Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nationals Q&A

Any questions? I'll blog in more detail in a few days, but if you have questions, fire away.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Once more unto the breach

1989. 2006. Missed 1991, as we made some mistakes and lost out to Graffiti. This is my 17th Nationals, and about the 12th or 13th where I went in somewhat planning to win the title. And last. If you don't count Masters.

Last practice of the season was today, possibly ever. After, we hung around and made fun of ourselves and joked and had a good time. I couldn't run down one long pass because my hamstrings were sore from 58 sprints on Tuesday's workouts. "If I were 39," I said, but I could still have had it at 41, or not had it at 39, depending on how I felt. That's a problem not frequently mentioned with age, that every day is not the same. You hear old people talk about some days being better than others, but it's true. Some days I feel 39, or 35, or 30, or 25, or whatever, if only for the times I'm playing. Recovery is always a problem, but the doing, well, that goes well sometimes. Luckily, I know more than any of you about how to get open, and I'm lucky genetically that I haven't fallen off the cliff yet due to advancing years, although I can see the cliff just in front of me (actually, it's been a gradual downslope mostly, too subtle to recognize while you're on it but when you're at the end, you say, "Huh"). I still have to make adjustments in my head as to what I can handle over the course of a weekend, but let's hope I can do it.

Once more. 17 years ago, attending my first Nationals, I was really just happy to be there, and had no idea what to expect from future years. Since then, I've had some good years, and some disappointing years, and while you'd think I might know what to expect, still it's a surprise when it happens. Others speak more eloquently about it, but seeing the dew-laden fields first thing on Thursday is chilling. So much ahead of you, so much having happened over the past few months and years, you hate the guys you've been playing against and now they're your teammates again, and the RRIs and seedings and blog entries are no longer just fun hypotheticals but they're people in different colored shirts who just want to kick your ass (possibly a little extra because you called them out). I can still do it, I tell myself, and yes, sometimes I still do it. The disc doesn't care if you're 41 or 21, and neither do I.

I'll still kick your ass, kid.

And good luck.

Monday, October 16, 2006

ranking algorithm

Here are the results, along with the official seed and this year's RRI:
Rank Team PMR Seed RRI
1 Sockeye 3009 2 2838
2 Furious 2997 1 2774
3 DoG 2870 3 2728
4 Bravo 2803 5 2722
5 Ring 2750 4 2731
6 SubZero 2737 7 2687
7 Revlvr 2728 6 2710
8 Chain 2719 10 2670
9 Rhino 2704 8 2690
10 Condors 2674 9 2665
11 Vicious 2673 11 2715
12 Metal 2634 12 2591
13 Machine 2608 14 2599
14 BAT 2577 13 2554
15 TrkStop 2556 15 2565
16 Monster 2365 16 2373

Here's how:

1. Enter in the tournament RRI for every team. Give a 40 point bonus for winning. Give a 20 point bonus for finishing 2nd. (Possible enhancements: make additional changes (5 or 10 points) for each win or loss in the tournament. I think RRI underweights wins, since it relies on point differential to make accurate predictions.)
2. Assign a weight to each tournament, since some are more important than others. I gave a weight of 2 to the major tournaments held in July or later (Colorado Cup, ECC, Chesapeake, Labor Day, Tuneup, each Regionals), a weight of 1 to lesser tournaments later on (including Sectionals) and major tournamentes earlier (Boston Invite, Solstice, Live Logic), and a weight of 0.5 to the lesser early tournaments. (Enhancements: tweak the weights further).
3. Take a weighted average for each team. If a team has fewer than 8 weight points, add tournaments with the RRI of a low-level Nationals team. For instance, a team has only Regionals (2 points), Sectionals (1 point), and one lesser tournament (1 point) for an average RRI of 2700. Add 4 tournaments worth of 2500 RRI for a modified RRI of 2600. This is to encourage play, make sure one fluke performance doesn't put someone too high, whatever.
4. Add points for last year's Nationals. I chose 200 points for the winner, 150 for 2nd, 100 for the semifinalists, 50 for quarters, 25 for 9-16. I decided to give partial credit to teams who didn't make it but whose regional equivalent did well. For the first iteration, the only team affected was Revolver, getting 25% credit for Jam's semis appearance. I didn't do anything to any of the Mid-Atlantic teams, though, which might not be right. (Enhancement: finer gradations; incorporate entire season.)

