Thursday, March 15, 2007


So, I'm sitting here in Dallas Airport waiting for my plane back to my Boston, and I'm asking myself, when will Ultimate become a game of numbers. But first some background.

I got in Monday night around 6:20, went to my hotel, and then found a local movie theater and went to see the movie 300. I had read a lot about, including a lot of conflicting reviews. In particular that a lot of it was over the top, exaggerated, etc. Hello, it's based on a graphic novel, or more fundamentally, a comic book. If comic books aren't caricatures of real people (as a long time collector back in the day, I know of where I speak), then nothing is. Exaggerated prose, over the top plots, heroic behavior? C'mon. My understanding is that the director attempted to replicate a number of panels from the book. Given the number of unusual perspective shots during the movie (not having read the book), I would say he succeeded. There were a number of times where I said to myself "That has to be a shot from the book, nobody would think of doing it that way otherwise".

And regardless of its authenticity, whether it is something like The Perfect Storm where they tried to make up what might have happened given that they already know the final results, who knows. At a very high level, however, the movie was accurate. Except for the fact that 300 Spartans required like 600-800 supporting cast of slaves, cooks, etc. to get by. Those aren't shown of course. But then they never really show the Spartans eating. I won't quibble.

This wasn't really related to numbers and Ultimate, but I wanted to share my review. What got me thinking about numbers was what I did last night. The people I was working with got their hands on tickets to the Dallas Stars/Philadelphia Flyers hockey game. I attended only my second hockey game ever, the other being some Boston Bruins game in the nosebleed seats at the new FleetCenter (TD Banknorth Garden now) back in the day, probably at least 10 years ago. Unbeknownst to me, Mike Modano was on the verge of scoring his 500th goal, which would make him one of only 14 people in NHL history to reach that milestone. And more impressively, he would be doing it with the same team, which only one other person had ever done.

He started the game sitting at 499, and considering that the Flyers were sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, there was a good chance that the Stars would be scoring some goals in this game. The first period ended with the Stars up 1-0 on a goal by Lehtinen. There was definitely a huge air of anticipation in the crowd every time #9 got onto the ice. I had forgotten how short the shifts in hockey are, as it is probably the most intensely athletic sport of the sort-of big 4, with even the best players rarely playing more than half the game because of the non-stop effort required. I'm not saying it requires the best athletes, only the most constant effort.

I never watch hockey, and I had to admit that Modano found himself in the middle of the play a lot. He had pretty impressive stick work, in particular in often deftly stealing the puck from Flyer players. He finally scored sometime in the second period (I think) off of a redirect. The crowd, including myself, went wild. You have to figure this is the equivalent of being there when somebody hits their 500th home run or scores their 3000th point, and there have only been a handful of those games also. They eventually won 3-1 (or it was that score when we left with 1 minute left when the Flyers pulled their goalie, who knows about garbage time goals). Some other observations about hockey and/or the game. You can never take your eyes off the ice, because it is non-stop and you don't want to miss anything. Those guys work HARD. Somebody got nailed in front of the Flyer goal in the third period, ending up with a good amount of blood on the ice right in front of the goal. There was a fight at one point where the Dallas guy got some really solid hits on the Flyer. UFC without the elbows or feet.

So, how does this thread relate to Ultimate? The Ultimate History Handbook made an initial stab at it. They created an appendix of various numeric achievements, like most nationals won in different divisions, most championships won at each level, etc. It was interesting being on the end of some email threads prior to the release as Joe Siedler was doing research and fact-checking, sending out the appendix in its nascent form to see if people could add things, make corrections, etc. However, trying to do it 10 years from now might have been difficult, as a lot of the institutional memory would no longer be available, at least for the early days. I was even fortunate to have been listed in at least one category, like most consecutive nationals with the same team or something.

My point is, what is going to required for Ultimate to truly become a game of statistics and numbers. There were the RUFUS stats back in the '90s, but does anyone keep official stats anymore, even at nationals, more than goals thrown and caught? I know Jim has done some deconstruction of video to gather stats, but there is definitely nothing approaching the level of stats that Earth Atomizer and then Boston Ultimate kept for a few years in the early '90s. And what would really count towards the numbers? Only the championship series? Do you include sectionals and even regionals, where teams and individuals can run up the numbers on some teams? Or do you only count games against 'rated' teams? And where would this be stored and who would do the 'note-taking'? It would be nice to someday be able to measure someone's results, just to get a feel for the evolution of the game, MVP type discussions, etc. Of course, the positions in Ultimate aren't quite as defined as some of the 'big' sports.

This year, DoG took high level team stats, ie., who was in every point, O or D, and what happened that point (score or scored on). Naturally, Jim saw an opportunity to do some analysis, and that is where he got this
stuff from. There were some other interesting results in terms of plus/minus (like hockey), etc. Nothing necessarily worth repeating in this forum.


Read more!