Thursday, May 29, 2008

An amalgam of thoughts.

By the time the Hodags had capped their second straight College Championship, the only thing truly surprising was how easy they made it seem in finals. Florida breezed through the tourney and crushed in the bracket on Saturday, Wisconsin rallying late against Stanford and stumbling out of the blocks early in semis vs Colorado.

Hold on a sec. In case you're just stumbling to my blog for the first time, you should know two things. I played for Wisconsin and this is my blog. I will be fair, and honest, and self-critical, and consistent, but this is my blog and I played for Wisconsin, and I thought you should know. It makes absolutely no sense to me why on Cyle Van Auken insists on signing everything he writes as "The Editorial Board", similarly to how when he was running his name wasn't anywhere near it. Is it to maintain some semblance of impartiality and journalistic ethics? So people don't think he's biased toward the team he was playing on? Seems shadier to me to leave it unsigned than to just put your name on it and allow the reader to determine its fairness for themselves, no? But I digress...

I enjoyed those who, after Wisconsin's abhorrent losses to Michigan and Pitt at Centex, wrote them off as an inferior version of their 2007 selves and began scouring for other teams to seed above them at nationals. People talking about placing Michigan above them, as if the team that had torn through everyone pre-Centex had ceased to exist. That was a time of real soul-searching for Wisconsin. Down, no longer the awed and unanimous #1, looking frighteningly vulnerable as they frantically saved their regionals against Iowa, they had to decide if they still where that team.

Thing is, of course they were still that team. That didn't go away during the loss to Pitt. As we sat in a circle, the elder Hodags and I, celebrating their victory at Stanford in March, we discussed the possibility of an undefeated season. The outcome of the Superbowl a month earlier still weighed on my mind.

"I don't care how many games you lose, as long as you win your last six," I told them then. Yesterday we sat around the Hodag House in Madison discussing whether they'd have been able to close the deal had Centex ended in another undefeated Hodag victory. I'm not so sure. These baby blues were a collection of people conscious of their own skill and ability, and with that awareness comes all the questioning of whether they truly posses it. "Are we really as good as we thought?" they seemed to ask themselves after Centex. Those voices of doubt, their volume loud enough to allow Elis to beat Toms, would have made themselves heard clearly on Sunday had they gone undefeated. Wisconsin '08 was a team with a lot of talent, so much so that the idea of failure was strong enough to get in the way of their execution at times.

That aside, other random thoughts.

Where can one see the final vote tallies on the Callahan race this year? I for one am curious as to the numbers. Also, at a first glance it seems that anyone with a valid .edu address and upa ID could vote, not limiting it to current college-eligible members. I remember a debate a while back about giving Charles Kerr, the person who owns the award, larger access to the UPA's member database so he could corroborate voters' current status. They said no then, but now the UPA probably not only has a vested interest in the award but in also gaining control over it. For now Charles Kerr hold to it, soldiering on. The UPA, long having slept on the recognition of worthy college players before Kerr came along, waits.

Also regarding the Callahan, disturbing if the rumors prove true that the requirement of a .edu email address barred Canadian participants in the UPA series from voting on their candidate. Would that have been enough to change the final outcome?

That will soon be a moot point, considering that in two years the College and Club series will be strictly limited to US teams. In club, that opens two spots in the open and women's division: Furious and Goat in open and Capitals and Traffic (although they didn't qualify this year!) in women's. In college the lady Thunderbirds got their hardware just in time. Match better hold on to that Furious jersey I saw him wearing in Boulder. How do people feel about this? I guess it was only natural as the UPA grew in size that it eventually focus inwardly of the development of the sport at the national level exclusively. Still, the Championships without Canadian teams will exhibit a drop in talent for the immediate future, and it'll just feel weird to be at "Natties" without Furious. When your time comes, Canada, you'll be missed.

I am pleased, at least in Madison, of the legwork done to get the word out about Ultimate and Wisconsin's successes. This year we also got the ESPN guy to show up, CBS lent the Hodags a camera for their documentary, and the UPA College's Championship was woven into the fabric of the Collegiate Nationals. We seem to be moving in the right direction for those that want to see Ultimate more widespread and acknowledged mainstream. But is it enough? There seem to be exacting standards for the position of media director at the UPA. The last two were fired and the one before that left under inauspicious circumstances. How many more heads roll before it it's no longer a coincidence? Kelly Kneib, I'm rooting for you. You can do it. All my love hon.

