The new league is betting that Smith and other power players can turn Ultimate -- a game, which for many conjures up barefooted freshmen on a college quad -- into a serious sport, capable of drawing crowds and selling merchandise.
But the league is also betting on something else, Ultimate's newfound popularity. Since the game's founding four decades ago in suburban New Jersey, it has become one of the most popular amateur sports in the country.
"This is one of the fastest-growing sports in America," says Josh Moore, founder and president of the AUDL. "We're seeing double-digit growth annually, with about 5 million people who play. That's more than lacrosse and rugby combined."
I used to play Ultimate quite a bit when I was at Berkeley. (I was even on a team that won the Intramurals once.) It's really the perfect nerd sport -- spatial reasoning and geometric recognition play key roles in knowing where to run. The flight path of the disc in the air can be one of the prettiest things in sports, rivaling the deep pass in football.