Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last and first

More random thoughts to end and begin the year.

The boy just loved his new train set and didn't play with anything else the whole day. He does seem to be Inertia Boy, where whatever he's currently doing is the thing he wants to be doing next, but this was a whole new level. He also whined incessantly whenever the train went off the track or the two cars became disconnected. kids, whattya gonna do.

Field sense is tough to teach. My wife asked me tonight whether field sense was in the book. At first I said it wasn't, but then decided that it was, just not using that phrase. Much of the Cutting chapter was about when to cut and why, trying to give people guidelines (but not rules, since nothing always applies). But we should have been more explicit in talking about field sense. But I'm still not sure how to drill it into someone's head, other than forcing them to think about it. The stages of field sense are: No clue, will understand when explained to, will recognize right when it's too late, will be able to recognize in time to execute, will do it instictively, then the final stage of recognizing it immediately but being too damn old to do anything about it. Hopefully, you'll have a few years in between those last two stages.

I'll freely admit to reference-counting in the Ultimate History Book. Mooney wins the DoG contest hands-down, so much that he needed to be subindexed ("Mooney, Steve, 62, 68, 113; on Death or Glory, 102, 103a, 115-116; influence of, 47, 86, 94, 130; in Japan, 164; on Philly 8, 114; in Japan, 164; on Rude Boys, 54, 58-59; on Titanic, 67, 76; at Wugc, 162). Seeger was under-referenced, but most others were in fair proportion. It's fun to just look through the index for names, although sometimes I wondered why the hell so-and-so was worth a mention. Didn't make it to see how often Dobyns got mentioned yet.

Speaking of which, he's back. What's the over/under before he appears here to say he would never appear here except to wonder what the hell has happened to the game?

And Mike G, too. He might make an interesting podcast guest, or he could just be Bill O'Reilly. You decide.

Boy those west coast kids just like to chuck that disc. Kids today.

Newsletter arrived today. One bad thing about the UPA getting up to speed is that the articles have already appeared online, so there was nothing new in the stories of Nationals. I had hoped that Shelton had gotten some second- or third-hand reports on the "other" semi that started an hour before the important one and that did not start out 5-0, but no, it was the same old song.

Were there really only 81 turnovers in the women's finals, or did they just not record some of them to be nice? There were 48 in the first 4 points, 26-22, so Riot only had 13 turnovers for their last 11 goals. 63 TOs in the men's final (8 by Cruickshank, surprisingly), 93 in the Mixed final (10 each by Pat Hard and Tim Hertz; 73 by men; 23 of 26 assists by men, 18 goals caught), and only only 29 in a Masters final played on a less windy Saturday.

Continuing my Luke-like review (but with capitalization) of the Newsletter....

No mention of Corey in the Lei-out Beach League article.
American Jews teaching frisbee in Israel, sounds like a great thing for them to do (except I think they spelled the author's name wrong).
Some ads and public service announcements. Ooh, get this, the UPA has the nerve to suggest that people read through the rules first if they have a college eligibility question.
2004 financial statement was in there. UPA added $175K in net assets in 2004, very nice. Got an extra $225K in dues and $75K in nationals fees, 50K in sponsorship and donations. Spent an extra $40K on the Champ Series plus added a new line item for Nationals Teams costing $113K. I think they may have decided to separate the costs and fees for the Nationals tournaments instead of rolling them into "championship series".
Ah, super, Kyle Weisbrod scolds players who behave inappropriately/rudely. Glad to see it, although it's also sad to see things change, in a way. Dobyns alluded to the milk toast (sic) teams today who weren't obnoxious assholes like his team. It was a different day back then, when you could do what you wanted in anonyminity and obscurity (although that wasn't the point he was trying to make).
The pictures are good, but I hope that the ones on the devoted page were not the 10 best, in the UPA's opinion.

Ok, time to watch the New Year ring in.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

More on the Hall of Fame

On the other HoF thread, someone asked who will be the first DoG player enshrined. I said it was Mooney, if for no other reason than he's so much older than the rest of us.

But he will be one of the "inner-circle" members of the Hall. Bill James, the baseball stat guy/writer/Red Sox employee, has studied baseball's Hall of Fame a lot, and we've drawn from his insights in crafting ultimate's Hall (disclaimer: I'm currently on the HoF Committee). One of the ideas concerns "peak" and "career" value.

Sandy Koufax is the classic example of a "peak" HoFer, someone with a short career (just 12 years in the majors, only six of them as above-average) but at such a brilliant high that you can't ignore him. Eddie Murray is a good example of "career", as he almost never led the league in anything but was pretty damn good for a pretty damn long time.

Well, Mooney is one of the tops in ultimate for both peak and career. His career value easily outdistances the rest of the field, even Kenny Dobyns, the only other player in the discussion when you combine your "peak" and "career" top 10 lists into "best player ever." (I write this only because I know neither of them will ever read this.)

It will be interesting to see how DoG and NYNY populate the Hall over the years. It will be a few more years until most of the core of those teams become eligible. As a rough guess, each team will probably have about five HoFers and another five guys who belong in the Hall of Very Good, guys who were either one of the very best for a short time or guys who were consistently excellent but never one of the elite of the elite. But these numbers really depend on how the Hall plays out.

A maximum of 5 players and contributors can be elected per year. There is currently a backlog of Hall-worthy players, so you'd expect that there'd be five new inductees each year, but it's possible that qualified candidates will split the vote and thus only three or four will be inducted. (There is a multi-step process to make sure that this isn't too much of a problem.) I'll guess without calculating that it will take 10-15 years for the Hall to be really current, such that the leading candidates in any given year will be those who just hit the minimum age (48 for men/45 for women this year, moving down to 43/40 by 2010).

It's an unfortunate reality that some of the early greats will probably not make it because of the dense field.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New Hall of Fame inductees announced

Check it out on rsd and on the UPA site.

Congrats and thanks to Contributors Sholom (Eric) Simon and Kathy Pufahl, Players Jon "JC" Cohn, Jim Herrick and Kelly Green, and Special Merit inductees Joel Silver, Buzzy Hellring, and Jonny Hines.

Click here
for the press release.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Relative value of O and D

Here’s a paradox:
  • Offense and defense are equally important in ultimate.
  • Most of the important players are important because of their offense.
  • If you add up the individual values of all the players, the sum of the offensive guys will be more than that of the defensive guys. But see #1.

Is one of these assumptions in error? Which one(s)?

I’m going to go with the first assumption, and here’s why. The advanced view of “value” is “contribution above replacement level.” However, a lot of defense is simply showing up and not screwing up so badly that you hand away goals. A "replacement level" defense is still going to get turns, while a replacement level offense (especially in women's ultimate) is going to do really badly.

Let's just guess that in a decent game between decent teams, offenses score 50% of the time (and defenses get turnovers 50% of the time). In a blowout, say 15-5, the offense will still probably have maybe 10 turnovers, yielding a 60% efficiency against a replacement defense, meaning the other's team's (replacement) offense scores on only about 20% of their possessions. So, the average offense is (50% - 20%) better than a replacement offense, but an average defense is only (60% - 50%) better than a replacement defense.

Maybe this is what people are saying when they say defensive strategy is practically non-existent. Most of the value in playing defense is just being in position.

Part I of an ongoing thread on analysis of ultimate. (I don't really want to call it statisticial analysis because the numbers aren't the important thing, it's the concepts behind the numbers.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

close games and semis

I'm not sure why, but I feel the urge to talk about the evolution of strategy. No reason in particular that it's on my mind, really.

Kidding, I'm kidding. Sheesh, I can't keep up with all the new blog entries coming out. What's amazing about the frisbee blog acceleration is that blogging is like so three years ago. You'd think that with a sport that prides itself on being so high tech and college-y that blogging would have hit bigtime awhile ago.

I thought I'd go over Corey's Dangerfieldesque comment about how Jim/DoG gives no respect. I'm really not sure how this post will turn out and whether he'll be right or I'll be vindicated, but that's the beauty of live Internet.

DoG in the winning years had its fair share of close games, some of them elimination games. But we won 52 games in a row over 7 years before being knocked out in the semis in 2000, something that surely passes even the most anal statistician's significance test.

