Monday, August 11, 2008

Let's put this weekend into perspective.

The Olympics started in China amid 15,000 performers for the opening ceremonies, almost absorbing the news that Russia and Georgia were pushing towards war. Completely overlooked were the deaths of both Bernie Mac and Issac Hayes. With the weight of this international and national news, two tiny events were picked up by our small community: Saturday's live webcast of the World Ultimate Championships and the 2008 Youth Club Championships in Blaine, Minn. I, intrepid and curious newsphile that I am, was on top of all of these events, but I'll talk only about the last two.

The often-lagged webcast of the Open finals had been pushed back a few hours, enough for Sub Zero to finish their practice, dip into Lake Nokomis, and head to Andrew Brown and Dan Heijmen's place for a large-scale viewing. While we found the constant refreshing a bit annoying, there was no doubt that we were witnessing a giant leap for disckind, an offering worlds better than sitting in front of RSD constantly pressing F5. We were able to watch plays moments after they happened, and watch Grant and Roberts score goal after goal. Nasty. Most of us Zebros watching were leaning pretty hard towards one team, but we cheered for great plays both ways. Aside from the lag, the only other constant annoyance was Match, especially toward the end.

Having just read his Best Experience of My Life post, where he puts two fingers up in the air to the haters and lets off his King of the World rant like a journalistic Leo Dicaprio, it's hard not to find him at least remotely likeable. Certainly his energy for the sport is to be commended, and one might even be able to forgive the fact he talks like he know everything about us, when in his commentary it was painful to see the discrepancies between actual knowledge and what he'd like you to think he knows. One might. I guess for those who know nothing about what happens in elite Ultimate, listening to someone who's trying to convince you they know it all is as close as you're going to get, and you'll take it.

The Blockstack dudes did a great job, and our crowd got a big kick when Muffin sent a typical Morfinesque email to them while the game progressed and had his every talking point discussed on the air, followed by my email with similar results.

Things that occured to me during/after the game:

  • This was Chase's last game as a Sockeye, perhaps his last in competitive Open. We'll probably see him from time to time on a Carleton Lovefest mixed squad and such, but Ultimate's GPiG (greatest player in game) from '04 is gone. Big loss for the quality of the division. Strangely reminded me of laying down rhymes for Miranda at Chicago Tune-Up while he listened many years ago. I'll miss you bud.
  • I've never been very superstitious, but fuck it. The Curse is real. I thought for sure USA would win convincingly, but I forgot about Kubalanza. It's real. Right now there may be some readers scratching their heads wondering if I forgot Sockeye won this past year with Kubalanza in it, but that didn't count as I will soon explain on this blog.
  • Canada's offense was dominant, very chilly and possesion-driven considering the elements. Certainly moreso than Seattle's. But now Furious has to adjust to the series without its out-of-providence players. Alexander and Hassel were a huge part of the offensive production, and now Furious will have to fill the gap with someone lacking their talent.
  • Did USA overlook Canada after Furious' finish in Sarasota and the Buzz Bullets' victory at the Dream Cup? Magic Eight ball says SIGNS POINT TO YES.
  • Sockeye must adjust to losing Seth Wiggins, Chase, and who knows who else calling it quits. Plus, somehow bounce back from a loss none of them expected. Furious has to shed valuable rigers and still perform as they did. Right now Bravo is looking poised to rise from the chaos, and Boston certainly feels like they are ready for a title run with Graham healthy again. Chesapeake is going to be sick next weekend.
  • If the DVD copy of the finals features the commentary we all heard watching live, there's no place far enough for Match to run from Sockeye's fury. He let them have it in the second half and shat all over them. When those dudes hear what he had to say I can't imagine they won't hunt him down and tear out his fingers and larynx.
After Sunday's practice up in the Twin Cities, my vehicle drove to Blaine to catch the YCC finals. Our primary reason was to recruit studs for Wisconsin, letting the high schoolers know we care, we're well funded, and Patagonia has given us the same sponsorship package as Sockeye. Talking to them about the trust fund that is growing in the hopes of one day paying for all playing expenses for players, about our Hodag Love scholarship to one player a year, and noting that UW-Madison is the 9th best public university in the country, with tremendous research facilities and some of the best schools in Business, Medical School, and journalism, to name a few.

