Friday, November 30, 2007

Today the UPA announced that College Nationals '08 would be changed in two significant ways: (1) it will be a week earlier, and (2) it will be held in conjunction with a multi-sport event produced by CSTV, the UPA's broadcast partner for the 6th straight year. Some background, and then some issues. Note: These opinions are mine alone and do not represent an official communication from the UPA or tournament staff.

CSTV's Collegiate Nationals is a championship event for a variety of non-varsity sports. The ultimate competition will take place at the Pleasant View soccer complex in Boulder—home to 1999 College Nationals, 2006 H.S. Westerns, and Colorado Cup since 2006. One thing I was wary of was having multiple events at Pleasant View, but we will be the only sport there.

Nationals will take place May 16–18, the weekend before Memorial Day. I searched RSD for any reference to a past College Nationals that wasn't on Memorial Day weekend but I didn't find anything. Is this a big deal? Maybe, maybe not.

The TDs have worked on Westerns and Colorado Cup, plus we have UPA staff down the street, so I am confident this will be a well-run event. Disclaimer: Yes, I am involved in the tournament (though I am not the TD). I was enthusiastic about the prospect of bringing Nationals to my back yard, so perhaps I was a bit blinded by the detrimental effects of moving the event and incorporating into a larger event. In many ways ultimate is entrenched in various habits, for better or worse, and these two steps are pretty big. Let's have a look.

Issue #1 – Bumping Nationals up a week
This move—to accommodate an event that we have no ownership over—will probably be seen as the less desirable one. There are some unavoidable problems with the move in schedule, but they are problems we will overcome.

There are no plans to move up the start of the College Series (some Sectionals are held in crappy/cold weather anyway), and qualifiers from the second round of Regionals will face a tight window in which to get plane tickets. Will travel costs increase for players? I think not, for a few reasons. As the SW RC I am going to try to have Regionals on the first potential weekend and I will encourage other RCs to follow suit. Perhaps an airline discount can be arranged for players to take a bite out of costs. I also assume that airfares are lower on this weekend than they are on Memorial Day, a holiday and the traditional start to summer vacation season. (I checked some travel web sites. This far out they are the same.)

It's not a three-day weekend, but does that matter? We play on Friday and finish on Sunday in either case. Yes, the buffer travel day is nice, but I know last year Match Diesel had lab on Monday morning. We may hit a few more graduations, but there are some on Memorial Day too.

And the last issue, which has surfaced more recently, is that of competing events. Not with the other CSTV Nationals events, but specifically with lacrosse. The NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships are always held Memorial Day weekend. If we are to assume that we are actually competing with other, non-football & non-basketball events (i.e., every other sport yearning for coverage) for media exposure and television time, then moving college ultimate's premier tournament makes sense. Turns out the Div II and III lax finals—which take place the same weekend and as part of the same event as Div I—are airing live on CSTV on Memorial Day weekend. Good move moving us.

Issue #2 – Incorporating into a larger event
I think this is another good move. Yes, we lose some autonomy, but we are also exposing ourselves, as it were, to similar athletes (those that have chosen alternative sports) and increasing the size and scope of audiences and sponsors alike. I think the absolute worst case is a neutral effect, but the overlap is likely going to be a net gain.

Take, for example, the fraction of good coming from our internet exposure. How many people last year do you think found information about UPA College Nationals? I'm betting pretty much the people that were looking for it and no one else. But this year we have video highlights and cross-audience exposure on a site that garners over 3 million hits per month. Internet broadcasting is the future of every sport. Sign me up.

Does the sport sacrifice anything by joining forces with other sports? I don't think so. As I said above, the ultimate competition—the gist of the weekend for ultimate players—remains the same. And does the larger event lend any authenticity or credibility to the sport? Yes. Snowboarding, skiing, beach volleyball, weightlifting ... several of the sports at CSTV's Nationals are Olympic sports and those clinging to their coattails (ultimate, wakeboarding, adventure racing) can only benefit. You could think of this as the X-Games for college sports.

This tactic of combining resources also stands to benefit every club sport in the eyes of college administrators. Club sports occupy a gray area on many campuses. More than intramural rec, but clearly inferior to varsity athletics in terms of administrative & financial support. If X University previously had three unrelated club sports teams going to their respective championships in three different places, but now has three teams going to one huge championship event, shouldn't the admin sit up and take notice? I hope so.