With a little help from google, which has a neat Advanced Search by date function for the news groups, here are the close games year by year. I am writing this as dispassionately as can be done, and the guy writing this tonight has disassociated himself from the guy who played in those games:
1994: pool 19-16 over Boulder, 18-13 over Rhino. The Rhino game seemed closer. The Boulder game had a lot of offense on both sides, as 20 of the 35 points had no turnovers. DoG got broken 6 of 14 times by Rhino, however, at a time in the tournament when no one had any idea that Rhino would go 0-5. Looking back, and contemplating the Loser's Lament, I'll say that we had almost no chance at losing the Boulder game and a 10% chance in the Rhino game. Semis: 19-17 over Cojones in a game that merits consideration for the Best Game Ever. It was a great battle that either team could have won, even though we had handled them easily all year (6-1, counting games against the springtime We Smoke Weed). Finals 21-11 over Double Happiness. After the previous day's catharsis, Sunday victory was a foregone conclusion.
1995: pool 18-15 over Double, 19-16 over San Diego. Double game was close to a tossup. San Diego game was one of those where it shouldn't have been that close and they didn't belong with us yada yada no respect. Semis was another possible Best Game Ever win over Cojones, 21-17. Slightly higher quality than the year before because of the win, but it wasn't as historic because it was a repeat. Finals was 21-10 over Sockeye in what might be the Best Played Game Ever (3 turnovers).
Scorecard so far: 2 "no respect" close wins, 1 "just a little", 3 "great games", and 2 "we are so great" not-close games.
1996: pool 15-14 over Saucy Jack after being down 11-4. Start the excuse wagon, it's going to be a long ride. We had a first-round bye and didn't get into the game quickly, they were on a roll having scored 6 in a row to come back against Randall's Island, the game was unlikely to have any implications on where we would finish, we got some bad breaks/plays in the first half, and we were still chuckling to ourselves about Mooney getting stalled on what should have been the very first pass of the tournament. I'm not ready to call this a "no respect" win, but I can't help but think of it as a fluke, so I'm not sure how to categorize it. Semis 19-9 over Z. Finals 19-16 over Sockeye. Never tied after 2-2, although Sockeye had it to tie at 6 and 8. As close as 14-12 in the 2nd half, but then 17-12 and 19-16. Didn't really feel all that close. This could have been DoG's strongest team ever, just because we won so easily without playing our A game.
1997: pool 17-5, 17-10, 17-9 (over semifinalist Z), 15-12, 17-9, 17-6. The close game was against Double, which had failed to qualify for Nationals but got to go after Oregon's Pack of Lies decided to stay home. I think that this is probably where Idris got the term "nicest cheaters", since there were some calls of ours that they disagreed with (although I can't remember what any of them might have been or even whether I thought they were bad/ok/good calls). Not a great game, but could have gone either way. Hard to classify it, though. There is some respect for the game because of the history of having close games against Double, but everything else about the game points to it as one of those which Corey would have accused us of not having respect. (Hey, also check out this thread. Faust was thought (incorrectly, as discovered after Nationals) to have been left off the team's roster at a Sectionals he didn't attend and so there was a big brouhaha about whether he should be allowed to play. That was close to the end of the Golden Days of RSD, by the way.) Semis 17-15 against Ring, after being down 10-4. Some superficial similarities to the Saucy game before, but Ring was just playing phenomenally to earn their lead. Finals 16-10 over Sockeye. 7-0, 7-5, 16-10. Sockeye's first goal in the finals came on a Full Haskell.
1998: Pool play had that one point win over the Condors, a blowout over a Furious team that had taken it to us at Worlds and Tuneup, and some other not close games. Semis over NY (Corey played in this one so must have felt personally aggrieved). Gewirtz wrote of it: "NY gave DoG a good fight. DoG went ahead by 2 upwind goals. WSL was resilient, though, and equalized toward the end of the first half. DoG took a 1 goal lead to the intermission. DoG regained their cushion and NY fought back, but, fell short." I wrote simply, "Semis was uneventful win against NY." Leonardo wrote that it was 6-2, 8-8, 13-8, 14-12 (of this rally, he commented "WSL finally got on track (or Boston eased up in anticipation of closing the game big. It’s remarkable how much these guys really can turn it on and off)."), 17-12. Chalk one up for Corey. Perhaps part of this was that virtually everyone from the NY years and even almost all the key players from the Cojones team of 1995 were no longer with the team, and so we probably felt that any close game against them (the Regional finals were 18-16, and probably felt about the same) was just from us playing badly or uninspired. Finals was 17-15 over Condors, down 6-4 (hmm, don't remember that part), up 14-10 (_That's_ what I remember), tied 14-14 going into a strong wind, 16-14, 17-15. The Condors games were tight contests, no doubt. Way too much wind to be considered great games, though.
1999: Tight Day 2 games against Jam and Ring, both probably games with "too little respect." The offense was great that tournament, not struggling in even a single game, so perhaps that's a common thread. (The other common thread I've identified is that a close game against a team where there's a history of close wins or defeats is much more likely to be considered a good game than a close game against a team that had never beaten us in an important or semi-important game.) But to be fair, a 15-12 game with only 2 breaks isn't really as close as a 15-12 with a lot of breaks, since in the first game the losers would have had to more than double the number of breaks in order to win. Quarters may have been as close as 7-7 before finishing 15-8. Semis was a nail-biter over Furious, finals a 17-12 masterpiece over the Condors (only one break and four turnovers in that game).
2000: wow, rsd says that our first round pool play game against Sockeye was 12-12. Also beat Jam by 2, according to my web page, but all I wrote about Nationals was "Errr. DoG has now won 52 of our last 53 games at Nationals?" No recollection right now of either of those close games. Funny how that memory thing works.

Well, that's it. As I said at the start of this, I wrote this as dispassionately and as disassociated as I could, like I was peering into someone else's head for a documentary, and it's not always pretty. But I said I'd write it and see how it goes, and that's how it went. Tough luck, I guess.

But to go back to the original question, I think I answered it in the 1999 comments. Respect doesn't come from one close game, but from a history of them.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A history of Boston ultimate

I'm not sure why this is on my mind now, but I wrote a piece back in 1994 about the history of Boston ultimate. The short story is that two equal teams in an area will not exist. There will be a top team, a second team will form and may stay together for awhile but eventually its top players will join up with the top team. The second team then has a few lean years before it all starts over again.

From 1992-1995, the 2nd team fell upon hard times, not making Nationals with the 3rd spot. 1996 saw the emergence of Snapple, which morphed into Dark Horse and RoQ the next couple years (but they'll always be Snapple to me). In those years, DoG had relatively few additions to the roster, most of them being players who had moved from other cities (Cameros, Greff) or unretirements (Seeger, Axon). Zaz was one of the few who worked his way up the ladder, having played with Boston Kremes before.

DoG absorbed the top players (and Lyn) from Snapple in 1999 after a triumphant Worlds championship that summer, leaving a skeleton crew to form into Blackjack, which missed Nationals that fall before making it the following year. BJ missed again in 2001, causing another reforming into Boss Hogg. BH lasted until its top players and DoG simultaneously decided they had had enough and formed a new team (called DoG) in 2004. Twisted Metal formed, not out of the remnants, but out of something completely different. The BH guys who didn't play on DoG mostly played Coed that year. Had BH not dissolved, probably some of the TM guys would have played with them and maybe one or two would have made DoG, but the absence of a clear 2nd team paved the way for their existence.

1999 signalled a change to a youth movement which has never stopped. While such dinosaurs as Al and myself have stayed around, we slowly lost the rest of the old guard. Nepotist Wicks brought in a bunch of Brown players and recent alumni. The team might still be old compared to other teams (Jam's oldest is 32, Sockeye's 33) but has continued to get younger.

(By the way, I should note that other than some split squad losses to Twisted at WMO this year and a scrimmage loss or two to Snapple/Hogg, the 2nd team hasn't beaten the 1st team since 1991. We've lost to a whole bunch of teams, but not Boston B.)

Is there really animosity towards DoG from TM? If so, then I wouldn't have exhorted Jeff Graham to cut in a pivotal point against Condors when he was just standing around. I don't really talk to those guys, though, so who knows whether to believe a couple rumor-mongers who have already stated that they deliberately exaggerate to get hits.

Anyway, I've always felt that DoG has respected the sovereignty of the 2nd Boston team, even during the years with massive defections.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Random thoughts...

Columnists often do a “Nobody asked me but…” column whenever they run out of ideas. Over the last week, I’ve been commenting on other guys’ blogs but haven’t produced anything myself, so here goes.

I’m pissed that Arrested Development has been cancelled. Best show on TV.

The odometer on my car somehow is off by about 3%. I noticed this on a recent 100 mile trip when the miles-to-go according to the highway signs differed from what my odometer would have indicated. Do I need to worry about this?

I’m always trapped between hating rules lawyers and wanting to be one. On the first point of a recent game, the marker in a zone would begin the stall with “One” while still about six yards away. Could I call a foul right then since that is two fast count violations at once? Should I just let it go?

A women’s sport (or a coed sport) has arrived when spectators don’t say “Great play” when a woman makes a play that a man would be expected to make. Do you see anyone saying “Wow” when a WNBA player makes a three-pointer or does a crossover dribble (or would you see that if anyone watched the WNBA)? This is the soft bigotry of low expectations that some politicians talk about.

It’s hard not to feel that a whole team is a bunch of cheaters when one player makes what may be a bad call on a pivotal point. This weekend, I went undercover to sample the Mixed game, and in the semis, one of our opponents caught a disc which appeared to bounce first. After the usual ridiculous arguments, the disc went back, and they scored. We scored six in a row after that, though, and I said, “Justice!” after each one. (Incidentally, that was the third game in a row in which a disc appears to have bounced before the catch.)

“Back to the thrower” is often not an equitable solution. Consider a contested catch in the end zone. If it was really up, it should be a goal, and if it was really down, it should be a turnover, and there are odds associated with each. You are theoretically able to calculate what a fair compromise is such that the odds of scoring haven’t changed, and those odds don’t depend on where the throw came from. Thus, if it’s a 2 yard pass that’s contested, the offense comes out way ahead if it’s really a 50/50 call (because they haven’t lost any yardage and they keep possession). Only if the likelihood that the disc was up was equal to the odds of scoring the point (somewhere in the 90-95% range probably) is the most fair solution to send it back to the thrower. Perhaps a better solution on these validly contested calls would be to give the offense the disc 20 or 30 yards back from the call (but no deeper than their own goal line, or half the distance to an X-rules offsides mark (something like 10 yards deep in the endzone)). Or maybe those clowns who want to give close calls to the D because they’re the D had it right for the wrong reason.

Hmm, should an Observer in that situation use this calculus? With most calls, you’re going to be more than 90% certain of a call, but what about the ones with less certainty? Suppose you think it’s 60% likely that the catch was up. Is that enough to rule it up?

There was a lot of dead time during the tournament this weekend. Pulls out the back of the endzone were the worst, taking at least a minute to retrieve. Solution to that: have a “corner disc” available and let someone else chase the errant disc. It’s already in the rules somewhere, isn’t it?

And what the hell’s up with George? Stop posting so much, dammit!

And has anyone seen AJ or Alex?

Monday, November 28, 2005

gender ratios in Coed

The official ratio is 4/3, offense decides. This ought to suggest that teams have a 1M:1W ratio, oughtn't it? But a quick look at a few Nationals rosters suggests more of a 1.4M:1W ratio. Even if every team chose to play 4M:3W, that'd still only be a 1.33M:1W ratio.