Turns out all you have to do is approach these kids wearing Hodag gear and handing out business cards and you have a captive audience, waiting to have their egos stroked with the words, "We'd love for you to come to Madison." Aside from the few that we approached directly and gave discs to, I began to notice a small peripheral crowd of teens hoping to be approached and pampered, waiting in the wings. While the current 'Dags in my car talked to specific players, I watched the boys' final, which Pittsburgh was winning handidly. Things I noticed or overheard:
  • Some Seattle parents were complaining on the sidelines about Pitt's Alex Thorne (I think that's his name). He had flown to Blaine with his father on the redeye from Vancouver, having just played in worlds. The Seattle parents felt some agreement by the USA juniors team had been broken, as 7 of Seattle's team stayed behind after worlds and Alex made a push to help his team win at YCC. Gripes about his parents being loaded were verbalized.
  • I was given some backstory to the Pittsburgh team. Apparenly the core of the team has been playing together since elementary school, and had always fallen short of winning the major Junior tourneys. When they were up 13-9, I began to cheer them on in hopes they might not falter in the last crucial points. I was beginning to see them tighten up in their playing. I specifically chose #19 on Pitt, a playmaker for them who carried himself with an air of superstardom (tragically ahead of its time). He was playing nearly every point, and played every point from 13-9 till the end. I began to notice his fatigue and wanted to make sure his head was still where it should be.
Sadly, it wasn't. The play that I look back on as the shift in momentum was a short backhand pass into the endzone by #19, thrown a bit too rushed, slightly behind, but still certainly catchable. It would have been the goal to put them at game point. Instead it was dropped. 19 stared with wide eyes, a look of "how could you just have dropped my pass." It came right after a spectacular catch he'd made on the goal line. Seattle quickly transitioned and scored the goal to bring it within 3, and the whole time 19 still can't get over that drop. He begins to play as if several of his teammates owe him and his skill something, rather than focus everyone in and emphasize team-wide execution (some lessons are learned too late in life). Amid his disbelief (and a play-of-the-game catch on a hammer over 19 for a crucial goal by a Seattle player), his team begins to crumble with quick-finish throws that don't pan out, and Seattle storms back to tie and take their first lead of the game at 14-13, hard to 15. Pittsburgh finally coughs a pass that works to tie and force double game point, but though the wind isn't hard it's enough to make it upwind for Pitt. Seattle calms in a way Pitt should have done 5 points ago, and marches to the goal line and calls a time out. 19 on the mark, flailing wildly. I am trying to get him to take a step off and force a backwards pass to break up their play. A chippy foul, upheld by observers too weak to do much this game (the offsides by both teams were egregious and uncalled), and after the disc check, the Seattle thrower punches it into the open side for the score and the tournament. Comeback (or massive choke) complete, 15-14.

High school Ultimate at this level is fun to watch. Good throwing mechanics, but poor throwing decisions, alongside great defensive efforts but immature field awareness leads to great plays and bids all over the field. It may not always be executed well, but it's damn exciting. I said goodbye to my Colorado friends in town for the tourney (shouts out to Nick Arnaud and Patrick Jones) and got in the car for the drive home to Madison, thinking about Bernie Mac.


Kyle Weisbrod said...

Hector, the observers were instructed to not make any active calls in the YCC games (that's why they did not call the offsides). The role of observers in youth play is currently an open debate.

I was saddened to hear that Pittsburgh lost. They looked well in control of the game when we took off at halftime.

As for Alex Thorne playing, shame on those parents for complaining. Alex made a big sacrifice to leave worlds right after the Jr. Open final missing his final opportunity to spend time with the US Junior team in favor of spending time with his childhood friends in their final tourney before college. While I wouldn't have made that decision and recommended against it for all of the players from Atlanta that had that opportunity I think his decision should be respected.

