Friday, September 16, 2005

Depth in open elite

I was just reading Luke's prognostication over on his blog and looking at his quarters predictions, it is incredible how deep the field has gotten. His high-level prognostications are below

Quarterfinalist Teams.
All three NW teams
Both SW Teams

Teams to watch, who are most likely to put their final placing in my face.


Yes, he completely dissed the midwest, but I would say that there are 11 teams with a strong chance of making the quarterfinals. I would add Sub-Zero to the list, and probably remove Doublewide (which means I guess they'll beat us at nationals now) although if you leave them there, that could quite possibly be all of the teams in the quarters and pre-quarters. Look who he left out of the quarters. Pike was in the semis last year, and had a great spring with only one loss to DoG in the finals of the Boston Invitational. They only had a so-so western trip to ECC, but who knows what they brought. It will be interesting to see what happens in Mid-Atlantic Regionals.

As for Twisted, they have beaten very good teams, and lost to some others. It seems like they match up very well to certain types of team (not so well to us yet, fortunately, but we also haven't had regionals yet...), so given the right draw, they could make some noise.

Chain continues to improve, and should definitely make the pre-quarters, and after that, it's one game at a time.

Sub-zero always gives us a problem, not sure about other teams (their CHC victory notwithstanding, as they didn't exactly light up the competition, although according to sometallskinnykid, their offense is coming around.

The only other wildcard here is how many bids the Northeast will get. If we get 3, that should result in DoG, Twisted Metal, and GOAT, in whatever order. GOAT didn't show much this season until CHC, but who knows if they are ready to make noise also. If we are down to 2, look for a DoGfight for those 2 spots, as some observers think DoG might finally be vulnerable.

Johnny Bravo has been looking good, although remains to be seen if Beau will make it back (sounds like no), and Deaver was last seen in sandals at Santa Cruz. Hard to believe they won't make quarters, but who knows.

As for the northwest, with Kaos beating Jam in sectionals (it NEVER gets old to see Jam go down) and Rhino looking pretty good at Santa Cruz, I'm not sure it is a lock that Sockeye, Jam, and Furious will make the show. Promises to be yet another bloodbath at their regionals. Got to love when they lose that 4th team every other year (and let's not forget when they lost BOTH strength seeds. Ye gods!).

The thing that makes quarters really dicey these days is the pre-quarters game. After all, Sockeye came up through the pre-quarters to win nationals last year. What if they had played some other unlucky but expected semifinalist? I expect that Luke's quarterfinal list will NOT be accurate, but I also expect that all the teams he listed (including Twisted if they make it), will be in the pre-quarters. I know, I'm really going out on a limb here. Talk to me after regionals.

One other thing I want to add. When I say 11-12 teams could make quarters, that doesn't necessarily seem that competitive. What is more important is that I think at least 8 teams could make the semis, specifically

Sockeye, Jam, Furious, Condors, Bravo, Ring, DoG, Pike. Given the right kind of draw, one of the other teams could make it, but figure that the top four will come from this group (I know, going out on a limb again...).

As for the sport itself, this kind of depth is great (although the long-winded explanation that I just wrote didn't make sense, so I'm going to leave that comment just like that).

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Miscellaneous on CHC, Callahans, 40 yr olds

Glad to see my Sub-Zero Chicago prediction was right on. Of course, I got the finalist, and possibly semifinalists wrong, but we won't know until someone actually posts some barebones results on rsd, which doesn't seem like it is going to happen. Pretty lame. Although good to see that Goat may finally be getting into gear. Should be a competitive regionals. It will be interesting to see if we get a size bid. If we do, the top 3 should be pretty straightforward, with PoNY trying to steal a bid. If we only get 2, it will be DoGfight for the 2 spots (hopefully only for 1 spot, but you never know).

What is more shocking is that Jim hasn't written about his second Callahan of the season over on his blog. Whereas a team might be lucky to get a single Callahan in a year, Jim has succeeded in going 2 for 2 (2 tournaments, 2 goals) in a single season AND still without having played a single point starting on D. I didn't see the first one against Sub-Zero at the Colorado Cup, but I was on the field for the second one against Seattle. We had inevitably turned it over in their endzone and we were trapping them forehand on the sideline. At a high stall count, the thrower lofted a high backhand dump to Jim's guy who was wide-open. The disc sailed into the air over the guy's head, he barely mac'ed it, and it floated gently into Jim's arms. GOAL! Meanwhile I am shouting Nooooooooo (visualize Homer seeing the last donut being eaten by someone else in slowmotion). Of course, the team goes wild, and we come back to win the game!