Boston has summer leagues for 4M/3W and 5M/2W, and my impression is that most teams have a lot more guys per spot than women. Someone can let me know whether the leagues that are limited to a certain number of players have to turn away a higher %age of male or female applicants.

On the other hand, guys in coed generally have a disproportionate share of the touches, so maybe the average number of passes for each person is the same for each gender.

So my question is whether anyone even cares about this. Should the UPA or league organizers care about gender equality or gender equity? If so, how much should they lead and how much should they follow? If it turns out that after 10 years of a Mixed series that only 35% of Mixed players are females, should they tinker with the 4/3 ratio? And should they care if males throw 80% of the goals?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A shout-out for science

My buddy Dennis McCarthy just had a paper come out in Journal of Biogeography, and he's working on some videos that he'll soon be putting up on his website, Don't miss the revolution this time around.

Cheating D Hacks

Sorry to be redundant. So I was out last night to wish Jit good luck on his third “I’m leaving Boston for good” move, and found myself surrounded by a bunch of D guys, including the PuP who I have to throw under the bus in order to save the game. Only through guile and sacrificing a wounded passerby was I able to escape with my life.

They made some points about how players can act in good faith and still initiate contact some of the time and how there are cheating offensive players who step into the mark. (On the latter point, I believe that some of this tendency has come about in response to the increasingly aggressive marking.) Ok, fine. But how much is too much? And what to do about it?

Some randomly-ordered thoughts on the subject:
  • I said that if you’re called for more than about a foul a game, that’s being too aggressive in taking your chances. I’m not sure if a player can judge whether he’s playing at that level, plus I wouldn’t want a player to think he has a foul to give. Instead, perhaps I would recommend that you play the game as if you’re already in foul trouble (but not necessarily that you’re out on your next foul). This would eliminate a lot of the pivoting fouls and generally most of the cheap fouls.
  • Almost any hand-to-body contact is cheating, whether it’s a deliberate contact or just willful negligence. Hand-to-hand and occasionally hand-to-arm may be legitimate efforts.
  • It just turns my stomach to see someone on rsd say that “everyone plays this way” and that you have to foul to prevent a huck.
  • The worst part about all of this is that if everyone does it, then there’s no advantage to be gained, and in fact the game itself is a lot worse for it. Players’ inability to be honest without a gun to their head is ruining the game, resulting in boring hackfests that reward thuggery over talent.

PS. I was going to call this post "Paging Diogenes" but didn't want to confuse Idris.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pretend it's 2006

It's Day 3 of Worlds. If you're a top American team and you've brought most of your guys, you've just played four 19-5 games and one 19-11 game, probably been shocked to hear what Australian people do with animals, and have finally figured out what happened to that day you gained or lost when you crossed the International Date Line.

How do you feel? Are you ready to continue playing? Have your bruises healed from Nationals two weeks ago? And how was it practicing and doing a track workout the week after Nationals?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why DoG finished T-15th in Spirit voting at Nationals

I'm not sure whether the article itself (Nov 11 entry, in case there are more recent ones) or having to give a bunch of free hits to those meddling kids pains me more.

Friday, November 11, 2005

How would you assess the quality of play?

This is a difficult task, and would be even if there were a lot of stats available. You would expect that in a growing, still-immature sport that the level of play would increase more or less continuously.

Another confounder is that we’re not sure if we’re talking about individuals or teams, and are we talking about the very best, or the not quite best, or the average? But I'm not going to go into that today.

Zaz talked about this in a different way in his Sept 9 post, “Big Time Sports” and why ultimate is still not ready for prime time.

The following are all indicators, not conclusive proof

  • Ability of one player to dominate a game
  • The degree of specialization
  • The ability of old and young players to play
  • The number of players under 5’8”
  • The number of errors (turnovers)
  • Percentage of turnovers that are unforced
  • The ability to score upwind
  • The ability to move the length of the field
  • The average margin of victory
  • The number of ultimate players
  • The extent of coaches
  • The number of youth programs
  • The amount of written instructional material
  • The sophistication of playbooks and strategies

At the cost of belaboring, I’ll explain why each of these is important. I should also caution that I wouldn’t use any of these to compare two individuals or two teams, since there is a lot of noise in the measurement and plenty of counter-examples, but when you have sample size on your side, you ought to be able to see a difference.
Ability of one player to dominate a game. Anthropologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote about this in an article about why there are no more .400 hitters in baseball. When there are more good players in the game, it’s harder for any one of them to rise above. Or look at Colorado’s Beau. He scored 9 goals in the finals of College Nationals. I barely remember his presence when we played them at Club Nationals.
The degree of specialization. The NFL used to have two-way players, and high schools still have a lot of them. Now, there are pass-rushing linebackers and pass-defending linebackers and nickel backs and dime backs and long snappers. Ultimate has more O and D lines now, and players who do only one thing well.
The ability of old and young players to play. If an 18 year old with a year of experience can be a factor at Nationals, no matter how athletic he may be, that says something about the quality of play in the sport. Same deal with a 40 year old, no matter how much he knows about the game. But countering this are a few factors. Players are starting earlier and getting instruction earlier, so 18 might be the new 22. On the other end, I don’t think it ever occurred to most 35 year olds that they should still be playing the game instead of having moved on to life. And for both ends, specialization allows them to contribute what they can without having their weaknesses exploited too much.
The number of players under 5’8”. Short players can compensate for lack of height with quickness, but real athletes are big and quick and would force the little guy out of the game.
The number of errors (turnovers) and the % that are unforced. But an increase in offensive effectiveness could be countered by an increase in defensive effectiveness, leaving the efficiency unchanged. Additionally, a change in the way the rules are enforced (stricter calling of travels, more hacking on the mark) could change the offense/defense balance without being a comment on the skill level. (And let’s not forget the random effects of wind.) You could instead count unforced errors. “Drops” would probably be a good easy-to-track stat. But many “unforced errors” are just good defense, and many “blocks” are just bad throws, so I don’t think you could easily track this. Perhaps “average stall count on turnovers” would be a surrogate. Anyway, having said all this, fewer turnovers generally implies a higher level of play.
The ability to score upwind and the ability to move the length of the field. This seems like an obvious one, but there might actually be limited stats on this. I’m embarrassed for the Open division remembering the DoG/Condors pool play game of 1998 and the Condors/Jam final of 2001 because there were so few upwinders while other divisions had them playing at the same time or on the same field. If “huck it and play zone” is your strategy, that’s a sign of a low level of play (or a 30 mph wind).
The average margin of victory. This could be a measure of parity as much as it is a measure of quality, but more blowouts means that the overall level of play isn’t as high. Little League teams might win one game 18-0 and lose the next 22-2.
The number of ultimate players. More players should equal more good players and more good teams and better top-level teams. But we’d also need to figure out where those players are playing. If we assume no change to the skill of the population but we have twice as many players drawn from that population, we’d have twice as many good players. Are they being spread out to the same number of good teams, or are there twice as many good teams now?
The extent of coaches. Also, the average age of the team captains.
The number of youth programs. This is probably more of a leading indicator, by 5 or 10 years, as it will take some time for these players to develop.
The amount of written instructional material. When everyone has to reinvent the wheel each time, you can’t progress.
The sophistication of playbooks and strategies. If all you’re doing is hucking it and playing zone if it’s not complete, chances are that the level of play isn’t that high.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The loser's lament

“We coulda had ‘em.” (Losers have bad grammar, too.) I used to scoff at teams that thought they had a chance against the DoG powerhouse teams just because it was tied at 6-6 or they were up in the semis at Nationals 10-4. Now I’m writing the same thing. Of course, this time the situation is totally different, for reasons I’m sure I could come up with given enough time. But what is it about sports that makes us play what-if?

I guess it’s human nature to feel that victories are inevitable manifestations of greatness, while defeats are a combination of bad luck, bad calls, and momentum-changing close plays. To wit, if we score at 7-7 in the semis, then we go into half up a break; instead, they’re on serve and we have to gain a break to take the ad away from them. Or, at 14-11, we have the disc twice going upwind, but a cloggy offense and a bunch of picks and a poach block stop up from scoring. If we score, it’s 14-12 and we’re going downwind, so maybe we score that, then all of a sudden it’s 14-13 and Sockeye is feeling the pressure, so maybe we score the tying goal, then we have the wind again…So, am I right in thinking this? Was the previous Jim right in thinking, “Oh, those guys gave us a little scare for awhile, but we knew all along that we would win.” We both see the 6-1 run they had, but our view is that it was a bad stretch that should have gone differently while they see it as about how the rest of the game should have gone.

Or maybe we’re both wrong, that we’re both inferring patterns that aren’t really there.

No real point to this entry, just felt I should point this out.

Friday, November 04, 2005

What makes a fan favorite?

Or a fan unfavorite. One of my readers commented that he was a little put off by watching the men’s finals, that he really couldn’t root for Cruickshank. A reader on another blog said that Lugsdin was an on-field asshole. I’ve never had anything but respect for the play of these two guys (although I’ve expressed very strong feelings about the hackalicious play of three of their departed teammates). Maybe it’s just that my buttons are different from other people’s.

What makes a jerk? There are lots of possibilities:

  • Commits a lot of fouls.
  • Contests obvious fouls.
  • Calls petty fouls and violations.
  • Makes dangerous bids.
  • Whines when he’s a victim.
  • Tries to get away with petty fouls and violations/strategically commits intentional violations.
  • Thinks he knows everything.
  • Taunts.
  • Acts arrogantly.
  • Argues even when he’s not involved.

