Monday, October 30, 2006


If anyone is looking for a complete immersion experience into our little world of Ultimate, just come on down to the UPA Club Championships in Sarasota. It feels both luxurious and decadent and as we made our way through the finals yesterday there was a palpable sense of our attentions turning back to the concerns of real life. The emotional ebbs and flows on these vast green fields are unlike any other that I have experienced in Ultimate as there is both the sense of gratitude for the opportunity and tension due to so much at stake.

My wife and I roomed with Tiina B (making her first trip to Club Nationals) and Michael B, so needless to say all our post-mortem discussions on the day's proceedings were heady and invariably correct. Ruth seemed to have a pretty good time volunteering at the info table, and we did manage to go out every night for dinner. This was a welcome respite from Ultimate as she has no interest at all in the game, and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk about something else other than Ultimate (actually, the discussions at the hotel with Tiina and Michael frequently went to other subjects as well). There is no better example than the fact the fact that Ruth took about a hundred pictures, not one of which involved a single point of play.

The job of Head Scorekeeper is a busy one, and I had the pleasure of working with two Rock Stars in the husband and wife team of Laura and Aaron, from Ottawa. Laura was in charge of entering in the scores to the SRT, and Aaron, in his third year as a Field Marshal, was invaluable in terms of his experience and his ability to do RUFUS statkeeping. I also had a great Field Marshal team who showed up on time and worked tirelessly. All these folks (Darren, Joe, Melle, Martin, Ephi, Suzanne, Seth, Kathleen, Amanda, Julia, Dug (explained as an "acronym" for Doug), Erik, Haley, Eric) contributed to the overall great quality of the event. My goal, which was shared by Laura, was that if we were going to be charged with a task, we might as well do it as best as possible. My sense that is that the folks looking in on the SRT appreciated that we were doing pretty much real-time reporting of scores on 30 fields, so again this speaks to the dedication of the Field Marshals. I did have a few moments to check in on RSD during the weekend, and it was remarkable to contrast the pro-active volunteers cleaning trash, filling water, checking scores, and the obvious commitment and work ethic of the players in all Divisions with the dogmatic bitch and whine of folks like Corey and ultimate7. If you want to make things better, then either play well enough to earn a precious spot on those beautiful fields or take some time out of your day and help clean them up. Otherwise...shut the fuck up. I was thanked on many occasions by the players for all the work of the volunteers. Your offerings of gratitude were appreciated by all of us, and it is nice to know that the efforts of the support staff are not met with a sense of entitlement of the part of the players.

I think the experience of a spectator at Nationals when the horn sounds at 9:30am on Thursday is quite similar to a 6-year walking through the gate of Disney World for the first time. It is completely overstimulating and overwhelming. I watched Ultimate 9 hours a day for 4 days and I didn't see 5% of what occurred. Here is what I did see:

-The is a discernible difference in intensity as one walks down the rows of fields. If we consider Open as a 10 (the most intense), then the other divisions are several notches below. To be clear, this is not a comment on quality, just how loud things are. To walk down the line of the 8 Open fields is like walking the gauntlet. 250 large men on the sideline screaming at the top of their lungs is intense. Things got much quieter as I would transition to the other divisions.

-Al Nichols should be a hero for us all. 42 years old and in the mosh pit with the best of them. I had a brief moment to say hello to him and remark on his longevity while giving him his second place medal, and he responded with grace and consideration even in the face of a disappointing defeat. Age can sometimes inform humility. I have been in a number Ultimate situations in which the hierarchy is in your face. Things like talking to someone as then have them walk away mid-sentence to go lick the ass of someone higher up on the food chain who just walked in the door. While it is easy to get seduced by being deferred to (even in this tiny little Ultimate world), remember that "this to shall pass" and that somewhere down the line you will need to make decisions about continuing your career or not. Ultimate as a documented entity is in diapers and while the Moons vs KD might be our best story so far, most of us, like the 99% of the players that played before us, will be forgotten....regardless of the creativity of the spike.

-Speaking of which, it was not a great weekend for the blog folks. We have Luke publishing highlights from a hat tournament shamelessly under a "Nats" moniker, Jim and Al getting dismantled, Idris spectating, Hector wiping his ass with the disc before spiking it, and my main contribution was Cone Bitch.

