Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ending the Streak...again

This morning I woke up after a little family rager at my brother's place and while watching some Lost (season 2) and drinking my coffee, he told me that the Celtics had lost again to the Warriors.   This immediately reminded me of a post I put up earlier this year about how the Rockets had their streak ended and I compared it to how teams could potentially beat Wisconsin.

Anyway, my post was before Centex so I didn't have any idea they would lose to Michigan and then Florida and Pitt but in seeing that go down and seeing the Celtics lose to the Lakers and now the Warriors, I couldn't help but draw some parallels.

First off, I've said this before and I'll say it again, of all the major sports, I think Ultimate is the most like Basketball.  Getting breaks and establishing offensive consistency are analogous as are hucks and three point shooting.

But the parallel I wanted to bring up is the emotional status of players.  I talk a lot about confidence but it is really important in our game because confidence allows you to execute under pressure.  If Peyton throws 2 TD's or Manny hits 40% its amazing, but in Basketball you've gotta score 40-50 times a game and in Ultimate you've gotta complete >90% of your passes or you get your ass kicked.  With that in mind, the emotion that runs rampant in players can really be an asset/problem when trying to execute an offense.  In my opinion, the Celtics had no chance Christmas Day.  The Lakers wanted that game a TON and they played with intensity that Boston could not match.  Just like Michigan at Centex, the Lakers were ready, confident and unafraid.  They took it to the Celtics, the way Magnum beat the Hodags and ended the streak.  

To the Hodags shagrin, they fell to Florida and then Pitt and ended up going 4-3 at Centex, LOSERS...jk.  In my opinion, I think they had their cages rattled a little bit and the confidence they relied on was not what it could have been.  I think after a big loss to the Lakers, Boston had the same sort of problem.  The Lakers knocked them down a peg and their offensive execution was not what it could have been in the second half.  Maybe they came out firing and let up late in the game, maybe Ray Allen was just off, who knows?  I like that Doc Rivers recognized that a 39% first half shooting percentage from the Warriors was just a number and if they got hot, they'd stay that way.

In any event, this had me thinking about a few things.  For starters, like Basketball, I think Ultimate needs to be played in a game of series' in the playoffs.  There is so much pressure to execute in this game as opposed to just preventing your opponent from executing (Football) and things only get worse in April/May.  You have to score so many times and like Basketball and Tennis and Golf, it is hard to be great all the time.  Everyone has off days and the emotional state of players/teams can really be a problem.  With that in mind, I think giving teams multiple chances to prove their worth would be nice.  I think Wisconsin still wins Nationals against Florida if they go best of 3, games to 7 or whatever, but I think we can all think of games where a DGP finish ended up with the "better" team not winning.  I'm sure folks have their issues with this, but I think a single game to 15 is a flaw in Ultimate game theory because it neglects the huge impact of emotion with regard to offensive execution. If I were running things, we'd go with Wild Wood rules, games to 5, best 2 out of 3.

Secondly, it's December and like Centex, the #1 team may have lost, but it is all for the best.  Wisconsin needed their emotional state challenged and that is exactly what the Celtics got last night.  They needed to be knocked down a few pegs if only to allow themselves to pick up the momentum they'll need to dominate as they did a year ago.  I think they are in line for another title because another year of Garnett/Pierce/Allen/Rondo, not to mention their stellar D, will only yield better results.  Plus I think the Lakers and the Cavs lack the style points that teams like the Spurs have had and the Celtics have now.  Kobe is doing a great job and Pau Gasol is developing as a scoring threat, but I think Boston's confidence in execution is still much better across the board.  Likewise with Lebron in Clevland, he's amazing but in a 7 game series, he'll have an off night and then what?

In addition, like Ultimate, I think sports writers effect the game somewhat in that people tend to get their emotions caught up with expectations.  Everyone wants to see another 72-10 season like the Bulls in 95-96 but that just isn't realistic and more importantly, it is not what these players are paid to do.  They are paid to win Championships and while winning ~88% of your games helps, it isn't the overall goal.

With that in mind, I think the Celtics are just fine and will have their focus returned in the next few games, much like Wisconsin after Centex.  Maybe these games came a bit early in the year because June is a long ways off, but you never know.  I hope to go to the Celtics/Lakers game on February 5th, and we'll see if they are as good as last year.

On a side note, I took a look at Hector's post about Chicken.  It's nice to see a fellow man crusher at work because I've got my fair share.  I think it is funny that his departure from Colorado is coupled with his arrival in my hood.  I look forward to some high intensity winter league with him in a few weeks.  I can definitely attest to Chicken's fashion sense because he is undoubtedly the most well dressed cat at the Med School, but he has his swagger and that's all that matters.  I think his quest to be different is not unlike my own and hopefully he gets as much out of the Y-bomb experience as I have.

Have a fun and safe New Years.

just my thoughts

match diesel

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Relax, it's all BS

So recently I wrote an article discussing some thoughts about the college 2009 season and one of the players that I wrote about contacted me regarding some of the things I said. He was a bit surprised by some of my talking points and wanted to give me his take on the situation.

First, I want to say that I welcome any input on what I write and I'm always open to new ideas and topics. Please send me emails at if you want to discuss something.

Secondly, I wanted to mention that a lot of what I write, and this goes for most sports writers, is nothing but fluff. I recently was inspired to bring up this topic after seeing the most recent Terrell Owens debacle go down.

One of the reasons why sports are as popular as they are in America is because sports writers debate topics and get fans interested in the stories that revolve around the players they follow. Tony Romo mentioned this in his Cowboys/Giants post game interview. However, because it's a business, writers have to continually re-invent themselves and come up with story after story. While it would be nice if we always had a great story to write, epic sagas like Michael Phelps, Joe Kershner, the '07-'08 Boston Celtics, Michael Vick, or Conference 1 only come along once in awhile. Deadlines are deadlines however, and we need something for Monday's column.

This doesn't necessarily mean that journalists manifest news, but it does mean that they sift through sports data with a magnifying glass and when they come across a detail that can be spun into a story, it will be.  Whether or not this story actually has any merit or importance in the locker room is not guaranteed but what is guaranteed is that folks at home/work will read it and be entertained.  I've been guilty of this on more than one occasion and on more than one occasion I've received a concerned email from a pertinent party. I'm not complaining, it's the price I pay for having an audience. Elite players that get written about have the same problem. I call it "pretty girl tax". Pretty girls get eye balled, harassed, and judged based on their appearance, and despite their issues with it, they don't wish they were ugly (or at least don't do anything about it). You want to be pretty? You want to be great at Ultimate? You want a major audience? You're going to have to deal with these sorts of things. Most folks aren't as lucky and fail to draw the same attention. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

However, the take home message is to try and not let it get to you.  What I write, like what Bill Simmons or Tim Kurkjian writes, should not affect the game itself and if it does, players need to NOT read it.  These stories shouldn't actually matter, because winning is the only thing that matters.  I get the feeling though, that in developing somewhat of a journalism niche, I have introduced a new set of emotions in some ultimate players. I got into this business because I wanted every player in the country (college and club) to realize just how awesome our sport is and to pay attention to it the way they pay attention to the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc... However, I'm guessing that some players I write about aren't exactly ready to be the LeBron James or Peyton Manning of Ultimate. But, because they are the best at our modest little sport, they get the throne, or the dog house, depending on the story.

So to those lucky few players (because believe me, you are lucky), I have this to say: It's all fluff. Don't take what I or anyone else says too seriously. This is all just a game and games are supposed to be fun. If you have taken offense to something I wrote, don't waste your time getting angry. You'll be one of a 1,000 that hates my guts and you're better off remaining happy that you are significant enough to be written about. If I were making money off trash talking, that would be one thing, but believe me, my trips to Texas, Colorado, Vancouver, etc.. aren't free and I am wayyy in the minus when it comes to ultimate expenses. However, like the players I write about, I love this game and am willing to make sacrifices for what I love.

And just to re-enforce my initial point, nothing that comes out of my blog is definitive law, it's just my opinion. If I am off base, incorrect, or misinformed, don't waste your time getting all steamed up about it. I try not to shoot my mouth off senselessly, but I ruffle feathers some times and I really should not. Maybe it's because ultimate players are all nerds at heart and it is easy to mentally perturb them. If you are a dumb jock, you aren't smart enough to be mentally agitated, but if you are an MIT grad, the mental momentum associated with stuff like this is pretty significant. A brilliant friend of mine once told me that it's because of our intelligence that ultimate players have trouble executing under pressure. We are just too smart to block out the pressure and for those that are lucky enough to have this skill, F@#$ You!!! I kid...but seriously, go to hell.