Comparison to my previous ranking:
Subzero down 3 to 7th
Ring up 2 to 5th
Chain up 2 to 8th
Machine up 2 to 13th
Others within 1

I can live with either, or the official.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nationals seeding, by parinella

Here are the correct seedings, along with an explanation of allowable deviations from those seedings. Mentally, I start off with last year’s results and adjust based on this year. However, I really think you’d get about the same result if you started with this year’s and adjusted based on last year. There is a remarkable consistency from year to year.

First, I put the teams into groups. Deviations are allowable within a group but not between groups.

Ring, Bravo, Subzero, Revolver
Condors, Rhino, Chain
Metal, BAT
Machine, Truck Stop

Sockeye really should be first, which I found to be a big surprise to me since I weight a championship last year so highly, but they beat Furious 4-1 this year, three of those wins coming in August/September. But Furious won the Region, so there. And the two teams met in the finals of the two best tournaments and finished 1-2 last year.

At first I was going to group DoG with the teams below before putting us 3rd, but the body of work coupled with a semis appearance last year is too much. The lowlight of the season (DoG's only non-victory, in fact) was ECC, but Condors and Rhino finished just one win above DoG, and the two had easier schedules since they each got to face all of the East Coast times while DoG had to play all the West Coast teams (and in fact DoG had about the same RRI at the tournament).

[But a quick note about RRI or any other true-strength predictor. For purposes of seeding, it overweights close losses.]

Before looking at the data, I was going to put Bravo and Revolver 4/5, but neither has a strong body of work this year. Bravo's win at Colorado Cup (early August, at home) is outweighed by dismal performances at ECC and Labor Day. Revolver has done OK but not worthy of top 4, other than being NW #3 (only one tournament final, which they lost). Ring has a high RRI, but part of that is from winning in Texas in early May, hardly relevant. They did about the same as DoG at ECC, but lost twice at Chesapeake in their only other tournament, and they finished 13th at Nats last year. Subzero lost by 1 to Furious in the quarters last year, made semis at Labor Day, and got knocked out by DoG in finals of Tuneup and semis of Boston Invite. They trailed at Colorado Cup, but the body of work makes them the surprise #4 seed.

Rhino is like Revolver, but finished 4th at Regionals. Condors have a decent RRI, but finished in the middle at all of their competitive tournaments, and lost big to Bravo. Chain finished low at Nats last year, made finals of Chesapeake but lost three times, played .500 at Labor Day.

Vicious won Chesapeake in their only tournament, finished 15th at Nats last year. Lost big in the finals to Chain, but beat DW handily twice, and DW made quarters last year and probably would have earned about a 12 seed had they made it this year.

Metal and BAT finished 11/12 last year, both finished 2nd in their Region. Metal seems to have done a little better this year.

Truck Stop could conceivably be included with those guys, and maybe they should. Machine is C#3.

Monster has lost to Oaks, Illinois X, Old and In The Way, and Haymaker this year.

So, the seedings:
Bravo (won CC and made quarters)
Condors (get the nod based on last year)
Truck Stop

Of course, all of this may be wrong.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Regionals -- DoG

DoG earns 3 seed at Nationals; asses kicked; names not taken.

15-0. 15-6. 15-5. 15-5. No breaks. 2 turnovers in the finals. Huck-N-Hope, meet Plug-N-Play.

I have to admit that I hadn't bought my plane ticket to Nationals yet, because I have three of us (plus my parents, who are coming down to see their grandson and ohbytheway his dad) to purchase for, but I was reasonably sure we'd make it. Althought it's not as distinct as the women's (there were probably only a literal handful of games in the entire women's bracket that were closer than 15-10), the teams were stratified in playing ability and most games weren't really in doubt. That's the one area that Mixed is preferable to Open or Women's, in that there is real excitement and doubt about who is going to win. It's a better sporting event where the underdog has a fighting chance. Baseball is the best at this (suck it, Yankees fans, by the way), but ultimate would have to go to games to 3 to achieve the same level of parity.