Alright, 1 out of 2. But the whole incident was somewhat nauseating nonetheless. Congratulations Jim.

And I have to disagree with Zaz's statement about 40-yr olds still playing the game. I'm not 40 yet (38), although I play a mean 45. And yet, at the same time, I see the older ranks of teams thinning out pretty rapidly. It wasn't so long ago that a lot of the best teams had a number of players throughout their 30's, and the occasional hacker in the early 40's. I think that number is rapidly shrinking as more palatable options are appearing (for some), like coed, where Steve Duggan has shifted himself, and a more competitive masters, which I will probably find myself sooner rather than later. Although there is probably a good chance that I will completely hang them up, rather than play masters (and of course we know that Coed will not be happening {I hope}). Unless we can get a good DoG reunion team out there. The only problem with that is that our window has almost closed, as the DoG guys I would want to play with in that kind of environment are almost too old even for masters. Whither grand masters?

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tuneup, end of an era (btw, there is no curse)

No, I don't know whether this will be the last Chicago 'Tune-up' (apologies to Adam, but it is still the Tuneup). But my streak of attending every single Tune-up from the beginning in 1994 will be broken this year. I believe that I could quite possibly be the ONLY player in the elite bracket (if not all the brackets) to go to every single tune-up (much less with the same team). I tried to hold on as long as I could, but the growth of the west, the fact that they NEVER travel to this tournament, and the existence of top quality tournaments like ECC and Santa Cruz that DoG is finally travelling to knocked this tournament off of our itinerary.

In retrospect, taking a look at the roster of teams that is going, despite the absence of the Big Iron from the west (north and south), it still appears to be a very competitive tournament, although I have to admit it seems like it will crown the best of the rest (including DoG in that list currently). My money is on Sub-Zero to pull it out for once, with Machine, BAT, and Potomac joining them in the semis (go Central). Note that I didn't arbitrarily go with the highest RRI ratings. And hopefully Sub-Zero won't disappoint me by ONLY being good against DoG these days.

As for the Tuneup curse, what everyone always conveniently forgets is that DoG won the inaugural Tuneup in fall 1994, and then won our first champies (is that word going to get traction:)?) that same year. Of course, we never won Tuneup again until 2000 for a whole host of reasons including small squads, etc., as you will see in my recollections below, but the curse is a fiction, or at least didn't start until '95. The key is to find the seminal event which would have caused the curse.

Memories (borrowed/memory jogged heavily from Jim's DoG tournament summary page

'94 Not a huge number of teams, but Chesapeake and Rhino were there, and Rhino was an expected semifinalist at nationals (and Chesapeake ended up being a semifinalist). This was the first of our dominant victories over Chesapeake, who played EVERYONE else really close, but NEVER had a good game against us, pretty much no matter what we did, clam, zone, man, whatever. It was the weirdest thing.

'95 My car got to the fields like 2 minutes before gametime, only to find out that another car had been there way earlier, and had gone out to breakfast, to show up 10-15 minutes into the game. After trying to manage the game through timeouts and various delays, we squeaked the game out against Chain with a 3-goal run. Meanwhile, the Chain/Seattle game was epic, as at game point, John Gewirtz literally swept/boxed out the Chain long cutter on a huck, preventing him from making a play in a gross but almost uncallable foul, only to have a Chain teammate sweep by and catch the garbage maybe two feet from the back of the endzone, 5 yards from where we were all watching, in a TREMENDOUS heckle moment. And all this on double game point. Otherwise, get spanked again by Cojones in one of our many tournament losses to them this year.