Anyway, it's all a game and even if I could grow a mustache, I wouldn't be twisting it while hatching up a scheme to piss off poor elite players. I've got better things to do with my time, like generate this sick RNAi western blot:

Happy Holidays folks.

just my thoughts

match diesel

Monday, December 1, 2008

2009 College Preview

The Hodag repeat, Arizona, Will Neff's transfer to Michigan, Martin's broken foot, these were the big stories of 2008.  However, with the velocity of the internet, last year's college season almost seems like ancient history.  Since Memorial Day, we have seen Canada win gold, Furious miss out on Nationals, Sockeye and Bravo both miss out on the Finals, and the crowning of a new champion in San Francisco Jam.  We've also seen the coming and going of Conference 1 and a highly controversial UPA/Cultimate summit that has left us all a bit curious as to how the 2009 College Season will unfold.

A mere 12 months ago folks were talking about Santa Cruz's success at Sean Ryan and things like Sunburn's romp in Vegas was still months away.  With that being said, this is a very interesting time in our sport because we can speculate all we want in the hopes of trying to predict the big stories of 2009.  In following the crazy stories in Pro as well as College football, I couldn't help but toss out some ideas in the hopes of getting some momentum started for the upcoming season.

I wanted to start with some discussions regarding the semifinal teams, then some Callahan talk, followed by some UPA/Cultimate dialog and then some closing thoughts.

Of all the semifinal teams from last year, I think CUT is the favorite going into the regular season.  With Colorado, Florida, and Wisconsin all having to deal with major departures, Carleton could re-take control of the Central Region and perhaps make a run at the Finals.

However, that isn't to say that success 2009 is assured because they definitely have their fair share of challenges.  First off, the size issue.  For a few years now, people have speculated as to whether or not Carleton can compete against some of the bigger teams in the country.  In the old days, CUT routinely had hugtastic players like Nord and Chase, but since their title run in 2001, the juniors influx has brought in a ton of squirrley little flatballers and guys like Jacob Goldstein and Patrick Baylis have become the latest trend in CUT talent.  In my opinion, despite being exceptionally well trained, they tend to have issues with talented teams that are bigger than they are.  Take the 3 other teams in semifinals, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Florida.  They lost to Wisconsin 13-10 at Regionals, 15-8 to Colorado in Pool Play and 15-6 to Florida in Semifinals.  Not a good record.

Aside from hitting the HGH, there are a variety of ways that Carleton could tackle this issue and I think they all revolve around season long strategical planning.  This would mean setting productive goals at the tournament, day to day, and in-game levels.  At the tournament level, Carleton could attempt to establish a linear team progression from Vegas to Stanford to Centex to the Series.  This doesn't necessarily mean focusing on Win/Loss record, but simply achieving specific goals tournament to tournament, whether they be integrating younger players, experimenting with a different zone defense or establishing their primary/secondary/etc.. offense.  They typically come out hot at Vegas but their Stanford and Centex performances last year leaved something to be desired.  It will be important for Carleton to keep the series in mind when competing at these tournaments and while they historically peak very well, it will be important to set productive goals tournament to tournament.

At the day to day level, I think it would be a good idea to focus on coming out strong on both Saturday and Sunday.  I remember them coming out hot early at Stanford without much of a follow up performance.  Likewise, it will be important for them to stay within themselves at Centex, a grueling tournament that could produce major injuries if they redline it too much.  I feel like an intelligent approach to every day of competition will be good.  The captains should ask themselves, "what is our goal for today and how can we get there?".  The answer should be complex, but it will take some critical thinking for CUT to get back to the Finals.  Things don't always boil down to win or lose and I think an enlightened approach to the season, much like the way Colorado usually operates, will be a good strategy.  I remember talking to Greg Connelly about Ironside at Club Nationals and after taking the pool and coming out of power pools #2, he simply said "we have a plan" and I liked hearing that.  Carleton should be very careful about their season, because now is the time.

Lastly, the in-game strategical approach will be very important for CUT and I think this is where they could handle the size issue the best.  Because college handlers are still incredibly fallible (even at the elite level) putting pressure on throwers, rather than receivers, will be a good strategy.  They can accomplish this with varying marks (flat, FM, FA, etc..) as well as junky zone defenses that will produce poach D's and easy turns.  Likewise exploiting underneath matchups will be a good way to take advantage of mobility disparities and I think Carleton will do well if they stick to their own offense as opposed to matching other teams huck for huck.  In addition, it will be important to adjust to teams effectively and potentially do things like come out of second halves with a different approach than the first.

With their talent and previous success, Carleton reminds me a little bit of Stanford back in '04-'07 in the sense that they are good enough for semis, but still need to figure something out to get back to the Finals.  Stanford made semis 4 years in a row only to lose to the eventual champions (Colorado, Brown, Florida, Wisconsin) which despite being a major accomplishment, does not bode well for CUT.  Bloodthirsty seemed to rely on their depth and their coaching and while Carleton has comparable depth this year, they are historically un-coached.  This could be a problem at every level in their strategical approach, but especially in the in-game strategy.  They really never did much to adjust to Florida in semis and if they want to take it to the next level, they will need to use the lump that is 3 feet above their ass.

Despite these challenges, I think Carleton is in good shape.  They might not have won MLC, but they only lost 11-9 to Colorado (tournament winner) and 11-10 to Wisconsin (Finalist).  In addition to their depth, they also have unreal club experience with players in a very successful local club team (SubZero), and others throughout the Nation, Bodhi/Northeast and Revolver/Northwest.  Such a background is unparalleled at the college level and I think the experience that Adam Fagin (Revolver), Christian Foster and Patrick Roberts (Bodhi), not to mention Sam Kanner and Grant Lindsley (SubZero), will bring into the huddle will be awesome.

They also have a ton of young talent that is right in the meat of their college ultimate careers.  The 5 players I just mentioned are either juniors or sophomores and that kind of depth with 2-3 year left in a college career is insane.  Hopefully Carleton can build on their big game experiences of the last college and club season and either take it all in 2009 or at least set themselves up for a title shot in 2010.

Lastly, to round out their talent and defensive approach, I think Carleton can and should rely on offensive efficiency.  The internal chemistry that this team has, not to mention exceptional skill across the board, will allow CUT to maintain possession of the disc when/if over eager teams give it up.  Every program will cough the disc up and if Carleton can just not give it back, they will succeed.  This might even be a more prominent solution to the size issue than any sort of defensive approach.  I am very curious to know if CUT can take advantage of college miscues and considering that Wisconsin has been gutted, I would not be surprised to see them take back the Central Region, on the back of some majorly chilly offense and crafty D.

Unlike 2008, I do not think the Hodags have nearly as much pressure on them.  After an unbelievable 2007 season, Wisconsin came back and won Nationals with nearly the same intensity as a year before.  However, in 2009, I'm not sure that Wisconsin will be as hot and I think another 56-3 record or whatever is a bit unrealistic.  I say this mainly because the team is going to very different than it has been the last few years.

First off, they are losing an unreal crop of 5th years.  Muffin, Shane Hohenstein, Will Lokke, Drew Mahowald, and Matt Rebholz are all out the door and I believe that outside Arizona, Wisconsin is getting hit the hardest with team departures.  They are getting hit not only on the defensive side of the disc, but offense as well and I am really curious to know how the Hodags handle this.  Depth has been their main strategy thus far and I'm curious to know who will step up to the plate now that the bulk of their '06-'08 stalwarts are gone.

To complicate matters, the caveat to being as successful as Wisconsin has been the last 3 years, is that the bulk of the current roster has no idea what it is like to lose. Guys like Cullen Geppert and Ben Feldman are great players, but all they know is success.  When/if things get dicey this season, are they gonna know how to handle it?  You have to go all the way back to 2005 to see a Wisconsin team that didn't make the Finals and I wonder if expectations will be a bit too high.

However, Wisconsin's leadership is phenomenal.  Jim Foster and Tom "Animal" Annen are both exceptional players and each offers great complimentary skill sets.  Foster is a composed downfield O-line option, who has the focus and consistency they will need and I feel like Animal is the intense defense minded handler that Muffin was and his presence will maintain the tenacity that Wisconsin has exhibited the lat few years.

In addition, the Hodags are being coached for the first time (at least since I've been watching) by Muffin.  His work ethic and commitment to Wisconsin will ensure that the Hodags are as in shape and intense as ever.  However, I wonder if Muffin took any lessons away from another trip to Sarasota.  Wisconsin has been notorious for intense D and depth, but when it comes to offensive composure and consistency, they leave something to be desired.  In Florida, SubZero played a similar game plan, but in the winds of Sarasota, they struggled against patient teams like GOAT.  I wonder if this experience will precipitate changes in Wisconsin's offensive approach, which could be instrumental given the personal shuffling that is now going on.

