Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No love for the Coop cut

This week's Huddle discussed endzone offense. I liked Wiggins' talk about using easy breaks or non-break breaks.

Ostensibly, DoG's endzone offense has always been the swing/strike regenerative offense with the 45 degree "gut cut" thrown in as an option. However, we've always had an alternate that has never really been codified. This year at Worlds, we really started going to this option a lot, and finally named it after Michael Cooper, who perfected the shoulder shimmy Coop cut.

So what is this cut? It's just a quick step to seal off the defender, and cut directly in front of the thrower, no more than 3 yards away. Break or no break, it's very easy to throw a soft pass over the marker's arm. The only way the defender could block it would be to lay out before the throw is made. The cut is ideally made from about a foot inside the endzone.

Alex and I have always preferred the cut from the front of the endzone instead of the back. As the various Huddle contributors pointed out directly or indirectly, the cut from the back is a race to the cone and good solid defense (front, keep the buffer but not too much, don't get turned) can usually stop this while tiring out the cutter. The cuts from the front rely on soft break passes or the threat of the soft break. The horizontal cut straight across the field is tough to hit only if the pass is fast.

The key to the cut is that the thrower needs to be ready to throw. If the thrower sees the cut and reacts to it, it might be too late. He doesn't have to be sitting on the throw, although he can, but his weight needs to be set so that he can immediately move to it. For this reason, I don't think I would recommend this as a default endzone offense for any team other than ours (although Frank might like it because a power move can lead to a goal).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I hate "home" and "away"

When I'm playing, I'm on the field. I know which way an opponent's forehand is, even if he's lefty. I do not know on which side of the field my bag is sitting on. And we are supposed to have people on both sidelines anyway, so both sides are home.

While I'm here, I can't stand that back of the endzone cut. Especially the endzone drill that promotes it.

Hate it when the team wants people there 60 or 75 or 90 minutes before the game and at least 30 of those minutes are spent chit-chatting or lazy stretching or standing and throwing unrealistic passes. You can do a full warmup (including adequate throwing) in about 30 minutes if you are efficient. If you have some specific team thing or a special throw you want to add in, too, add 10 minutes. What's the big deal about getting there 20-45 minutes extra early? It's time wasted, energy wasted, and focus wasted. Those things ain't free.

My kid's soccer team had a drill using one ball where each kid was standing around 95% of the time before having about 5 seconds of "skill work". Hated it enough that I got up and left to go work out.

And now for things I like.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Jim’s Nationals report

Once again, this year’s Nationals is not like any other Nationals.

I wrote just prior to the event, exaggerating only a little, that 0-3 was a distinct possibility for our first day. I did believe that it was going to be a fight to get into quarters in a decent position (good seed or not exhausted). Our team was thin in numbers (18 players on Saturday, swelling to 20 for the rest of the tournament, minus injuries) and in talent (missing a lot of big names from Worlds and last year’s Nationals), and our performance earlier in the year (Worlds notwithstanding) was decidedly poorer than the previous year. In 2007, at Boston Invite we had a play-in to make top 8, then lost a one-pointer in the 9th place semis bracket; in 2008, we lost a play-in to make the second 8, and ambled to a 17th place finish. In 2007, at Sectionals, we lost a one-pointer to make the finals; in 2008, we finished 6th. In short, no matter how you looked at it, we were significantly worse than we were in 2007, when we battled to win it all.

But when the games started, this was not at all the case. We started off against Madison’s Old Style (#2 from the Central), which had beaten Surly in pool play at Regionals. We broke with tradition and insisted everyone get there early, to run a huck drill at 9:05 (game at 9:30) and then some endzone scrimmaging prior to the game. On offense, I made it a point to treat this game as an elimination game, and our offense came out and scored the first several times we got the disc. Before we knew it, we were cruising in for a 15-4 victory. “Huh,” I thought.

Next up was Miami’s Anejo (#2 from the South), with some of the old Refugees and some younger guys who apparently inherited their marking habits. This was a key game, we all thought, as a win would put us in good shape to be able to lose to one or both of the regional winners and still be in good position to run the table at the end. But they kept dropping the disc, and before we knew it, it was 8-0 at the half. They finally scored and mock celebrated, but the 15-4 final score was a good indication of the game. “Wow,” I thought, “these teams really suck.” To be fair to my team, we were playing solidly. Our O hadn’t been broken in 10 attempts (with only a couple turnovers even), and our D was converting their opportunities fairly efficiently. DoG’s best performances historically came when the O and D did their basic responsibilities (score and get turnovers, respectively) well but not historically so, but the D managed to convert their turnovers at a high rate.

With some room under our belts, we knew we could lose our next game to Troubled Past (#1 from the NW) without forcing us into any must-win games. They appeared to have about the same team as last year, when we beat them by 1 in pool play and 2 in the semi. But once again, they made mistakes and we didn’t, and it was soon 5-1 in our favor. I think at this point they backed off and conceded the game. (There was one point in here that one of our new guys came up to me and apologized for that last point. I had no idea what he was talking about, so he said he was getting into it with one of their players. “Which one, #3 or #77?” I asked him. “Don’t bother with them, that’s what they do.” But in fact #3 (my old friend Aaron) was not playing that game at all this year.) We continued to roll, although the O finally got broken at game point and then survived a multi-turnover point to avoid getting broken a second time (I was rooting for either team to score at some point as I just wanted to get off the field and not wear myself out). 15-8.

We had clinched a spot in the quarters and were already calculating necessary point differentials and tie-breakers. Our first opponent on Friday was Philly’s OLDSAG (One Last Ditch Shot At Glory, for about the fifth year in a row), who had surprisingly lost to Denver’s Double Black (SW #2) on Thursday at double game point. It was a little windier this day. OLDSAG didn’t play that well, and we rolled them 15-8. Somewhere late in the first half, I developed a big knot in my calf and removed myself. I went off wandering around looking for treatment, stopping at the Ironside tent first (Russ couldn’t take me), then to the Frisbee central (no massage until 1, just a tape guy, who told me to stretch it), then back to the field eventually. Coop’s wife Amy, who is a massage therapist also, worked me over after the game a little, and spread out the pain from a single spot to a much wider area.

Our final opponent had rendered this contest meaningless for us by getting smoked by Anejo in the morning game. They needed to beat us to qualify, but we had clinched first place. I thus planned to take the game off, but with our small numbers, when we began struggling, I got into the game, first as a fill, then more actively as the game continued to be close. We just don’t think it’s a good idea to blow games before the elimination rounds start. I think it was during this round that Mooney hucked a backhand upwind to me right over my head. I couldn’t pick it up at first, and when I finally tracked it, it started to fade away quickly and I just watched it hit. Hall of Famer Danny Weiss thought this a good chance to heckle me, so he did. Some Miami guys were also walking by and joined in, and all reminded me later when they saw me again. (In the second half of the Miami game the day before, as we lined up, I saw my wife in the far endzone walking away from the field. I yelled down to her right past our opponents, “HEY JACKIE! I’M CUTTING DEEP THIS POINT! GET A PICTURE!” They came down in some odd form of junk and left me uncovered, so I ran deep. The throw was perfect for a picture, and as I was chasing it down I saw Jackie 15 yards in front of me with her camera, but it was just too far to even make a bid, knowing that if I knew it was gratuitous I would hurt myself. So the Miami guys heckled me, “if you were 33, you would have caught it.” I replied that 41 would have been enough. I also threw into a poach which I saw but didn’t bother to care about. Those two plays seemed to make their day.) So I played a few more points, and we had our closest game of the tournament, 15-11.

After a brief break came quarters against Seattle’s Throwback (#2 from the NW) , which had backed into the quarters through a) beating Mileage which was resting their players and b) Old and In The Way losing a DGP game to Chesapeaked when they had the disc downwind at least twice to win. The win had picked up a bit so it looked like it might be an upwind/downwind game. We had the choice of sides, but Alex wanted to start going upwind for some reason. I felt this was a dumb idea, giving away the advantage like that, but he insisted, so I continued to humor him and let him choose side. Both teams scored downwind the first two points, and I started to worry. But then we broke them upwind, and downwind, and maybe upwind again. Before too long, the game was safely in hand. During the game, one of their players came up to me and said, “I’m from Alaska, and we were talking about Sarah Palin last night, and your name came up. Is it true that you’re a Republican?” I laughed, and said, “No, although I vote that way every election. I used to vote libertarian, but they’re wacko and soft on terror. I just dislike the Democrats more than I dislike the Republicans. Maybe that’s just because everyone in Frisbee and Massachusetts is a Democrat.”

