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.


Anonymous said...

Based on the jerk list, how much bodying do you consider acceptable in the lanes?
Does this mean the strategic foul on the possible huck or break throw is not really a good thing? As a young player who's been told to take away throws to keep teams in the game, I have found some offensive players who will turn to you and say that was a good foul, am I being mislead?

parinella said...

Bodying on defense: nothing with the arms or extended legs. No leaning to draw contact. It's ok, but often bad defense, to plant yourself. It's good defense to establish yourself in the place that the guy wants to cut before he even realizes that it's the place he wants to cut to.

If I feel the defender is using his arms to prevent cuts, especially when I am already ahead of his shoulders, I get whiny about it.

I can't say it enough, but I think that the strategic foul has no place in the game. You take away throws by getting into position with your body through hard work, not by grabbing with your arms. It's cheating, plain and simple. Sometimes through honest effort you will make a foul with your arms, but make that the exception, not the rule.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim -

I enjoy your blog. Thanks for doing it.

I wanted to let you know that I created a LiveJournal community that consumes your RSS feed.

For any LiveJournal users out there, they can add it to their friends list and can read your posts during their normal LJ reading, rather than needing to visit your Blog. You might want to add this to your link list.

And as an aside, will you ever be conducting a "Ultimate Politics" Q&A? I've got a question I'm burning to ask you.

Thanks again.

- Joe's Brother

Sam TH said...

On the topic of fouling to stop the huck: In a game this year, I can remember a moment when I threw a huck, and then almost stopped and thanked my mark for not fouling me. I've just gotten to expect that backhand hucks will always be fouled, so it's a nice change when someone does the right thing.

Unfortunately, playing defense so that you don't foul every time someone tries to huck requires a different attitude on the mark, so most people don't try it.

Anonymous said...

I have problems with the reverse of the foul on the backhand huck; I find myself shortarming the throw so that I don't hit the marker in the face with my follow through. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Wow... is it only because I'm not from America that I'm surprised, shocked, and honestly slightly disgusted by what I'm reading?

"Strategic" fouls being considered a good thing? Being told that some contact was a "good foul"?? Being told to "take away throws" by fouling the thrower???

I've just gone and checked the current UPA rules, because under WFDF rules (which we use in Australia) Ultimate is pretty clearly a non-contact sport, but maybe UPA is different...

Or not...

May I quote from the 10th edition UPA rules, taken from This is from the preface, where it describes the basic foundations of the rules of Ultimate.
"It assumed that no Ultimate player will intentionally violate the rules." (I assume they're missing an "is", because that's a direct copy-paste).

A couple of lines further on, we have this bit:
"In Ultimate, an intentional foul is considered cheating and a gross offense against the spirit of sportsmanship. Often a player is in a position where it is clearly to a player's advantage to foul or commit some infraction, but that player is morally bound to abide by the rules. The integrity of Ultimate depends on each player's responsibility to uphold the spirit of the game, and this responsibility should not be taken lightly."

Does that really need any further explanation?? Intentional fouls are CHEATING. Players are morally bound to abide by the rules.

Sorry to take over your blog a bit, Jim, but I'm honestly a little disgusted at the whole idea of intentionally breaking the rules just because it's an effective way to win.
If you can't handle playing fairly, go and join a refereed sport so there's someone trained and paid to deal with your crap.

I'd honestly love to hear the arguments of anyone who thinks that it's still OK to intentionally foul, after reading possible the most unambiguous section in the Ultimate rule book...

parinella said...

Johnny Mac, I totally agree.

Part of the problem is that a lot of teams talk about "aggressive marking" without ever making it clear whether they are talking about a clean aggressive mark where the marker works really hard to get into proper position or a wink, wink "aggressive mark" where the marker fouls the thrower on any breakmark attempt or pivot. And then when they play an opponent and a thrower is fouled, the marker hears "Good mark" and the practice is condoned and reinforced.

But I too would like to hear from someone, probably anonymously, who would like to defend this practice, or to explain why JM and I are misinterpreting players' actions.

Anonymous said...

Nice moral high ground from Australia, where you have no fear of retribution from all us North American cheating hacks.

Lest we get too carried away with absolutes, I should point out that the rules are pretty strict about travels, but people who call them on violators who only slightly slide their foot or turn upfield after reception are often regarded as cheaters themselves.