'96 It is weird to review the tournament summaries and dredge up team names, along with all the suppporting baggage, from the past. We rarely played the Port City Slickers, but never had the kinds of ugly matches that other teams seemed to have with them. Hard to believe it was because they respected us..., especially since they were points away from making semis at champies that fall. We got destroyed by Portland, struggled as usual with lesser teams, this time Lemon from Cincinatti/Cleveland. While beating Double Happiness in pool play, we were unable to continue the streak and got smoked in the finals. Fortunately, that was the last time we would see them that year, as they got eliminated from champies by Saucy Jack at Regionals (this brings up another self-aggrandizing/humorous side note. At nationals that fall, during pool play we went down to Saucy Jack 13-4 in a game to 15 in a pretty severe upwind-downwind game. We bore down, and actually came back to win like 15-14. And after the game, the main Saucy Jack handler comes over to where 3 of us are sitting on the ground futzing with our cleats, and says to me, 'When I grow up, i want to throw just like you.' Boy, that was fun.)

'97 Despite being fresh from not having played at Worlds, or maybe because Seattle HAD played worlds, we lost to them in the finals despite having a pretty full team. Fortunately, this didn't carry over to nationals as we beat Sockeye in the finals for the 3rd straight time after jumping out to a 7-0 lead.

'98 This was our worst team/performance ever, as we brought only 8 DoGs, and had 4 other pickups, including some from friends of Jims from the Pittsburgh area. We had 6 games on Saturday which were all close, ending up 2-1 in first pool, then 1-2 in the power pool to get knocked out of the A division. First time ever in the B division of ANY tournament, and not only that, we ended up losing in the quarters of that division to Red Tide in a gmae we went down early 8-2 before tying it up at 10's only to lose on all-universe point while pulling. This was back when Kenny and company were still playing with the Tide. The one virtue was that Sunday was pretty uncrowded, and we ended up drinking QUITE a bit during semis and finals while heckling from the clubhouse. They also set up a very long slip-n-slide for the first time, and I ended up being the first person to do the standing slide (after slipping and falling the first time, to everyone's amusement). Ah, good times.

'99 Had 20 of our DoG/Dark Horse 25 person merger team. Apparently it wasn't enough as Furious George beat us in pool play and then in the finals. This was the one and only time Furious would make it to Tuneup (that I remember). Fortunately, this double loss, similar to Minnesota Worlds '98, wasn't enough for them to beat us at champies, leading to another (and so far, final) very satisfying Nationals victory.

'00 OK, so maybe the Tuneup curse got added after the '94 season, as we win for the first time since '94 and ultimate lose at nationals. We keep up the form, winning a couple of 1 point games, and just avoid the B pool for the second time despite a heroic effort by Zaz and Mike Glass of Chicago, who torches us for some HUGE blady forehands and backhands. That guy definitely has some cojones.

'01 I can still remember how terrible the weather was on Sunday, as they debated cancelling the games. The wind and rain finally let up a little bit, we lose a seeding game against Sockeye, and then play against Sub-Zero. We are getting CRUSHED in this game, down by like 4 points, in a very windy and rainy (and cold) game, before a Sub-Zero guy drops an upwind pull. The D scores that point, and proceeds to finally wake up, running off enough points for us to squeak by. As Jim says, up to this point, Sub-Zero was still in the Phil Mickelson category, but they would finally get the monkey off their back at Nationals, beating us in pool play. Worse, no matter how we have done against other teams since, and the final placement between Sub-Zero and us at ANY tournament, they ALWAYS seem to give us a great game, probably sitting at .500 since that point. Well, I guess most importantly, we won our 3rd tuneup, and yes, strangely enough, did not win Nationals again. Jordan and I also win the tournament party, as we go LATE into the night on Saturday at the fields, including dancing on the trunk and hood of somebody's rental car (they were there also) along with a small coterie of other people.

'02 Ahh, nothing notable to say about this one. Lost in the finals to Pig, one of our rare losses to a DC team.

'03 While the ultimate result is better than the B pool quarters loss, we lose a pool play game to 9 players from Goat, only forcing 3 turnovers on them the entire game, and none after the beginning of the game. This is one of the more humiliating losses that I am a part of, as they perfectly imitate the role of early DoG, playing efficiently and beating larger teams by minimizing mistakes and pouncing on the other team's mistakes (which should still be enough to win Nationals, except that we can't minimize our mistakes these days).

