Monday, June 18, 2007

Now that the UPA has finally bent to our deafening clamor for numbers on shorts, I can peruse the various galleries of Nationals pictures and know without hesitation the players involved in the plays captured by our talented photographers. Amazing, and a uniform requirement long overdue.

But then, as I made me way through the pictorials, another problem began to present itself, no less annoying than lacking numbers on shorts but just as easily fixable.

I found that for most of the pictures that captures the play in its dynamic intensity, it's very difficult to discern who is on offense and who is on defense.

Incredible bid to maintain possession? Errant throw directly to defender? Wrap-around layout block? Who is the one getting shat on? Whom deserves praise and who deserves my deriding laughter? Without knowing who was on O and D, I risk getting the two switched.

So I propose that with the other, currently unused shorts leg, we add a patch. I'm envisioning a square patch sewn to the shorts on one edge, and on either side is a big "O" or "D" and velcro along the edges, so that when you switch from offense to defense you can quickly flip the patch to reflect your current status on the field. That way, as I look at these pics, I know who's the one getting tooled and who's doing the tooling.

I commend the UPA for finally listening to the players and having the numbered shorts requirement finally echo the will of the membership. But let's not stop there, let's finish the job. Let's put adjustable O/D patches on the shorts as well.

Who knows? Once the benefits of the adjustable patch come to full light, we can continue with the adjustable "poacher" patch on the jerseys, and so on.

The sport will be better for it.


Alex Peters said...

Having gone through THOUSANDS of College Nationals photos, I can now say with conviction that numbers on shorts is a dumb idea, and numbers on the front of jerseys (see Sockeye) would be much better for identifying players from photos. Not to mention stylistically superior.

itchy said...

I prefer the "I JUST GOT TOOLED" instant tattoo across the forehead.

Will D said...

So Alex, La Maldad, etc,

I just browsed through the highlights page from your (Alex's) college nationals shots.
Great shots by the way. And I counted about 24 pictures, give or take, out of 47 in the highlight gallery where there was at least one (often more) player who was identifiable solely by the number on his/her shorts. I am not sure how this kind of percentage convinces you that this is a dumb idea.

I guess there are two schools of thought.

One is that identifying players from pictures itself is dumb, or not worthwhile. To that, there is only the argument that those whose job it is to try to promote the sport, particularly using major events, would disagree. This opinion is based on 1st-hand experience working with stat-keepers, media, observers, and even spectators, that few others probably have. People bitched about matching jerseys and numbers on backs 6 or 7 years ago. Bad idea, or laying the groundwork for other things? ID'ing players on the field is a means to an end. If people disagree with the end, the there isn't much common ground from which to work.

The second school of thought would agree that ID'ing players is important, but would argue that numbers on shorts is an ineffective means for accomplishing this. Other field sports similar to Ultimate (soccer, lacrosse) have numbers on shorts for similar purposes, so it wasn't such a stretch to give that idea a shot. Certainly this year was an experiment to see its effectiveness.

Based on the random sampling above, I would say it worked pretty well. Would numbers on jerseys work as well? Maybe, maybe not. But to argue that numers on shorts don't work seems inaccurate.

Are numbers elsewhere on the front of uniforms stylistically superior? The answer to that question is just subjective opinion. That didn't really enter into the equation though. The decision to require shorts rather than jersey fronts was made with the assumption that most teams already have a lot of printing on the front of their jerseys (e.g.Women - UCLA, Wisconsin; Men - Delaware, Brown). Requiring additional printing on the front of jerseys would likely have required more teams more time and money to alter their jerseys. So jerseys were left alone and the very likely blank spot on the leg of the shorts was utilized instead.

I respect your opinion Alex, as someone who directly works with the UPA and media. So I'm curious about why you think that all those now identifiable players in your pictures is such a bad idea. Also wanted to clarify why jerseys were not required over shorts. La Maldad, hilarious, as usual.

Will D

Alex Peters said...

"And I counted about 24 pictures, give or take, out of 47 in the highlight gallery where there was at least one (often more) player who was identifiable solely by the number on his/her shorts. I am not sure how this kind of percentage convinces you that this is a dumb idea."

Yeah, but how many of them would be equally or MORE easily identified by numbers on the front of the jerseys?

My argument is not that being able to identify players is dumb, it's that a tiny 2 inch letter, on one leg, is a comparatively horrible place for the number to be, versus the front of the jersey, and just plain looks bad. Plus I'm just further put off that this wasn't put to some sort of vote or community discussion before it was foisted on us by the UPA.

Let's look at my gallery you referenced, I'll stick with just the first page, as it's a random sample anyway.

