Madison’s pro Ultimate Disc team is winning fans in second season
While Madison tries hard to support its professional sports teams for as long as they exist; I believe, after attending my first American Ultimate Disc League game recently, that the Madison Radicals may be the truest form of social and sporting expression that this city can make.
For as long as I can remember, warm sunny days in any Madison park, but surely James Madison, have fostered the fertile natural and native talent of disc players, much like hockey seemingly grows from the soil of Minnesota. As amatuer teams still thrive in this city, its deep bench is also able to stack a strong group of “paid” players that almost won the professional league championship last year.
My first Radicals game two weeks ago (May 9) was at Breese Stevens Field, a glorious historic stadium that the City of Madison has steadfastly has committed to keeping active, mostly through soccer tournaments.
The Radicals defeated the Minnesota Windchill 22-15 this day and are now 5-1, a record Radical standout Mike Swain says is partially due to their fans.
“I dont know if they realize that, but we can hear everything they say,” Swain said of the fans. “Its super motivating to hear these guys screaming at us, and yelling stuff at us while we’re playing, its great.”
Hear ‘Go You Radicals Go’ by Evan Murdock and the Imperfect Strangers:
The radicals will play the Chicago Wildfire Saturday night at 5 p.m. at Breese Stevens which will feature an upgraded public address system. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 as part of a deal the AUDL signed with the sports network.
Professional Ultimate Disc games are quite accessible for even the sport ambivalent, with continuous action and simple rules. Stadium announcer Jason Joyce and music director Robin Davies keep the lulls entertaining in a clever style similar to what might be encountered at a Mad Rollin’ Dolls match.
But the true draw is the players themselves, many of whom are local but have played at the elite levels of Ultimate Disc competition.
“Most ultimate players have never had their names introduced over the loud speaker,” said Joyce. “These guys have played high level college and high level club ultimate for national titles…they love it.”
The players have dedicated followers, including some who bring large cardboard cut-outs of their favorite disc professional. Those fans that cannot make it, can watch a livestream of the game, emanating from the laptop of a play-by-play announcer in the newly refurbished press box.
Other great features of Radicals games are informed by typical stadium distractions but have a truly Madison and Near East Side neighborhood flair.
The Radical cheer:
The fan diversions range from bacon or pickles on a stick, to a pizza toss promotion using overcooked Roman Candle pizza pies so that they can be thrown farther. Another fan contest is the Yum Butter Sticky Hands challenge where contestant’s hands are covered in nut butter. And later still is a steeple chase, sponsored by The Great Dane Brewery involving fans dressed in dog costumes.
The more organic aspects of Radicals games are two distinct traditions that really make the experience special and something we can all feel we can our own.
In one ritual, the teams shake hands, much in the same way I remember doing after soccer games as a child; slapping our sweaty palms against those of the other team while breathlessly mumbling over and over “good game, good game good game.”
Following this sportsmanship to their fellow players, the Radicals then scamper over to the bleacher walls to express a more exuberant form of sportsmanship by slapping the hands of their fans who are aligned at the rail with arms outstretched to give them the love right back.
MA-DI-SON RA-DI-CAL! MA-DI-SON RA-DI-CAL!
But in that 10 seconds it takes to chant the words I feel like we are not only celebrating another point on the board, but reminding ourselves, and others, how much we need to revel in the Madison we were and are still today.