-There was a lot of straight up mark this weekend. Like most of the time off a turn or pull. It seemed clear to me that the defenses were challenging the O to demonstrate confidence in possessing the disc. I thought it was clear that the teams most comfortable with possessing the disc were Fury and Furious George. For all the talk about Huck and Hope, I did not see it in the 2-3 Furious George games I watched. In fact, I thought FG, as they have players that can throw and go deep, was clearly the best O I saw all weekend. Now, if that is "true" then that speaks very highly of Sockeye's D, which, to me, was the difference maker in the final. While FG was clearly able to possess the disc for high pass counts, it just seemed impossible for FG to able to sustain a high degree of efficiency. For the most part, however, they were able to and it was only couple of long pass (not hucks) that did result in the few turns that they made. I think if FG had been able to establish a deep game then it might have been a different story. Sockeye's O does love the long game, and their points went much faster than FG's. Sockeye attacks aggressive marks by calling the fouls, and, as many of the foul calls come on hucks, it seemed that fouling Wiggins resulted in another shot rather than a disruption of the "flow" (I am not saying that I thought FG trying to disrupt the flow, I just think that Sockeye, with their long looks, is able to absrob the fouls better).

-I was very impressed with Fury in the final. They are very deep when it comes to throwers, and, like FG, their throwers will also go deep. Fury was able to convert their break opportunities early on, so the first half was a surprising blow out.

-I was really happy to see Slow White as the only non-NW team in the finals. I did feel that the Mixed final was evenly matched, but that Slow made more unforced errors early on and had to play catch-up. I thought SW looked very good all weekend and they should be very proud of what they accomplished.

-I was able to watch DOG twice on field 13 and they really looked overmatched against both FG and Sockeye. FG beat DOG on both sides of the disc and demonstrated higher competence with a very DOG-like O (great end zone O....lots of changing the field).

-I was able to read the Mixed Div write ups on the UPA website, and I think Bil did a great job in his write-ups. He also managed to film the whole thing as well, which is awesome as he takes great photos (including a great shot of the winning Masters Final goal). I was a bit perturbed, however, to see that the very first sentence of the very first day is "Poor George Cooke". It then goes on, in faux sympathy, to describe how hard it is for me to seed the Mixed Div. First of all, I don't understand why I am even mentioned. Really, it is clear to me, based on the language of this paragraph and in his RSD posts, that Bil doesn't really respect my approach, thinks that I am "wrong", and thinks that I must be upset that I get the seedings "wrong". Hey, there was also a running joke among the ND's about who was going to get things more "wrong" (as if it was ever in doubt). I said many times during the weekend "Who is seeding the Mixed Div? They should fire the guy". I also think that a live broadcast of me doing "dartboard seedings" (throwing team darts at a dartboard numbered 1-16), would probably be exciting, boost ratings, and be more "correct". So, for the more time....seeding is reactive not predictive. Any language in the articles that indicates that I am upset by how things played out, or that the final results should be close to the original seedings("Fickle fortune's wind blew but lightly on some pools today, while in others, the seedings failed to conform" and "many prognosticators had penciled Slow White into the finals (although they came in seeded No.5")) is Bil's subjective take on the matter.

-As Jim posted a year ago, I cannot imagine trying to get on a plane later this week and flying down for worlds. I wish all teams the best of luck. In the Mixed Div, I would seed that 1) Mischief, 2) SW, 3) Brass Monkey, but I am sure that Bil would disagree.

Overall, I did not have much chance to socialize. I got a chance to say hello to Tully and Amy and their new baby, but that was one of many examples where I had to keep moving on to the next task. Each division has a different story. Many folks were talking about the blow-outs in the Women's Div. Masters and Mixed were all over the place. Open displays some parity, close games, and great intensity. I was happy to see both Johnny Bravo and Chain break through and shake things up a bit.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Off to Nats

My wife and I are catching an early flight tomorrow morning as we are making our way down to Sarasota for Nationals. My wife is going to volunteer this year by helping out with orgainzing the player packs and various other on-field duties. I need to get my scorekeeping stuff together and meet with the Field Marshals tomorrow. One of our goals is updating the SRT with every half time score, so keep checking that out. If you don't get the info fast enough, just comment here and I will be sure to get back to you.

Advice to the teams: LEAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO GET TO THE FIELDS ON THURSDAY MORNING. The traffic is traditionally horrible on Thurs. Last year, 6TM got stuck in traffic and some folks didn't get to the fields until 9:10am. I suggest hitting the road at 7:30am from Siesta Key. Worst case scenario is that you find your field early and have plenty of time to warm-up.

My concerns this year will be quite different: What games to watch?????

I think I have got my first round narrowed down to:


Seems doable, right? If I stay a whole 5 minutes at each one...I should catch them all. Maybe if my customized golf cart (all black, big rims, built in ipod and latte machine) arrives in time I can get it to 6 minutes per game.