The college nationals "social event," which has understandably* been handcuffed, ridiculed, and demoted from "party" to "event" in the last three or four years could be part of something half-way interesting. Go watch another sport? Have an awards ceremony with other sports? Have split parties (over- and under-21) with a thousand other athletes? I don't know, but it might be cool.

*Liability is a bitch.

Normal gripes
People will complain about the location because it is far away from them, or that airfare to [fill in the blank—DEN this year] is high, but the only legitimate gripe is that we are at altitude. Yep, Pleasant View is about 5,300 feet above sea level. Sorry about that, but every 7–8 years (Ft. Collins 1992, Boulder 1999 & 2007) is not that often for great fields, a great ultimate community, and the UPA's back yard. Plus Denver/Boulder is more central than many locations.

An annual tradition on this blog since 2006, we now present what every ultimate player on your list wants (besides those tickets to Kaimana).

Patagonia Stellar Black Hole Bag
Maybe you get a discount on this, maybe you don't. It doesn't change what comes in the mail: a waterproof, bomber bag. It's perfect for traveling, leaving on the sidelines, or a canoe trip. It holds 6,800 cubic inches and has backpack straps for portability. Tater took one to Japan and had one thing to say: "Arigato!"

Buzz Bullets Disc
No Bunka Shutter jerseys, no official gloves, but their web site does have one merch item: the Buzz Bullets disc. If you want to support the 2006 Club World Champions, this is the way to do it. Note: I do not know how successful you will be ordering from their site. It appears to be in some foreign language—perhaps Japanese. Google would love to help though.

SmartWool Crew Socks
They may be $15/pair, but that's because SmartWool makes the best socks around. If you order three or more pairs from REI you get 10% off, plus a tiny bit of that back on your dividend. Go ahead, pull the trigger. (They make skiing & snowboarding socks too. Also expensive; also worth it.)

Hodags Replica Jersey
Surprisingly this gift guide is not being written by Hector. But as my man BJar, former Central RC, put it (with reference to Minnesota's burgeoning youth scene): "They all aspire to be Hodags." And you thought the Patriots were on a run?

I Am America (And So Can You) (Audio CD)
Stephen Colbert's shtick wears on me sometimes. I know this is a sacr
ilegious thing to say in the face of Colbert's truthiness, but that's just how I feel about him. This version of his bestselling book, however, is absolutely hilarious. Not quite suitable for pre-game warm-ups (unless your game face features uncontrollable laughter), but very suitable for the plane or car, in which case you may also want...

Bose QuietComfort 2 Headphones
According to CNET, the industry standard for noise-cancell
ing headphones have only improved. Unfortunately their cost ($300) remains prohibitive. If you are like me—unwilling to spend anything close to this much—you might check out David Pogue's review of comparable but less expensive noise-cancelling headphones.

UltiVillage DVDs

A version of this gift guide was posted wi
thout this obvious choice. Apologies, Rob. You will not err if anything you give comes from UltiVillage. Countless hours of labor have gone into producing the most dedicated discs around. UV covers the best college, club, international, and youth events.

Captain's Chair
Boring but important. My first was a ground score at Poultry Days a few years back, but it's good to buy one once in a while.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Off-Season

Since my ACL reconstruction on Aug 21 things have been a bit like the mountains around here: rocky. Everything was great for about three weeks, then I had PT one Friday morning and the knee blew up, culminating in a second surgery on Oct 19. While I would love to have such a simple scapegoat—some bad therapy or massage or, worst of all, a bad physical therapist—it seems that I was fated to struggle.

Aug 22–Sept 14 had me progressing at an above-average rate. Nothing amazing, but better than many recoveries. My extension and flexion (how close my heel comes to my butt) were improving each week, and my strength was returning like refugees to a war-torn homeland: the landscape was familiar... changed for the worse, but familiar. On Sept 14 I went into PT and had some swelling—normal, certainly, for 3.5 weeks out of surgery—and a stiffer than usual knee cap. We did the routine things that day as well as some massage around the knee cap trying to loosen it up. Next day my knee was extremely stiff and the swelling increased. My extension and flexion regressed to where one would expect to be several days out of surgery, not several weeks.