Thus we found ourselves in the semis once again. This year, the pools went about to seed, and the higher seeds all won their quarterfinals, none of them all that close. We drew Mileage (S #1), who had been rolled by Throwback 15-7 in their final pool play game. We knew they had two big receivers and one guy who wanted to throw deep. We had lost Dennis to a hamstring pull in the final pool play game (he said it was the first time all weekend he had run hard for more than 3 steps), Simon was available only for limited use, and my calf was sore enough to limit me a little. Alex insisted again on letting them start with the disc going downwind, and they got two easy hucks for goals. We also moved the disc down fairly easily, although they were running a poachy defense. I may have outsmarted myself here, as I decided to try to counter this before it was effective, and went to an alternative play (catch-hitch-back to catch) on the next point. But then the pull was short and it messed up the timing anyway, and we had to scramble. I hucked a low pass, and Coop tried to intercept it before a defender had a chance at it, and it bounced off his hand, break for them. We tried the catch-hitch-catch again the next point, I think, but this time the pull was too long and it again broke the timing. Our stack didn’t adjust and we found ourselves too far downfield, and a forced pass later, they had the disc and quickly punched it again. After yet another misthrow and break, we finally got back on the board with our first upwinder. We really needed a downwinder here from the D, but they couldn’t muster a turnover on that point or the next and so we traded out to an 8-4 halftime deficit. We had one chance to seize the momentum shift in the second half, after our D finally got a break and again had the disc going downwind, but an errant huck spoiled it. We may have gotten broken again on the ensuing upwinder, and that was pretty much it, barring a miracle comeback. No turnovers for Mileage in the first half, and not a lot in the second half, either. They made the plays, created the breaks when they needed them, and we did neither. Not that we invested a ton of effort into the season, and we had awfully low expectations coming into the tournament, but it is still disappointing to go out like that. Especially when the team that beat us rolled over in the finals.

After drinking beer for a few hours at the field, I headed back to Siesta Key to get ready for the Hall of Fame banquet. I had done some work in coordinating the Open Peer Review group in prior years and so wanted a chance to meet up with some of them (some such as Mooney and Sholom Simon I have known for years, others I’ve really only dealt with through email). The banquet was a good blend of milling and listening. The presentation lasted about 90 minutes out of 4 hours allocated for the event. First Mooney presented a slide slow of ultimate then and now. There were some other generic speeches, then came the honoring of the inductees. Rob “Nob” Rauch, the other emcee, announced that individuals would not get a chance to speak but rather each class (there were five years of inductees to get through) would come up as a group after each inductee was feted. I was disappointed in this at first, but in retrospect that was the right decision as it would have just taken too long and taken away from the time spent conversing and celebrating. Besides the inductees, several had family and friends present (Jim Herrick’s 92 year old father was there, for instance). The stars of the show in this respect were the Glassboro State crew, which must have numbered at least a dozen to celebrate the induction of two of their players, Timba D’Urso and Frank Bono. Matty J was there to support Danny Weiss, several Godiva women supported Teens (Glo could not attend).
There were probably 80-100 people total, a nice showing.

I made it to the fields to catch the first goal of the Open finals. Although I played on DoG with 11 of Ironside and have played goaltimate and in the Boston Ultimate Showcase Series with about a dozen more, I didn’t want to be one of those hangers-on who inserts himself onto the sideline as if he were an injured member of the team. So I meandered and tried to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen much of. It’s amazing how easy it is to miss people or to see them for only a fleeting moment on Thursday and not again for the rest of the weekend. (Maybe not that amazing, since there are 1500+ people and players are occupied for most of the day.) I was definitely disappointed for the guys, although happy for my Worlds teammates Husak and Namkung, old DoG teammate Justin Safdie, and fellow blogger and long-time finals sufferer Idris. Congrats, guys.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One eyed kings

We joined a Grand Masters league this fall in Boston. 40+ for men, 35+ for women. I was surprised to find that there was enough interest to form 6 teams playing every Friday night for 7 or 8 weeks.

The level of play was higher than I had expected. I guess I was anticipating something barely above wheelchair ultimate, but most of the teams were reasonably skilled (somewhat expected) and occasionally athletic (not expected).

Our team had several of my DoGmates, and we rolled through the year undefeated, culminating in a too-close championship game 15-12 victory (tournament victory #115, if it counts), after we had jumped to an 8-3 lead. Our teammates generally started out unaware of our lineage. In our second game, one of our draftees pointed to an opponent and said, "He's the best thrower I've ever seen" and warned us that the other team was really good. We took those under consideration. But to their credit, they treated us like normal people, and played like it was another day at the office. And it was a fun group, as we all migrated to the local bar after the games.

Hmm, got another tournament this week, playing against just old guys, instead of against really old guys. We are going to be doing things a little differently this time, though I don't want to say what they are because we're going to need every last break. And it's quite possible that we'll deliberately go 0-3 on Day 1 to set up the greatest comeback ever. You heard it here first.

PS. None of us know nothin'. We all live in our own world and see things through our own eyes, and hear what we want to hear. The blogosphere gives others a chance to step into our worlds for a few minutes, but they still only see what we have seen, and not the world as it really is.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Worlds 2008: the play

It was fun. After discussing that we shouldn't play every O point in important games for several reasons, Alex and I did just that (except for him subbing himself out due to turnovers in the finals and me sitting out a stretch in the semis due to an injury). And I think I was called first in the play about 80% of the time.

One factor that allowed for this (for me, at least) was that our tough games were spread out (other than having semis and finals on the same day!; Open played Q's, semis and finals over three days). Monday against Canada, Tues afternoon against Japan, Wed morn against Aussie, and the semis/finals on Friday. The Tues aft/Wed morn combo actually did take a toll on me as I was less effective in the Australia game. The 0 goals/0 assists of course understates my contribution that game, but I was definitely feeling it (14 O points against Japan, 15 against Oz).

Canada really played us to make in-cuts, so I began cutting deep right away more often after our Tuesday game against them. We also switched to ho stack a lot more, in fact playing the entire finals in a ho stack. It wasn't "the" ho stack, since we still didn't employ the Huck N Hope*, but it was "a" ho stack. Still primarily a cutback offense, but the spacing was different. I'm not sure what we will do in the fall.

* - I did throw one not-quite HnH pass in the finals, caught the disc as the first lane cutter, then saw Husak cutting deep and I just chucked it. I meant to put it out to the side and let him run it down, but it hung and he boxed out and made the grab. It was kinda fun, actually, but don't let anyone know.

I'm really a bit at a loss to explain how I was able to keep being effective while others got tired. After being pressed by Dugan a little bit about what I did to keep in shape, I finally confessed that I probably did less training overall than the typical elite Open player does on his off-days. Genetics certainly helps, but it's really got to be in the efficiency. I paid attention occasionally in the Open finals, and the Sockeye cutters were running all the time, fairly hard, too. And it didn't seem to be totally mindless, either, which was the impression I got watching teams like Jam at 2001 ECC (where I commented that every other offense runs a lot more than we did).

Somehow, the "offense of the future" might feature coordinated mayhem. Pro football plays are designed to provide similar looks and starts and then mix it up. Individually, cutters today may give themselves two options and make a hot read, but it's not that hard to pick up from the sideline who the first and second downfield cutters are going to be from the way they set themselves up (or the way the others take themselves out of the way). When not in the play, I often try to mix it up by acting as if I am the primary cutter, but definitely not every time. So perhaps future offenses (at least on set plays) will do this extensively. (We've had endzone plays designed to be similar, and counters on set plays, but those were always the exceptions and were obviously set plays, not anything close to free form.)

