2023 Fandom Survey: Mailbag Questions & Final Thoughts

Digging into some topics not yet discussed.

Kristin Tattar after winning the 2023 US Women’s Disc Golf Championship. Photo: DGPT

This article is part of a series released throughout the offseason based on the 2023 Ultiworld Disc Golf / StatMando Fandom Survey. If you wish to learn more about the survey and the demographics of the survey respondents, please read this accompanying article.

To wrap-up the 2023 Fandom Survey, we wanted to write an article that both addressed some unanswered questions from the previous articles along with some reader questions.

Q: What is the coolest stat that hasn’t been released!? – James G.

In this year’s Fandom Survey, we asked which MPO and FPO player they thought would win the most Majors over the next five years. We have yet to include the results of this question in an article, and there is far more consensus than I would have predicted for both MPO and FPO.

MPO Prediction

  • Gannon Buhr received over half of the MPO votes, with the vast majority of respondents selecting him as the favorite to win the most Majors in the next five years.
  • Calvin Heimburg was the next most selected MPO player with 18.9% of the vote. These respondents likely believe that his historically consistent 2023 season is a sign of what is to come, despite Heimburg being winless in 18 PDGA Majors thus far in his career.
  • Paul McBeth and Ricky Wysocki combined for only 4% of the vote despite combining for eight World Championships and 23 Major Championships over their careers thus far. This is a telling sign that suggests most of the survey respondents think that both players are past their prime of dominance in the sport.

FPO Predictions

  • The survey this year was taken amidst a historical Major Grand Slam season from Kristin Tattar. Unsurprisingly, she garnered almost 90% of the votes for the player expected to win the most Majors over the next five years. While I agree that Tattar is an unbelievably dominant athlete right now and would be tough to bet against, a lot can happen in five years! It’s worth noting that in five years, Tattar will be 36 years old. There has only been one FPO World champion ever crowned over the age of 36 (Beth Tanner (1996) – 40 years old).
  • The 17-time Major champion Paige Pierce received less than 1% of the vote, signaling that most respondents think there has been a passing of the torch in FPO competition.
  • Hailey King (3.7%) and Valerie Mandujano (2.3%) completed the Top 3 for this question, collecting the scraps left behind by respondents not selecting Tattar.

Q: Does how good a professional player is at disc golf affect their fandom score? – multiple people

This is a great question and there are many ways to answer it. I think the most straightforward way is looking at the relationship between a player’s PDGA rating and their Fandom Score. Here, we plotted all of the players from the 2023 Fandom Score alongside their end-of-year PDGA rating. We then performed a simple linear regression to quantify the  relationship between the two variables.

  • For FPO, there is a strong positive relationship between PDGA Rating and Fandom Score, with roughly a 15 point increase in PDGA Rating resulting in an increase in Fandom Score of approximately 1.
  • For MPO, the data were a bit more scattered. There was a slightly positive, albeit statistically insignificant, relationship between PDGA Rating and Fandom Score.

We can also compare the 2023 DGPT standings rank of all the players in the survey to their Fandom Score. While similar to PDGA rating, players who competed extensively in the DGPT tour were more likely to be on DGN coverage and thus may more strongly correlate to overall fandom.

  • This analysis tells a similar story of the previous, with the FPO seeing both a stronger relationship (steeper slope of the line) and less variability (data points closer to the line) than MPO. Here, the slopes are negative indicating greater fandom for individuals at the top of the DGPT standings.
  • For both MPO and FPO, there is a stronger correlation between Fandom Scores and DGPT Standings than PDGA Rating, perhaps indicating that respondents’ fandom may stem from their ability to watch live coverage of the professionals.

TL;DR: Yes, “how good” a player is affects their Fandom Score, but it is certainly not the only variable (and may not even be the most important!). “How good” you are correlates more strongly with Fandom Score in the FPO field as compared to the MPO field.

Q: On average, are the fans of any particular player better (have a higher PDGA rating) than another? – Brett K.

This is a fantastic question but we do not have the data to answer it! We will be including a question in next year’s survey about PDGA rating so that we can answer this and other questions on this topic. Potentially, we might be able to see whether fans of a specific player or manufacturer have a higher rating. Thank you for the question and the great idea!