So, Regionals. I skipped the first game to hang out with my incredibly sweet although worthy of being slapped around (although of course I wouldn't do that) boy while my wife played. Somehow we won 15-0 without me. Then 15-6 against Montreal, about what the point spread said. O turned it a couple times, D played their technological advances, we won. There was one rules discussion that thankfully kept Fortch occupied for about 45 minutes looking through the rule book (although I think most of that was him looking for his own name), but otherwise it went according to seed. I applaud those guys and wished I still loved the game like they do. They've been shafted a few times at Easterns with their seeding, but still they play and win some and lose some and play. I didn't see the one guy with the long curly hair, but those guys gave it and didn't roll just because we're "DoG". O Canada!

Semis were against PoNY. They seemed to fear us. We played well, but they cooperated even more and we won 15-5. The skinny kid played some good D against me, just like the muscular kid who I didn't see today did this spring, but overall they seemed content to give us the game.

Finals were today, DoG vs Metal, "Boston" vs "Cambridge." For awhile, it looked like the famed semifinal of 2002. In the first half, Metal had three turnovers, all of them on missed or defended hucks, and found themselves down three breaks, since DoG had none. The D is starting to get their shit together on offense. Guys who were hesitant before are now starting to figure out when they should cut. We had a few long passes, no forced stalll 9 throws, and we converted. For the last few months, these guys have been bringing it on defense, generating turnovers, but the scorebook hasn't reflected it since they've sucked on O. Now, it's beginning to work. Personally, I hate them all (yes, I'm talking to you), but I am glad to have them as teammates, and if you want to keep me on the sideline by scoring, may your god bless you. You still can't cover me, but rock on.

So, finals. First point was a classic Huck-n-Hope. It went off, I said, "Sweet, turnover." But Ryan tracked it down, an amazing run at the disc, goal. We answered, although they played tough D and it took us about a dozen passes. Them, swing, swing, huck, great catch for a goal. We answered, a little more slowly, but more surely (I love the huck, don't get me wrong, but we're just not as good at putting it as these other teams so we have to be more careful). One of these next points, the huck was a little too far for Ryan's fast little legs (although again I was amazed that he was able to get there; too bad he and his buddies forsook us for Metal this spring), and we worked it down, break. I can't remember the timing, but the rest of the first half featured good O and two more missed long throws from Metal (I think Zip got one 50/50 throw and Pallaver got another). No more turns, 8-5. At some point in the second half, they gave up and decided to wait for the 2/3 game, but we took it to them with our variety of D's and intensity. This clearly was not the same team that went on to destroy GOAT in the game to go. Listless in one, a little fearful and unsure, transformed into confident and skillful the next. If you want to use this as bulletin board material, be my guest, but since this is my last year in Open (I think, for the third straight year), be my guest. I just want to play good ultimate against good opponents.

So, I think this puts us as the 3 seed. Furious/Sockeye are 1/2, and anyone who votes otherwise should have his license revoked. But 3? JAM lost at Regionals. Ring and Condors would be considerations, but they went oh-fer on Day 1 at Nationals last yaer. We beat Bravo in quarters last year and nothing has distinguished us from them this year. NW 3 and 4 are tough, I know, but they're unproven. I see it F/S 1/2, DoG 3, Revolver/Rhino/Bravo 4/5/6 (in some order), Subzero/Chain 7/8, other teams 9-16. (Oh, another point about seedings is tht you're really only qualified to argue about teams at your level. #1 should have no real opinion about #12 v #13.) On the one hand, we don't deserve the #3 seed, but otoh, we don't deserve it less than any other team.

So, a few words about Plug-N-Play. Historically, our team has had positions built around the players occupying them. I said once, way back, that our O positions were not called man and buddy but were Cork, Jim, Moons, Alex, etc., since they were tailored to each's talents and interests. Now, we have more redundancy and can afford to sit out our O guys for 1/4 of the points or to have a few Bozos out there who can handle the key D positions. Zip may be our best player, but I don't think he's indispensable in a way that half a dozen guys were 10 years ago.

So, you read it here first, DoG '06 upset champions. The retiring Parinella and de Frondeville cry while they leave their cleats at the field, saying that this was one of their seven best championships, and surely among the three least expected. We attempt to take all the glory despite the obviously contrasting stats, which we will squelch, and no one will say anything just to make sure we don't come back next year.

