Tuesday, December 22, 2009
This year’s fall season is over now. Two tournaments in, the substantial problems that we’ll face as a team have come to bubble at the surface, where hopefully hard work and focused diligence will be able to skim them off our surface and allow our team game to shine.
Before I agreed to coach the Hodags this year, I made a list of a few things that I wanted to accomplish in the coming year. But before I could implement any of the culture-wide changes, I had to make sure that I would have the authority to do so. A year prior, I had returned to Madison and wanted to make myself available to the team as a resource. I knew I’d have some time on my hands and wanted to remain close to Wisconsin Ultimate and the friendships I’d forged there.
There was a small obstacle standing in the way, however. Muffin, fresh off his final year of eligibility and back-to-back championships, also wanted a role. Despite never having been chosen as captain of the team, his (let’s say) commanding personality was such that he was able to drive and direct a large part of the team’s focus toward what he saw as the most important goals. His methods for doing this were, to touch it lightly, a bit heavy-handed, and after his class’ graduation the new veterans on the team were eager to stamp the Hodags with their own style of play and leadership. It’s a delicate balance to shift roles from player to coach, especially when attempting to coach former teammates, and these new veterans, long overshadowed by the dominant players the program had churned out the few years prior, weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to relinquish their control right back to the man who’d held it like a choke-chain over them for the last two seasons. Finding the right balance between using Muffin for his experience and forging their own path would require an even hand, patience, an open mind, and a splash of finesse.
These are all qualities that Muffin possesses, but his application of them has always fallen outside our sport. My first summer back, on countless last calls at the Big Ten Pub and other bars, there he’d be, voicing the vets’ worst fears in a tone that was impossible to read as serious or playful.
“I’m gone fucking coach you guys and there’s nothing you can do about it. Try to stop me.”
Their apprehension at hearing this was such that, when the season began and it came time to delineate roles and responsibilities, they all but cut him from the picture. In a meeting with the both of us to discuss what we’d do for the team, they asked me to help coach and plan with them. Muffin was not given much room at all, not even to do what he does best; plan and implement the team’s fitness program. In a move that puzzled me, they asked that he 1) train Shemoans to be the team’s new fitness coordinator and 2) not go to any of the actual workouts.
I understood their desire to build a new identity with them as the central force, but it felt like throwing the baby out with the bathwater (or, actually, it felt like they were so afraid of Muffin’s reaction to being denied that they wanted to reject him without actually having to utter the word ‘no’). What ended up happening was that Muffin and I were both sidelined and our input rarely solicited, and we had little to do at the practices we attended beyond watching and shouting from the sides. What also developed (I think to everyone’s surprise) was a new, (slightly) gentler Muffin, eager to help and ready to put in work. Being removed from affecting the outcome of a game directly allowed Muff to step back and look at the game with more brain and less brawn, and he grew up in the process. However, the Hodag ship is a mighty vessel, and she doesn’t turn on a dime. By the time everyone realized what Muffin and I could have provided, the season was over and Club tryouts were days away.
It wasn’t all a loss, though. The potential help did not go unnoticed, and after a club season where I was able to prove my chops in designing and running practices the team asked me to take on a much more substantial and formal role as their coach. Muffin’s own attributes didn’t go unused either. Eager to make the final leap from a group of coulda-beens to did-its, Belladonna asked Muffin to bring his singular fire and passion and try to pass it down to girls on the cusp of breaking out.
Tonight is the fall Blue/Black scrimmage, always an opportunity to gauge where we are individually and as a team before breaking for the holidays with a list of to-dos. The team is hungry and I’m eager to put in work, and our weekend in Chattanooga showed us that, while we’re not where we’d like to be, we’re at least not as far behind as we feared. Four months of throwing indoors can spoil us in the same way a diet of sweets does, and we have work to do in zone and transition to get to where we want to go.
Where we want to go, obviously, is only a few miles from Madison’s picturesque capitol: Breese Stevens, location of this year’s College Championship game. The motivation that comes from hosting natties cannot be underappreciated, and you can see it in eyes of the Hodags as they prepare to run their last set of sprints, and in the bottom of the Shell’s trashcans afterwards. Halfway done with the school year, and tough, but enjoyable, challenged lie ahead. We’ll be ready.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The UPA Club Championships begin in 9 hours.
I couldn't be more excited. Tons of coverage, live scores.
Round 1 - Sockeye
Madison breaks to begin the game. The sun is scorching in clear skies. Sockeye quickly breaks back, trading to 4-4. The Fish play very poachy, taking chances for D's and along with the breakdowns. Nate Bosscher rips a huge flick to Skittles as Murder Club led 7-6. Sockeye was clutch, holding on offense and breaking to take half 7-8. Equally as tough was losing a break out of half, now down 7-9. Club revamped the energy and matched Sockeye's newfound intensity pushing the game 9-9. Ben & Seth Wiggins both played well as Seattle led 11-13. To the very last points, there were multiple turns and marathon points in the heat, both teams exchanging blows. Taking the full two hour round, Sockeye closed 12-15 as Bravo watched on, having already taken down Machine 15-9.
Round 2 - Bravo
Club breaks to begin the game in a slow warm-up jog. The heat is significant - near 90 and easily 75% humidity. Bravo plays with fire and energy, breaking to lead 2-4 with quick strikes. Bravo increases the pressure and Madison misses 3 clear up-wind strikes on risky looks as Colorado storms to half 4-8. The sideline is beaten, Madison's spirit shocked. Only when Club relaxed, did the energy reappear and the score close to 10-13. Bravo finished strong 11-15, as Sockeye did the same to Machine.
Round 3 - Machine
Club owned Chicago all season, but Nationals was a different story as Machine broke to lead 0-2. Murder Club fought disc movement against zone defenders to make it 3-4. The sun was melting players, as both teams suffered from cramps. Probably 20 substitutions were made down the stretch. Machine took a 12-9 lead in the stiff wind on Tim Holt's rocket upwind flick. Murder Club had a goosebumps moment in the huddle and decided to win. The universe line appeared as Club overpowered to 13-13. With a chance to win after a ruled D, a non-in hand-off was called shenanigans as Machine tied it 15-15. Seth Meyer makes two straight baller plays and skies for the winning goal off a Feldman Floater giving Madison the 17-15 win.
Madison Club plays Madcow and Jam in the first two rounds tomorrow morning...
Round 1 - Madcow
Ohio breaks first and steals the early energy, leading 2-4. Madison responds to make it 6-6 before yielding half. Both teams find a rhythm on offense going upwind, trading to 13-13 without a turnover. Madcow receives on universe point 16-16 and manages another cutter flick bomb for the win 16-17.
Round 2 - Jam
Despite the letdown, Madison can still makes prequarters in a win over Jam and a Machine win over Madcow. Jam looks exhausted, but plays efficient offense -- taking a quick 1-4 lead and stretching to a 2-6 advantage. Madison digs deep and puts on a break train to make it 7-7, before dropping a disc for half. Idris gets angry with Jake Meyer's excessive contact down field and begins jawing at Jake half an inch from his face. Veteran Jadon sees it going down and bombs into the situation, side-checking Idris and earning the team's first PMF. The excitement only fired up Murder Club. Jam played better in the second half, taking a slight lead 10-12 and pulling away late 12-15. The outcome of the day depended on Machine's finish with Madcow as it was universe point, Machine receiving. Tyson Park ripped a big backhand and Machine shoved in a stuff-and-score to win, sending Madison into second place in the pool and into the bracket for ninals and 11th.
Round 1 - GOAT
Canada took an early lead 1-4, looking solid. Madison broke back to 6-6, then lost half 6-8. With more motivation to battle in the heat, GOAT was still upset about going down to Bravo in prequarters after being up 12-8. With efficient deep shots the Defense made plays down the stretch, winning 12-11.
Ninals - Truckstop
The fourth game against Truckstop started like all the rest as Truck hit big shots and went up 2-4. Madison used gritty D to make it 6-6, before losing half 6-8. The score evened at 9-9, game to 2. Hector Valdivia subbed himself into the game and then made a ridiculous leaping layout D on a high swing pass. Madison couldn't convert losing 9-11 and settling for 10th in a World's qualifying year.
The women's final was an exposition of Fury's dominance. Cree Howard was catching Georgia Bosscher hucks constantly. Alex Synder was moving the disc fast and their team speed was overpowering, winning 15-3.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Muffadonna? Yeah, that's happening.
The Wisconsin ladies are going to win so many games this year; but will they win the last one? That is the big question heading into the 2010 season.
In some regard, Belladonna is the new girl on the block. Since the 2004 season, Wisconsin held serious Nationals aspirations and loads of talented players to match. But Bella hadn't quite turned the page and faced a tough Regionals tournament -- as a Miranda Roth Carleton and a Saucy Nancy Iowa team took both bids in the Central. Wisconsin's lack of total commitment to the season added to their late season demise, despite strong players in Jill Hutchinson, Corrine Wade, Dana Gerrits, and Anna Schott.