Regardless, the Hodags know how to win and with their "program" nature and previous success, they should have the confidence to take out anyone.  They lost to Colorado at MLC which is no big deal, but any dip in performance this year will hurt the intimidation factor they have boasted for so long.  If they can maintain the same level of skill, a regular season W/L record won't matter, but I think teams will not be as scared of baby blue as they have been in the past.

This is a team I am really excited to see in 2009.  Unlike Florida, this team does not rely on their star power as much as some people may think.  Yes, they have had unreal personal in Jolian, Beau, Chicken, Richter, and Parker, but in reality, their depth is really their strong suit.  In my opinion, I think they are one of the strongest teams at the 4-7 position, and despite hype for their superstar players, they have similar depth to Wisconsin, which explains why they have had almost as much success over the years.

That isn't to say that they are without major departures and considering that Jolian Dahl, Martin Cochran, Chris Wicus, and Kevin "Pebbles" Schipper are all gone, Mamabird could be in for some trouble.  However, I think this will be the perfect time for them to show just how good they are despite less hyped personal.  Plus, I think their Martin-less experience last winter will prove to be valuable in that the pressure that players put on themselves last year in Martin's absence will prove itself to have been a nice warmup to his actual departure.

Colorado will have major star power, however, mainly in Mac Taylor.  Over the years Mac has established himself as an incredibly composed and consistent offensive threat for MB.  He doubles as a primary cutter for Bravo and his ice cold demeanor is insane for a player his age.  Not only is he exceptional at bringing in huge skies and launching major hucks, but he also plays great D and is as good at setting up his team mates as they do him.  I think the pressure to lead will fall squarely on him but I think his confidence and experience will be extremely valuable and I imagine that he will be just fine.

Another stand out for Colorado this year could be Hylke Sneider, that juniors phenom from Denver that graced the cover of the UPA magazine a while back.  Hylke is in an interesting position because he falls under the Yankee's-esk numbering system that Colorado exhibits.  For the NY Yankees, Billy Martin was #1, Derek Jeter #2, Babe Ruth #3, Lou Gehrig #4, Joe DiMaggio #5, and Mickey Mantle #6/7.  For Colorado, Chicken was #10, Richter #20, Hylke #30, Mac Taylor #40, Beau #50, and Jolian #60.  Whether or not this is intentional is anyone's guess, but I think now is the time where Hylke's potential will be tested.  For years he has had the luxury of playing behind MB's greats but now he needs to take center stage.  With Martin gone, I think Hylke's size and presence could be great for Colorado's D-line and with Mac anchoring the O-line, I think this will be a nice warmup for 2010.  His background should give him all the skills he needs to dominate at the college level but I wonder if he has picked up enough experience at the club level.  Unlike other Colorado up and comers, Hylke does not play for Bravo, but for Ballerdo and I wonder if that is an advantage he has missed out on.  Either way, I'm sure as a junior he will perform as expected and given Colorado's history, I'm sure he is up for the challenge.

Ultimately, I think Colorado's depth will be the major weapon they use this year.  I wish I had more to say about them, but I suppose that is how faceless depth works.  Colorado has taken the Southwest 5 of the 6 years I've been watching ultimate and won a National title (oddly enough the one year they didn't take the region, sort of).  With Arizona's departures and the uncertainty of UCSB, UCSD, UCLA, and Claremont, I don't think it will be hard for Colorado to stay on top of their region.  In addition, they have a new coach in Jim Schoettler and I'm sure his background with Stanford, Jam, and now Johnny Bravo will be quite advantageous in preparing Colorado for battle.  Mamabird seems to never go away and I think 2009 will be another year of continued Colorado success.

Now this is a team I am worried about.  Florida is in a similar situation to Wisconsin in the sense that their younger players are going to have to earn it.  For the last 3 years, all Florida has done is win, but they have done it with a really tight rotation, and now most of them are gone.  In 2006, Tim Gehret lead an amazing squad of flatballers but despite the fact that guys like Cyle Van Auken, Jon Wyndam (I think), and Kurt Gibson have kept the team at the top for a few more years, they are all finally gone.  They still have Brodie Smith who should continue to dominate but the bulk of their starting 7 is not what it once was.  This might be a time where they decide to open their rotation, or they could continue to depend on a small number of players.

They definitely have remaining talent in addition to Brodie with guys like Chris Gibson, Cole Sullivan and Alex Hill, but I wonder if it is enough.  2009 could be the year that Florida's lack of depth is taken advantage of and if they are not careful, they could miss out on Nationals, a feat that seems almost unheard of but as recently as 2005, Florida was no where near Nationals.

In reading Grant's CCC write up, it looks like Florida is still depending on Brodie deep, which is ok, but it won't work forever.  In 2008, Brodie had the luxury of Kurt Gibson who would either draw an opponent's best defender or huck it to him deep despite any sort of pressure or weather.  However, without him, Brodie will have to depend a ton on his supporting cast which is now below him in experience and talent rather than above.  This sort of challenge is one he has never had to deal with because he walked onto the team and won a National title in 2006.  Now, 4 years later, he is just about all that is left of that team and I wonder if it will be enough.

They already have interesting losses to Michigan and Minnesota which is not a good sign.  For the last few years, because Florida's roster is so tight, they tend to play the same at Vegas, Centex, and the Series.  With only 7 or so players getting points, peaking occurs really early on.  However, now that things are different, I am not surprised to see Florida struggle early on.  I wonder how they will follow up their CCC performance at Warm Up next month and considering their dominance at this tournament the last few years, anything short of perfection will raise a lot of speculation regarding Florida and other AC teams that have been beaten up by Florida the last few years will be licking their chops.

However, Florida does have a few strengths to draw from.  In addition to a great starting 7 the last few years they are very well coached by Kurt Dahlenberg, who has been an ultimate legend in the Miami/Florida area with the Refugees.  He has been instrumental in preparing Florida the last few years and will continue to do so.  In addition, Florida also has a ton of "jock" recruiting potential and I can't imagine their army of +6-footers getting any smaller.  They will certainly have their work cut out for them this year, however, and it will be up to them to continue to train and focus.  I would not be surprised to see them struggle early on this season but if they can keep it together, there is no reason why they shouldn't finish the season strong.

Callahan Talk
First I wanted to start off with a disclaimer.  In my opinion, the Callahan award selects someone with the best combination of player talent, team talent and hype.  This may or may not reflect the intentions of the award and it most undoubtedly leaves out deserving players.

Stephen "Franchise" Pressley - Texas
The first person on my discussion list is Stephen "Franchise" Pressley from Texas because he is the only one of the 5 finalists from last year who will participate in 2009.  Franchise is an exceptional player with fantastic disc skills, brilliant heads up D, and razor sharp cuts.  However, like former TUFF Callahan nominees, he has an uphill battle.  Texas has routinely struggled to attract the hype necessary to earn this award and while both Tank and Salad were close to the top in the past, they were passed up by more popular nominees.  Perhaps TUFF can poach some steam from Doublewide's convincing victory over Sockeye at Club Nationals, but I think the only way Texas can pick up the momentum to get Franchise the award will be a major tournament victory such as TiV or Centex.  Best of luck, I'd love to see it.

Will Neff - Michigan
My top pick for the Callahan nominee in 2009, not surprisingly, is Will Neff.  Ever since his transfer from Northeastern to Michigan, he has set himself up to make major noise on the college scene.  For starters, he helped get Magnum back to Nationals in 2008 (as a 1 seed) after UM missed out on the show in 2007.  In addition, he has had sustained hype from his juniors experience with Amherst and Finland (2004 gold medal), his Twisted Metal days, and now with his D-line presence on Ironside (2008 Club Nationals Finalist).  To top it all off, he has zero negative hype.

However, he isn't without challenges.  The Great Lakes region has never produced a Callahan winner and because Michigan doesn't usually go to Vegas or Stanford, Neff will miss out on the UltiVillage exposure that Joe Kershner benefitted from.  With this in mind, Michigan has to win their region in order for voters to have confidence in Will.  If they take the GL again, there should be nothing in Will's way.  But if they slip, speculation regarding his abilities will run rampant.  I don't think this is too much of a concern however, considering that Michigan still has a ton of talent outside Will in guys like Dave Fumo and Ollie Hondred and their biggest threat, Illinois, graduated their best player, Joel Koehneman.  Anyway, I think Will is a lock, but I thought Jolian was last year and look what happened.

