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.


Anonymous said...

How does this week long tournament affect your ability to complete in the fall series. It seemed to affect Miami in '04.

parinella said...

The biggest effect is that some guys are not going to play in the fall, whereas maybe they would have if we hadn't gone to Worlds. Time and money (and burnt family capital) are limited. Additionally, those that are playing won't be going to as many practices/tournaments this fall.

Next biggest effect is that there is probably complacency. We won despite not playing perfectly, shall we say, so one might think that with a little more playing, we'll be even better and so Nationals will be a walk, especially since other teams might be weaker as it is not a Worlds-qualifying year.

For the club teams that already have grinding schedules, the greatest effect is burnout and injuries. Sockeye had to ramp up for Dream Cup in March, so they've been working hard for a long time. But they're also younger and should hold up more. We definitely had burnout in the mid-90s in Worlds years, although we had an average age of 32 or so.