March 27, 2018
By Evan Lepler
Here we go! We’re just four days away from four teams taking the field to launch the seventh year of the American Ultimate Disc League, and the preseason anticipation is finally reaching its crescendo. The marquee matchup of opening weekend will feature the Tampa Bay Cannons at the Raleigh Flyers live on Saturday at 7:00PM on Stadium. Both teams took gigantic steps forward in 2017, but still endured sour, frustrating finishes to their championship quests at the hands of the Dallas Roughnecks.
Last season, the Flyers and Cannons combined to win nine more regular season games than their collective 2016 records. Raleigh went from 9-5 to a league-best 13-1, while Jacksonville progressed from 5-9 to 10-4 and back in the postseason. Over the course of the year, each franchise was generally considered to be among the top five in the league’s final overall Power Rankings, but that meant nothing when they both got bounced by the Dallas when everything on the line in the playoffs.
Though the Cannons moved from Jacksonville to Tampa Bay in the offseason, there remains great familiarity in this Florida vs. North Carolina showdown. Already contentious rivals, the Flyers and Cannons’ series sizzles even hotter this spring, thanks to Raleigh’s signing of Mischa Freystaetter, the perennial MVP candidate who led Jacksonville with a whopping 189 goals over the last three seasons. Meanwhile, the Cannons’ new commander is Andrew Roca, who happens to have been Freystaetter’s college coach at UCF, adding yet another wrinkle into the latest Flyers-Cannons competition. There’s also a history of remarkably close games, with four of the last six meetings having been decided by one and three of the 11 all-time meetings requiring overtime.
While this Saturday’s game is chock-full of fascinating storylines, it did not crack my personal “Lepler’s Top Five Most Anticipated Contests Of 2018”. Making the top five is increasingly competitive and tough, a positive precursor that we are in for a mighty compelling five months of ultimate leading toward Championship Weekend in Madison on August 11-12. Here is a look at the most anticipated games this year, along with a bunch of other top fives to get you ready for the 2018 season.
Top Five Most Anticipated Games
The following are listed chronologically. Star indicates game will be available for live broadcast as part of 2018 AUDL Game of the Week.
Toronto Rush at San Francisco FlameThrowers, April 21*
Week 4 of the regular season provides a rematch of last year’s thrilling championship game, won by the San Francisco FlameThrowers 30-29 in Montreal. The FlameThrowers will have a different look, but still have plenty of firepower with Eli Kerns, Marcelo Sanchez, and Antoine Davis leading the way.
Raleigh Flyers at Dallas Roughnecks, April 28*
Arguably the two strongest teams in the entire league during the 2017 regular season, the Roughnecks were the only squad in the circuit to best Raleigh last year. If the Flyers can win in Dallas for the first time, it will likely signify a changing of the guard in the South.
Madison Radicals at Minnesota Wind Chill, May 5
Already a crucial Midwest matchup, this game rises into the top five because it will be played at TCF Bank Stadium as a doubleheader with Minnesota’s MLS franchise. By sharing a stage with America’s top pro soccer league at this state of the art facility, throngs of new Minnesota Wind Chill fans should bear witness to this contest, perhaps giving the Madison Radicals a chance to realize how their opponents usually feel going up against the always ready and rowdy Madison fans at Breese Stevens Field.
Raleigh Flyers at Madison Radicals, May 26*
On the same weekend that College Nationals will unfold about 80 miles down the road in Milwaukee, this sparkling inter-divisional matchup looks, on paper, like the AUDL’s game of the year. The Radicals beat the Flyers at the final four in San Jose back in 2015, but Raleigh’s 2018 roster has the pieces in place to potentially win three games at Breese Stevens this season. Wouldn’t it be particularly fun if the ultimate gods conspired to give us another UNC Darkside-Wisconsin HoDags collegiate quarterfinal on Sunday morning?
