Monday, May 30, 2005

Happy Memorial Day

Just a quick thank you to all the troops who have fought in the name of the United States. We all benefit from your dedication and sacrifice.

Friday, May 27, 2005

more on decision making

Again, taken from "Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions" by Gary Klein.

(Aside: those Sox just got thrown out twice at home plate, and now Cano just hit a two-run homer to tie it. Grrrr.)

In our last episode, we said that "Recognition-Primed Decisions" (RPD) rely on expertise and experience to make good decisions by considering options in order, taking the first acceptable one that comes to mind. This is called "satisficing", as opposed to "optimizing."
Here are some applications of this theory:

  1. Be skeptical of shortcuts to effective decision-making
  2. Analytical methods may by helpful for inexperienced people
  3. Consider which decisions are worth making (in a zone of indifference, don't kill yourself deciding between two nearly-equal options)
  4. Do not teach the RPD model, since it just shows what experienced decision makers already do.
  5. Improve decision skills. Teaching people to think like experts may be too difficult, but try to teach people to learn like experts. More on this below.
  6. Use decision requirements for designing software systems. Ok, not much use for ultimate, but this is vaguely work-related, so I'm keeping it in.

Here is how experts learn.
  1. They engage in deliberate practice, so that each opportunity for practice has a goal and evaluation criteria.
  2. They compile an extensive experience bank.
  3. They obtain feedback that is accurate, diagnostic, and reasonably timely.
  4. They enrich their experiences by reviewing prior experiences to derive new insights and lessons from mistakes.

(6-3, Yankees, after Sheffield's three-run homer. No outs still. Maybe I should stop typing so they stop scoring.)
So, I think this is just what we were talking about the other day. You fast-track by going out of your way to analyze your performances soon after they happen, or else you just end up with one year of experience, 10 times. And it's not enough just to count successes or failures, but you have to assess the thought processes and the contingencies.


I'm often confused when some young player is heralded as having a lot of "talent." What, he plays the piano? Sings? Can perform complex integrations in his head? Or is it just that he's fast and can throw it really far?

Good coaches can identify talent. But the great coaches have a different idea of what talent is. They identify talent as knowing what to do against a poach, how to fill, and how to figure out what cut an opponent wants.

So perhaps instead of looking at a field of recruits for the guy who makes the spectactular plays, figuring that your incredibly smart team can teach him how to play, why not look instead for the guy who is already making the smart plays, figuring you can teach him how he can improve himself?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

dog ages

Here's a graphic showing how old DoG has been through its history. It's ordered by present age. Gray cells are 33+, and yellow cells are 25-, as of some point in the season.

For me, it's interesting how many guys younger than I am have retired.

If you want to play "Survivor", here's who left the island (that had been on since the first episode) each year
1995: Seeger, Jethro, Dennis, Joel, Mike, Scott
1996: John Bar, Gary
1997: Justin
1998: no one
1999: Cork, Bob
2000: Lenny, Bickford (leaving with perfect 46-0 records with DoG at Nationals)
2001: Mooney, Coop
2002: Jordan
2003: no one
2004: no one (leaving Billy, Alex, and me left)

Here is the same information sorted kinda by seniority:

Which do you like better? Which conveys the flow of the team better?

And here's one that shows the +/- 1 sigma ages as well as the max and min.
A box and whiskers plot might be better, but I think I need an add-on in Excel to do that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I'm reading a book titled "Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions." The author states that his research has shown him that experts usually make decisions using something called "singular evaluation" rather than "comparative evaluation." Instead of making a list of options, detailing pluses and minuses of each approach before choosing the best, they simply consider the first good thing that comes to their minds and decide yes or no, moving on to the next thing if they reject the first idea.

This is apparently groundbreaking. The author spent years interviewing firefighters, soldiers, chess masters, to come up with this idea. In the first three pages, I said, "This is just sports." He could have interviewed a point guard, or an ultimate player, or a quarterback. These players are faced with rapidly changing situations with imperfect knowledge, as part of a team.

