Wednesday, October 31, 2007

1 of N, N >= 3

Vancouver, baby! Worlds, here we come.

I have to admit, this turned out to be really fun and exciting and even emotional. Back last year when I knew I would be “getting the band back together”, I really didn’t even care about the results too much beyond simply wanting to make sure we didn’t embarrass ourselves. I regretted a bit that it was so many years after our peak and that we had probably missed our chance to win the division owing to our advanced age (average 40, only 6 of 31 under 37). But somewhere along the way, the magic returned, people remembered how to play, and it was just like old times.

My first venture into Masters still felt like Nationals, although with four of six teams making quarters, pool play didn’t have the same urgency to it. The most notable difference had nothing to do with the division, but was the weather. Only for a brief time on Friday was it hot and sunny, and for the first time since 1996 in Plano, we got rain. I guess the relative coolness prevented us from losing people to cramps and injuries, as we managed to finish the tournament with all of our players available (although with 31, playing time was tight for some). Equally impressive is that almost all of the vintage DoGs (average age 42) who were not presently hurt (at least five of them who may have been there if not) played.

I don’t think I changed my view of the division that much. Although 8 games in 3 days is a lot, more than the others play, I think the final is just fine happening on Saturday so the “real” divisions can have their finals on Sunday. I wouldn’t have minded moving up the final 30 or 60 minutes even though that would have meant there’d be less of a showcase due to the overlap with the Open semis (oh, and the other divs, too). The field wasn’t populated with 250 pound old men, nor was it just a contest between 33 year olds. The play wasn’t perfect, but then again, neither was it so in the other divs. Pool play was much more civil, for sure. There was almost no ho stack, and not an excess of hucking (or hoping). And once the games got going, and got close, it was just like it always was.

I was very happy with how I played. In contrast to every other tournament, I felt good from the get-go (partly due to taking a Wednesday jog with a Fartlek component to get my legs loose), and except for the start of our last two pool play games, never felt anything but. I did tire by the final, but that was the eighth game of playing virtually every O point in the tournament, 80% of those as The Man. I even got my most D time at Nationals since 2002 (1/6th of a point). I felt like I was as fast as last year, maybe even faster, although it would be hard to come up with a valid reason that would be so, what with my relaxed training and practice schedule. (I will provide one, though: I played in just as many tournaments this year, and about 50% more points. This was my old style of training, playing a lot of ultimate and demanding a lot from myself at those tournaments. Nothing trains you for ultimate quite like tournaments.) I caught about half a dozen hucks, most of them from Alex on opportunity cuts off of flow. These are my favorite, because it’s all about timing and recognition and I feel smarter than everyone else. Sometimes these will come when my defender flashes off ever so briefly to poach on an in-cut, but usually I will just be playing, with my defender fronting me from the middle of the stack, and the play will just develop such that I find myself with no help defender behind me and my man still fronting me, unaware of the change. I take a step in, then go as hard as I can deep for half a dozen steps before glancing up to see if the disc is up. Another reason I like this cut better than bolting deep in the four person play is that I am more confident that the disc will be thrown because I have already assessed the mark. In the finals, I found myself making what I thought was good long cuts several times off the called play only to find the marker preventing the toss.

As in each of the previous 17 Nationals we attended, Alex was convinced that we had the much tougher pool. This time, he turned out to be correct, as all four of the teams from Pool A won their quarterfinals games. These four teams had been awfully close in pool play, with only a meaningless last round game between us and Surly being decided by more than two points. In the other pool, Old and In The Way cruised through Day 1 outscoring their opponents 45-22 (including 2nd seed and 2006 runner-up BIGS), setting themselves up as the early favorite in the tournament.

We started off with Ironwood from Arizona, a nice break-in for us. We had “only” 27 at that point, which was still our largest roster of the year, and it gave us a chance to get everyone acclimated to the tournament. About a third to half of the team had, shall we say, significantly less experience at Nationals than Mooney, who made his record-extending 23rd appearance at the Show. Two had last played in the UPA Series in about 1996, and one fellow had played at College Nationals twice in the ‘80s. And at least half didn’t play in the series at all last year (and only four made it to Nationals, three in Open). So it was good to get our legs going, try out some D’s, and made some mistakes without it costing us. DoG, 15-6. The 3 and 4 seeds, meanwhile, had a 17-16 battle right next to us.

Next up was Mileage from Texas. We knew they had a couple tall receivers who could threaten us but otherwise we felt pretty confident, if for no other reason than we didn’t recognize most of them. I guess five of the teams had cores that were players we recognized from Open (us, Double Happiness, Rage, Boulder, and Sub Zero) plus Above and Beyond, which had a smattering of post-NYNY New Yorkers abetted by more than a few “young” guys. I had told Jeff Brown, our fretful defensive stopper, that if one of them was killing us I wanted a shot if I was feeling well. He said to remind him if it came up. I did end up covering one of them after a turnover and despite being outpositioned, felt confident that I was going to sky him on a floater. I didn’t. As for the game, I already have forgotten the ebb and flow, but I think that we established a pattern of taking a 3 goal lead then letting them back into it before pulling it out at the end.