Ultimate Coaches and Players Conference: Presenters and Seminar Topics Announcement

Tiina and I are very excited to release the list of presenters and seminar topics for the Ultimate Coaches and Players Conference! Please go to the UCPC Home Page ( and click on the "Presenters" link. We feel this is a top notch group of people and we are very excited by the diverse and informative topics that we have to offer. I want to take a moment to thank everyone that submitted proposals. We really appreciate all the interest.

There is also some preliminary logistics info to check out, so please come by the website for all the updates.

Tiina and I will both be down at the UPA Club Championships, so, if you are down there, please take a moment to stop either of us if you want to talk about the UCPC.

We will be releasing registration information at the beginning of December, so stay tuned.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Crap Formats #2

Very busy times these days.

I am working pretty hard on Nationals logistics. Seeding, observer rules, schedule, etc. It looks like I might be Head that will be fun.

Bumpersticker I saw the other day:

"George W: Pull out like your father should have."


Worked on the 2-handler set with the girls the other day. In my attempt to indoctrinate them in this set, I decided I wouldn't even teach the 3-handler set this year. My vets don't seem comfortable in the 2 set, though, so they fell back on the 3 set this past weekend at a Smith College tournament.

Speaking of tournaments, my girls have this format to look forward to this upcoming weekend:

I can't make any sense out of the seedings as I don't think that MIT and BU should be seeded behind us. Also, 16 teams in 3 pools??? I guess this is being driven by the 6 field issue, but 16 teams in 4 pools can be done on 6 fields in 4 rounds. The byes aren't any worse than the published plan.

Then there is the brackets. First, both A and C pools have their 1 and 2 seeds on the same side of the bracket. That's a big no-no. In terms of match-ups, A1(1) vs C3(8...9??) makes sense. B1(2) vs A2 (6). No problem, kind of. C1(3) v B3(8). Low seed plays a high seed. That's good. B2(5) v C2(4). Right on. What happened to 7??

I think 4 pools of 16 in 4 rounds followed by 2v3 pre-quarters makes a lot more sense.

Ok...that's the bitch for the week.......


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Best Mixed O Scheme So Far?

In 2004, I purchased some videos of previous Mixed Finals as 6TM was just forming and there was interest among the leadership in what prior teams had done in terms of organizing their offenses. After watching a bunch of film, we ended up using a variation on a scheme that Donner Party had came up with, and we had great success with it that year. In 2005, a decision was made to focus on a spread offense ("Pairs"), and I must admit that I was disappointed that we moved away from what had been quite effective for us.

The scheme is based on a T-stack. For those that have not read my previous post, the T-stack is 3 horizontal handlers and 4 vertical cutters downfield. In a sense, it just takes the handler in the front of the stack and flares them out to the break side to roughly where they would have received the swing pass.

In the case of Donner Party, they ran this O with four women. They would put two male handlers out on the outside, and they had very strong women handlers that could run the show as the pivot. This left three women cutters downfield with one male cutter. Obviously, this creates a very difficult 1 on 1 matchup downfield for the sole male defender.

6TM ran this in 04 with 4 men (a male handler at the pivot) most of the time. I am a bit surprised that more Mixed teams have not incorporated this look.


Nomenclature for Alternatives to the Stack

This post is inspired by yet another conversation that went roughly as follows (liberties taken):

"I haven't seen many teams playing the German anymore."

"Is that the one with the 4 cutters horizontal downfield?"

"No, that's the Swedish, its that one with the iso in the middle of the field."

"Right, that works well. I also like that one in which there are 3 handlers in a horizontal line near the disc and then there are 2 pairs of cutters near the sideline on opposite sides of the field."

"Don't some teams call that Brown?"

"I have no idea....I just call it 'the 2 pairs of cutters on opposite sides of the field'."

"Yeah, that's easy to call on the line......"

I propose that we lose the terms "German" and "Swedish" in terms of the everyday vernacular unless someone can write a paper that documents exactly which stack goes with which country. I mean no disrespect to the teams and countries that could have invented these stacks, but our ability to communicate is severely hampered by rumor and misinformation. I just don't want to slog through it anymore.

I need to say that I think teams should call these whatever they want internally. I am just speaking about general conversation.