For me as an O player, the ones who get my dander up are the foulers, the ones that won’t let you pivot or set up a cut without initiating contact. And I see myself in the above list, although of course I don’t view my offenses as being characteristic of a real jerk, just someone who is just a little sensitive to the offenses of others.

And what makes a fan favorite?
  • Seems to enjoy himself out there.
  • Commits few fouls or violations.
  • Calls only real fouls. This is especially fan-pleasing when it’s a close play that he didn’t quite make, the defender hesitates for a second knowing there might be a foul call, and the player just shakes his hands and head and says “no foul.”
  • Is approachable.
  • Handles wins and losses well.

As an aside, let’s just face it that the average fan will not have a good perspective on most calls. Even as a player watching his teammates, I find that I am not able to make a good call unless I have already put on my Observer hat. A player or fan follows the disc and watches everything else out of the corner of his eye. An Observer watches feet, checks for body contact in the steps leading up to the bid, watches downfield players away from the disc, and only watches the disc when there is a question as to whether the player has made the catch before contacting OB.

PS. Q&A will remain open through the weekend.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Very brief Nationals recap, plus Nationals Q&A

A month ago, I wasn't sure we would make it out of Regionals.

A few days ago, I thought we might have a tough time even making it to quarters.

Now, I'm disappointed we didn't win the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, we didn't deserve to win it, but oh, was it winnable.

I really have no idea if the statement is correct or not, but at about 10-9 against Sockeye in our power pool game on Friday, I said, "DoG 199x would have won this game already, 15-7."

Me: Had a problem with first-point turnovers the first two days which I can not explain, resulting in Wicks sitting me out for more O points than I had sat out since 1994, combined. After several hours of internal debate occupying most of my Friday night, I decided that there was nothing I could consciously do to do any better, so I was just going to go play and do what I could. Played well on Saturday, another fun day of ultimate reminiscent of 2002 Nationals, albeit with a few more turnovers. All told for the tournament: 4 D's (no Callahans) I think, about a dozen turnovers, assuming that every turnover I was involved in was my fault.

Ok, let's open up the phone lines with your questions about Nationals. I already have one from a J. Gewirtz. We'll keep this thread open all week.

PS. George is now on my list, too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

1999 Worlds

You know what, 1999 Worlds was pretty freakin’ sweet, too.

Mooney, Seeger, Greff, Lenny, John Bar, Cork, Coop, Bim, Jeff Brown, Cameros. That’s a pretty good lineup, I’d say. But they were all sitting at home for this tournament. Instead, we took 8 DoG guys, 5 young Snapple tryouts who had already decided to bail on us, a Japanese import, and two college guys, one of whom hadn’t even qualified for College Regionals.

And we won it all. Even though we were seeded first, I think, quarterfinals was a reasonable goal, in my opinion, because of the above list. Hell, the main reason I attended was to golf (the tournament was in St. Andrews, and Jordan and I played the Old Course and Carnoustie). But we played well enough early on, and better as the week progressed, finishing undefeated in pool play.

In the quarters we played Ring, the first of three straight games on the stadium field. The opening pull hit and rolled out the back of the endzone. As Alex went to walk it up, he was told that he had to play it from the back line, which was the rule for the tournament but which hadn't come up all week. That was a quick break, but we got it back and won it, 15-12, setting up a semis match with the Condors. We had beaten the Condors by 1 and 2 the previous year at Nationals, and would beat them again by 5 later that fall, but they had to rate as the favorites in this game, despite missing their captain Steve Dugan to a broken arm.

But we just smoked them, playing without a care or any sign of fear or anything but pure joy. Our receiver corps of me, Forch, Safdie, Doug, and Taka just shredded them. Corey Sanford covered me a lot, and said proudly afterward, "I just didn't want you to beat me deep. I don't care what else you did." Thanks, Corey, that helped me get off 4 or 5 hucks for scores, plus there were the 3 or 4 other goals I was involved in. But none of them were long catches, congrats. After Jordan threw a no-reason scoober for the final margin in the 15-10 win, we were ecstatic.

The finals the next day was a little less precise due to some rain and that extra fatigue, but we played well enough to beat the Finnish team Liquidisc, 20-18, and revel in our joy. Except for a few summer tournaments, this was the tournament that stands far above the rest for accomplishment with what we had and what we expected. If you can just ignore who isn't there and who the other team does have, believe in yourselves and play the game you can, you can accomplish far more than what you may have thought possible.

Monday, October 24, 2005

1997 semis

aka Jim froths. Statistically, this game probably wouldn’t make my top 500. I think I would have been credited with three turnovers and got saved on a fourth, but never before or since have I felt that I could will a great team to victory.

We had a close game in pool play against Double Happiness, who was at Nationals only because Pack of Lies decided they didn’t want to go, but otherwise it was a typical DoG Nationals, back when National champs would go undefeated through pool play.

NY (WUDI) and Ring were playing it out in the other pool for 2nd place. The Condors had come in as the 3rd overall seed, but as it was their first Nationals appearance in a few years, they played down a level and finished 3-3, meaning the 3 vs 4 game on Saturday morning would be for a semis bid. NY was up by 3 in the 2nd half when we got there to watch, but a fired-up Ring came back to take the lead and pulled it out. After the game-winning goal, the scorer flung the disc in the air. The disc rolled directly to me sitting on the backline. I glanced at it, saw it was a “Spirit of the Game” disc, and decided that I should put it in my bag and walk away, the only time in my life I’ve stolen a disc.

A few minutes later (the semis were completely staggered back then and there weren’t any consolation games, so all the elimination rounds had full crowds, except for the women’s semis), we lined up against Ring. And proceeded to get knocked down, bad. We went down 6-1, and were down at half 9-4. However, the mental tide had already begun to turn, as we got some blocks and some scores and it began to look like whatever Ring was doing wasn’t going to continue to work for much longer.

Ring took the pull and scored to start the second half. As I walked to the line, I ever so briefly thought, “Well, the run has been nice. And I guess it’s not so bad to be able to relax and party tonight.” But then I thought, “No. I work too hard, and I’m not going to let this team lose.” I don’t remember a ton of details from the rest of the game, but it was easily the most emotional experience of my life (except possibly watching my son being born). It was different from the “in the zone” experience of the 1995 finals because it had the frothing, an extra three levels of excitement and energy without losing any of the focus. My teammates saw a different man, and fed off it. A series of 2- and 3-point runs put us back on serve, another break put us up, and even though I failed to catch a pass that would have been the game-winner (I thought it was a pretty difficult catch, but some scribe thought it was an easy one), we won and I couldn’t do anything but breathe excitedly and be content with knowing I had something like that inside of me.

PS. No Q&A this week, will have to do another one post-Nationals.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


I was a pup of 30, fresh off my first Nationals title, and the world was my oyster. In the semis, our team had finally gutted out a victory over a NY team, overcoming several deficits and an absolutely gut-wrenching final point (I could not even stand up watching it, especially as they moved the disc up to within 20 yards of the goal and then back behind midfield; even as I type this, I am choking up). Double never stood a chance in the final (ok, they went up 1-0 after their only break and only upwinder of the game, but after that, forget it). We went in 1995 trying to duplicate the fun cockiness and carefree attitude that characterized the whole 1994 year.

It didn't work that well. As you can see here, we lost more big games than we won. We lost in the finals at Worlds in our only close contest of the tournament. Indifference continued through the fall, culminating in a 17-6 drubbing to Cojones (NY) in the rain and wind at Regionals. This, surely, would be a wakup call. Not really. Practices continued to be uninspired. Only Jordan Haskell was confident in us, predicting that we'd win "going away." I thought that a pool play exit was well within the realm of possibilities.

Something happened to us in three days. Maybe it was the flight delays (we got to the hotel at about 3:30, although in those days Nationals was still only 12 teams and 2 games on Day 1 and ours started at 10:30), maybe it was Billy more or less calling us a bunch of heartless quitters at the last practice, or maybe we were right all along that we could just turn it on. Day 1 brought Chain Lightning, which was on its longest Nationals winning streak in 5 years (ok, it was only 1 game, but still). We came out on fire, committing very few turnovers, and pasted them 19-11 (the Ultimate history book might be incorrect on this game, as Leonardo may have erroneously called it "close", but he's not so good on facts sometimes). I knew after the first point that we were back, and had as good a chance as anyone. Next was the game against Double Happiness. Both teams were assessed a point because Double kept huddling after the starting horn and we just kinda watched them instead of assessing points ourselves. It was a close game, but we had only 8 turnovers and won 18-15.

Day 2 was uneventful, with wins over the lower seeds, meaning we had clinched first place and a probable matchup with NY, which had lost to Sockeye but beat the Port City Slickers badly. Sockeye and PCS matched up Saturday morning, with PCS needing to win by 4 or 5 to make it. They lost by 1. Meanwhile, we played San Diego, and had some troubles along the way, but buoyed by a three point "no pass zone" D (three straight first pass turnovers and breaks to start the second half), we pulled away. I had wanted to take it easy this game and rest up a bit for the semis, but we had only 19 and needed everyone (plus I was one of the young guys then). I remember ripping my shirt off in anger and walking off the field after one swilly pass I made.

This swilliness on my part continued at the beginning of the semis, but then stopped. Reminiscent of the previous year's semis, this game was back and forth through the first half. But magic was on our side, and we completed something like 9 our of 10 hucks that game, as our throwers made throws and our receivers made catches that mattered. Mooney went out with a concussion, then came back in at 20-17 after Coop faked an injury after a turnover. I threw a breakmark pass over Kenny D's mark for the goal (he immediately said "nice throw" or "nice game", even before it was caught). Again, I could hardly speak afterwards. The infamous Mike G, whom I had defended on rsd and who had been a source of controversy at the tournament, tried to introduce himself and talk, but I couldn't complete a sentence because I was still overwhelmed with emotion. Yay us. Meanwhile, Sockeye and Double had what might have been considered one of the great games of all time if it hadn't been opposite ours (and who knows, maybe it actually was a better game), and so Sockeye would be our opponent.

