Courtesy of the Columbus Cranes
With a rookie team investor and athletes who haven’t adjusted to their professional status, the Cranes are swooping in on Columbus and trying to make ultimate disc more popular.
In their inaugural season, the Columbus Cranes are a professional ultimate disc team that is part of the American Ultimate Disc League.
The league fields a total of eight teams stretching from Indianapolis to Connecticut and is broken up into two divisions, Eastern and Western.
The team was purchased by Youngstown native Michael Moses in September 2009 for just less than $2,000, Moses said.
With no background in ultimate disc, Moses said that didn’t stop him from becoming the first person to invest in a team under the AUDL.
“I’m a basketball player,” Moses said, “but when I saw the sport for the first time, it passed the eyeball test and I immediately bought in.”
Moses said he was attracted to the sport because it was different from other sports he enjoyed and combined the best of many sports.
“You can literally have a big play at any given moment,” Moses said. “Ultimate has the athleticism of basketball, running of soccer and aerial assault of football all combined into one. It’s unique from any other sport out there.”
The team is set up as a profit share, which involves the team splitting profits with the players, but Moses said it’s really just trial and error.
“We’re walking into the unknown,” Moses said. “There’s really no history to base anything off of, so we’re trying to get a feel for things and test the market.”
Moses said players can earn anywhere from $25 to $300 per game based on the revenue that each game produces.
“We don’t want to overextend what isn’t there,” Moses said. “But at the same time, we want to compensate the players with what is there.”
And although the pay isn’t that of other professional sports, players said they know any amount is better than nothing.
“It’s not much, but this is something we’d be doing anyway even if we weren’t paid,” said player Joe Taris, a 2009 graduate of Ohio State. “I mean we don’t have big TV contracts or a huge fan support or anything. We all have day jobs still.”
The team hosted an open try out on Jan. 6 and fielded players from all over Ohio and several other states.
And at 33, 2002 OSU graduate Kevin Reichert is not only the oldest Cranes player to make the team, he is also one of the two captains for the squad.
“I’ll be the first to tell you how old I am,” Reichert said. I always talked with one of my buddies about how by the time ultimate goes pro, we’re going to be too old to be a part of it. But here we are.”
But the title of professional athlete still hasn’t quite registered with Reichert and his teammates.
“It’s cool to be put on that level, but I think I still see it as just throwing around and playing a game I love with my friends,” Reichert said. “I guess it just hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
And as ultimate continues to gain popularity around the globe, Moses is looking to help make the sport a household name.
“It’s a cheap sport to play because all you need is a Frisbee and some grass, and it’s exciting to watch,” Moses said. “And if you want to be highly entertained at any given moment, come out and experience ultimate. And we know that when you come and see it, you’re going to like what you see, and want more and more.”