Region Redraw, please. Club and College regionas should match. 7 regions, 2 bids per region, two strength bids. Let's do this. Give me some real revolution. How long have we talked about this? It still makes sense.

The latest round of Hodag tattoos have been inked to skin. A new project has begun to form. Coming soon, in the summer '09, team Dark Mark. The Green Berets of elite Wisconsin Alumni. Must have tat to play. "This is what nightmares are made of."TM I can't wait. Alongside Dark Mark I am also proposing that the current Wisconsin and friends team, The Iceholes, undergo a name change and become World's Largest Brat Fest. Same great people, new shirts and colors.

Thing is, everywhere I look Wisconsin is blowing up. We're far from where we were 8 years ago at my first Club championships. Ron Kubalanza finally won his championship. Will Henry captained Sockeye. Bravo made finals with three alumni, Sub Zero played a close quarters with a bevy of Wisconsin players. We've got a male Callahan in Heijmen, a female Callahan in Kiesow. Kendra Fredrick is blowing up Slow White. The seeds planted and carefully tilled through years of program development, most sans coach, are beginning to bloom, and Wisconsin is looking tasty in any part of the nation where competitive ultimate is in season.

More thoughts to come, but for now, On Wisconsin!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm sure that I wasn't the only one surprised Saturday evening during the Callahan ceremony - twice. I felt confident, after hearing Gibson's name called as second runner-up, that Jolian Dahl had just won the Callahan. Indeed I saw a few of my Colorado buddies begin a premature celebration the moment Gibson's name was read over the P.A., only to sit hushed moments later when Jolian became runner-up to Kershner.

Similarly, as Kira Frew's name was read in the runner-up position, I wasn't even listening for Courtney Kiesow's name to be mentioned, hadn't detected its absence. I only saw the look of dejection and shock on Kira's name as she descended to the field prematurely, and then heard the Wisconsin Belladonnas erupt in joy as their candidate won.

Now RSD is alive with chatter about who was more deserving and who should have won, some appalled their horse didn't win, others defending the winners. Having seen Kershner play at Vegas, Stanford, and Nationals, and having seen Kiesow play numerous times in her career and at Nationals this year, I can attest to their skill. And as a people's choice award, you can't argue that they didn't deserve it; the voting public did chose them, after all. But even among their fans, most agree that this year's Callahan winners were not the best players in the pool. So why did they win? I think their victories were driven by two main elements, and I can't say the influence of either one in the selection of the Callahan is a bad thing.

Old and busted: No More Mister Nice Guy

New hotness: Good Karma.

For all the cordial criticisms of Kiesow's or Kershner's abilities as players in company of their competition, not one person has found a blemish in their spirit and sportsmanship. While I think Sherwood, Dahl, or Gibson are better players they were soured by anecdotal evidence (some anonymous and some not) that questioned their ability to play this game fairly, in control, or with the highest respect for their opponent. In contrast, Kershner had people in queue to discuss how great a leader and opponent he was.

Kiesow also escaped any repudiation from her peers, and people discussed her personality with the same importance as her stellar play. Kira Frew, for all her skill and incredible throws, is known as a fiery competitor and demanding, type A personality. She need make no excuses for herself, but in a sport that seems to demand Spirit from its ambassadors, she may have lost those few crucial deciding votes to someone with the temperament of a teddy bear, Kiesow.

Media Circus

Our demand for a spirited candidate already noted, each of the Callahan winners also benefited greatly from video exposure. Though I was impressed with Arizona's athleticism, I never fell in love with the team the way others did. Their risky play told me they'd end the season right about where they did, getting blown out in quarters at best. But the ultivillage clips of Kershner running amok in Vegas became some of the most watched on Rob's website, and people ran with what they saw. That it was Wisconsin's first time outside in 4 months, that Florida was just beginning its rise toward Nationals, that the tourney was as close to home-field advantage as Arizona was going to get was not evident on those clips. Kershner doing athletic things is. And in the climate where would-bes salivate at the thought of doing what they can't, dethroning the giants Florida and Wisconsin, the voter was hungry for a hero that could do that. In the footage they saw their man, and it happened in the first major tourney of the year, early enough that his name could grow familiar in the tongues of players across the country.

