Evan Lepler is the AUDL’s lead play-by-play announcer for ESPN3. He also calls games for USA Ultimate’s Triple Crown Tour and College Championships. His goal is to introduce more casual sports fans to ultimate, and getting league games broadcast on ESPN3 is a good first step.
Lepler stumbled into ultimate in his first year at Wake Forest University. In his first week on campus he spotted a flyer for ultimate in his dorm, and headed to the quad to check it. He played barefoot for hours, and was hooked. The summer between freshman and sophomore year he threw for one or two hours a day, and eventually captained the men’s squad at Wake Forest for two years.
Evan wanted to be a sports broadcaster since he was 8 or 9 years old, so after graduation, he decided not to get involved in the ultimate club scene, which would require practices on nights and weekends, in favor of working his way up the broadcast ladder. For many years, he has covered men’s and women’s college basketball, minor league baseball, and college football.
Evan’s Challenge; Share ultimate media with folks who are not familiar with the sport to spread awareness and acceptance.
Evan’s Save the Planet Team
Evan’s Tuesday Toss
Connect with Evan
Watson: Evan thank you so much for, coming on my podcast.
Lepler: Thank you. It's a pleasure. How are you?
Watson: I'm doing pretty well. I'm pretty jealous that you are coming back from a little vacation to Hong Kong. My last trip was to Postville Maryland, where my club season was ended. So that's a little bit less enjoyable,
Lepler: Yeah you know, there's part of me, that's envious of you for having sort of that club connection and the outlet of competition. And I know how special that is, but yeah, I had a pretty cool opportunity. My sister and brother-in-law live in Hong Kong and I had a little gap in my schedule and was able to make it work and find a flight that wasn't too crippling, and, had a good time. Probably the highlight of the trip was playing in a beach hat ultimate tournament in Hong Kong, which was pretty special too, I don't have the competitive outlet like you do as often.
So for me, even though it was a hat term and I was still out there competing and, you know, in a 12 team tournament, my team went all the way to the final. So I was pretty proud of that.
Watson: Congratulations. I'm actually going to be popping my beach, ultimate cherry, in November at Miami vice never played any beach ultimate before, but headed down there with a couple Pittsburgh guys.
Lepler: Yeah. It's a different game. But it's still fun. And, you know, laying out is just a different thing because you can lay out much more freely without worry about injury, but you also have to worry about, you know, laying out into a face full of sand. So that’s a factor, but no you'll have fun.
Watson: You kind of hinted at how busy your schedule has been recently, you kind of emerged as quote-unquote, the voice of ultimate, but I want to start by just really unpacking where this interest in broadcast journalism started to something you knew as a little kid you wanted to do. Did you find that later on and how did you pursue that passion?
Lepler: Yeah, I really have known for a long time that I wanted to do this. I think I was really kind of lucky. And I've really been passionate about sports and I love playing baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis. I didn't know much about ultimate until I got to college, but learned to love ultimate as well.
But you know, when I was young, I really loved sports and loved dissecting sports and loved listening to sports and sports talk, radio and play by play and grew up outside of Boston and Massachusetts and read the excellent Boston Globe sports section every day. So I've known for a long time that I wanted to pursue broadcasting.
I mean, I think I was in fourth or fifth grade and my town community television station used to send out a camera guy to broadcast, like the rec league basketball championship game, and I was eight or nine, maybe I was 10 or 11. I don't remember. But I think that was my first play-by-play opportunity was you know, doing the fourth-grade rec basketball final, and my team didn't make the finals.
So I was commentating on the sidelines, maybe with my father. He might've been my color analyst. I don't remember. But, so it, it really goes back a long way, and I've continued to pursue it pretty relentlessly since then both terms of a little bit of schooling, but also more just, you know, observing people that I respect and connecting with people that I respect and getting my feet wet as much as I can and much experience as I can in high school, I worked for the, I should say I worked, I volunteered, I didn't get paid, but I volunteered for the town community television station.
And by my sophomore year, I was able to broadcast all the boys varsity basketball games for my high school on the town television station. And you know, my high school wasn't the best team in Massachusetts, but my freshman year they played in the fleet center in the state finals or state semi-finals. So, it was a pretty good team and people in the town cared and it was usually a kind of a packed house on Friday nights and the games weren't live, but they would be put on later that Friday night.
So if it was a seven o'clock basketball game they would usually play it at 9:30 or 10 o'clock on local TV. So that's kind of the first real broadcasting opportunity I've gotten and I've, you know, pursued it, pretty passionately ever since.
Watson: I think a lot of ultimate folks first experience with you as the first ESPN broadcast of an ultimate Frisbee game, but you're actually involved with ESPN before that. Doing the color, the broadcasting for the Salem socks. How did you come into that position? Or was there anything before that?
Lepler: To say I was working for ESPN with Salem socks would not be totally accurate. I've done a few things with ESPN and, you know, to put it simply, you know, there's a lot of events that air on ESPN.