Bella restocked the roster in 2005 and allowed former Hodag Captain Matt Ley to try coaching. Wisconsin was searching for an edge and wanted any added help to qualify for the big dance. The task was met with mixed results and imploded into a hot mess as Carleton and Iowa once again edged out Wisconsin come Regionals. One thing was for sure, Wisconsin had big time star power in dominators like Holly Gruenke, Chelsea Witte, Betsy Calkins, Anne Bosscher, and Courtney Kiesow -- all new faces in 2005. The disappointment was clear and the team responded positively in 2006, playing the club season with 10 dedicated Bella returners. The core veterans had their goals on lock down and increased their conditioning, preparing to ride the legs of 12 studs all season.
Finally to the point, the 2006 Belladonna team was a dominant force in every aspect of the word. Wisconsin was something like 42-3 going in the final weekend of the season, having tied or beaten the Hodags finish at every tournament both teams attended. It was a rivalry, as alumni joked that Belladonna would finish better than the Hodags that season. It wasn't a laughing matter as far as the boys were concerned. Holly Gruenke and Dana Gerrits captained well, guiding Belladonna as they crushed Carleton in finals of Regionals 13-8, taking the #4 seed into Nationals. It was in Columbus, Ohio that Bella finally outlasted their quarterfinals curse, barely. In pool play, UC-Davis had built a 13-8 advantage, but forgot how to score in the closing moments, as Belladonna stormed back to win 14-13. It was the golden year -- nothing could go wrong. Wisconsin faced Florida in quarters in an exciting game. Bella struck last on the hard cap 16-14, as Schott ripped a blade flick to Courtney on the break side for the win, shortly after Holly Gruenke went down with a high ankle sprain. Wisconsin had pushed into semifinals and met a high-flying Stanford team. Bella was effectively crushed 15-5, and that was the closest they've been to finals since.
The 2007 season was captained by Holly and Courtney and was destined for glory. With high hopes, solid performances, and practically a phenomenal season - Belladonna was once again very good with the likes of Georgia, Schott, Claire Mowbray, Laura Bitterman, Frances Tsukano, Shira Klane, and Megan Vingers. The season was going to plan as Bella rocked Carleton in Regional finals 14-5 in a windy mess. Wisconsin rolled into Nationals with the #2 seed, in perfect position.
However, after two easy wins in pool play; Bella met a hot UBC team, in which the momentum swings were too much too overcome, losing late 15-13. That meant a pre-quarters game against San Diego and worse yet, a match-up with #1 seeded UCLA in quarters. Wisconsin lost in a close-tough battle, something 14-12, but were obviously crushed internally! One small miscue of focus in a single game was the eventual downfall of their season.
The 2008 team was re-loaded with young talent and hungry for a title. I watched the indoor running practices, saw girls lifting in the weight room, and soon recognized their desire to win. Bella was mimicking the Hodags efforts and in several cases, surpassing their efforts over the winter months. On several occasions I turned to Bucket and said, "They want it bad." His jerk-grin kidding smile replied, "Too bad they won't get it." I didn't have a response for that..
Courtney Kiesow and Georgia Bosscher captained as Emelie McKain and Jenny Gaynor joined the team. Wisconsin won the Central for a third straight year and was awarded the 5th seed at Nationals. Bella escaped a nail-biter against Texas before taking in a huge loss to Washington in pool play! That outcome left most of Belladonna scratching their heads, wishful thoughts of full field hucks and the over-the-top fun intensity Washington exhibited. Madison was blindsided and had to overcome a tough Oregon in pre-quarters 15-12, just to play Santa Barbara in quarterfinals -- losing again 15-12. There was no good explanation. How had everything unraveled again, after such a strong regular season? Why couldn't Belladonna get over the hump?
Finally, 2009 arrived and the leadership core of the team expanded, as a plethora of veteran players wanted input. It was still Courtney and Georgia captaining, but McKain and Shira were also co-captains as Holly coached and called lines. However, the leadership was hardly a concern as the Belladonna roster was dirty-girl after dominator; the skill level nearly identical to the 2006 squad as Sandy Jorgenson, Rebecca Enders, Becca Ludford, and Amber Sinicrope joined the team. The real story of 2009 was that the full force of Georgia Bosscher and Amber Sinicrope would be felt by their opponents and that was no joke. It's like having Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on the floor as the same time -- two game-changing dominant players! Moreover, Wisconsin did just about everything right last season, winning Regionals and gaining the #3 seed at Nationals, using the same principles of hard work and a tight-knit team as 2006. Belladonna held seed at Nationals in pool play, winning their games decisively and looking very fast and very scary. Madison took their bye into quarterfinals against Stanford, with their eyes looking forward to semifinals, as they played well to start. Bella was taking it to Stanford initially up 3-1, before 4-4, but taking it to half 8-6. Just after half, the Hodags left to warm-up for their game, which was also against Stanford in quarterfinals. I wasn't able to see the second half, but here was the gist of the story given to me as I absorbed it 4 months ago.
"On a similar note, Belladonna finished their season with clear disappointment.. I watched the first half and saw Belladonna's superior speed and veteran presence in Bosscher and Brute Squad. Belladonna looked dominant, but Stanford was calling everything. The last sequence I saw, Stanford threw a 20 yard backhand into the end zone landing 7 yards OB out the side. During the throw the cutter tangled feet with the Belladonna defender, nearly 6 yards from the end zone line. The foul is called as both players trip, but the throw, which was laser-ed forward, out-of-bounds and clearly uncatchable. Somehow, the call goes to the Observer, who inexplicably rules foul and the disc on the line. That was shady. At best it was a feet tangle; foul - contest. But on this specific play, the disc was clearly way OB and there would be no play on the disc whatsoever. Neither call was within 10 yards of where the disc landed! Hector commented that he saw 2 foul calls upheld that he thought were without a doubt - not a foul. He was so sure - he encouraged the call to go to the observer. The statistician noted that Stanford made a possession saving call on 13 of their 15 goals. When the game finished, the observer who had been ruling against Belladonna all game went over, hugged and kissed the Stanford coach and then began hugging and chatting with Stanford players. If that was my final season - I would want some answers."
That was the explanation to Bella's frustration as they lost 13-15. Down the stretch, it was their best players not being able to execute on critical plays when it mattered the most. Excuses were made, but at the most important moment of the season, they failed to execute. It was shocking to me when they lost. Wisconsin had done everything to prepare, believing they had the talent and the roster to succeed. Belladonna had now been exceedingly close, again. Painfully close, but turning the corner at Nationals is never an easy task.
It is now Fall 2009 and it's safe to say that Bella is crazy motivated and pretty disappointed with last season's finish. They considered themselves a semifinalist at worst and once again fell in quarterfinals, in a heartbreaking loss.
The questions were too much. Bella needed a different answer. It was actually at Nationals that (Anna) Schottie told me I should coach Belladonna next season. I actually laughed at the idea, the first I had heard of it, and was instantly like, no way. It was a ludicrous idea. The Hodags owned Brand Muffin.
But suddenly, the rumor on the street was Muffin coaching the women. It began as wishful thinking, but was soon materializing into full contact negotiations. The asking price for a Love Muffy is no fair bargain. Muffin's rights would only be relinquished from the Hodags for 6 team picks and 3 player evaluations to be named in the future. It didn't take long to realize what was happening. It was a coup, as Muffin was being asked and pressured to coach on a daily basis. Belladonna now wanted it badly enough to swallow their pride and ask for help.
I took about a full month considering it. What was Belladonna lacking? The fact of the matter remained that in 2008, Wisconsin has the roster to do it. They had underachieved their talent despite working extremely hard throughout the season. Wisconsin had developed their young players and seen the Hodags success first hand -- with eager eyes from just a field space away usually. Belladonna had trained harder than the Hodags in 2008 and were a self-sustaining tight-knit community of support -- completely focused on Nationals.
Bella's downfall seemed to be that the weave of knowledge was passed mainly from player to player - captains to successors -- with little outside perspective. Different ideas were scarce and mistakes were repeated. Enter Muffin: two-time National Champion, three time finalist.
With a presence stronger than a 600 pound gorilla, Muffin brings a completely different perspective to the women's game and an attitude to match.
Muffin brings intangibles that are difficult to define on paper, mostly an iron will and a strong work ethic. I expect this season to be the most difficult and perhaps the most rewarding. I will most likely ask more of these girls than they even know their capable of. I will ask for more time per week than an NCAA sub-committee would approve. Ultimate will become another class - complete with study packets, homework assignments, and walk-through visualization rehearsals. Beyond that, intensity and confidence will radiate from Belladonna this year. Wisconsin will also hold a mental edge scarcely seen in the women's game as Malecek is always thinking, plotting, and setting up. It is a recognized gamble for both parties as Muffin has regularly been cited for emotional outbursts at Hodag practice. For Belladonna, feelings might get hurt, egos shattered, and old traditions dismantled -- only for the whole to be reassembled -- more efficient and deadly than ever.