While Kershner's victory was helped by being the first to blow up on video among the male candidates, Kiesow's campaign was undoubtedly aided by being the only major candidate with her own campaign highlight reel, showing a wealth of photographic and video evidence showing that she can, in fact, ball up. Just shy of 700 viewings online, that number is more than enough to influence the outcome of such a tight vote. That there were other women who were as good as Kiesow was not as readily apparent; without footage to make it real to the voting public, how could they really know?

The Future

The selections made this year I think point to two trends in future winners. It seems we the voter demand two things from our Callahans. We want them honest and likable, allowing any character flaws or lapses in spirit to act as a veto towards a candidate. And we want to see them on video, to witness the hype personally and allow ourselves to be caught up in it.

That Spirit still holds trump in deciding the Callahan should be lauded; we should demand the best sportsmanship from our representatives. That future Callahan campaigns use multimedia to push their candidate seems a foregone conclusion in this age of input and technology, and I doubt anyone will win ever again before voters from California to Maine can see them with their own eyes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's his world, we're only living in it.

Jolian Dahl has been a stud in the scene since he was old enough to apply eye black. Dominant in high school. Dominant in college. Dominant in club. Dominant even during summer league. Thing that struck me most was he was applying the same bitchings, at the same level of severity, across the board from the lowliest Boulder leaguer up to Sockeye's best cutters.

Jolian Dahl is a gentleman playboy. Standing tall next to his match-ups, he looks less like the person they're covering and more like their babysitter. He is, in the college game, a man among boys, full-framed, powerful, with a coveted physique fit for Tiger Beat covers.

Jolian Dahl doesn't care for the paparazzi. He doesn't hate them either, understanding that when Man is presented with such a flawless specimen of himself he is apt to gawk at such perfection. But Jolian pays them no mind. Heckler, photog, fan, by staying true to himself he lives for them all.

Jolian Dahl is spirit. A sport purist. He doesn't cheat because he doesn't want the challenges any easier than they already are. Shocking thing to the rest of us is, he never has to cheat. His team may not always win, but Jolian Dahl always leaves the field a winner. His match-up already knows what's coming. He only hopes no one is watching, because Jolian Dahl is undoubtedly gonna bitch him.

Jolian Dahl is demanding but fair. He only asks that you hold yourself to the same standards that he holds for himself. And when we fail, he metes out brutal but appropriate discipline. Here he is bitch-slapping two Florida players 5 yards back for double-teaming him. Tough, but fair. Spirited. Jolian Dahl is all these things.

There is one thing Jolian Dahl is not, yet. He is not Callahan. He needs to be. He's shown he deserves it, that there are no others that go toe-to-toe, stat by stat. Jolian Dahl, the man who as a freshman playing in the College Championship Finals generated four heart-stopping D blocks, most on 2002 Finals MVP Bart Watson and then got better as the years wore on. Jolian Dahl, who got the disgusting D on Sam C-K (above) in Club Finals '07, who in one game gets more pictures taken of him doing sick things than you will get in your 5 years of college disc, who fights crime in his spare time and still finds time to say hi to you and ask how your family's been, this Jolian Dahl, Mamabird's wings and Johnny Bravo's rocket fuel, is Callahan. He is All-Callahan.

It's on you to make it right by voting for him, by allowing yourself to believe in wills and powers larger than you, and being at peace that they're working for the good guys. Having given you so much, you need give him only this. Your vote. Jolian Dahl.

Vote right now at

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

One thing that people clamor for every time they consider windfalls in the UPA budget is a UPA-owned field site specific to ultimate. Taking a look at the Fields section of the Strategic Plan you can see that this concept landed on the cutting room floor. I'm glad. Let's have a look at the pro's and the con's.

Most obviously, owning fields would be sweet. No one denies that. Field quality is the one issue every player can agree on: flat, roomy grass with professionally maintained pitches are essential to any field sport. If the UPA were to own a field site we would never lack for a decent venue. But the questions surrounding every imaginable issue after that decision have negative repercussions.

Where would the site be? It would probably need to be in a warm climate to facilitate year-round play. It would probably need to be near an existing community of ultimate players. But trying to place the UPA's lone field site anywhere in the country makes it unfair to every dues-paying member outside of a 5-hour drive radius. You could even argue if the UPA offices were located in a warmer climate that would be a decent option, but that's not the case.