So agressive "bodying" on the mark can be tacitly approved of by most high level teams' defenses in some circumstances. More likely, though, teams put more value on the mark getting in position to contest the throw or prevent the break over his avoiding contact with the thrower.

Hacking, chest-bumping marks are easily broken and are set with the additional risk of giving away a free do-over or reset stall.

JephB said...

I wish i would get fouled on every throw. why? Because if the throw gets completed, you have the advange of yelling CONTIUNATION and taking off while your mark is expecting the throw to come back (same with the rest of the defense) and if it gets turned over you get the disc back.

Anonymous said...

Ok being the guy that started this ball rolling and seeing as how I bothered Jim with this question I will play the devil's advocate. But with the qualifier being that I'm not as wise when it comes to the game as you guys.
The argument for the "good foul" mark, as I see it is similar to basketball in that you take away the sure thing (or scoring play) by hacking, if necessary, to make the guy do it again. In a way I see it as advantageous to the offense as this guy that hacks gives the offense a free throw, with a worst case scenario of 0% loss to the offense (though the mark may now have better position on the thrower).
Is it cheating? Well there's a foul and it's uncontested (on my part at least), but I would seem to be fairly punished for it. I really have never thought of it as cheating as there is a punishment for it that is enforced. But Jim may be making me think twice about what I've learned.

parinella said...

As Johnny Mac said, it's explicitly stated that intentional violations are forbidden as cheating. Things like pulling OB on purpose, while originally considered to be unethical, are not codified as being illegal, just that there is a penalty if it happens.

In basketball, the shooter goes to the line. In ultimate, play just stops, and a sure completion against the mark is taken away because the thrower is unable to get the throw off. It's not a comparable situation.

Further, in the 10th edition rule, a pass that is deemed to have been thrown after the foul has no benefit and 100% risk.

Although individuals playing honorably will help, it will probably take a top team playing at a cleaner level (or at least giving the impression of it) to change the attitude pervading the game. And the college coaches who are teaching this need to be fingered and rooted out by the elder alumni.

Anonymous said...

"And the college coaches who are teaching this need to be fingered and rooted out by the elder alumni."

Well, Jim, most of the coaches who teach this way play for your team, so that's a pretty good place to start, no?

parinella said...

I'm not an alumnus of any of these schools, though.

They can chime in here if they want, but I'm sure they would think that they teach the clean aggressive mark where the marker works really hard to get into proper position. But maybe they don't make it plain enough what they're saying, or the kids can't internalize the techniques for good marking and so they end up committing fouls on what they think is an honest effort when in reality it's just a foul with no shot at making the play.

Anonymous said...

I think ultimate would benefit from the same kind of re-evaluation of the way rules are and aren't enforced that the National Hockey League undertook before the start of the season. The NHL looked at whether certain rules (rule against 2 line passes) and unwritten rules (slowing down offensive flow thru clutch and grab tactices) were interfering with the flow, speed and grace of the game, and constraining opportunities for displays of sheer athleticism.

For ultimate, I can think of at least 2 rules or practices that (no doubt there are more), if changed, would improve game flow and increase opportunities for displays of athleticism: (1) put an end to travel calls made due to the pivot foot losing contact with the ground in the act of throwing (if everyone can do it, who gets hurt by it, and you'd reduce the number of pretty plays that get called back for reasons that are inexplicable and probably irrelevant to spectators) and (2) topic of this thread -- cut down on intentional hacking by markers and other fouls aimed at stopping continuation.

(1) can be fixed pretty easily with a rule tweak. I don't know how to fix (2) without the players themselves taking responsibility. Don't know if refs would do any good for (2) (unless there was some sanction for the number of fouls called against a player or team), since ulty doesn't really have a way of penalizing a strategy of intentional fouling.

But aside from whether or not it's cheating and/or contrary to the rules -- intentional fouling is just bad for the game. The speed, flow and continuation of play in ultimate is one of its most appealing visual elements. I'm no more interested in seeing that thwarted by hacks and chest-bumps on throwers (which don't take a heckuva lot skill or athleticisim), than I am in seeing a 60 yard huck called back because of somebody's obsession with whether the thrower's pivot foot was a couple of centimeters off the ground at the time of release.

aj said...