That is deals worked out between, you know, ESPN in Bristol and a certain conference or a certain league. And then that legal hire the production company. And then the production company would hire someone like me. So it's often cool to say that I've worked for ESPN for a long time. I still don't really think of myself as working for ESPN.
I've obviously done some stuff that they've assigned me from Bristol, Connecticut, but I've never been to Bristol, Connecticut. I don't have a full-time contract with ESPN or anything. Most of my work has been a freelancer, but, to answer your question about the Salem socks, in 2008, I got my first minor league baseball broadcasting opportunity.
So I graduated from college in 2007. Did a variety of college football college basketball studio hosts that fallen winter. I was actually, September 1st, 2007, which I kind of look as like my first-day job as an adult. After I graduated from college, I was in the studio for Appalachian state football in Boone, North Carolina, when they knocked off Michigan.
So I had a studio host doing, you know, pregame halftime, post-game scores for that, but I'll never forget it. And being in boom. Driving around the campus and just seeing people going crazy. And there are a lot of reasons I'll never forget that day. One of them is I drove home that night. I got home to watch the last six outs of clay. Buchholz no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox and his second ever major league start. So those are kind of two events that I've kind of sinked in my mind. But anyway, I did minor league baseball for the first time in 2008, I got an opportunity with the Delmarva shorebirds south Atlantic league team. And, Solsbury Maryland. There were Baltimore reels, and a broadcast, a lot of their games and did other stuff for the team spent that summer in Salsbury actually totally random sidebar, but when I was in Salsbury, you know, I just finished my college ultimate career. So I was still pretty passionate about playing when I could.
And I wandered onto the Salisbury University campus a couple of times and practiced a few times where the Solsbury team, their captain, was Tim Moral. Who now runs moral performance and is a pretty big name in the ultimate world. I ran into him at club nationals in 2013 and made eye contact with him and like, how do I know that guy?
Lepler: And then, and then later, like a month later, I read that he knew he wrote something and I read it. And he, and he talked about his time at Salisbury. And I'm like, that's how I know him. I've practiced with him before. Anyway. So that was a cool experience. But I've circumvented your question for quite a while.
After that first year in Delmarva got the opportunity to go to Salem in 2009 and basically spent six summers as a voice of the sail and Red Sox. And that was really cool for me for a number of reasons. It was my first real job as a true number one broadcaster in minor league baseball. I broadcast every single game.
And it’s a Crazy hectic, overwhelming schedule of 140 games in 150 days. You don't have much of a life outside of minor league baseball. If you're working in minor league baseball. I know many people who work in minor league baseball would agree, but you know, it was special for me because I grew up in Boston, got to work in the Red Sox organization, got to say, welcome to Salem Red Sox, baseball, every night.
And, you know, got to become friends with a lot of guys who were on their way up. And, you know, I watched Boston Red Sox games these days, and the team has not had a great year, but they've been pretty good the last month in large part because a lot of my friends had been playing really, really well. So, it has changed my perspective a lot on being a fan of Red Sox baseball because, you know, Jackie Bradley Jr. was a friend of mine in Salem, Mookie Betts, and Zander Bogarts and Blake Swihart and other guys like that. I had a pretty cool opportunity to do that. And then it, uh, crossed over with ultimate for one year, which was a crazy experience. And I can tell you that story as well as you'd like about how the sort of the ultimate started.
Lepler: But well, in early in the 2013 season, I got an email from a guy named Mike Castaldo, who was an ultimate player for ring of fire and probably played for the masters’ team that won worlds boneyard. And he was a Wake Forest alumni. We were never in school together, but I think he was a senior in college when I was a senior in high school.
So when he came back for homecoming that next year I met him and he was one of the Frisbee guys. And anyway, I stayed in touch with him. Really, really good guy. He lives in London now with his wife, Krista, and they just had a baby. Well, he's the person that emailed me, the job posting on USA Ultimate's website About how USA ultimate seeking a color commentator for ESPN broadcast. And this is, you know, early-mid April of 2013. And I had just started baseball season. And as I said, baseball season is just such an all-encompassing, tunnel- vision-type endeavor that I didn't think it would be logistically possible.
And I think in my first four years in Salem, I missed like three games in four years. And if you think about that, you know, well maybe for a couple of weddings or stuff like that. And if you think about that, you know, 140 games in a season, 560 games in four seasons, I did like 557 out of 560 games. So to leave for all of Memorial day, to do college nationals in 2013.
I'm like, I can't do that. That would be crazy. But then I thought about it a little more and you know, I thought about how cool of an opportunity it would be and how much I would love to get back into seeing high-level ultimate, which I had sort of lost touch with over the previous few years. So I took some time the next day and you know, it's hard to find time in the afternoon when you're getting ready for a ball game because I'm responsible for doing the stat tax and the game notes. And I want to be down at batting practice and I have to fill out my scorebook. And, there's just so many different things you do as a minorly broadcast or other than calling the game at seven o'clock. But I took some time and wrote an email to Andy Lee with USA ultimate and just sort of introduced myself and explained who I was and my background with ultimate, I think I sent him, Cliff of some of the basketball play-by-play work. I did, that was, an ESPN3 broadcast the previous year. And just tried to say, you know, there probably aren't too many people out there that have the broadcasting background and the ultimate background, give me a chance, had a great phone conversation with him the very next day.