Anonymous said...

so, umm, who were you guys rooting for?

Anonymous said...

kyle.....observers shouldnt HAVE TO call offsides in the first place.....that is if you people are as spirited as you contend. Seems like flat out disrespect for the rules (forget the other team). Same thing happened at worlds to(which didnt get by a one jody leber, so said terrance....or phillip)......offsides on EVERY pull. Of course worlds didnt have observers (those fools) BUT that youth tourny did???? and they didnt actively enforce offsides?????? what a waste!!! Talk about WTF! Seems to me the only thing that the role of observers in ANY level play is clear as word, "soft".

And per worlds finals...... your delusionary, "call it the same at the beggining of the game as you do at the end" code didnt seem to pan out to well, did it.

Kyle Weisbrod said...


There's nobody anywhere who says that spirit will prevent fouls and other violations from happening all together.

If both teams are okay with offsides they can choose not to call it (just like if both teams are okay with physical marks or small travels).

Personally, I would prefer that observers make active offsides and line calls (even at the youth level) but the reasoning is that there were observers for very few games at the YCC and so they didn't want to impact the dynamic of the game where observers were used.

Hector, sorry to join in on the threadjacking.

Now back to the chocking...

DLK said...

..damn. i'm glad i'm shutting my stuff down before you got upset with me. i don't think i would have been able to take it.

see you in a few weeks.

Hh said...

Toad, considering those calls did not affect the outcome of the game in the end, it panned out just fine.

The disc never lies.

The Pulse said...

Nice work with the recruiting - I was too busy coaching to recruit much but I am getting #19 from Pittsburgh.

We did not ask for observers for any of our games, and I don't think that the outcome would have been any different except for the opportunity to play out our games to 15, which would have given us a better chance in both of our capped losses. Juniors games are unbelievably slow on timeouts and between points. I think almost everyone at the championship level would accept the "tradeoff" of a seeming loss of control to avoid the cap and have some recourse against poor calls and dangerous plays.

Anonymous said...

first of all. i was there and was the defensive captain on seattle, reading this blog further illuminated the cocky and arrogant view that we all had about you guys for coming and trying to recruit us. saying that all you had to do was "show up in some Hodag jerseys and pass around discs" to get us to drool about coming to madison is ridiculous. its called being POLITE! after talking to some of my teamates afterwords it became clear that nobody wanted to go to u of wisconsin, and in fact, three of my teamates are headed to Colorado to play for mamabird and many others including myself are considering at as a first choice for next year.

ben feldman is know as a dick too so that was a mistake to bring him.

im just pissed that you think we are so ignorant and dont see past your false persona

Anonymous said...

You may not realize it, but Mamabird isn't exactly a paragon of humility and politeness, either. But neither is Florida, Stanford, or Madison. Elite programs rarely are, not that they should or need be.

Brody said...

#19 Ben Funk 5'10 Sr

Anonymous said...

Well not any more Brody!
I'm now almost 6'1

Thanks again to the UPA for a great tournament for the fourth year in a row.

Congratulations to Seattle and every other individual and team that put their heart on the line for the best youth tournament in the country.

#19 Ben Funk

P.S. The wide eyed stare you speak of wasn't me thinking how did he drop was..How did I not hit him in the chest?! :)

Anonymous said...

stanford is in for a surprise when they receive the #1 overrated HS player in the country next season lol

Anonymous said...

attention i was the anonymous above and i posted it accidentally. i was just fuckign around typing in the box & yes i guess that is my view but i didnt mean to say it sorry ben funk. i guess i hit the box automatically.

Bones said...

Here are some good ruminations on observers in Youth Ultimate:

Not my words but written by a thoughtful friend of mine. As an observer, I think it's fine for the finals of YCC (although I wasn't there so I don't know much about their roles) but spirit and self-officiating should be taught young, and provides a nice contrast to the stereotypical image of youth sports overrun by overbearing parents. I'm tempted to quote Federalist papers here but I think I got my point across.

