Good piece by Robert Weintraub on Ultimate over at SB Nation Longform:

The good news is there’s not a Birkenstock in sight. No nose rings, dreadlocks, patchouli, or hacky sacks, either. And definitely no bandanna-wearing dogs.

Nothing the common person associates with Frisbee playing is on display at the U.S. Open Ultimate Championships. Instead, there are hyper-fit athletes with ripped physiques dripping with sweat, engaged in intense competition, discussing strategy for the next game, lashing ice bags to sore spots on their bodies — and that’s just the women. If it weren’t for the flying discs, this could be any elite athletic competition. I may have expected a bit of campy pleasure from an Ultimate tournament, but the only clichéd types here are some local gentry who slip, barefoot, onto the field between games for a quick throw and catch.

The Open takes place Independence Day weekend at a soccer complex on the outskirts of Raleigh, N.C. The Open is like the Daytona 500 — a major competition that begins a long schedule of events for elite club Frisbee players. After a series of tournaments that have been organized and sanctioned by the sport’s governing body, USA Ultimate (USAU), the season culminates with the National Championships in October.

This is the first year of the so-called Triple Crown Tour, an attempt by USAU to bring order to what has always been chaos. Previously, club teams across the country played schedules of wildly varying strengths. Some tournaments matched top-notch teams of relatively equal ability, while others included both talented clubs as well as more ramshackle, ad hoc aggregations. That made determining the best teams tricky, involving guesswork and second-hand reporting. With the new setup, which includes four tiers — Pro, Elite, Select, and Classic (think major leagues down to single-A ball), and relegation for teams that can’t hack it at their current level — discipline hopefully has been imposed on the game from the top down.

[Photo Via: The Fuse]