Of course, now that I’m a wimpy O player, I pretty much agree with you…but if I wasn’t so soft I might think something like this -

From an absolutist perspective, intentional fouling is clearly unjustifiable. I think it becomes a little more murky if you consider the perspective of an up and coming team. Look at the situation that they find themselves in – several of the top teams play a physical game that includes the mantra “a foul is better than a break.” A new team risks putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage if they do not adopt the physical strategy. Given this climate, one could perhaps argue that two teams fouling the bejesus out of each other is legit as an implication of Rule I.C (The captain’s clause). I have seen games between ECU and UNCW that were extremely physical with very few calls made.

I realize that this is something of a stretch, but in some ways it gels with my common sense view of how I actually play the game. Generally speaking, I let the guy that’s playing against me dictate how physical we’re going to be. I really don’t have a problem with being bumped as long as he’s not going to complain if I bump him back. Obviously, there are limits to this – if you’re ever using your hands to push/hold that’s probably crossing the line.

Having said all that, I really only felt like Furious played very physically against me. I can only assume that other teams were afraid my next blog post would be “why player X is a big cheater.”

Anonymous said...

Pretty random in this thread, but how did Darden Pitts play down in Sarasota? Can he play with the big boys?

parinella said...

Re: rules evaluation. The Rules of Ultimate are owned by the players, and rules changes are supposed to reflect the way the game is played. I don't think there is consensus that those travels you speak of don't matter, so a rules change like that might not be a correct move. How about persuading a competitive but unimportant tournament like NYF to experiment with a travel rule like the one above, while another tournament experiments with a "sideline calls travel" rule and see which is better?

parinella said...

AJ, since you're an O player, the other guy is going to have an advantage if he gets to set the rules since he'll be the one that is acting at the edge of the rules 75% of the time.

And if those defenders had known you were going to stop blogging, perhaps they would have been even more aggressive. When are we going to see a write-up?

parinella said...

Darden had some physical ailment working against him so I don't think we saw his full capability. He does a few things really well despite his tender age, but he's also still pretty raw.

As an aside, he was a one year old when Alex and I played at our first Nationals together back in 1989.

sometallskinnykid said...

This past year we did not play a ton of high level games (read we did not go to any northwest tourneys), so maybe I am not the expert. But I was fairly impressed at the amount of non-fouling by the top teams we played. As someone who often gets "bodied" when I am on offense, I felt this nationals was more clean then any others previous.

Jam - the game was not close so maybe they did not feel they had to.

Pike - All in all, this was a tight game, with no real foul problems or calls. I have mentioned previously that there were some less than great bids, but never did I think they were trying to bend the rules in order to beat us. For a 15-13 game with the winner moving up, this was as clean of a game as I could have asked for.

Bravo - the first half of our game was sloppy, but clean. In the 2nd half, they definitely stepped up the intensity. I did not feel like I was getting hacked more or bumped more. But you could tell they were in our shorts more. I probably did not have as much breathing room, but I do not feel they were playing illegal.

Furious - same goes as for the Bravo game, they stepped up their intensity throughout the game, but did not feel like they were cheating. Only on the last score of the game for us did I feel like I was being fouled on purpose. I touched the disc a lot, broke the mark some and threw some hucks, all without cheaters crushing me (maybe their strategy was to NOT foul me). 16-15 game in the quarters and I can't say I felt like they took advantage of the rules to win. They won b/c they were the better frisbee team for the whole game. If I were to complain about furious, it would be them trying to guilt us out of calls. But I at times try to do the same thing, so I can not complain. Although I will point that Furious did request observers ~12s, so maybe they had a problem with our calls and felt we were still close b/c of our calls

I must say I was rather impressed by this and felt very good the whole weekend about my team's play and calls were solid as well as our opponent's play and calls. I feel this is much different from my nationals and worlds experience of 02 where I felt certain teams abused rules to their advantage. But I will not comment anymore.

With that said, I saw NO other games all weekend, so maybe every cheated then.

Philburkhardt said...

Back to the issue of fan favorite, I think one key component you missed is fans like a player that plays big. If you're invisible on the field, nobody cares if you're nice, spirited and happy.

As far as hacking on the mark. It is blatant cheating. I think it is unfortunate that the current rules eliminate the ability to get a free throw out of it (which used to serve as the penalty), making it a sound defensive strategy.

parinella said...

By "invisible", I take it that you mean someone who adds a lot of value but doesn't do it in a flashy manner as compared to a Mr. Excitement big goals and big turnovers.