This is the Word of DoG.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Making Nationals

Reading Cash’s blog about Revolver qualifying for Nationals, I am reminded of my own more innocent days.

The year was 1989…

Nah, I’ve used that stylistic device too many times. This really started back in the mid-80s. I was in college at Case Western in Cleveland, playing the fall season with the team there (first Ubiquidisc, then North Coast) and summered at my family home in Pittsburgh, playing the spring Easterns series and summer league. CMU had a strong college team which made College Nationals a few times, and though there was never any real exploration of this option, I thought about trying to play with them as a ringer (the rules might have allowed for students from other colleges that did not have their own teams, or maybe it didn’t). The Pittsburgh club team (Slag, Crash) couldn’t compete with the real top teams, but could give good games to the top Mid-Atlantic teams. Cleveland was getting stronger, too, finally winning Sectionals in 1985 before going 0-3 at Regionals in Kansas City, a 17 hour van drive away. In 1986, Pittsburgh got a little stronger still, I felt comfortable and important on the team, and so I decided in my senior year to blow off the Cleveland team (which was in a Region which was dominated by Windy City and Tunas, two of the top five teams in the country) and try to qualify for Nationals with Pittsburgh, figuring that I had no idea where I would be the following year or if I would still be playing frisbee and that this might be my only chance in life to qualify for Nationals. We lost the 4/5 winner’s bracket game but clawed back to make the backdoor final. We even led by three at halftime before faltering in the second half to lose to R&B, 19-15. My parents were extremely disappointed when I told them that I would have chosen to go to Nationals had we qualified instead of spending Thanksgiving with them.

The next year, I was out of college and living in Cleveland, and again lost in the game to go, this time with North Coast to the Tunas. We took out Henry Thorne’s (and the Greffs’, or maybe just Greff Minor’s) Coffee and Donuts in the game before that. I remember that both teams wanted to wear black but C&D invoked their higher seed and we somehow allowed it (not sure why we wouldn’t have flipped for it). This gave us a little extra spark and we knocked them out. This carried over to the game to go, for a little bit. We were as close as 8-7, I think, before our best player got point-blocked near the goal line, and we only mustered one more goal en route to a 21-8 defeat. (Writing this reminds me of another game. In the semis of Worlds in 1991 with Earth Atomizer against NY, we were determined that this finally was the game where we gave them a battle, and we were in it all the way up to the opening pull, which we dropped. 21-7.)

Somewhere around this time, I was amazed by the choice one of my old summer league teammates had made. He had moved to DC and qualified for Nationals with Yo Mama (this must have been 1987 according to the UPA Hall of Champions. By the way, UPA, there have been championships played since 2002. Perhaps you could update this.). However, he decided not to go to Nationals, figuring they would get crushed. What? This would be a dream come true for some of us lowly toilers, and he just threw it away like it was nothing.

In 1988 we thought we had a chance, and went into Regionals as the #3 seed, but played a listless game in newfallen snow (Halloween weekend, Madison) against Kansas’ Dover team and got knocked out early Sunday morning.

In the spring of 1989, shortly after my 24th birthday, I moved to Boston. The move was almost completely unrelated to Frisbee. I liked my job in Cleveland well enough, but they wanted me to relocate to their manufacturing facility 60 miles east of Cleveland, so I started looking around. A headhunter found a position for me in the Boston area, and I jumped at it, because Boston had always seemed like a great place to live, and where I could actually live _in_ the city (definitely would not want to do that in Pittsburgh or Cleveland). I figured that my life path (as a right-thinking Middle American) would be to settle down in a few years anyway (a majority of my high school and college friends got married at about age 25), so might as well live a little first. I went out to one practice that spring with one of the B teams, just to get a little Frisbee time in before joining up with the Pittsburghers for one last tournament at Easterns. I went to some of the open practices that Titanic had, and despite some encouraging words from one of their leaders (no, not Mooney, it was Bob Harding), I just wasn’t willing to accept that I might be good enough for the #2 team in the country and didn’t pursue it much. I also went to a few Earth Atomizer practices but wasn’t committed to that, either, instead preferring the social life.

