Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Ultimate Revolution

So I had the opportunity to attend one of the UPA Ultimate Revolution Summits in suburban Boston this weekend. I won't go into too much detail about the process, since I don't want to contaminate the upcoming summits in Seattle, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. I was a little disappointed in the turnout, with around 35-40 people attending in what is supposed to be a hotbed of ultimate. There were surprisingly few elite players, men or women, but a good cross section of players, coaches, organizer types, and even a parent. Just not enough people considering the number of players in the area.

Far be it from me to pass up a free lunch. I got there around 12:30, sat at a table with 2 serious high school players, one not so serious one, another masters player, a buda player, and somebody else I'm forgetting. And Seigs showed up late and sat with us also. It was interesting drawing the young people out and getting their perspective on the game.

Dave Barkan, early Boston and later Double Happiness player was the facilitator for the event. He kept it moving crisply, and there were a lot of different discussions, open table events, mini-discussions about certain threads/directions, etc.

One thing that kept getting emphasized over and over was that people want more opportunities to play, at all levels. One of the things that I cottoned on to late in the game was a discussion about how to expand knowledge of the rules. Somebody had put down provide more of the rules booklets at events, tourneys, etc. That immediately got me going.

I haven't read the rule book in probably 15 years, at least. You would have to try to make something drier and less inviting to read. I don't fault the membership and people that have put in countless hours to try and get them right, and getting the phrasing right to close various loopholes (and add new ones like the new pick rule which I am not particularly fond of yet). This is not to say that I do not have a very good understanding of the rules. I do, although you could probably fail me with some abstruse situations, but it does not require a thorough reading of the rules. It helps that I have been playing the game for well nigh 23 years now.

In what sport do the majority of people read the entire rule book with all of the various arcana. 1-5% of the most dedicated players (and the ones that keep the rest of us informed and honest). I pushed the concept that the UPA needs to develop a 1 to 2 page document, pdf and otherwise, that would codify the general concept of the rules. And I'm not talking about the fundamental stuff like field size, pulling etc. Although if you end up with the space, go for it. I'm talking more about the calls, maybe quick decision trees with offensive fouls, defensive fouls, marking fouls, travels, picks, etc. A quick easy english paragraph that captures the essence of the discussed rule. This would obviously not supercede the rulebook, but would complement it and be far more useful to distribute at low level tourneys, summer leagues, etc. And worst case you could footnote it, or provide the IIv3 locations in the rule book where something is clarified.

I mentioned this to Jimmy P, who wasn't able to make the event. He said that there had been some efforts in the past, not necessarily UPA-centric. He mentioned there was some dude in Montreal that had done something, and the UPA had done some 10 basic things or something. But I think it would be powerful to have the UPA implement something like this under their auspices. This idea ended up being a very popular one, not just in the rules section, but overall (I won't explain the ranking system).


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Wednesday, June 06, 2007


As I discussed in the retirement post, I have been scrambling to find opportunites to play ultimate at all hours, figuring it will be my only source of conditioning/weight maintenance for at least this year until I try and come up with a longer-term conditioning plan that I can actually stomach. So far, I have found a daily pickup game on Sunday afternoons in Arlington, a Tuesday evening game in Cambridge both of which I attend regularly, and summer league games once a week on weekday nights. I hope to find a few more just to keep my options open. Now that I have played low-mid level pickup for a few weeks now, I just wanted to share some thoughts on pickup in general.

I went into these pickup games with eyes wide open. I was actually impressed with the overall level of play. There is your usual wide range of skills, although I am almost definitely the only player that has ever made nationals, not that that is necessarily an arbiter of talent, but for me it indicates a certain competitive edge. Because my first priority out there is for conditioning and practice, I'm always trying to line up on their best player on defense so that I can focus and challenge myself. Otherwise it would just become picking your moments and playing a bunch of poach D.

Last night at the Cambridge game, I was there for almost 3 games to 7. We had iron 7's. It is rare that there are subs. There have been 7's with a sub, iron 6's and iron 7's in the 3 times I have been so far. When we were 6's, I proposed playing games to 3 with a break so that people would be able to run a little more. I was promptly shot down and we played games to 5. Naturally people started playing tired, taking water breaks between points instead of games. It was all a little annoying, but I had made my bid so I went with the flow. So last night they were actually playing games to 7. Towards the middle of the second game, it was getting so bad, that even when pulling downwind, the D got down so slowly that you could work it at least halfway up the field before everyone had a defender relatively near them.