Q: How does a player’s fandom score affect their commentator’s fandom score for the people who do both? And vice versa! – Anonymous question-submitter

The three JomezPro MPO commentators (Jeremy Koling, Paul Ulibarri, and Nate Sexton) were included in both our player list and commentator list for Fandom Scores. We can look at the intersection of these two fandom ratings for each of these players. As you can see from the graph below, the higher the Fandom Score given to the JomezPro commentators, the higher the average commentator Fandom Score.

  • What does each data point on this graph mean? Let’s consider the Red circle in the top right corner of the graph above. We looked at every respondent who gave Nate Sexton a 10 on the player Fandom Score, and from within this group we calculated the average commentary Fandom Score given to Nate Sexton (here: 9.73 average), and plotted it.
  • It is incredible how strong this relationship is. The lowest average commentator Fandom Score this year was for Nate Doss (4.99). The overall commentator scores for Koling (7.73) and Ulibarri (7.67) place them both soundly in the Top 5 of all commentators. If you focus on just the respondents who gave each of these players a Fandom Score of 5 or less, their commentator Fandom Score falls below Doss’ and into last place!
  • It’s worth noting that we also looked at the inverse relationship (grouping by commentary Fandom Score and asking how player Fandom Score changes) and saw the exact same trend.

TL;DR: Respondents who like a player more also like their commentary more. Respondents who like a players’ commentary more also like them as a player more.

Q: Do younger fans like younger players more? Do older fans like older players more? – Jesse W.

In the 2023 Fandom Survey, we asked for the birth year of all respondents. A summary of the breakdown of the age distributions of respondents can be viewed in this article. I was able to view the age of the respondent, their Fandom Score for each player, and the professional player’s age, which was previously reported in this article. From this data, I did not see a strong correlation between a respondent’s age and the fans that they supported the most, likely indicating that there are many other factors impacting fandom more than a player’s age.

With that being said, there were a handful of players that support this proposition! For visualization, I grouped the average Fandom Scores into three groups: Respondents younger than 27 (n = 539),  respondents between 27 and 43 years old (n = 1643), and respondents older than 43 years old (n = 667).

Flourish Age Matters

  • Younger players like Buhr, Redalen, Robinson, and Barela received the highest Fandom Scores from the youngest respondents. Older players like Conrad, Barsby, Scoggins, and J. Allen received the highest Fandom Scores from the oldest respondents.
  • Note that reported ages are the age of the competitor at the end of 2023.

With that said, these are cherry-picked data. There are also players whose fandom tells the exact opposite storyline.

Flourish Age Doesn’t Matter

  • Despite being 25 years old or younger, McMahon, Salonen, Anttila, and King received the highest Fandom support from the oldest respondents.
  • Older competitors such as Smith and Ulibarri saw the reverse, with their highest Fandom support coming from the youngest respondents.

TL;DR: Collectively, there does not seem to be a strong correlation between the age of professional players and the Fandom Scores that they received from respondents of different age groups. This is unsurprising to me, as I think that we as disc golf fans often do not know the age of touring professionals. Other factors, such as the time of a professional player’s entrance into the sport, their social media presence, branding, and personality likely have intersections with the age of a respondent but they are much harder to quantify from the survey data.

Q: On the survey was a question about whether or not I felt transgender women should be able to compete in FPO. Are we going to see that data? – Anonymous

You are correct – during the 2023 Fandom Survey we asked the question, “Do you feel transgender women should be able to play in the FPO division at Elite series and Majors?”

Before the 2023 season began, the PDGA announced new gender eligibility rules effectively barring transgender women from competing in PDGA majors. The restrictions in these rules resulted in various lawsuits, the formation of the United Series, and were eventually mostly rolled back for FPO at the end of 2023. Our survey question offers a brief snapshot of the public opinion amidst this tumultuous season, and we recognize that the issue is more nuanced than our individual question may present. Here, we report the breakdown of answers amongst all respondents, as well as the subset of respondents who identified as female (roughly 150) who participated in the 2023 Fandom survey.

Flourish Transgender

  • Roughly half of all respondents answered, “No”, indicating that they did not believe transgender women should be able to participate in the FPO division.
  • Interestingly, amongst respondents who indicated that they were Female, there is a greater percentage responding to either “Yes” or “For now, yes…” (37%) as compared to all respondents (25%).