Next up, our old friends from the Bay Area, Troubled Past. A lot of people thought of this as a finals preview. It was great to see a lot of old friends. I was in Japan with four of them (O’Dowd, Masa, Switzer, and Lippy) back in 1994 as part of a series of clinics that the Japanese federation sponsored to improve the game there. I told Masa that with their successes at Worlds last year, perhaps they will be coming over here now to give clinics. (I should probably write about that trip sometime.) The team also featured Billy and the Worm, two fellow Short Fat Guys who we tried to recruit for our team before they lied to us and blew us off, and a handful of other vets. Following the pattern of the previous game, we got up 3 before giving it back. Ten yards away from the win, I had a Forch moment at 14-13, dropping a short swing pass when I got stuck between pancaking and rim-catching. Instead of ending it and getting an extra half-hour for heckling and the beer garden, we had to play another five points. Double game point featured an exciting play, with receiving stud Alec Ewald misplaying a huck in the end zone, then burying his head in his hands (I had to laugh at that one even with what it meant), before Bickford got the block and we converted for the win. The game was remarkably low-key and friendly despite the history and the significance (I suppose that is a difference from Open Nationals).

This pretty much clinched the pool for us, requiring only that we win one of the games on Friday, and also provided a good setting for the World Series game that night. We had 11 rooms at one of the condos on the Bayside, right next to the Palm Bay Club, where we ventured over for some hot-tubbing. We got a little bit lucky finding that place as we didn’t make the reservation until the Thursday after Regionals, but the rate was good and we had all of us together, plus we didn’t have to worry about drunken yahoos on the beach.

Friday’s first game was against Boneyard from Raleigh, who would have to beat us and 2-1 Mileage to make quarters. Finally during this game the sun came out, and I applied sunblock for the only time of the weekend. We wanted to open up the rotation again after two consecutive tight games. Alex wanted to get his calf massaged by the Boston Ultimate trainer (a friend of ours who has played summer league with us) and figured he could only do it during a game, so he ran over there partway through the first half and delegated the offensive subbing to me. For the next 20 minutes, I had lines ready, switching players in and out depending on whether they were in on the D point, but the D kept scoring. I finally managed to call a line moments before Alex got back, and we scored. With nothing left to prove, I returned the reins, and we cruised to victory and locked up first place.

This set up a trap game for us against Surly, who was also locked into their position.(there could have been a three-way tie for 3rd, but Surly would have taken the second spot on head-to-head). Even though it shouldn’t matter, a loss in that game can have a carryover effect to the next round. So we started off this one treating it normally, and only after they pulled their top players and we opened up a good lead did we relax a bit. The 15-8 final score was meaningless for prediction (but good for the RRI!).

After an extra half hour break, we played our quarterfinal against Philly’s OLDSAG. No matter how big your roster is, if another team’s is bigger, you can make fun of them, and Philly’s 37 man outfit provided us some chuckles as well as 1000 post-game handshakes. There were intermittent sprinkles in the first half to go with a steady quartering wind (I wonder if they can rotate the fields 45 degrees next year so the games will be a straight cross-wind instead). The game was chippier than any of our pool play games, probably because something was finally at stake. Several calls that had opponents groaning, although I’m hard-pressed to remember any of them now except for some point blocks. We broke early to take the lead, but we were broken at 5-5 to give it back, despite an actual layout block by me. They scored upwind against our O to take half 8-6. (Technical note: if it’s an upwind/downwind game more than an offense/defense game, then the upwind break to take half only counts as half a break since there is no ensuing downwinder. Normally, if you lose the half, you have to outbreak the other team in order to win. This game, at the time, was fairly close to the crossover point between O/D and upwind/downwind, so I knew that if the D could score upwind just once, we’d be in good position, though not completely “on serve” at that point. We’d still need a downwind D break, either immediately after the upwinder or after an upwind O score.) The rain continued in the second half, and lightning soon flashed in the distance. I waited for the horn suspending play, but it did not come for several minutes, during which we managed to get our upwinder and downwinder to take the outright lead. I was happy to avoid the horn, since I figured our chances of breaking were greater in bad weather.

So, the first lightning delay at Club Nationals since I have been around. 30 minutes, plus another 17 minutes to warm up, 16 minutes more to soft cap, then an unfortunate 24 minutes to hard cap if necessary. We began trading after play resumed, and it began to look like we might trade out to the cap (we hoped, rather than gakking at double game point). But at 14-13, fate smiled on us. We got a block about 20 yards out, with two defenders bashing into each other hard enough to require injury subs. “Mooney, Greff, you’re in!” shouted Jeff Brown. But then we learned there was a foul called on the throw. “Mooney, Greff, you’re out!” Two defensive-minded replacements went in. Play continued but was sloppy, and we struggled to keep the disc moving. After a turnover near our goal line, one of our guys pulled up lame with an aching hamstring. I found myself called in, only to hear, “Jim, we need a D handler.” So I turned around, a little confused, and starting walking off, only to learn that I was supposed to fill that bill. “Eh, how hard can it be?” I reasoned. “Sure, I’ll stay near the disc.” I was surprised to see that our opponents turned down the opportunity to put in a fresh defender when the point had already lasted 5-10 minutes. I happily dodged and weaved the disc up the field. At one point, I had the disc about 20 yards out from the goal and saw a poach in the end zone but knew it would take a hell of a throw to get it there. By the time I figured out how I had to throw it, my senses had come back and I looked instead for another 10 yard pass, and a few passes later, we had the goal and the win. The game and that point in particular are as fun a one as I can remember being part of in some time, probably since the 2002 semi.