Hh said...

Dear defensive captain on seattle,

It appears you got your compression shorts in a knot under your 5ive shorts.

Interesting your quote, "reading this blog further illuminated the cocky and arrogant view that we all had about you guys for coming and trying to recruit us."

Wait, we're cocky and arrogant because we had the balls to come and try to talk to you guys? Sheeit, I didn't know we were such fools to think we were worthy of talking to y'all. Here we were with some discs to give away and conversations to have, thinking we might be worthy. Glad you weren't one of the kids impressed with back-to-back college championships. Why would you be impressed, having just won YCC? You've reached the top, buddy!

I applaud your buddies going to CU. Having just lived in Boulder for 4 years, and becoming great friends with the leaders and playmakers in the area I know they'll be in good hands. But if your teapot boiled over because of 1 paragraph I wrote I strongly encourage YOU to go elsewhere, neither Wisconsin nor Colorado is going to have much use for entitled whiners. If your skin is as soft as your response I suggest applying to Carleton, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.

And to call Ben Feldman, who is simply balling out of control in college, a dick...well it smacks of sour grapes. You all know Feldman because he was big in the juniors' circuit, and went to college and got himself two gold medals. Now he's running point on the Hodags' fall tourney AND their Patagonia sponsorship, an officer on the 'Dags, making things happen that teams around the country would kill for, and you're calling him a dick? It seems to me, Seattle's HS defensive captain, that you've talked bad about someone accomplishing more in his two years than you should hope to do in all 5 of yours. Now you are the one known as a dick. Congrats on your YCC win. You're on top of the world, baby!

Anonymous said...

Dude, way to patronize highschoolers.

"Turns out all you have to do is approach these kids wearing Hodag gear and handing out business cards and you have a captive audience, waiting to have their egos stroked with the words, "We'd love for you to come to Madison." Aside from the few that we approached directly and gave discs to, I began to notice a small peripheral crowd of teens hoping to be approached and pampered, waiting in the wings."

No one was dissing you for going and recruiting and watching some ultimate... it's the way you spoke so condescendingly in your original post that rubbed the poster above the wrong way.
Have some respect for the kids even if you don't think they've earned their ultimate stripes yet.

Anonymous said... disrespecting and blatently violating the rules is perfectly fine as long as both teams are doing it equally????? No wonder this sport is percieved in the way that it is.

and the same vein......cheating is perfectly fine as long as it dosent effect the outcome of the game???? good thing for all you delusionary spirit zealots that sockey didnt come back and win, unh?

As for the disc not lying.....more delusionarly idiot wind. So i'll assume that you believe in santa clause and the tooth fairy too.

And lay off the youth h. seem you got your foot about knee deep down your throat so far........yet you are still munchin away. Want some fries with that foot?

Anonymous said...

hey 19 from pitt.......dont know if you know anything about uncw, but we will have you here. As one visiting ultimate player from pitsburg remarked many moons ago(about the women in wilmington) "even the ugly ones are goodlooking".

The Pulse said...

"You all know Feldman because he was big in the juniors' circuit, and went to college and got himself two gold medals. Now he's running point on the Hodags' fall tourney AND their Patagonia sponsorship, an officer on the 'Dags, making things happen that teams around the country would kill for, and you're calling him a dick?"

Doesn't make him not a dick. He's a good player, and I'm sure he does a lot of great stuff for the Hodags, but that doesn't mean that his reputation isn't deserved.

Anonymous said...

Say what you will about Hector's opinions or arrogance or whatever you want to call it. At least he addresses opposing viewpoints, and unlike the "most respected writer in ultimate" (his self-appointed title btw) aka Match Diesel, doesn't delete comments that he doesn't like.

Hh said...