Fantasy totals (goals scored and thrown only) for all 11 games: Alex 29, Jim 28, Husak 26, Ewald 24, Coop 22, Dugan 19, Stoddard 19, others.
Fantasy totals for 5 tough games: Husak 22, Jim 20, Ewald 15, Alex 14, Dugan 11, Coop 10, others.
Fantasy totals for 6 non-tough games: Alex 15, Montgomery 12, Coop 12, Stoddard 10, Zaz 10, others.

I threw or caught 8 of 12 O goals against Japan, 6 of 8 against Canada in pool play, 0 of 10 against Oz, 3 of 11 against NZ in semis, and 3 of 10 in finals against Canada. My cell phone rang 30 minutes after the Australia game. It was my wife wondering I was injured and had been taken to the hospital and nobody told her. I knew immediately what she meant, and fessed up to not scoring.

Our endzone O became a parody of hot box O. Our median goal pass length in some games was probably 5 yards. Coop was amazing with those cuts, though, just a head fake and a shoulder shimmy and he was open for that pass all the time, so much that I called out "Coop cut" once (with just a little pause in between words, so it was both "Coop, cut!" and "do the Coop cut") and everyone knew what it meant and would later use the phrase.

Both the O and D performed better in the first halves. For the 5 tough games, the O scored 22/29 (points, not possessions) (76%) in the first half, 29/42 (69%) in the second. D got scored on 22/40 (55%)in 1st half, 25/38 (66%) in 2nd (with the first Canada game being an exception for both teams; O was 18/21 (86%) in 1st half in other four tough games, and D was 22/28 (79%) in 2nd in other games) (although neither is close to significant at the 95% level; even if I exclude the first Canada game as an outlier, only the D ratio is close to significant (p=0.06 using Test of Proportions). I think the "normal" should be between 3/4 and 2/3.

I got hurt early in the 2nd half of the Oz game. I was jumping to make a block, and the receiver ran harder at it and ran into my rib cage, probably with his shoulder. At first I thought I just had the wind knocked out of me, but an hour or two later, it was sorta painful. I was watching the disc immediately prior to the block, but I didn't think the receiver had a real chance at catching it, so I was surprised to get hit. But he eitehr got there more quickly than I thought or he made a reckless bid. I sat out the next game against Germany (17-4; I was thinking about resting that game anyway), then played a limited amount the next day. I did manage to take another shot in the ribs that day, anyway, on an innocuous collision while playing zone D. In our last pool play game (17-10 victory), Dugan (who had injured his ribs earlier in the week, worse than I) laid out and reinjured himself ("if the ribs weren't cracked before, they are now"). He didn't play at all in the semis the next day, and was surprised to find that he could play in the finals after taking drugs and warming up for a long time. On Friday, the day of the semis and finals, it hurt me to jog (it wasn't a cracked rib at all, but the muscle or the cartilage between ribs or some such thing), and sudden, low-gravity turns and accelerations hurt more than just running (there was a little soreness due to bounciness, but mostly it has been confined to muscle exertions). I played, and then on the final point of the first half, I cut to the cone but didn't think there was room for the throw, so I pulled back, but the throw went off anyway, and I had to leave my feet for it. Here is a picture. Of course, I landed solidly on my chest, right where I was injured. I told Alex I planned to sit out the second half unless we needed me, as we were up 9-5 at that point. But then we gave back one break, and then another, so I warmed up again and went back in. We traded the rest of the way until the final point, where the D got their first break since their streak of 5 in a row in the first half and ended the game. But those extra four points I played were hard and not something I wanted to do before the final. The D did a great job early in the game, getting 5 breaks in a row, but then let in 8 in a row prior to that final point.

In the final, they didn't hurt, but they definitely affected my wind, as deep breathing was a little painful and hard to achieve.

Since then, coughing is painful, and sneezing is very painful for about 30 seconds, although in recent days it seems to have improved. I played the summer league tournament the week following Worlds. I didn't have to exert myself too much on Saturday, but it was good to go on Sunday, although I was a bit more hesitant than usual on a few potential layouts. I played softball on Wednesday. Swinging the bat only hurt once out of five swings. Fielding was actually more difficult, as there were at least two that requires sudden reaching with my injured side, and I didn't make the plays as a result.

Definitely nothing like the high of previous championships. But then again, our first practice this year was on Sunday after our first game (along with three tournaments and two scrimmages). The overall level of play in the Masters division wasn't as high as at Nationals. I was a little worried that Cruickshank and Al-Bob were going to show up on Friday to play (Al was there and we drank some beers together, but he was spectating). I had written, "We expect Japan and Australia to be real threats, as well as Canada. UK and Germany are also potentially tough. More importantly, we are potentially bad, as witnessed by occasional lackluster performances this year." Japan and Australia both played us tough, but neither even medaled (both got knocked out by a surprising New Zealand team). Germany finished next to last, beating only the Venezuelans. GB finished with a losing record. I don't think any of the teams had a player who (even without our 'young' recruits) we would have been afraid to match up against. Compared to the Masters div at Nationals, at Worlds it was younger but less skilled.

We probably put out an O line at least once that averaged 43 or 44 years of age. Mooney 50, Greff 46, me 43, Coop 41, Alex 41, Bim 44, Simon 43 is the oldest that might have all been out there at once, but even our younger O players were 39 or so. So we were probably giving away 6 years of age per player against the Canadian D line.

I was pretty annoyed at the announcer in our first game against Canada (we played in the "spirit enclosure", a field set off from the others where they had a beer garden, seats, and four hot tubs). He started in right away with insults at both our ability and our spirit, almost before having had a chance to see either. Someone must have said something, because in the finals it wasn't the same. I wasn't bothered as much as some by the pro-Canada slant, as it was in Canada. (This is in contrast to the announcer at Worlds in 2002, who said when we were a point up, "Who wants to see a tie!" No home team there, either.) It's funny the things you hear when you're playing. I can pick out a "let's go, Jimmy P" or any instruction given to me by the sideline but not much else (including the line call).

The fall awaits now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Worlds 2008: the experience

I’m back, we won. I called home on Saturday, and my five year old son said, “Daddy, you lost.” “No, we won, we won!” “No, Alex had http://www.wugc2008.com/team/409 one more goal than you did.” But then he continued with “At least you outpointed him significantly in the close games while he padded his stats in the blowouts,” so I forgave him and decided to give him his little Team USA #88 shirt after all.

It was a full week. Alex and Marshall covered the games some. We played 11 games in six days, including semis and finals on one day. (Meanwhile, the Open teams played quarters, semis, and finals over three days.) Although two games a day might not seem like much to Americans who are used to four games back-to-back on each day (or three hard games a day at Nationals), it is surprisingly tiring. With at least one full round off between games, there are two full cycles of warmup/play/warmdown, coupled with a few hours of meandering, chatting, and watching. Plus, there is a week of dormitory food, dormitory housing, and beer.

It was a big disappointment that the tournament unexpectedly lost 10 of the fields to construction earlier this year. On the first and last days of pool play, we were at satellite fields. Thursday’s location (Jericho Beach) was incredibly scenic, but far away from the rest of the tournament. (The schedule-makers did a crack job at rotating the off-site appearances, other than scheduling Japan-US Open pool play at one of them.) As I mentioned prior to the tournament, it really adds something to the atmosphere to have all games and lodging co-located.

It was a strange campus. Other than a Starbucks and another coffer shop, there were no food or beverage options on campus other than the official dining hall, which did not sell individual meals, only a meal plan. Not even a single bar that I could tell. The University Village (with a couple walk-in restaurants) was a 10 minute walk from the fields and about 20 from the dorms, and the only food at the tournament (other than fruit/bagels) was a single pita cart staffed by two unmotivated younguns provided by the university.

There was an Athletes’ Village which was good in concept but underutilized in practice. They had 12’x12’ (or 15’x15’) tents for each country in one area, but there was almost no flow past this area, and you couldn’t see any of the fields from this area. Given the constraints of the space, there was no place they could have put the tents to make this possible, however.