So how about:

"Pairs"- This is the offense with 3 horizontal handlers back and a pair of cutters close to each sideline.
"3-1-3"- 3 horizontal handlers back, 1 iso cutter downfield, 3 horizontal cutters downfield.
"3-4"- 3 horizontal handlers, 4 horizontal cutters downfield
"T-stack"- 3 horizontal handlers, 4 vertical cutters downfield

Now that I am on a roll, I don't think "2-3-2" is a good term for a standard cup zone. I have played on teams in which we had a "2-3-2" zone (meaning a cup zone), and a "real 2-3-2" zone. This is just too confusing. I don't think that "2-3-2", when referring to a 3-person cup, accurately describes this zone either from a functional or visual perspective.

I tend to call a standard, 3-person cup zone a "cup zone". I think the case could be made to call it a "3-3-1". I call a 4-person cup zone a "4-person cup". Are there any practical versions of a 2-3-2 zone? I haven't seen any, but if there are, let's call it a "2-3-2".


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Quick thoughts about NE Regionals

For some reason, the weather this past weekend reminded me very much of playing Ultimate in my early years in Ithaca and Amherst. It was pretty much a perfect NE fall weekend with the changing leaves, picture book blue sky, and just a hint of coolness in the air. Almost made we want to play again..........

Well, not really, but I did have plenty of time to reminisce about what it felt like to play in the fall in the old days. I do love Regionals, and I could just enjoy the experience without the stress of worrying about whether my season was going to end prematurely. I was never on a team that would have caused me to consider that qualifying for Nationals was an afterthought, so I was always much more nervous at this tournament than any other.

I am quite touched by Jim's little compliment that the Mixed Div is exciting due to the upsets. In general, I thought Jim's post on Regionals was excellent. Funny and a bit of the old TM thrown in on the side. I do think that Jim's compliment was probably just a momentary lapse due to bathing in the afterglow of Dog's domination of the event. Dog did look great this weekend, and I think his summary of the improvement of the D's O is very insightful.

On the women's side, I got to hang out for moments with the Lady Godiva folks and it was great to see Lori Parham, Shana and Sarah Cook, Molly Brown, Amy D, Chris C all back on the field together. I think they will have a great time at Nationals.

The Mixed Div was topsy-turvey on Sat, and it played out much like the MA Regional in that the 3 and 4 seeds ended up playing in an elimination game in the 3rd round. It was sad for me to see 6TM not make it to Sunday and not give themselves a chance to play for Sarasota. I thought the 6TM-Tandem game was quite intense. Exciting, but difficult to watch. Of course, a few folks came up to me and joked that my stock really went up this weekend. I was able to get a laugh in as the humor is based on the ridiculous nature of the premise (any serious assertion that I could be the difference maker on a team like 6TM would frankly be an admission that the team was in deep shit). 6TM had massive turnover on the women's side this year, but as far as the men go....the real loss there is Olen. He was a sparkplug for that team and any real self-analysis will say that there is a hole needs to be filled.

I thought that Slow White looked very good this weekend as they got all their new Patagonia stuff. They also played very well. They ran a patient offense and their long looks were high percentage. I think they are approaching the season with a correct build and they look to be peaking in a few weeks. It is fun to watch them as it is clear that they are enjoying themselves without being cocky.

So, our attention turns south now. I look forward to seeing the NE teams down in Sarasota.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I somehow managed to escape alive from my teenage years despite a somewhat typical arrogance in my assumption that I could survive anything. Without the maturity to cope with the loss of my father when I was 12, I careened into my early 20's without awareness of the lessons that can be learned from losing someone close to you. Over time, I have been able to gain some perspective and not take things as much for granted to the point where most days I am able to remind myself of my fraility and insignificance. We are reminded of this message frequently, from our own personal interactions to the public declarations of survivors and familes of victims of 9/11. Sometimes, though, the facade of an awareness of perspective does not help to remove the bitter taste that is left in one's mouth in the face of the randomness of an accident like the one that took the lives of two players from the Gendors this past Sunday. Hh wrote much more eloquently about this than I ever could, but I was struck by the link he provided to Will Wiersma's MySpace page in which Will, one of the deceased, mentions "life is simple" and "living as if you are dying tomorrow". A few weeks ago, I got on a plane for Chicago so I could work at CHC. As I got on, it crossed my mind, as it does frequently these days, that this could be the last thing I do. I did not presume to take any comfort in the idea that I was "doing something I loved", and I was quite certain that my wife and daughter would not take comfort in such sentiment. So, the questions and struggles remain, regardless of how much we remind ourselves of the gift that is our time here: Do I get on the plane? Do I drive to the tournament? Do I leave the house today? On days like yesterday, I have no answers.