So, the way this might be helpful to ultimate players is that you aren't going to be able to tell someone to look at the field and consider three options and take the best one. The way that experts do it is to look at the "right" spot and decide whether to throw it or not, then move to the next best probable option. They know from experience what will work and what won't. So, maybe the best way to teach it is to tell them to just go ahead and make the first throw they think of, then make a conscious effort after the fact to evaluate the decision. You can't do it in real time, but this feedback is necessary to develop the sense of right and wrong.

Is it possible to fast-track someone? If you forced a player to sit down after each game and evaluate his decisions, would he be able to figure it out sooner?
Huck 1: Got the disc on the forehand side on a swing. Looked up and saw X already about 20 yards away and cutting deep. Made a great throw that barely got there. Should have been looking for it right away, and since I wasn't, should have held onto the disc before he was too far away.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

How did I do?

My team didn't do so hot, as we gave those Chuck Wagon kids the thrill of a lifetime in pool play, and bolstered Twisted Metal's confidence immensely. Oy. But enough about them. How did I do? Did I meet my goals?

1. Beat DoG #1. No, although we didn't play them, although I'm reasonably confident that we would have lost if we had.
2. Don't get hurt. Check, although my leg started knotting up on the ride home since my wife wanted to get home before the boy woke up so we left right after the game and didn't stop. It's ok now, thanks. I was asked this weekend how I've been able to avoid injuries. I said that it was good genes and knowing when not to push it. But I should have also added that I generally got in shape by playing sports. Weight training is good, and I should have done more of it, but it can lead to unbalanced bodies, and maybe it is done at the expense of playing and getting in shape and developing your sports mind. And I played a lot of ultimate. There's nothing like 100 good cuts in a weekend to get you in shape.
3. Show some heart. Some, yes. I didn't rally the troops, and I could have played harder, but I was trying and didn't give in and even played a hell point hard all the way through.
4. Work hard on defense at least 3 or 4 times. Yes and no. I generally tried to play hard almost all the time this weekend, but my mind and legs were often far enough behind that I turnstiled a lot. There were a couple points in the semis loss that I thought I was going to get a block or force a throwaway.
5. Make good choices. Mostly, although I buried my face in my hands after one (which came back on a contested strip of foul). I caught a swing pass and was expecting a continuation, but got a 30 yard cut straight to the sideline in the endzone, and I threw a curving forehand there that hung long enough to draw a play. I don't remember cringing at any others.
6. Look on the bright side. Not too good, but that was never my strong point, either. But it generally took the form of saying "Why?!!!" on the sideline when something didn't go as I thought it should have.

Props to the guy who didn't contest a marking foul when he knocked me over. Earlier, he hit my hand and arm hard enough on a high count breakmark dump that I couldn't even get the throw off, and he contested.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Goals for the weekend

I'm playing in the White Mountain Open this weekend with DoG #2, apparently (just a number, I'm assured).

Goals for the weekend:
1. Beat DoG #1 (or "Death or Glory" as they're calling themselves, the arrogant pricks).
2. Don't get hurt.
3. Show some heart.
4. Work hard on defense at least 3 or 4 times.
5. Make good choices.
6. Look on the bright side.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What I've been reading

Or listening to on my way to work. Most of my "reading" these days is done while driving. A good reading can add a lot to the book, I think, as it makes the story come alive more, but a bad reading can make you really hate some of the characters.

Recently finished:
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, a year in the life of a soccer team of a small village in Italy's B league. Fascinating look at the players and the travails of a not quite good enough team competing where it didn't belong. Almost a feel-good story, but a bitter end to the true story.
Revenge, A Story of Hope.A woman whose father was shot (but not killed) by a random Palestinian terrorist while vacationing in Jerusalem plots revenge on the guy and his family. She ends up making friends with the family. Interesting, not compelling.
Yogi Berra's favorite baseball radio shows, oslt. Some radio shows from the 1940s featuring baseball players. I mention this only for tangential reasons. One, I think Abbott and Costello are partly responsible for my sense of humor, which relies way too much on the pun. I used to watch old A&C movies when I was 10 or 12. Two, the ads were part of the show and some of the ads were for cigarettes ("TMFLS--Tobacco Men Favor Lucky Strikes", "Camel works on your T-zone: That's T for Taste and T for Throat", you had to smoke whatever you could get during the war and that should have made you appreciate Camels even more). Three, the guest stars were not like they are on Letterman or Leno, but would take part in routines where they played themselves, often badly. Four, the jokes were corny.