Nice amenities: gallon container of sunblock for each team, two or more volunteers per game (they used cell phones to instantaneously update the score online), water bottle in player pack, water at fields. There were an amazing number of volunteers (I seem to remember hearing there were 400). Probably a lot of the $500K collected in player and team fees went to housing and feeding the volunteers. The online information provided to the fans at home was unprecedented for a Worlds (UPA does a pretty good job at Nationals).

The port-o-fields never seemed to be an issue, although it was rare that someone would need to run across them. I vaguely recall one player getting his feet tangled, but since most of us don’t pivot near the line, it didn’t get in the way. The endzone lines (which were lined, not part of the port-o-field) were pretty worn out toward the end of the week.

Other amenities that seemed a waste for me: bands at the field every day, four hot tubs at the main field. I would have rather had my team’s share of them to go for a keg or two of beer for us in the beer garden.

Like Alex said, the lack of opportunities to hang out with others and drink was a disappointment, although in retrospect probably not that different from previous Worlds. With some bad luck with the timing (it’s a big holiday! Your liquor stores should be open early, not closed all day!), our room was dry until Tuesday.

I missed the opening ceremony, but it was a lot of fun to receive our trophy and medals during halftime of the Mixed final. I also can’t recommend highly enough the energy that comes from the final being in a stadium instead of at just another field, even one with sidelines or bleachers set up.

I can’t stand how the fans indiscriminately boo pretty much every close call (and some not so close calls). I can understand the boos when there is an egregious foul, but every travel call and every foul call where there was no blood involved were met with boos. There is just no way that people in the stands have anything close to best perspective. I myself was convinced that Gehret’s second foul call was a bad one when I saw it live (from 80 yards away, drinking a beer), but two pictures from different angles showed his hand clearly in front of Savage’s, so maybe it wasn’t (and I’m not even talking about the body contact). But what I do know is that there is no way in hell any of those “spirited” folks booing could tell.

But overall, people were amazingly friendly, certainly to me and my team. I think I mentioned once before, I enjoy my nanocelebrity status. I got a lot of "Good game, Jim" in the line after the game, people introduced themselves, and I even got VIP access at the finals (worse seats, but free beer). Even guys who I may have thought or even spoken badly of for overaggressive play were friendly. So thanks, everyone.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Off to Worlds tomorrow

I have to admit, this whole thing has kinda snuck up on me this year. We haven't been practicing nonstop, throwing in track workouts and agilities and a gazillion other training methods, we haven't been doing a lot of tournaments or trips, and I haven't been waking up at night sweating.

But then again, I am excited. There have been a few inspirational emails from old DoGs who can't go and from new guys. We are being outfitted free of charge by Five Ultimate, and we got Team USA discs from Discraft. We are DoG, and we are Team USA, and many people who have heard of us somewhere, sometime, will be seeing us for the first time and making impressions that they will take back home with them (as well as a few signed copies of the book, hopefully!).

Worlds is a tournament like no other. Club Worlds is special, too, but with the strong American presence at those, it feels a lot like other elite tournaments, with the non-UPA teams adding color but not a lot else (at least historically). But Worlds (WUGC, real Worlds, whatever you want to call it) has a more patriotic and international feel to it. Even if you're DoG, you ARE the US team, this year more than ever.

1996: Jonkoping, Sweden. (I'm surprised to find that I haven't blogged about these before). NY had a late comeback against Sweden in the 1994 Worlds, but otherwise, there had not been a challenge to US supremacy. The women had won 1994 Worlds by a large margin (might have been 17-1 in the finals) and also expected to cruise. Our jerseys were striped like referees, and we carried red and yellow cards in our pocket, as a symbol or something of the player's responsibility. We lost a one-pointed to Sweden in pool play, had to sweat out the possibility of a silly three-way tiebreaker (power pools went directly to the finals, no semis), and got our rematch against Sweden. One of my favorite memories is a morning throwaround on the day of the finals, with the Clash's "Death or Glory" blaring out repeatedly on a boom box brought specifically for that purpose. We won going away. The dorms were a short walk from the fields, meals in the dorms, pretty nice.

1998: Blaine, Minnesota. Being on US soil actually took away some of the lustre. Maybe it was just being in the middle of America. The turf was great but slow. We had a big team of 25, featuring many of the young guys who would not join us for real until after we had won Club Worlds in St. Andrews the following summer. My car (we were staying pretty far from the event) had Lenny in it, and he was already injured by Day 2. It took us an extra 20 minutes one morning just to get him packed up and to the fields, and as a result we showed up 28 minutes prior to gametime, but Mooney had decreed that anyone not there by 30 minutes before the game against Canada wouldn't play the first half. We went down several early, he relented and our car got to play, and we more or less traded out to a 3 or 4 point loss. This was our first real exposure to Furious, although apparently we played against several of their key players (while researching the other day, I saw Cruickshank's and Lugsdin's names in a writeup) in 1996. We beat the other teams and Sweden beat Canada in pool play. The tiebreaker gave 1st place to Sweden (who then got taken out in the semis by Japan) while we had to battle Canada again. Again we went down by a bunch, but this time I felt certain that we were going to win, all the way up to the final goal in a 20-15 defeat. We did fight back and take the bronze over Sweden, though. That fall, we lost two more games to Furious at Tuneup, but took it to them 17-9 at Nationals. Again, stayed at the dorms with other teams, and it was fun to hang around and see other countries' teams.
2000: Heilbronn, Germany. This time we booked late and got stuck about 20 minutes away at the end of the bus line. The fields, too, were spread out at the site, with no more than two adjacent. The Sweden fields were pretty tightly packed, and Blaine were pretty close but somewhat inconvenient because of these drainage ditches. Club Worlds in Hawaii were tight. Toronto 1991, Madison 1993, Street 1995, they were pretty close. St. Andrews, they were spread out a bit, though not as much as Germany. It's a real bonus to have all the fields close to each other, especially with only two games a day. At Nationals in Sarasota, the lack of byes removes some of the benefit of having all the fields next to each other. ANyway, back to Heilbronn. They had a beer garden next to the stadium fields, which was a nice treat. I don't remember beer gardens at other WFDF tournaments. We lost to Japan in pool play, once again with a poor performance after a long bye. They were all fast and jumped well, so I guess this was the first inkling that they had caught up. Won our other games, cruised over host Germany in the semis. Struggled at first in the finals against Sweden, switched to the side stack and ran off 13 straight without a turnover, but once again struggled at the end of the game. We finally prevailed 19-18, but there was a close call at double game point, and their captain (who had played with us a couple years earlier) played to the crowd, which is already predisposed to boo any close call for some reason, and really sucked the wind out of the victory.

And that's it.

2008, Vancouver, BC: Who knows. There are only 10 teams in our division, and they are Masters teams. I don't recognize many names from other teams (the rosters are online: ours is here; you can also see our results there). We expect Japan and Australia to be real threats, as well as Canada. UK and Germany are also potentially tough. More importantly, we are potentially bad, as witnessed by occasional lackluster performances this year. We are bolstered by having added three of our old nemeses from the Condors (Steve Dugan, Greg Husak, and Mike Namkung) for the tournament. Maybe that will catch some opponents by surprise. We just need to treat every game like an elimination game as far as preparation goes, and figure out how to keep 29 players involved.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ultimate Techniques and Tactics available at Worlds

A limited number of copies of our book "Ultimate Techniques and Tactics" will be available for $20 CDN at the Gaia tent at the World Ultimate and Guts Championship in Vancouver beginning August 2. If possible, we (my co-author Eric Zaslow (Zaz) and I) will set up one or two autograph sessions at the tent for anyone who is interested. You can also track us down playing with USA Masters, as long as we're not in the middle of a game.

See you there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

training request

Someone on my team wanted to make a request. Suppose a player had a major tournament, we'll call it Worlds, in 3 weeks and wasn't in as good shape as he wanted to be. His remaining training time is limited and often comes a few minutes at a time. What would you recommend for him? What kind of exercises?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nothing to see here, move along

I’d like to apologize to the Masters Division for destroying whatever credibility we may have had. We won the “Easterns Div II” at the Boston Invite this weekend, which means we were 17th of 32. We came in seeded 11th or 12th and expected to finish about there, with a little luck in the top 8, with some bad luck something like 13th. But then again, when your average age is 40, you don’t practice, and you don’t do much training, it doesn’t really matter how good you used to be.