For fun I played with a stat I labeled Excitement Ratio, the % of touches that result in a goal or turnover. It didn't add anything to an understanding of the game, but really could highlight the fan favorites.

Justin R said...

Re: Hacking. I think the problem is with the 1 disc space rule.

The disc space is so much smaller than change in distance due to normal pivoting it makes some contact inevitable and distinction between contact initiated by the defender and thrower difficult to distinguish.

It would be interesting to see a tournament/game played with greater marker separation (say 1 meter). Many of the tricks used to break mark against a tight marker won't work as well.

You won't see nearly as many handblocks, and if it made offense too easy you could always drop the stall to 7 or 8.

Anonymous said...

I'll play devils advocate, and do so without even saying anything that i don't believe. If an aggressive mark is defined as one that doesn't give up his/her positition to a thrower or attempts to get point blocks, then naturally this is going to lead to a lot of fouls on the mark. Particularly when the thrower is trying throw break-force or to huck on an established mark. The issue is whether the foul is "intentional" or not. If you're make a legitimate attempt at getting a clean block, then i'd say it is not intentional, even if there's a high likelyhood that you're going to foul the thrower (like, say, on a steparound backhand). As long as there's a legitimate attempt at getting a clean block, i'd even say that it's a "good foul", as in not unspirited and a reasonable risk strategically.

On the other hand, people that use loopholes in the rules by bumping early in the count or fouling hard to stop flow are cheating bastards.

parinella said...

That's true, but it doesn't seem that most aggressive marks fit that description. Contact on the body and on the arm well away from the hand are probably signs of illegitimate attempts, whereas hand contact is probably legitimate. (Body contact can be, too, but only in the case where the defender is just a little late in resetting his position (and he may even be there first but still too late to avoid contact).)

The other part of this is that if you have 5 "legitimate" fouls in a row, then you're probably not actually marking legitimately. Marking fouls should be safe, legal, and rare.

On a side note, did anyone notice that DoG tied for next-to-last in the Spirit rankings with the Condors, ahead of only Sockeye (and that's before their heckling incident)?

Barrett said...

Jim, where are the spirit rankings online?

Anonymous said...

I came from a college team that said "Good Mark" a lot. In my experiences, these were not cries of encouragement from a coach or teammates to continue to foul but were as the above anonymous said motions to be in the way of a break mark throw. When someone yells good mark, it doesnt mean you are doing exactly the right thing but more that you are in the right place and being active, both good things.

These fouls are not intentional, and are, i think a direct result of offensive players who have been taught to throw "through" or into the marker and call a foul. Dirty offense is dirty ultimate too.

and as a side note, its about time we clarified this:

Etymology 1
Latin non, Old Latin noenu, noenum, from neoenum, literally, not one. See none in non-contact sport being a sport where there is literally no contact. Tennis would be an excellent example of a non-contact sport. I think when people are introduced to Ultimate and then hear non-contact and a lot of them think "thats stupid." and unless i'm poorly informed it would be pretty poor spirit to call a foul any time anyone made any contact regardless of intent, position, etc. again, i think the intentions of the rules are good but the wording is misleading in regards to the very nature of the sport.

Finally: If you can't or just dont throw a good long shot without picking up your foot, but it is clearly a violation of the rules, how could the onus possibly not be on you to maintain your balance on the throw as the rules of ultimate require that you do (at least to the point where you maintain contact between your pivot and the ground. It isnt difficult.
Imagine a pitcher in baseball who was identical to tim wakefield except that he couldnt throw a knuckle ball with his foot on the rubber. How many balks would he have to commit before someone said 'uhh, your not doing it right.'?

I really dont mean to be pedantic, its a pretty easy rule to follow and not exactly an unjustified one.

parinella said...

You're a little late to the party, dk, but ok.

As for non-contact, the rules explicitly state that incidental contact is not grounds for a foul, even if the ideal is still non-contact. So this gives you a guideline on how important it is for you to avoid contact, saying that as long as it's not intentional and it doesn't affect the play, it's tolerable.

From my perspective the dirty offense is not as common as the dirty defense, although it does exist. The rule that any throw that occurs _after_ the foul is a turnover has created a negative incentive for this practice, while unfortunately no similar negative incentive exists for the defense. The incentive created is "either don't foul at all or make the foul so bad that the offense can't get a throw off or foul at a time where the offense gains nothing by calling it."