Mac Taylor - Colorado
Mamabird seems to always have a major vote getter and I don't think 2009 will be any different.  Mac is not only a great college player but his club experience will give him massive amounts of hype.  However, Mac does have issues.  Colorado seemed to be one of the first teams to run O/D-line sets and because Mac is a solid O-line player, I think he will miss out on play making opportunities that other nominees have because they play both sides.  In addition, Mac seems to be a very solemn player and does not draw a ton of attention to himself.  He is just that lanky dude with the backwards hat.  Maybe this won't have much of an impact, but he doesn't really have the intense presence that Jolian or Richter had.  I think both his O-line assignment and composed nature make him a fantastic player and while this combination of talents is probably perfect for Mamabird as a team, it might hurt him in the popularity contest.  No matter, like most Callahan nominees out of Colorado, I'm sure Mac values his team success over his own popularity and I'm sure he would trade the Callahan for a National title any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Brodie Smith - Florida
Brodie is easily the most visible player out of the AC and with his success the last few years, many folks already know what he can do.  However, despite having as much talent as one needs for this award, Brodie does have a ton of issues.  First off, his very public support for Conference 1.  Now I'm not claiming that he shouldn't have supported Skip's campaign, but the bulk of the Callahan voters do not play for a top 25 team and those will be the votes Brodie cannot depend on.  Likewise, Florida's nature doesn't precipitate much jubilation from competitors and with things like their low spirit score requests at Nationals and what not, I don't think Brodie will do well in the popularity contest.

Greg Swanson - Georgia
I toss out Greg here mainly because I think JoJah is the only other team out of the AC that can make any noise as far as the Callahan goes.  Greg is a great contributor for not only JoJah but Chain Lightning as well but I wouldn't be surprised if Georgia did not nominate him.  Historically, Georgia only nominates a Callahan if the vote is unanimous and with a great defender in Peter Dempsey on the team, he might not get such an honor.  Because of this, Georgia routinely does not submit a nominee as can be seen with the fact that in 12 years of voting, they have only nominated 4 players (Dylan Tunnell, Jay Hammond, Shippey Crawford, and Will Deaver).  Outside Georgia and Florida, there really isn't a whole lot of hype surrounding players in the AC and while teams like NC State, UNC, and UNC-W are all talented, they will need a ton of help to get a nominee in the lime light.

George Stubbs - Harvard
Now considering George is only a sophomore, he might not get Redline's nomination, but I totally see this kid winning the Callahan in the future.  He had a rocky freshman year because of a torn PCL, but his performance in Boulder, as well as Worlds (Juniors-Team USA) and Ironside, is reason enough to vote for him.  His background, like Grant Lindsley's, is insane and all he needs to do is play his game and he will succeed.  With Andrew Vogt (Juniors-Team Canada) on Redline as well, these two are one of the best 1-2 punches in the college game and if Harvard can get on top of a very volitile NE region, he's in good shape.  In my opinion, if George can bring it in the college sphere, he could get the Callahan as early as 2010.

Central Region?
I think the CN region, despite producing 2 major contenders, will not make much Callahan noise.  I think Dan Heijmen, like Tim Gehret, benefitted from some major team hype, and got his MVP award in 2007 but I think folks have wised up.  Since then, I get the feeling folks are a little tired of Wisconsin.  They respect them, but voting for their MVP candidate is not something that seems to be happening.  Neither Rebholz nor Muffin could get enough votes to finish top 5 and while I think Jim Foster or whoever they nominate would be fantastic, I don't see Wisconsin producing much of a candidate.  In addition, Carleton probably won't nominate someone as usual and outside these two, there really isn't much to speak of, as far as Callahan hype, in the CN region

NW Region?
The NW is not what it once was in the college scene and believe it or not, folks outside NorCal, Oregon and WA/BC like seeing the Northwest struggle.  Long gone are the glory days of Stanford, Oregon, and Cal and with as much turmoil as there has been in this region, a clear candidate for the MVP is not prevalent.  Mark Sherwood (Stanford) was easily the best player I have seen come out the NW the last few years and if he couldn't get the award, no one else in this region has a prayer.  Dusty Becker (Oregon) has some hype but just getting Ego back to Nationals will be hard enough.  They do have other talent in guys like Nate Castine (Western Washington and Sockeye) but without regional success, getting voters on board will be tough.

Metro East?
Good luck.  Teams like Pitt and Delaware are going to need Kershner type hype to get Callahan attention and despite tons of Juniors talent coming out of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I don't see anyone making noise out of this region.  I could be wayy off however and I hope I am.  It'd make a great story.

I don't have too much to say on this topic that hasn't already been stated.  First off, I feel really bad for Skip.  He is such a trendsetter and his tournaments are really exceptional.  However, his Conference 1 campaign was McCain/Palin-esk in the sense that it was entertaining to follow but didn't inspire much confidence.  

In any event, I hope the lesson here is professionalism.  Using ultimate as a revenue source is very complicated and everyone from Rob to Skip to 5Ultimate to folks like myself, it is really important to separate passion from judgement.  Emotion will keep you motivated but one still has to make good decisions and patience is definitely a virtue.

Now that all of this NCUA and Conference 1 talk has more or less come and gone, I think the idea of a regular season is still on the table and I really hope that cooperation between Skip and the UPA happens.  It only makes sense.  The regular season that so many players are clamoring for is more or less the Cultimate tournament schedule and with the backing of the UPA, it won't be too difficult to solidify.

More importantly, I think the first and most pressing issue that can be sorted out by the UPA is to announce Nationals.  When this announcement is made, a solid date and location for the culmination of the series will be known and some confidence in the 2009 season will be restored.  I also think that once this occurs players will be able to look 4-5 months into the future as opposed to just focusing on the first few tournaments of the year.  I think this mental security will be ideal for young players that have had their cages rattled.

In addition, I am also really curious to know if CSTV will be undertaking broadcasting responsibilities and how much involvement Rob and UltiVillage will have.  With his work at Centex, College Nationals, Worlds and Club Nationals this past year, I think Rob can make a solid case for live broadcasting of the tournament, or at least more than CSTV has historically done.

Anyway, hopefully Nationals is on the East Coast again.  It hasn't been anywhere near ultimate hubs like Boston, North Carolina or Atlanta since 2001 and has mainly been a midwest/west coast event with places like Spokane (2002), Austin (2003), Seattle (2004), Corvalis (2005), Colombus (2006/7), and Boulder (2008).  Now I don't think this is anyone's fault, I just want an easier trip to Nationals for once.

Closing Thoughts
I wanted to end with a little bit about injuries.  Young teams out there, take a lesson from the Tom Brady, Osi Umenyiroa, Carson Palmer, Brady Quinn, Tony Romo incidents.  You never know when a player is going to get hurt, so 1) don't be stupid with your bodies and 2) don't be shallow.  I know at the college level it is easy to depend on your superstar(s) but for a few of those teams out there, he/she is going to go down and hopefully you can bounce back the way the Giants and Patriots have.  You lose a defensive or offensive star and you don't miss a beat.  It is quite the challenge to develop this sort of depth but in all seriousness, it is better to constantly integrate players throughout the season and work on developing as a team than just try and get wins.  I think the impulse in college is to put your stars on the field to try and win as many games as possible but it will only be a matter of time before they burn out, graduate or get hurt, and then what?  Do yourselves a favor and sacrifice short term gains for long term success.

just my thoughts

match diesel

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Open Finals Thoughts

I suppose in my write up I didn't actually say much about the Open final. It aired at like 6am for some folks so potentially a lot of you didn't actually see the game. Here are some thoughts.

Ironside is a really young team relative to Jam. Guys like Doug Moore, Forch, Rosenthal, and McCarthy were fairly established with DoG and guys like Seigs and C-Mo have been there for awhile as well, despite only being 25 or so, but a lot of Ironside's talent is still really new.

Will Neff anchors their D-line and Jasper was a fundamental component of their offense. Kurt Gibson was not in attendance and despite rumors I've heard, I really do not know the answer to why he wasn't there. In any event, Ironside's performance in the finals did not resemble the patient and conservative Boston ultimate I was expecting. Recently Jeff Graham has established himself as a dominat deep threat for Forch and they really went for the throat down wind.

However, despite connecting on a few occasions, it was just a matter of time before Jeff could not make a play and it came on this huck. Forch had already launched two huge backhand bombs and third time was not a charm. Jam scooped up the turn and I think this was when they took another break and led 13-10 or so.