This set up a rematch against Troubled Past at 10:30 on Saturday. If we hadn’t known them before, we knew them from the 33 point outing two days prior. We had a little advantage since we had picked up Mooney, Seeger, and Lenny. The flow of the game was almost identical to the first, but the tone was quite different. Two of them in particular seemed intent on changing the game through their voices when the disc was not in play (one through incessant celebration, the other through complaining). As I said afterwards, it made it a lot less fun to play the game, but a lot more fun to win it (I said this to one of the perps and several of his teammates as I apologized for getting a little obnoxious myself, responding in kind (though to a lesser extent) whenever one of these guys got involved; they replied that they hadn’t noticed; I also chatted about it with celebration guy later over a beer at Mr. Big’s without any animosity). So, we took half by three, and it started to look like we might even pull away, but they solved us for a while and got three breaks in a row to take the lead. We got back on serve and again got into a position where it looked like we might trade out downwinders to the cap. Then DoG blinked. At 15-15, I was having a point reminiscent of the game-winner against Philly, catching every second or third pass and immediately getting off the continuation. I caught another swing, turned and threw it right to Worm. In retrospect, I think I actually intended to throw it to him, since it was the cut I was expecting, and I also saw a flash of Patagonia red moving in that direction. Luckily for me, we got it back, maybe after another set of turnovers, and punched it in. A miscommunication throwaway gave us the disc on their half of the field, and the D guys ran it in for the emotional win and a spot in the finals, back where we belong.

We had almost three hours before the final. We called Jordan, who couldn’t make it down, so our heart and soul could take part in our excitement. We celebrated a little, reminisced a little, and then began getting ready for the big game. Although DoG hadn’t been in the finals since our last win in 1999, I do think that experience helped us prepare. I wouldn’t say that I was hyperfocused and running on adrenaline, but I really paid no attention to the outside agencies at all. I heard Doug heckling Paul one point, and I vaguely remember some other Bostonians calling to me, but otherwise have absolutely no memories of the crowd or the announcers or of doing anything other than playing ultimate. The game itself was easily our most complete game. Traditionally, our best games occurred when the D was able to score most of the time they got the disc. Looking back to the famous 1995 final where we had three turnovers and won 21-10, our D actually had just an average game defensively (9 goals allowed in 20 possessions), and our O had a good but not noteworthy game itself (10 of 13), but the difference was in converting after a turn (11 of 11). And so it was in this game, although not to the same extent (don’t have the stats yet). Our O had some kinks in it at the beginning, but we were able to avoid getting broken thanks to some nice plays by Coop. Through the game, lots of people were making plays and not many were making mistakes. From the writeup, it looks like we might have only had 5 or 6 turnovers the whole game.

The O scores to make it 14, then it strikes me that I might be deprived yet again of a championship-winning goal. At game point in our first win in 1994, I tried a difficult catch on a fouled throw and biffed it. The disc returned to the thrower, swung quickly to the other side of the field, and we (not me) scored. Since then, over 9 titles, I never caught or threw the final goal. So when I realized this, seeing how we were up by 5, I was kinda hoping to get another chance. But then we got a damn D and worked it the length of the field for the title. Well, at least it was one of my teammates who scored it, I suppose.

Surly was nice enough to share beer with us after the game. We got the trophy, donated this year by Throwback, and quickly scanned it to see the record for most consecutive titles (2, by Keg Workers 2000-2001). Pictures, drinking from the cup, hanging out, etc. By the time I was ready to go to the beer tent, it was closed. Alex and I headed to Mr. Big's for some Guinness and a car bomb and to see some friends, then off to the team dinner. I remarked that for coming into this not really caring that much, it felt awfully good and I was proud of how the team came together. Everyone was in pretty good spirits. Kudos to Jeff Brown and Alex for running subs, a difficult task with that many players who hadn't played together all that much.

Now, who to pick up for Worlds next year....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

To DQ or not to DQ

That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

I dunno. It's easy to predict the UPA's decision.

It definitely sucks for the two players who won't be playing. Originally I felt worse for the captain who got dragged down, but it was probably more her fault than the omitted player, who really would never have any reason to suspect that her name wasn't on the roster.

On the other hand, the other 59 teams at Nationals presumably got it right. I spent countless hours checking and double-checking, herding the cats to see who was actually in or not and nagging them to sign up and send in their waiver and enter their birthdate and everything else. Not that I would have done anything with that time, but I'd like to have it back.

I definitely see that the UPA can't let this go with just a shrug. When they first started getting serious about requiring everyone to be a member before playing in the series, membership (and membership dues) increased by more than 10% that year after several years of close to zero growth. They have probably already spent many hours they don't have right now to deal with this when they should be preparing a tournament for the 1500 other players.

