In baseball, the term leverage is used to quantify the importance of the next event in determining the outcome of that game. Events in close games have higher leverage than those in blowouts, and during a close game, events near the end of the game have higher leverage than those earlier in the game, since there is less time to recover. (You can also factor in how much a particular outcome will change the probability of winning, instead of just considering the state prior to the at-bat; google "Win Probability Added" for more detail.) One application of this is that teams should use their best relievers during the higher leverage moments where possible. Now, there is some debate as to what extent clutch hitting exists (i.e., the ability to perform better during high leverage situations), but
There are two applications to ultimate that I can think of (well, three if you count using fire in rocham). One is that I strongly prefer playing high leverage points, if such points are available that day. I think I realize that I'm not going to be able to play every point at any high level of output, so I'd rather those points be important to the outcome of the game. Thus, points when we're winning 5-2, or whole games where the outcome isn't in doubt, I don't have much desire to participate in. (For summer league or pickup where I don't much care about the outcome, even when it's in doubt, this doesn't factor in except maybe at double game point if I'm in or if there is someone on the other team I want to have lose.)
The other is in foul calls and contests. There are four calls I've been involved in these past two tournaments that come to mind. I held my ground on the two highest leverage calls and gave up on the other two (even though on one of those I was at least 100% in the right; in fairness, though, not only was this one not at an important part in the game, but it also didn't make a lot of difference in the expectation that we would score the point). I don't engage in gamesmanship in stuff like this, so it wasn't a matter of giving up a call now expecting to get one or more back later. Rather, I don't want to be a guy who is involved in a lot of calls or a guy who makes bad calls. I guess I'm willing to risk the latter a little bit in some circumstances because I also don't want to be a guy who helps his team lose by not making a (good) call.
I don't doubt that in each case, I was probably correct (and not just loophole/ticky tack correct, but spirit of the rule correct), although I'm not sure what an Observer would have ruled on them (or even what I as an Observer would have ruled).
Anyway, what really triggered this trip down angst lane was seeing a comment on the UPA Strategic Planning blog (and remembering similar comments elsewhere) about how unspirited it is to pull out calls when the game is on the line. The paradox is that the commenter would think it more unspirited to make those earlier calls, too, even though that would make the amount of rule-breaking required to call a foul more consistent. (I also tend to factor in how respectfully the other player plays and how he makes the call; given a certain level of how sure I am about a call, I find myself more likely to contest a call if the other player is belligerent about it.)
I can think of examples from other sports that back up this point of view. In pro football, the coach will throw the challenge flag only if either he's absolutely certain or if the difference in the outcome is huge (score/no score or possession). Years ago in pro hockey, many players had sticks with illegal curvature on the blade, but they were only challenged on it in the last minutes of tight games. And in the George Brett pine tar incident, the Yankees knew about it for a long time but waited until Brett had hit a 3 run homer to ask for a measurement.
For the record, the calls (the first two were detailed in the WMO post):
1. 12-11 us, game to 13, I'm chasing a hammer on defense, as I'm about to jump, the receiver shifts his position and jumps back toward me. The disc goes over his head, but my momentum carries me into him. I ask him twice if he's sure he doesn't want to take the call back, then don't contest.
2. 12-12, game to 13 (next point), 30 yard pass in the end zone for the game winner, I jump up and make the block, then have some (incidental?) contact on the receiver's body (nothing on the arm). I am more certain that an Observer would rule in my favor than I am that I did not commit a foul. I send it back without trying to convince the receiver to retract his call.
3. 0-1, we receive the pull, quick swing, defense is still not down yet, I cut (pretty much laterally) before I get to where the D is and catch the second pass (this is generally what I do as the Man (3rd person in the play, first downfield cutter) on a low pull, take the free yards rather than actually having to cut and possibly gain more). Pick is called. I pace off 6 steps to my man who called the pick and explain the 3m rule. I add that I was never within 5 yards of the spot where he was standing. Argument ensues. Dumbfounded and angry, I sent the disc back.
4. 13-12 us, game to 15, they throw a long pass. I am looking back at the disc as I run downfield. I feel there is an excellent chance (more than 50/50) that I will cause this pass to be incomplete. About 30 yards from where the disc ends up, while the disc is still high in the air and upfield (toward the thrower) from us, I run into the receiver, who has stopped so as to have me run into him. There is no possible way that he has simply misread the disc. I raise my arm immediately and stop running. He catches it in the end zone. I state "didn't play the disc! Sending it back!" I send it back. He doesn't argue much, but whether that is because he knows I'm right or if he just thinks it won't make a difference, I don't know. Of course I am aware that an offensive foul in this circumstance is a turnover, but I wouldn't want a turnover in that circumstance. I made a similar call in the game to go in 1986 Regionals.