Friday, April 29, 2005

more on fair play

The Europeans disappoint me sometimes (yeah, I'm looking at you, Count.) The Swedes feel that banning Observers would improve the game. One comment that I particularly disagree with is because it destroys the credibility of our concept of ”spirit of the game”.The rule with observers actually means that we no longer believe in the idea that the players themselves can handle situations

Now, I'm not quite sure that I agree with Gerics' classification of Observers as "keepers of the spirit", but they sure as hell aren't destroyers of it.

In one sense, having them is like locking your front door: it helps honest people stay honest, but it doesn't deter professional criminals. I like to think that people obey the rules because the rules themselves are good and you ought to behave well, but if a little fear of penalty keeps them honest, well, I can live with that, and can even pretend that it's still basic honesty that is doing it.

Where the Europeans get this wrong is in the apparent belief that everything's a judgment call to be made only by the player(s) involved in the call (on my more right-wing days, I'd blame the left for their cowardly "moral relativism", but it's not one of those days, so 97% of you don't have to roll your eyes). I can still remember a game at Worlds in 1996 against Belgium or Holland where one of their players landed clear as day on the line, directly in front of half a dozen teammates. If this happened to an "unspirited" US team, there is no doubt in my mind that the team would call him out (maybe not every player, but enough to make it happen). But all our pleadings did to this European team was to make them avoid our eyes even more and to keep their mouths even tighter.

The player who landed out may have truly believed himself to be in, but what kind of a moral system is it if he is unable to ask people with better perspectives what they say? Americans place much more emphasis (rightly, of course (little smiley face)) on getting the call right, rather than worrying about hurting the bad caller's feelings or respecting his autonomy or whatever the hell they're thinking.

And then there's the matter of how to deal with the 1% of the player who truly can't handle himself. Yes, he exists, no matter how much peer pressure you exert. Why not allow a system that contains this player (who creates 25% of the problems) while simultaneously allowing the 99% of players to develop and show their true character?

Next: the crowd.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

fair play

I have to admit that the dreaded slippery slope is still unslid down (what the hell is the proper metaphor for not going down that slope, anyone?) after several years of Callahan Observers. Why is that?

You would think that once some personal responsibility for clean play has been removed, that players would start to change their behavior. If we've learned nothing else from economics, it's that people respond to incentives. There appears to be no incentive to play fair when an Observer is not looking, at least in certain circumstances where the Observer is likely to rule "no call, play on" rather than "didn't see it, do-over". So there have to be other incentives.

Of course, there is honesty keeping people honest. But that's not quite it, because an honest player plays by the rules as they're played. You wouldn't call an NBA player dishonest merely because he takes a few steps like every other NBA player. In just about every sport, there are the rules the way they are written, and there are the rules the way they are enforced. It's much better if the two coincide, but more likely you end up with a series of adjustments to how the players play and how the rules are called. As an example, consider the baseball strike zone. At some point, the batters began crowding the plate to get at the outside pitches, so the umps began calling an outside strike. The classic example is Eric Gregg in a deciding game of the Braves-Marlins series back in 1997, who rung up umpteen called strikes on pitches that weren't within 6 inches of the plate but were in his strike zone. Were the pitchers in that game "dishonest" because they knew the ump was calling a generous strike zone and so they threw the ball to it?

No, of course not, so there must be something in the game that continues to exert pressure. It's not "spirit of the game" in the sense that crazed Sectionals-level players (by this phrase, I mean people who devote their lives to ultimate but will never win or even participate in any big championship) use it, but maybe something closer to "good sportsmanship." Or maybe it's just that the fear of being stigmatized by a yellow card or team misconduct foul or of being humiliated by having your call overtuned causes players to behave (economically) irrationally. This is common. Managers might be afraid to go against the Book because if it doesn't work, they'll get fried in the press. A rookie might be afraid to throw a high-percentage huck because he'll get yanked if it fails. In these cases, the player's personal incentives are not in line with the team's incentives.

Or, it could be that the personal responsibility has not been removed with the presence of the Callahan Observers, because calls still originate with the players. I know that in the interest of fast play that discussion time should be limited if not eliminated, but I would still prefer a system where the players do have a chance to present their cases briefly to each other, and possibly to the Observer. (I add "to the Observer" because it seems that the Observers are told to rule on the call that is made rather than on making the call that they would have made had they been active refs. For instance, if a marker counts evenly at a 0.6 counts/second rate and gets to 10 a split second before the thrower throws it, the Observer is supposed to rule that a stall, even if that cheating marker skips the word "stalling", or like some of us tend to do, starts the count with "stallingone". Anyway, not sure this digression means anything.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

liberal/conservative, intent, N, and spirit of the game

Yesterday, I wrote 7. Pulling out of a line of cars, driving the length of the line, then cutting back in to wait in line closer to the front.