New York Empire at Montreal Royal, June 16*
Week 12 of Stadium’s primetime schedule gives us a great gathering of characters in front of the many great ultimate fans in Quebec. By this point of the year, Beau Kittredge and Marques Brownlee should be in sync with Jeff Babbitt, Ben Jagt, and the New York Empire’s other returning playmakers. Meanwhile, the Royal have also bolstered their 2018 squad on a mission to return to the postseason for the second straight season.
Top Five Franchise Cornerstone Players
The following are listed alphabetically.
Jeff Babbitt, New York (pictured)
After delivering the league’s first 40-goal, 40-block season in 2017, is it crazy to imagine that 50/50 is within reach this season? With more talent around him and a steady coaching staff to utilize him, Babbitt will be a force in every game he plays.
Mark Burton, Seattle Cascades
The self-proclaimed “Peter Pan of Ultimate,” the guy who wants to stay a kid forever turned 31 last October. Still, the versatile Burton has proven that his old-school style can produce as a handler, cutter, and leader. On a Seattle Cascades roster with plenty of unknowns, Burton will strive for a record third straight First Team All-AUDL appearance, and also to foster the youth around him to give Seattle a shot at returning to the playoffs.
Andrew Carroll, Toronto Rush
The unassuming Carroll will sneak up opponents no longer. Once considered Toronto’s secret weapon, Carroll has ascended to become one of the top cutters in the world, steady and relentless in his downfield dominance. After scoring 31 goals combined in his first two AUDL seasons, Carroll found the end zone 37 times in just nine games in 2017, a level of production that he will likely surpass this summer.
Mischa Freystaetter, Raleigh Flyers
In Freystaetter’s first practice with the Flyers, he wowed his new teammates very quickly. First, he went leaping to catch a disc that was more than 10-feet high. Then, a few throws later, he lunged and snagged a disc about three inches from the ground. No joke: the 6’7” Freystaetter’s combination of size, athleticism, and agility has produced the widest catch-radius that the sport of ultimate has ever seen. Understandably, no one in the league has scored more goals than Freystaetter over the past three seasons.
Jonathan Nethercutt, Raleigh Flyers
Without question, Nethercutt now has more weapons around him than ever before. When it became clear that Freystaetter would be his newest target, his rival from Florida preemptively congratulated him on a 200+ assist season in 2018. The 2017 MVP had 72 assists, while the league-record is 86, but if the 26-year-old Nethercutt stays healthy and comes out firing, look out. Two hundred seems high, but the first 200-assist season could definitely be within reach.
Top Five Players Who Changed Teams This Offseason
Ed. Note: The next few series of top five lists do not indicate how Evan used criteria to determine the ordering of players. So, let's all do the reasonable thing and assume he has listed them in order of his absolute personal preference of those individuals.
Hunter Corbett, San Diego to San Francisco
While the FlameThrowers are losing a chunk of their championship core, adding Corbett from San Diego is a really big deal. Nagging injuries derailed a potential All-AUDL performance in 2017, but through three seasons with the Los Angeles Aviators and San Diego Growlers, Corbett has repeatedly illustrated how he can take on a variety of roles proficiently. Since he’ll play playing on his third West Division squad in four years, almost half of his games will be against one of his former teams. And if the FlameThrowers are going to stay the best in the West, Corbett will likely be a big reason why.
Mischa Freystaetter, Tampa Bay to Raleigh
While other transactions in the South Division served to strengthen or weaken teams in various ways, no single move shifted power as significantly as this one. The Flyers were the best team in the regular season, but were missing something in the playoffs. There’s a good chance that Mischa might be that something.