Weeks 4–8 were downright depressing. I would fight and fight for 1 or 2 degrees of extension and the stiffness and swelling would knock me right back. Fears crept in: Are we pushing too hard? Are we not pushing hard enough? Is my body rejecting the allograft? That would fucking suck. Am I not doing enough at home? My surgeon and I booked a second surgery for Oct 18. We weren't sure what the surgery was for ... making sure the ACL was solid, I guess, seeing if it was infected, maybe. Whatever. It was comforting to know in early October that if my struggles persisted for several weeks more there might be a silver bullet.

But there are no silver bullets in physiology. Every 3 seconds you take off your 200m time requires weeks of training, and lifting in the months prior just to make sure your body could even shave any time off. Every 3 degrees of extension or flexion I gained required weeks of stretching, patience, and pain.

Oct 15, three days before surgery #2, I met with the surgeon and it happened to be a good day. In the up-and-down wave of my recovery he caught me on the upswing, marked by slight gains in extension/flexion and a decrease in swelling. We called off the surgery.

Friday Oct 19 I had a regularly scheduled PT session and the 24 hours prior had been the hardest since surgery. I called in "sick" to work on Thursday, but I wasn't sick, I was nearly incapacitated, immobile. Then Friday morning my knee capsule was bigger than a softball. My PT said he couldn't do anything and called in the PT center's physician's assistant to evaluate the knee. They called my surgeon—caught him scrubbing in, minutes from being unavailable—and he advised to drain the knee, have the fluid sent to the lab. "That is a big syringe," I said to the PT and the PA. "Better to have the RV than the Pinto I guess."

Twenty minutes and two syringefuls (110 cc's) later we had some fluid in our hands and I had a lot less in my knee. Went home. PA called: "By the way, you can't eat anything starting right now in case you need surgery." "Okay." Awesome. It's 10 a.m. and I've eaten cereal and coffee. Later the PA calls ... Lab report says the white blood cell count is very high in the fluid, they suspect infection. Instructed to report to the hospital at 5:00.

Surgery finally starts at 8:30 or 9:00. I&D, irrigate & drain. Knee-related fears being not assuaged at all (It is the allograft. Will I have to start over? Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck shit), my only comfort was the promise of a new Vicodin prescription and, if I was lucky, some ice chips and a snack as soon as I came to. Surgery went fine and they cleaned out the knee, checked on the graft. Everything seemed okay except the white blood cell count from the drain sample.

But lab cultures never replicated a bacterial infection from the blood samples drawn over the course of three weeks. Apparently microbacterial science, in the year of our Lord 2007, is an imperfect science. Yesterday's chat with Alex, a PT student:

11:02 PM me: knee's ok
11:00 PM infection might've been, might not've been
they're not really sure
apparently that field of medical science has not yet been perfected
I'm like isn't it 2007?
11:01 PM but -- getting better now, slowly but surely
11:02 PM Alex: haha
unfortunately the big money is not researching microbacteria stuff
me: where is the big money?
11:03 PM Alex: anti-depressants, fat burners and male erectile dysfunction
So I was on antibiotics for a 3.5 weeks. Better to treat a possible infection than not treat an imperceptible infection.

The last 5 1/2 weeks have yielded steady improvement with a slight plateau in the last week. I'm hitting the YMCA 5–6 times a week, PT now down to once a week. Just began introducing cardio to my routine, did some speed ladder–like exercises, slideboard, and lunges. Good shit.

I am optimistic now.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Oh god. I feel it coming now. Nine days removed from Finals and the tips of my fingers are beginning to tingle. I move away from the computer but the keyboard keeps pulling me back.
I've been dealing with the demons and adjustments of another season finished day and night and today I awoke feeling ready.

So here it comes, these next few weeks: The season, and national championship, in review.

We'll be talking about:
The Curse
My Teammates
Me and my future in this sport.

Let me start this next creative output by saying thank you to all my teammates for my favorite club season to date. We had a fucking blast, and I couldn't have wanted any more from you guys.

Alright, when I've more time this week, more to come.