Two cars did this to me today. At the Allston/Brighton exit off the MassPike, there aren't any lines for the ramp to Cambridge. It's about 1.5 lanes wide, but convention says that there are 2 lanes. There is no way that anyone could think that there are 3 lanes going to Cambridge. However, it's possible that you might not realize which way you need to go, since the road curves around enough to disorient you, and the signs are small, as is typical here in this godless state.

#1 was a Lexus SUV with out-of-state plates. "Lexus" and "SUV" made me think that this driver did it on purpose, "out-of-state" made me think it might be an honest mistake.
#2 was a Ford Taurus or Escort or Contour with Mass plates. The male driver later cuts in front of another guy, then raised his hand as if to say "what the hell".
I then cut this guy off on general principle.

So what was the intent of these two? For #1, my best guess relies upon the reputation of Lexus owners and SUV owners. Is that the right thing to do? It's similar to when you're playing a team with a bad rep for the 8th time and one of the guys you don't know makes a bad call. In this case, however, I'm not going to have the rest of the game to observe the violator, just this one instance. What is their most likely reason for the violation? And should I just cut them some slack?

For #2, "male" and "Mass" immediately made it more likely that it was intentional. Cutting off that other driver and weaving in and out only confirmed it, but the rules state that foul calls have to be immediate.

Where does liberal/conservative come in? The conservative approach is to say that it's a violation, it most likely was intentional, and we can't let guilty people go free. The liberal approach is to acknowledge that it was probably a violation, but we're not sure whether it was intentional or not, and we can't risk punishing an innocent person for an honest mistake. (Of course, this is a drastic oversimplification.)

So, is there a similar analogy for calling rules violations in ultimate? Maybe the whole root of the problem is ultimate's liberal roots, with only clear violations with clear victims being punishable, and who's to say what's right or wrong?

You could probably find out how ticky-tacky a player's calls are going to be by having him fill in N in the following cliche: It is better for N guilty to go free than for one innocent to be punished.

Monday, April 25, 2005

tip of the week: how to cheat and really piss me off

Not all violations are equal, and it isn't necessarily the violations that yield the biggest advantage that are the ones that get to me the most. Rather, it's the ones that are small but frequent, or ones that aren't done all the time but only when it makes a difference. And there's other stuff, too.
1. "One". At goaltimate recently, I called "fast count" when the marker started by saying "one", then allowed the count to get to five in order to call a foul. (This happened after about 8 minutes of playing, after telling myself beforehand I wasn't going to be a Billy B rules jackass.)
2. Jumping offsides on a pull in order to throw it farther or to get down faster to set up a cup or disrupt the first pass. Perhaps oddly, I don't mind if you're offsides if you're just doing it to be lazy.
3. The sidelines yelling "Nice D" after a brutal mugging by the marker on a break-mark attempt. In a parallel world, I might compliment that team on its honesty in admitting that they're cheating, but in this one, it almost always makes me mad.
4. The "handler hop." I'll call a travel on this every two or three years. A handler will catch a swing pass standing still, then will do a little hop to the continuation side.
5. The no-pivot-foot pivot. You all know this guy. He steps out to fake a backhand, then follows with his pivot foot as he turns back to the forehand side. This enables him to throw a forehand more quickly. I can think of one guy who does both 4 and 5 and averages well over one travel per pass (I only name names when I am personally aggrieved, btw).
6. The auto-fake. Ok, this isn't a violation, other than being an offense against good ultimate. Catch a swing pass, then automatically fake the continuation with a big backhand windup. If you do that three times in a row, it ought to be a turnover.
7. Pulling out of a line of cars, driving the length of the line, then cutting back in to wait in line closer to the front.
8. Pulling into an intersection knowing that traffic is blocked just in front of the intersection, resulting in gridlock. I swear, if I have a terminal illness and no assets to pass on, I will make it my life's work to ram people who do either of these things.

Friday, April 22, 2005

nicest cheaters in the game

Idris called us that on his blog yesterday, saying he learned how to do better in the foul/contest game by watching us. To which I say:
1. Nuh-uhh.
2. Oh yeah? Sez you.
3. Count the ringz, bee-yotch.
4. Well, that's players X, Y, and Z for you. Good ol' X, I haven't seen him in ages. Remember that time X just completely beat the crap out of that one wuss guy on Double and he just cried and cried? What laffs!

5. Huh, interesting. Corey said something similar a month or two ago when I was assailing the NUA guys for their stated approach to the game, but we all know Corey (a guy wins a title or two and all of a sudden he thinks he knows everything! Sheesh, some people. (Note: I'm mocking myself here.)). What do the guys formerly on DoG say about the way DoG plays? There aren't that many who have moved on to other teams. Three (four, if you count Dutchie in 2005) guys have moved on to Jam, one moved to Chicago, and that's pretty much it (well, plus 3 or 4 foreigners were repatriated). The rest are still playing, have retired, or have retired to Coed. I guess Bickford is still kicking around somewhere, showing up every year at Regionals with some team. It would be instructive to see what they say, if they were to talk honestly.