'04 Highlight was crushing Ring in pool play 13-4. Unfortunately, another team shed the Phil Mickelson title as BAT beat us for the first time Sunday morning in a seeding round. BTW, after losing to Doublewide this weekend at Santa Cruz, I'm not sure who is left that is worthy of the Mickelson name. And of course, we lost to Sub-Zero at Tuneup (now the Chicago Heavyweight Championships) again. However, Machine made it to the finals of their home tournament (first time!). We leapt out to a 8-2 lead, but behind the huge hucks and huge leaps and huge grabs led by the Subzero DoG-killer Turtle himself (Eric Lonsdorf), Machine came back and we ended up BARELY squeaking by for a two point victory for our 4th title, and at this point, conceivably last.

Random memory (unknown year).

This was one of the early ones, but we were staying at a hotel with a bunch of other players, and this hotel had a HUGE round hot tub. There must have been at least twenty people in the hot tub, even distributed between DoG players and (Philly? Chicago? can't remember). We ended up getting into a HUGE ro-cham underwater shotgun. What was incredible was that it took just one throw to eliminate everyone that threw (like i said, at least 12 other people), and have just Bim (Jim Johnston) and I remaining. Of course, this was met with a huge uproar and much buildup. After discussing strategies, and appropriate delays, Bim promptly threw out fire, extinguishing my hopes of winning. Of course, what Bim didn't know was that I actually wanted to lose/win the honor of doing my first underwater gun. Having never done one, and not having lost a gun for years, it seemed an appropriate time to expand my repertoire. I acquitted myself admirably.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Santa Cruz Invitational writeup

I hate red-eye flights. We left Santa Cruz on Jetblue at 8:20PM Sunday night and arrived in Boston at 4:45AM in the morning. As is my wont, I was completely unable to sleep on the plane, even though I had a buzz, a window seat, and plenty of pillows. I also had the ONLY row on the plane that had some guy reading with his light on the ENTIRE flight, but I don't think that would have changed anything. Of course, I might have 'slept' a little better if we had come away with a better result from the tournament, but more on that below.

Of course, focusing on the results as opposed to the journey is a little short-sighted, because everyone's goal is to win 8 weeks from now, but, competitive as I am, I hate to lose at ANYTHING. This was my first tournament since the Boston Invitational, and the offense still has quite a bit of work to do. The defense showed that they might be the best man-to-man defense to come out of the DoG house in quite a few years. The light at the end of the tunnel is that the offense showed flashes of dominance, but never for more than one half of a game (and zero points, much less a half, in the semifinals against the Condors). That was the worst spanking that I have ever been a part of, and I definitely made my contributions. About the only comparable loss was at Regionals in '95 against Cojones, losing 17-6 in the finals. While we swallowed that humble pie and turned that season around to win, the field is much deeper these days, and our star a little more tarnished.

As for the tournament itself, this was our second visit in two years, and as always, the setting was spectacular. However, this year the view hid from us the first morning as we arrived at the fields in split pea soup fog. It was almost comical as we approached the fields during our first round bye (jet lag coming to the west coast, entire hotel room up by 6AM, and they give us a first round bye...), heard players shouting, calling up, etc., and then finally as we got about 20 yards away from the first field, players appeared vaguely in the mist. Tracking a long throw, much less a pull, was an adventure. Admittedly, though, it was fun to be able to leisurely arrive at the fields, catch up with people you haven't seen in awhile, and just ease into the tournament.

In pool F, the first round saw no upsets or challenges. In the other side of the bracket, there were two exciting games, with Condors going up against Johnny Bravo, and Jam against Chain. Given the foggy conditions, both games were VERY exciting, with multiple turnovers (not sure why that makes games more exciting, but it does, at least for spectators).

We finally started our tournament in Round 2 with a game against Kaos, who had recently beaten us (or at least the team, I had missed out on another Phil Mickelson DoG defeat) in Colorado. The 4th place finisher from NW and nationals participant last fall, Kaos is still a very good team with a non-zero chance to sneak a spot in the 3-spot NW region. This was another dogfight, with the DoG offense flowing early and easily, and then balking late, before the team squeaked out a 13-11 victory. On the other field, Sockeye held seed against Doublewide. Our next game was against the Monkey. We were wondering why our seeds were switched, until we saw who they did NOT bring, including Shank, Lugsdin, and Grant. The only immediately familiar face was Al-Bob, leading a young and large crew. After the D staked us to a 4 point lead at the end of the first half (with the O holding serve), the O promptly gave ALL of it back in a quickie 4 point run to get it tied at 8's. The D staked us to another late game lead at 12-10 before the O stepped up again, gave away 2, and received at double-game point. After a few close calls and shaky throws (and no turnovers) the O punched it in to win 13-12. And no, I wasn't in that point.