Picture 1: You can sort of see the number, she's #11, or 12, or possibly 17. Jersey easily visible.

Advantage: Jersey

2: Number visible, jersey visible. Advantage: Push

3: Shorts not even in frame, jersey clearly visible. Advantage: Jersey

4: Push

5: Can't tell who that colorado player is from shorts. Advantage: Jersey

6: Advantage: Jersey

7: Advantage: Jersey

8: Push, maybe slight advantage Jersey

9: Probably #22, but advantage Jersey

10: Push

11: Push

12: This one is awesome, because it's on her freaking jersey, and you can't see it on the shorts. Advantage: Jersey

13: Advantage: Jersey

14: Possible advantage to Shorts, but the number is on the OTHER LEG.

15: Advantage: Push

That's 9 for numbers on the Jersey, 5 ties, and 1 possibly in favor of shorts.

How's that for a percentage? Like I said, I've been through THOUSANDS of pictures, and a ton of my shots don't even include the lower body.

Alex Peters said...

Also, none of the designs for the teams you mentioned would prohibit front jersey numbers in any way, so I'm not sure why you picked those teams in particular. Better examples might be Pitt (with the design wrapping around the side and insignia on the breast) or Stanford going up and down the whole right side, but they still have options.

Also, everyone on UBC has #42 on their jersey (my #12 shot), so obviously you can't identify them with that, but clearly you can extrapolate to them using their own numbers.

Handy said...

Will, I totally agree that identifiability is vital to the marketing of the sport, but how about the fact that if you don't live in a region you can't find out a single person who is on a team until the championships even start? Last year I had no IDEA who was on Rhino or Revolver (or where they were located) and I consider myself to be certainly in the top 5% of how much I stay educated / give a shit about ultimate. Forget numbers and let's just get published rosters. For example, isn't it news that 3 stars of the ulti firmament, Seth Wiggins, Tim Gehret and Zip are all trying out on Sockeye this year? Yet no one in the sport will find out about this unless they either 1) know someone who plays elite top-10 ulti or (2) read an obscure post on RSD.

So while I totally agree with the need for player identification, it doesn't matter what number they're wearing if no one knows who they are even after knowing their name.


degs said...

I hear conflicting things about Zip, most recent being Emory med school is calling.

Will D said...

OK - So it sounds like Alex and Handy are both in the camp that ID'ing players is important. At least we agree on that.

Handy says that it's important, but only as far as the ID means something...that there is a roster to compare it to, and info about those players. These are good points. As Board President Mike Payne mentioned in a recent magazine column, the UPA is going to be investing heavily in its IT system over the next couple of years, and we hope that part of what gets built will allow the kind of online info you're talking about to be made easily available.

In the meantime, the UPA Score Reporter (thanks to the great work of Rodney Jacobson) is available for teams to put info up about themselves. With only a handful of people at HQ doing this stuff full-time it is pretty much impossible to put every team's roster up online from HQ. You have no idea how much work goes into just getting the teams registered. You've heard of "herding cats"? Picture 10,000 cats clamoring for something at once...and cats have nothing on Ultimate players. ;-)
And as I mentioned in an RSD post last fall, the current online rostering system was built solely as a registration tool, not as a way to publicly display team or player info. So for privacy info reasons, we can't just make the registration system public right now. But there is a way for teams to provide that info online through the Score Reporter, and people forget that wasn't there just a few years ago.

As the national events approach, we work hard to get info from teams (not as easy as you might think) and get roster info online and in the event program prior to the event. It's a step in the right direction, and one that is important for national events. At the same time we are trying to ID players and include pictures with names on the website with writeups and in the magazine. Again, take a look at a magazine just a few years back and see how many unidentified players are in there. We are definitely taking steps towards building name recognition, but it can be a slow process.

Why? Why are some of these steps hard to take? Partly b/c people are resistant to change and to structure that imposes additional responsibilities on them. Working with a small staff it is necessary to count on the players to help them help themselves if they really want to see the sport get promoted. Let's say hypothetically a school submits with their team info fake majors one year and fake heights another, and that those make it onto TV. That might be funny on one hand, but it doesn't really help sell the sport. The fact that teams complain they don't know each others rosters, but then don't put them up on the Score Reporter themselves doesn't make much sense. If we had a few dozen fact checkers on staff, that'd be one thing. But the Champ Series "Department" is two guys, and the Media "Department" is one. And if people want to see more get done, they need to help do it...maybe simply by putting their rosters into the Score Reporter...or maybe by paying $5, the price of a burrito, to get numbers screened on their shorts. We all need to be realistic about what gets done, when and how.