The fields would cost an arm and a leg. The Ottawa ultimate association built a field site and it cost about $600,000 CDN plus an annual $40,000 CDN for maintenance. And add inflation since that was 10 years ago. (If you want to read an excellent summary of this project check out Ken Lange's Powerpoint presentation from the 2004 UPA League Conference.) If the UPA was rolling in dough this wouldn't seem so bad, but there are better uses of that money.

Moreover, it would be unfair to concentrate such a vast commitment of resources to one project in one place. The amount of money needed would be disproportionate to the number of ultimate players who could actually benefit from it.

Lastly, the UPA has zero knowledge about field maintenance & upkeep, horticulture, or any other expertise needed to run a field site. Some would argue they are not even good at being a sport governing body, so why tack on more crap to the pile?

All that said, the two local field projects I know of (Ottawa, ON & Triangle Area, NC) are really cool. Both can host leagues and tournaments, and at least the TFDA site plans on renting the place to soccer players. I strongly encourage you to donate towards this worthy cause.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Welcome to Pleasant View, elevation 5,300 ft. In an effort to avoid busted lungs I've gathered some info from the very reliable "internet" ... actually most of it looked pretty reliable. Sources listed at the bottom.

The effects of playing a mile higher than sea-level are broken down into a few distinct areas: oxygen intake, dehydration, and UV exposure. Then of course there is the effect on a disc's flight, which is not insignificant.

Oxygen Intake
Contrary to popular misconception, the amount of oxygen at altitude is actually the same as it is at sea-level. What is different, however, is the barometric pressure and therefore your body's ability to use that oxygen. The lower the pressure the more difficult it is to move oxygen from your lungs to your bloodstream. Your body compensates for this by increasing breathing rate and heart rate. Additionally your VO2 max decreases approximately 1–2% for every 300 meters above sea level.

Side note: There is actually considerable debate regarding high-altitude training. The upshot is that training at sea level is more effective than at high altitude because your VO2 max has a higher ceiling, but the benefits of sleeping/residing at elevation acclimate your body to an oxygen-starved environment. "Live high, train low" is the current catchphrase. I don't know where this is possible, except maybe Hawaii, or maybe if you live at a super high elevation and go down to moderately high elevations to train.

This will be the biggest task facing sea-level competitors. Colorado is arid, but due to the altitude you will also be perspiring more and breathing more rapidly. Proper hydration leading up to and during the tournament is absolutely crucial (more so than your average tournament).

UV Exposure
You will be one mile closer to the sun than you normally are. UV levels rise 2% for every 1,000 foot rise in altitude, so be sure to use plenty of sunscreen. (See comments for clarification.)

Disc Flight
You should be able to huck the shit out of the disc, but it will fly very differently from what you are used to. Discs will not float as long and they will hold their edge harder. Blades really blade. I/O throws flatten nicely.

What Sea-Level Teams Should Do
Arrival: Unfortunately there are two competing factors for when you should arrive: staving off the body's natural response to re-acclimatizing vs practicing throwing. If you can arrive Thursday night that is best, but the tournament being a 3-day tournament also makes this decision tricky. According to Physiology of Sport and Exercise you should arrive as close to game-time as possible. (But that only addresses Friday's games. Ultimate is in a funny place as an endurance sport and a sprint sport.) But if you are arriving earlier I guess I would get a lot of throwing practice in. And most of you probably already have your plane tickets. Oh well.

Diet: Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Reduce sodium. Increase carbohydrates and water intake. Also please note that for the 28 teams done by Saturday night you will be affected by alcohol wayyy more than you are at sea-level.

UV: There will be sunscreen at the tournament (I'm pretty sure) but you should bring more, and you should use it. Maybe even bring aloe or lotion to use at night. Chapstick, definitely bring chapstick.

Other: If you like following up on spam pharmaceutical offers, maybe Viagra would be useful. (99% kidding.)

References/Further Reading (in no particular order):
Physiology of Sport and Exercise (pp. 290–292 in particular)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Hector and I have assembled a useful resource for those heading to Boulder. Here you will find a map of area restaurants, grocery stores, and places to get your recreation on. I mean, it's great to know where your hotel, the fields, and the hospital can be found, but you need more than that. Come feast at our table of information (and then at Mountain Sun).

You can also view this map in a new window, sans blog.

This map was created by the authors. It is not really affiliated with the UPA College Championships (in any official way), and we figure it will also be useful for Boulder's other tournaments, Colorado Cup and GRUB.

I wanted to make a PDF, but that will have to wait til Colorado Cup & GRUB. (Bids to both now open.)