In any event, this sequence seemed to sum up the Finals. Boston seemed to exhibit their youth and while that gets you amazing plays, it also brings bitter consequences. Jam, alternatively, relied on endless chemistry between their established roster. Recently, in this game, O-line and D-line assignments have become really popular. However, Jam did not rely on such set lines. Jeff Eastham is a great defender but at times he played O. Bart Watson is one of their best handlers but at times he plays defense. Likewise, Steets is a great cutter because of his vertical presence and size, but he also will find himself in zone D situations and man defense. Namkung and Husak bounce a round a little bit and of any team at Nationals, Jam was probably the most inconsistent when it came to O/D-line assignments, in my opinion.

With this in mind, they seemed to really rely on cohesion. Every player on the team knows everyone else and in conditions as unpredictable as Sarasota with very high winds, they were seamless. The wind almost seemed like an 8th defender and they handled it very well. In addition, I want to say that this team could have beaten anyone Sunday, but I believe that Jam got a lucky draw in Boston. Coming into the Finals, Jam was clearly the front runner when it came to experience. Only two of Boston's players had played in a game of this magnitude and many had come and gone since their last semifinals appearance so Finals was definitely a new experience, even for veterans like Forseter.

However, Jam has been there in semis almost every year of this millennium. Guys like Watson, Damien Scott, Idris, Jon Zalisk, Safdie, and Dan Hodges were all there in 2004 when they made Finals last (lost on Universe to Sockeye) and it is no surprise that they were ready for the Finals. They were more or less the Boston Celtics of Ultimate this year and the drop off in Sockeye and Furious was like the Pistons and the Spurs crumbling. This was Jam's time to shine. They have such a ridiculously talented roster and like Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, they just needed the stars to align to give them a shot at a ring. I'm not saying they couldn't take out Sockeye, Furious or Bravo consistently but I definitely think Jam benefited from shifts in power. It's kind of like Obama's election today. He is a fantastic candidate (and Jam is a great team) but the republicans (Sockeye and Furious) digging themselves a ditch doesn't hurt.

I mean come on, they lose to Boston in Pool Play 15-12 and Sockeye gets ahead and wins out 15-13 in power pools. In pool play, Jam's experience was not enough because there was little pressure on Ironside. The depth of their roster was good coming into the third game of the day on Thursday but with only 1 game to play, the pressure must have been tough for a young Ironside team. I think Boston's best days are ahead of them however. Guys like Stubbs and Brent Anderson need time with Boston as do a slew of their other stalwarts like Trey Katzenbach and Dan Patiestas. They will continue to improve in the near future and with the recent visibility of GOAT, Boston has a legitimate regional challenge that is not in their own state. Toronto's improvement is the best thing for Boston in the sense that it will keep their fires lit. The Canadians are nipping at their heels and they play a totally different ball game.

As for Jam's performance against Sockeye, I think Seattle's intensity coupled with experience in Sarasota put them at a distinct advantage. They have the athletes to challenge Jam's O-line and their defensive efficiency (when focused) was enough to collect the breaks to keep victory out of Jam's hands. Sockeye's D-line is almost as experienced as their O-line and if they are on, they can score as effectively as anyone else. But they had their own demons with Bravo so Jam didn't have to face them.

And as for Bravo, I know for a fact that Jam is not seen as much of a challenge. They owned Jam last year and in their only contest in '08 they won 13-8. I think Bravo took too much weight off their shoulders after beating Sockeye in Quarters and Jam was pissed off enough to get their intensity level up, probably more so than the Finals. In watching Bravo beat out such a dominant adversary it is not surprising that they looked past Jam.

In any event, Jam's chemistry produced one of the best offensive threats in Sarasota and they handled the wind so amazingly well. On Saturday they rolled Revolver 15-9 in Quarters and after that game I really began to see that Jam knew what the hell they were doing. When they went up 6-2 on Bravo I thought to myself, they might just win this whole thing. I over estimated Boston's poise going into the Finals, but looking back I definitely realize that Jam was playing the best Ultimate of anyone on Saturday and Sunday.

Congratulations to San Francisco. Of anyone at Nationals they deserved a title more than anyone. Few teams have put in the years that guys like Idris have and it was nice to witness their glory. I was talking to Husak at the party and we brought up the fact that he and Namkung were the only male worlds players to win Nationals and gold. Congrats again.

just some more of my thoughts

match diesel

Sarasota Recap

Phew…what a weekend. I am so exhausted. It was really cool going to a tournament as an employee because 1) the trip was free and 2) I was not entirely responsible for everything. At Centex, Worlds, and College Nationals, I was on my own and I sort of just did what I wanted. However, taking orders from Rob was pretty sweet because I wasn’t nearly as stressed out as I usually get.

However, that isn’t to say the weekend was a cakewalk. I feel like so few people really understand what it takes to put together media. It’s like trying to run a tournament. It is so much behind the scenes work and for the most part, the viewers/participants have no concept of how hard it is. What sucks is that ultimate players are so smart (or at least they think they are) and they are skeptical as hell and have a tough time with blind faith. 

I was talking with Will Deaver during the women’s final and he was telling me about how he couldn’t understand why people think of the UPA as a big bad wolf. He was very quick to point out how small time it really is and he seemed comically frustrated when people thought he was anything more than a regular guy/player just like everyone else.

Anyway, I get the feeling he, and I and a lot of other folks in the business, would appreciate a little more faith. We’re not out to screw people over or hoard money. We’re not out to satisfy crazy selfish egos (well maybe I am a little bit) and it would be nice if folks just appreciated the work and kept the bitching to a minimum. I tend to poke fun at religion sometimes but on some occasions it is nice when there aren’t any questions and people just accept what they don’t understand.

Back to the tournament. 

Pool play was sweet because things went pretty close to what I predicted. Aside from Sockeye losing to Doublewide I was pretty close to perfect. I figured Chain would upset SubZero and they did and I was hoping Bodhi would take it to the Condors and they did.

I didn’t get to watch nearly as much disc as I would have liked but I did catch the Jam vs Bodhi game and it was really interesting in the sense that it is so obvious when teams are confident and when they are not. Athletic ability and fundamentals are nice, but the only way you win is if you really believe you will. That is why Furious has been so successful. Guys like MG and Lugsdin are certain they will win and then they go out and do it. I feel so bad for my SD buddies who can’t seem to get past the Condors, and in watching elite teams I am coming to understand how important it is to be unafraid.

As for Bodhi, they were just intimidated. They started out OK but Jam took advantage of their inexperience and things like hand blocks and dropped passes showed up. They did make a few big plays however, and I remember seeing Alex Kapinos make a great sky grab for a goal once or twice. I was talking with Miles after their game and I was telling him that I was glad that they took some deep shots late in the game because at the very least getting a huge sky over a guy like Bart Watson or Brandon Steets is something you’re always going to keep with you and those kinds of plays are how you get the confidence to beat established teams. 

After the Bodhi game I headed over to the Doublewide/Sockeye game and I witnessed the tail end of the upset. I want to say that Doublewide was the better team, but it just looked like Sockeye was over confident. They were careless on offense and when/if they generated a turn on D they weren’t careful enough to turn it into a break. Doublewide however executed their game beautifully and for a team that needs a few confidence jolts, they definitely did well for themselves.

However, just like the Delaware vs Florida upset, Doublewide didn’t follow up their performance with anything spectacular. Folks, if you ever upset a team huge, you have to come out and at least score in the follow up game or you’ll get killed on point differential and that is what happened to Doublewide.

Anyway, Doublewide still got stuck in the lower pools (just like Chewbacca Defense, the Austin mixed team) and had to eek their way out to get into the quarters play in.

The other thing worth mentioning about pool play was Bravo. They did not look like they were ready to win Nationals. They seemed really impatient in the sense that they just wanted to be in the Finals already and couldn’t be bothered with the 7 games leading up to them. SubZero almost beat them late in the day and for a team that was a Finals frontrunner, they really did not resemble the team they were a year ago.

Now Power Pools were nuts. The second day of competition totally screwed up my bracket and things were as crazy in Sarasota as they appeared on the score reporter. I only watched the Sockeye vs Jam game because I haven’t seen much of Jam and I wanted to know more about them. They hung with Sockeye for a while but Sockeye’s depth on defense was insane. They are like the next level up from Wisconsin. They bring so much pressure and considering that Friday was by far the windiest day, Jam just could not maintain the composure to score 15 goals. As a side note, Jim Parinella walked by and asked me about the game and he said “Ok match, in 25 words or less”. I loved it.