"My Losing Season", by Pat Conroy, author of The Great Santini, Prince of Tides, and others. Conroy recounts his senior year as the point guard on the 8-17 1963 Citadel basketball team. The author's father was a sadistic Marine, his coach just tore down his players anytime they did something good, and The Citadel itself tore down its cadets. Fascinating look at an undertalented misfit struggling to get past the abuse of all the authority figures in his life and figure out who he is. I was in love with this book about halfway through, then I read a couple well-written negative reviews of it and it ruined it for me. I suddenly saw the author's flaws and inconsistencies and it just wasn't the same.

The politics of glory: how baseball's Hall of Fame really works, by Bill James. I'm on the ultimate Hall of Fame Committee and was looking to one of my favorite authors for ideas. I would like to help set up the process so that errors are infrequent and don't get compounded. For instance, we'll make it clear to voters that you don't use the lowest common denominator argument (X is a better player than Y, and Y is in the Hall, so X belongs in the Hall), because that leads to an inevitable decline in standards.

An American story: the odyssey of Solomon Northup. True story about a free black man who was kidnapped in 1839 and held as a slave for 12 years.

Monday, May 16, 2005

the new year

Well, I guess I'm going to try to play again this year, unless those heartless bastards decide my contract is too expensive or if it turns out that I'm going to suck and embarrass myself.

We scrimmaged Brown U yesterday and beat them. I did well enough for this time of year. My legs were probably taxed more than my lungs, although the game moved so quickly that neither ever became much of an issue. I think I'm a little ahead of where I was last year, and feel better than I thought I would after another winter of relative inactivity.
All through last season, I was pretty convinced that I was done with competitive ultimate, because it was just so taxing mentally and physically, and I was still (after five years of not winning Nationals) having troubles adjusting to the idea that some of the time, my team could play well and still lose. Then you throw in that the faces on the team have changed so much over the years, and even the "new guys" have retired or moved on to other places. (We had some tryouts playing with us yesterday, and I called for a continuation pass from one of them by saying, "Hey, you", which is better than what I did once two years ago, saying, "Here, new kid!")

And I'd never seriously considered retirement before, unlike say Billy, who seems to have been on the verge of hanging them up since 1994, or Seeger, who has come and gone so many times that I wouldn't be surprised to see him at practice in October this year.

But then you get away from the year a little bit, and it doesn't seem so bad. You forget about how long it takes to recover from a hard workout, or that you lost a lot of games, or that you're not as fast as you once were. But that's how life works. If something is worth attaining, then you have to be willing to put up with the 80% of the time that the road there sucks.

So, I'm in, I suppose. I'm not sure what it would take to convince me that I couldn't cut it, and I'm not even sure what level of play I need to have to make it worthwhile. But right now I think that with a lot of work and practice that it will all work out.

I will need to work on my flexibility, game-play, conditioning, and strength. It may seem odd that despite a couple thousands games that I could get rusty, but without a lot of play, it takes me an extra second to recognize the situation. I feel that one of my greatest strengths as a cutter is knowing what to do before anyone else does (specifically, knowing when I can just turn and run to a spot and be open), so I need to be at the top of my mental game to exploit this.

Friday, May 13, 2005

O Canada

First, let me digress by complaining that the guy who started this thread (again) on rsd couldn't even spell a one-letter word correctly. (And while I'm at it, it just turns my skin every time I see someone write "loose" for "lose", "prolly" for "probably", and "Natties" for "Nationals". (Ok, I should probably respect the UPA and call it "UPA Championships", or simply "UPAs" like the Canadians do (actually, they usually write "UPA's", but the correct plural is UPAs). But old habits die hard.))

