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.


Alex Peters said...

"Was it really intended that you should be allowed to mac it to someone else?"

The rule specifically states that a mac "to oneself" is illegal. This rule hasn't changed for several editions (it is exactly the same back to the 8th edition, and the 6th and 7th edition says "tipping to onself is not allowed." If they cared about macing to other people, why would they put "to oneself" in there? They could have just left that out and made all intentional macing illegal.

And why would they care about macing it to someone else anyway? It's just as hard, if not harder and more risky to mac it than to just catch it and throw it again.

Frank Huguenard said...

So Jim,

You've decided to completely ignore the New Games report?

The intention of the rules makes was to make training wheels for weak players so they could have fun (at the expense of stronger players).

This is irrefutable.

Why bother posting on the mac rule when in fact the entire framework for the game is a sham?

ulticritic said...

if only the upa had the brains to add those 4 words...."for the most part"

so the no-mac rule was created to weed out freestylers from ulty.....good assestment. But since there arent freestylers anywhere around ulty anymore maybe the rule is due for a change. And as one who is proficient in macing i will say that it is MUCH easier to mac it to myself over a teammate.

writing rule specifications are only difficult when trying to apply them to a player arbitraited system. Third party arb would cut the length of the rule book in half(and simplify the process). Not as much of that "if this, then that" crap.

tournies with rule experimentations......when and where?

change stupid or ambiguious rules??? Like the "force out" rule (as stated on an rsd thread) this example isnt really a rule change as much a a rule enforcement process change. And what evoked that change was the observer simply making a ref style call that was logical, efficient and obvious (as the notion of refs in ulty is). Crazy thing was that this "experiment" occured at nationals in the men semis. Pretty work BH.....way to be a pioneer out there.

being lax at making calls does not a good ref or observer make.

How many calls does a third party arbitraiter have to "actively" make (or be responsible for making) to where he crosses the line from an observer and becomes a ref. According to webster none. Simply being refered to in order to resolve a dispute makes him one. I think you are just all hung up on the semantics and that whole sotg ora.

Justin Richardson said...

i gotta say that after 10 years of playing non-contact ulty, i got a chance to jump in as goalie on a local soccer team. playing a contact sport again has totally changed my attitude about rules. rules? what rules? try that again and I'll crush you.

i think in ultimate the rules get greater emphasis because the nature of the game makes even minor cheating, like travelling, a significant advantage. try that and soccer it doesn't work so well. sure, you can pull on a jersey and get away with it, but a defender can also take you down with a slide tackle. talk about self enforcement....

i'm not quitting ultimate any time soon. but playing a sport with a different frame of reference from time to time and really put things in perspective.

too bad instead of calling picks, i can't just opt to run through the pick.

parinella said...

You finally wore me down, too. Although I agree at times with you, it's just too hard to comment critically on anything you write.

The rule goes back so far that it's hard to divine intent. And my Board example showed that even a year later, those who were there when the rule was written might not always be able to interpret the intent correctly. It does seem like the addition of the phrase "to oneself" implies that "not to oneself" is legal, but it could have just happened without thinking about it too deeply.

Justin, when i play other sports, I tend to impose ultimate (or golf: see actual blog entry) sensibilities. In pickup basketball, when some guy tries to scream at an opponent shooting or call for a pass from the other team, I try to give that player the evil eye and mock him, if possible.

maybe it is time for a change.
I think you still need good specs even with refs, if you want games arbitrated consistently and don't want rogue referees letting their egos dictate the contest.
Rules experimentation: Boulder used to do it every year. The colleges experimented with the X Rules before those became the Callahan rules. MLU, for that matter, qualifies.
I'm not sure what the force out rule change was. Sometimes the obsever/ref should make a logical interpretation if no known precedent exists.
It's not the number of calls but the type of calls that determines observer vs ref, at least for a semi-non-contact game like ultimate. There are two ways of looking at it. One is simply whether it's a contact issue or not. The other is whether the caller is the only one involved in the play. In/out or up/down, there is no opponent perspective, just "not the player involved" perspective. With fouls, and to a lesser extent travels, it takes two to tango, and it's hard on so many of these calls for the ref/observer to initiate the call correctly (I'm still a bit miffed at you, Toad, for blowing a marking foul in '96). Or another way to look at it is whether removing the responsibility of the call removes the responsibility for "fair play". A ref calling in or out doesn't change the way the game is played. Up/down is a little trickier, as the player can know a disc is down and pretend it's up, but more often, someone else will have a better perspective. Foul calls, I'm pretty confident that the two involved know best.

ulticritic said...

Past time for a change

"if you want games called consistantly and..........."the last thing you do is let the players do it.

not much experimentation as of late

force out rule the same...the process of callin it changed....its now an active call. and i'm not talkin about a rule precedent but rather the process in which its enforced. I mean if an observer calls an active travel call will the upas' head observer have an apiphiny and declare that an active call to. The fact is the process changed just because someone had the common sense and balls to call it......and in a nationals semis game?????

I dont mean quantity of calls in that way, i mean of the some dozen or so calls that can be made on the field how many of em have to be active? There is already offsides, in/out, up/down, forceout. So whats left...... travel, pick, double team, the stall count, fast count and various fouls. I can see travels and stall counts the next thing to be controled by officials. Thats almost half. so where is the line that diferentiates a ref from an observer?

i didnt blow the call (well maybe i did....marking calls are the hardest.....backing up the marker would solve much of that though) i did catch your ass travelin though.

I dont think fair play is less of a responsibility. People cheat in ultimate now....think they dont? The dynamic of the cheating would just change. It would be one with greater rewards....but also with greater risks.

funny you mention that up down situation. On the first point of the "dressed rehersal" for the nua allstar game back in 96 milan grouper traped a disc. I knew it was a trap but it wasnt in my area. As head ref i should of made the call but i hesitated and didnt call it. Milan wisely didnt give it up and play continued. We discussed it afterwards and milan admited trapping it but since the wasnt a call he played on. Thats how sports work. dont think that players havent called trapped discs "up"(and at least kept posession) its, at best, an even trade. But the scales tip my way when you factor in contiuity and game pace.
another scenerio in the actual game that night.....blair trapped a disc, i immediatly called down, blair intincually stopped to argue the call as his man went long for the goal. That was the last time he questioned a call.

Anonymous said...

I have little to add concerning the main thread. I do however have a couple of questions that your years in the sport would qualify you to answer:
1. Who are the best athletes you've seen or played with in the game? More specifically, who do you think is the fastest, quickest, and who gets the highest (I suspect it might be three different people)? Who has the best throws? I know Beau and Chase S-B get up high, but I once played against a seven-footer who's top reach was much higher than I've ever seen any other frisbee player get (Well above a basketball rim, his best were over 11' 6).
2. What are the most fundamental components of a national-tournament caliber frisbee team (i.e., what properties do all such teams have)?
I anticipate some fun answers,