But, which came first: the culture or the sport? Mike Davis, a four-year veteran of the summer league, believes the culture predates the sport, which was merely the right activity to tap into the vibe. “Ultimate does so well in Portland because the sport appeals to free-spirited people,” he says. “And that’s the type of people that live here.”
Since its inception 13 years ago, the Ultimate summer league in Portland has continued to grow unabated — from about 45 players on four teams the first year, to this summer’s 32 teams. The league’s size has given Portland a reputation as having one of the largest summer leagues in the country for its population size, a claim that can’t be confirmed because no organization keeps track of the hundreds of summer leagues around the country. The growth is staggering, but Portland is not unique. The sport, which is almost 40 years old, has spread worldwide and is estimated to be played by more than 100,000 people in more than 40 countries, according to the World Flying Disc Federation.
While the explosive growth blows some people’s minds, Pozzy says it was all part of the master plan he began to formulate back in the early 1990s. “I’ve always considered this as a little laboratory,” Pozzy says. “I want to make it as big as I can, make it the biggest thing in Portland. Learn all I can about organizing and growth and whatever else I can. And then when the time is right, find a way to transfer that to the world stage.”
Showing a passion
Any player will tell you Ultimate is a grueling sport, tough on an aging body. The original Frisbee family that joined the first summer league and made it what it is today is finding that out. But not content to wait for the next generation of players to grow up on the sidelines, an informal campaign has begun to foster the next generation of Ultimate players. Doing so means borrowing a page from the cigarette companies’ play book: get them while they’re young. Several summer league players have begun to cultivate the sport in the schools, coaching high school teams and organizing scrimmages between schools. Even when players like Pozzy, who has already stopped playing serious Ultimate, retire from the game, they don’t expect to leave the Frisbee family: It’s a community if you’re on or off the field. “Some of us old guys are going to have to start retiring at some point,” says Pozzy, who’s pushing 40. “But we’ll all start coaching the high school kids and that way we can still heckle each other and be competitive on a new level. But I totally picture that and I think it will be hilarious.”
What was once just an impromptu game played in the grass after school has become an organized sport in many schools in southern Maine. A few weekends ago, the third annual Maine High School Championships were held at Cumberland Fairgrounds. Ten teams competed, including Deering, Hyde, Freeport, and Camden. Brunswick High School took home its second championship in three years, beating Camden Hills High School by a score of 15 to three.