With dawning comprehension as the rumor spread it was questioned how George and Bourtney could so willing give up control to Muffin? How many practices until 2 girls cry? As it turns out, it took the full binding power of a G-5 Summit to allow Muffy absolute veto power. So finally, here is the confirmation to the rumors on the street -- mostly proliferating from Ted Tripoli's nightmares; Muffadonna is for real.
The best part is that Wisconsin will have ammo to spare in 2010, even after graduating Callahan Courtney (Nemesis). The 2009 All Region returners from Wisco include Georgia Bosscher (Fury), Emelie McKain, Laura Bitterman, and Frances Tsukano (Showdown); plus Rachael Westgate who won the Freshman of the Year in the Central. This is all without Eyleen Chou who captains Atropa and Amber Sinicrope, who punches faces with Brute Squad.
Now comes the real challenge; how to overcome the lip service and make measurable impacts on game. What am I bringing to the table? Obviously, Muffin will need to gain the trust of the players before they can take serious critique and input about strategy. Women tend to take things more personally and will want more of an investment of a whole person. This will involve a better/nicer communication style and a different method to the madness. What's the best way to deal with an intense dictator? Hopefully co-coach Courtney can mediate the differences in opinion.
And then we have the hard questions like: Who will get the best nicknames? Who will be made fun of the most? How often will the disc be spiked? How many times will I have to deal with Hodag/Bella drama? I expect this season to be very fun as well as a learning experience as it will be crazy jumping straight into a girl's team dynamic. Besides, if Ben Wiggins can coach, then it must be easy ;p
So Is Belladonna Taking Home the Title in 2010?
That's my bet.
Monday, August 24, 2009
The captains elected to implement this new paradigm were Opie and Simon McNair, a mathematics grad student from Canada far older than anyone else on the team. He was set to play his fifth year of college disc that season until, shortly after the fall began, he learned that a change in the UPA's eligibility guidelines rendered him, sadly, ineligible. The rules before had established eligibility starting the moment you became a UPA member and for five years afterwards. The subtle change that year was that your clock started ticking when you joined the UPA or any other worldwide governing body of Ultimate. As a Canadian, he'd been a part of CUPA before joining the UPA, and that got 'im.
After a short bit of soul-searching he decided to stay on board with the team and act as our coach through the season. Being the most experienced and oldest, he guided that young team through the transitional phase from ragtag runners throwing the fris', to the disciplined national power the Hodags are today. He stuck around the following year as well, and he and Opie put the pieces in place one practice at a time.
It has come full circle for me now. Last week I spoke to the captains of this year's Hodags and they extended the offer to have me coach the team this year, in a role far more involved and critical than the advisory roles Muffin and I shared last year. I, of course, accepted.
My main duties will be planning and running practices and implementing team-wide concepts and strategies as directed by the team leadership. I expect that as the season progresses we will delineate our roles on the team more specifically, but I am mindful of their leadership and plan on limiting my role where I feel the captains and officers need to take charge. To put it another way, I think my main contributions will be in getting the team ready to play at a tournament, and then providing strategic adjustments in games, and their job will be to make sure the team is actually performing when it's go time. I am the study guide, they are the test-takers.
I'm incredibly excited at the opportunity. The styles of practice and leadership that I've been providing as captain of Madison Club have been well-received, and I feel like we're on track to do great things. I'm anxious to throw lumps of freshmen on my potter's wheel and build them up into a new generation of KM dominators, as mindful of sportsmanship as they are of fundamentals and hard work.
Labels: two cents
Friday, August 21, 2009
- Streetgang - Recent merger between competitors should mean a stronger product for consumers in '09.
- Chase Sparling-Beckley - Best mixed division player. Ever.
- Next Level HS Ultimate camp - Inaugural year goes off without a hitch. Team synergy in service-based market was strong and immediate. A bargain right now.
- Alex Simmons - Virtual unknown about to be known. Buy now, but don't tell who gave you the insider info.
- Carleton College - With coming influx of young national talent, should continue to hold its top spot for the foreseeable future.
- Madison Club - Head-hunters hire away regional rivals' studs and grow in the process.
- Doublewide - Current portfolio has them positioned to make big moves upward.
- Russell Wynne - Currently trading for pennies, but developing innovative technology that will blow away the competition.
- UPA Communications Director - New executive director signals possibility that next CD may actually stick around a bit.
- Old People - Maiden GrandMasters championship buys this company a little more shelf-life and relevancy before being being sent to the knackers.
- Riot - Despite an epic meltdown of their Finals Nuclear Reactor, they seemed to have cleared out the radiation nicely. Acquisition of Gwen Ambler steadies the ship.
- Revolver - speculators have driven up price enough to keep profit margins small, but should meet expectations.
- Ironside - strong 2nd quarter puts them in line to grab more market share, but showdown with Revolver looms over patenting of moniker "Club Champions"
- Machine - purchased assets from truck company pennies on the dollar, but mismanagement continues to keep them hovering in place.
- Furious George - This stock's up-and-down performance makes it a shaky investment in their crowded market, but the payoff for current stockholders could be large.
- Fury - Latest tournament loss should not inspire a selling panic. Still one of the most solidly performing stocks.
- Gabe Saunkeah - current inactivity is no sign that this company won't continue to impress when its machines start humming again.
- Mixed Division - like MySpace or PerezHilton, it's not going anywhere.
- Jam - Much of the upper brass retired with golden parachutes. Stock will rebound eventually, but still trading high enough that a sell at this time can allow a larger buy-in later.
- Sub Zero - Employee diaspora leaves gaping holes in assembly line.
- RSD - Old media is dead. New informational feeds and spam clog are rendering it irrelevant.
- Unempowered Observers - All indications signal that their product will be useless in the future.
- Plain Jerseys - Sublimation is quietly inching away market share, and consumers are liking what they see.
- Sectionals Nudity - Product Recall forces company into bankruptcy.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I find it no coincidence that Madison plays Sub Zero first and Machine last.
At this moment various members of Madison Club, Sub Zero, Machine, Johnny Bravo, Showdown, and Nemesis are all remembering the tall tale of Schloski Carrillo - and thus we have the reminiscence of Bill Locker:
He's grown up now, but on a March evening as a sophomore Bill Locker tempted fate and logic, and lost.
The typical shenanigans that seem to follow college spring breaks were blossoming about the evening's stem. PoNY captain Tom Burkly was engaged in a strategy meeting that lasted longer than anyone intended. With each new strategic point, beers were cracked and Bill found himself owing liver debt early in the festivities.
The corpses of the cases killed during Burkly's soliloquy littered the common area, and Bill played Ramses II and commissioned the construction of the largest beer-amid the young team had ever seen. Thirsty from backbreaking work, they quaffed the rest of the beers and began a series of endless arguments about pecking order, shitting on each other in the sorts of brotherly spats that bring a team together when that energy is focused outward (and frequency of which made this crew of players such dominant studs when they took over the team's reins).
Demostrating his resourcefulness, Bill spotted a bottle of Fleischmann's Vodka on top of the fridge and offered the rest of the soldiers still raging kill it by waterfall. It goes around the bullring once before Bill, sense of time and danger probably distorted by the same beers he'd earlier imbibed, took the initiative to coup de gras what was left, an amount enough to give even Judy Garland a buzz.
Everyone looked at him with an equal mix of awe and concern. He took the plastic from his lips and slowly lowered the empty to the table. As he let go of it, the slightest of a body tremble was the first subtle foreshadow that trouble lied ahead. He gripped the bottle hard and leaned through it against the table below. His eyes went empty, the curtains closed though he remained standing.
In the next waning moments of consciousness, something goes terribly wrong. Billiam attempts to open the window as a door handle, spilling syrup serendipiously, and dancing pop-locker-and-drop it. As Mr. Locker was pushed into the stairway bathroom, his muscular physique saved him from certain trigger-pulling. With a great feat of strength, Schlockster breaks through the crowd and storms the hallway, demolishing his once perfectly perfected pyramid of beers. In two giant leaps, Sausage Links is down the street and disappearing. "Where are you going big guy?" Locker's face fills with glee as he slowly turns, steadying himself on a car hood, just moments before slipping and curbing his face.
Within seconds, Bill Locker is carried back into the fray and forced to sleep it off. However, as the sun rises, Bill is nowhere to be found. His suit coat, shoes, socks, and shirt are all left strewn about the landscape and the legend of Locker can be construed through the images of Lou Ferrigno skipping though the streets of Madison.