One day at work, I serendipitously ran into Alex (we worked in the same building at the behemoth GE plant in Lynn), who had managed to back his way into a spot on Earth that spring after being cut by Z’s captain Ted Munter (who as DoG coach now will complete the circle by cutting Alex again next spring). Alex told me that Earth was getting close to settling their fall roster so I better start coming out to practice. I missed the game a little bit by then, so I went to the next day’s tryout, skied their best jumper several times (and this reminds me of when Bob Lobel came to his first DoG practice in 1994 and made Seeger his girlfriend repeatedly that day and thus bypassed the remainder of the tryout process), and was immediately put on the team without a vote. We practiced on Tuesday and Thursday nights in Jamaica Plain under the lights, then went to tournaments on the weekend. Our performance that fall was unremarkable. Graffiti was the incumbent #3 team in the region, but we also lost to Loisaida (Lower East Side of NY), Father Throws Best (old Boston guys (old = 31)), and Nationals candidates from other regions (Philmore, DC, Chain). A typical tournament would end with us being pummeled by NY or Boston in the quarters. We almost beat Titanic at Purchase, but also lost to NY 17-1. We even had close games against Slipped Disc (Connecticut). But still we thought we had a chance.

We finished 4th in the Boston section, behind Titanic, FTB, and someone else who I can’t for the life of me figure out. This put us as the 6th seed at Regionals. We knocked off 3rd seed Graffiti in the 2nd round, got drubbed by NY or Titanic in a game to qualify (back then, the finals participants were guaranteed 1st and 2nd without any of this silly modified double secret triple elimination format. We eventually found ourselves against Graffiti again in the game for the 3rd spot to Nationals. Unlike Billy, I don’t seem to remember point-by-point details of this game, just a few hazy memories (might have even involved some shutdown D, but maybe that’s someone else I’m thinking of). But what sticks is the anticipation of waiting for the game to end, and being thrilled with finally making it to the show after all those years (it seemed like a lot at the time). The next few weeks of practice and Nationals itself were just icing, almost an afterthought. We were happy to win a game, finishing in a 3 way tie with Chain and Philmore with 1-4 records.

The following year was similar. We had a better year, but still went into Regionals as the 4th seed. We lobbied hard to be seeded ahead of Graffiti since we wanted to square off against Titanic (now First Time Gary) in the semis. We had beaten them in a recent scrimmage and played them tight at other times, while we had never given a full NY squad a game (we lost by about 3 once in the semis at Van Cortlandt Park to a split squad). But Andy B was too powerful and we had to take our licking as the 4 seed. (Interestingly, Graffiti seemed to play closer games against NY than against Titanic. When the big matchup against Graffiti came, it was almost a letdown as we were just on fire and routed them, 19-9. The following week, we played off against FTG for the #2 spot (they didn’t want to play at the Regionals tournament) and pulled off what still ranks as one of my favorite all-time victories, 21-17 at the Wellesley High School fields. This victory over a four-time defending Nationals semifinalist earned us a, wait, wait, 9th seed (out of 12) at Nationals. This time, Nationals wasn’t an afterthought. We started out slowly, getting crushed by LA, 19-7, then had to face off against #2 seed Windy City in our other game of the day. (The seeding and the scheduling helped to shape my opinions on these matters.) The only detail I remember from that game is spraining my ankle badly and missing a bunch of it while getting it taped up and testing it out. Oh, and losing 19-16. We went on to win our last three games, including a tight one against my old friends from Pittsburgh, but it was too late for any semifinals hopes we had.

We hit our peak the following summer. While never actually winning a tournament except for one Clambake, we played a little better, and went into Club Worlds extremely excited. We lost an initial pool play game to Philmore, recovered to win several close games against Pittsburgh, the Condors, Dallas, and Chain, lost a close one to a bunch of cheating LA guys, then pulled off another “upset” over the other Boston team (who yet again switched their name (this time to Big Brother) in search of an identity) to qualify for the semis. It looked like we were going to get our rematch against Windy City which had surprised NY in pool play, but LA (which had already been eliminated on point differential) went and lost a “meaningless” game to the Condors to change a 3 way tie into a 2 way tie, which shifted us from 2nd in our pool to 1st, giving us NY instead. As I mentioned above, we thought we were going to give them a game this time, but folded immediately after the opening pull.