Well, that’s not really true. If we didn’t used to be really good, we would have finished more like 27th than 17th.

It all started out innocently enough. We were in the second tier of 8, seeded 2nd in our pool of 4, with top two crossing over against the bottom two from the top tier. We won our first game against Tombstone 14-12. We were up 2-3 the whole game. I got off a lefty backhand for the gamewinner (lifetime lefty backhand: something like 6/6, 3 GT). In some ways, this was a preview for Worlds, as they will be representing Canada, but they didn’t have a complete squad (one guy filming, one guy sitting, another guy playing with another team most of the time except for a few illegal points which we certainly would have called them on had it made a difference in our advancement), and I don’t know if they were showing us everything. (We withheld our new O and D formations, the bi-angled stack and the ho-stack clam.)

Then, disaster. 2 hour bye, plus we noticed our next opponents lost to Bodhi, 15-5. No problem, that locked up a top two finish for us, no need to get ready for the next game. And at one time (199x), that was true, we would have gone up 2-0 and traded out for a 15-13 victory. We came out flat, and got flatter, and flattened. There was a timeout late in the first half, followed by another break to lose half 8-5, and further degradation in the second half put us at 15-8. While this did lead to some enjoyment at figuring out all the possible tiebreaking scenarios (Bodhi has to lose by less than 14 to guarantee top two, we have to win by 7 unless Tombstone wins in which case we just have to win but if we lose then we want Tombstone to lose, etc.), it wasn’t enough to make up for the poor performance.

Next game started well with a break, but then more blah, going down 8-2. Near the end of the half, a short hospital pass went up to me, I jumped, my defender got his fingers on it a split-second before I did. I started to rip it out, but then let go while everyone anticipated the strip call and stopped. I waved "no call", and he threw the disc to a teammate for a goal while most players looked on. I stuck with my non-call but then asked for a check, mistakenly thinking that I had made a call before retracting it, thus meriting a check, but I gave that up too without realizing that this was what the rules said, too. Most thought it was a strip, one guy told me he thought it wasn't. The second half was a moral victory as we managed to get 9. This sent us down into a crossover game against some Brown alumni plus Chain guys, drastically underseeded at 23rd coming in (they finished 9th, ahead of two 2007 Nationals qualifiers, giving up no more than 10 in any game). We were tired and old, and we lost a few guys in having to relocate fields, and we got beaten deep repeatedly. The closest we came to being in a position to win was having a pass dropped in the upwind end zone that would have made it 9-6.

A scrawny scrub who hardly played wanted me to blog about how bad it was that they were seeded so low. It was a good question. Clearly, going in they were one of the top 16 teams. Zip, AJ, Joel Wootten were the biggest names, plus several other players who played at Nationals last year. But they were a pickup team without any history, and all of the other teams who were in the top half were real club teams (albeit two of us were Masters teams). Should one of them have been bumped to make way for a group of guys who were better but had no way to prove it beforehand? (They proved it afterward, but they were limited to no better than 9th.) A few years ago, another pickup team (Thermonuke) won this tournament, but they had a little more history and a wider cast of characters. On the other hand, these other teams may have worked hard and earned a spot.

btw, I’m a strong proponent of stratification in tournaments. The Women and Mixed divisions at Boston Invite both had an 8 team round robin with no crossover (but also disappointingly no final game). For Open, there wasn’t as clear of a line, certainly not at the #8 spot, and except for Great Britain and Machine, none of the Elite teams had plane flights. With a full set of Nationals teams, a completely split-off Elite div is probably the best, but with less of a field, this way makes sense.

So we lost and got rewarded with an 8:30 game on Sunday. Not surprisingly, at 8:20 we didn’t have a full squad, and I’m sure our opponents were wondering if they were going to get a forfeit. Got a break early, gave it back, traded until we broke to take half 8-6. Gave it back and proceeded to trade to 11-11, scored, then broke three more times to win.

This set up the semis against Colt .45. Our previous matchup against them at White Mountain Open in 2007 helped to launch a blogging career, but there was to be no repeat of that loss. There was again not a lot of ebb and flow to the game; perhaps we got a three goal run once, but otherwise, just single breaks here and there. (Runs always add to the dramatic tension in a game. The only exception is if there is a long streak of no breaks at all, especially if there are some points with multiple turnovers, and you start to wonder who is going to blink first. As an O player, I always felt more pressure in this situation, as your hopes get up when your D gets a turn, only to have them sink away again on the cluster of an offense they run. Repeat.) One of their guys called travel twice on Arnold on non-egregious violations, probably in line with what others were doing, then after the second one, tapped the disc in a little too enthusiastically and knocked it out of his hands. At some point, Arnold told him he didn’t know how to play the game, so for the rest of the game, whenever this kid did something good, he would repeat the line. And I would repeat the line to my team whenever one of his pulls sailed out of bounds halfway up the field. Eh, no hard feelings, it’s just amusing to me now.

After the game, we tried to find an open field to move up our “final” (there was a bye scheduled) but couldn’t, and our opponents (Tombstone again) weren’t all that interested in waiting around to play us again. Their captain came looking for us and said, “We have 12 guys playing still and 3 of them are going to get hurt if they have to play another game.” So I raised my arms in triumph, and he didn’t argue with my proclamation of our victory, so we are claiming that as a forfeit win. We’ll see them again in a few weeks at Worlds.

I stayed around (my wife was still playing) and watched the end of the Open semis (both one-pointers) and most of the Open finals. GOAT-Pony was a multiple-turnover final point. The final turnover came on a long pass than hit the ground before a diving BVH could catch it, and he lay there after for a few seconds, clutching the disc. His opponent came up and tried to rip it out of his hands, but BVH wouldn’t let go, and the opponent started yelling at him, unaware (I hope) that BVH was mildly injured. But even after understanding this, he was still somewhat belligerent, so I screamed at him, “Why don’t you just piss on him?” as that would seem in character.

The finals were exciting. GOAT is my new role model for Huck n Hope. Boston was also unafraid to put it up occasionally on a whim, but not nearly as often. Kids today.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ultimate Showcase Series

The Ultimate Showcase just completed its third year in the Boston area. It's a series of games featuring the club players in the Boston area against each other, competing in Open and Mixed.

There were three preliminary games at area schools (Concord, Bedford, BB&N in Cambridge, Charlestown) prior to the finals at a nice new soccer stadium in Somerville.

My team (Cambridge) won the Open final (hurray!) but gave up the final four points to lose the Mixed final by 1 (doh!). Even though I didn't care too much, I still hated losing that final in that way. I thought we had clinched the game after I caught a long pass in the crowd (flat-footed; I lead the league in flat-footed contested catches) and dished off a lefty backhand for the goal to put us up 14-11 with about 6 minutes left in a running clock (we had the field only until 3 pm). But boom, boom, and it's 14-13, pull with less than a minute. With about 20 seconds left, we decide to throw it deep, turn, and then they launch their own deep pass with about 8 seconds left for the goal. (It wasn't really clear, though, what the cap rule was, whether the game would have ended right there or if the point would have been finished.) The soccer guys who had the field next and were watching were nice and allowed us to play another point. But long throw, non-catch, and they moved it upwind 70 yards for the game.

Our Open team barely made it to the finals. We lost our first game 15-11, and because of point differential needed to win our next game by at least 4. We took half 8-6, then stretched it out to 14-9, but once again, we faltered. Gave up one again, then another, then another turn, got it back, another turn, got it back, and then punched it in to make it on the margin (our opponent had already clinched their spot by scoring at least 9).

It was good playing with the Boston Ultimate guys, but I wish more of them had participated. I don't think that any of the ones who played in the finals were teammates of mine ever (other than Alex) (ok, there were two, on further review). Hmm, interesting also, I just looked at their 2007 roster and only counted 11 guys who I had played with just the year before.