Today was a brutally long day of ultimate. Madison Murder Club jumped all over Sub Zero for a 5-1 lead and 7-4 half. Sub Zero pulled the game to 10-9 before Madison finished strong 13-11.
Madison traded with Doublewide to a 3-3 score before Texas broke twice to lead 3-6 and half 5-7. Club could not make up the deficit, losing 9-13.
Johnny Bravo was playing fast, taking the early lead 3-5 and half 5-7. Madison Went on a 5-1 run to make it 10-8 before stealing the game down the stretch 13-11.
Last up was Truck Stop, who broke quickly to a 1-5 lead. Madison cut it to 4-5 before losing half 4-7. Madison made a late push, closing the score to 10-11 before Truck Stop gritted out the win 11-13.
Madison is 2-2 with JAM first thing in the morning.
Now for the overall scouting report.
CUT still fouls intentionally.
Kurt still wears gloves.
Stout still takes off shirt in between each point.
Muffin still screams Boom Headshot after boom headshots.
Johnny Bravo still isn't laughing.
Prairie Fire is still looking longingly from the open bracket.
Georgia Bosscher is still SAF as funk.
Doublewide isn't quite sure what "swagger" is.
And Damien is on crutches.
Fury won 13-2 in the showcase game...
10 degrees hotter tomorrow
Thursday, July 09, 2009
As I arrived into Seattle-Tacoma Airport, my stomach and mind were famished; one for food and the other for answers to questions that had gnawed me hollow.
How ready were my legs and throws to play quality competitive Ultimate for three straight days?
How would Downtown Brown connect as a team throughout the weekend?
What kind of response would we receive when the circle is opened to any comers? Would there be a response at all? (toward this question I felt as I had when filling out invitations to my grade-school birthday parties - what if no one comes?)
How would I react at a tournament that has such strong emotional memories attached to it?
At weekend's end, would I leave the Redmond fields with a sense of connection, family, and hope for my future, or would i leave feeling alone, rejected, and cut adrift?
This being my third trip to Potlatch, my prior two visits had answered most of my inward questions across the spectrum of the positive and negative. Aside from playing well, what I wanted most was to leave Potlatch confident, accepted, and whole.
These might seem to you as needlessly heavy concerns, considering that I was heading to a tournament many place atop the list of capital-F Fun tournaments. I acknowledge that. Thing is, this would not only be my first tournament since the end of last season's Club Championships, but in the interim I also fell into a dense fog of anxiety and depression that had made it difficult to accomplish much of anything without a Herculean effort, and it had only been a few months since I'd come out of it. The clarity I now had, and the difference from where I had been at year's end, were like cleaning a hundred-year old window in your room for the first time, and looking out of it. I feel good, and worry wort that I am, I wanted to continue on the up and up.
So that's the backstory to what was in my head as I touched down. I had reason to believe the weekend would be a positive one; my ticket there had been free after a fortuitous bump in a layover Denver-to-Madison, which not only got me the voucher, but also allowed me a week in Boulder with my brother and a trip to Breckenridge for my boy Whit's wedding to all-around hottie Jen. So good karma abounded.
Shortly after landing my boy Feldspar scored me a Double Whopper meal, so with one of my hungers satiated I waited until two DTB teammates showed up to carpool. We relaxed and ate, framed by a fashionably late sunset, and returned to the airport to pick up a Team Canada player before quitting the night. Never far from me, settling into a place alongside my travel pillow, was that nagging voice of doubt. "Dude, this might get fucked up." I was thankful to be too tired to pay it much heed.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
I'm incredibly glad that Degs wrote that throwback article harking back to the days when things as pedestrian as loose tournament organization were a treat, rather than an expectation. I distinctly remember going to Easterns back when Mike Gerics was at the helm, and wondering who this dude was patrolling all the fields in the morning yelling and threatening to start assessing points if the game didn't start that instant.
"Dude's got a stick up his ass" might have been along the lines of what I was thinking as I saw him get red-faced, but by tourney's end there was no doubt that he held everything down and that, compared to other tournaments being run at the time, he was worlds above the rest in organization and professionalism. By way of example as to what was happening elsewhere, nine Madison dudes once showed up to a Easy Coast tourney on our way back home from spring break and picked up, as a team, at the tourney, half an hour before it began. Those were the days, for better or worse.
Since then we as a group have gotten our shit together a bit better (with still room for improvement) and tournament games start on time and expectations are clearly stated.
So why the hell is it that, three days before Hoosier Hodown, there is zero information up on their website, or on the UPA's tourney page, about what teams are going and what the format is? It's Wednesday. They already have a skeletal page constructed for the tournament. It would literally take 5 minutes for someone to go and type in, at minimum, the names of the attending teams. Or 20 minutes to go to the UPA's tourney page and plug in the format without team names.
But, c'mon. It's 2009. We as a group should be beyond this. I know that organizing a tournament is hard work, and delegation, and many small details aside, but at minimum post online for the few who care what teams will be playing. It's similar to the tree falling in the woods; if there's nothing online to begin planning, hype, and talking points, why would anyone care what the hell happened?
I don't think that is too much to ask.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Dear Grand Masters and Masters Women's division players,
We're all set for this weekend! Following the bi-annual East Coast captains meeting in April I rounded up everyone's addresses and phone numbers. (A few of you are now using something called CompuServe but I can't figure it out! We only got a facsimile machine this year.) After trying to get a hold of everyone for weeks and weeks, I finally did. Had to leave a bunch of messages but got called back by enough teams finally man. Enough commitments in the end. For the first time you can't just roll up to the tournament and expect a bid -- we're getting serious or something.
Speaking of, can you believe the UPA is making us wear numbers on our jerseys?? And no more tie-dye, sorry everyone! I was shocked when I received the uniform requirements (by mail of course).
The fields are supposed to be super-kind. I can't believe a pro soccer team has its own stadium, but apparently the fields that surround it are nice. My team is looking at a nice long drive -- 20 hours!! We should roll up in time to play the first round (+40 minutes -- Ultimate time!).
OK, couple of other crucial bits of information... we are not using the Wham-O 80 Mold! Some upstart named Discraft is providing something called an Ultra-Star. Eric Simon said it's legit, so that's fine by me. Also, go over the rules, dudes! Word on the street is we will not be playing by the 7th Edition, but instead the 11th Edition. I hope we get lined fields ... I know, I know, I've never played on lined fields in my entire life, but hoping might just make it happen.
I heard a couple volunteers are also coming down to write up articles for the newsletter, so tourney results will be freshly delivered sometime in September.
All right friends, see ya in Denver! Drive safe -- and definitely go the speed limit!
p.s. No camping at the fields! Sucks, I know.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
They say deaths of famous people come in threes, so I've dodged another bullet. Farrah, Michael, and then, tragically, Billy Mays.
It's an ironic shame that after having endured anal cancer, then the breech of her trust and confidentiality at the hands of her medical team, Farrah's light was eclipsed totally by the passing of MJ. With one improperly-administered painkiller to the King of Pop, her thunder was silenced. She was on the front page of CNN for less than 4 hours.
Then, naturally, MJ's death blew up the news and threatened to "take the internet with [it]". Our long infatuation with stardom is such a well-worn groove these days I won't do much here but note the passion with which we responded to it. One of my good friends in Denver was incredibly upset, and told me later her father had been similarly distraught, near tears even. Fair enough.
But my surprise at the wellspring of condolances following Billy Mays' death threatened to sand away at my well-seasoned, ironic view of the world. Given a news-cycle's reprieve from the MJ death, he was on CNN's front page for almost the entire day after he was found dead. Here we are, after all, mourning a man who made himself famous because he was good at getting so excited about products that we wanted to spend our money to have them. I've used OxiClean before. Meh. Perhaps my letdown was in the fact that somewhere, deep down, I had hoped using it would make me experience life and consumerism with the same euphoric passion Mr. Mays displayed. I submit that it did a slightly better-than-average job at getting the stains out, nothing more. And although I am genuinely remorseful that he had to die so young, with so many cleaning supplies yet unsold, I'm still pretty deep in the anti-infomercial camp. I am already bracing myself for Ron Popeil's obituary.
None of this has anything to do with Ultimate, of course, but if you made it this far, it's fair to tell you that I am the captain of Madison Club, along with Carleton GOP alum Seth Meyer, and that after only two practices I can safely say it's going to be a very work-intensive and rewarding season. Kansas Prarie Fire's victory over a much-depleted Johnny Bravo tryout squad at Live Logic can't be dismissed, and with Sub Zero filling its own voids (CUT standouts Lindsley and Kanner are MIA this season, along with the Madison contingent that's staying home, and the departure of Kevin Riley, CallaHeijmen, and the unsinkable Andrew Brown to various parts of the globe), Chicago Machine is looking to be, at the beginning of the season, off to the best start. But that still leaves 4 front-runners angling for 3 bids. Here come the musical chairs.
