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!


Breathing said...

cutting canada out? that seems like BS to me. What is the justification for this? Why is your blog the first I hear about it?

It seems regressive--when trends around the world are towards the global--for the UPA to alter the status quo towards provincialism.

Robin! WTF. Send you off to Boulder and now this...

Anonymous said...

i hope wisconsin pays tribute to sam sackett every year. a real hOdaG.

Kyle Weisbrod said...

I'm not sure where Hector gets his information but before rumors spread there are no current plans to kick Canada out of the UPA series.

That said, the relationship between the UPA, CUPA, WFDF, and non-US UPA members is complex. It is difficult and more costly to provide many UPA services (sanctioning, coaching clinics, observing clinics, state championships, etc.) outside of our borders. Having a strong role outside of our borders also impacts the role that CUPA and WFDF play in developing the sport and the more that the UPA does in their jurisdiction the less of a reason those younger, less mature organizations have to exist (and grow). Having other strong governing bodies (especially a strong WFDF supporting the sport internationally) may allow the sport to grow much faster.

Right now Canada's top teams don't even play in their national championship except for when bids to Worlds are on the line. That is certainly not good for the development of Canadian Ultimate.

On the other side there are some occasionally significant competition issues that come with Canada being the UPA series. One that is obvious is that we use the UPA series to select our representatives at International events. Having teams eliminated by a non-US team or (in the case of 2003, which was a qualifying year for WUCC) having a non-US team win the championship means that there is no clear cut "US Champion."

I think that theoretically focusing UPA resources solely on the US makes sense.

That said, what I think makes "kicking Canada out" difficult practically is the population distribution of Canada. The vast majority of Canadians live near the US border. Certainly Vancouver and Winnipeg have closer ties to Seattle and Minneapolis respectively, than Vancouver has to Winnipeg. Severing these natural ties can hurt Ultimate on both sides of the border.

There is logic in both sides of the debate. I believe that the UPA should make the series for US teams only while working with CUPA and WFDF to ensure that Canadian Ultimate development can grow through the transition (some sort of North American elite league, Pan-American championships, licensing observing and coach training and certification, etc).

I think this would be best for Ultimate, CUPA and the UPA in the long run.

UPA Board Member but not speaking on behalf of the UPA

Kirker said...

It would be a real heart-breaker if the UPA banned Canadian teams from competing. I think it would actually stunt the development of ultimate in Canada (and I'd like to think - maybe even in the US too. Canadian teams, especially Furious, have really pushed other teams to evolve).

As it stands, there are only a few cities that have solid ultimate programs (that spawn touring teams) here. Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The major obstacle facing high level development is a geographical one. We only have 30 million people across this huge chunk of land. For example, if Winnipeg wanted to have a competitive game vs. another Canadian touring team, they'd have to drive 14 hrs to Calgary, or 22 hrs to Toronto (vs. only 7 hrs to Minneapolis).

Even amongst the top Canadian touring teams there is fairly large disparity. Only 2 Canadian teams have ever qualified for UPA Championships and they are 2700 miles apart and they seldom play each other -- so it's not like they are pushing each other to develop. Rather, the teams pushing us to develop are the great teams we drive relatively short distances south of the border to play.

david said...

A few years ago hector was confidently predicting a college re-draw the next year, so take this excluding canada bit with a grain of salt.

Kirker said...

i should also clarify that i was only referring to men's (open) ultimate in canada. there have been cdn. women's and masters teams that have qualified in the past ...

Kyle Weisbrod said...

I think it's important to remember that excluding Canadians from the series does not mean excluding them from playing US teams. There are still existing events like ECC, Chesapeake, Colorado Cup, Labor Day, and more where Canadian and US teams can compete.

There are also potential events like Pan-American championships and/or a North American Elite series where the top teams from both countries can compete.

I don't think the UPA would exclude Canada from the series without ensuring that it does not hurt the sport.


dj said...

Unfortunately, it does seem that Canadian teams should not be allowed to compete during those years when a spot at Worlds is on the line. Having the US champion being the 2d place team at nationals does not seem to fairly resolve the problem.

degs said...

I don't think Canadian teams should be allowed to play UPA Nationals in '09. Let's say Goat and Furious were playing and the U.S. has 5-8 bids to Club Worlds '10 to dole out. Talk about a Tarr nightmare. And remember '03 Nationals? Furious won and we sent the 2nd place finisher to '04 WUGC Worlds (not Club Worlds). Lame.

degs said...

Maybe I should've read dj's comment before posting my own. Lame.

Hh said...

Kyle, this is what people were saying all over nationals in Boulder. I was shocked, but not really by the proposition but by the speed with which people were saying it was going to happen. Version I most heard was:
Other elite teams from foreign countries are asking to play in our UPA series. If Canada gets to play why can't they? It's becoming harder to say no to them without seeming duplicitous, so soon it will be time to Make it US only.

You write that the UPA has no current plan to make the series US-only, and then build the argument for why it should be US only, methodically, almost as if...planned. Pros, cons, sticking points to be considered before pulling the trigger. The only thing that's being debated really is the timeframe.

As an aside, considering the general progression of the sport, I agree with you that it makes sense for the UPA to do focus inward (eventually), for all your reasons stated, and for the consistency it'll provide. It'll just feel weird to not have Canadians there when that day comes, like a phantom limb itch.

Anonymous said...

This is actually where nightmares come from...

Greg King said...

I was referred to this blog posting by a teammate and I must say I am dismayed at the possibility of Canadian teams not being allowed to play in the UPA series. My comments deal primarily with the College series as that is what I am most familiar with.

As it stands, CUPA is pretty much a joke. They organize one tournament a year at the university level (Nationals). It takes place in the second week of October. If teams were not allowed to play in the UPA tournament then October would pretty much be the nd of the season. Yeah we could go and play tournaments in the spring in the states that aren't UPA sanctioned, but the entire goal is to work toward qualifying for nationals. So as per Kyle's post above, if this was to happen we would need the UPA to work with CUPA to redefine how the competitive series works in Canada. I also agree with Kirk's post that geography and the much lower population are huge limiting factors to any reorganization. University nationals were in Vancouver this year and a number of teams didn't attend because of the distance involved. I agree completely that it would stunt the development of ultimate in Canada.

Oh, I definitely voted for the Callahan. I don't have an .edu e-mail addy (but do have an institutional address). Maybe the votes weren't included though.