I feel like I want to argue about respecting the game, respecting your opponents by trying, if not your hardest, then hard enough, or respecting the person you are lining up across from. And, of course, the other part of pickup, which is the fact that you could score easily every time if you just worked it down the field, ESPECIALLY since the defense is so spotty. But no, I'm going to work the end-zone eyes and try that long backhand huck I think I've gotten good at. And it is worse, because it is behavior that is reinforcing, because if I see somebody else continually hucking it (often away, or dogmeat throws that luckily get caught anyway), then the other players want a piece of it. They'll start looking off the wide-open underneath guys while they look for their star turn.

I also definitely bite my tongue strategically. I feel like there are a lot of simple things that whatever team I'm on could do that would completely shut down the other team on defense, but I am loathe to speak up, one because I'm the new guy, and two, because I don't feel like it is the right environment. I don't think these guys are here to necessarily get any better. They are there to take some time off, play around with their friends, etc.

I guess I will just keep going and continue to use it as an opportunity to stay/get in shape, and perhaps hone a few special throws. Better than sitting home and doing nothing...

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Masters Easterns 2007

Well, according to George Cooke, now I'm supposed to blog about Masters Easterns and all about how I did. Well, I have never been one to confound expectations. Despite ominous weather predictions for the weekend, the masters division ended up getting through almost entirely unscathed. Basically, other than a little misting on Sunday, the only rain that occurred was approximately 5 minutes after I left the field with my kids to drive to the local watering hole to celebrate the victory with Jim. It began to POUR, and I felt for the other divisions that had another round to play. Oh well.

The tournament format was set up beautifully for a bunch of old players with families and other obligations. After Pittsburgh bailed at the last second, we ended up with a 4 team tourney, round robin on Saturday then semis and finals on Sunday. The Saturday rounds were at 12, 2, and 4PM. Sunday was at 10:50 and 12:50. Talk about awesome.

We began the day against the DC Funk masters team. Keeping true to form (and also talking about myself), I promptly committed yet another first point turnover (2 games at WMO I did the same) when I slightly overthrew Zaz on a full field backhand huck. The difference this time was that we got it back and eventually scored. This game ended up being far more difficult than expected, which was a trend through much of the weekend. We took half 8-4 or 5 or so. The game stayed mostly close throughout and we eventually won 15-12. Iron Man Tom Coffin had brought his wife up for the tournament and it was good to see him out there still playing. It gave me hope. The next game was against Mt. Crushmore from New Hampshire. Dennis McCarthy, who actually made an appearance on Saturday for DoG, despite his ongoing recovery from recent right shoulder surgery, knew many of the players since he now makes his residence near Portsmouth and plays in the various leagues up there. Crushmore had had some difficulty against Above & Beyond in the first round, losing 15-5, so naturally we had to try and better that score to make sure we were truly the better team. After coming out playing man on the first point, we proceeded to zone and clam them to death, pulling away to an easy 15-3 victory. Meanwhile, A&B had taken half 8-3 against DC Funk, so we figured we might be able to start our game early against them. Well, DC proceeded to smoke them the second half and make it a game, tying it up a few times towards the end. They were playing on the field next to our sideline, so this naturally set up huge heckling opportunities, which we felt obligated to participate in. Best of all, it was a turnover fest, so there were lots of comments to be made. A&B pulled the game out 15-13, and ended up winning the game about 5 minutes before the next round was supposed to start. We had finished our game in less than 45 minutes, leaving us over an hour to 'get rusty'.

This brought up the 1-2 match against A&B from New York. Despite only having Matty Jefferson (that anyone could figure out) from the title winning NY squads at this tournament, they were playing solid if unspectacular ultimate. Arnold Sanchez was a rock for them, dominating the defensive side of the field and making things happen on offense. I already forget the flow of the game point wise. I think A&B might have gone up a few points in the first half, although that might only have been during Sunday's game. Regardless, the game was very close. We had a number of opportunities to extend the lead, but we continually frittered them away with ill-timed throws and bad execution. Also, our defense was largely lackadaisical. The man D was pitiful, and the zone was just OK, but had surprising success against them. Jeff "Dick" Brown came up with some huge blocks, as did Alec Ewald. We took half 8-6 pulling, and then in the second half, we gave up 2 goal leads (including the serve) 4 separate times, making the game much tighter than it needed to be. We ended up receiving at 14-14 double-game point (none of that universe point crap here) and fortunately were able to score without a turnover to win 15-14.