Kurt Gibson, Dallas to Chicago (pictured)
Widely considered one of the greatest players in the game, Gibson has not yet thoroughly dominated an AUDL season. He played an important but complementary role alongside Beau Kittredge and Ashlin Joye with the 2014 Spiders, then tag-teamed with Jimmy Mickle on San Diego in 2015 on a Growlers squad that failed to qualify for the postseason. With Dallas, Gibson’s performance ranged from solidly fine to excellent while playing sparingly, appearing in only eight regular season games over the two seasons. On the 2018 Chicago Wildfire, the stars seem to be aligning for Gibson to have his most productive individual pro season of his career.
Beau Kittredge, San Francisco to New York
While Mischa and Kurt are more consistent and powerful game-changing forces in 2018, the 35-year-old Kittredge is still very likely the greatest player in the history of the sport. His lightning speed remains a significant weapon, and his underrated on-field IQ gives him an edge that helps to make up for the possible half-step he’s lost due to age, injuries, and other wear and tear. He enters his first year in the East Division in search of his fifth consecutive AUDL title, having won previously with San Jose (2014, 2015), Dallas (2016), and San Francisco (2017); he amassed a weekend high of 10 goals at last year's Championship Weekend. Every ultimate fan, not just lovers of alliteration, will probably enjoy watching Beau and Babbitt play together.
Chris LaRocque, Tampa Bay to Dallas
Maybe the most underrated free agent signing of the offseason, LaRocque to Dallas gives the Roughnecks exactly what they need. LaRocque, who finished tied for 13th in the entire league with 46 assists last year, is a versatile presence who can both take over points or play a steady role in a system. Considering who the Roughnecks lost, the former Florida State star is well-suited to assume a wide range of responsibilities for a Dallas franchise that is still incredibly talented and capable of beating anyone in the league.
Five More Significant Players Who Changed Teams
Ross Barker, Madison to Chicago (pictured)
It hurts the Radicals and helps the Wildfire, a zero-sum transaction that brings the perennial champs from Madison much closer to the rest of the pack and probably lifts the Wildfire into the playoff picture. It may not be enough to vault Chicago past Madison in the Midwest, but the Radicals know as much as anyone how important the speedy Barker was to their offense a season ago, as he piled up 25 goals and 16 assists in just nine games.
Marques Brownlee, Philadelphia to New York
Brownlee does much more than just lead the league in twitter followers. His 18 blocks last season made him one of just 25 guys in the league who registered that many Ds, and of that group, only Dallas’ Jay Froude, Indy’s Rick Gross, and San Francisco’s Antoine Davis had more goals and more assists than Brownlee, who scored 30 and dished 19. You can probably add Brownlee into the alliterative block bunch, along with Beau and Babbitt.
Nate Goff, Raleigh to Chicago
One block shy of Brownlee in blocks last year, Goff still finished first in Ds on the Flyers team with the best record in the league as an AUDL rookie. Now with Chicago, it would not be at all surprising if Goff tripled his goal (11) and assist (6) numbers from 2017 as he will likely move into a more significant offensive role. With Gibson and Barker, Goff is the third key addition on a squad with expectations steadily rising like, well, wildfire.
Anson Reppermund, Pittsburgh to Madison
Through six years of AUDL competition, there have only been 21 instances where a player has registered 30 or more blocks in a season. Among those 21 magnificent defensive campaigns are two from Reppermund, who sits alongside Peter Graffy and Jonathan Helton as the only players in the league’s history to record multiple 30+ block seasons. It does not seem totally fair to the rest of the Midwest to give the Radicals, who have consistently been the stingiest squad to score against, another defensive dynamo. Only seven players in AUDL history have reached 100 career blocks, and Reppermund (88), along with Indy’s Gross (91), are the most likely candidates to join that club this season.