Should Canadian teams be allowed to attend UPAs?
There are selfish and altruistic motives for and against the idea.
Better teams = better series
More money for the UPA
It's a natural alliance. US teams play Canadian teams all the time in the regular season (more than they play against teams not in their region).
The top Canadian teams might disband

There ought to be a US championship. I now give this one a little bit of weight.
My team might not advance as far in the series. Tough luck, although I do feel a bit of sympathy for the teams whose goal is simply to make UPAs or Regionals and get bumped by a Canadian team.
There is no proven "best US team". It was unfortunate but necessary to send the Condors to Worlds last year because they had the fortune of losing to Furious in the finals rather than in the semis.
They don't let us play in CUPAs. Who cares?

I would actually go further and emulate the US Open (golf) model. The US Open is open to all players in the world (with a 1.4 handicap or better, but I wouldn't put in a handicap requirement here, although you could use RRI), but it's easier logistically for US players to qualify. There are two or three layers of qualifying events, and certain players are exempt into one of the higher layers or the championship itself. Players can enter any local qualifier they want, although most choose the one closest to home. Foreign players are welcome, but they need to attend those local qualifiers, which are in the US.

So here's my plan for ultimate:
0. Keep the Sectionals/Regionals/UPAs series of qualifiers.
1. UPAs Semifinalists are exempt into UPAs the next year.
2. All other UPAs qualifiers are exempt into the Regionals they qualified from. If they want to play in a different Region, they have to attend Sectionals.
3. Teams can compete in any Sectionals they want, but then have to play in that Regionals as well. All Sectionals must be held in the US (except for #5 below).
4. The UPA can give more bids to stronger Regions. Give 4 to the NW and 2 to the SW, say. It would make a NW team on the bubble think twice before heading south for the easier pickings, but would allow them to do so.
5. Consider making Asia and Europe regions that get 1 or 2 bids to UPAs.
6. Get rid of all residency requirements.
Individuals may only compete with one team in the series. An exempt team must have at least half of the previous year's roster to keep their exemption.

As an aside, although it was a member referendum that put the Canadians in the series, the UPA Board has it within their power to kick them out or to put out a new referendum.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Trends for the next 10 years

And here's where I expect things to change most over the next ten years.
  • Coaching
  • Teaching
  • Stats
  • Youth
  • Mixed reaches a plateau
  • Mainstream
  • Some split (elite/not or US/world) or maybe some major consolidation (UPA sucking in all the clubs)

Coaching. This movement is already well in gear. An increasing number of colleges have coaches, so much that virtually every team that hopes to make Nationals has one. However, the number of coaches in the club game is small, and the college coaches are generally active club players who are passively recruiting for their club teams or else they're jonesing for the college kids. I predict that there will be more retired players as coaches, that more club teams will have coaches, and that possibly cities will have coaching staffs that work with players at all levels in a more formal farm system arrangement.
Teaching. Part of coaching is teaching, but by this, I mean that there will be more individual instruction, and that it will exist at the elite level. Hell, Tiger Woods has a swing doctor. Ultimate will see the rise of instructors who will be able to work with all levels of players to work on the mechanics of throwing, cutting, or defending. Golfers, batters, and pitchers do it, why shouldn't we?
Stats. Ultimate will begin keeping track of individual and team stats in large numbers, and there will be a central repository to record these for history. It's already begun with the Score Reporter, but in 10 years you'll be able to get a list of the 10 players who have scored the most goals in the current college season.
Youth.This movement started when I was on the Board, although I didn't really have anything to do with it, and may have even opposed devoting a lot of resources to it since there were so few of them out there (I remember voting to allocate $50K of other people's money to a dependent constituency even though there wasn't any plan on how to spend it and saying, "Now I know how a Democrat feels"). In 10 years, there will be more high schoolers playing ultimate than there are club players.
Mixed reaches a plateau. The quality of play in the Mixed Division has been steadily improving the last few years, but it will peak at, say, 60-65% of the level of Open/Women's. It may continue to grow in size, but a maximum of 20% of the top players will be playing Mixed (current estimate: 2-4%).
Mainstream. 10 years ago, if you called Joe Corporate to ask for minor sponsorship, he'd say, "Ultimate frisbee? Never heard of it. Get the hell out of my office." Now, he'd say, "Ultimate? Yeah, the kid down the street plays on the high school team. Nice game....Now get the hell out of my office." Leagues will have a much easier time competing with soccer and softball for fields, kids won't have to hide it from their parents, and 50% of Americans will know the game well enough to know not to ask about dogs.
Some split (elite/not or US/world) or maybe some major consolidation (UPA sucking in all the clubs). The UPA will continue to grow in size and importance, but this might cause a splinter. The UPA does offer a lot and it's responsive to requests, but the fact is that the members are a captive audience. If a highly-motivated, highly-organized, and highly-funded innovator came along to offer a pro league, I think players might jump. Yes, there is much more loyalty to the UPA than there used to be, but players will vote with their cleats and go where the action is.
The UPA is conscientious about trying to give value to each of its constituencies, and to expand those constituencies. Youth, Colleges, local leagues: each of these could become the dominant force under the UPA umbrella, just as the fall club series had been the major player for the first 25 years. Will some group decide that they're better off on their own? Or will the UPA even decide that WFDF doesn't represent the UPA's interests any more than the UN represents the US' interests, and tell them, "Thanks, we're all set." I don't know what, but something's a-brewing.