To be steamrollered. We started on O. As would happen all day, I was the Man, the evil Josh Faust was covering me, and I got open by 10 with the force. I zipped a scoober over his head (I'm really not sure what I was thinking throwing a pass like that on my first pass of the finals, but I was so keyed in and I knew it that I just felt that every decision I could make that day was going to be the right one), we moved it down for the goal, and the rout was on. Their last chance was at 6-3, but then turned it unforced, we got another break, and from then on it was just a matter of time. The final tally: 21-10, 3 turnovers (although none of us had any idea that we were that efficient until one of the UPA staff with access to the stats pointed it out to us at the party). For me, this is the tournament and the game that I would like to have my whole career judged by (with an asterisk for the 1997 semis against Ring). Everything just felt so right, and I felt it even during the warmup. I felt that way again on Saturday at 2002 Nationals, when we knocked off the Condors in the quarters then had that epic semis against Furious (3 turns for us, 2 for them). There is nothing to compare to that feeling.

Maybe I got one of those games left.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

fun with RRI

I took the RRI for pool A (my pool) and added some variability to see how the pool might play out. First, the expectations:

FG 2636
DoG 2610
CL 2563
PBR 2459

FG 15 DoG 14.3
FG 15 CL 13.1
FG 15 PBR 10.5
DoG 15 CL 13.8
DoG 15 PBR 11.1
CL 15 PBR 12.3

Next, I assumed that there was a 100 point standard deviation in what the true RRI was for a team, and that there was a 100 point sd for a game between any two teams (implying each team has a 71 point sd). Is that the right amount of variability? Too much? Too little? I don't know. It's probably too much, I guess. Over the range we're dealing with, there is a linear relationship of about 39 points of RRI for 1 point in a game to 15.

Then I ran the pool 30 times. The results:

PP% is % making it to the power pools.
Finish 1 2 3 4 PP%
FG 13 11 5 1 80%
DoG 12 9 7 2 70%
CL 5 8 12 5 43%
PBR 0 2 6 22 7%

Oddly, there wasn't a single three-way tie for 1st in the run, and only two occasions where there was a two-way tie (one of the teams lost to PBR). It took another 10 runs for a three-way tie for 1st, although PBR was involved. It wasn't until run #53 that Chain won the three-way due to a 15-9.7 win over FG.

PBR finally won the pool in run #36, eking out 2 1-pointers and a 2-pointer, while Furious turned out to be a lot worse than anyone thought (true RRI of 2363 instead of 2636; maybe there were a lot of visa problems or the flight with MG/Shank/Drew got cancelled).

I'm tempted to run the full tournament, but the tiebreakers and crossovers are just a little too conditional to do it simply.

Ultimate Techniques and Tactics -- discussion

Zaz and I have started a new blog specifically for discussion of Ultimate Techniques and Tactics. Although there is some overlap with our individual blogs, you can direct any questions or suggestions about the book there. is the URL, and I have a link for it on the right side of this blog.

Monday, October 17, 2005

another Q&A on Monday night

Send in your disc-related questions today. I'll be online at about 8:15 pm EDT(later if Arrested Development doesn't get preempted by baseball again). And visit your local bloggers, please, they need your attention, too.

UpdateThanks again for joining in. I'll probably do this again next Monday night.

Friday, October 14, 2005

the problem with regionals

Or maybe it's just the problem with most ultimate tournaments. There are far too few close games that mean anything.

The average tournament experience is for half of your games to be no contest, another one or two in the 15-6 to 15-9 range, and one or two to be close. You'll often have a team winning one game 15-3 and losing another 15-2. Some of the regions got around this problem by somehow persuading some of the teams that would finish low to stay home (which may also be a problem). The Women's Regionals had 6, 8, 8, 10, 10, and 15 teams, and the Open had 8 and 12 team Regionals.

But these regions play pool play, and there usually was a big enough gap such that any one game was almost meaningless (or take a look at the 6 team Region, which did a full round robin prior to a 6 team elimination bracket). So Sockeye beats Kaos on Day 1. This means that they get to play the loser of Furious and JAM!, who also realize that Saturday is for seeding and so might not leave it all out there. Now, there is always at least one meaningful game. For the NW, it was the 2-3 game, whose winner gets into the upper bracket. And of course if a team loses to a team seeded well below it, those games count, too, but usually the outcome is not in doubt even if the better team plays horribly for them.

So you end up playing 5 or 6 unimportant or blowout games prior to getting to one that really, really matters to you. For some of the teams, you are officially eliminated from the tournament and playing for 11th place.

Wouldn't it be better if most or all of the games were competitive and meant something? Say, a six-team round robin, maybe without even having a final? Or perhaps a Swiss Pairs tournament (teams are reseeded after every round and 1 plays 2, 3 plays 4, etc.). Who's willing to try this?

And why is there such a disparity between teams such that so many games aren't close? The average standard deviation in RRI at Regionals was about 250 points, which translates into a 15-8.5 expected score.

The Mixed Division seems to have avoided this by having every team be about as good as every other team, which I guess explains its popularity. (Sorry, haven't slammed Mixed in a month or so and I was getting antsy.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Open Mike Q&A

Ok, I'm opening up the phone lines for callers. Anything you want to ask that can be answered in no more than 75 words, ask away. I'm listening, America.

Update. Thanks, everyone, we'll do this again next Monday night, and possibly again the following Monday prior to Nationals. Next up: is something wrong with Regionals, or is it all ultimate tournaments?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

why not us?

I got a nasty inflammatory* email this week from a NW booster implying that the rest of the country might as well not show up at Sarasota for Nationals**. At first I was inclined to agree with him, looking at the fearsome results of NW Regionals with all that firepower. But I looked again, and I saw a bunch of teams that can be beat.

They all lost a game, and were close to losing a couple more, and not just to each other, too, but to non-qualifiers like Kaos and Rhino. And you know what? We beat Kaos. We beat Rhino. We even beat Furious. And while we lost to those teams, too, when I skulked off the field, it was more with disappointment in ourselves than with fear of our opponents.

And even though all of rsd left us for dead and all of rsd thinks we're shit and even my fellow blogger Luke badmouths our web site, we won our Region (unofficially victory #100 for me) and played well. To be honest, we should be seeded somewhere around 7 or 8, but for the first time ever, I say, to heck with seeding. We'll see you in the oppressive heat.

We got some players.

* - Actually, all he said was, “Good luck! Doesn’t the NW look tough? But we both knew what he was trying to say.

**- I’ve decided to stop using “Champies” even though it’s funny because I fear that it’s catching on. But I still will buck the UPA and use its old name rather than “UPAs” or “The Championship Series.”

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

UPA Board elections coming up

Please vote in the upcoming election. The Board of Directors is responsible for setting policy and providing strategeric guidance for the UPA. When I joined the Board in 1997, we spent a lot of time figuring out things like wildcards and specific procedures rather than focusing on the big picture items or worrying about how the organization (or the Board itself) should be run.

The UPA is about twice the size now, has five or maybe six full-time staff, and needs to take the sport further. The Board is also more complicated, and benefits from its members having lots of life and business experience.

If you're looking for advice on who to vote for, I recommend Henry Thorne. Whether as a UPA Board member, a designer of really cool robots, an ultimate organizer, or a family man, Henry Thorne makes things happen. He is an innovator and a visionary who isn't afraid to take an unpopular stance or to make tough decisions if that is what is necessary for long-term success. Henry truly loves the game of ultimate and has always viewed it as a simply terrific, exciting, and above all _athletic_ sport. I'm proud to have played with him, to have served with him for six years on the UPA Board, and to call him a friend.

This year, he is running on a platform of "respect for ultimate." Take a look at his bio and those of the other candidates at the UPA site. Then vote, you lazy sack.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Players make plays

1. At some level, it doesn't matter whether you play horizontal stack, German, all-upside-down, or lefty lifts. If you make good passes, you'll score, and if you make bad passes, you'll turn it. All that the system does is to create more or fewer opportunities to make good or bad passes. Leaders are responsible for the system, players are responsible for execution.
2. If two teams are equal in talent, it's the team that makes the plays that will win. Sometimes those plays are just willing yourself to be open at stall 8, or selling a decoy cut to free up a long cut.
3. But more often, those plays are picking up your teammates when they make a sub-optimal play. This doesn't mean that you make hero throws or cut when you're not supposed to, but that you play heads up and balls out.
4. If you throw a pass that's incomplete, it's your fault. If a pass that is thrown to you is incomplete, it's your fault. If you're on the field and your teammate throws a high stall pass that's incomplete, it's your fault. If you're idle on the sidelines and a pass is incomplete because you could have seen something that might have made a difference, it's your fault. Because of all my talk over the years about root causes and team errors and "what's wrong with right here", I am probably most at fault for this attitude being part of the culture. But just make the play and shut up. The way it should have worked was that instead of blaming the guy at the sharp end, everyone involved should have realized that they contributed to the error. It shouldn't be, "Hey, the pass wasn't right at my gut, sorry I couldn't save you."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

rules of the blog

Welcome, readers. Word of our little world has spread to the unwashed masses, it appears.

Here are the rules:
  1. Be nice. This isn’t rsd.
  2. Respect ownership. Although the Internet is public and this is all free, it’s still my blog, so please realize that you’re a guest.
  3. Comment only if you’re really adding something to the discussion. Don’t make pithy comments, unless you’re already in the circle or if you’re one of our good friends.
  4. If you have suggestions for topics, send them on. But you can also check the archives, too.

That is all.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Triple Threat redux

In July, I posted Sound Ideas from Crazy Frank, about our old friend Billy Berrou. I met Frank during our debacle at Santa Cruz, then played goaltimate with him afterwards, as described on his web page.

