Athletes who set the standard in their sport are common to SI's pages, but not on our staff. So Andy Borinstein's coworkers in our consumer marketing department were floored when Borinstein announced one Monday last month that his Ultimate Frisbee team, Squash, had won the masters national championship in Birmingham that weekend. "We knew he was a world-class researcher," says associate research director Mark Gallops. "We were surprised to find out he is a world-class athlete."
Borinstein, 35, a research associate, is part of a group charged with analyzing reader response to SI, as well as to other Time Inc. magazines. He isn't troubled by the relatively few people among the SI readers he surveys who request more coverage of his favorite sport. "There are minor sports and there are minor sports," he says. "Most of the country doesn't even know that Ultimate exists."
Borinstein didn't either until, at age 15, he ran across a game of what he thought was Frisbee football in New York City's Central Park. Ultimate (as it is officially known, because Frisbee is a trademarked term) features seven players on a side and combines the full-field sprinting of soccer with the defenses and strategy of football. The game caught Borinstein's attention when one of the players he was watching made a diving catch. On concrete. Already an avid hockey player, Borinstein immediately began perfecting his Frisbee skills, which had been dormant since age six, when he threw a tiny blue disk around with his father at the beach. He started an Ultimate team, the Central Park Independents, with players from various New York City high schools, and a year later the Independents won the city high school title. Borinstein went on to play for four years on the club team at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also found time to complete majors in sociology, American history and environmental studies. He continued playing while attending graduate school in sociology at Columbia and then while working for a consumer research firm before coming to SI in 1992.
Borinstein is a veteran at the top level of his sport and serves on the Ultimate Players Association board of directors. "Whether it's my work or Ultimate, I tend to get very involved," he says. In fact, he has his sport to thank for his ultimate involvement: He met his wife, Leslie, a journalist at Dow Jones & Company, through a former collegiate opponent. Not surprisingly, the national tournament trip wasn't just play for Borinstein. Before games he visited elementary schools in Alabama and Georgia to gather students' responses to a new Time Inc. magazine, TIME FOR KIDS. And a degree of analysis went into the choice of a name for his team, which won the title after playing together for only two months and will represent the U.S. at the Ultimate world championships in Sweden next August. "We started the team in the fall, and squash is a fall vegetable," Borinstein says. "Also, it's what we predicted we would do to our opponents."