A few of us celebrated our day at the very convenient Deven's Grill and watched the Red Sox smoke the Yankees. I got home around 8:30, quick shower, then off to Jeff Brown's house for some poker with his Tufts buddies, including Alec Ewald who was staying over at Jeff's for the tournament. Well, $20 in, almost all Hold'em and I was up a little, down more, before finally ended up the last hand dealing blackjack $3 limit. Only 2 people took me up on it. We played around 8 hands, I NEVER had anything higher than a 7 showing, lost $12 on the first hand (one guy split and double downed one of his splits, I busted), before slowly working my way back and ending up down $10 on the night. I probably broke even playing blackjack, maybe up a couple of bucks.

Next morning we have the semifinals against Crushmore. The weather is looking more ominous, and this time I have Christian and Catherine with me. It is also significantly colder today, and I hadn't paid attention so the kids were in shorts and t-shirts. Catherine was fine but Christian definitely suffered a wee bit. Otherwise they kept themselves amused. The Crushmore game was more of the same, as we employed a variety of junk defenses, 2-3-2, 1-3-3, clam for 5, clam for the point, etc. Crushmore was short a few guns to really take advantage and ended up losing 15-6. A&B was a little more responsible against DC Funk this morning, and they won 14-8, setting up the rematch for all the marbles.

We received to start, scored, and then promptly went down 3-1 with some open grumbling about our poor play. We got it back a little at a time, and eventually took half again, probably 8-5/6. Again, we had numerous opportunities to put the game away, but we persisted in keeping A&B in the game, eventually winning 15-13. They put up a tough fight, and once they get the rest of their absent players, should be a force in the fall again. As for us, we were an old team. It remains to be seen who are the young guys that we are going to pick up to round out the squad. And, of course, those all-important 5 out of region players, at least one spot which is being used by Zaz who lives in Chicago. It will be interesting to see how we do at the Boston Invite in 3 weeks, where I hope (and assume) that we will be granted an entry into the Elite portion of the tournament. As Jim and I have speculated, there is definitely the potential of making the semis, although now that the bulletin board material is out there, we'll probably flame out in the pre-quarters. See George, I talked about the tournament with almost no references to my play...

Off-topic, this tournament continued a remarkable run of ultimate for me. I had mentioned in my last entry that I was going to be chasing down as much frisbee/pickup as I could because that was the only way for me to get into shape (HATE working out). Well, I ended up playing 5 times in 8 days, pickup Sunday, pickup Tuesday, summer league on Thursday, had the Showcase game canceled Friday, and then two days of Masters. It is actually great to be running around. I feel pretty good running these days although I am nursing very tight calves which have already cost me 4 visits to Russ this season. I made the observation numerous times towards the end of the day Saturday that in that one day of the tournament, I threw more long backhands than I did all last year with DoG, including all tournaments and practices. It was nice to air it out again and play with teammates that actually cut for it. I even pulled a bunch of times until, oh yeah, I left this out.

Against DC Funk, we were playing zone at one point and I was playing short deep (I think) or wing. They were on the right side of the field, and I was expecting a hammer. I baited it beautifully, they put it up, and I was springing crossfield to make the play. Tracking the disc behind me, I also could sort of see Jude (from Tufts) getting ready to make the catch. As the disc finally passes by me and I'm going up, I see that Jude has bent his legs to lead into me with his knees to protect himself, and he proceeds to totally crush my upper chest. Fortunately I had not thought of ducking during the play, or I might have needed a new set of teeth. As it was, I called injury sub, and yelled at him as I lurched off the field, "What are you doing leading with your knees?" or something witty and urbane along those lines. I had been pulling a bunch up to that point (and surprisingly well), but my first pull after this occurred, I felt something go in my front equivalent of the trapezius, and gave up pulling duties for the rest of the weekend. After that I was very selective for my longer throws as they hurt each time. I was also a lot more tentative when we played hot box to warm up before games, as there is a LOT of contact in the box in our variant, and any upper body contact HURT. BTW, there still isn't a better warmup for an ultimate game than playing a good game of 3-3 or 4-4 hot box. And just to clarify for everyone, a goal requires TWO feet in the box, not one. We now play that to clear the disc only requires one pass away from the goal, so you can have two people literally play catch in and out of the goal to score multiple points in a row. It makes the game VERY fast-paced and exciting, requiring a lot more effort on the turnover to get back and cover the box because of the quick strike offense.

It was fun to see a bunch of oldsters out there, from both DoG and other teams. Oh yeah, I ran into Tiina Booth, and we had a nice discussion about frisbee and blogs (don't worry, I won't give up your secret). Guess that's about all for now.

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