But accomplishment led to our downfall, as for some reason we decided that we needed to change things in order to compete against NY. We expanded our roster from about 16 to 25 and changed around our offense, then Dennis and I suffered injuries and hardly practiced that fall (me a sore foot, him a wanker hip injury). We entered Regionals still expecting to qualify for Nationals, but it was Graffiti’s turn to emerge from the shadows. This being only 15 years ago instead of 17, I have a few more memories remaining of this game, but the clearest is of the ride home from Dartmouth, where the Tea Party reviewed the stat book pass by pass, reliving good and bad moments one more time.

This was to be the last Regionals for me that really mattered. We’ve since won 13 of 14 Regionals, and most of those years our Region got three bids to Nationals, and only once did one of those third place teams win more than one game at Nationals. I had a tiny bit of uncertainty in 1995, when we were playing absolutely horribly and I feared that we were going to get knocked out in a 3 way tie on the first day while I was at a wedding. And again last year, I didn’t have a good feeling about how we were going to do, and Twisted Metal and Goat were big unknowns in the battle for two spots, but we needn’t have worried.

Of course, Nationals has held its share of anticipation and excitement, so do not cry for me, gentle reader. But if you so desire, you can pray for one final unexciting Regionals for me this weekend.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

format question

An irate reader asks, yet again:
Can you ask some UPA type this question: "What other sport uses the UPAs 16.3.1
format?" know, the one in which you have to beat everyone twice. I all
tried to convince them it was idiotic and failed. Format switches from
double to triple elimination, is designed to have repeat games, even on the same
day, and it simply silly. I understand the point -it protects from a specific
instance of bad seeding - but it is solving a problem that likely doesn't exist.

I will field this one.

The UPA is at the cutting edge of tournament
formatting. Some tournaments do have losers' brackets
but those are for sports where underdogs have a
fighting chance in any game and the format is designed
to pick a winner, not to sort out places 2-N.
Generally, few other sports care about picking
non-winners, simply calling the finals loser the 2nd
place team, the semis losers joint 3-4, etc., and if
they have a need to pick only 3, say, they will
declare the team that lost to the eventual winner to
be the 3rd place team. In a case like that, since the
semis are generally 1-4 and 2-3, the 4th seed would be
the most likely one to finish 3rd.

Now, onto the 16.3.1 format, the modified triple-elim
to pick three teams. Yeah, it's screwy, since the
most likely scenario is that 3 beats 4 in the backdoor
"final", loses to 2 in the 2nd place game while 4
beats 5 again (which had just beat 6), then 3 plays 4
again for 3rd. But, you know, it's easy to come up
with scenarios where N did not play N+1 and just
happened to lose to the same teams in a slightly
different order because of the seeding (which might
even be a fair seeding).

And it's always to a team's advantage to win a round,
even if the most likely scenario is that they'll lose
next round and have a rematch.

The problem, of course, is that the format thinks that
if A beats B once, it will always beat B, when that
doesn't happen all the time, and people are
uncomfortable when B beats A in the rematch, and angry
when A beats B for a second time in three rounds.

How's that?
And he irately responded:

A format that expects rematches is a bad one. I think what happened at
college regionals a few years back is a good example. Basically a bunch of
teams played each other twice and they all split. Umass lost to brown by a
point in the finals, a guy broke his leg, then went on to lose 2 more games
and be knocked out. More interesting, I think Dartmouth lost to Harvard ten
beat Harvard, same with Dartmouth Williams or something, certainly with
Dartmouth umass. It leaves a very bad taste to have to play a team twice, as a
matter of course, not some screwy 15 beats 2 scenario, and have them split,
and make the winner of the 2nd game the victor. If you want teams to play
multiple times, make it 3 and have it be a best of 3. the way it sits,
there will be multiple rematches, and likely multiple splits. I realize we
are unique in having to pick seeds 1-3 and not just 1-2, but there is a
limit to "fairness", especially when it introduces more "unfairness".

Bunch of tree-hugging wussie liberals, if you lose you don't get a
rematch just bc its nice.