For the Madison Radicals, competing is the ultimate experience.
Just before midnight in the middle of January, more than ninety young men dressed in a colorful mix of basketball shorts, T-shirts, and jerseys arrived at an indoor sports complex with one goal: to be a Madison Radical.
The Radicals, an ultimate Frisbee team, feature fifteen UW alumni and two PhD students, but plenty of others hope for the chance to join them.
Started in 2013 by coach and co-owner Tim DeByl ’96, the ultimate Frisbee team competes in the American Ultimate Disc League, playing home games at the historic Breese Stevens Field on Madison’s near east side. Ultimate Frisbee mixes elements of football, basketball, and soccer. It combines extreme athleticism — players leap and dive for catches — and technical ability to create an exciting game for players and fans.
The Radicals — the league’s smallest franchise by city size — quickly won big. The team reached the championship last season, falling to the San Jose Spiders. A handful of diehard Radicals fans grew to an average of 1,200 per game in Madison, and the team has been featured in the New York Times and has appeared on ESPN3 as part of the league’s television deal.
The city will host the league’s championship on August 6 and 7. DeByl credits the team’s success to Madison’s history with the game: the Hodags, the UW’s club team, was started in 1977 and has won three national championships since 2000.
When DeByl started the team, he didn’t contemplate success. For him, the priority was simply encouraging people to accept the game as a legitimate spectator sport. “Nobody knows what ultimate Frisbee is. That was the first step,” he says. “When you mention the word Frisbee, [people] immediately think it’s some sort of either throwing game [you play with a dog] or something non-athletic. Then, when they watch it, I think they learn otherwise, so part of it is just getting them in the stadium.”
For Patrick Shriwise MS’13, PhDx’17, a nuclear engineering PhD student and a Radical from the start, having to turn people away from tryouts means the team is doing something right.
“The success we’ve had as a team means drawing in players from other places,” he says. “Every year I’ve become more and more of a believer.”
Published in the Summer 2016 issue