Brody! Shit! You're still frozen down south! Great to hear from you.
Mr. Funk came up again in conversation yesterday, and I should clarify. I thought he was a great player. I chose to ride him specifically because he looked like the one that would have an immediate and direct impact on the game's outcome. Sadly, I was right. Fatigue showed on all Pitt's studs after they'd played 5 straight points. Coaching error, in my book.

And so many comments from people desperate to claim they have no ego! You'd think I accidentally walked into an egalitarian party dressed as an id. Whether you like the way I put it or not, I stand by what I wrote. What- as a high schooler it doesn't feel good to be courted by a top program, whether you're interested in going there or not? Should I have instead written, "As we fetted their accomplishments they stood steeled against our praise and advances."

Would that be more accurate? No. I saw high school kids fired up about Ultimate and excited that a school like Wisconsin had noticed their talents. That's ego, and it's not a bad thing, it's a natural thing. Silly, for all of us, to have an ego about something as frivolous as sports, and ultimate in particular, but it's something we choose to be good at.

And Pulse, I am open to hearing how Feldman got a dick reputation. Considering I've now seen him play three years, and am now his teammate, I've yet to see one dick thing come out of him. Sounds more like some kid letting off mouth.

Anonymous said...

i think it was great what you guys did, coming to ycc and talking to us. the way you portrayed us and talked about us behind our backs, with such a condescending tone, is just kind of hurtful, and makes me question the sincerity of the things you said when talking to me.

this doesn't have to be a big argument, i was merely just pointing out that i was upset and didn't appreciate the light that you put us youth players in. Ill have you know that the team had probably the smallest egos of any team i had played for, with only 4 returning people from last years ycc team, humility and hard work are what got us the championship.

in no way am i dissing on the program that is wisconsin ultimate, just in the way that you guys conduct yourselves.

The Pulse said...

I'd prefer to not clutter a discussion about youth ultimate with a he said she said about Ben Feldman. If you're interested in why I think he has that reputation, you can email me, but I'd like to talk about youth ultimate (even though I brought it off course myself).

I think Pitt has had the benefit of a strong PHUL and hosting Easterns for three of the past four years.

Colorado seems to be the most popular youth destination now, at least for the 25% or less of elite juniors players who want to play elite college ultimate. I guess they have the cachet of Beau and Jolian without the reputation of Florida (or Wisconsin), and with much easier admission than most schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad to see that someone shares my opinion on Match Diesel's commentating and hilarious self-congratulations. Some of the stuff he said during the finals was actually interesting and insightful, most of it was useless blather about how "phenomenal" every single player on the field was (he knew the names, and knew they were phenomenal athletes--good enough for the greatest journalist in the sport), and some was just plain incorrect or misleading. I liked the Blockstack guys, and felt bad for them in the finals (and to a lesser extent, the USA-Aussie game) with Match co-opting every comment. There were so many times in the finals where the British dude would start saying something and Match would jump on him and finish his sentence and continue for five minutes without letting a word in edgewise. And the other Blockstack guy didn't say a damn word the entire game. And for not having the incredible knowledge that Match thinks he has, they were not bad commentators, and actually made an effort to talk about the game and not their exploits in the world of ultimate journalism. It was a great game of ultimate, and really unfortunate that the overriding impression I have from it is Match in the background, calling Sockeye a bunch of cheaters and banging on the ceiling.

All that other stuff you wrote about...not cool for someone who is not a CU fan. Scary even. Damn.

Peter said...

I really shouldn't be making the effort, but it's just mildly annoying enough ...

So I posted a comment on Mr. Diesel's blog post wherein he anointed himself the Bob Costas of ultimate and - not surprisingly - he took it down pretty quickly. I didn't save it or anything but what I had to say was essentially:

1. Give the guy his due for putting in a lot of hard work and disseminating a lot of info. (I slid past the fact that often his info is wrong.)

2. His post was ricockulously self-aggrandizing, to an extent which is both (a) embarrassing and (b) unwarranted. He may or may not qualify as a "journalist" but if so - his preeminence among ultimate journalists is largely a function of the extreme scarcity of the species. Again - all props for the hard work, but "I have achieved greatness" was just ludicrous. Rare indeed is the person who actually has achieved greatness and would ever make such a statement. Megalomania is usually unjustified. I do recall using the word "autofellatio" in this paragraph.