And you know, I was optimistic about it, although I wasn't sure how I would handle it logistically with the baseball team if they offered me the position, and then I didn't hear anything for a few weeks. So I honestly wasn't that concerned about it. It would've been really cool to do it and go to Madison for 2013 college nationals.
But I also was just so tunnel-vision in baseball and immersed in that, that I wasn't worried about it. And there was about a week and a half before college nationals and I still hadn't heard anything, and it was, it was literally nine days before college national started. I was in Zebulon, North Carolina, getting ready for the Salem Red Sox and the Carolina Mudcats and my phone rang.
And it was a Connecticut number that I didn't have on my phone. And it crossed my mind, could this possibly be someone from ESPN? And it was. Well, one of the coordinating producers up there asking if I could be in Madison basically that next week. So this was the Wednesday before and college national star on the Friday of Memorial day weekend.
So it was a week and two days later. And my initial reaction was, this is such an honor. I can't believe you're calling me, I need to figure out a way to make this work. Can I call you back? And you know, they had already waited to not exactly the last minute, but the last week sorta to, to make this happen.
And I called my Carol manager on the baseball team and told him about it. I mean, he was very supportive of me, he basically just said, if you can find a replacement to handle the broadcast for Salem when you're going, then go for it. You know, it's a cool thing for the Salem Red Sox, if their play-by-play guy is on ESPN, you doing ultimate Frisbee on the, on that stage.
So too late to make a long story short, but I made it work logistically and I went to Madison and then, you know, that whole week before the tournament trying as best I could to become as very well versed as I could in ultimate. Yeah, when I was in college, I, you know, as I think many ultimate players are, was just so in love with ultimate.
And I mean, this was the day of RSD rec sport disc, and I'd be sitting in class with that tab, always open doing control or anything new on RSD. Do you know what RSD is?
Watson: Yeah, RSD, no spam was still around, I'd say during the first half of my college career.
Lepler: This is before RSD, no spam, this was the original RSD, but yeah, trust me, but that like that and the ultimate village clip of the day, I've talked about some of this stuff before with people, but, you know, so I, I was obsessed with ultimate in college.
But after college, I had not followed it as closely. You know, I don't know if I could have told you, you know, before I started studying again, like who had won the Callahan the previous years who the top teams were, who had won it all, just, so trying to place myself back into the context, if anybody goes back and watches the coverage, I'm sure if I talked about something that happened from 2003 to 2007 or maybe 2008 I knew what I was talking about. If I was talking about something that happened from 2009 to 2012, I probably was not quite as sure as what I was talking about or was relying on a secondhand opinion from somebody else, but it all worked out. And I studied as much as I could and walked around the fields for the first couple of days.
And you know, obviously, no one in the world knew who I was at that point. I was just some random guy with a credential wandering around the fields and trying to study as much as I can and talk to some people, to learn the lay of the land. And, then we were on the air and I remember, you know, going on the air with my cousins and it was a, we had a great production crew, I think, you know, because that was ESPN sort of first foray into the sport.
They really put a lot of resources add in the fact that when it's on ESPN, It gets more of a personal package for the production team. So we had a couple of stage managers and it just seemed like it, at that point in my life, was probably the most complex broadcast production I had been involved in.
And I had done some sub stuff that had been on ESPN3 before, but, to be on ESPN, you, and you know, my cousins who I knew a little bit before then and got to know more than we, we work pretty well together and we're able to develop a rapport pretty quickly. And we had some good games and, if I remember correctly, it worked out pretty well for Pittsburgh.
Watson: Yeah, it was a surreal experience because it was the kind of that first widely broadcasted event. So I've been to tournaments since then and people have brought that up, but that was kind of like their first time really seeing a high-level production of ultimate Frisbee that we're now, you know, getting regularly with the AUDL
The different productions that come out with the club championships, college championships, it's now a little bit more ubiquitous, but being a part of that first one, and I had teammates who were, I caught him. We caught them gawking at the cameras and you kinda had to punch them and, you know, refocus, we're still playing Frisbee here.
So that was definitely, I think on all ends, it was a surreal experience. I can't imagine what that baptism by fire had to be like, just jumping, a week to essentially prep for all these different teams. It's not like, you know you're prepping for a football game where, you know, the two teams, well in advance, you know, there's okay.
There's these contenders with these contenders, with these couple of main players, but we don't know who's actually going to be in each semi-final. I'd imagine that that was just a ton of work to prepare
Lepler: That's a challenge for most ultimate tournaments that we've done, especially because. You know you wait on that Saturday for us open and club nationals for that Sunday during Memorial Day weekend, you wake up that Sunday morning for the 8:30 AM, quarterfinal round. And so you have 16 teams that are getting set to play and you're on the air at noon for a quadruple-header. That's a tough dynamic, tough, even if I've been immersed in the sport for a few years and have a pretty good sense of what the teams are, there during that day, it was pretty nuts.