Two thing about Machine (ok, three). First, word is they cut many (all?) of the BAT guys who tried out for them. That says to me that either they're already very deep and didn't want any out-of-towners, or they made a few poor managerial decisions. Second, while planning our tourney schedule, the Midwest teams had discussed all going to the same area tourneys so as to get the most competitive games in before the series. To that end we were contacted by Chicago, who requested we all agree to go to Hoosier Hodown in Indiana, and since we were debating between HH and Motown Throwdown anyway, we decided it wasn't a bad idea. A week after we'd contacted the TDs of the tourney confirming we'd go, Chicago contacts us again. That sorry, but there were actually a few weddings unaccounted for, and an ingrown toenail, and sandy vagges had gone unmentioned, and could we please instead go to another tourney, one that better suits their schedule. We responded with the most polite "fuck yourselves" possible. We want to play the best competition, but we're not chasing after anyone on their scheduling whim. Sub Zero is attending MUDI, so we all went our separate ways. We have till Colorado Cup to mingle amongst ourselves.
(last thing I wanted to say is about Tyson Park, who is back and "playing" for Machine this year: I want you there buddy, badly, because it means I might actually get to see you this year, but I'll believe it when you're cleated up at regionals.)
Former Hottest Man in Ultimate Valley Renshaw is back to form, it's being said. My only comment to that is that Nick Nolte was once People's Sexiest Man Alive (no joke, 1992!). Times change, hair buns get cut. I suspect he and Jerrod are still going to be formidable, and I hope they don't think for a moment the other teams are sleeping on them. I did find funny they complained to Colorado Cup that they wouldn't attend unless they were guaranteed a spot in the elite division. Can you believe it! I actually LOL'd. They lost in semis of the open divison last year and they're complaining about the competition being too easy. Rein in those horses, buddies. You've got this whole season to prove yourselves.
But, for a moment, let's step away from club Ultimate and focus on the immediate task at hand: Potlatch. After a fortuitously overbooked flight back to Madison from a trip in the Grand Canyon, I scored a free ticket that I used to book my trip. Considering that I was recently let go from my job for the summer (bummer), I plan on subsisting on tuna and mustard/mayo packets I plan on stealing from some area deli (but am certainly not above receiving charity in the form of food, etc). I've got a tent lined up, a ride to the fields and back (I think), and I'm fired up about playing.
It's my third time back. The first was made memorable by events that have already been written about here, the second by my fun participation in the MLU experiment (2nd in fantasy behind Nord, bitches!), and this one has yet to lift its skirt and reveal its secrets and treasures to me. Still, there are a few things on my mind as I head there; some unrelated to Ultimate and thus for now omitted here, and some very much about my team and my role as a player.
Downtown Brown, bless its soul (pun intended), has outgrown its ability to be a single team and maintain any sense of playing rhythm and thus competitiveness, especially in light of this year's national teams, and so for Potlatch it was decided by special junta that in the spirit of Champ-bracket representation we'd bring a parsed team with the hopes of knocking down a giant or two on our way through the tourney. There was debate about this, and it will continue in our circle once there:
By what criteria should one get to play on Downtown Brown? Should the only burden of proof be that you not be white (although it has had a whitey or two in its history)? If so, does that only serve to strengthen the us-vs-them mentality that we (or at least I) purport to be fighting? In light of Obama's campaign speech on race and identity, how is it that we're defining ourselves as a team? I am all Mexican pride, and if you know me or have seen me I literally wear it on my sleeve (and skin). Yet playing division along racial and ethnic boundaries has never sat well with me, and because I've spent so much of my life growing up vastly outnumbered by whites, it would have been incredibly self-destructive for me to have drawn a line between myself and Them.
So the question remains then, who "owns" Downtown Brown? Who should get to play on the team? It's great that players of color have reached a critical mass that now forces us to ask these questions. Certainly when I started, we were the exception to the rule, and the opportunity to play with other brownie ballers made me salivate. But should that be enough? This is, after all, an Ultimate team, not a national multicultural PIRG, and when we meet we're going to play Ultimate. As much as I love playing, I am also a fierce competitor who loves winning, and while I identify myself certainly as a brownie and more specifically as Hispanic (and even more specifically as Mexican), when I'm at a tourney I see myself primarily not as any of these things, but as a player. The ultimate community is my community, and on what promises to be one of the most competitive coed tourneys I've ever played in, I want to be on a team that is as good as it can be, and that requires that choices, hard choices, be made.
Rest assured the debate is only just beginning. Feel free to give me your two cents either in the comments here, or along the expansive Burlington fields this weekend. Peace.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The time is nigh. With half the team already en route, we depart from downtown Madison feeling good about everything. I'll write more tomorrow after we've arrived if I can find an internet connection somewhere.
In the meantime, come along on the trip with me here. My musings will be reactionary and reflective, and I'll keep all the alumni abreast of the events going on between the lines, the things you won't be reading about on the Score Reporter.
Safe travels and good luck to everyone. Walk hard.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
You. 5th year player. Nationals begins in 3 days; Your college career ends in 7. Has that reality sunk in yet? Of course it has. I doubt anything other than that reality has been on your mind lately. So, how long have you been freaking out then? A couple of days, a couple of weeks, or have the last several months come crashing down upon you? For most of you, the school year has indeed ended – graduations and commencements come and gone – and the only thing left is to figure out summer employment plans… and win a championship. Yet, in the rush of college life – sometimes the reality that this segment of your life is finishing goes unnoticed. Do these 5th year seniors realize that their college experience has ended? Nope.
This is the first time in the 6 years that I have been a part of the Hodags, in which I have not seen a 5th year player break down to tears during a team huddle when realizing that it was their last College Regionals or Nationals. Usually it's a captain or officer, who is overcome with emotion upon realizing just how much the team means to him. I vividly recall Dan Miller and Jimmy McMurray choking back tears when they tried to articulate what the team actually meant to them. I remember Dan Heijmen’s teary long-winded speeches, Rebholz’s moment to collect himself, and Rodrigo breaking down when the moment of realization came – all of these reflected in their dedication to the program.
And that is what Wisconsin does to its ultimate players. It makes them care. It goes so far as a sense of identity. Ultimate is not something I play – Ultimate is who I am. No wonder Wisconsin consistently turns out dominant programs – the players just care more. However, so far this season, no graduating senior has addressed the team in such a manner. Either the 5th years are especially good at controlling their emotions or it hasn’t quite hit them yet. As hard as it was for me, as impossible as it was, I hope this year's crop can push those thoughts out of their minds for at least one more week. It will be over before they know it. I have seen the 5 super seniors of the Hodags grow, develop and mature into stud players – and now I will have to watch them – like the many before them – learn to deal with life without college ultimate. Departing from a college team of your best friends is no easy feat. It's a death in your life. Your teammates will move away, your camaraderie and everyday interactions will fade to memory, and you will eventually need to cope that fantasy land is over and real life begins. But one more summer of fun can’t hurt anything…
Musings by 2007 Callahan Winner Dan Heijmen
One aspect of the Callahan discussion that I don’t think has been given enough attention is the fact that Jim Foster, while being the Hodags go-to player, is also their coach. This write-up isn’t meant in any way to diminish the accomplishments or talents of any of the other front-runners for Callahan (Mac, Stevie, Will) but to say that these players have all benefitted heavily from having a coach. I know from playing against the three guys I mentioned above that they are studs on the field and command the respect of their teammates and opponents. I have seen Mac, Stevie and Will do amazing things on the field and know that they are leaders in the huddles and most likely have a strong influence on their team’s strategy/personnel/ line calling etc.
What I do want to talk about what its like to be a player/coach on a top-level ultimate team. Let me just say from the start that it’s really f-ing hard. Even with the support of your teammates having a responsibility to your team in two different facets takes a high level of patience, focus and dedication, especially if you are able to continue to play at a high level. On the Hodags we know that the player who takes the role as the “senior captain” is sacrificing quite a bit. Having been in that position myself I was almost crushed under the pressure of having to be a playmaker on the field while retaining my responsibility to coach and run the team. The transition b/w being the junior captain (i.e. first year captain) to senior captain (second year) was a jump I wasn’t fully prepared for during my last year of college ultimate. Knowing that Tom Burkly, my senior captain in 2006, was gone scared the shit out of me. I was entrusted with a team that had just come off an incredible season that came up just short of a national title. The pressure was on us to deliver a championship. Due to this weight, my play suffered severely the first half of the 2007 season. I played (what I consider) the worst game of my ultimate career in the finals of Vegas (a universe point loss to Florida,) as a direct result of feeling like I had to “be the guy” while trying to coach, call subs, change strategy etc. I was lucky enough to have guys around me during that game who picked up my slack (Jim Foster for one, had an incredible game, highlighted by a ridiculous sky of Kurt Gibson off some trash I threw into the end zone), but in the end the loss was on me and my inability to successful function as both a player and a coach.