As for Bravo, I only heard things second hand and Bret Matzuka from Ring who was telling me they just couldn’t play in the wind and that doesn’t surprise me. Bravo’s strength has always been their size. Popes, Big Jim, Beau, all their guys are massive and they love to use them. However, when you have 30 mph wind, it gets hard for guys like Parker to hit their targets with the required precision.

The other interesting game in Power Pools was Ironside vs Sockeye and despite the fact that I was hoping Boston could get the upset, they seemed very ok with losing. They were in the game close but towards the end Sockeye just outlasted them. It was funny, Goldstein had a drop late in the game but after he realized that Sockeye now had to play Bravo in Quarters and Ironside had an easier game against Ring, I heard he said something to the tune of, “Best drop I have ever had”.

So with Bravo’s two losses they faced Doublewide in the play in game and Texas never had a chance. I wanted to see them in quarters but that kind of opponent in pre-quarters is just unfair and Bravo rolled. The other play in game between GOAT and SubZero was pretty sweet though. I got some well-deserved criticism awhile back for not knowing enough about Toronto and I was glad to have the opportunity to pay close attention to them in. 

Inian Morrthy played a phenomenal tournament and he was amazing for GOAT. His deep cuts were spectacular and with a guy like John Hassell on the field, he was catching goals left and right. As for Hassell, I was talking with some folks about John and the consensus seemed to be that his poise on the field is staggering. On offense, he just seems so comfortable to the point where he appears NOT be trying when he cuts. I wish GOAT had a bit more of that confidence top to bottom however, because like I said before, if they want to win, they have to know they can first. They had a line in the tournament pamphlet that said “They win Canadian Nationals when Furious doesn’t show up” and that kind of thinking is exactly what will keep them second to Furious.

SubZero had moments of brilliance however and they kept the game interesting. I was amazed to see Muffin playing because I figured he’d be out for the season, but there he was launching his famous “Sonic Boom”. It was just unfortunate that it wasn’t caught more often. Another player I couldn’t help but feel bad for was Grant Lindsley. This kid, like Stubbs, has had a hell of a summer with appearances at College Nationals, Worlds and Club Nationals. However because he has the Paidea and Chain background, not to mention the talent to compete with anyone, there is a lot of expectation on him and I don’t think he handles the pressure well yet. I’ve seen him go deep many times for SubZero and many times he just couldn’t make the catch. I’m not sure I see him as a great deep threat because he is so small, but if he wants to succeed he is going to have to exhibit a lot more composure down field. I think putting him center stage on Sub’s O-line was a mistake, especially when you have an experienced cutter like Jim Foster who does have the composure to get it done in that sort of situation. In my opinion it comes down to experience and from watching guys like Heijmen snatch goals with such authority, it looks like Grant still has a ways to go.

Another thing that I couldn’t help notice about Wisconsin is how they organize their Carleton/Wisconsin talent. I think I remember it as Shane, Muffin, and Lokke on the D line and Kanner and Lindsley for O, which makes sense. The intensity of Wisconsin’s defense is quite the asset and the poise and commitment to fundamentals that Carleton seems to emulate is valuable on offense. Jack Marsh, Foster and Heijmen play on Sub’s O-line, but I get the feeling they are a bit different from the testosterone heavy Hodag norm. In addition to being really nice guys, Heijmen, Foster, and Jack seem a bit more even keel and that is valuable. I think if SubZero wants to succeed in the future, they are going to have to work on harnessing their intensity because the brute force that gets them championships in College will not work in Club. Teams are not going to be intimidated by raw intensity and unless you can match their level of execution, they’ll cut you to ribbons.

Quarters was pretty awesome and the Bravo vs Sockeye game was every bit as exciting as one would hope. Bravo came to Nationals to play this game, it was just too bad it wasn’t a day later. The game started off on serve and despite Skip Sewell’s dominate defense on Will Deaver, Sockeye could not get the breaks they needed in the first half. At one point Skip’s intensity got the better of him and Sockeye got slapped with a 3rd TMF and had to start in their own endzone. This was weird to see. I mean come on, Will Deaver vs Skip Sewell, the UPA vs Cultimate and you get a TMF in the game you play against one another?! A better set of circumstances doesn’t exist for a writer like myself.

In the end I think the key to Bravo’s success was a lack of focus on Sockeye’s part. I think Seattle was really frustrated that they had to play Bravo this early in the tournament and I don’t think they were prepared. They made poor mistakes on offense and couldn’t score on D. I will say that Nate Castine is a straight up baller though. He seems to have the confidence on D that a guy like Grant Lindsley needs to develop and he played great. It looks like Sockeye always puts Nate on the other team’s best player and he does a great job. He took out Mike Grant for a little while in the gold medal game and he was on Forch and Beau this weekend.

Unfortunately for Sockeye, Beau is Beau. He took over in the Sockeye game and without Chase or Seth, Sockeye really didn’t have an answer. Despite trying to match his speed with a fast guy like Nate or his height with a tall guy like Thomas Sebby, they just couldn’t take him out of the game. The fact that this game was at 9am also helped Bravo because there was little or no wind that early in the day and Bravo got to use the weapons they are so comfortable with. This was easily may favorite game of the weekend and it was really nice to see Beau run up and down the field the way he did back in ’04. As an aside, I think Nord broke his wrist making a layout grab so he was unavailable to cover Beau.

However, despite Bravo finally getting past Sockeye, they really did not get up for semis. I think Bravo knew they were good enough to beat anyone, but having their focus change to a team like Jam or Ironside once they got past Sockeye was a challenge. They usually do very well against Jam and I think that hurt them in semis. They got what they wanted in quarters but Jam was dying to make it out of semis and Bravo phoned it in. San Francisco took an early 6-2 lead and Bravo just couldn’t make up the difference. Despite looking 50, Just Safdie played a great tournament and all of Jam’s talent played to their abilities. Watson, Damien, Gabe, Husak, Cascino, Steets, etc.. were all superb and they were not going to lose. I was talking with Alex Hughes from Furious and he was telling me that when you have all start talent like that, the game all depends on your best players to be one and for everyone else to stay out of the way. He was telling me that if Mike Grant, Lugsdin, Oscar, Kirk and Mauro have a good game, Furious will win, if not, they lose and the same was true for Jam. I was a bit skeptical that they would handle the wind well because I’ve always thought Bart pulls out the flick blade a bit too much but he played very conservatively both in this game and the finals and his ability to navigate through the elements was awesome to watch.

I wanted to watch more of the other semis but I had to go commentate the Masters Final. From what I saw early, it looked like this game was going to come down to the wire with Boston and Atlanta tied at 7s and 8s but after I left, Ironside pulled away. I really like hyping up the Forch/Zip matchup and at one point they argued over a foul call and I thought it was cute. Anyway, Boston seemed to have the composure in the wind to get past Chain and they advanced to the finals for the first time in a decade.

The big surprise in the Masters division was the fact that DoG had been knocked out pretty handily in semis and now the two teams facing off were relatively unknown, at least to myself. Rob asked me to do the commentary with Alex and while I think I can make just about anything entertaining, I really did not know enough about these teams. This would prove to be an additional issue in the Mixed final. For what it’s worth, people really underestimate the work load associated with putting stuff like this on and while it could easily be fixed by having more people involved, it is very hard to get people to come all the way to Florida to work on something that hasn’t been done before. To complicate matters, volunteer turnover is very high and just like anything, it gets really hard to find good help. In the end, the fact that the stream made it on the web without any glitches and there were commentators at all was a big victory. Maybe things will change in a few years, and it was nice that most of the criticisms on RSD were relatively understandable and fixable in the near future.

As for the actual Masters game, it was ok. Surly really worked the whole field well and Mileage had a tough time with the wind. In watching the game, I really noticed that having a good pivot is so important in getting through difficult wind. If you can go backhand/forehand/backhand/forehand quickly and effectively, getting a swing across the field is a lot easier. Surly managed to set up break side dumps with good pivot movement and got the disc off the downwind sideline. Mileage was not as effective with this and Surly’s zone ate them up and they cruised to victory.

By Saturday night, I was really exhausted and doing voice overs for the video highlights became increasingly difficult. I am really glad Rob gave me this opportunity and I really enjoyed the experience but when you have to watch highlight after highlight, write a script and then record it at all hours of the night, you tend to miss things. At one point I kept mixing up Jon Zalisk and Taylor Cascino for Jam and I ended up having to record a few segments 3 or 4 times which kept us up till about 1:30am for the third night in a row. Oh well, my bad. Rob didn’t seem to mind too much.