I remember, you know, you prepare for as many teams as you possibly can, but there's so many different teams and so many players and so many storylines, I don't really have a horse in the race in terms of who wins or loses, but in the past, I've definitely found myself sort of hoping that the team that I prepared for more wins in the quarter-finals.
And I think that's, you know, a common thing for a lot of broadcasters, one story I can tell is, you know, and this is, you're not going to like this story, but, you know, in 2014, I, I felt like I had a really good grasp on the Pittsburgh team and, you know, I had spent a lot of time on the sidelines with Nick has Merrick your head coach at nationals.
And remember, sitting with him during the UNC Wilmington, Harvard pre-quarters game, talking with him about Pitt, getting sorta his scouting reports and seeing how he studies ultimate and prepares and thought I had all these cool stories to tell. As, as obviously, you know, and most ultimate people know, one of the most shocking results of the season unfolded and it didn't work out for Pitt.
Lepler: And I had 25 minutes to prepare for UNC Wilmington. Cause all of a sudden they were in the semi-finals and UNC Wilmington as a team that I had a lot of battles with when I was in college and they used to get on my nerves a lot. So that was also a reason why I didn't want them to win.
But as time has gone on, I've gotten to know some of those guys and even guys who got me upset in college, I've become friendly with now. So that's one of the cool things about the ultimate world is, typically the more you get to know people, even if they've given you trouble in the past, it usually ends up, most people who are attracted ultimate are pretty good people.
And I mean, that's, that's been the best part of, the opportunities that I've gotten an ultimate is. It's sort of jettison in and out of different ultimate communities, all around the country and even all around the world. I've got to go to Dubai this past May, this past March, I should say, for beach worlds and to be able to just converse with different ultimate players all around the world.
So many ultimate players have such amazing stories about, you know, how they've discovered the game and what they do on the side when they're not playing ultimate. And one of the things I say a lot is you talk to a baseball player, “Oh, how'd you start playing baseball?” “ I started playing little league.”
That's not a very interesting story, but you know, every ultimate player at teams has a pretty interesting story. Even if it's as simple as I started my freshman year of college, usually there's a little bit more to it than just that. So it's been really awesome. It's been really special.
I kind of shake my head at the opportunities that I've gotten these last few years to broadcast ultimate. I think I wrote on, like, when I say goodbye to the Salem Red Sox, I wrote like, I can't call this a dream come true because I never really dreamed that this would be possible, but here we are, and, hopefully, I’m just getting started.
Watson: Part of that rise that's happened over the last couple of years has been your involvement with the AUDL. The AUDL has gone from a fledgling first-year league, gone through owners and teams folding tons of new franchises opening up. And this past year, we had a game of the week, every single week for your broadcasts, with the AUDL.
I got to be a part of a couple of those, but what's been most shocking for me is beyond. Uh, just your broadcasts, the amount of media coverage for the sport itself has absolutely exploded. I kind of can still kind of relate to that feeling of reading every single article that comes out and every single piece of media, because there really wasn't any, even four or five years ago, but now it's gotten to the point where people say I read this or I saw this, or I saw that.
It's not uncommon that half the people missed it because there's so much coming out that it's really, really hard to stay on top of everything. And I imagine for someone like you, whose job is really to be that knowledgeable voice who can inform audiences, that that can be a challenge at times to stay on top of all the information that's out there to collect. Is that a fair assessment?
Lepler: It's a fun challenge for sure. You know, it's I suppose. Before this past AUDL Season, I was thinking to myself, I'm like, yeah, I'm going to watch film of every single game in the league from the week before. So I have a total grasp and I know every team inside and out, you know, you sorta realize that the time that goes into, if I tried to watch, you know, 14, two and a half hour games in their entirety, and I can't get the footage until Tuesday or Wednesday, Logistically mathematically. I don't think there are that many hours in my day because I do like to get some sleep as well. But, in terms of talking to people and exchanging emails with people and, you know, watching all the highlights stuff that Luke Johnson and the video team puts out every week, it is, I mean, obviously with Ultiworld and sky and, and you know, all the other solid ultimate media, it is–
The coolest thing about it is how like player-centric it is. And you know, how many players are just so forthcoming. Players and coaches both. I mean, it's not universal. There are certainly some more buttoned-up types, but for the most part, you know, I'm a huge Patriots fan growing up in Massachusetts.
There aren't too many Bill Belichick in the ultimate world that won't tell you anything. I mean, most people will tell you exactly what happened and why they think it happened and how it made them feel. And, I'll give you a little anecdote and, you know, broadcasters know, more than anything aside from just describing the action, they're storytellers.
And, you know, if you find a good nugget or a good anecdote, whether it's in an article that someone else wrote or a conversation you've had, or just something that you sort of put together, statistically, from mining through the numbers yourself, you get excited to tell those stories on the air or, as I did in the Tuesday, toss writing it this year and.