Now, I'm a little hurt that he developed a man-crush on Wiggins but I'm just a single threat like all of ultimate, but I want to give him his airtime. He still gets it wrong in insisting that it's not at all about yardage, but here he is:

"You've missed a lot Jim but I'll just chime in here on what you've written.

1) West Coast teams travel too much. Yes and no. West coast teams travel more than east coast teams but you all travel WAY too much.

I think you're all missing the point here though. The reason I'm determined to fix this flaw in the game is that traveling is a symptom of poor balance. If you're not balanced on your snowboard, you're going to land on your ass and crack your head. If you learn how to play ultimate without any consequences for traveling (being off balance), you're not going to learn very well.

2) Some people hold on to the disc too long.


Everybody holds on to the disc too long. You've played Goalty with me and seen me play. I throw a lot of throws in the 50-100ms range and my target range is to average holding on to the disc around 1000ms. In general, not that I have statistics to back it up, but I would say that the general communitie's average is closer to 4000-5000ms. That's 4-5 times longer than what I think it should be. Playing with a 3 count is a superb idea and something I've also done (except I only make the rule for specific players who don't seem to 'get it').

3) Elite teams cheat on the mark. Hmmm. Elite teams cheat and yes they foul a lot. This has a huge impact on me personally since my stance/game is predicated on balance. Imagine trying to snowboard and having some oaf 'foul' you all the time. It's disgusting. Not fun.

4) You can be a triple threat by throwing the disc for yards, dishing it to someone who then makes a throw for yards, or doing the give and go for yards.


First, take yardage completely out of the equation. It does not belong. Yardage is irrelevent

You can be a triple threat by UNDERSTANDING that your ability to simultaneously be able to penetrate, or dish, or throw for a scrore has a profound effect on how a defense plays you.

5) Sometimes its about position and not yards.


It's always about position.

6) The Swimmy move is the move of the future.


The move of the future is a backhand lift give and go. I didn't get a chance to watch Idris' team at Labor day where I heard they were running some dominator but I didn't see any one with ANY penetration moves and you're talking about the swimmy as the move of the future? You guys need to learn an array of reliable give and go moves. That's the future.

7) Become more ambidextorous. Yes, thank you Idris. This is probably number 1 and Jim left it off his list entirely. As far as your 3 point analogy, hmmm, I hear what you're saying but I wouldn't take it that far. I don't huck much left handed but I do FAKE a lot with it and I find that useful. I'm not sure a left fake on a 3 pointer would be credible my my lefty huck fake sure is.

8) Negative space. Again, right on. This really should be number 1 now that I think about it. Thank you. I only take it 'too far' because of over compensation for an already skewed situation. In a nice balanced attack, I wouldn't be so extreme.

Other comments:
" Right now, there is a hierarchy in throwing options. You look to throw for yards, then if that's not there, you look to get the disc into better position, and then after that maybe you cut for the give and go. Perhaps it would make for a more efficient offense if throwers looked to dish it as a primary option."

This is entirely upside down. Usually the first thing I do when I catch the disc (and motion hasn't been established) is to establish my balance squarely over my pivot foot and begin to identify where I can break down the defense with a penetration move. I can't understand why nobody else plays this way. To always look first for an upfield throw for yardage is an egotistical, self-centered, selfish, narcisistic style of play. It is unwatchable, borish and dull. This is an easy game, don't make it harder than it needs to be.

"And I don't think you can give Frank and credit for the idea that "elite teams cheat on the mark". People have been complaining about this for at least five years."

I don't want credit for anything. I'd like someday to go watch some ultimate and be intellectually stimulated, which is something that does not happen now.

People have been complaining about elite teams cheating for at least 20 years.

Some of the conceptst that I've borrowed from basketball are over 80 years old. Nothing new.

As for your play at Purdue, Adam, that sounds like a simple back door play if I understand you correctly. It is a good play, don't get me wrong but I take it quite a bit further than that. I run an offense where some players on offense, depending on their roles/positions, are actually cutting, throwing, etc. as if they were attacking the opposite endzone. Nobody does that. Not even my PlinkO boys.

"Does anyone not horrible besides Studarus routinely throw passes with both hands?"

Not anybody I saw at Labor Day (except wiggins but only when he was playing Goalty). What do you mean by routinely? Oh, and by the way, I do take back what I said about wiggings. He is NOT a triple threat. Not only does he lack the understanding of the effect he is having on defense, but he doesn't have much in the way of penetration moves. He is, however, with his upright stance, very good at dictating tempo to the D but seemingly at a loss to know what to do with that edge.

"So, getting back to Frank, he would like throwers and cutters to consider their throws and cuts in terms of offensive flow (the motion offense) rather than as strictly a yardage battle."

sort of. But...there aren't throwers and cutters. There is the thrower (who is THE cutter) and an offensive structure that allows him to cut into spaces, not throw into spaces. Make sense? It's not quite that rigid but the point is in the motion offense that the thrower is also the primary cutter but then this ties in with your remark above about first look down field, then look to disc and then look to penetrate.

"...push passes.."

For 25 years, I rarely threw push passes until very recently. My girlfriend wanted me to teach her how to throw (1 day in GG park) and so I came up with Hippy Hill, a simple drill that's on my website (it's similar to what Idris said about the PlinkO line drill, looks easy but it's harder than you'd think--try throwing 100 throws with a friend at short range, as fast as you reasonably can, always throwing with your catching grip). In any event, the push pass over the past 12 months has become a complete staple in my diet. It's the most compact throw, makes for a great fake and can be outrageous in Goalty with the power skyhook!!

Push passes rule.

"Daryl (KAOS, Jam, Rhino) throws a ton of lefty break mark backhands... and unlike _most_ people, doesn't travel."

WHATTTTTT????? Daryl travels like a MOFO!!! Are we talking about the same guy? Seriously, I like Daryl and everything but he cheats massively. Like I told Daryl directly, he's such a good thrower and hard enough to get a foot/hand block on when he doesn't travel so please give me a fighting chance to make a play by playing fairly by the rules.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"In your head" mistakes

Even if I can't always specify it, I have what I think is a pretty good decision-making algorithm in my head for evaluating throw choices (sometimes I ignore it in the early part of the season in order to improve my throws, but I tone it back as the season progresses, shutting it down if necessary in the end). But I find myself prone to a certain bias that throws it off sometimes. I'll call it the "in your head" bias.

Simply put, you get an idea in your head, and the next time the opportunity arises, you take it. I can go weeks without throwing a scoober, but if I throw one, I have to throw a second, preferably on the same point.

There are at least three variations on this theme:
  • I just completed one, let's try another
  • I just looked off one, I better try this one
  • This is the play call, it's probably a good idea

I just completed one, let's try another. The only remedy I can think of for this is to be aware of it and thus create a bias AGAINST the second throw to cancel the "in your head" bias. The second try might just not be a good idea because the circumstances may have been more favorable on the first try, or the defender might be expecting it (break me with a scoober once, shame on you, etc.).

I just looked off one, I better try this one. I sometimes put extra pressure on myself because I'm one of the guys the team looks to to create offense, and I feel like I should be able to overcome a non-optimal cut. (This happens more often in recreational play, to be sure, but also with my club team.) Solution: again, just don't do it. Just yell, "Sorry, too close" and look for the next option (or, in rec play, accept that it's going to be a non-optimal pass and hope for the best).

This is the play call, it's probably a good idea (or "this is the offense"). We have a certain huck play, and we forced it at least three times this weekend (out of maybe six times it was called) when the thrower probably would not have thrown it had the cut arisen in the course of normal flow offense. Look, the play is NOT "throw it deep"; it's "throw it deep if the cut is there." This starts getting tricky when it happens a lot, because then the play or the basic offense may be flawed because it produces a lot of these questionable choices. Solution: don't throw it and look for the alternative. If the play has no alternative, discuss one with the strategists. Afterwards, think about whether you made the right choice, what the critical variables were in forming your decisions, and what would have been necessary for you to have changed your decision.

PS. #99, with a 15-12 win over Twisted Metal in the finals, x-3 ish in each of the prelims. The finals was a steady building toward a 5 goal lead, then a couple breaks at the end before finishing them off. They're not the DoG Lite that Snapple + begats were, so there is more dramatic tension in the games.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blogosphere 2005

Everyone's blogging these days. Except when they're inactive.

The Big 6: me, Idris, Alex, Luke, Zaz, Atlanta guys. Luke's is purely personal, but he's often funny, in Luke's way, and he's a presence, so he's in. The others are of general interest, although Alex and I tend to write about our team a lot.

Others to look at: Tim Murray, Hartti Suomela, Jim Biancolo, Marshall Goff, George Cooke (who has made it into ultimatetalk! Attaboy, George.) . Tim has been writing about himself, but the others are trying to do something of more general interest.

I think we'd all agree that we'd like to get more comments, and that people shouldn't be afraid of hogging bandwidth or taking over someone else's blog. They are there to entertain and to provoke discussion, as long as it's not NUA/Z-Boys annoying blather.

Mine is the most read, although Alex would of course argue that it's not because of content but because of name. He also forgot to mention that more people link to me. I often find other blogs by checking out my Referrals on and see a new one. Also I egosurf once in a while at technorati, but that doesn't seem too comprehensive for the little blogs.

Idris was the first of us to go online, and is often the most refreshingly honest because he's not playing this year and doesn't seem to care if he burns his bridges.

Alex is Jim lite. But please pay him a visit to get his hits up. He has had some interesting retrospectives on Worlds and Tuneup. I think it'd be a good idea to do some more retrospectives, maybe on other tournaments, or on matchups against particular opponents. It seems that most of our recent games against Sub-Zero have been one-pointers, so it'd be fun to look at the ones we won.