Throughout the season I knew that I wasn’t playing at the best of my ability b/c I was so focused on the rest of the team. Sure I could lock in while a point was being played, but being in that mindset throughout the game is not a luxury you have when you’re responsible for gauging all the different factors of a particular point/game/day/tournament or season. Having this sort of responsibility on a college team, whose goals are so high, is incredibly challenging. Its not like in Club where you can count on the majority of your teammates knowing where they should be and what they should be doing. And with the premium the Hodags have always placed on developing younger players, the distraction to a captain’s individual game can be huge. I don’t mean to imply at all that Jim is doing it all on his own, or that the other Hodags aren’t doing enough. In my time as a captain with the Hodags I had an amazing support system during my last year which included Matt Rebholz, Dan Miller, Muffin, Matt Scallet, Jack Marsh and yes, Jim Foster. I know Jim has the same. These players made up the leadership core of the team and we got together often to discuss strategy, personnel, schedules etc.
But come tournament time, a lot falls on the shoulders of the senior captain, in this case Jim Foster. He has been entrusted with a team that has won back-to-back national championships, but that has lost many of the familiar faces that made them up. As was mentioned in Jon Gaynor’s recent post: gone from last year are 5th year players like Shane Hohenstein, Drew Mahowald, Matt Rebholz, Will Lokke, Muffin, Kevin Riley, Chris Doede and Seth Meyer. Each of these players was invaluable over the past two seasons. The strong, vocal, experienced 5th year presence is perhaps not as evident this season compared to seasons past. Yet look at what Wisconsin has accomplished so far this season. Perhaps not the dominant regular season from the past 3 seasons, but a guaranteed top 4 seed in what has been the craziest college ultimate season we’ve seen for the last 6 or 7 years. He has molded a team comprised of the most inexperienced players the Hodags have had since the turn of the century into one of the few teams with a shot to win nationals.
And despite what you might think about the top programs in the country, it is not easy to stay this good from season to season. Especially when the knowledge and responsibility is not embodied in a coach who has been there year after year, but actually passed down from player to player, each season interpreted and implemented slightly differently. That Jim has been able to individually have the season he’s had is nothing short of remarkable. It is a testament to his focus, his determination and his love for his Hodags. I get razzed quite a bit from former teammates for throwing around love like this, but it is true for us. That’s why we scream Hodag Love before games/after games/after practice/and whenever we get together. That’s why Hodags play like they do and that’s why Jim can scream, “We’re the fucking Hodags” in a huddle and it has an immediate response. It is an amazing thing to be a Hodag: To be part of something each season that is incredibly unique yet so clearly connected to the teams of the past, and I know that captaining them has so far been the privilege and honor of Jim’s life. We take it pretty seriously in Madison.
And despite the frustration that I’m sure sets in for Jim from time to time, wishing that maybe for a game or a practice he could forget being a captain and just play, he knows its worth it. Sure it makes the losses harder to stomach, but the wins are that much sweeter. And if you’re lucky enough to make it to Columbus, and to watch the Hodags the play, you’ll see them play with an intensity that is unmatched, spurred forward by their leader. The best and most valuable player in the country: Jim Foster.
Monday, April 27, 2009
This shit has been bothering me since the last club season, but it seems like people have either forgotten how to resolve a contested foul, or for the newer players, they were never taught how. It's unconscionable that with games observed this weekend at Central Regionals, there were still contested calls that seemed to have opening and closing arguments, with ample witnesses called to testify on both sides and cross examination before finally resolving it. Fucking brutal, whether the Hodags were doing it or any other team. Let's go over the quick, fair, efficient way of dealing with a contested call so that in the future we can spend less time with lip service and more time playing.
Step 1: A call has been made. Foul. Travel. Whatever. Dude yells out the infraction, and play stops (eventually). Elapsed time: 1s
Step 2: "Contest!" (or in the case of a dude on Luther, "FUCKING CONTEST!" It's ok to show initial disagreement, but you might only be hurting your chances). Elapsed time: 5-10s
Stp 3: Now, in all the calls I've ever witnessed (not all, but the exceptions are statistically insignificant) both parties will know within the first 30 seconds if the other is even thinking of taking their call back. You know this within thirty seconds, and even that is a generous amount of time. So, pause to assess. Take your time, as much as 20 seconds even, if you think they're unsure of their call. For those of you who, in Step 2, bitched at all, skip this step. You've already blown your chances to get the call taken back. In these 20 seconds state your case for why you called the foul, or why you're contesting. State your case clearly, and state it only once. Elapsed time: 30-45s
During this time the observers will be approaching you either knowing how they'd rule, knowing they can't rule, or making sure their ruling agrees with the each other's. They either saw what happened, and have an opinion about it, or they didn't see what happened. If it's the latter, the rules are clear: send it back and do it over. No amount of showmanship, acting, yelling, or legal proceedings here will create a different outcome: we just get to watch you make a fool of yourself bending over backwards to hear yourself talk. You're not interested in actually changing the play because you assessed, correctly so, at the beginning of Step 3, that neither party was backing down.
Step 4a: You both agree to disagree, and leave it at that. Foul: contest. Send it back, do it over, and tap the disc in.
Step 4b: This is where the observing this weekend was, excuse the pun JThib, sub-par. Once two players have gone to the observers, the observers should, if necessary, ask to clarify what infraction is being called. Not how it happened, not a request to recreate it, just make sure you're about to rule on the correct call. It should go something like this:
"Are you coming to me?"
"What call are you making?" (note: only if unclear. This is clear ~90% of the time)
"He fouled me as I tried to catch it."
"No foul, play on." Boom. Elapsed time: <99s
See how easy that is? See how two people disagreed, and the observers did what they're supposed to do, which is to cut down the arguing time and either rule or send it back?
They're not supposed to sit there and spectate thespian theatrics. They're not supposed to ask leading questions that might sqeeze another two minutes out of the argument. They're supposed to go in there, have the players defer to them, and judge instantly. Boom, game on again.
If the players are taking more than 60-90s in Step 3, the observer steps in and asks them to either agree right then, ask for his ruling, or send it back. After the observer has done this, the game should be back on within 15s. It's not too much to ask, is it?
p.s. Regarding the two disagreed calls this weekend that I felt Thib blew: I don't think he made those calls to either punish Wisco or to help Luther and CUT. I feel he made both calls as he thought they should go. He just made two mistakes. The call in the Luther game was one where his angle on the play made him see something that, when viewed from the front, wasn't actually happening. He choose to rule anyway, and i disagreed with his perspective on it. The second was a case of whether the disc was catchable based on all the player movements, and whether Kanner was going to be anywhere near the disc. Again, I thought he blew the call, but based on how utterly stupid and n00b-like Drews approached that whole scenario, I can't blame him for allowing that amateur case influence his decision to rule in CUT's favor. I was on the sidelines wishing I could gag Drews instantly.
H- Carleton is very good. And by that I mean that Grant and Kanner are very good. Their supporting cast is stronger than all Luther or Minnesota but the presence of those two studs makes CUT the #1 seed at Natties in my opinion. The weather was nasty before the game, but it improved at about half the rate of the field's deterioration. It eventually became a soupy mud half an inch deep, covering a hard layer yet to thaw from a Minnesota winter. Hard to cut on and caking everything.
The whole game carried intensity, but credit the giant crowd of Carleton geeks that came in the driving rain to cheer on their most popular varsity team. Their energy late in the game seemed to give CUT that extra little bit that allowed them to put away the long points, while Wisconsin struggled to convert their defensive opportnities into breaks. I would also be ok with JThib never observing a Hodag game again, and after several people voiced long-held concerns about a possible bias against our team, I couldn't argue with them after another endzone call he ruled on. Brutal call. JFo and Bergen played incredibly well the whole game, but we couldn't finish on D. Things to work on this month.
Game against Luther was that ugly, flat, lifeless game that comes from a team coming down a high-intensity loss playing one already happy it got this far. The weather was better, but still cold, and points dragged on as it got sloppy, but never close, 13-8. Around this time all the other chatter from regionals across the country started condensing. It will be interesting to see how the seeding is approached this year.
Also Team USA lost in a scrimmage to Bay area players 12-10!