But then why does it have to be disqualification? Again, I see the UPA's view, and I can't imagine that any other sports organization would even be having this discussion. If you're not on the roster, you don't play, period. Use someone who is not on the roster, you're DQ'ed and face possible extra sanctions. Simple, right?

But still, it seems harsh, especially because this may be those two's only visit to Nationals. (Then again, players sometimes get hurt the week before or the first game of Nationals and don't play.) They could still be severely punished so that no one would want to be in that situation but still be allowed to play. For instance, have to do 40 hours of community service before being allowed to play in another UPA event. Pay "court costs", a fine to cover the UPA's time on this. Pick up trash every day. Massage Will Deaver's feet at the end of each day after fetching him a couple beers (well, maybe they would prefer to remain DQ'ed to this).

Then again, the UPA doesn't want to nor should have to listen to every sob story (and there would be a lot more if they backtracked), and soon it might become impossible to DQ those who really deserve it. "No tolerance" might be the greater good, all things considered.

So, not much new here. Not a plea to the UPA to reconsider, at least not today. I wrote a couple things to rsd this week that might be construed I think that the whole team deserves to be kicked out; I don't, I just didn't expect anything different from the UPA. This is not your father's UPA, for better and for worse.

Good luck to everyone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Masters preview

Since no one else is doing it, and there is a vast demand for it, here you go.

I got no clue, either. O'Dowd did a preview for the Newsletter. In his original version, he mentioned me and Alex, but what it got past the editor, they took us out and put in Mooney, who had been on loan to Above and Beyond the last couple years. O'Dowd will get his.

Masters was really hard to seed, since there was almost no Masters play this year outside of the series, and there was a lot of turnover from last year. Four of the Regionals winners did not play at Nationals last year (hmm, two Open winners did not, either, which has to be the most in some time). In figuring out what I would send in, I looked at how teams did in Open play this year, but that task was made more difficult by the Score Reporter not reporting what these teams RRI was in Open play. I ended up trying to find equivalents for those teams, opponents against whom they may have had close games, and tried to guess from there, but that too was error-prone. Masters teams are even less likely than Open to have full or near-full rosters at any event, sometimes even Regionals.

We played four Open tournaments this year. Clambake didn't make it to the Score Reporter. For the other three, we were listed as Big Ego Ultimate. At Sectionals, we lost by 1 point to the team that finished 4th at Open Regionals and split with the two teams that finished 5/6 (but won the pool by point differential). The most we had was 20 or so at Sectionals. We had about 15 at Clambake, about 12-13 at Boston Invite, and 8-11 at White Mountain Open. That's another thing about Masters; players tend to be available for only part of the weekend. We had at least four guys who showed up only for Saturday. Another guy showed up for our first game, disappeared for a few hours to go to his daughter's soccer game, then reappeared for part of our game before a bye (this same fellow showed up on Saturday of Clambake moments before the last point of our last game of the day). I think we have 31 at Nationals, three of whom are missing the first day (plus another 3-4 will presumably get hurt on the first day and miss the rest).

Even looking at the rosters won't necessarily help determine how strong a team is (several of you wienies are already jumping up and down saying that should have nothing to do with seeding). "Oh, this guy is great. Well, he was great. 10 years ago, when he played. Hmm, I wonder if he can still walk." At the other extreme, some teams might have a bunch of 33 year olds who either never happened to live in an ultimate mecca or perhaps were never that much as Open players but have hardly aged compared to their peers (and elders). The Senior Golf tour has had several of their top players come from the lower echelons of the regular tour or even from outside the ranks of the pro tour (Allen Doyle didn't even turn pro until 46, played on the mini-tours for a few years before turning 50, and has won more than $11M since).

So, in the end, seeds are based on previous Nationals. Our #3 seed, for instance, probably has a lot of basis in the 1994-1999 Nationals. OLDSAG didn't play last year, choosing to go to Worlds instead, and is seeded 4th. Troubled Past just formed and is #1, based mostly on winning the NW but also probably a little on Double Happiness' success in the 1990s (which is why I argued for the #1 seed based on head-to-head).

Of the 31 on our team attending Nationals, we have 15 guys who played on the championship teams of the '90s, anywhere from 10 to 13 in a given year. 6 of the 8 who played for all six champs will be there, as will 4 of the 6 who played for five of them. Last year, I told a bunch of people, "We're getting the band back together," and I wasn't sure exactly how much of a competitive team it would be, and how much of a reunion tour it would be. I held off on inviting some good players because I wanted to see whether it would be a total reunion tour (maybe not the best move).

But then partway through the year, it wasn't looking at all like a reunion tour. I think only three of old DoG attended White Mountain Open, and maybe only five for Boston Invite. We had good participation at Masters Easterns, but still not overwhelming. I built up the team with other recruits, though, and even without the vintage players, it was looking like we would be at least nominally competitive. It wasn't until the (nearly) full army showed up at Regionals that things really started to come together. Even with our random sampling of 12-20 at previous tournaments, we were holding our own against those young guns, even the ones who ran.

