Monday, October 30, 2006

Nats

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 record...one 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.

15 comments:

jtflynn said...

A few thoughts from the weekend (a.k.a. i haven't set up an ultimate section for my blog space... maybe next season... if there is one for me... i've resolved to make no decisions until January. anyway, too much "I/me" here.)...

+ As always, the tournament was very well run. The score gathering folks (Efie mostly for us) seemed more plugged in and active in their updates. Very impressive for the S-o-M, which I haven't looked at yet.

+ Last year, I was suprised at how many mixed teams under-use their women. This year, I was even more disappointed. A number of teams actively looked off easy 15-yard open-side gainers. I joked that the division should be renamed the "4v4 with six women milling about" division. Bad Larry, Gendors were Brass were clear exceptions.

+ Re: the "failure" of seedings to predict results. You've made your point and done your job well. I suspect some of Bil's comments reflect his appreciation of the fluidity of the division more than any mistakes in seeding. I could be wrong, but knowing Bil, I don't think he intends to be malicious. Those "in the know" understand the challenge of inter-regional seedings w/o crossovers.

+ I wish I had been able to see more Open play this weekend. I saw most of the Sockeye/Bravo semifinal. Amazing stuff that reinvigorates my love of the game, even as end of season burnout is in full flame.

+ Any prospects for an alternative to Sarasota? I would love to see a championship weekend where wind wasn't the 3rd team on the field.

+ Thanks for your work. I wish every player (especially at a nationals level) gave as much during their careers to the sport as the small subset who always seem to be running the teams, leagues and tournaments. We might all appreciate each other that much more.


out,
shiv
Whor$hack/Horse$how

Sideline Engineer said...

"...99% of the players that played before us, will be forgotten....regardless of the creativity of the spike."

This was a funny quote for me, because what I remember best from watching Parinella play at Worlds 2002, the only time I've had a chance to watch him, was his huge air spike after catching the game winner in the semis against Furious. He threw it so high that most of the crowd was on the field by the time it came down. Of course, I probably wouldn't remember it as well if it had been someone else who threw it.

gcooke said...

Shiv,

Actully, Ephi and the other Field Marshals were posting results to the SRT.

There is no question that usage of the women in Mixed is a debated topic. After the Wold Games, Jim brought this up in his blog, and I agree that it is an ongoing concern.

I have just a couple of thoughts on the matter:

1) The overall touches on any team are not equal.
2) Clearly, the biggest problem is, as you mention, looking off open women. No question that this is a problem. However, we had a discussion in the Crow's Nest during the Mixed Final in which a man was looked off by a man. I said that if the cutter was a woman that we would have given the thrower shit, but as it was a male cutter, we think "Good decision. Patient offense. Go with the 100% throw".
3) Heckle heard during the Bravo-Sockeye semi: "Throw it to your women".
4) I think any offense that is designed to play into the strengths of the team is valid (see Hangtime 02). However, I don't think that many Mixed O's are designed with such clear thought and are therefore reflections of habitual behavior and not intent.

My understanding is that we are in Sarasota for another couple of years, but that is not an official declaration as I am not that aware of the contracts.

SE:

Interesting comment. My main memory of C-K is him straining his hamstring doing a spike in 04.

-G

parinella said...

And Paul Greff reached out casually and caught it while walking onto the field.

I almost always try to "act like I've been there before", but sometimes I get really excited and do something with the disc. Some of the time, it's just a little shy of being perfectly natural but I still do something in order to fire up the team. I did a smack spike this Friday against Furious on the first point of the game, after having an excellent point against a very grabby defender. It inspired us to stay in the game all the way up through 2-2.

gcooke said...

Jim,

That was a nice little smack spike. It walked the line well......

-G

Adam said...

George -

Beautiful post. You and your crew on the field don't get enough credit.

The "throw it to your women" call from the sideslines was one of several good heckles (amongst the usual sea of good attempts) from Rhino during that game.

-a

degs said...

People don't want to hear it but there are only a few field sites in the country that satisfy the criteria for Nationals:
- 30 fields, plus room in between
- high quality fields at a resonable price
- close-ish to a major airport
- guaranteed not cold
- volunteer base nearby if possible

San Diego either got really expensive or is not big enough anymore, I forget. Indio or Oxnard (again I can't recall which) is/are not close enough to an airport and/or big enough. ABQ put in a bid a while back but their fields can't be used for a month before and after their giant hot air balloon festival. Lame.