Then we got a break and played Oaks, who nicely bent over for us and lost 15-3. Unfortunatley, we didn't take advantage of this game and the subsequent bye to give Sockeye a good game. While the final was 15-11, and we got some goals back, and the O did well for awhile, this was also with Sockeye having fun on the sideline, etc, just like we did for the Oaks game (and the Furious game when we were up 8-4, still working on the killer instinct). While Sockeye was impressive, they were not unbeatable, but we will have to be flawless in our execution, which we haven't been able to do on both sides of the disc for an entire game yet. And it remains to be seen whether we will have that extra gear that the best teams can switch into when necessary.

In the other games, with Kaos upsetting Doublewide, our victories over Furious and Kaos basically made the morning game against Doublewide irrelevant to our presence in the semifinals, and boy, did we show it. Lethargic and playing on a very narrow field, we lost 13-11ish to Doublewide, never really getting many points on the turn (and the O still playing not so well, although at least this game we got a lot of the turnovers back). While I was expecting to play Jam in the semis (and looking forward to it), we had a surprise enemy, the Condors, whom we almost NEVER play against besides nationals. I guess it was this element of surprise that let them hand it to us. They had lost to Chain but beaten Jam the day before, and with both teams at 4-1 and Condors winning the head-to-head, they won the pool. We started with the disc going upwind, moved it VERY easily all the way to the goal line, and then Forch floated a short forehand for a goal that Hollywood promptly ran in and caught. The Condors promptly scored downwind, deflating the entire team. The O scored the next point without a turnover, the D was scored on, and then the floodgates opened. Over the next 2 halves, we turned it over on our goalline at least 4 times, including 3 first or second pass turns to nobody. It got so bad that we put the D in on O at least 3 times to try and stem the tide. Nothing worked, and the Condors pasted us 15-4. The only thing left was to go get lunch, lots of cider/beer, and settle down to heckle the finals between Jam (upset winner over Sockeye 13-12 in the other semi), and Condors. While exciting, somehow it wasn't as much fun as last years final heckle, although local sons SafDie, Dutchie, and Jambalanza made for some personal heckling, including a great defensive catch on the goal line by SafDie after he turned it, and of course some key turnovers by Safdie also.

Finally, had a few hours to kill before driving to the airport, and Billy Berrou, aka Frank, was kind enough to have set up a Goaltimate game, which I promptly joined. I played opposite the man himself (Jim joined a little later, ruining the beneficial effects of the shower he had just taken), and we won the first few games before the rest of my car showed up and said it was time to leave. I wistfully left the field, with one last look at the ocean below Santa Cruz, before heading back to the airport, not paying for gas in the rental car, and getting CREAMED for $43 for the refill charge.

Sockeye is everything they say. I would have like to see the Sockeye-Jam crossover. All the west coast teams were playing some form of the spread offense, and had the big offense (and big defense), which also led to big turnovers. I think there is still room for a team to play controlled offense to take advantage of the free turnovers. Hopefully it will be us, but we still have some work to do. Too tough to rate Furious, since it is unclear how many of their missing horses will actually be playing. But they were athletic (as always). Unfortunately, Kaos/Rhino are going to have a tough time grabbing one of the NW slots.

I didn't see any of Chain's games, and regret not being able to play them, since they got rid of the Phil Mickelson label in DC(fortunately, I wasn't there, so still undefeated lifetime against them...). Condors looked very young and very good. It will be interesting to see if they can sustain it, but it looks they have managed the feeder system from college very well and they are maintaining the program. Didn't see enough of Bravo, although I imagine their results disappointed them.

Jam seems to have transitioned well away from Idris and Damien, although it is nauseating to see Safdie take my traditional spot (the dump) as a former defensive stud. Will wonders never cease? It was also good to catch up with Moses, who appears to have fit in very well with Seattle. Doublewide beat us, but hopefully that will be the exception, as they struggled against most of the other top-notch teams. Of course, we have to earn a top-notch team rating, and we've still got a ways to go. Hopefully we can ramp it up in the next 6 weeks and surprise at the big show.

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