Nathan Vickroy, Atlanta to Tampa Bay
If someone were to ask the trivia question, “Who was the only AUDL player to score 45 goals AND dish 45 assists last year?” most diehard ultimate fans would ramble off a slew of guesses before contemplating the D-III standout from Georgia College, if they even knew his name at all. But amazingly, Vickroy stood alone in the 45/45 club in 2017. The only other players who previously reached these plateaus in the same season were Indy’s Keenan Plew (twice!), Raleigh’s Justin Allen, Toronto’s Isaiah Masek-Kelly, LA’s Mark Elbogen, Vancouver’s Derek Fenton, Toronto’s Mark Lloyd, and Montreal’s Yoland Cabot. Suffice to say, if Tampa has any postseason plans, the Cannons will be very much counting on Vickroy to step in and have a big year on the O-line.
Top Five Main Handlers
Tim Beatty, Los Angeles Aviators (pictured)
Probably the most underrated name on this particular list, Beatty stepped into the role of LA’s field general in 2017 and delivered a performance that, frankly, not many saw coming. After all, Beatty had only played in eight games two years ago, recording a modest 15 assists and 208 completions. But with some key throwers moving on or getting injured, Beatty more than tripled his key numbers last season, collecting 47 assists and 670 completions. His 97.7% completion rate was better than anyone else in the league that had at least 23 assists.
Pawel Janas, Chicago Wildfire
What kind of leader is Janas? He earned the designation of team captain before he even played a game for the franchise. And when he did take the field, he was central to everything Chicago did. He threw 933 completions, 183 more than the 2nd-most in the league. His 85 assists were one shy of Tyler DeGirolamo’s AUDL single-season record. And, as we’ve already covered, Janas will have a lot more help this season. If he can harness his decision-making just a bit, his throwaways will drop dramatically, his completion percentage will ascend, and the Wildfire’s win total will almost certainly increase.
Bobby Ley, Tampa Bay Cannons
The man with 183 fewer completions than Janas in 2017? That would be the Cannons’ QB, Bobby Ley, who slid into the role previously held by Cole Sullivan and helped double Jacksonville’s win total from the year before. It’s actually reasonable to envision Janas and Ley swapping stats this coming season, considering the makeup of their two teams. It’s likely that Janas’s touches may drop while Ley’s will rise. Like Janas on Chicago’s 2017 roster, Ley will be at the top of every Cannons’ scouting report, and the South has plenty of tough defenders to slow him down. But with downfield targets like Jordan Huston and Nathan Vickroy, Ley is capable of anchoring another excellent Cannons’ campaign.
Jonathan Nethercutt, Raleigh Flyers
What more can be said about last year’s MVP? Well, there is one thing; in fact, it is one big thing that he’s still missing from his ultimate resume. He’s been a college champ and Callahan Award winner and a gold medalist at Beach World’s in France last summer, but he’s still searching for his first professional title. The Flyers have gone 33-9 in the regular season and 1-3 in the playoffs. Fairly or not, quarterbacking greatness is ultimately judged by postseason success. Breaking the single-season assist record is certainly in sight, but so is an AUDL title. Obviously, the latter is much more important.
Justin Norden, San Jose Spiders
The Spiders exceeded expectations in 2017 largely because of Norden raising his game significantly from anything San Jose had ever seen from him before. He played sparingly because of injury in the team’s last championship run in 2015, and he put up so-so numbers as the Spiders stumbled to 5-9 a year later. But his steady handling vaulted San Jose back into the postseason, partnering with Chuck Cao to combine for 105 assists. Without Cao in 2018, Norden will seize even greater responsibility as the Spiders look to take another step forward in the unpredictable West Division.
Top Five Players Returning From Injury
Kevin Brown, Madison Radicals
In two playoff games last year, Brown was +11. But plagued by a nagging heel injury in the regular season, Brown was only +6 in five games. The Radicals could really use a career-year from the 26-year-old to continue their reign in the Midwest.
Mark Elbogen, Los Angeles Aviators (pictured)
Exactly 7 months after ACL surgery, Elbogen summited Mount Kilimanjaro earlier this month on an ambitious trip to Tanzania. That’s big news for the Aviators, who are truly Championship Weekend contenders if Elbogen can rediscover his 2016 form, when caught 49 goals and dished 46 assists.