Kudos and thanks to the crew who ran these events, Erik Sebesta primarily. It would be good to get more fans for these events. We seemed to be plagued by bad weather this year. The finals had looked like storms, but instead just brought high winds, at least until about 30 minutes after the game, when lightning and heavy rains did hit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blogging the Huddle- #4

It's a great time to be a young player. There is so much information available on strategies, teams travel much more than they used to, the knowledge about training is miles ahead of what it was.

The most recent addition to this list is The Huddle. This is unique in that it has many different opinions on a common topic.

This bi-week's issue is "The 'Up!' Call" on what to do when you're beat deep and it's thrown.

Responses on what to do immediately were split between "find the disc" and "sprint all-out and react to the receiver finding the disc". (Of course, there was a lot of "It depends..." in there.)

But the purpose of this blog entry is to provide a forum for comments. The editors decided not to allow comments for good reason, but I figure the quality of commentary here is often quite high (better than the posts in some instances!), so have at it. What did you think?

PS. They have 100 000 hits already! It took me a year and a half and 150 posts to get that. Congrats, and well done!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Masters Easterns

For a day, it looked like this tournament was destined to join an elite group that included Turkey Swamp 1997, Tuneup 1998, ECC 2001, and Nationals 2004 as contenders for Worst DoG Tournament Ever. Nothing went well, and there wasn't even a glimmer of hope that things were going to go well. Since it was the first time that some had played since Nationals, and none of us had a whole lot of PT since then, it wasn't quite desperate, but neither was it looking like just a little blip on the road to success.

But then we did well on Sunday, so we can return to our slumber.

To save you all from having to read Alex's recap, I'll mention our scores: 15-6, 9-15, 15-12, 8-15; 15-8, 15-8. We had about 14 on Saturday, about 11 on Sunday. The turnaround was largely due to improved play on our part but also worse play by our opponents, who seemed to have some fundamental problems with catching on Sunday.

My own play mirrored that of the team's (or perhaps the team's mirrored mine; my ego is large enough to believe that the complete difference between Saturday and Sunday was me). I was on travel for work and so ate too much and slept not enough and was feeling a little worse for wear by Saturday. I never was able to feel like I could get to top speed. I couldn't chase down a huck from John Bar in the Philly game, a point that started our downfall (it had been 4-4 without a turnover prior to that). I got winded a little too easily, even accounting for the 90+ degree temperature, and I was just jogging a little too much on D.

But Sunday was a lot better. Again, there are still areas for improvement, but everything seemed to go easier and provide fewer reasons for anguish.

The low numbers for our team was disappointing. It's a local tournament for us, we have a roster of somewhere between 25 and 35 (depending on how you count all the guys who have standing invites but didn't play at Nationals and the out-of-towners), and we have a smaller team than a squad from Nova Scotia. Worlds is coming up in less than 2 months, and although people are married with families, etc., it's still not good that we have so few. Philly is hosting a six-team Masters tournament in July that would be a perfect tuneup for us, but if we have such bad turnouts so close to home, I can't imagine we'd have more than four show up in another Region. But I'm sure everyone will be there for Worlds.

Not a whole lot else to report. I called two fouls and a strip, don't think I had anything called on me. The strip was worth retelling. It was the 2nd half of Saturday's game against Philly, we just got a turnover, and Alex threw me a short pass, which I pancaked. Paul Bonfatti came diving by and swatted it away at about the same time that I grasped it. I'm quite certain that no one else but us two had a good enough perspective to know for sure. The flight of the disc afterwards was probably more typical of a clean block, but I'm also reasonably confident that I had both hands firmly against the disc before he touched it. I called it, Paul protested, I thought about it a little, remembered back to 1994 in the semis of Easterns against Philly when I called a similar strip, and decided that there was probably about 1.0-1.2 total strips between the two plays and so therefore the fair thing to do would be to take back the call. They put it into play right away and scored while some of us were still standing around wondering what happened, so I insisted that there be a check, and then some of them were upset that we were making up rules (as Alex mentioned, the game was a bit chippy, as was our game against them in the quarters of Nationals last year), so I briefly considered and threatened to stick with the original call, which I still felt would have been defensible, but we all settled on a check, their disc. And they scored in two passes.

Both fouls were on the same stall count. Oddly, the fact that they completely prevented me from releasing a throw made them less bad in my mind, since that indicates those were probably legitimate attempts to block a throw rather than deliberate or semi-deliberate muggings to prevent a break. That is, the contacts were hand-to-hand (or nearly so) rather than involving the arm, shoulders, or body.

While I'm here, the recent Huddle article asked about how to stop a handler who suddenly is going deep. My immediate thought was that someone would suggest "mug him" (or the other guys who are throwing to him), but I was surprised that none of the guys and only one of the women came up with that idea (and she attributed the idea to other teams, not hers). I guess none of us have ever played WITH someone like that, only AGAINST. It's like Lake Wobegon, we're all cleaner and more honest than average. I guess I plead guilty to that, too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

WMO 2008

Short story: see last year. Replace "Colt .45" with "Dartmouth Alum" (or Die Nasty, I think they were called), throw in a couple more 1-pointers, and you'll be all set.

The most remarkable thing of the weekend was that there was one point in the first or second game where all seven players were wearing the same shirt. I can't ever recall that at a spring tournament, and there were probably whole years where it didn't happen except at Nationals.

Saturday, we had 13 players (one bailed last minute with a "tweaked back"). Not too hot, sometimes cloudy, occasional wind (in one of the games, there was a string of 4-5 points in a row where the wind picked up when we were receiving and died down when we were pulling). We debuted the horizontal stack, and ended up using it fairly often over the weekend. It worked best for us when the downfield cutters got off quick passes in succession. The only long pass the handler stack completed to a cutter was a quail forehand I threw that bounced off the chest of the defender. But it was kinda fun running back and forth a few yards at a time until something opened up.

We had the desired first round bye, which let most people drive up Saturday morning. I was shocked when I got there 10 minutes before game time that we actually had more than enough to play.

We lost our second game to Phoenix, 14-13 or 15-14. We had so many opportunities to score in that game but turned too many of them. We received at double game point, Alex hucked to me, it hung a little and my defender made a good but not great play to knock it over (I should have boxed him out better). They hucked it back, caught it, and then we didn't get enough people back to play defense and they scored it. Overall we did poorly that game on huck defense. Phoenix went on to win all their games until losing in the semis to Bodhi, a new Amherst/Boston team that started off in the B bracket.

Next game was to avoid the 9 am pre-quarter round. We sat around in between games and skipped the hot box warmup, so I asked prior to the opening pull whether we would go down 3, 4, or 5 before waking up. Strangely, though, it was us that started off well, leading 2-0 (at which point I quipped, "time to trade out until the cap"). But then they woke up and went up two breaks and received to start the second half. I vaguely remember some zone or junk D as we made our own run to start the second half with several breaks, and we traded out to win 13-10. This guaranteed us at least 2nd place and thus a first-round bye, provided we could beat Colt 45. They came in seeded 2nd in the pool (us first), but were missing Match and some others and had gone winless. It was a pretty low-key game, and though it appeared losable somewhere along the line, we held on for a 13-10 win.

For Sunday's play, we were down to 10, as three had other things to do (including, get this, a "Soberfest"). Two who were supposed to come for Sunday only bailed. Then two were late, and one stupid idiot pulled up lame because he drank too much beer (not that there's anything wrong with that) and not enough water. We went up a break and had chances for another, but pissed it away and once more went down two breaks, pulling, at half. This time our run didn't start until 12-10, but we tied it up just in time for the hard cap, double game point. We got a block just outside our end zone, and immediately called time out, which we had agreed among ourselves that we had. No, no, no, says the other team. "I'm a captain, and I agreed with one of your guys that there were no time outs this point." "Well, I'm a captain and I did not agree to any such thing, so you can't use that argument." They tried to invoke the Captain's Clause, but again I insisted that none of our captains had agreed to that, so barring any such agreement, we should play by the UPA rules (which I was beginning to doubt that I knew correctly; I sure hope I am correct, or else I truly made an ass out of myself after the game, instead of just sorta). Eventually, they generously let us keep the disc with a stall count of 3. After a few seconds, I cut for the dump, but kinda cut away since there was a lot of space there, and the thrower threw it straight back, and my defender laid out for the game-ending Callahan. I was still mad enough about the time out that I got my rulebook out, then walked over to the frisbee central to make sure there weren't any tournament-specific rules about timeouts in the cap, then came back and handed the rulebook to the other captain and said, "Here, read this."

