens” is one name that’s been floated. “Ultimate Frisbee” is still used informally, but because “Frisbee” is simply one brand of disc, saying “ultimate Frisbee” is akin to calling American football “Wilsonball.”

“It’s a challenge in a lot of ways for sure,” Lee said. “But with the sport having just celebrated its 50th anniversary, the name also has a lot of history behind it. It’s also a challenge because there isn’t an obvious replacement.

Disc golf, on the other hand, is easy to comprehend. It’s golf, played with discs. Instead of holes, disc golf uses baskets with chains that produce a satisfying ka-ching when a shot is made. It’s an easily accessible recreational sport, with
 a directory now counting 6,678 courses in the United States.

Like ultimate, disc golf has made inroads on TV. The Disc Golf Pro Tour
 now has events on ESPN’s networks, with the tour championship set to be broadcast on ESPN2 for the second straight year in October. Last year’s championship drew 225,000 viewers on ESPN2.

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