So, I like our chances. And they just got better, because Dick Brown is already frothing and sending out inspirational emails to the team.

Yeah, baby, it starts in a week!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Well, I guess we need to buy shirts, shorts, and numbers.

First, the streaks. 12 Regional titles in a row (and 15 of 16), covering about 50 games (can't be bothered to look it up right now). 16 Nationals appearances in a row (and 18 of 19). 14th in a row with a team called "DoG". 24th straight Regionals appearance, 25th straight UPA series appearance.

The tournament went better than expected. As I mentioned on rsd, no one had bought his ticket to Sarasota prior to the tournament. There were three teams of roughly equal caliber (plus two teams that weren't as competitive) and two spots to Nationals. the format was full round robin on Saturday and modified clipped elimination on Sunday (1 plays 2 for 1st, 3 plays 4 to be eliminated, loser and winner play for 2nd spot to Nationals). It's version 5.1.2.A.chi, I think, in the handbook.

First round is at 8:30. We have 38 names on our mailing list, about 35 on the roster, and somewhere between 25 and 30 who are actually playing. We hadn't had anything close to a full team in our prior five tournaments, and as is typical of a Masters team, introductions were done at the beginning of Regionals. People are still strolling in at 8:30, or 9 for that matter (one player was at the Sox game the night before which didn't end until 1), but we still have plenty. We roll over Mt. Crushmore 15-4.

Next up is Tombstone, the #2 seed. They could easily have been the #1 seed, or the #3 seed. They are purported to be a merger of Tombstone, which won Canadian Nationals a couple months ago, and GLUM, which finished 2nd at CanNats and won the NE Region last year, finishing 5th at Nationals, but word is that they are bringing a small squad because of Canadian Thanksgiving. I develop an immediate dislike on the first point for one of their players who mauls me a couple times (not violently, just hackingly) while playing poor defense, then tapping the disc back in quickly and silently. The game is close through the first half, but we pull away. Mooney convinces Alex to withdraw a foul call, thus leading to a discussion after the game of the many, many, many times that Steve has handed the disc to the other team. (Most notable was in pool play at 1996 Worlds, where a pick call on double game point just prior to a huck was somehow overruled by Moons, and we lost right then and there. I know one player who is still livid about that. But this led directly to another story of a double game point call. At pool play at Nationals in 1998, a Condor caught a scoober very close to the line in the end zone. (Two videotapes from cameras right next to each other provided conclusive but contradictory evidence on whether he was in.) Discussion ensued, I saw Mooney saunter over to hand the game away, and I say to him, "Steve, don't say another word." He backs away, the disc eventually goes back, same pass is thrown and is OB, we move it upwind for the win. With the wind as strong as it was and the disc where it was after it was sent back, I'd have to guess that the Condors would still expect to win in excess of 95% of the time.) We stretch it out to a 5 goal win, which gives us a lot of breathing room in the event of a 3 way tie.

Next up is Above and Beyond, the other team that could have been seeded anywhere from 1-3 (their biggest claim is that they made semis at Nats last year and are the only of the three teams who played in the series last year as the same team). It's our second tough game in a row, but at least one of the three had to play back-to-back (given that none of the tough games were in the first round), and even though we were the top seed and thus in line for the favorable schedule, it wasn't really an earned first seed so we sucked it up. Similar pattern to the first game, close for the first half, then we pulled away, this time winning 15-11. A&B may have realized that point differential wasn't going to come into play if they lost, and even if they won, they would still need to win or keep it close against Tombstone in order to finish top two, so perhaps they conceded at some point. I noticed that Arnold and I were rarely on the field at the same time, which was a surprise since he so often covers me. I've come to really enjoy playing against him because it's always a battle, and though it was easier with others on me, I was disappointed.

We then had a bye, followed by a final game against Not Dead Yet, a team which plays in the local club league. I played one point only and was on the field for only about 15 seconds, which was enough for me to make the Man cut and huck the goal.

I had only two turnovers on the day, a drop on a stupid hammer and a breakmark flick to the middle of the field. (The hammer should have been the fourth straight O point goal for us that came off a hammer or blade to me, only two of them from Alex.) I went up well twice. I was embarrassingly bad at jump balls last year and possibly the year before. In my defense, it always seemed that I had to wait an excruciatingly long time for those and thus had to jump flat-footed against a young defender coming in at full speed. I once again found myself playing almost exclusively O points after playing both ways all year. But it seems like we have a fairly deep (though less star-laden, even if the names are the same) roster this year, and the tournaments are long, so I can deal. I think I will play some D points as needed at Nationals, but generally will stick to O.