The final day of the tournament came at just the right moment. Dale, one of Rob’s editors and best friend, had worked his hands to the bone editing film footage and I was pretty beat from watching all of it day in and day out. However, Sunday was all live, no editing, just streaming and commentating. We all enjoyed the lighter work load.

As for the Finals commentary, things were a bit hectic at first. I really wanted to do the open final for obvious reasons but the UPA paid for the broadcast and they wanted Kyle Weisbrod. I was a bit put off at first but after watching he and Alex run things, I was very impressed. They worked well together and I think the sport was articulated beautifully in my opinion. I am not sure what kind of a job I would have done, but I think Kyle and Alex did the sport justice and it made me wonder if I am cut out for commentating. I am a very passionate person and I think my intensity can sometimes get the better of me. Commentating the Mixed finals was much easier because I didn’t really care who won or lost, but my knowledge of the teams was pathetic relative to what I know about teams like Ironside and Jam. But it is a double edged sword because knowing enough about the teams to do a decent job takes a ton of work and it is hard for me to research a team well when I have no interest in how they perform. Oh well, maybe I just need more practice.

As for the Mixed finals, I really wasn’t all that prepared. I didn’t know what game I was going to be doing going into Sunday and considering the fact that we don’t have the broadcasting power of FOX or ESPN, the garage-esk nature of things seemed understandable. To complicate matters, getting the information required to do a good job is really hard especially considering the fact that we don’t know who is going to be in the finals until the day before and finding said information is no easy task. I’ve spent the last 5 years researching open teams and I still struggle.

Something that really surprised me over the weekend was that one of our camera men had done work with broadcasting in the past for Ultimate and he was telling me that they had done the same sort of production for the ’92 UPA Club Ultimate Championships. I really wish things had continued to blossom. In any event, in order to really package the game well, given our infrastructure, doing things live is impossible. One of my frustrations with CSTV is despite the fact that it is put together well, it doesn’t find it’s way to viewers until weeks or even months after the event. Given the circumstances, we’re just going to have to take what we can get.

As for the Women’s final, yikes, this was a weird 2 hours. I spent the first half of the game talking with Will Deaver, which was really cool. I remember getting yelled at by Will in Columbus in 2006 for having Natty Light on the side line of a UCSD game but I’m glad that he has given me the chance to mature over the last few years. He is really a great guy and absolutely perfect for the position of Championship Director. It was really cool giving him my two cents on issues like the Ultimate Revolution and Conference 1 and I look forward to seeing what he does in the future.

As for the game, when I started paying attention, Riot was already up 5-0. At first I immediately started throwing out things like double peaking issues because up until this point every team that had competed at Worlds had struggled at some point during Nationals. However, in the second half Fury’s switch to zone really proved to be the determining factor. I have heard that Matt Tsang is a good coach but I never really understood it until this game.

He really kept Fury’s spirits up and allowed them to focus on getting the job done despite being in a monstrous hole. At 11-2 or so I was really looking forward to congratulating Miranda because I like her a lot and know how much she wanted this game but as Fury kept getting closer and closer, I could feel my heart sink in my chest. I am guessing Riot had similar feelings and when I was taking down the scaffolding, I could see folks like Val Dion in tears and it really broke my heart.

In any event, one thing that struck me during all of the Finals was just how difficult it is to play in Sarasota. A lot of people want the opportunity to just make Nationals but not only is it incredibly hard to make the tournament, it is incredibly hard to compete in it. The wind is really astronomical and in watching games being played I was glad I didn’t have to suit up. I understand now how much veteran experience helps you in a tournament like this because only after years of work can one have the patience to execute in conditions that are so frustrating.

After all of the games we packed things up and headed back to the hotel for some celebratory activities. I wanted to give up alcohol for 6 months but I decided to give myself a break for the last night of competition. All of us on the UV crew as well as the employees and volunteers for the UPA worked our butts off and sitting down with a few brews was pretty understandable.

At this point we all got the chance to loosen up and the spittle really showed up. Two of the guys filming for Rob were from Savannah, GA and they were two of the more interesting characters I have come across at ultimate tournaments. One of them, William, was a player from Savannah who had played the game at a decent level for a number of years. One of his claims to fame was that Sterling and Shannon Sharpe had graced their pickup scene with a cameo and he had played ultimate with two hall of fame athletes. He also made sure to mention that each Sharpe thought Ultimate was the hardest sport they had ever played.

William’s other stand out attribute was that he had broken his finger in competition a while back and rather than leave the game, he cracked it back into place, taped it up and continued to compete. Now however, he has about a ¾ inch bulge perpendicular to his left middle finger and I was doing double and triple takes at dinner when he was showing it to me.

The other Savannah gentleman was a good ol boy in ultimate from years past. His name was JR and he had played/covered the sport back in the days of Kenny Dobyns and he was also a character. His most standout attribute was that he walked around with an eye patch and only after a few brews did I have the courage to ask him about it. Apparently he has a brain tumor of sorts in his head and he had lost most of the use of his left ear and eye. It didn’t seem to stop him however because he was as lively as any of us and I enjoyed his company.

To make matters even more hilarious, he also had participated in a play in Savannah as a pirate, big surprise, for a number of years and he decided to sport a cane for the evening’s festivities. Not only was he fully prepared to act out his lines on cue, but he also managed to manifest a blade out of his cane, a prop he had borrowed, and by this time nothing was surprising me. I loved it.

So we headed out to the infamous Siesta Key and we managed to find the bulk of the ultimate partiers at the Daiquiri Deck. I grew up in Southern California so these beach settings aren’t all that exciting for me, but it was cool to see a bunch of elite players getting blitzed. I managed to come across Damien Scott in the bathroom and I congratulated him on a much deserved National title as we both were relieving ourselves.

I also caught Gwen Ambler and despite the fact that I was pulling for Miranda I gave Gwen my congratulations. She is such a baller both on and off the field and if anyone could get away with a come from behind like that against an underdog, she can.

After many rounds of daiquiris and whiskey shots with the Barrio/Arizona guys (great to see them by the way), I wandered around the party scene to see who I could bump into. I caught up with Dan Heijmen and after I commented on his lack of bushy facial hair (he had shaved his monstrous beard after SubZero was eliminated) we ended up talking about something, not sure what it was now.

I caught Idris Nolan's attention for the briefest of moments and all I had to say was "Thanks for jump starting my blogging career and congratulations" to which he sort of chuckled and tipped his glass.

I also had a few Sockeye players introduced to me, Blaine Robbins in particular. Cyle Van Auken is well aware of my WA/BC section loyalties and I think he was curious to know what would happen if I came face to face with the enemy after a few drinks. To be completely honest, I have no animosity towards individual Sockeye players what so ever. I actually have the utmost respect for them and would welcome any to go play for the Monkey. One thing I remembered from the interaction was that my first comment to Blaine was to ask what name he had on the back of his Sockeye jersey because it was not Robbins and in his sprinting up and down the field I really could not make out what the name was. He told me that it was his wife’s last name and I thought that was a truly amazing gesture. She is a lucky woman.

So after a few hours of partying, things really started to get blurry. I left the main bar briefly with the Barrio guys but my first thought was that I did not want to get left 45 minutes from my bed so I returned quickly to my UV compatriots. It was really cool to party with Shep again though, that guy is just money and David Husid is also a fun little pit bull. Brandon Palmer also asked me for some advice now that he is Arizona’s captain and I tried to muster up some words of wisdom and I think I heard something to the tune of, “I’ve haven’t heard that before, thanks” so I may or may not have done my part to help Sunburn out.

So I awoke Monday morning early with this horrible hangover, something I do not miss. I managed to get my stuff together and get on the road but getting all the way up to Tampa for my noon flight proved to be quite the challenge. I didn’t want to put gas in the rent-a-car until I was close to the airport but for anyone that has been to that part of the country will tell you, there just isn’t anywhere to stop for miles and miles. After going about 20 miles or so with the gas light on I was really afraid I was going to run out of gas in the Florida outskirts, but I managed to luck out in St Petersburg, phew.

Anyway, I caught my flight and I got home despite a few more hiccups, which included me pulling the trigger in flight. But I finally managed to embrace my girl friend, who I had missed ever so much, and we watched this show about ghost hunters with my roommate until about 11pm before we both passed out.

Closing Thoughts
Wow what a year. I don’t want to go into too much detail because this thing is already too long but I had a few things I wanted to say.

First, for anyone that has a serious interest in ultimate, please attend some of the tournaments that you follow on the score reporter. Even if you cannot compete at Nationals or Centex or whatever, witnessing some of these events in real life will have a profound impact on you and increasing one’s level of understanding is really enhanced by just being there. I know my first trip to Nationals in Corvalis changed me and I’m still picking things up 4 years later.