So, realistically, we have to take small steps. Like I said, when we required jersey numbers and matching jerseys a few years back for college, people went off. We thought it was important for how the game was presented at a showcase event. A couple years later CSTV came along and we didn't really have to change a whole lot at the last minute about the look of the teams to make it workable for TV. Compare that to the finals from 2000 where the Brown guys were actually wearing several different jerseys.

Alex's point seems just to be about numbers on shorts. Alex likes numbers on the front of jerseys. At the risk of repeating myself:

1 - Numbers on shorts is not a terrible or ineffective idea. There are many many pictures now where players are identifiable by those numbers. It isn't perfect. Nothing ever will be. But it does work pretty well. Other sports use them at every level.

2 - Whether numbers on shorts look better than on jerseys is totally subjective. This did not enter into the decision-making, but I personally think that numbers on shorts look on average way better than numbers on jerseys. I think Sockeye's jerseys look just OK, with the logo above the number. I wish their logo was a little bigger, b/c I think it's a cool logo. But it has to be small to fit the number. I think that some of those numbers on the shorts at college nationals looked awesome. Point is, that's just a personal opinion...same as yours Alex. The "look" was secondary to the effectiveness, practicality, and the potential impact on the teams...which leads to...

3 - We chose to require numbers on shorts rather than jerseys b/c we supposed that there were a lot more teams with logos on the fronts of their jerseys, already printed, than there were teams with stuff printed on shorts. I picked the teams for my examples in my first comment b/c those teams probably would have had trouble getting numbers on the front of their jereys. We weren't worried about the teams that had plenty of space like the teams you mentioned Alex. We were worried about teams that didn't, and what it would mean to them to have to re-design their jerseys, or stick a number on their belly. I imagine that very few teams had to redesign their shorts. I would put money on the notion that we would have gotten way more complaints about telling people to change their jerseys than we did about the shorts.

Maybe in the future it would make sense to talk about alternatives, such as numbers or jersey fronts. How would it look if some teams had numbers on shorts and some on jersey fronts? What if you get a picture where the shorts are visible but the jersey front isn't? Vice versa? Should we require numbers all over the uniforms? Bottom line, it is an improvement. Bottom line, people are resistant to change, and will complain any time it happens. Look at roster deadlines, which most people now agree has been a good thing.

As for holding a member vote on such things...I just don't see how that makes too much sense. There are some decisions at an administrative level that just need to be made by people who are responsible for such things. There is a committee of national directors who look over administrative and competition rules every year. Feedback is gathered officially from coordinators, and we get feedback from members all the time that is taken into consideration. We also talk to non-members that we work with such as media. We even took this to the Board, not b/c it was a Board-level policy decision, but b/c we wanted to gauge their reaction and make sure they were aware of the reasons behind a rule that was probably going to cause a ruckus. They were OK with the decision.

Voting about uniform requirements, or specific roster deadlines, or locations for events, or whether UFUCT is an appopriate name to put on TV, or many other administrative details would bog down a system that many people think is already too slow to react. We listen to feedback, gather information, and try to make the best decisions we can for the sport.

If the players are telling us they want to promote the sport, then the media we work with are telling us we need to be able to ID players better so they can promote the sport, and then the players tell us they don't want to wear numbers...what do you do? There is give and take and there is compromise in most everything. I imagine that whatever we do, some people will be thrilled and some will think we're idiots. If enough people think we're idiots, then we'll probably be out of a job. But hopefully given time, information, and perspective, people will understand most of the decisions we make and they will turn out to make sense and be good for the sport. That's certainly the motivation for why the people who work and volunteer for the UPA do the things they do.

Will D

degs said...

What about offering teams the option of putting 2-inch numbers on the front of their jersey or on the shorts? Same effect I would imagine.

At any rate, I guess V must be doing pretty well for IV to be all over this piece.

Alex Peters said...

"I picked the teams for my examples in my first comment b/c those teams probably would have had trouble getting numbers on the front of their jerseys. We weren't worried about the teams that had plenty of space like the teams you mentioned Alex. We were worried about teams that didn't, and what it would mean to them to have to re-design their jerseys, or stick a number on their belly."

You have this completely backwards. The teams you picked have roughly circular, high-centered designs on the upper chest. This leaves TONS of room below the logo, just like Sockeye, which is what I was referencing, to put the number. You picked all teams that work perfectly into my numbering scheme. Probably 95% of teams have logos like Sockeye or UCLA or Wisconsin. Smallish, chest high logos. What you would have to worry about is the outliers like Stanford and Pitt where you DON'T have that large area to place the number, though like I said, they have other options. Stanford would look nice with a UBC style left breast logo, and Pitt could place a number under the ESN insignia.