And Sarasota, for all its drawbacks, is still great. It is still cheap; the tourney folks have an easy time since everything is familiar; and players know where to eat, stay, drink. It's not down the street from a giant airport, but an hour is about as good as it gets for guaranteed warmth and the acreage needed.

The last point -- change is not necessarily undesirable. But the UPA has been doing Sarasota for what, seven years now? If a better option came along I think they would've done it. But none has surfaced and it's warm in Florida.

Unless field requirements came down (readers of this blog surely know what that means)... and I bet that's not going to happen real soon.

tebewebb said...

As an addicted "refresher," huge ups to the SRT score reporters doing an awesome job of getting scores in point by point for most all games. I'd flip through each division and most times, sometimes after less than a minute, each division had new scores.

Sweet, sweet, sweet!

Now if we can just get some audio updates like SOM managed awhile back.

Re: given the knowledge available, your seeding was the best that could be expected, and quite good enough, excepting the Bad Larry snafu. (See the first clause of the preceeding sentence.)

Stephen
DC Funk

gcooke said...

Stephen,

Thanks on both accounts.

Degs,

Thanks for the comments. I actually did a very quick search the other day to see what could possibly be out there as an alternative site, but I didn't have time to follow up.

I hope I am not included in the "people who don't want to hear it" category. I have no problem with very frank and candid discussions about the limitations of venues due to the number of teams at Nats, and I have some ideas of my own that I have been working on.

Also, I hope that folks don't feel that there are taboo subjects or comments for this blog (referring specifically to your comment about "field requirements coming down"). My main conccern, in terms of content, is that folks are considerate(as you are) and free from the dogmatic, emotional, and belief system encumbered tone that is typical of RSD. My "this too shall pass" comment (spelled correctly now) plus the, hopefully, clear message that I try not to take things for granted applies here as well. I do not take it for granted that the UPA will always place Mixed in the Fall, so my point of view as NXD is to try do the best we can with the opportunity that we have. That means holding the Div to a standard that is deserving of its visibility (still a work in progress for this young divison), plus, as an administrator, to have our act together as much as possible. This means well run tournaments, good communication, prompt reporting of results on the SRT, etc. It is trying to embrace the attitude of "focus on the things you can control".

-G

A said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A said...

George,

It was terrific working with you in Sarasota. Things went so smoothly and I had a blast.

I'll be there again next year if I'm not playing there myself.


Great fun!

-Amanda

gcooke said...

Thanks, Amanda.

-G

beatty said...

except at disney world i'm sure they give you a map or some sort of visitor's guide to find your way around. flash fence around the beer garden though....

bil said...

Hey George. I actually did not intend to make light of your seedings. The lack of inter-regional play, the change in mixed rosters from year to year, and the presence of several new teams all combine for understandable uncertainty.

Perhaps it was inappropriate to personalize the statement about seeding (with your name), although on the other hand, I think that sometimes its good for people to know that there is a process that UPA goes through, and that that process is basically a person (who has to follow a set of rules, of course).

In any case, I intended sympathy, not sarcasm.

Now if only the day three coverage would appear.

Also, I would note, in relation to the comment about the male look-off on the downfield cut in the mixed finals, that a few points earlier a woman had been looked off for what should have been a yardage gain, and a critical comment had been made. In that case, and this is the distinction between it and the later guy look-off, she was the ONLY good option available. The male thrower then forced a break mark throw to a fairly covered guy that turned over. In the later incident, the looked-off man was not the only option, as I think the disc swung fairly quickly.

In any case, a well run Nationals.

gcooke said...

Hi Bil,

Thanks for checking in. I appreciate the clarification re: sarcasm vs sympathy. I agree that it is good that folks know how seeding goes, but I really felt (and feel) comfortable with the way things played out. I thought the data was about as clear as any since I have been in the job (obviously excluding the South), so it was not really a struggle this year and I think that was supported by the fact that I received very little comments or criticisms from the captains.

In regard to the looking off bit...I think I overplayed that a bit....it was not a perfect analogy.

Thanks for the reporting and you hard work.

-G