Monday, May 09, 2005

trends that didn't happen

Ten years ago, an observer might have looked at ultimate and seen a few areas that were about to explode. Among them:
  • Masters
  • Sponsorship
  • Officiating

But they didn't.
Masters. In 1994, the US Tampico team from the Bay Area was the only team to beat Double Happiness all year prior to the Nationals finals (although rumor has it that Double was drinking during Sectionals), and looked pretty damn good, and had some pretty good stats. Masters age was only 31 at the time, I think, and it looked for all the world that a real division would develop. A couple years later, the UPA thankfully killed the Women's Masters division (fewer than 10 teams participated in the series, and the winning team one year was an older club team that got knocked out at their Women's Regionals but got recruited by the UPA for Nationals because there were no teams in the Region). Now, it's just a callfest. Sure, they play hard, especially when there's something at stake, but the fact that there is just one token Masters tournament outside of the UPA series (Masters Easterns in Boston) says to me that there is no real division. In what could have been the ruin of my reputation, the Board nearly passed a proposal authorizing a UPA Grand Masters Division. (Oh, there is a GM tournament of sorts in the Hamptons in the spring.) Perhaps the presence of Mixed as a B division has sapped the energy from Masters.
Sponsorship. Cuervo spent $100K from 1991-1993 to sponsor a series, then decided (or the UPA decided) that it wasn't going to work out. Jockey kicked in $50K in 1999. Nortel spent $25K on some college tournaments around that time. Heck, goign back to the early 80s, Crown Royal sponsored some tournaments, and in 1986, Wham-O did a series of Hacky Sack/Frisbee Festivals all over the country. One might have expected that by now, there'd be Ultimate at least on ESPN2. I do like the job that CSTV has done with the college tournaments, though. (The UPA and ultimate probably couldn't have handled big sponsorship 10 years ago, though, but now we're in good position to take advantage.)
Officiating. The Certified Observer Pool formed around 1990. In 1995, a Red Card/Yellow card system was put into place after some bad events at Mid-Atlantic Regionals. But now, there is still little observing going on in the club game, and what there is is of dubious quality. To be sure, the College game is a whole 'nother matter, but not in club. Despite an occasional reffed game, the NUA never caught on, and most of ultimate, even elite ultimate, gets by just fine without observers, most of the time. And the rest of the world is even more anti-observer.

hot topics

Friday's post is drawing a lot of comments, so I'm going to hold off on publishing the next installment in "trends" to give it some more time. Alex practically ruined his thread on Coed by posting too quickly and confusing his limited readership.

And ignore the Read More! below, since I don't know how to get rid of it.

As a teaser, here are three trends that didn't happen: Masters, Sponsorship, Officiating.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Trends in ultimate the last ten years

I've been playing this game since 1983, and it's been good to me. I've seen a lot of changes, but because of my own changing place in the game, I'm not sure whether the changes are Lagrangian or Eulerian (does anyone understand what I mean? Surely there are some mechanical engineers or physicists out there.).