M- Regional Final
Holy Shit, Carleton snobs are soo stuck up. Wisconsin went through the game plan for Sunday thoroughly at the team meeting. Nobody was scared and all the pressure was on CUT. Sunday morning the games were pushed back half an hour and the rain canceled use of the stadium. It is miserably rainy, cold, and windy at 12:15pm. It should be a rager to remember. One hour to game time and the anxiety rises. 5th year Captain Jimmy Foster and Officer Tom Annen were the only Hodags to have played a Regional Finals in Northfield. Their horror stories of the affair were enough to make Jerry faint and Armstrong puke. It was an appauling scene. A medium drizzle, soaked fields, moderate winds, and 50 degrees maybe. The big match-ups will be Klane vs. CK, Kanner vs. Manny, and Feldman vs. Lindsley. Murderballs Murderballs Stab Stab Kill! can be heard in the distance. The Hodags drilled hard in the now pouring rain, getting jacked, and making plays. Carleton meanwhile had been nowhere to be seen, stealthily warming up on a concealed field. When the Knights arrived to the field, the rain intensified and lightning thundered across the sky. Foster lost the flip and it was Offense to start, as the observers explained the last minute details. The pouring rain was ridiculous and the rowdy Carleton fans were screaming non-sense. Neither team looked particularly prepared to seize the opportunity, as turns came frequently. Darth Klane was lazer slicing in every direction while Drews was toasting in the mud. And it was muddy and every jersey showed it! Players hit the ground constantly - bidding, falling, slipping, or just getting muscled over. Adam Drews finally takes control and hits Mannywood O2 for the 1-0 lead. CUT looked shocked and the rain ceased. 5th year stud Tom Annen ripped an under layout D, wiping the mud across his cheeks for eye black. Carleton manages a score with quick transition throws 1-1. Both points were marathonesque with countless ridiculous turns! Still neither team was exerting its full will and every point was up for grabs, deep shots firing left and right. John Bergen burns O2 and finds Gaynor for the score 2-1. Grant Lindsley becomes the centerpiece of Carleton's attack and Matt Crumb tightens up, bidding twice on under cuts, definitely in Grant's shorts but it ties 2-2. Evan Klane rips a nasty 50 yard break side huck to a skying Jimmy Foster 3-2. Wisco shows zone, but Kanner rips a backhand over the entire field to CK 3-3. The rain begins again and the conditions worsen, the field is messed. Jimmy Foster is forced to get a huge layout D, scoring the bookends from Klane 4-3. The multiple turnover points continue and to marathon length as the game as obviously going to be capped. Kanner refused to listen, calling relentless fouls, flopping a bit, and being the biggest baby - and insisting that Animal was cheating by calling fast count. CUT begins to adjust, working the disc under and converting their O and break to lead 4-5. Wisconsin was getting ample opportunities each point, but were making bone-headed decisions and jacking stupid looks. Madison called a timeout and reminded themselves that CUT without Kanner and Grant is really just Minnesota. Mannywood ripped a shot to Jimmy Foster as Madison scored 5-5. Carleton holds on O to make it 5-6 and Wisconsin begins taking bad looks. After the 4th Wisco turnover in the red zone, CUT fast breaks deep as Chunky Christian Foster rips a flick to Fat Kanner waddling past Animal and finishing 5-7. Half traded to 6-8 Carleton, as Lindley gets loose deep for the first easy goal allowed. Manny took the huddle by storm, screaming about desire and making plays. "These guys are scared of us - every single guy is backing us and we continue to jack it! Chill the fuck out!" Wisconsin starts the second half on Defense, totally stacked, and immediately break as Cullen hits Jimmy for the brutal sky 7-8. The Hodags rush the field and Carleton waivers for a moment as Madison has the disc in the red zone twice, but cannot convert. Carleton fast breaks for the goal 7-9 and time is running out. The rain is coming in hard waves and moving the disc is no luxury. Wisconsin takes the pull and centers who Lazer, who fires the around break for the first time all day, but is tragically footblocked! Carleton is on the doorstep but is forced into a stall 9 cross field floater. Kanner is running to the space, battling with Drews every step. They bump shoulders and Fat Kanner falls, to the feet of a full extension flying Foster, sky catching the disc at 10'3 with his landing almost on Kanner's face! Kanner screams bloody murder and it goes to the observer. JThib unfuckinbelievably calls it a foul and it goes back and CUT breaks to lead 7-10. The wheels come off at 7-11 and soft cap blows. It is 8-12 and then 8-13 with a looming hard cap and a desperate Wisco. The Hodags were crestfallen for only moments before hearing that Florida is not going to Nationals. Boner Check. Luther was ecstatic to beat Minnesota, scoring and breaking on universe, in Tim Pearce's eyeball O2 as Greg Sherbet celebrated a Nationals birth. The 2-3 game was uneventful as Wisconsin won 13-8 in a half-hearted effort. Minnesota took care of Iowa on the cap to round out the 4 bids. Too bad the NW only gets 2 bids.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
M- Lufda Alumni Beek's, Guam and Dill all claim it will be a thrilling deathmatch. Wisconsin starts slow as Luther hucks deep 1-0 with a raucus home crowd. Wisconsin fights off a break chance and scores 1-1. Game play escalates and the Hodags steal the lead 3-1. Luther barely makes it 3-2 but the game is competitive. Just trying to keep it close it trades to 5-3. It goes to 6-4 and then Masler rips a break 7-4. Animal punches Lil' Shirby in the head - forcing him to take a blood sub. A shitty D point has halftime eluding the Hodags and it must wait for a chilly 8-5 half. With chilly handlers and fast cutters - Wisco Offensive unit was tactical with their attack. Meanwhile, Tim Pearce skied for a nasty goal as CUT broke to lead 11-7. Grant L got a pretty nasty under layout D, but the soft calls continued. Seth Meyer will need to overrule that snap tomorrow at 1pm in the CUT stadium. I predict strong winds, clouds, rain, freezing sleet, huge crowds, snow, and terrible blatant cheating. Tom Murray will sky UPA Starting 7 Grant - just like the beginning of Regionals just last season.
Lastly, Belladonna was ruling on Syzergy with dominant under defense and quick scores. Georgia can pull it 70 easy and breaks came in handfulls. Eau Claire was also looking to take down a bid to Nationals with Robyn eating every disc that goes up, manufacturing upwind breaks consistently.
Hh- The Luther match-up began in the deafening din of Luther alumni, out in force and smelling a first-ever nationals berth. The game began close, but their cheers and energy were quickly stifled, mirroring the Luther offense being smothered by the Hodag D. While Luther is looking good for a shot at Columbus, the Hodags brought their best game of the tournament to them, and is looking ahead to finals. Highlights from the game included Shirby opening an inch-long gash in his head and having to come off the field, and a brutal foul/strip call made by Luther being upheld by one observer that was out of view of the play, and another who didn't do much right all game. Blown call. Weather tomorrow: absolute shit. The game begins at 1pm, and both teams will be looking to avoid the extra time outdoors brought by the 2/3 game. Each team should be fresh after a surgical Saturday here in Northfield.
M- It was Eau Claire eeking out a victory over GOP and a Sectionals Semifinals rematch. Jimmy Foster demanded to play his studs immediately, not wanting to mess around at all. The Offense took the field headed downwind and promptly broke itself 0-1 as Klane was Imperioed to turn the disc and J-Fo didn't catch his mack D, resulting on the score. It was rentless rage from that point forward when the Offense made quick work upwind, Gaynor ripping to space for T-Murda 1-1. Manny played five straight points and Wiscosnin scored 5 staight to lead 5-1 with Crumbly catching two scores. Chris Pearce admits that he doesn't know anything about frisbee as Iwsconsin takes ahlf 8-2 on Feldner's second score from Mannywood. Ozone holds out of half to make it 8-3, incensing the Offense, pissed they must play another point! After a turnover, Foster's man cuts hard under and Jimmy is right on his hip. As Jimmy bids to the disc, Gaynor appears out of nowhere, layout D'ing J-Fo and the cutter for the nasty block. Gaynor then bookends the point 9-3, catapulting Wisconsin into a deathrage. Eau Claire punts on its next possession as 10 seconds of D is so fierce, no one is open. Cullen flying burrito's a poach, snacking the disc under his unsuspecting nose. Jazzler Jizzler and Cinnabuns rampages for two breaks to win 15-4 in a barnburner. In other news, Minnesota crushed on Iowa 15-5. Skywalker, ManBearPig and Scallet have just arrived to party Fuck Cut.
Hh- The weather is turning for the better. At times it feels like a nice day to play Ultimate. The fields are soft but in good repair, the grass healthy. Eau Claire had the unfortunate task of facing a Hodag team hungry to send a message after a lackluster second half against UNI. Hodags came out firing, and chants of "Murderballs! Murderballs! Stab! Stab! Kill!" rang out, echoing down to the Bald Spot and Bell Field. The Hodags made quick work of a spirited EauZone, and took time to watch the end of the Luther/Iowa State match-up. Shirby Puckett was all over the fields, throwing not one but two needless pivots with every possesion. On the sidelines, we held our breath with bored indifference, knowing that the winner would be murdered for standing between us and our date with CUT in Laird Stadium. Luther came out on top and won the honor of a clean soldier's death.