That's what's really fun now. It's frustrating when you have like a great story to tell and either a team doesn't make it, or a player is injured and, you know, or whatever, sometimes I'm on, I'm on the broadcast. And I just completely step on myself when I'm trying to, you know, weave in a story and I'll listen back and be like, “oh, I screwed that one up in a big way.” But you know, I'm still very much trying to get better at this myself every single day. And, you know, know that I am far from an unfinished product as a broadcaster and have a lot of improvement to make myself. So that's something I try to work on too.
Watson: Absolutely, and one of the things I definitely wanted to compliment you on is your production of the Tuesday toss. Every week during the ADL season, I had multiple people. We had discussions about your ability to produce is like 8,000 words on a weekly basis. And how the hell did you do that when you were also traveling and prepping for games and all that. So can you briefly kind of go over your writing process or how you go about compiling so many words?
Lepler: Yeah. I've read Peter King's Monday morning quarterback for a very long time. And Actually, when I was in high school, aside from doing all the broadcasting that I did for Sharon community television, I also started writing for the Sharon advocate and Sharon Massachusetts, and just reported on different high school games for a while.
And then I asked if I could start writing a column and they said, sure, and I started writing the Friday morning point guard, which was supposed to be like the high school basketball edition of the Monday morning quarterback. The newspaper came out weekly on Fridays. So, I mean, it's, it's kind of a recycled idea a little bit, but I also thought that in the ultimate world, there's so many stories to be told and across the league where there's one game a week, you know, it's similar to the NFL in that situation.
And, I kinda knew that it would be long. I had no idea that I would end up writing as much as I had or as much as I did, but I think like the first week, I don't remember how many words it was, but it was one of the shorter ones. And I remember sending it to my editors at the AUDL.com and being like, yeah, they won't all be this long. I just got excited for the first week. And then that was by far the shortest one of the season, like even the week where there were no games played. I wrote much more than that, as far as what the process is, it really varied by a number of different things. Obviously from this interview, anybody can tell I'm a verbose person and you know, certainly, at times long-winded, I think that's something I need to work on. Both in my writing and my broadcasting is my decision, but over the course of the season, you know, sometimes I would, you know, fly. Saturday night or Sunday morning, back home to North Carolina. Other times I might, you know, there was a couple of weekends where I would spend the weekend and I spent a weekend with Toronto and my parents, with my parents. So I didn't leave till like Monday night. So it really varied. But you know, I tried to email phone texts, a lot of different people over the course of the weekend, Saturday night, Sunday, Monday, and then, you know, once you, if people respond in a timely fashion, which, you know, didn't always happen, but happened a lot.
And you know, people give me all the credit in the world for this. But the reality is like if ultimate players weren't as forthcoming and eager to tell their stories, I would not have much to write about. But, you know, once you have sort of all the comments and feedback and have sort of been brainstorming my opinions. I don't have like a consistent schedule, I didn't have a consistent timetable. There were times when I would like to be up all night, Monday night writing, and go to bed at 6:00 AM. There were times when I would start writing it sort of, you know, during the day on Monday and then just like be tired and be like, okay, I'll wake up in the morning, Tuesday morning and finish it.
So one thing I need to do next year is getting on more of a defined schedule. But I think, you know, the reason I did the Tuesday toss instead of like, the Monday, whatever is so I'd have a little bit extra time to get it produced, but--
Watson: It probably helps you maintain your sanity also.
Lepler: You know what I mean, just the travel aspect of it. Like, you know, it's hard to be really thoughtful on an airplane while you're writing and in the middle seat. But it was a labor of love. I really enjoyed it. I really felt like there was a spot for it in the ultimate community. You know, I've heard criticisms that it's too long. And part of me thinks it is too, and Chuck kindred, who I work with, he's like, “dude, the Tuesday toss, it's so good, but I just can't get through it all. It's too long, man. Like, cut half of it out or release it in segments.” And I'm like, “well, you know, if you feel that way, Chuck, you don't have to read the whole thing.”
That's fine. But I am someone who always enjoyed reading long-form stuff and, you know, I haven't read a Peter King's Monday morning quarterback from week one yet, but I'm looking forward to perhaps reading that after I get off the phone with you and it may not be for everybody, but I think there are a lot of people in the ultimate community who hopefully enjoy it.
And hopefully, I can do that for a long time as well
Watson: So regional is just wrapped up this past weekend. We don't have any pool formats yet. We don't know match-ups, we don't really know anything other than the teams that have qualified for nationals, knowing that I'm sure you're going to do a ton of research before you actually show up in Frisco to actually prepare for these different match-ups. Do you have any predictions or exciting storylines that you're really interested in digging a little deeper?
Lepler: Um, obviously there are a bunch, you know, I'm really curious to learn about this Michigan high-five team. They have certainly, made some impressive statements with their play. I've watched a few of their games, that Ultiworld has posted all three. Ultiworld's done an unbelievable job. Just having sort of this treasure trove of club footage. I was in Hong Kong. One night. We, we had gotten back from like a full day trip. We're exhausted. Didn't want to do anything. And I just walked a couple of club games over there. I'm like, well, here, here's the best part I told my brother-in-law. “I'm like, I'm going to do a little work now. And my work was watching Bravo and high-five” and that was awesome. So, yeah, I mean, there are a lot of stores. I mean, like it's hard not to think revolvers the heavy favorite and the men. Just from what they've done over the course of the past half-decade.