So, we were set up for two shots at making Nationals. Finals are at 10:45, though we tell everyone 10:30 (but still people saunter in; having a local tournament is great and was definitely an advantage, but players try to maintain a semblance of normal life and so are more likely to skip out on parts of the weekend). And what a difference for the weather. Saturday was hot, probably in the 80s and with a lot of sun, but it's in the 50s with some wetness and more wind than the day before. We pull to start the game and are up 4-2 with several chances to add another. There is an injury after one of their turnovers, and I am called in for O. I expect to be the first cutter, but someone else goes first, unsuccessfully. I fill but the pass is behind me and it goes through my hands. A few passes later, the mark is broken and my guy catches the continuation for the goal. Well, that was an excellent 30 seconds of ultimate. Next point, I throw an open side pass several yards behind the receiver, and we are broken for the tie. I take myself out. At 7-5, receiving for the half, we become embroiled in a hell point. I have one turnover that point, a pass similar to the potential game-ender that Goat would later have in the Open finals, and another pass that was not caught (I think it was mostly a drop, but it wasn't a perfect throw), but I continue to work hard, cutting deep at least twice, and am about to cut to the end zone a third timebut see Mooney streaking that way, so I do a highly effective stand still and act like I'm about to cut, and the thrower hits Steve for the goal.

Somewhere in the first half, I have one of my trademark triple-bobble catches. The field had a lot of bare spots in the middle, and as I cut for a simple dump, I trip. I get a hand on it to keep it alive, maybe the defender hits it once or twice, but by the third or fourth contact I have in under control even though I am still on the ground, and snag it.

At halftime, especially with us receiving, they apparently decide to open up the bench in order to prep for the backdoor game. They score only twice more and we can begin our (dry, unfortunately) celebration.

It was terrific and even a little bit emotional to win with this crew. We have about a dozen of the old DoG plus several others who have been around the block, but also several players for whom this will be their first trip to Nationals, and I'm happy for them, more than I was happy for my 23 year old teammates in previous years (nothing against them personally, just that 23 year olds generally haven't been around the game long enough to truly appreciate it). And though we didn't win by less than 4, I never had the feeling that playing the games was just a formality, as was so often the case in recent years, where our typical chances of making Nationals were well over 99%.

So, one $450 plane ticket later, I am on my way to Sarasota. At some point, Alex and I realized we have to contact Joe Seidler so he can update his Hall of Records. Yeah, addendum!

Open seedings

Well, you gotta rank Boston ahead of Sockeye since Boston is 1-0 head-to-head.

Of course, I don't mean that. A team will play 30-50 games over the course of a year (more when you count the split squad teams they send to some spring tournaments), but some just want to take the results of 3, 2, or even 1 of all those games as the primary determinant of which of two teams deserves a higher seed. It's particularly silly in this example because it was a one-point pool play defeat in a tournament that Sockeye won (while Boston lost in quarters), a tournament that had 9 of the Nationals qualifiers plus Revolver and the Buzz Bullets.

Anyway, as promised, here are my seedings. I wrote a post last year about the method. The only change this year was to give bonus points also for making the semis at a top tournament like ECC or Boston Invite.

The method is to take a team's tournament RRI as shows up in the Score Reporter, give bonus points for finishing high, take a weighted average (with bigger tournaments counting as more), add bonus points for last year, and regress them to a low-Nationals-team level if they don't have enough tournaments this year.

One big problem I can't figure out is how much credit to give Jam for last year. Qualitatively, a team gets credit for both how they did and for how their Regional equivalent did, so Jam would get some credit since they won the Regional and the top finisher from the NW won Nationals, plus they're from the NW, which always seems to be worth extra points. They have the second highest rating prior to the bonus points, but three teams would jump ahead of them if they got no points.

So, without further ado, here are the results:
Team w/2006 No 2006 RRI
Sockeye 1 1 1
Bravo 2 4 4
Furious 3 11 7
SubZero 4 3 3
Jam 5 2 2
Ring 6 5 5
Boston 7 7 9
Condors 8 6 6
Chain 9 10 10
GOAT 10 9 8
Rhino 11 12 12
DWide 12 8 11
TStop 13 13 13
Machine 14 14 14
VBB 15 15 15
Pike 16 16 16

1. Furious is an interesting case. RRI by itself has them 7th, but they drop to 11th because they didn't do well in elimination games (other than Can Nats; they lost in Sectionals and came in 3rd in region). But then the bonus for last year lets them leapfrog all those teams.
2. Otherwise, there is a disappointing lack of difference from straight RRI, whose main flaw in seeding is that it overvalues close losses. It's a predictive algorithm, so it is more accurate looking forward, but doesn't properly give credit for wins and losses. I may have discussed this already, but compare Boston and GOAT at CUT and Boston Invite. GOAT has a higher RRI at CUT than Boston, even though Boston beat GOAT twice and won the tournament. Similarly, GOAT won Boston Invite and beat Boston but had only a small advantage in RRI. In both cases, the tournament winner happened to have some close games along the way while the other team had bigger victories in the other games. I think this is probably where the algorithm is most off from how I would seed teams (and it was designed to mimic that method). Two of the Regional runnerups (Chain and Condors) had higher RRIs than the champ.
3. Most teams were pretty consistent, even comparing tournaments like Sectionals and ECC. "Inconsistent" Boston actually had the 4th lowest variance, but perhaps their inconsistency is manifested within a tournament rather than from tournament to tournament. The VBB had the second highest variance, but that is due to one significantly higher performance. That touranemnt? Nope, it was Sectionals, which was more than 200 points (equivalent to a 15-11 win) higher than any other tournament.
4. Sub Zero was surprisingly high. They were helped out a lot by their dominance at Regionals, which was the highest RRI for any team at any tournament this year (2954 including the 40 point bonus for winning).