Luke is all over the place, talking about skiing or eating pancakes or losing his wallet in a dumpster ten years ago.

Zaz is putting out the best material now, but he'll slow down. I bet he wishes that some of this would have been put in the book, but you don't always think of everything the first time around. Definitely put this on your reading list if you want to improve your team.

Atlanta guys (actual title is "Coaching Techniques") talk about strategy and coaching, with some things like "Chain keeps losing in the finals" and interviews with World Games players.

We all comment on each other's site, too.

Tim Murray, most famous in ultimate for being the victim of my first Callahan, had an interesting inside look at Sub-Zero's very DoG-like victory at this year's Tuneup.

Hartti used to play with the Finnish national team before moving to the Bay Area for grad school 5-6 years ago. He is trying to come up with some improved high-tech stat-keeping and stat-analysis systems.

Jim Biancolo is a Masters player in New England. His blog is one about fitness, with some links and comments on modern research on fitness for "combat sports."

Marshall Goff mixes general commentary with commentary on me and an occasional photography post. Some of his pictures are in the book by Zaz and me (he said one of his friends asked, "Hey, how's your book doing?"). But he talks about Mixed, so.

George Cooke is a late entry. Look for some more insights into the inner backroom dealings of the UPA, since George is the National Mixed Director and was a chair of the World Games Selection Committee, plus he's a helluva nice guy.

PS. Track 4, Jim 3. Made it through this week's workout, running hard to the end despite too high of a heart rate and no one around to call me names for not finishing.

PPS. Started the new job, at the same place that my wife works. We talked about work over dinner tonight. If she starts golfing, we will have NO separation in our lives.

Monday, September 12, 2005


All hail the mighty Cougars, champs of the C division of the Sudbury Men's Modified Fast-Pitch Softball League!

Things looked bleak early, as they scored five in the first and five in the second while our cleanup hitter grounded into a 5-3 double play (one of two on the evening and three in the series) to kill a rally. We scratched out a run in the 2nd beginning with a 10 foot swinging bunt by yours truly. There were some defensive miscues and missed plays that allowed them to get that big lead, and I thought it was more likely that we were going to be victims of the mercy rule than to come back. But our D got better and they stopped whacking the ball so hard (a big lefty on their team hit it pretty well over the fence the first time but had two deep but harmless flies to me after that), and we limited them to one run over the next four innings.

Meanwhile, down 10-2, I came up with a runner on first in the fourth. The other team is a "sample size of one stats-based defensive approach" team which looks at what the guy did the last time and assumes that's what he does all the time. So, they yell out "Watch for the bunt!" "Hey," I said, "how about 'watch for the home run?'" I had taken two borderline strikes the time before, so after a first pitch ball, the pitcher was probably expecting me to take it and threw a down the middle low pitch, and wham, I lined it over the fence with plenty of room to spare. This seemed to bring some life back to the team, and we added two more that inning, and five the next to tie it up.

After a scoreless sixth, they pushed across two in the final inning, and had a runner nailed trying to advance to kill the rally. This may be a surprise to my frisbee teammates, but I had a full layout bid on a flyball (banged up my knee and elbow a little) in that inning. I thought I caught it, but when I opened my eyes up, the ball was not in my mitt. Rats, definitely would have made the front page of the Town Crier with that one. Down two in our final cuts, the first two batters got on, then a wild pitch put them at 2nd and 3rd. I was really thinking "walk off home run", and when I saw a pitch I thought was similar to the previous one, I took my cut, but it was only when the ball was nestling in the second baseman's mitt after a routine popup did I realize that the ball was outside, also, and I should have used the "outside pitch bad" rule instead of the "low pitch good" one. Fortunately for us, though, our next hitter got a single to tie the game (advancing to second on the throw home), and the following one got another well-placed bloop to bring the title home.

I think the team is still in the parking lot as I type this. I had to get home to relieve the babysitter (not a euphemism).

Final stat line of .439/.455/.756, with an OPS 100 points higher than it was last game. Whew.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

old people can still play,

some days. Yesterday was horrible. I felt like a typical 40 year old, kinda slow to get moving, and never had fourth gear, let alone fifth. Sprints at the end were brutal, almost like it was my first time out for the year.

But today was good. My defense was nothing to speak of, but I cut well on offense, which as we all know is all that matters.

That's one of the things that has hit me as I've aged. There are a lot more days when I feel a lot less than 100%. I was trying today to figure out how much better today was than yesterday. Mooney would say "infinitely", others would say "100%", I'm inclined to say "10 times better" (although I probably would have meant "10 times as good"), but it's something significant. I'm sure I could reduce the number of days like Saturday with a more rigid workout schedule (but the rest of life interferes with that sometimes), or something steroid-like for recovery, or trying to adapt my game a little bit more to reflect the reality of being 40 and trying to kick some punk's ass.

A side note: I don't think the presence of a 40 year old at the elite level means that ultimate isn't ready for big time. It's not as if there are a bunch of 40 year olds who are doing the same thing at 40 that they were doing at 27. Look at baseball's elderly: Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, even the 38 year olds like Schilling or Larry Walker. They aren't journeymen.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reasons no one goes undefeated at Nationals anymore

1. Kids today just aren't as tough as in the old days.
2. Teams 5-8 are better than they used to be (and 9-16, for that matter). The closeness of the games would seem to bear this out. There were only a handful of games on day 1 where the loser scored less than 10.
3. Teams 1-2 aren't as good as they used to be. It may be that the top players are spread out among more teams. It may have been true that DoG had like 6 of the top 15 or 4 of the top 10 or some such x of y players in the game, but I doubt that any of the teams now is better than 3 of 15 or 2 of 10 (although I'll be damned if I could come up with a reasonable list of the top 15). One reason for this could be that you need seasoning and exposure to become one of these super-elite, after or while you develop your raw skills. In the old days, maybe you needed to be part of a top 4 team to get that exposure, but now, kids get it in college and playing with whore teams and getting plenty of chances to put it on the line.
4. The schedule is hectic, especially compared to the 12 team Nationals up through 1995. Back then, it was 2 games per day, with 90-120 minutes in between. The 14 team schedule cut the break down to an hour between cap and the next round (and I remember that first year that at least one women's game was delayed because the previous game lasted for more than an hour past the cap because they couldn't score in the wind). Especially in the heat, which wasn't a problem in 94, 95, 96, 98, and 99 (and maybe 97, too), it's tough to grind it out for that many in a row.
5. Less importance in winning all your games, since you know that other teams are also going to struggle, and there's no guarantee you're going to get an easy quarters by winning all your pool play games. It's still more likely, but not as much of a certainty as before.
6. Shorter games. It's easier to pull off an upset in a game to 15 (or 13, with the caps) than in one to 19.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Indefensible

I once proposed this defense, partly seriously, but it hasn't been implemented yet. It's just a variation on the offsides trap.

A possible new Defense for the O

Premises, all true to varying degrees
  • The O has trouble getting turnovers against any reasonably skilled team.
  • Even reasonably skilled teams have weak links
  • All passes have some risk to them, and “good” passes have an acceptable rate of return for a given risk.
  • A plan that is good is theory is bad in practice if the players you have can not possibly execute the plan.

THE DEFENSIVE IDEA: Encourage the turnover-prone throwers on the other team to make risky throws. For example, let a bad hucker on the other team get a somewhat open long cutter so he can overthrow him.

RATIONALE: We all have (or should have) developed a set of risk/reward curves for our throws, with a different curve for each opponent or level of difficulty for opponent or game situation. Another way to look at this is that you’ll consider many things when considering whether to throw a particular huck: how good the other team is, how windy it is, how good the deep defender is, how good the receiver is, how open the player is, where on the field you are, what the score of the game is, etc. A situation can change just a little, but the risk changes from “worthwhile” to “unacceptable”. So, if your offense is so good that you will certainly score if you make short passes, then it makes no sense to try a huck that has a 90% chance of completion (disregarding for the moment such factors as fatigue, long-term strategy, practice, confidence, etc.).

I have to say that occasionally, the best chance that the O has at getting a turnover is if the other team misses on a huck. We are banking that the other team fails to realize that the risk/reward curve has changed.

Defensively, we need to make only small adjustments to the faceguard/last back defense.
“Last back” has to delay on the switch so that the pass gets thrown. When you switch/poach, you can either try to prevent the pass by switching as soon as you see it (and so that your teammate can also switch), or you can try for the block by switching as late as possible so the thrower doesn’t realize you’re going until it’s too late. This D would favor waiting. We get burned now by switching too soon and they get a free underneath cut.
We need to have some way to let the team know whether the player with the disc is a good hucker or a bad one. The two ways we could set this up would be either “if players A or B get the disc, we want them to huck” or “if anyone except X or Y gets the disc, we want them to huck.” We would want some guys on Furious to huck, but not Cruickshank. Perhaps the player covering A or B yells “FORCING!” when it is apparent the player is going to catch it (but not when he’s about to catch it, as that’s unsportsmanlike conduct).
We probably will want to force a few players back to the disc. So, perhaps A and B get forced back to the disc, while the others are faceguarded and forced away.

Another variation would be to encourage certain players to try difficult break mark passes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Track 4, Jim 1: the Comeback begins

First good track workout of the year. I felt strong throughout, maintained consistent times, ran a little faster on my last ones, and feel a little tired and sore today. I won't bore you again with the times, but I feel better about myself. If this continues, perhaps I'll run with the team sometime this year just to let them know who the alpha male is.