We then had a consolation game against Red Tide. This one yet again went to double-game point, us receiving. We turned it twice, but so did they, and we finally scored on a DGP possession (our first goal in five chances). I did a little fist-pump after throwing the game-winner, just as a little reminder that we could still win a close game (I guess we did okay on this score at Nationals last year, but against Open teams, we have had a lot of one-pointers with mostly bad results).

Although there were lulls for sure, I felt pretty good, easily my best "first tournament of the year" in at least five years. My D on handlers was pretty good, not so good on zone D, okay on receivers. No real terrible decisions on throws (not to say perfect execution, but some good long throws), always something that can be troubling after a layoff.

We were discussing how strange it was that we were able to do well with our advanced age. Only 4 of 13 were under 40. I figured even with only 10 people there Sunday, we still had the most years of life of any team there. And we were even missing 20 of our teammates.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Japan Friendship Tour 1994, part 1

My wife was out of town at a Frisbee tournament last weekend, so I took the boy to go sledding with the de Frondevilles over at a hill in Arlington. This was his first real sledding hill, although we had gone a few times in the backyard. He can actually get some speed going in the backyard if the snow is right, and there is a tree a bit off to the side to make it interesting, but it’s small. At the Arlington hill, I rode with him a few times at first, but then decided to let him go by himself (after glancing around to make sure the missus hadn’t flown in suddenly to say it was a bad idea). He made it just fine, although with the crowded hill there were a few close calls. I think he may have even been knocked over one time at the bottom, but it was barely hard enough to merit a foul.

The memory of careering down a hill, however, brought back memories of 1994. Twelve of us were flown to Japan (all expenses paid) to be instructors for a week at a frisbee camp. This was about the fifth time that Masa Honda and Hiro had worked with Mike O’Dowd (a teammate of Masa’s on Windy City in the ‘80s) to bring some Americans over to help them develop the game. Considering how good they’ve become, maybe this wasn’t a good idea (I told Masa at Nationals last fall (he played with O’Dowd’s Troubled Past) that maybe they will have to come over here now to give us clinics). Here is an article from an American ex-pat who was in Japan and played in their Nationals that year, a few months after this clinic.

The crew:

  • from San Francisco: Mike O’Dowd, Brian “Biscuit” Morris, Scott Lipscomb, Caryn Lucido, Molly Goodwin
  • Portland: Kathy Porter, Jon King, Aaron Switzer
  • Colorado: Buzzy Ellsworth
  • Boston: me, Christine “Teens” Dunlap
  • St. Louis: Mark Houska

This was the first time that women were flown over. There were a few women’s teams attending, possibly for the first time, but mostly it was the men’s teams. Teams attended for a day or two, had some instruction, and also got to play one game against the Americans.

To cut to the story, one night, we had a few Sapporo beers and decided to explore the grounds. (I should stop now and say we were pretty inconsiderate, disrespectful, and stupid about the whole adventure.) We were at the Dai Shin En in Takahagi, about three hours north by train from Tokyo, where we had stayed the first night. This place was a cross between a hotel, a camp, and a dorm. There were plenty of sports training facilities, including a disc golf course and a golf pitching course. But we were more concerned that night with the alpine slide and the artificial ski hill.

It was raining steadily that night, so sliding down a hill seemed like a good idea. We first tried the alpine slide, using trays taken from the cafeteria, but that didn’t work too well, so we headed across the facility to the ski slope. The slope was a hard plastic fake grass, with small densely-packed needles which got pretty slick when it rained. I think we may have been using the trays to slide down and were having fun, when someone (probably the same guy (cough Switzer cough)) found two big park benches. Thus, the Jamaican bobsled team decided to come out.

We were a bit drunk, of course, and hit the hill hard. I was on the first bobsled, and it became evident very quickly that this thing was fast. We did everything we could to slow ourselves but still sped down the hill. We managed to stop ourselves, though, and immediately started running up the hill to tell the other bobsled not to go. We yelled, waved our arms, and jumped up and down, but maybe it was the rain, or maybe it was the beer, or maybe it was the obliviousness of the girls and Switzer, and they took off at full speed, giggling all the way. Near the bottom of the hill, Switzer bailed out and suffered some brushburns, but the girls continued on, past the bottom, up the ramp, through a pavilion (narrowly missing a cement pole), caught some air, and got themselves stuck under a plasticky chain-link fence. We all immediately decided that this was the last run of the night.

Other non-frisbee memories:
Two water-closet stories: At the Dai Shin En, there was a row of stalls in the bathroom. The first one didn’t have a toilet, just a hole in the floor, as did the second one, so I stopped looking, figuring they’d all be that way, and I used this one all week, squatting to do my business. At the end of the week, I decided to venture all the way to the end, and saw an “American-style toilet”.
In the restroom at the Tokyo airport, there was an American-style toilet along with the normal ones. Apparently, they had had some trouble with natives not understanding how to use it, so there was a sign indicating that you are supposed to sit on the seat and not squat on top of it.
Waking up at 5 am a few times because of the jet lag and walking around town and playing the golf course. (It wasn’t really a course. The holes were each about 20 yard doglegs, about 6 feet wide, and you have to keep the ball within the ropes before chipping it into a bowl suspended above the ground.
Doing lots of guns.
Hanging out at the beach one evening and doing a group photo gun (that was a favorite photo of mine for some time; I wonder whether I still have it). The wall at the edge of the beach was really far from the water, I want to say 50-100 yards, and we were sitting there chatting when all of a sudden a wave ran all the way up to the wall. We then found out that there had been some recent drownings (strong swimmers, too; it seems that sometimes strong swimmers are more at danger because they think they can handle greater challenges when it really doesn’t matter how good of a swimmer you are. Snorkelers who dive very deep (more than 30 feet) can black out when they hit the surface, but that wouldn’t ever happen to an average swimmer who would go no more than 10 feet deep) where people got washed out to sea by a rogue wave.
Hanging out in the sento at the inn. Buzzy and Aaron were jawing good-naturedly. Aaron made a crude comment. Buzzy told him if he said it again he’d pop him. Aaron said if he popped him he’d give him a forearm shiver back. Buzzy repeated his threat. Aaron said it, and the rest occurred as promised, and we continued with our evening.
Mystery meat in the cafeteria. And the corn chowder.
Ro-cham-squirrel. We had a party one night, and Biscuit and I did a series of roshams to see who had to drink the warm beers lying around (loser drank). You weren’t allowed to look in the cup first to see how much, you had to guess. Luckily, there were no smokers, so there was never a risk of having to down a cigarette.

Next: the frisbee

Saturday, February 09, 2008


From Section I Etiquette in the Rules.

The Spirit of the Game
[This sport] is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the indivudal to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules. All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of the game of [this sport].

[This sport], of course, is golf. I just got my copy of the updated Rules of Golf today and noted that they made some (what I would call) common-sense improvements. For instance, simply carrying a non-conforming club will not get you DQ'ed, only penalized, and standing on your line of putt is now legal if done to avoid standing on someone else's line.

The other proximate cause for this post is the recent rsd discussion on the intentional self-mac or airbrush. My understanding is that the rule was put in because ultimate players also used to do other disc sports such as freestyling and controlled macking and finger-delaying was a part of their arsenal of disc skills. So, the intent is that since the disc is advanced by passing, it would be an unfair advantage to advance by delaying. But the rest of the rule, I'm not sure what was intended. Was it really intended that you should be allowed to mac it to someone else? If it's so easy to mack it to yourself, it can't be that much more difficult to mack it to a teammate. And in a related rule, is it really intended that you can mack your own pass but you can't catch it or greatest it?

I know that writing specifications can be difficult. I remember once on the Board that we put in some specific language one year to cover some contingency, and the next year the statement was reinterpreted to mean something else. And this was for something that we had thought about. There are many examples where you don't actually consider a case and then the case comes up and the users are left to interpret what is written.