I guess what I might want to do instead is to somehow figure out a strength of field for a tournament, allocate points based on final placement, then adjust for wins and losses during the tournament (so someone who wins while going undefeated would do better than one who wins while losing twice in pool play). Sounds doable.

The remaining issue I haven't addressed yet is how to handle inconsistencies. Sockeye emerges as #1 but lost their Region. They are so far ahead of Bravo that my solution is to bring Jam in front of them for the overall #1 and leave the others in the same order. DW and Chain are also inconsistent, but in this case, their average score is right in the middle of some other teams, so the final seedings by this algorithm are:
Johnny Bravo
Furious George
Sub Zero
Ring of Fire
Boston Ultimate
Chain Lightning
Truck Stop
The Van Buren Boys

Well, even I don't believe it, but once the method was set, there is no subjectivism. GOAT and Rhino seem low, but what higher team deserves the 11 and 12 seed?

Friday, October 05, 2007


I was just checking out the other regions that had pools of 5 to see their schedules. Three of the Divs at South Regionals had 10 teams (5 per pool), and each had a different schedule. The one in the format manual is the one we used at Sectionals. Here it is:
4 v 5 2 v 3
1 v 3 2 v 4
1 v 5 3 v 4
1 v 4 2 v 5
1 v 2 3 v 5

Kinda sucks to be 3 in this format, opening with 2 and then 1. What is especially interesting is that finishing 2nd in the pool instead of 3rd can be quite beneficial, more than the difference between 1st and 2nd or 3rd and 4th. In a 5 team Masters Regionals, 1 and 2 play off for the 1st spot to Nationals while 3 plays 4, then there is a second game to go. Thus, if 1-3 are equal, the teams that finish top two have a 75% chance of advancing, while 3rd has a 50% chance. So, what might be the most pivotal game of the pool is played in the first round, then the next most pivotal games are in the 2nd round (not only 1v3 but also conceivably 2v4 if 4 is underseeded).

Speaking of opening with 2 and 1, I'm still a little ticked about the seeding and format at 1990 Nationals. We (Earth Atomizer, the little engine that could) had made Nats in 1989 ahead of Graffiti, had split with them during the year (and neither had won anything since NYNY and Boston #1 (let's see, they must have been First Time Gary that year, but let's just call them Titanic) were winning everything in the area), but they won the final game, and somehow they finagled the 3rd seed (or maybe it was because our seeding representative, Bruce Jacobson, was too nice). We were bummed because we wanted a shot at Titanic in the semis instead of NYNY, who always handled us. (As an aside, we played Titanic closer than Graffiti did, while they played NYNY closer than we did.) Anyhoo, it all went to seed until we dismantled Graffiti 19-9 in the game to go, but it was too late to play the 2/3 game, so we played it the following week and won, 21-17, to earn the #2 seed from the mighty NE. Titanic had lost by 1 in the semis at Nats in 1989, and were in year 4 of a 17 year streak of making semis. So, out of 12 teams, they seeded us....

9th. Just ahead of Titanic at 10th.

And our schedule had us playing the top seed LA in the first round, then 2nd seed (3rd overall) Windy City in the second (and final) round of the first day. Didn't seem fair. We got smoked by LA, 19-7 (this was the first year pool play games were to only 19 instead of 21), then lost a two-pointer to Windy City to end our tournament. We won our last three games after that so we could play the what-if game. We definitely would have benefitted from a different first day, but then again, maybe the next games wouldn't have gone the same way had we played them early. The Condors game in particular probably would have had a different tone. We got them on the last day after they had fallen apart. They went in seeded 3rd in the pool but played and acted badly, and actually kicked off one of their players (a captain, maybe? I hardly knew who anyone was back then, being only slightly older (25) than most of you reading this blog, and rsd did not exist yet).

Then again, it worked out ok for Titanic (better, actually). They opened with NYNY (and lost), but then got #2 seed Tsunami, who IIRC didn't have everyone there the first day because they knew they were just going to have two games they would win. Titanic won that won and made it to the finals.

Anyway, go DoG.

What happens at Clambake...

Gets blogged about here. But I won’t name any names.

Helluva party. I got there at 9:30 to a raging multi-pronged scene, left a little before 1, figuring that no good could possibly come from me staying any longer, and it was still raging. Favorite moments:

Mullets for charity. Pay $20 (to go to Special Olympics, the targeted beneficiary of the event), get a mullet by a drunk female. The best one was when the haircutter stabbed the haircuttee (the first one, I believe) in the ear and he began bleeding. It brought back the memories of my last head wound, seeing all that blood spurt out. Pretty cool.

Breast shots:
Some woman with a cleavagy shirt nestled a shot of tequila (or some other fine liquor) in her bosom and some willing payer got to drink it. Not sure how much overeagerness was allowed before the shot was ended. This of course led to body shots, and perhaps some other type of shots that can’t be blogged about.

There was a house band off in another room, plus a DJ that had lots of people on the floor.