But again, you know, you would say that Pittsburgh was the heavy favorite in college the last couple of years, and you know, crazy things happen in this, this format of a tournament. When you have one bad game that you're in, you're at the mercy of 175 grand piece of plastic, who knows what the wind will be like, you know, teams come out firing and, and have all sorts of crazy bounces. So, I mean, it was interesting following regionals this past weekend, I was curious how the– I really like the Southeast and the Northeast, I felt like were the most interesting. I mean, you could put your guys' regional in there too. It felt like there was where there were three teams for only two spots and there's a really good team, not at nationals.
And then I think the three teams that in the men's division that were in nationals last year, that isn’t going back this year, are Pony from New York and Temper from Pittsburgh, and Chain lightning from Atlanta. And you know, those three teams all kind of got squeezed by the three for two and teams earned their way there.
Lepler: So I'm curious to see what Florida United can do. It's interesting because you know, as you and I both know, there's been sort of this schism between pro and club ultimate. And I think that sort of disconnect is gradually fading by the day in terms of players and, and being able to care about both or whatever it may be. And, I've talked with some of the Florida United guys about how, you know, it was really the AUDL that it kind of brought them together and finally United all the best talent in that area. And that sort of goes with the team name, but, you know, the Jacksonville Cannons had a pretty special year. They probably should have made it to the championship weekend and won the south division and ultimately fell short and a crazy overtime game. But you know, the question can Florida United make an impact at nationals, they did not really do that last year, but they're certainly better this year than they are last year.
I'm curious what Madison club will do at nationals. I think a lot of people have sort of wondered, like, Why are the Madison radicals so good in And the AUDL, but Madison club has not been too much of a factor. Well, Madison club just won their region over a couple of teams that were in nationals last year and Sub-Zero and Prairie fire.
Lepler: And, you know, I think that it would be shocking if Madison club went from not making nationals that year before to making to semi-finals. Yeah, I think people would be pretty shocked, but who knows? So there are a lot of really cool storylines. I mean, there's all the top teams I haven't even mentioned.
Well, Bravo is missing a lot of the pieces from last year, but they're still good. Doublewide, obviously, can they recapture 2012 form? Boston, a very different team from last year, but still really good. Toronto has won a lot of big games. So it's just a few weeks away and I will certainly know more in a few weeks than I do now.
And I mean, we're just talking men's ultimate right now, but I also follow the women's in mixed regions as much as I can. And, you know, I think there's interesting storylines in all of them. Each of the top five, six women's teams like it wouldn't surprise me if they won and I mean, in mixed, you never know, teams will come from being one of the lower seats in the tournament and then, you know, come together at the right time.
So it's really cool. It is like surreal to me that I get to be the guy that goes to one around the sidelines for a couple of days and then get to share my opinions and analyze it and just sort of have a front-row seat, all expenses paid to watch this all unfold. So it's, again, it's pretty special and I'm very grateful and don't really know how it happened, but I hope I can do it for a long time.
Watson: I totally echo your sentiment and my interest is very peak to see how the semis of all the divisions shake out particularly having played in the open division, seeing if High Five or Truck Stop or some of these very very talented teams can kind of break into that upper tier, that's been occupied by the Bravo, Doublewide, Revolver, teams like that.
If someone can go on a run the way ring of fire did last year, but also just some of the transplants, who went over to Molly Brown from scandal you got OB, you got, other players like that, just seeing how that affects the power balance, and if it's just going to be another team from the west, taking care of business or some of the power can head towards the middle or the eastside of the country.
Lepler: Yeah. You know, and the women's side will probably be the second straight year that Boston will be the number one seat going into nationals and seating. Hasn't come a tied-in doesn't matter a whole lot, but. You know, can they put it together? Let me ask you who, who is the best team that you played against this year?
Watson: It's really tough to say because when we played at US open, we saw Go when they were missing some people, we saw Boston in a pretty– Boston and Revolver, both with pretty full rosters. We never saw Bravo, we never saw Double-wide, Revolver looked very, very, very good, but we were playing them in an incredibly upwind downwind game.
So it's hard to know how that translates to a not-so indie game, but at the same time, they've been just as dominant in the non-indie situation. To me, if they're definitely a tier above everyone else, it's Revolver and the rest from where I'm staying.
Lepler: Yeah. Their depth is just so impressive. And I mean, so many guys on their team, probably aren't known to the general ultimate fan, just, you know, sort of their defensive army. And, but you know, a lot of guys that played in the AUDL that have gotten to be more well known. Guys who have played mixed and – They're fun to watch despite the fact that like their head coach Mike Payne says our goal is to play boring ultimate because coaches want their teams to be conservative and, and take care of the disc.
But they're, they're not, they're not boring at all with the way they play defense. And the way that, you know, they're Playmakers like Higgins and Cohen and Cassidy and Christian, and obviously Bo and he's healthy make plays and, you know, Lucas Dallman, a young defender. I could, I feel like I could talk about everyone on their team right now.
