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.