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.)


luke said...

First let me say that I'm hosting porn and gambling over at my blog, And yes it comes w/ cookies.

The demographics of the sport preclude strong 'minor market' teams.

2nd tier teams are castoffs. Therefore, those months seattle is cutting guys, could have been months developing a team.

Small markets don't exist.
While boulder is a 'small market' for baseball, it's a big one for frisbee. Wilmington, Portland (ME)... those are mid markets in frisbee...

I have athletes here, and some players (aarons' talbot and switzer, russ zinner), BUT it's just hard to command their time. They've 'done it' so they don't have the interest to 'build a team'. Conceivably I could build a team here. (come on out college kids, i promise playing time)... but those people will move on... just as goat will evaporate, dog/twisted will eventually be some other strong boston area 1/2 combo...

You should look at baseball, not basketball or college football.

How many Good teams are there in any region? the Bosox/Yanks last weekend scrap for a wildcard spot was an anomaly, and w/o wildcards, would have been meaningless... Yes the NW sends 3 GOOD teams... but i mean, frisbee is a lifestyle sport, and the northwest is lifestyle country...

I think the big question is...

what in hell has happened to nyny?

ps... yes yes... mixed BAD...bad idris.

llimllib said...

I think what needs to happen is that an elite division needs to spin off from the normal frisbee players. You guys play a different game than the rest of us (as one of the Normals) and have different requirements from the rest of us. Basically, y'all need to be in a European soccer-style pro league.

That is, 20 or so teams are "D1", some "D2" the rest "D3". The bottom 4 "D1" teams after a season drop down, letting the top 4 "D2" teams move up. This way, the only people you *have* to play would be other D1 teams.

Whether frisbee teams are stable enough for that to happen is another question, but that seems to me to be the best scenario.

Bill Mill
bill.mill at

PS Look at Chinstrap and 6 Trained in this years mixed regionals - nobody scored more than 10 on 6 trained, and chinstrap whooped everybody leading up to the finals.

gcooke said...

I felt welcome, safe, and invloved in this post until the end. My apologies for my presence contaminating Luke's precious pro-porn/anti-mixed space. Interesting to think about what his single gender Ultimate porn movies would be like......

In any case, shameless plug for my non-cookie offering blog. I posted a few weeks ago about the project of restructuring the UPA Series. I think Jim's thoughts tie into that post, and Bill's ideas about some kind of tiered system have also bubbled up. Perhaps I am naive, but I think restructuring could also address some of the seeding concerns brought up in AJ's blog.


luke said...

george, honestly, i think that the system is good as it is... for now. i think that the upa is doing a great job in growing it through juniors. When the talent wave reaches open/womens/mixed, the competetiveness of regionals will increase... (maybe even... sectionals?)

gcooke said...


I agree. I think that the sport is not ready for tiers, and that sectionals and regionals are necessary as things stand.

It will be intersting to begin the process of evaluating the series as so many ideas will be based on assumptions about the way the sport will look a few years from now.

Again, as I said in my blog, my point of view about restructuring will based on trying to improve a UPA membership. So, for example, if, as this thread puts forth, the number of competitive games were increased at Regionals by decreasing the number of teams participating in that....division???......tier????...would that be a benefit to the general membership?

Interesting questions.


luke said...

i think the failed grand prix series event would address the current issue. but frankly until there is $, it's not happening.

we should consider a rugby union approach, however... we're not there yet, but... the rugby union sponsors players and teams.

i realize most players are not willing to subsidize other players, but it's something to consider for the future.

jim, i read your book this morning, (a library copy, mine has not arrived yet) and i think it's very good.

i will, of course, be reviewing it on my site.

but... some early thoughts.

a very good 'primer' on ultimate.

i realize that my 'athletic' playing days preceeded digital photography, but i would have been glad to provide a photo of me doing something cool. unfortunately, as i actually got good, i end up doing a lot less cool stuff, and a whole bunch more mundane stuff. but maybe a pic of me jacking out the back of the endzone?

the pdx based 'whorshak' team came up and practiced (and partied) here in bend yesterday... so other than sectionals, that was the best practice i've had in months.

my thoughts: while boston often capitalized on our (sockeye's) risk prone offense, many teams benefit from a field position offense in terms of 'strategery'. especially in co-ed.

general: teams should addrss strategy, which few do, in addition to tactics (which most do). it's great to have plays, but teams should decide if they are a hucking team, when they should huck (wind, etc)...

george, i'll link to your blog. 'he who shall not be named' will not get a link.

nothing personal, it just seems that its the policy to follow.

i received some reviews from pdx people. for some reason, they are not as interested in my workouts as i am. but i was reminded that i have an early, college career, worth memoiring.

so i will.

that is all

mick said...

Luke - Not sure how Rugby Union works in North America, but in Oz there are mega $$$$$ in the sport. Uncle Rupert likes it, that's where most of the $$$ comes from. Well, at least for the teams that tour around and play interstate and stuff.

Each city pretty much has club teams that play each other in a league. These club teams live off team subscription fees (a few hundred dollars a year), sponsorship, and selling booze to players and spectators.

In Oz they started this year an interestate league between the top 6 or so teams. It was expensive, most of the money came from players own pockets. Each player had to contribute investment capital into the league to get it started. Oh, and the format was to have 5 or so mini-tournaments.

I could imagine that the US could toy with a similar system, except with 20 teams. What would it be like if you had say 5 or 6 tournaments with the top 20 teams all competing? Maybe there could be multiple divisions, maybe a 'B' division also with 20 teams also playing 5 or 6 nationwide tournaments a year. I guess it would be too expensive though...

Michael Lerner said...

What do you think about tournaments like Motown Throwdown? I could have the details a little messed up, but I think it works like this: there are 6 teams in the upper pool and more (10?) teams in the lower pool. On Sunday, the top two teams from the lower pool move up and the upper pool plays 8-team elimination. I've played in the lower pool a couple of times, and I thought that this format gave us great motivation on both Saturday and Sunday (we moved up). It avoids lots of uneven blowout games on Saturday, and the Sunday games are usually pretty good as well.

parinella said...

I am surprised that a team really prefers to serve as quarterfinals cannon fodder instead of possibly winning their own division of the tournament. But I see that there is a full bracket of consolation games. One downside of the format is that for the elite teams, the pool play games don’t have much importance, and they’re rapid-fire.

Travis Finucane said...

I am surprised that a team really prefers to serve as quarterfinals cannon fodder instead of possibly winning their own division of the tournament.

Lower-level teams have lower level goals. Then they get to drink during the finals--part of Luke's "lifestyle" argument.

I think we're on the cusp of needing to switch to a European football-style relegation format.