If You Can’t Beat ’em, Leak ’em: Vulturism and the Currency of Thunder Theft


To be regaled in tales of the olden, “golden days” of professional disc golf is to be soaked in the concept of the “Frisbee Family”.  This alliterated phrase shows up in just about every interview you can find with any of the pre-2015 professional golfers who traveled in wild packs of hodgepodge used vehicles, roaming the interstate fueled by coffee, dreams, and assorted unmentionables.

To hear the Scott Stokelys and Sarah Hokoms of the world tell it, disc golf had, at that time, everything that it needed to form a near-perfect nomadic utopia.  The player pool was stocked with exuberant characters, unable to be convinced that their dreams were more than a few weeks and a few throws away, and experiencing the sort of bond that can only blossom within the tight confines of a sport so niche.  The only thing missing from the Frisbee Family was money.  Frolf simply hadn’t made it that far yet, but the communal hoards were still convinced that their big day would dawn after their next 11pm fast food “dinner” in some state park campsite or megastore parking lot.  This sacrificial existence would eventually bear fruit – they just knew it – and every mile traveled was a mile in the right direction.  Every $0.99 heat-lamp cheeseburger was a step on the path to absolution.

What it took, in reality, was a global pandemic and few overly-dedicated YouTube channels to get to that pot o’ gold, but disc golf lost something crucial on that journey:  The Frisbee Family.

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This isn’t unusual; money corrupts.  You can find the truth in this in every corner of the only planet we’ve ever been on, and we as a species have long been in denial of the precarious fiscal situation that we’ve created for ourselves.  Disc golf is no different, and it’s certainly not immune.  Face it:  Our hobby is one built on disposable income and free time – two things that are disappearing rapidly in this post-pandemic world.

The impetus of this monetary meltdown is a topic better served in a standalone article stuffed with details about the price of helicopter fuel and Cory Wong’s appearance fees, and so I’ll leave it at this:  Disc golf’s industry is either plateauing or waning in 2024, and creating scarcity for a vast number of young professionals who are solemnly questioning their 2020 decision to buy a van and hit the road selling brightly-colored fossil fuel circles to the masses.  Masses who’ve begun to un-mass as the real world hits home hard.

With scarcity comes fiercer competition.  It brings out the snarling.  The fangs.  It tests relationships and friendships.  Loathing blooms in this space.

And now, like some rabid, Lord of The Flying Discs mob, the more desperate among them are beginning to eye each others’ throats, salivating.

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Off-season, (or “Silly Season” as it has been referred to elsewhere ad nauseam), brought out the worst from the engagement grifters in 2023-2024.  You had a World Championship come home to Prodigy, which reminded us all about the previous Silly Season’s most dramatic vlogging topic:  Gannon Buhr.  As predicted, Buhr moved on from Prodigy, unsurprisingly taking his talents to Discmania – a “rumor” that had been floated around in the cesspool of DG “influencers” whose lack of “Frisbee Family” ethics are obvious.  And, again unsurprisingly, these rumors were pocketed and traded between the greedier and sleazier among them, like favors in some half-baked, wannabe mafioso act.  Those in the know wanted to be the ones to “break” the news, or perhaps they simply wanted to get the attention of an influencer with a following large enough for someone to pin an imaginary merit badge on them.

And if that feels icky, that’s because it is icky.  Particularly in the context of a sport, once defined by “family”, that is now experiencing the double whammy of a sophomore slump occurring after a heavy bet was laid on the table by the industry and the lifers.

I say again:  Helicopters.

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The only defense that these online cretins can muster usually revolves around engagement, and of course it does.  It’s all they know.  They wake in the morning, smartphone within arms’ reach, rabid and fiending, ready to absorb into their skulls the metrics from overnight.  They awaken not to the sunrise or the chirping of the birds, but to Tweets and Likes.  They’re tuned in from the first yawn of their day to the last, and so they know only what the numbers say.

And the numbers love speculation.  They love drama.  They love angst and annoyance and arguing with one another from behind the pseudo-anonymity of the internet itself.

This is their justification for engaging in this vulturism:  It drives engagement, and the influencers have proven time and again that they have no concern for whether or not this engagement is a benefit or a detriment to the sport or to the Frisbee Family that made it all possible.

By blowing up a deal weeks or months ahead of any official announcement, they’ve deflated a professional’s dream.  They’ve neutered a manufacturer’s exciting news.  They’ve stolen the thunder outright, and kept it for themselves.

They’re scavengers.  They don’t put forth the effort to hunt; largely because they truly don’t have the skills for it.  They wait for the half-hidden carcass to appear on the forest floor and begin to squawk about it for largely narcissistic reasons.  It’s ghoulish, if nothing else, and it is undeniably harming disc golf at a somewhat precarious time in the game’s history.

Why should a manufacturer spend time and resources to create a compelling marketing strategy to announce a highly sought-after player if some twerps from DGTMZ are just going to co-opt the news to bloat their own “brand”?

I say again:  They’re fucking vultures and the only thing that matters to them is that they eat.

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Disc golf has come a long way from pros sleeping in Nissan Altimas and surviving on a diet of peanut butter, bananas, and Taco Bell – if they made some putts.  But not all that has been bestowed upon our game has improved it.  And, if we continue to act negligently with these thunder thieves, we could very well find ourselves bringing more harm than good to an industry already struggling to survive the post-COVID dip.