I've certainly seen teammates make subjective calls that I thought were bad and I rarely if ever said anything at the time (but I'm sure I've said something about objective up/down or in/out calls), although many a time I've asked the guy about it later. I know for a fact that this is not the way things are taught, although I've always suspected that those D guys have their little pow-wows and who knows what their tiny minds discuss.

But I don't know for sure how we compare to other elite teams.

File this one under "Jim throwing teammates under the bus in order to see whether they're reading."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

tip of the week: conflict resolution

Zaz wrote out a nice scenario in the book ("How to Avoid Arguments", page 174) on how a foul/contest should go. In brief, it portrays two rational people debating the merits of the call. Here are some ideas on how to get your opponent to be rational.
1. Avoid hyperbole. ( defines it as "(a) figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect.") Starting off with "that is the worst call I've ever seen" almost always leads to a do-over.
2. Don't take it personally, and don't make it personal. Calmly dissociate yourself and your opponent from the actions, as if it were two other people that were involved in the call.
3. Get over your anger immediately, before you say a word other than "Foul" or "Contest."
4. Give up after 30 seconds or if you repeat yourself more than once.
5. Consider that the other guy may have a point, and that whatever happened may not have been intentional.
6. If all else fails, knee him in the nuts and run away.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


On the other hand, are we just retreading the whole foul/cheater/morality thing? Mooney said ultimate is dead, long live "uglimate" in a famous letter to the editor in 1986. It got bad enough that by 1990, a Certified Observer Program was put in place. In 1995, in kneejerk response to some shenanigans at Mid-Atlantic Regionals, a Yellow Card/Red Card system was implemented. Callahan Rules came in a few years later, with on-field Observers authorized to hand out Team Misconduct Fouls (one of my biggest regrets in ultimate is not handing out a TMF to that freakishly-blond kid from Colorado in the finals of 2001 Coll Nats; he was mugging the thrower unreservedly). NUA popped up in 1997 and (sorta) in 2005.

Maybe it's just a cycle. Or maybe it's just more widespread now, kinda like strategy and training. It's not that any team now is worse than any team from the past, just that there are more of them out there.

I think it's some of both. I first started really noticing how physical the mark had become in about 1999. I was appalled by watching a videotape of us against the Condors in that year's Nationals finals, where it was just a constant clutch and grab by a bunch of players on both teams. Certainly, some guys are worse than others, and you really develop an admiration for an opponent who _doesn't_ do that but still plays effectively.

But then again, I didn't try to break a whole lot of marks against the early 90s NY teams, so maybe it was just for lack of opportunity that I wasn't hacked to death. I remember stating that a certain player on their team had fouled me more than the rest of ultimate combined.

Now at the risk of being unpopular. This report places the blame for all of this squarely on you: The Viewers!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

a history of my view of refs and self-officiating

As promised. But first, I put a few links in. It appears that my "RSS feed" and "Atom feed" do the same thing, but maybe it's just because I look at it through IE. I have huge holes in my technological knowledge that I just don't bother to fix. You might think a guy as intellectually curious as I am would bother, but you'd be wrong, you idiot.

Ok, my google rsd searches turned up a few interesting threads circa 1997 (check for "Whither Spirit" or just "parinell refs" for others, but not what I was looking for, so this is off the top of my head.

I think I had a fairly typical path. After a brief introductory period with no opinions about the coolness of ultimate, I too often said "and the best part is that there are no refs!!!" (Yup, I used three exclamation points back then. That's probably the thing I'm least proud of in that statement.) After a while, I matter of factly stated that there were no refs, then I became sheepish about it. The deviation began in 1993, the year of the infidels. In short, we were tired of being pushed around, we thought, so under Joey G's tutelage, we became dicks and didn't care what anyone thought. We displayed unearned and faked bravado (note to the wordsmiths: bravado can be "real or pretended", says, but I'm not sure if you "display" bravado or if you just "have" it), made it a point to spike every point, and weren't going to let anyone push us around. Looking at my own play that year, the only action I took that I regret is choosing not to go to an observer on my marking foul because I was pretty sure that it was a foul (or would have been called a foul) and a contest kept the count at 6. (I also remember contesting an obvious foul in 1985 or 1986 Easterns because I thought that was the way the game was played.)

Since then, I've played pretty cleanly, to the point of being chastised by teammates for appearing lazy on the mark. (If the thrower takes a big pivot step around me but hasn't thrown it yet, I _could_ make an effort to reestablish position, but it would certainly be a foul, so I just stand there and let the guy throw it rather than foul him. There _are_ times when my mark may be lazy, but laziness isn't why I stand there right then.) Sometimes I'll raise my level of aggression to match the guy who is covering me, and I'm not above retaliating or name-calling in the heat of battle, but I tell myself that it's just that, the heat of the moment, and not a deliberate plot.