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong association of opinions on this issue with the political ideation of respondents. We previously reported the political ideation breakdown of the respondents in this article. Of respondents indicating a political ideation, the breakdown is as follows:

Flourish Transgender Politics

  • Over half of respondents with a left-wing political ideation think that transgender athletes should be able to compete in FPO, answering “Yes” or “For now, yes…”. Over 99% of right-wing respondents answered “No” or “For now, no…”. Responses from centrist, libertarian, and apolitical respondents fell squarely in between these two.
  • There is a clear spectrum of opinions on this topic even within the respondents who identified as having left-leaning political ideologies, with all five answers getting at least 10% of the responses from this subgroup.

Collectively, these data highlight the varied nature of opinions regarding this topic in the sport. For further facts and discussion on this topic, I encourage you to read the most recent Ultiworld Disc Golf article on the updated PDGA ruleset.

Q: A lot of new disc golfers use the term ‘addicted’ when describing their interaction with the sport. Is there anything unique about the newest fans? – Antonio A.

This is an interesting concept – thank you for your question! While we did not ask in this survey what year the respondents started to play disc golf, we did ask what year they started to follow professional disc golf. Roughly 10% of respondents (319) indicated that they started to follow professional disc golf in either 2022 or 2023: 313 of these respondents (98%) indicated that they play disc golf more than once a month. Seeing as these are new DGPT fans who actively played, I used this sample to try to see if there was anything unique about the newest fans of our sport.

I looked across a variety of variables and the one that stuck out the most was disc-purchasing habits. We had previously reported (in this article) the disc purchasing habits of the 2023 Fandom Survey respondents over the past 12 months. This subset of newest fans purchased significantly more discs than the average respondent, as shown below:

Flourish New Player Discs

  • Over half of the respondents who started following disc golf in 2022 or 2023 reported that they purchased 21 discs or more in the past 12 months, as compared to just 28% across all other respondents.

In addition to disc sales, a few additional potentially interesting differences were observed:

  • The newest disc golf fans purchased more discs, but is their favorite brand of disc any different? Indeed! Of these newest fans, MVP (38%) was by far the favorite manufacturer, as compared to only 23% of all other respondents. Both Innova (29% to 24%) and Discraft (20% to 10%) experienced drops in favorite manufacturer among this subgroup compared to respondents not as new to the sport.
  • There were not any large changes in favorite MPO player amongst these newest fans, with Simon Lizotte and Calvin Heimburg still handily landing as #1 and #2, respectively. Interestingly, Paul McBeth (12% to 3%) saw the largest drop in being selected favorite player amongst this group, with new fans potentially not ever seeing McBeth at his most dominant.
  • Finally, one last point was that these newer fans consumed disc golf differently than the other respondents. They were more likely to consume professional disc golf media entirely through post-produced coverage (28% compared to 20%), and less likely to consume it entirely through live coverage (27% compared to 40%).

TL;DR: New fans buy more discs, like MVP more, and are more likely to consume disc golf through post-produced media. Potentially the ability to binge-watch YouTube coverage contributes to the “addicted” terminology that you proposed in your question.

And with that, the 2023 Fandom Survey and articles have reached an end! Thank you to all who submitted questions for this piece! We are excited to bring you the 2024 Fandom Survey next year! If you wish to be notified when next year’s survey is ready or want to be emailed when survey results are released, please enter your email address here. If you are interested in being involved in the survey, have questions or topics that you wish to see covered, or have experience in polling or a profession related to studying surveys, please get in touch with us at [email protected]. I would like to thank Jesse Weisz for his leadership and assistance with this piece as well as the rest of the StatMando team. Special thanks to Karl Lamothe, the editor of this series.

Please see the full series of 2023 articles by following these links:

Links for the 2022 Fandom Series articles can be found here.

  1. Josiah Zoodsma
    Josiah Zoodsma

    Josiah Zoodsma is a developmental neuroscientist based out of Philadelphia. When not at work, you can find him off the fairway at the local course or analyzing sports statistics. Josiah is a guest writer and data analyst for the Fandom Survey. He can be reached at [email protected].


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