Kurt Gibson, Chicago Wildfire
A torn pectoral muscle suffered while cliff-jumping in The Philippines last March forced Gibson to miss all but one regular season game in 2017 with the Roughnecks. He still set an AUDL record for completions in a playoff game by going 77-for-79 in Dallas’ semifinal loss to Toronto.
Mike Lee, Ottawa Outlaws
Lee was an AUDL ironman in 2016, playing all 14 games for the Outlaws and scoring 60 goals, making him one of just 15 players in the history of the league to catch 60 scores in a single season. He missed all of 2017 after tearing his ACL, and the Ottawa franchise dropped to 2-12 after going 14-14 the two previous years. The Outlaws offense was in the bottom five in the league in terms of efficiency, and Lee should help remedy that.
Brad Scott, DC Breeze
In August of 2016, Scott was in Madison representing the Breese in the first ever AUDL Fantasy Experience, where fans got to compete alongside a bunch of notable players in an entertaining pro-am. While fun for everyone, Scott, who scored 16 goals for the Breeze in 2016, knew in the back of his mind that it would be his final time on the field in a while. Now, nearly 20 months and two hip surgeries later, Scott, who turns 26 on Friday, is looking to revive the style the enabled him to accumulate 34 blocks in 28 games from 2014-16.
Top Five Players Who Did Not Play Last Year
Cam Burden, Montreal Royal (pictured)
The speedy 28-year-old veteran of Canadian National Teams will be making his AUDL debut for the Royal. At Beach Worlds last summer, Burden led the Canada Mixed team with 29 goals, tied for third-most in the entire division.
Yoland Cabot, Montreal Royal
His 2014 layout score vs. Toronto in the Royal’s first game in franchise history remains one of the greatest highlights the league has ever seen. Now, after announcing that he was retiring after the 2016 season, the 31-year-old Cabot returns for another run with Montreal. Though his numbers dipped in an injury-riddled 2016, Cabot’s 2015 may be the best individual season in Royal history, as he scored 47 goals and dished 48 assists while also recording 12 blocks.
Nathan Hirst, Toronto Rush
In retrospect, it’s even more amazing that the Rush went all the way to the finals last year without Hirst, who spent last season in Europe. The young, versatile cutter recorded 17 goals, 23 assists, and 13 blocks in 2016, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t pick up right where he left off this season.
Karl Loiseau, Ottawa Outlaws
Similar to Hirst, Loiseau missed 2017 because life brought him to Europe, as a job opportunity beckoned him to France. Like the loss of Lee to injury, Loiseau’s absence was something the Outlaws could not overcome. In making his return to the league, the two-time Ottawa captain will look to build upon the 64 goals, 50 assists, and 21 blocks he registered in the franchise’s first two seasons.
Kiran Thomas, Austin Sol
A former USA Ultimate club champion in 2012, Thomas will make his AUDL debut at age 34. A powerful goal-scoring striker in his prime, he joins a core of Austin veterans that will look to mix with the area’s young talent to get the Sol to the playoffs for the first time. Every time he takes the field, he will be #RunningForRevi, a tribute to his two-year-old son that was outlined in a video profile earlier this month.
Top Five Talents Not From North America
Quentin Bonnaud, Montreal Royal
One of the three French National teamers to make a gigantic impact on Montreal’s 2017 season, Bonnaud’s +77 was fifth-best in the entire league last year. And he just turned 22 earlier this month.
Stève Bonneau, Montreal Royal (pictured)
Many of Bonnaud’s 49 goals were thrown by his countryman Bonneau, who dished 51 assists last year, ninth-most in the league. With an arsenal of creative releases and the booming ability to bomb the disc the entire length of the field, Bonneau provides a handling threat that Montreal has not had before. His absence from last year’s playoff game against DC hurt the Royal’s chances mightily.