Frisbee games:
As I drove in, I could see several sets of illuminated sticks for Cups, which seems to be the game of choice these days. A guy at work described a Frisbee game recently and wondered if it was ultimate. Nope, it was Cups.

Food and beer:
Lots of it, everywhere.

So, the breadth and depth of the party was like nothing I’ve seen at a Frisbee party. No matter where you wandered to, there was something going on, not just a bunch of dudes hanging around a keg swapping stories (although there was that, too).

So, definitely a worthwhile experience. The one eerie part was that it was really far away from everything. While I was driving up, it reminded me of an old movie called "Race with the Devil", where some campers in an RV in the middle of nowhere witness a Satanic human sacrifice, then spend the rest of the movie trying to flee.

So, the ultimate. Saturday was a bit slow. We appeared sluggish all day (or maybe I'm just projecting), and we took all of our games, each a litttle closer than it should have been. We tried working on some of our defenses, but nothing seemed to work especially well. With a full squad (and more of the veterans), perhaps some of our zones and transitions will be a bit more effective.

Sunday had a late start. First round for anyone was at 10, but as people strolled in at 10, there wasn't even a full setup at Frisbee Central. My wife's dumb old team didn't have a program and weren't sure what fields they were supposed to be on, nor was anyone else. So they just sort of wandered over to where they thought they might be and set up, but it looked like it might have been a too-narrow sliver between two other fields (it was 31 yards wide). So they moved to some other field and got started sometime around 11, about the same time as everyone else. The TD had warned that they needed to start on time as games in teh past had been capped at 4, but they just decided to push the whole schedule back, meaning that were we to make the finals, we probably wouldn't get out before dusk. Well, it was a nice day out, so I guess that's ok.

The boy and I then went inside and played some in the gym. They had an indoor track there, and the day before we had done some 55m sprints. He had a pretty good surge every time at the end, I was proud to see. This morning, we went into the batting cage and played some foot baseball and running the bases. He loves to hit the ball in our yard and run around the bases, and seems to understand the basic rules about getting tagged out and having to be on the base and foul balls. Here's a video of him about 3 months ago. His swing has continued to improve. At the beginning of the summer, I would basically have to hit his bat with the pitch in order for him to hit it, but now he does pretty well no matter where the pitch is. I haven't instilled plate discipline yet, which is not something his old man is famous for, either, but if he wants to make it to the pros, he has to learn it.

So, we played against the Pitts brothers in our first round, former teammate Darden and his much older brother James, whom we used to play against 10-15 years ago. They were nice enough to play zone against us the first point and we never looked back.

Our semis were against Harvard, who apparently hadn't entered the fall series. I recognized a few of their guys from Sectionals the previous weekend, but damned if I could tell you which team they were on. Well, I'm guessing either New Noise or Gunslingers, but I wouldn't wager a lot of money either way. So, of course, we immediately get broken to start the game, then again, then again. We finally score to make it 3-1, then come down in zone. From their end zone, they throw a looping forehand to my side. I drift back, leap for my third competitive Callahan goal, and have it bounce out of my hand and get caught. They proceed to score without turning. We continue to trade, clawing back one or two here and there, and eventually tie it at 10 and 11. But we couldn't score again, and couldn't force a turnover, and those Harvard kids get the thrill of their young frisbee lives, second only to making Nationals probably. Well, in our bid, we did promise to "provide plenty of opportunities for opponents to school one-time greats of the game who still delusionally think they're awesome."

In retrospect, we should have done something about getting beat deep so often other than trying harder or hoping it would stop. Afterwards, I mentioned how defenders need to "orbit" around the cutter as soon as he turns upfield after a comeback cut, rather than continuing to chase after and hoping to catch up if it's thrown. But perhaps after the thir or fourth huck would have been more timely. I suppose that's where Dick Brown comes in handy, to throw his handy, storm off the fields, simmer for a few minutes, and eventually tell everyone how to play better.

Of the three "I can't believe I lost to this team"
games this year, this one was the most that the other
team did to earn. Against Gunslingers at Sectionals,
it was equal part us playing badly and them playing
well, and against Colt .45 at WMO, it was mostly about
us plus one of their guys having the game of his life.

At the end of last blog entry, I discussed individual
game RRIs, but misinterpreted their meaning. A game
RRI is a sample, but of both teams. So, if we have a
single game score typical of an Open Nats team, in
reality maybe half of the difference is due to the
other team playing worse than usual. Additionally,
the winner is typically luckier (for instance, a
Harvard guy yesterday bobbled the disc twice into the
end zone and fell down and had the disc land on him
for a goal, oh, and I dropped a Callahan that ended up
being caught and they scored without turning it), so
even if the teams played identically, a second
sampling would probably result in the loser being
closer. So maybe only 1/3 of the difference in RRI
between a team's overall RRI and an individual game
RRI should be attributed to the team.

So, onto Regionals tomorrow. Three go in, two come out. (Plus two other teams.) Big games at 10:30 and 12:30 should reveal where we are. We've played the last two weekends, but against faster but less experienced players, so it will be different against Masters. Paradoxically, it might be more difficult in certain situations to get open, as simple setups just won't work as well.

Ok, gotta run. Good luck to all.