The Madison Radicals before an April 2015 game against the Detroit Mechanix. The Radicals are now 4-0.
The young couple peered through the fencing at Breese Stevens Field, where nearly 1,000 revved-up fans of the Madison Radicals ultimate disc team had just witnessed a 24-18 victory over the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds on Saturday night.
As my wife and I approached, the woman — a bemused look on her face — asked us what was happening. We told her the Radicals are happening.
Now in their third year, the Radicals are 4-0 this season and among the most talented of the 25 professional teams in the four-year-old American Ultimate Disc League. Saturday’s victory, live-streamed on ESPN3.com, extended the Radicals home-field winning streak to 18.
“Nobody really knew ultimate was being played in Madison until recently,” says Tim DeByl, owner, general manager and head coach of the Radicals. “The big challenge is getting the sport in front of more people.”
Ultimate, a hybrid of soccer, football and basketball but played with a Frisbee, has roots in the counterculture movement of the late 1960s. The rules are simple: Pass the disc to teammates and advance toward the end zone to score a point. A player must stop running while in possession of the disc, but may pivot before passing. Players call their own fouls; only the AUDL uses referees.
“As a youth coach, I consider the Radicals a huge asset to the ultimate community,” says Nate Maddux, who teaches the sport in the school’s P.E. classes and is co-coach of the first-year Madison West High School girls’ ultimate team.
The Radicals hosted a youth clinic before Saturday’s game, and organized ultimate programs exist in Madison at all levels.
“Madison is the epicenter of ultimate in Wisconsin,” says Fran Kelley, head coach of the boys’ and girls’ teams at Stoughton High School. (Like West, Stoughton’s girls are in their first season and co-op with students from Oregon High School.) Among other area schools with ultimate teams are Madison Memorial, Madison East, Madison Edgewood, Sun Prairie, DeForest, Monona Grove and Middleton. All are expected to participate in USA Ultimate’s open-registration Wisconsin High School State Championships at University Bay Fields on May 30-31.
In between the pro and high school levels is the University of Wisconsin men’s team, the Hodags, winner of three national championships in 15 years. UW also has two women’s teams, Bella Donna and Atropa. Additionally, Madison boasts elite teams playing in USA Ultimate’s club programs, and the Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association offers year-round leagues for players of all ages.
The Radicals’ next home game is May 15 against the Chicago Wildfire.