For about 5 years, I guess I was in the pro-ref camp, although it'd be more accurate to say that I favored a much stronger third-party arbitration process, be it refs or observers. My arguments against Observers instead of refs were purely practical. The advent of the Callahan Rules and accompanying Observer system have for the most part removed the practical concerns, although I still do feel that the qualify of Observing for the club season isn't up to the college standard.

Ok, I'm not sure where I'm going with this post anymore, so I'll try to wrap it up. I don't see the need for refs unless some promoter needs it to secure a television contract, but I'd like to see UPA ultimate continue to keep the primary decisions with the players and to use well-trained Observers to arbitrate (and make some calls that are not that subjective). I'm against WFDF's policy (or a proposed policy) of no Observers.

And we do need to keep preaching "fair play" as a tenet, with or without refs or observers, or else it will be easy for the sport to sanction strategic fouls.

Ramble off.

Monday, April 18, 2005

morality and ultimate

So, I often try to use rsd as a bully pulpit. I prefer that the game be played cleanly and want to do what I can to make it so. But I also know that I've been a part of a few fiascos in the past and that some of my teammates through the years have not always played the cleanest games (at least using my interpretation), so maybe I should hold my tongue a little more.

But this NUA stuff (well, not the NUA stuff itself, but rather the ventings from the disgruntled organizers after the elite players blew them off) makes me upset. They are advocating that the standard way to play is to foul strategically, that "everyone does it" and you're a fool if you don't, and that it's ok until there are refs.

I don't advocate playing in such a way that you will never commit a foul, much like I wouldn't advocate driving exactly at the speed limit. But each attempt has to be legit, and there can't be so many "legit" offenses that it becomes a pattern.

I'd like to expound on the speeding analogy a little more. There is a legal view, a moral view, and an economic view. The legal view is that it's neither wrong nor right to speed, and it only matters if it's called. The first-order moral view is that "excessive speeding" is dangerous and that the law is written as a reference point. Who would not be pissed off for being pulled over on an open highway for doing 56 in a 55? (Higher-order moral discussions would cover whether it's moral to break a rule you don't agree with to the letter.) The economic view is that you calculate the likelihood of being pulled over at different speeds, consider the costs and benefits of it, and also factor in the morality (is it ok to drive really fast if there is no way you'd get caught?).

I think that you should play the game the moral way, and call it the economic way. (I suppose that if you are going against a known miscreant who lives up to his reputation, you can be a little more "legal" in your calls.) If someone wants to play it or call it the legal way, well, they have the law on their side, but that's not someone I want to be around, either with or against.

I've changed the settings to allow anonymous comments so you can call me a hypocrite without fear of reprisal. And this will also allow elite players to say, "Hate to tell you this, but my (anonymous) team does indeed play this way, and the captains preach it."

Tomorrow: a history of my view of refs and self-officiating

Friday, April 15, 2005

fan interference

How about that play with Gary Sheffield in the Sox/Yankees game last night? There was a hit into the corner, and while Sheffield is picking up the ball, a drunken fan reaches out and takes a swipe at him. What was great was that Sheffield pushed the guy back, THEN threw the ball back in. He probably would have torn the guy a new one, but he said he thought about Ron Artest being suspended for the rest of the season, so he held back.

Ultimate has a real problem with fan interference at many big tournaments, even Nationals (although in recent years the UPA has done a lot better about patrolling this). Fans and players just crowd the line, making it difficult to throw longer passes that way. (I'm going to start something again with the NUA's Ed about how he probably thinks it would be a great strategy to force line and have your sideline players stand next to the thrower.) And then there are all the tents and metal chairs and coolers. At Fools this year, there were big metal/wooden benches in the 3 yard space between fields. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

My old teammate Cork has at least twice "reprimanded" fans for interfering with play at Nationals. In 1989 Nationals, a floater down the line struck a big-lens professional camera and Cork started yelling at the guy. I don't remember the circumstances of the game, as I was with the bestest little team ever, Earth Atomizer. In 1997 Nationals, in a game important to qualifying for semis, we beat Double Happiness by 2. Someone threw me a leading pass in the end zone. I had to get on my horse to catch up to it, then had to lay out for it, so I was focusing only on the disc, but as I'm reaching for it, I'm overwhelmed by a sea of bubbles out of nowhere. Startled, I don't catch the disc. I get up to see a bunch of Bay Area women sitting there giggling, playing with little kid bubble blowers. Cork goes up to them and smacks the blowers out of their hands. They thought it was funny. If any of you interferers are reading this and would like to apologize, I am willing to forgive and put it behind me. I have a vague memory of a tight call that game that went against Double, but can't remember what it was or I thought it was a bad call. Anyone remember that either?