M - The two-and-a-half-hour-bye was exhausting as Davidman ate countless Tunafish sandwiches and devoured an entire pond life of Swedish Fish. Mannywood grumbled and muttered as Wisconsin strategically switched fields for every round - something that has mysterious happened everytime Northfield has hosted Regionals. I will bet my last penny that Carleton didn't move fields. As the Luther-Wisconsin match was seconds away, Jerome began punching Mike AirRenSen straight in the mug for looking so clueless. Meanwhile, Charlie ran to the local coffee shop to mix with the commoners. Grey Duck was getting a beakfull of pwnd as Carleton throttled them to a 8-4 halftime lead. Meanwhile, Wisconsin and Lufda was an unimaginable scenario - Jimmy Foster turfing everything and dropping goals vs Shirbert non-stop. Lil' baby shirb nugs puts Luther squarely on his back, breaking the Hodags 4 straight times and stealing half 8-2. The Hodags will need a swift kick in the face to win this game-to-go. Feldner is currently unable to expell his anger fast enough.
M- It's fuckin frigid at forty-one friggin degrees. The sleepy service attendant at the local coffee shop had the gall to ask if my extra-large coffee was a "decaf right?" No. Fuck no. I will fucking kill you if it is decaf. Jesus Christ, kid. Iowa's huge flag is whipping across the perfectly green fields, fluffy and wet, and windy and rainy... perfect. The clouds are ominous looking, but not half as scary as the Terrible Torrential Thunderstorms of last night as the wind howled and souls screamed. Game one is against UNI the 15th seed and the Hodags are... yawning as the first game is 8am.
Hh- The day begins at 5:45 in the morning. I get up to shower at Klane's and when I get out someone is playing the jukebox hits at a gay bar. It's Raining Men, YMCA, Like A Virgin, etc. I have no idea who chose this for the morning of regionals, but I contemplate murder for a moment. Two giant pans of freshly baked cinnamon rolls greet us in the kitchen and I'm placated.
Outside - drab, a gray frown drawn across the sky. Everything is wet. It looks miserable. Regionals wouldn't have it any other way. On tap today: UNI, then winner of Eau Claire/GoP, then likely Luther. If we win those three games, we qualify for nationals. I don't recall ever having seen a softer route to natties, but with 20 spots and 4 bids in the Central, it was bound to become easier. (Though, on the other hand, in the NW Stanford, Oregon, Western Washington, UW, and Cal are all fighting for two spots.)
We drop the players off and drive for coffee, then return to the fields musking in all-out Kill Mode.
M- The game begins in utter earnest as the universe line takes the field for 3 straight breaks in a row. Crumbly is unstoppable, layout snatching 2 scores. Master Masler gets a nasty layout D, as well as ripping several beautiful deep shots. Manny takes his girl O2 and breaks her to Simmons for the 4-0 start. Cullen is rampaging faces, twice hucking to Patsy for ruthless mini-hop skies 5-0. As the lines loosen so does the concentration as it tightens to 6-1. The good woman throws UNI's first goal. Foster is enraged about losing the shutout and explodes on a kid for half 8-1. Gaynor pwns out of half to make it 9-1 before a n00b line drops it 5 straight times. Meanwhile, GOP and Eau Claire are fighting for their tournament lives, locked in heated game, 11-10 EC. One of the parents showed up to see the Hodags lackadaisically throwing around and chatting. "Has this game started yet?" "Oh yeah, it's just halftime." The Feldmen were seen cheering enthusiastically for Lil' Hollywood as the winds increased and the air chilled.
Hh- Game One done with. A surprisingly feisty UNI gave the Hodags some fits at times. On the sideline, music plays. On the field the defensive O looks anything but harmonious. Although it's cool, it's also dry, and the sun has peeked out a couple of times from behind the curtain of clouds. While a bit chilly on the sidelines, those running worked up enough heat that it wasn't uncomfortable. A bit of a cross-wind keeps the throws honest and rewards the inside-out with stable distance. Altogether not too unpleasant yet, I keep my head in the game by jamming to beats from the jukebox. It's the kind of weekend where you squeeze every drop of enjoyment from those moments when it's not shitty out.
Friday, April 24, 2009
My mind is still thinking about the Pimpdags/Blackcat match-up from Sectionals and how fun it was to watch. I can't stress enough how good a game like that is for a player's maturity and development.
As an undergrad, I was one of two Hodags that played intramural Ultimate (the other being my roommate and best friend Tyler), and got piles of shit for it from the team. Tyler and I would go and rule over people, having to carry most of the load ourselves. When June rolled around, despite playing for the club team in Madison, summer league games carried the same focus as any game we played at a tournament. Our little high school alumni team (+friends, later) played in summer league finals 3 years in a row, winning the last two. We rocked a Badger State Games threepeat with only our summer league team, until Andrew Brown built a squad designed specifically to beat us.
All these games happened while I was still a relative n00b, and I threw myself at them with all my energy. The finals of summer league and Badger State games were held before a modest crowd, the intramural playoffs even more so, but I loved playing with something on the line (and, as someone who loved playing any chance I got, I always felt there was something on the line). With a backup cast even more green than we were, Tyler and I were forced to hoist the team on our backs and make the tide-turning plays.
Later, as I suited up for my last game as a Hodag in the College Championship finals, and as a Bravo during the finals of Club Natties, I channeled all those games into my head. The experience of being amped, playing in front of crowds and hecklers, and the desire to win at my body's expense, all those little meaningless games I played when few watched and fewer cared as much as me; it was these big little games that allowed me to elevate my play and continue to execute at my best, when others tweaked out, succumming to the pressures of playing in something "that mattered."
Every year just before the start of Lent, a period of 40 days characterized by sacrifice and piety, Catholics (and now revelers in general) blow a giant wad of sin as a way of purging their urges until Easter passes. This was a time to clear the pantry of forbidden foods and drinks, and to party without restraint before their religion's business time: the most important days of their calendar. Around the world cities have great Carnivals, Rio Di Janeiro's being one of the most decadent and debaucherous. In the US, the most well-known festivities happen in New Orleans, capped by Mardi Gras the day before Ash Wednesday.
I mention these traditional party purges because the Hodags defended their sectional crown for the millionth time in a row this past weekend. Although several area teams have really come into their own recently, the tournament is still the Hodags' playground. And it's been a tradition since I started playing for the team to act ballistic with general tomfoolery for all but the last couple of games.
With winters here being harsh, unpredictable, and often overstaying their welcome well into April, the few weeks before the series begins are the longest served. Midterms come, and final exams begin calling, graduating seniors are packed with job interviews and planning festivities, and several months of non-stop training begin to wear on the stamina of the team, but everyone knows the culmination of all this work, another shot at a title, is at hand. Saturday of sectionals has become the Hodags' own Carnival of sorts, one final weekend to play and goof off with the team, taking nothing seriously, before putting their heads down and accelerating with a kick in a business-like manner till Sunday of Natties.
This year the team was in full regalia, cross dressers and hillbillies, penguins and gorillas; Dan Park even came in the most spot-on Douchebag costume I have ever seen. The weather held as long as it needed to for the grill to fire up and distribute dozens of brats and dogs, and a giant water tank held enough Donkey Punch to knock out an actual donkey. The 'Dags frolicked through the weekend and emerged victorious, and hopefully mentally rested. In two days time they'll play against Carleton in a game that could go either way, and from now until Memorial Day they're punching the time-clock and getting to work.
With the Hodags firmly under control, I spent some sideline time with the B-team. With the loss of many of their ranks to the refueling Hodags at the beginning of the year, they're as young as they have been in some time, and with area teams improving, their shot at Regionals was by no means a sure thing. A brutal blunder by UW-Whitewater got them disqualified and meant there was one less team to get past, but it still wouldn't be easy. As I left the fields on Saturday en route to Riley's, my sister's, and my birthday party, the Pimpdags were locking horns with UW-Milwaukee. The two teams were evenly matched, weather was beginning to set in, and with the Hodags done for the day the sidelines swelled.
The Hodags put aside any heckling in favor of helpful field talk, and with so many watching, the intensity of the game picked up. Both teams were playing with their season essentially on the line, and every point was contested. This was by far my favorite game of the weekend. It's great for both the Pimpdags and Milwaukee Blackcats to play in a high-intensity atmosphere, and feel the pressure of a real crowd with high stakes. As the Pimpdags' coaching and depth helped them pull away, Blackcat fought hard and conceded nothing. A few unforced errors late in the game, with their handlers feeling both the wind and pressure beginning to pick up, allowed the Pimpdags to secure the victory, but Milwaukee has no reason to hang their head. Ian Nifoussi showed leadership for his squad, and little up-and comer Steve Jansen showed heart larger than his frame. I look forward to seeing their program gain traction and grow.
Tonight, the drive into the lions' den. The circle-jerking, pocket-protector wearing, band-camp wannabe lions' den. See you in Northfield. I'll be twittering better than Ellsworth will be broadcasting at ektor_jr.