Tips for a good workout:
  • Don't run too fast on the first couple reps. If you're already well-calibrated, go ahead, but many don't know xactly what they're capable of on a given day.
  • Maintain an even pace in a rep and over the course of a workout. As a rule of thumb, add 1-1.5 seconds per 100m per extra 100m of the rep. For example, if you run a 32 s 200m, that's 16 s/100m, so run a 300 at a 17-17.5 s/100m pace (51-52.5 s), and run a 400 at a 18-19 s pace (72-76).
  • Make 5-10 good, solid strides at the start of every 100m within a rep. At the start and end of every curve, make sure that you don't falter by concentrating on this.
  • Don't grimace, it only lets people know you're out of shape. As one of my son's books said, "Smile a lot."
  • Know what the markings of the track mean so that you can compare your times. If you're just starting out with these or if you don't have a watch, then it doesn't really matter if you run 200 or 210. But if you're charting your progress and rely on your times to help you figure out how hard you're working and whether you can push more, it's important.
  • But be aware of the precision of these times, especially on the 100s, especially when other people have the watch. Your 14.2 might easily be a 15.1 or a 15.6 even.

PS. Tomorrow is my last day at this job, I'll be in Santa Cruz for the weekend, and I'll be traveling somewhere in New England Monday-Friday, so I don't know when my next blog will be.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Not exactly topical, but something made me think of this the other day.

How could you not be in favor of killing this guy? Well, I suppose I could think of a few reasons:
1. Keep him alive to torture him.
2. Let the other prisoners have their way with him.
3. Perform experiments on him to understand the nature of evil.
4. Give him a chance to reform, to find peace, to watch TV in a comfortable cellblock, to let him think about why he's been a bad boy.

Ok, you probably guessed I don't believe that last one.

Some will argue for a version of #4, that it's actually a worse punishment to let him live his life in jail. If that's the case, then perhaps lesser killers should be executed because life in prison would be the cruel and unusual punishment reserved only for the worst of the worst of the worst.

Anyway, I know that he received 10 life sentences instead of death, but I wonder what the over/under is on when some other sadistic mf will give him his just sentence. And how much longer it would be before some wacko libertarian will bitch about the violation of his rights.

PS. I had to renounce my libertarian teachings because I think they're just too weak on national security and they're too isolationist. Plus even in my heyday, I always thought the ACLU was ridiculous (headline from the once-funny Onion: ACLU Fights for KKK's Right to Burn Down ACLU Headquarters) for arguing that psychotics have some right to be psychotic even when innocent (but random) people will be harmed or killed.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

summer league

Maybe I'm rare among club players, but I owe a lot of my career to summer league. It's where I started, I developed a lot of my skills there, and I've used it for conditioning and competition.

I've had several stages to my summer league career:

  1. 1983-1986, Pittsburgh. Every game is important, perhaps more important than club.
  2. 1990-1993, early GE teams in the Boston Club League (ne "Corporate"). Every game is important, but it's just Corporate.
  3. 1994-1999, later GE teams and early Tech. The tournament is important.
  4. 2000-present, later Tech and SwillMillGrill. Eh, who gives a shit, except I hate to lose to crappy teams.

Pittsburgh. Ah, to be a Throbber again. About half the team was guys my age, while the other half (the "old guys") were about 25 when we started, almost all of us graduates of Baldwin High School. The link was the Williams brothers, Lance and Todd, who both played with the Pittsburgh team (Steel City Slag) which split up for the summers to form the summer league. Games were intense, and we had big rivalries with the Mars Gnu Kidds, Squirrel Hill Swine, and the hated North Side Sliders. We all really cared about the team, and in 1986, I started my ultimate writing career doing news articles like this one about each of the games, complete with a stat page. It's recognizable as my writing, some aspects of it better even, some worse. Mostly what I got from this was a love for the game and the desire to play intense ultimate.

Early GE. The Jugs (short for Juggernaut) were one of the top teams in Corporate, winning a lot of close games and being a perennial semifinalist. The early teams were pretty much Alex, Dennis, and me dominating the playt (we'd often joke before an important point with Earth or DoG that we had better "corporate league" it to make sure we scored), with the actual corporate players filling in as best they could. Maybe one or two of them had ever played outside of this team, and we had some bad luck in losing players just as soon as they began to get decent. But all of them were GE employees or good friends with GE employees. We lost in semis in 1990 and the finals in 1991 before winning it all in 1992. 1993 marked the end of the phase, as Alex was on his trip of America and Dennis was nowhere to be found. But this marked an important part of my development, as I had to be the handler for the team instead of being the cutter. With Alex back for the tournament, we again made semis, or possibly just missed.

Later GE/early Tech. By 1994 or 1995, we had picked up some friends who were club players (Lance and Shelagh) and so had a stronger team, but it wasn't the same. We made it to the finals in 1994 despite a losing record in the regular season, then won it all in 1995. Later teammate Greg Levy dislocates my finger in the semis on an attempted point block and forever ruined any chance he had at making it big in Boston ultimate. In the finals, either Dennis or I (depending on who was keeping score) set a Fantasy League single game record with about a +15. But the team was on its last legs. We stretched it out for another two years, though. In 1997, Dennis tore his ACL getting outrun on one of my hucks, we went 2-4 (Alex pretty much destroyed our chances at squeaking into the semis by point differential by turning it over like a half dozen times against our hated enemies Spawning Alewifes), and I played every single point of the weekend, making the first cut virtually every time. The following year, we abandoned our old friends and joined up with (Lincoln) Tech. Maybe it's just me, but this year marked the end of Corporate league being good. We made it through the 5/2 division in the tournament unscathed, then got really drunk the next 2 hours while waiting for the 4/3 division champ for a Unification game. That team featured 7 or 8 players who had just competed at the real World championships the week before (let's see, Forch, Safdie, Cogan, Parham, Shana, Kate Leslie, must have been someone else, oh, how could I forget Doug, who watched me catch the final goal and prance), while we just had me, Alex, Jordan, Jackie, and a bunch of onetime club players (Goliath B vs Goliath, I guess). Parham wanted us to forfeit because we were drunk, but I coaxed her into playing for a half then we would call it off if they wanted. We went up 2-0, maintained the lead through much of the game, then scored an exciting final goal (Jim throws it away, Jim gets it back, Jim catches a huck from Jordan for the best victory ever). Then we drank some more. The following year, the competition in the 5/2 div was pathetic, as we won like 15-7 in the elimination games. We had a similar break but with not as much drinking, and we lost a heartbreaker to the universally-hated Gretzky (with like all of their players being active club players).

Later Tech/SMG. And that was it, pretty much, for my meaningful summer league stories. I stopped playing very many games during the regular season, I didn't attend the tournament every year (and around this time, DoG started having practices on tournament weekend), and it just doesn't matter to me much. I'll sub out a lot at the games, work on my individual defense instead of poaching, drink during halftime. But it still bothers me when we lose games we shouldn't. We blew a big lead against a college-plus team that had no business winning the game, then got completely blown out against a high school-plus team that hadn't won a game yet but somehow still had an attitude (we were pretty wiped out by that point, being old and all, and one of us having had practice beforehand). I didn't show up for the B division games on Sunday.

Next: opinions on summer league.

world games stats, analysis

Hartti Suomela has some analysis over on his blog. I've been laying low on this front.

Next up for me is a review of my history in summer league and some comments on the state of summer league.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cougars S-ball

The Cougars rebounded last night with an oddly uninspired and uninspiring 19-7 victory in Game 2 of the best of 3 finals of the Sudbury Men’s Modified Fast-Pitch Softball C Division. We had lost 5-2 in Game 1 last Friday, after sweeping the semifinals earlier in the week.

We had already earned promotion to the B Division by winning the regular season title with a 12-4 record. I was our late game SS for most of the season, manning the leftwardmost position on the defensive spectrum for our 8:15 games while another fellow played there for the 6:45 games (I generally don’t go to games before the boy goes to sleep, while the other fellow works late shift). I’ve got good range and a very strong arm, but had trouble getting comfortable fielding grounders this year, while the other fellow doesn’t make as many plays but is surer with the glove. Economically, it’s probably close to a wash, but perhaps there’s a greater psychological cost to an error than the psychological gain from an outstanding play. Or maybe it’s the other way around, but in any event, I was playing the outfield in the playoffs, where my arm and range should still be strengths while I didn’t have to worry about any bad hops.

The outlook wasn’t good for a while. We didn’t score in the first, while their leadoff hitter beat out a bunt, then hustled to second because no one was covering the base, where he scored on a hit. Again we were scoreless in the second (I hit a rope right at the LCF), and they pushed across another. Again no runs in the third (and we had averaged 14.5 runs per game in the regular season), while they got 2. At this point we had scored only 2 runs in 10 innings in the series.

The home plate ump seemed bipolar this game, varying the strike zone depending on whether the hitter or the batting team was ahead or behind. We benefited from this in the top of the 4th, as our leadoff hitter took a 2 strike pitch that should have rung him up but was called a ball, then went on to draw a walk that started an 8 run rally (I had an E-5 or infield single in there). I came up again in the 6th with a runner on first and no outs, and hit my first homer of the season (and oddly only the third of the season for the team that went over the fence, while we were serving up at least 1 per game to our opponents), a fly ball down the line that just carried the fence. We added another run that inning, then scored another 8 runs in the last inning with 2 outs, making the final three outs as anti-climactic as they could be.

Unfortunately, the other team will not be able to field a team for the scheduled finale on Friday, and we can’t field a team next week, and our pitcher will be gone the week after, so we’ll probably just be declared co-champs or co-participants.

I had a disappointing year at the plate, hitting .421/.425/.684, creating about 11 runs per game. I was struggling with my mechanics in the middle of the season, as I think I was dropping my shoulder and hitting it into the air too much. (I attribute the start of the slump to being told to relax out there, as I generally just try to hit the ball very hard every time and so went to the plate with a glare.) I refuse to bunt, and every time I’ve tried to go to right field I’ve hit the ball feebly. Perhaps I’ll spend some time at the batting cage before next season to work on the latter. Oh, well. All in all, it’s better to win the C Division than to lose it.