Golf has occasional problems with fan interference, but generally it is to the player's advantage when the fans get in the way of speeding balls and stop them from getting into more trouble. But then you have those idiots screaming "Get in the hole!", or people yakking on cell phones, or photographers snapping pictures while players are in their backswings or downswings (P.G. Wodehouse wrote of a golfer who was distracted by the sound of butterflies flitting in an adjacent meadow). Now, before you scoff about how football players have to deal with 80 000 screaming fans, it's different because what is startling is the level of noise above the background or the change in the noise level. If somehow everyone stopped screaming at the same time, I bet a quarterback would throw the ball over the receiver's head from the surprise.

Some are more temperamentally-prone to this distraction than others, and I don't think it's just a case of being morally stronger if it doesn't bother you, any more than not needing glasses is a sign of strong character.

I think the best/worst case of fan interference was in the surprisingly hilarious movie "Happy Gilmour", when Happy was in the process of winning something like the US Open when a fan ran him over with an automobile on the fairway during the round.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

tip of the week

Two tips this week to make up for last week.

1. Never follow a bad shot with a stupid shot.
2. Don't miss it on the short side.

1. If you find yourself in trouble, just take the smart, safe play in order to keep your score down. My rule of thumb is that if you're contemplating a brilliant recovery shot, don't try it if you're going to be telling someone about it later. "Heroic" might pay off one time in 20, so if you're more interested in doing well than in having a "dude, you shoulda seen it" story, just punch it back into the fairway.
2. A lot of pin placements are just for suckers. While your chance at getting birdie might increase by shooting at the pin, your chance of getting a high score will increase, as will your average score. Of course, if it's the 18th hole and you _need_ a birdie to make the cut or win a bet, then your best choice is the one that gives you the greatest likelihood of getting birdie. But on average, you'll come out ahead by going for the fat part of the green. (Additionally, if you miss on the short side, you'll have a more difficult time getting your next shot close.)

For those coming here for ultimate tips, what does this have to do with anything? Well, in both cases, this generally means the best option is generally not the one that offers the highest reward or the ones that has the best chance for a maximum reward, but rather the one that yields the highest reward/risk ratio. (And it doesn't just mean "dump it" any more than it means you should just use a putter for the whole hole. If you're in the woods and you can punch out while still hitting it down the fairway, that's a better option than simply punching out sideways. You have to decide what the best option is.) And #2 also means that you shouldn't get too cute trying to hit something exactly. On your pulls, maybe try landing it 10 yards from the sideline instead of 1 yard. And on a throw to a comeback cut with a defender charging hard on the inside, lead the guy a little bit instead of trying to hit him in perfect stride, since you can miss a little bit on the leading side without turning it over, while the in-stride pass cannot afford to be off even a foot to the inside.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

the good and the bad

In keeping with a general best/worst theme, here are my 5 best and 5 worst rounds of golf since 1998, as determined by the Handicap Differential, which adjusts for the difficulty of the course.

1. 7/20/02, Maplegate, 79, 6.0 Differential. This was covered the other day in "I beat Tiger"
2. 9/5/02, Sandy Burr, 78, 6.5 Differential. Golfed on a Thursday morning. This may have been the day I got there at dawn only to find three groups waiting to tee off, so I hightailed it over to #6 to start off, and had to deal with a greenskeeper treating the greens. Highlight was chipping in from about 50 yards out. I made one mental mistake which led to a double bogey and one horrible shot into the weeds which led to a triple bogey, but otherwise didn't do anything that made me upset. Fourth round in the 70s of the year.
3. 9/26/97, Butternut, 81, 7.3 Differential. This is a little misleading, because the handicap system limits the score you can take on a hole (for handicap purposes only; you still have to play out the hole and write down what you get), and I took an 11 on the notorious 625 yard 10th (but it only counted as an 8 for the handicap; this is called Equitable Stroke Control, or ESC). Another time on that hole, I dumped three in a row into the pond in front of the green and it was all Simon could do to stop from laughing. I birdied this hole once with four great shots. This is easily one of the handful of most difficult holes I've played.
4. 11/24/1997, Roy Kizer, 79, 7.8 Differential. This was the first time breaking 80 on a real course, I think. I was visiting my brother in Austin and I was doing very well. I got nervous towards the end and chunked a pitch on 17, leading to a double-bogey, and had to par 18 to break 80. I left my approach shot just short, then hit a nice chip and had a nerve-wracking 3-4 footer left. It's silly to get nervous about something like that, because it hurts the chances of it happening, but there you go.
5. 5/16/98, Far Corner, 81, 8.0 Differential. Difficult course in the middle of nowhere (hence the name) in north suburban Boston. Barely remember the round, other than knowing that I played the "other" nine plus one of the nines on the 18 hole course, owing to overcrowding on the 18 hole course. I really hate crowds when I golf, so much that I will sometimes replay holes instead of continuing.