This is not a revolver podcast. So I'll cut it off there.
Watson: I'll hit one quick anecdote from our game that just kind of blew me away and made our team aware that there's a whole nother level that we have to work towards striving towards. So it was a very upwind downwind game and we're probably talking like a fifteen-ish mile power wind, up wind down wind.
And we had some sort of turnover where going down wind, it kind of rolled out the back of the end zone and they're swing passed got doinked and they caught it in the back half of their own end zone and where a lot of other teams would have, you know, tried to punch it or you just force something down the field. So you're not at major risk of throwing a Callahan. They threw four or five consecutive swings.
Just casual resets, waiting for their opportunity and worked at almost all the way up to our mid-field before taking a shot into the end zone. And, you could probably blame our defense partially for our inability to put more pressure on them, but that was completely mind-boggling for me that you could have so much confidence in your defensive line handlers’ touch on the disc to be able to just casually swing it back and forth. And that wind inside your own end zone was absolutely ridiculous.
Lepler: I'm guessing, you know, maybe Eli Kearns was involved or Jordan Jeffrey or Taylor lay here. I mean guys that don't play O-line for them. That could be, you know, top handlers on any other team could be primary center handlers, you know, perhaps for some other nationals caliber teams.
Watson: Without a doubt, without a doubt. So I've got two kind of fun questions here before I wrap things up with a personal challenge for the audience. The first one is when. Ultimate Frisbee is in the Olympics in 2024, and you're in the broadcast booth. What two people do you want in the booth with you announced back in?
Lepler: Wow. That's something I have not thought about at all but, I'm sure I'm going to forget someone great. Honestly the first two people I thought of were Dutchy, Alex Ghesquiere, and Lou Burris. I think, you know, Alex Ghesquiere played for Revolver, coach revolver, coaches scandal, has won championships, and is certainly, you know, one of the top thinkers in the game.
And Lou is a character’s character. And, you know, one of the most unique men and ultimate, but brilliant and thoughtful. And I think, you know, if I could work with those two people, I don't really feel like I would need to do much. I would just sort of let them talk ultimate. Maybe occasionally ask them a question.
So that, I mean, those are the first two people that came to mind and I mean, man, now, you've got me excited. I'm like, okay, nine years from now, do I actually get to do this? Uh, it would be amazing. I don't know if ultimate will be in the Olympics in 2024. I don't think anybody does, but. That would be pretty cool.
Watson: Absolutely, a fun hypothetical. another maybe slightly less fun hypothetical, is your save the world team. So what you're saved the world team is, aliens, come down similar to, space jam. Yeah, Similar to space jam. And you have to pick your dream team of seven. This is going to be a mixed team. So it's gonna be four guys, three girls, and these seven have to play a game to save humanity. What seven people, you can make anyone healthy, but it's, as they are right now, who are you putting in for your, your dream seven?
Lepler: Wow. You know, like this is something that if I was going to write about, I would take weeks to think about it. The fact that so– four guys and three girls, and so the game is happening tomorrow. And presuming that everybody is healthy.
Watson: Yeah. You can like, you can fix Mark Lewis–
Lepler: I mean, is it like a universe point situation, or are we playing savage before?
Watson: It's going to be a Savage game to five
Lepler: So I mean, not that I would pick anybody without conditioning, but holy cow. So, I mean, if I just start naming like the best guys in the world, I think I would wanna craft the team, obviously with those guys, but I also think about it more with thinking about different roles and what you're relying on for people do. So, I mean, I think your teammate, Tyler Deidre Alamo was on that team. I think I want him there. I think man, Savage seven because you're thinking about offense and defense too.
Watson: It's tough.
Lepler: It is funny. I mean, I think like, you know, I've talked incessantly about both through the years and I don't think there's anybody better, but I also think that in this situation, I mean, not that he's going to lose, but like I was thinking about, do I want Bo and Ashlin or just Ashlin or just Bo?
And I think I, I would have trust in Ashlin handling the disk more than just about anybody. And I really shouldn't think about this so much. Let's say like, well, ‘cause I mean, I love the question, Aaron, and I've, you know, I've been a longtime reader of Bill Simmons since, before he was, you know, an ESPN employee.
And when he was the Boston sports guy and I mean, this is something that he's talked about, like all of the basket, you know, I want 86 bird and, and 12 LeBron, and picking a specific year of a specific player. So, I mean, I think Mark Lloyd is in that conversation, take like 2014 Mark Lloyd, or if we assume he's healthy and humanity is at stake too.
That's what makes it so tough. So let's just say we got Tyler, we got Ashlin. We got Mark Lloyd and let's say Kurt Gibson, even though. I haven't seen Kurt play in a while, but I trust he's up there and like–
Watson: We know he's healthy cause that's the one power you got
Lepler: Yeah, and for the three women, man this is tough. That's, what's interesting in the women's game right now. Like there, I think if you walked around nationals and ask like who's the best player in the women's game, I don't think there's like a clear, obvious choice. I mean, Sandy Jorgensen probably has to be in there just because of her size and speed, and skills.