3. He is not a very good writer. Passable, but not very good. A short list of ultimate bloggers who are much better writers than he: Hector Valdivia, Luke Smith, Jim Parinella, Adam Tarr, Dar, Kenny Dobyns. I suppose I could have avoided the dig on that point but anyway I think what I said was something like "I'd hold off on the Pulitzer acceptance speech until you've taken a few expository writing courses." Meh.

4. I think I mentioned the word "Huguenard" at the end. Cf. the megalomania comment above.

Okay, so maybe I was being a little snide and there is something to be said for not insulting someone on their home turf - but I think it's pretty funny that he is calling himself the greatest "journalist" in the sport and then sanitizing his blog of comments that reflect negatively on him, leaving behind a bunch of empty "hell yeah Match" dicksucking. I'm no journalism ethics expert, but when I listen to NPR, at least half the listener letters they read from are critical.

The other thing that I thought was interesting was that although he disclaimed any feelings of pride over Canada's win, it's obvious that his moment of extreme self-satisfaction was hugely influenced by the game result. He was fucking giddy - that Furious, on whose jock he has decided to ride, won, and no less so that Sockeye, some of whose players have incurred his wrath, lost. I don't really have a problem with this from a journalistic integrity standpoint - he makes it clear he's a fan and that's fine by me - I just think it's an interesting window on the guy's psychology.

Hh said...

Regarding the above post:

Well written. It is an interesting window into his psychology but when I look in people's windows the last thing i want to see is them masturbating alone on the couch.

degs said...

...but when I look in people's windows the last thing i want to see is them masturbating alone on the couch.

I take it you'd prefer them to not be alone?

EOtt said...

Did we read the same blogs? I thought Hector liked #19 a bit, calling his catch “spectacular.” It seems something about this kid touched Hector enough to write about him in his blog. He was trying to give advice and even heaped some praise on the kid.

He pointed out a fault of his and if you’re entering college, you better get ready for that. Not just in the ultimate world, but life outside ultimate too. For a multitude of reasons, professors and employers aren’t always going to delicately sugar coat everything. As a busy professional, I don’t want to work with people who can’t take a direct order now and again. Ask anyone I supervised, I will dictate an order, expect it to be done promptly and well, and then after the work is done, we can go out for a beer and we’ll chum it up all they want. Simply put, a critical comment doesn’t translate into being mean. I look at it like he cared enough to go out of his way to go to this event and got into the finals game because he cares so much about ultimate and the future of the team he hasn’t played for in half a decade. Shit, I wish people could bitch at me for that.

“Aside from the few that we approached directly and gave discs to, I began to notice a small peripheral crowd of teens hoping to be approached and pampered, waiting in the wings.” I don’t question his observation at all, just his analysis of the situation. I wasn’t there like most of us, so I can’t say for certain. But it really doesn’t take much to think that many of these kids looked up to him. He played an important role in the Hodags. It also doesn’t take much imagination to think that some of these kids couldn’t wait to be recruited.

Although, this is were I disagree with Hector a bit. It could also be that these kids just simply wanted to meet and talk to someone accomplished on a college and open level. Some probably weren’t just looking for praise, but to be accepted and in turn, their efforts legitimized. A single word difference between “pampered” versus “accepted”, but an important distinction nevertheless. He may have gone overboard by lumping everyone together in a single sweeping sentence. Our reasons for doing things are often variable. Did he do this because he thinks he’s a super-star? I’m not going to say something like that based on one sentence. From his blog and the little I know him, he’s always conducted himself well within the perimeters of humility. Maybe he did mean what he said. Get over it, he made a critical comment, I can say for certain it won’t be the last they hear. He cares enough to drive across 1.5 states to see youths play ultimate and cheer on a few individuals. What did you do this weekend?