Worst rounds:
1. 11/14/99, CC of Billerica, 95, 29.4 Differential*. *-For the worst rounds, I am stating the differential without the ESC. Golfed with Goody and Alex at a par 68 course. It's actually not a bad little course, with some hills and interesting shots, and not much traffic. Just a lot of bad, forced shots, probably trying to impress the guys with my power and prowess. I still won, though.
2. 4/16/00, Merrimack, 97, 26.7 Diff. It appears that I had already been out twice that year, so that's no excuse. It was very windy that day, the ground was soft, and I wasn't very sharp.
3. 4/12/98, Stow Acres South Course, 98, 26.3 Diff. Another round with Alex and Goody, I think. It was spring, I guess, is my excuse. But jeez, I had already logged 10 rounds, most of them while visiting Jackie in California in their wettest winter in recorded history.
4. 3/11/97, The Oaks, 99, 26.1 Diff. Played at Henry Thorne's aunt's country club while at the Compound after winning the Miami spring break tournament. I was definitely pressing while trying to impress, carding a 54 on the front nine. The next day, I shot a 39 on the same nine (and a 45 on the back both days). Jim Nesbitt completely embarrassed himself that day by having a 9 iron fly out of his hands and down the fairway 20 yards, while playing with Henry's aunt.
5. 12/17/99, Waikele, 98, 26.0 Diff. I was in Hawaii on a last-minute business trip and had a day off, so played with rental clubs in a golf course in a development, which I can't stand. Nice enough course otherwise, but too narrow for how I was hitting it that day. There was a waterfall, and hmm, I think I took a picture on one of those panorama cameras, but haven't finished the roll yet.

Honorable mention goes to a 100 at the Princeville Resort in Kauai (but which only ranks as the 17th worst round with a 20.1 Diff) and a 99 at the Jubilee Course in St. Andrews, where I finished with two pars to avoid triple digits. In that round, Jordan and I played the first four holes inadvertently from the championship tees (during which I logged two 7s, an 8, and a 9) before the ranger made us move up as we were slowing down play.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

golf in scotland

Before Worlds in 1999, Jordan Haskell and I spent a week golfing some of Scotland's great courses. In truth, this was the main reason I was going to Worlds; I had already seen it, done it, many times, and I wasn't really expecting us to do so well. It turns out we did ok, but even still, the golf still stands out in my memories more.

See here for the full description. But some highlights:
1. Turnberry. A five-star hotel. Jordan and I played snooker and drank Guinness. The course was great, too, and we had our first of many duels, climaxing in a thrilling 18th hole with a few heroic shots.
2. 3 day pass at St. Andrews, playing 45, 54, and 18 holes each day, eating a meal and drinking a Guinness in between rounds.
3. Playing the Old Course with an anal Princeton guy and getting our asses kicked by a girl.
4. Carnage at Carnoustie. If only I could have taken a mulligan.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Welcome to Golf Week!

Tiger had a helluva day yesterday. Even if you find golf boring, the human drama was compelling. Two guys far outdistancing all competitors, yet still struggling enough so the fans can occasionally gasp in horror. Tiger's drive on 17 was so far off-line that his yardage book didn't go that far. (In a golf book, I read about one of the guys who produces yardage books for the pros, and occasionally he puts in a distance with the notation "ICYFU" (In Case You F Up). In rare instances, there is "ICYRFU" (R=Really). This was an ICYRFU.)

Anyway, back to me. Did I ever tell you about the time I beat Tiger? In the third round of the 2002 British Open, Tiger posted an 81 in pretty bad conditions. With the time difference, I knew what I had to do in order to beat him. I had a late afternoon tee time at Maplegate Country Club, a fine course (one of my favorites) off I-495 in Bellingham (Course Rating 72.2, Slope 128 from the Blue tees). I hadn't been playing particularly well, but thought I could beat him that day, and actually set out to do so.

(Hmm, I'm torn here as to whether to do a shot-by-shot, as any true golfer would do, or to summarize. I don't think I remember the play by play anymore, but luckily, I have the scorecard, and I wrote it down after it happened, so here it is.)