Will D said...

OK - You're missing my point, which isn't about which specific jerseys would be easier or harder to put numbers on (although we do have pretty different perspectives on that too), but rather that some/many jerseys would be difficult to put numbers on b/c they were already designed and printed. Not the case with most teams' shorts.

Which jerseys you or I think would be easier or harder to redesign or add to is secondary to the fact that they would have to be redesigned or added to. I doubt any teams had to redesign their shorts or stick the number over to the side or off in some weird corner of the shorts to avoid some other already printed element of their uniform...which is what many teams would have had to do with front jersey numbers.

Will D

PS - V is the man and doing great.

Alex Peters said...

Sounds like giving teams the option is the way to go then. Sort of like how teams have the option to have their shorts match their shirt color or not, unless that's next up on the chopping block.

Will D said...

You can certainly bet that the topic of uniform requirements, what worked about them and what didn't, will come back up before next season. And the idea of letting teams choose will certainly be a legit option to discuss.

Some serious questions:

What if all (or many) or the teams chose to put their numbers on their shorts instead of their jerseys? Would you rail on those teams then? Tell them they are dumb and look stupid? Would you want the UPA to require numbers on jersey fronts if the teams didn't do it themselves?

Also, since you seem to be pretty tuned in to matters of style, do you think that it would look stylistically strange to have two teams playing each other, one with numbers on their jersey fronts and one with numbers on their shorts? I'm not sure. Maybe, maybe not.

As for the generally smart-ass responses and the insulting assessment of decisions that have been made...remember, you are making these comments to and about smart, experienced, dedicated organizers who put a ton of time and effort into making this sport and these top events great to play in, great to watch, and based on feedback over the last few years much better to photograph than ever before.

These organizers listen a lot better to considered comments and arguments than they do to sniping and insults about their competence and decisions. They also respond to solid arguments and suggestions with responsive, considered decision-making. They also provide information about decisions that have been made before and why things are they way they that unfortunately many people don't have b/c they don't read and/or they don't ask.

Here's an example of an alternative method of communicating and disagreeing that might be effective, if sent to the right people.

"Nationals sure was fun to shoot. What a great event. Love the way you kept the sidelines clear so we could get shots without parents and tents all in the way. The teams looked sharp, and the numbers on the shorts definitely helped me ID a lot more players than in the past. I think having numbers on the front of uniforms somewhere is a great step.

However, there were still a lot of pictures where numbers on the front of shorts didn't help. Specifically, x out of y pictures would have had identifiable players if they had numbers on the jerseys. Why didn't you guys require numbers on jerseys instead of shorts?
{Response comes}
Oh, I see what you mean about players having to change their already made jerseys. But maybe it would be best to just give them the option. I think it would look fine, and probably be more effective. In fact, I personally think that numbers on the front of jerseys looks better. OK - Thanks for all the work you do for the sport. "

This is actually the kind of thing that works much better even on the Ultimate field. We all know what happens when someone responds to a call you make with "That's bullshit. You're an f'ing dumbass." as opposed to "Dude, I don't think I hit your hand before the disc was out of it. Are you really sure?" I guarantee the latter results in a lot more change than the former.

Good luck with the photography. We'll keep trying to keep those sidelines clear (wanna know how much bitching we hear from parents about this one?) and the players looking sharp so everyone can actually focus on how great this game is.

Will D

Tyler said...

Personally, I dig the numbers on shorts thing. Sort of makes the shorts have a time and place a bit more, rather than having a blank normal pair. Plus, a cool font, and they could look pretty darn good. Not to mention it doesn't change anything with respect to playing the game.

The tough part was that it was not well publicized, and teams had to double back and go to a printer somewhat last minute- I think the UPA ought to have made this more public earlier on, and ought to keep this in mind with respect to future modifications which demand action like this. Had the UPA made this clear at the start of the season, I think people wouldn't have had such a bad taste in their mouths about it, and there wouldn't have been such a negative response.

I imagine club players need to do the same? I actually don't even know.

And, having worked on committees myself, I completely support the UPA and Will's making these and other decisions without massive public involvement. It precludes the ignorant and insulting rants, and usually only includes thoughtful discussion among experienced and dedicated players, and gets things done well. I imagine that if Alex Peters were at the table with Will D and others in discussing this issue, his comments would not be so... aggressive. And had the decision been made open to the public, we might only be getting matching jerseys this year.

Bravo Will and UPA. And good luck shooting, Alex. Your pictures are dope.