I really trust Anna Nazarov with the disc, I think that, I mean, watching her clutch performance at beach worlds in person, and this how she's been the motor theory for a long time, you know, you could, you could pick three players from any of fury or riot or Molly Brown or Scandal or Brute And part of me almost has to feel like I have to pick someone who's not on fury and not on scandal just to try to even it out.
But, you know what, I'm just going to say this cause I like her too. Let's start, let's throw Georgia. Bosher on that team. From Madison, she's really incredible. She hasn't played on the top teams club-wise, but she's been on the USA world games team. So I'll take that seven with Tyler Deidre Alamo, and Mark Lloyd and Ashlin Joye and Kurt Gibson and Sandy Jorgensen and Anna Nazarov and Georgia Bosher. What do you think?
Watson: I like it. I think we've got a good chance.
Lepler: Is humanity saved?
Watson: I hope so. Thank you for entertaining my silly question.
Lepler: No, Trust me. I'm going to be thinking about this for hours after we get off.
Watson: Perfect. If you want to submit a revised one and maybe after club nationals, we can revisit this and maybe put a blog post together.
Lepler: Cool. You know, this I mean, this would be a fascinating thread on Reddit or Ultiworld or Scott or whatever. And I feel like, I mean, you could name seven that I didn't name and, you know, put a pretty incredible game together. So…
Watson: Absolutely. Before we give you the mic, one last time to issue a personal challenge to the audience. If people want to connect with you, either give you a crap about the team you selected or ask you questions, anything like that, what's the best way to get a hold of you
Lepler: I read all my Twitter mentions. So my Twitter handle is @EvanLepler if, people want an email, AUDLmailbag@gmail.com. I check regularly as well.
So, or just you know, find me on the sidelines in Frisco. It’s awesome talking to people throughout the community, so I don't be a stranger.
Watson: So now I'm going to give you the mic to issue a personal challenge to the audience.
Lepler: If I'm issuing an ultimate related challenge to people in the ultimate community, which I imagine are, or most of the people listening to this.
I mean, I think the biggest hurdle we, as a community have and continue to have, is just to, you know, gradually expose the game to more and more people. So, if you're listening out there and you care about ultimate and want to see it grow and want to see it get more coverage and money involved and sponsors. I mean, we just need to widen our community and there there's something cool about the fact that our community is, you know, kind of small and so devoted and diehard and hardcore and everything.
But I mean, I guess my challenge to be, to try to expose ultimate to as many people as you can, and whether that is, you know, picking a different person each day or each week, or group of people and sending them a YouTube clip or suggesting they watch a broadcast on ESPN or having them come out to local summer league or to watch regionals or whatever it may be. I mean, I think as a community, we've done a pretty good job with this. Especially over the past couple of years is what we talked about earlier and the just sort of the explosion of ultimate content and, you know, more and more.
When, when the IOC whiff Olympic news came out, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the new Yorker Times magazine, all had articles about ultimate, and whenever something like that happens, people will see ultimate who have never noticed it before. So, you know, there's still a lot of people in the world that aren't familiar with our awesome sport, and I think that's something that anybody could do is just try to expose it to more people as much as. It was actually
Watson: pretty funny was I had like, you know, aunts, uncles. Kind of like secondary folks in social networks, getting, seeing that New Yorker article or the New York Times article and sending it to me as if like, I didn't know that it was happening. I was like, yeah, I heard about that. Thank you very much. Very exciting.
Lepler: Same exact thing happened to me. Like, you know, a third cousin or great uncle and oh, they sent it to my parents. Eventually. I bet you, Evan will be interested to hear about this. I'm like, yeah. I thought what it was, came out on Twitter a week and a half ago, but – No, but, you know, that's, that's the kind of stuff like people, you know, like to disagree with how a certain sports, sports center anchor might present ultimate on a top 10, but anytime it's on there, it raises awareness from people who see it. And even if 95% of the people are like, oh, this looks dumb.
Well, 5% of the people might not think it's dumb. And if 1% of that 500, goes to Google it, or it looks for more highlights. That's, you know, the gradual expansion of the community. And, you know, hopefully, we'll get to a point when I and Lou and Dutchie are broadcast in the Olympics in 2024 or 2044 or whatever it is that, you know, people in the world won't be like, “oh, what is ultimate, ultimate’s not a sport.” And they'll be like, “oh yeah. I wish I had found this sooner.” I mean, that's how I feel, especially when I go to an AUDL game and go to see the kids in Seattle who are 18 years olds, and throwing these like full-field flicks. I'm like, “man, if I had discovered this game as a middle-schooler, maybe I would still be playing at a high level instead of commentating, even though I'm thrilled to be where I am”, but, you know, I like, I wish I had found it sooner and hopefully more and more people can realize how awesome ultimate is.
Watson: Absolutely, before we let you go, Evan. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast buddy.
Lepler: Hey Aaron thanks it’s been fun thanks again, everyone.