A problem can arise when there is mindless devotion to what is written as the be all, end all. In golf, maybe this is ok, since the individuals have pretty much no input into what the rules should be. Perhaps the rules committee does respond to public complaints, as this year's changes seem to indicate, but traditionally it doesn't seem that way. Ultimate players, however, have a more direct relationship with the rules committee, and can even take part in rules experiments through local tournaments or leagues.

So we can change stupid rules or ambiguous ones. I think one of the main purposes of the 11th Edition was to tackle this, to remove exceptions ("the rules don't prohibit it, so it's allowed") and to clarify.

Anyway, as always, I remain ambivalent to rules interpretations. I know them pretty well, follow them pretty well, but am very lax at calling them, most of the time. (An exception is when I feel that the following conditions are met: the player gains an advantage, does it on purpose, knows the rule, and does it repeatedly. I called something like this at goaltimate last week and pissed off the violator. I'm perfectly willing to let laziness or ignorance or an occasional minor semi-deliberate offense slide, though.) I too often let myself get involved in rules arguments started by other people, and I usually take the petty pro-rules side.

And just for completeness, I'm anti-ref, pro-observer, don't mind certain calls being actively done by observers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Testosterone man speaks (well, grunts)

So, as you guys have figured out, that was an old rant of mine. I wanted to shock people a little, at least those who didn't recognize it right away. In 1993, Boston developed an attitude and tried to be like NYNY. We had a strong team, and had beaten NY by 7 at Regionals to take the top seed at Nationals. But then we met them in the semis and lost. That game had a "bench-clearing brawl" and a headbutt, and lots of jawing and posturing and all that. I remember the feeling very well still, although the specifics of the game are almost completely gone now.

I wrote it after reading complaints from a bunch of people who weren't there and who had no idea what it was like to be in our shoes. It drew quite a response. I can still quote some of the replies. "Mr. Parinella's horrible posting pisses me off." "@%&$ you and the horse you rode in on." "There is no place in the game for people like Jim Parinella." But there were also replies from people who knew me that defended, somewhat, me or my point of view.

So, this was my response.

Wow. I guess this means I'm not invited to play with Rec.Sport.Disc at Fools
next year.

I'd like to explain a little about why I wrote. I fully expected to get flamed
terribly. Tross (law...@brandeis.something) posted an opposing viewpoint that
was very mild, and got nailed for it, so I knew it was coming. I can take it,
I'm pretty thick-skinned. I'm enjoying this whole discussion, even though
anyone that dares to say anything along my lines provokes outcries of "Savage"
and "Kill that aggressive guy". I would like to thank the people that wrote in
with support. They really made my day.

I'd like to clarify some things that people may have gotten out of my post:

1. I am not an asshole. The sig was a reference to a previous post equating
wanting to win with being a "testosterone filled asshole". How many of you
know me? I think that I have (at least until this week) a pretty good reputation
(as a person) among this crowd. I think most people consider me a quiet, mild-
mannered guy who plays hard but fair. I'm sure many of those people are now
saying, "I never knew he was suck a jerk", but I was also hoping other people
would read the post and think, "Hmm, Jim's always been pretty reasonable. Maybe
he's got a point." I put my name at incredible risk because I read statements
that I considered to be just plain wrong, and I could not sit and let it go by
any longer. I've been on teams that didn't make it out of Sectionals, I still
captain a summer league team, I still play in pickup tournaments. I like the
game. But it's a sport, and sports have winners and losers.

2. I do not think that fights in the game are a good thing. But nor do I think
they're the end of the world. If there were an ejection rule, that would help.

3. Man is an aggressive animal. Screaming for joy is an act of aggression.
Wanting to win is a form of aggression. "(W)hen the disc is crisp, when the flow
is kind, I get this pulsating ball of energy brewing at the base of my skull."
Do you get this same feeling when you're on defense and the flow is kind? Isn't
this the same as saying, "I enjoy it when I humilate my defender"? It's not the
same as hitting someone, but isn't that aggression all the same?

4. It really is a different game at the top. This was really the main point of
my post, and it's the point that people seemed most unwilling to accept. Do
any of your teammates puke regularly after track workouts? Do you study game
films of your opponents to know their tendencies better? Do you have half a
dozen different defenses to throw at an opponent? Does everyone on your team
break the mark? I was on Earth Atomizer when we made it to the semifinals at
Worlds in 1991, but I think that this team is really at another level. I've
learned so much more in the last two years with BB than I did in my first nine
of playing.

5. Along those lines, individuals play for different reasons. If you're
playing because you like sports but don't like all the yelling, that's fine.
I don't want you to stop playing. Just accept that not everyone feels the
same way.

I will admit that I focused too much on aggression in my first post, hence the
overwhelming response. For what it's worth, I was calm when I wrote it, and
even revised it to remove the personal attacks (unlike others--you know who
you are). It just irritated me that seemingly most posts had no basis in fact
and relied purely on emotions and feelings (but isn't that always the case).

Flame away.

Jim Parinella
Big Brother
"If you can't open your mind, are you sure you still have one?'

Monday, January 14, 2008

Testosterone Man

Ban whole teams for a year? Put a man in the penalty box for spiking? What a
bunch of thin-skinned self-righteous whiners!

I play for Big Brother, and it irritates me to know that I am now considered
evil. Where the hell do you people get off saying this? I thought Tross'
"Six levels of Ultimate" posting was an excellent behind-the-scenes look from
an "elite" team's perspective, and I had hoped people would realize and accept
that it's a different game at that level. Unfortunately, a lot of people
refuse to accept that socialism will never work.

I don't play the game because of SOTG. I don't bust my ass doing wind sprints
in the cold and rain because I want to be accepted in a friendly community.
I don't spend several thousand dollars a year and all my vacation time so that
some computer geek has a high opinion of me. Ultimate, beyond everything
else, is a sport, and sports are about competition. That's why I'm out there.
I want the game to become more competitive. I want Cuervo to sponsor us. I
want the game to be accepted in mainsteam America. I want it to evolve into
something more watchable.

You want to spike the disc? Spike it!! (Incidentally, George "Win one for
the Gipper" Gipp is often credited with the first "spike" in football). Most
spikes I've seen aren't personal--they're either celebratory ("Yes, we scored,
we're still in this game") or mildly retaliatory ("You fouled me all over the
field and I still scored! Ha ha!"). In fact, we even spike it during
practice. It's about intensity, emotion, competition, winning, and losing.
In the NFL, you know that if you get scored on, a spike is coming, and you
better accept it. I've never seen a football player return the spike, by the
way, like many good-spirited ultimate players do. Retaliation equates with
being a poor loser. It also takes your concentration away.

Retaliation led to the near-"fights" in the NY-Big Brother semifinal.
Unfortunate, but as Tross stated, it's surprising it hasn't happened sooner.
If you consider the typical ultimate player, though, it isn't surprising.
Most historically have never played another sport at a level higher than gym
class, and have no idea what it's like to do so. He thinks we should respect
each other because we are all equal, all of us just creatures of this world,
and he can't stand to see other people get ahead if they don't play by his
rules. Your typical non-ultimate athlete, on the other hand, believes that
the best man wins. The best way to stop someone from spiking at you is to
work harder and play better so he never has the opportunity. You say that we
have no respect for other players. I say we have a higher level of respect,
the respect of warriors, the respect that says you give everything you have on
the field of honor, and it's all decided on the field. Afterwards, it's over.
That's what sports is about.

I don't think most levels of the game have to be this intense. If you're just
playing for fun in a friendly, less-competitive atmosphere, then aggressive
behavior isn't good. Many NY/Big Brother players coach high school teams,
captain summer league teams, and play in pickup games and tournaments (many
"good-spirited" players mentioned in a recent posting about the Fairfield,
Ct., Turkey Bowl are NY/BB guys), and wouldn't dream of spiking it on some
rookie or screaming after a goal. But it's a different game at the top, as
different as your pickup touch football game is from the Super Bowl.

Learn to deal with it. If you can't, I suggest you take some mildly
hallucinogenic drugs and stick to summer league.

Jim Parinella
Big Brother
"Testoterone-filled asshole and proud of it"