Esteban Ceballos, Montreal Royal
A member of the Colombian World Games team that won the silver medal last summer in Poland, the 28-year-old Ceballos joins the Royal for his AUDL debut this season. Though his countryman Mauricio Martinez never found his groove for Montreal last season, Ceballos has already been assimilating into the Montreal ultimate scene. Here’s proof of the Colombia ultimate standout getting accustomed to his new, snowy surroundings.
John Doherty, Seattle Cascades
The 26-year-old Irishman led the Cascades with 13 blocks last year as an AUDL rookie, gaining valuable experience that should benefit him greatly as he returns for a second season in Seattle. Known to his teammates simply as “Doc,” Doherty will likely be one of the leaders of the Cascades D-line in 2018.
Justin Foord, Toronto Rush
While it’s unclear how much he will play, or if he will even be with the 2018 Rush at all, the veteran captain of Great Britain’s National Team showed in 2016 that he can make a huge impact in a very short time, catching nine goals and recording 14 blocks in just five games two years ago. This game-changing potential gets Foord in this list, despite the unknown nature of his status.
Top Five AUDL Head Coaches
Tim DeByl, Madison Radicals
The man behind the Radicals innovative zone has led Madison to an unreal 64-8 record in five AUDL seasons, including a perfect 14-0 in 2016. With a confident but relaxed style, DeByl quickly earned the trust of his players and has helped create a pro ultimate culture in Madison that every other franchise would love to emulate.
Mike DeNardis, Raleigh Flyers
Like DeByl, DeNardis helped mold a winning franchise from the moment the team launched its very first pull. In three years, DeNardis, also a co-owner of the team, has piloted the Flyers to a 33-9 mark. Now with more talent than ever at his disposal, DeNardis will hope to push the right buttons for a Raleigh franchise that has all the pieces in place to make a run at the title.
Tyler Grant, San Jose Spiders
In his first year on the job, Grant helped the Spiders surpass all preseason expectations in 2017, guiding the squad to the postseason with a focused and steady approach. His ability to craft winning game plans against top opponents enabled San Jose to knock off eventual champion San Francisco on multiple occasions last year. Back for a second year at the helm, Grant will be seeking not just a playoff berth, but a playoff win, something that eluded the Spiders last season.
Sachin Raina, Toronto Rush (pictured)
Aided by the selfless guidance of long-time Toronto leader Scott Hastie, Raina steered Toronto back to the title game in 2017. He began the season as an assistant, but swapped roles with Hastie in May, winning 10 of the next 11 games before narrowly falling short in the finals. A steady and reliable handler in his playing days, the experienced Raina now begins his first full season as Toronto’s Head Coach.
Darryl Stanley, DC Breeze
The Breeze wisely locked in Stanley through 2019 after DC’s new leader impressed everyone with his demeanor and savvy last season, his first with the team. With the sizeable shadow of Alex Ghesquiere looming as the team’s Technical Director, Stanley still found his voice quickly and had the Breeze within one point of Toronto early in the fourth quarter when the Rush created separation to survive in the East Division final, 29-26. Without some of the playmakers that he had in 2017, Stanley will face a challenge in getting DC back to the East finals, as Toronto looks as good as ever and New York and Montreal both added significant weapons.
Top Five Most Intriguing AUDL Coaches In First Season With Team
Jamison Gorin, Los Angeles Aviators
After three years leading the team, Franklin Rho hands the reins over to Gorin, who served as an assistant a couple seasons ago. Veteran assistant Steve Dugan joins Gorin on the staff, and the duo will strive to gel the Aviators’ considerable talent into a team that can threaten to win a championship.
Trey Katzenbach, Philadelphia Phoenix
Arguably the top decision-maker with the disc in the entire league last season, Katzenbach has long been known for making the right choice and maintaining possession. Consequently, the Phoenix have elevated Katzenbach to Player/Coach status after Eileen Murray left for New York. The 47-year-old veteran packs a presence that commands respect, and it will be interesting to see if the Phoenix can take another step forward in the improved East Division. Philly went 4-10 last year after mustering a 3-39 record in the three previous seasons.