I was hitting the ball well early, but three-putted #2 and 3, then missed makeable putts on #4 (15'), 5 (4'), 6 (12') and 7 (7'). Then I played the ninth hole badly from tee to green for a double bogey and a 43. When I pulled my drive into the trees on the 10th, it made it even more unlikely that anything great was going to happen, but I hit a 3 wood from the rough onto the green, made an up-and-down on the next hole for another par, then strung together two more pars and things were looking up. On the par 5 14th, I hit two absolutely perfect shots and found myself with a 12 foot eagle putt, which I misread and settled for a birdie. By this time the pace of play had slown down considerably. (Early on, my playing partner (a chain smoker who worked at the club cutting the holes on the front nines on weekends for $8/hr plus a free round of golf) and I cruised along quickly, playing the front nine in 90 minutes. By 12, though, we had to wait on every shot. Another fellow joined up with us, then left us on the 16th tee, went back to the 10th fairway, then caught up to us again on the 18th tee.) I didn't let the change in tempo get me frustrated this time, and managed to keep hitting fairways and greens and two putting. I came to 18 knowing I could afford a bogey and still break 80 (or a 6 and still beat Tiger). After an interminable wait, I took a couple easy swings to loosen up again, and hit a beautiful 3 wood down the middle of the dogleg hole. I was in between clubs on the approach shot, made the right choice, and hit it pretty well but watched it drift into the greenside bunker, the first one of the day. I don't need to tell you ("Please don't") how much I've been struggling with my sand game recently. Playing partner also went into the bunker, and stood there about 10 yards away, right where an errant shot could go, and I warned him, but he assured me that he was safe (he wasn't bothering me there other than I thought I might hit him). I took some deep breaths and some practice swings (although not nearly as many as a couple of the guys in the playoff at the Open) and blasted out to 10 feet.

Well, I know this generally qualifies as way, way too much information, but it was such a momentous occasion and all. Oddly, my iron game wasn't particularly sharp, as there was only one or two all day that I hit closer than 25', mostly missing to the right, but also in the other directions (but never more than one direction at a time, i.e., not both long and to the left). The key was avoiding bad shots. One birdie, ten pars, six bogeys, one double-bogey.

Adjusting for course difficulty, this probably ranks as my second-best round ever, behind a 66 at my home course growing up (Course Rating 62.6, Slope 93).

And Tiger got his act together the next day and beat me by 22. But we'll always have Maplegate.

Friday, April 08, 2005

frisbee blogs is my good friend (and frequently-abused personality on this blog) Alex's blog. He's going through his Worlds history for now. It's not nearly Jim-centric enough for my tastes yet, but I'm sure he'll get to it.

Idris Nolan has one at Idris always has seemed a little crazy on the frisbee field, but he really seems to be a sound thinker about the game, plus he's started a book club of sorts for the local scene.

Are there others? What's the competition like, not that this is a competition or anything? I saw a Pax Americana blog somewhere for some B- or C-level part-time Coed team, but can't remember right now.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

worst losses

Here are some of the most heart-breaking or disgusting losses I've been part of.

Semis 2002, Furious George 17-16. Well, when you turn it over three times in a game, you really don't deserve to win, you know. But this would be the only game on this list that would also qualify for my "top 10 all-time games, win or lose." You hear people say, "It doesn't matter whether we won or lost, I was just happy to be part of this game," but 9 times out of 10, they won. #1 heartbreaker. In a way, it's too bad that this game happened, because now everyone thinks this is closer to the norm instead of a more realistic 15-20 TOs per team.
Semis 1993, NYNY 21-14. We just fell apart after a little brouhaha. We'd been doing pretty well against them that year, losing at Cuervo and Easterns, but winning most of the other games, including two 7-point wins in a row. But we were dicks, they were dicks, and it just didn't work out for us. On the bright side, it led directly to DoG. Perhaps one of these days I'll construct an alternate universe in which we won this game.
Finals 1992, NY 21-13. Up 10-8, down 17-11. We were close to evenly matched that year, I think, unlike the next year, when we would have been the clear favorites.
Summer league finals, 1999, Gretzky 15-14. This is more disappointing than disgusting, although it is that. I'm throwing this in as a favorite to Wicks and the other 12 players on his team that year who also played at Nationals. Congrats, you beat a bunch of old drunks. The disgusting part of this game is that none of us (save the one who made the decision) knew that the game was capped at 15 until we were about to pull at 14-14. I will also point out that Nathan made the best play of his career in this game. Briefly, he heard me call for the give and go and left his guy standing in the middle of the endzone to run 30 yards to make a block, while the rest of my team was watching him saying, "What is that guy doing?" But for a "man on" call, this game would have made it to last week's "Best meaningless victories" list.
Game to go, 1986 Mid-Atlantic Regionals, R&B 19-15. I was attending college in Cleveland but skipped out on them to play with my hometown Pittsburghers, as I thought this might be my best and last chance to make it to Nationals before I retired or got old. We were up by 3 at half, I think, before being overcome. I was the deep in the 1-3-2-1 zone. Ironman launched some bottle rockets over our heads that tournament.
Cuervo 1992 finals, NY 15-14. You would think that a 14-9 lead with 6 minutes left before a semi-hard cap (finish the point, if one team is up by 2 or more, game over) would be safe, but you'd be wrong. Everyone remembers Alex's "$2000 turnover", but there was also Griff's throw out the back, Joey's failed toe drag (he should have done the scissor-kick!), and us getting beat on some 2-pointers. A chickenshit timeout call would have won the game, as would have a zone defense, or a goal. But again, history would be different, blah blah blah.
Fools 2002 semis, WesWill by a few. Up by 4 or 6, and the Short Fat Guys fell apart. More disgusting than heart-breaking.
Goaltimate II, 21st Century DoG over Wellesley Founders, 3-0. 3 games to five over in 28 minutes, allowing only one goal. In a horrible conflict of interest, they had Steve Mooney officiate the game, and six of their team were current teammates with Steve. Mooney made an early "illegal zone" call against us, dooming our innovative defensive structure which had propelled us the previous year to one of the richest cash prizes in frisbee history. Another factor against us was that we were older and it was our fourth round of the day, with one of the earlier rounds going well past the cap. I had started cramping in that round, too, not a good sign if the guy who did most of the clearing was cramping in the second round. This probably was the most disgusting, self-loathing game I've been in. Embarrassment to this day.
Worlds 2002 finals, Condors 14-12. Up 8-4. I was having a great game up until committing our final two turnovers. The staff also screwed up the time cap, but that didn't affect the game, just added to the bitterness.
GOAT Tuneup 2003. Lost to 9 guys in the heat, forcing maybe 2 turnovers the whole game.