Here are the top trends that I've noticed:
  1. The spread of strategy
  2. The spread of training
  3. The explosion of College
  4. The shift to Coed
  5. The change in the season
  6. The professionalization of ultimate
  7. The more things change, the more they stay the same

The spread of strategy. Everyone has it now, so that you have summer league teams or beginning college teams playing junk defenses and spread offenses. They might be using technology that's five or ten years old, but they've implemented some form of it. Probably the rule of thumb is that a team's playbook is 2-3 years behind the playbook of a team at the next higher level (let's call that a generation). Going back about 10 generations, the original "Fundamentals of Ultimate" did not mention the concept of a stack or a force (other than an implied straight-up).
Along these lines, I'm going to put some blame on Godiva for holding back women's ultimate, which should be better than it is. Their 1980s style offense and conservative defenses do nothing to further the game, and other teams that try to copy them don't improve the game at all.
The spread of training. It's the same deal. Everyone is doing plyos and track workouts now, whereas only some of the top teams did them fifteen years ago. In this case, the middle levels might actually be caught up to the top levels in the frequency and relative intensity of the workouts, but the top levels have better athletes and players.
The explosion of College. For several years now, a majority of UPA members pay college dues. And, as much as I hate to say it, Mike G is probably right about college being more exciting than Club (although I think he uses the word "better", which is clearly wrong). The games move a lot more quickly, there's less certainty in who is going to win (compare the year-to-year turnover in nationals qualifiers in college vs club), and the newness of it for the players makes it seem fresh. And with the next-10-years trend of youth ultimate exploding, college play will only get better. Not to be forgotten is the explosion in coaching, which I am categorizing as a trend for the next ten years (future post).
The shift to Coed and the change in the season. These are tied together. It used to be that there were a lot of semi-serious or recreational tournaments in the spring and summer for men's and women's club teams. These tournaments have either changed to coed or else been replaced by new coed tournaments. At one time, Fools was a high-level tournament with a few reunion teams, then the theme teams started creeping in, until in 2005 an aptly-named ShortFatGuys almost takes the crown. Poultry Days is now unofficially coed. All summer leagues are coed. The season is different, too, at least in the East. Teams used to go to tournaments beginning in April and continue straight through until Nationals in November. Now the season is shorter and there are more practice-only weekends. Maybe this is part of the graying of ultimate, and older players who have been doing the scene for 10 or 20 years are less willing to commit their teams to five straight weeks of travel.
The professionalization of ultimate. The UPA has five or six full-time staff and does a lot of things online. Tournaments start on time, have lined fields, programs, and food and water. Uniforms match, are made of high-tech fabrics, have numbers, and look good. Players aren't hippies, are serious little whiners (yeah, I'm looking at you), and buy extremely well-written, informative books on Ultimate Techniques and Tactics. There's the Score-O-Matic, Tournament Reporting Tool and ranking systems, formats manuals, etc.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. I don't think someone from 30 years ago would have a hard time recognizing the game or following the action. He might be confused as hell if he listened in on the line ("Al pull, Nathan hitch, play is Jim to Forch, yous are fills, clam for 3 to flick on the turn, running 'Chainsaw' off a stoppage"), but he would recognize the flow and all the action. The biggest change would probably be in the non-play related things covered in "professionalization" above. Or possibly in the inability to score some weed.

the blogging circle

Alex is talking about Coed on his blog, while Idris is talking about matchups on his blog. Both are pretty interesting, so until I can get something out later today, I'm recommending that you visit there.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mixed up about Coed

Well, this fair play thing seems to have run its course. Alex has an interesting thread going on his blog, so today's entry is a comment of mine on his site. National Mixed Director George Cooke has chimed in there with some pretty strong comments, too. It's worth taking a gander.

Anyway, here's what I wrote:I will also generalize by saying the Open and Women players prefer that their two divisions be kept together, they don't care one way or the other about Masters, and they'd prefer that Mixed be separate or subordinated.

I really don't think there is much debate about the quality of an Open/Women's Nationals-level player compared to a Mixed Nationals-level player. The composition of both World Games teams (all single-sex players) attests to this. (This isn't to say that every Open player is better than every Mixed player, blah blah.) And the true Mixed teams generally don't do that great at those summer Mixed tournaments that are open to all.