Eileen Murray, New York Empire
One of the architects behind Philly’s surge last year, Murray may not technically be a rookie coach anymore, but she enters her first season with the Empire looking to re-route the franchise back toward the postseason following New York’s tumultuous 2017. Her coaching task certainly evolved when Beau Kittredge announced his intention to join the team. Adding the quirky four-time champ gives Murray a veteran sounding board, though Kittredge, as much as any player in the league, can tend to march to the beat of his own drum. Many of his teammates end up loving him, but Beau can still be an opinionated presence whom Murray will attempt to tame as a part of her bigger plan for New York.
Wes Nemec, Dallas Roughnecks
Nemec replaces Patrick Eberle, who went 25-3 in two dominant regular seasons at the helm of the Roughnecks. With plenty of returning veteran talent, Nemec has said that his coaching style will be far more collaborative than dictatorial. If he can mesh with and earn the trust of his players, it will be a great boon for a Dallas franchise that is striving to keep pace with and ultimately again surpass Raleigh.
Andrew Roca, Tampa Bay Cannons (pictured)
The long-time coach at UCF steps in for Tuba Benson-Jaja, who steered the Cannons for the past three seasons. Roca brings a different style than Benson-Jaja, and it will be very interesting to see how his coaching personality manifests itself in his players’ on-field poise and performance. The Cannons went 25-17 under Benson-Jaja, but lost both of its playoff games. While 2018 could be something of a rebuilding year for Tampa, Roca’s guidance should give the Cannons a road-map to not just return to the playoffs, but to achieve a bunch of postseason success in the years down the road.
Top Five Places to Watch an AUDL Game
Long considered a great ultimate town, the Sol have quickly built up a loyal following of fans, making their home atmosphere among the best in the league. Plus, the Sol’d Out crew has officially become the greatest unofficial media outlet in AUDL history. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll finally get to meet Dr. Flatball, Nice D, and Mr. Wham-O when I visit the capital of Texas for LA’s visit on April 14.
The Breeze have a new home in 2018, moving about four miles north from Gallaudet University to Catholic University. It’s reasonable to expect the fans to follow, considering that DC has steadily supported its team over the past couple seasons, in which the team has gone 20-8. Pregame concerts and lucrative halftime promotions have become commonplace for the Breeze, who count DC Mayor Muriel Bowser as a fan. Bowser joined me for a brief chat in the broadcast booth last April.
Three words: Ace the Aviator. Without question, LA has the league’s best mascot. Ace is the perfect mix of entertainment and engagement, without overshadowing the game. Aviators ownership deserves a lot of credit for building a brand in a town that is overflowing with activity.
Speaking of building a brand, no team in the league has done so like the Radicals. Often, they are featured on local news alongside the Wisconsin Badgers or Green Bay Packers. As a result, Radicals players now get recognized more and more frequently around town. With a great home stadium, excellent concessions, passionate fans, and a fun and convenient postgame hangout destination, it makes all the sense in the world for Championship Weekend to return to Madison for the second time in three years.
Last year’s Final Four destination is certainly worthy of hosting another Championship Weekend down the road. Since the team’s inception in 2014, the Royal have delivered an exemplary gameday product, attracting fans and building a grand ultimate atmosphere. Their loyal followers are devoted to the home team, but appreciate of brilliant ultimate from either side. And their fans’ love can be attracted via great marketing, like when the Toronto Rush took the field wearing old-school Expos t-shirts last August.
The Tuesday Toss is published weekly on theAUDL.com during the season. Got a comment or question about the AUDL or the current state of ultimate? E-mail Evan Lepler at AUDLMailbag@gmail.com. Feedback can also be levied on twitter: @EvanLepler