Heckling moments

There was a great heckling moment at Fools this weekend. There was a floating tipped pass, and Kevin from DC made a nice grab near the sideline and showed it to Sandy from Ring for a good two seconds, drawing oohs from the crowd. But then Sandy gave everyone a moment to remember by solidly foot-blocking the ensuing forehand huck attempt. I felt fortunate to be walking by less than 10 yards away when it happened. This brings to mind two other such moments:
1. 1995 Tuneup, Chain-Sockeye pool play game, double game point. Gewirtz throws it away, then on the ensuing huck, he doesn't even try to play the disc but instead uses his bubble butt to push as many guys out of the way as possible. However, the disc is tipped to Andy Smith, who catches it, says "Foul" to Jonny, and spikes it.
2. 1994 Easterns, DoG vs somebody. Ok, I was playing that game, but I saw a few former and future teammates from Somerville Youth walking by just as it happened. At 14-13 us, game to 15, in a role reversal I threw a huck to Alex, who miraculously was open by about 15 yards. However, there was a little angle to it, and Alex had too much time to think, and he bobbled it once, twice, three times before allowing it to drop. The SY guys let poor Alex have it. It was awesome.
3. 1990, Earth-Titanic game for #2 seed from the Northeast. No one was there, ok, but I just thought of this and chuckled and had to share it. Mooney has the disc, starts to throw a forehand but the cutter breaks off the cut, so Steve attempts to pull back the throw, but it trickles off his fingers (not unlike what happened to a fellow WesWill player in their one point loss to the Short Fat Guys this weekend) and he five-holes himself. Later that day, Jordan Haskell is caught on tape picking up a disc on the sidelines, showing the name "MOONEY" on the back to the camera, then spiking it.

Monday, April 04, 2005


The fields at Fools this weekend were the muddiest I've played on in a long time. I've noticed that some college tournaments this year were cancelled or shortened due to wet fields. What's it going to be like in the future?

In the _old_ days, it was a badge of honor that we played through any kind of conditions, and field-trashing was considered kinda cool. Maybe it's still this way, and it's my perspective that changed, but there's no way that any respectable field should let teams play in conditions like it was on Saturday and Sunday. Most of the fields had standing water on them and quickly turned into mudpits. The Open finals field, which was probably the best field left, had a several-inches deep puddle obscuring the back 15 yards of one corner of the (fortunately upwind) end zone.

At least we've progressed enough to delay games due to lightning, owing to that unfortunate accidents 11 years ago.

So, how many field-trashings have been so severe as to cause permanent field loss for the ultimate community? I know of two great local sites lost due to (other teams) playing in bad conditions. PADA lost Tinicum and had to pay $10K (is this correct) in damages back in 1998. I heard that the UCSD team got into real trouble for sending teams to unauthorized sites after their own site (and backup) got cancelled due to rain at this year's President's Day tournament (or some CA college team at some college tournament). Anyone want to add to this list?

It will take a few years, but players have to get used to the idea that a tournament CAN GET CANCELLED on the day of the tournament. Perhaps this means that there will be fewer national tournaments (where the hell are these college kids getting all the money to travel, anyway? And shouldn't they be studying? Why, in _my_ day, we had things a lot tougher, I'll tell you.), but that's the way it's going to have to be. Tournament directors have to treat the fields as if they own them. Even on the local level, teams have to have a sense of ownership of the fields if that's what's necessary to treat them with respect.