It's a thorny issue, no doubt. The UPA must serve the needs of its members, or those members will leave. The Mixed series is a big benefit to a lot of people. If we were to go to an alternate universe where the UPA never set up a Mixed series, I really don't know what ultimate would look like. In the Ultimate History book, Joey Gray claims that had she set up a separate organization for Mixed, it would have been bigger than the UPA within three years. I think this is a gross exaggeration, but it's worthwhile to consider where these people came from and what they would be doing without a Mixed series.

(You can't just assume that everyone who plays Mixed now is playing because of the Mixed series, or that most UPA growth is due to Mixed. College play (which is decidedly single-sex) has been booming the last few years, with more than half of the UPA members paying College dues. There has also been a great improvement in catching scammers who played but didn't pay.)

Should all Divisions get equal billing? Should Masters be expanded to 16 teams and be given a Sunday finals? Would it bother you if your division's final was held at the same time as another final? Do you feel that it's important for your division to be held at the same site as another division? What if they don't feel the same way about you?

What's best for the UPA? The UPA represents the players, so they almost have to treat Mixed as a full and equal division, even if they know that the quality of play isn't as high as in single-sex play. But it's tricky because the UPA also represents the sport, and that means that they have to present the game at its best to the outside world. As George and Henry said, it's open to debate what this means, whether it's marketing how well we all can get along, or whether we show our best players.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Someone from was just the 1000th official visitor to this blog, narrowly beating out someone from,, and 12.104.27.#. Thanks for your support.

The Crowd

Sorry folks, someone must have taken over my keyboard yesterday. Now, where was I?

Oh, yes, the crowd. Joe Seidler came up with a "Spirit of the Sideline" which you can see on the UPA's web site. It says: "The ultimate sideline stresses encouragement and support. Cheering is encourage, but never at the expense of respect for all players and fans."

Now, think about any crowd you've been part of at an ultimate game. Is there the least bit of respect shown for any call, contested or not? The crowd automatically boos any call where there is the least bit of doubt. As someone who plays in front of crowds a couple times a year, I find this appalling.

(I think this is true only when there is a critical mass of spectators, enough so that an individual booer is anonymous. With smaller crowds, the individuals behave much more respectfully. They will still voice their opinion, but matter-of-factly. For instance, a player hanging out between games may point out of bounds on a close call, or comment on the merits of a foul call in a speaking voice.)

The worst example of this was at Worlds in Heilbronn in 2000, where we beat the Swedes 19-18. There was a foul call at double game point, and the Swedish defender incited the crowd with his unacceptable display of disbelief, then egged them on more post-game. But the crowd had no idea what the correct call was. I was standing five yards away, having thrown the pass, but I have no idea either. They booed the call immediately, they booed during the discussion, they booed in the aftermath, and they booed even louder when we were announced as the runner-up in the Spirit voting. They completely ruined the experience. I gave the post-game speech that day, and some who heard it probably thought that the reason I was so gloomy was because I felt that we won by cheating. Nothing could have been further from the truth, which was that I felt that the crowd and the Swede had stolen our rightfully-earned championship by their antics.

The crowd at Worlds in St. Andrews in 1999, in contrast, behaved much better. While it is probably true that they rooted for the other team mostly, presumably because they were the underdog having been seeded 28th or so, they did so respectfully, and gave both teams applause.

What can you do about this? Treat the players like you would if you were on the field yourself. These aren't professional athletes being paid millions. They are your peers, guys you see every tournament and who you might match up against soon. Be above the mob.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Daily Curmudgeon

Thinking about it, I realized that I'm as bad as the media in focusing on what's wrong with ultimate, rather than what's right. So, in a continuing effort to be fair and balanced, I present you with some good news.

I grew up in Pittsburgh, and began playing ultimate there in 1983 as a high school senior. My first tournament ever was as an illegal ringer for Allderdice in some national high school tournament on the Mall in DC. A six-team summer league formed that summer and was the biggest draw that got me hooked into the game.

This year, there are 18 teams in the Pittsburgh High School league (PHUL). And from what I understand, the kids themselves do most of the organizing for it. They recently decided to host a hat tournament even. Say what you will about hat tournaments, but the fact that these kids love ultimate so much that they're willing to play turnover-laden ultimate with a bunch of kids they don't know is awesome.