Secondly, I want to toss out some thanks. First to Rob and Dale. They were so much fun to work with and I am so glad that I have been able to get close to a set of professionals that have allowed me to understand and appreciate my sport. In addition, Skip Hobbie. Skip is one of my favorite people and the fact that he is buddy buddy with my little brother makes me like him even more. His career as a wild life videographer is so incredibly exciting to hear about and considering the fact that we both like to get into the same sorts of trouble, he is always fun to be around. Neva was also a cool chick to hang out with. I tend to be a bit blunt, which doesn’t score me points with most women, but she seemed to loosen up relatively quickly and we had a good time. She was also very helpful during the Mixed finals because she knew the names and pronunciations that Alex and I struggled with.

It was also really awesome to hang out with Alex Hughes from Furious all weekend. I don’t need to highlight what it meant to me to hang out with a player on my favorite team, but I’ll just say that this interaction alone made the long trip to Sarasota worth it. The best thing about it was that after the 10-15 min awkward phase where he realized just how big a Furious fan I am, we ended up tossing spittle back and forth like any other set of friends would. At one point I realized that he resembles Daniel Day Lewis a lot from “There will be Blood” so for Sunday night we kept tossing lines back and forth like “If I have a milk shake” and “I’ve abandoned my child” in as good an Oscar winner impersonation as we could muster. It was pretty cool to have this kind of interaction and considering the fact that he enjoyed my stories and I his, I look forward to more spittle sessions in the future.

So I’ve wasted enough of your time already so I will end things here. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the show. I look forward to more in the future. 

just my thoughts

match diesel

Monday, October 27, 2008

My UPA Bracket

So after 6 years in the sport and 18 months writing about it, I'm finally headed to Sarasota. I got my plane tickets the other day, I'm set to stay with the UV guys. Rob's got some ideas, not sure what they are yet, but if things go at all like Vancouver, I should be on Cloud 9 by the end of Round 1. Here are my predictions for the tournament.

Pool A - 1) Sockeye 3-0, 2) GOAT 2-1 3) Doublewide 1-2, 4) El Diablo 0-3
Round 1: Sockeye should take care of DW pretty easily on Thursday. I know they went to Universe at Labor Day but Sockeye is the new Furious and a 3-0 pool play showing is more or less expected. I think Doublewide should use this game as an opportunity to give their less experienced players a look at the best there is and save up for the GOAT and El Diablo games.

As for GOAT vs El Diablo, I can't imagine GOAT slipping but I don't know anything about El Diablo. If I were playing for DW, I would be very curious to see how El Diablo fares in the first two games of the day because Doublewide has yet to play them this year and they need a win if they want to make bracket play. Anyway, I see GOAT's internal chemistry and history giving them a major advantage.

Round 2: Sockeye over El Diablo, call me crazy. The GOAT/DW game will be a good one though. The score reporter has their predicted score 15-14 but I think a lot of DW's clout goes back to their win over Chain. If they really are that good, who knows but I get the feeling DW's victory over Chain had a lot more to do with the fact that they are Regional Rivals and know each other well. GOAT will bring a ton of quiet but violent cutters and push DW to their limits. This game is dicey because I can see DW making it a close one, come on they have Universe games against almost everybody (Revolver, Bravo, Truck Stop, Sockeye, PoNY, and Chain). However, if they get close and slip, they will have to play a fresh El Diablo team that is probably going to be coming off a 15-4 romping by Team USA. Considering they haven't seen these guys all year I really hope DW has the depth to just play their game and get a crucial W. They went 0-3 last year in pool play and I really don't want to see that happen again.

Round 3: I don't know why but I have this opinion of GOAT that they're passive. Maybe it's because John Hassell is just a big kid. The guy always has this "9 year old boy with a fire truck" grin and he just doesn't scare me the way someone like Ted Tripoli would. Anyway, Fish take out GOAT 15-11ish. I think Sockeye's depth at the 3rd/4th cutter defender will be really hard on GOAT. I don't know if Ouchterlony, Hassell and Link can get it done down field. Sockeye's defenders like Ryan Winkleman and Mike Jaeger are just relentless and I see them getting their team fired up. Hell maybe Skip will sneak away from the summit and get a D. I also think Eric St Amant is hurt and he will be missed for GOAT.

As for the 3/4 game, I want it to be boring and predictable. I want to see DW in the 1/4s play in game at the very least and while I think they'll have trouble with GOAT, I hope they cruise (sorry El Diablo). Hopefully they don't try too hard and only use their deep shots when they look good. God look at me, I've become the conservative Northeasterner I've mocked for so long.

Pool B: 1) Bravo 3-0, 2) SubZero 1-2, 3) Chain 2-1, 4) PoNY 0-3
This is easily the pool of death. Only pool where all 4 teams were at Labor Day. A finalist, a quarterfinalists, a semifinalist and one of only 3 teams to beat Ironside.

Round 1: The Bravo/Chain game should be really good. This would have been semis last year had GOAT not beaten out the Hot-lanta crowd on DGP. I think despite Chain's 3 seed status, they are in a good position to do well again. They seem to always climb out of the gutter in these situations. They took their pool despite being the 4th seed last year and made semis despite being a 10th seed 2 years ago. However, Bravo will want to set the tone early and they are really good at peaking at Nationals. Their new recruits have got to be integrated by now and the Popes/Parker show should be awesome for their O-line.

Sub and PoNY met at Chesapeake and despite a close 14-12 game, I think SZ has the advantage. They are a quarters team and PoNY is a Sarasota virgin. Maybe they trade points early but I think SZ will be as fired up as it gets to extend their winning streak to 20.

Round 2:
The Bravo/PoNY game could be boring but it could also be really exciting. It is games like these that PoNY has done so well in. Because they are still inexperienced at this level, it seems like they tend to play to their opponents and when they are faced against the odds, they pull off crazy DGP finishes like against Ironside and Sockeye. But like I said before, Bravo is great at peaking and PoNY will be just another step towards playing on Sunday.

The Sub/Chain game will be one of the better of the day. Chain is a 2 seed quality team, as is SubZero, and this rematch from last year will be awesome. The winner will probably be looking at a relatively easy path to quarters while the other will have to crawl up through the quarters play in. I personally like Chain in this game. Early in the year I had SubZero in semis but now that I think about it, they need a few quarters exits under their belt. If you take a look at the Bravo example, they made quarters many times before semis and while SZ was there last year, they didn't even make a play in game the year before. I think SZ is on the verge of becoming elite, but like everybody else in that category, they are going to have to eek it out. Their pool, like Labor Day, is really tough and when/if they take that next step forward, they will have a trail of major accomplishments behind them.

As for Chain, their only real blemish is a loss to Doublewide at Regionals and I'm sure we can all think of crazy regional games that didn't add up to much at Nationals. Wisconsin/Iowa, GOAT/Boston, Bravo/Condors, etc... I think Chain is the best they have ever been and unlike SubZero, they have a few bracket play births in a row.

Round 3: If my predictions are right, a Bravo/SZ game after a great Chain/SZ game will favor Bravo immensely. Despite Hector's scouting report of his former team, I think SubZero will struggle. They'll probably do better than 15-5 at Labor Day but I've heard such great things about Bravo's D-line. When I saw Sub's O-line at Chesapeake it looked like it could be better. Hector has gone back and forth this year and hopefully SZ has their game plan ironed out. I know guys like Lindsley are awesome but at the Club level you really need your vets to get it done on the O-line and I think that is why Heijmen and Foster will be so important at this level. In a few years they could be the Mike Caldwell and Sammy CK's of SZ. I also wish Muffin could play. His will to win is insane and I would have liked to see him against a bunch of Mamabird alums.

Chain/PoNY shouldn't be much of a game. Chain is a great pool play veteran and PoNY is in a tank of sharks. I think PoNY will get up for Bravo and give them a game, but Chain should be ready to knock them down an additional peg after a tough loss. In addition, Chain's 3 seed status is a lot like USC playing in the Rose Bowl last year. They have a blemish on paper that relegates them, but they are so much better than their seed.

Pool C: 1) Ironside 3-0, 2) Jam 2-1, 3) Condors 0-3, 4) Bodhi 1-2
Round 1: It's been a few years since Boston was a 1 seed and I'm sure Forch, McCarthy, Seigs, Doug Moore and the rest of the DoG relics are glad to be back on top of their pool. First game against the Condors will be an old school Above and Beyond rematch but I think Forch and Doug Moore's supporting cast is a bit better than Dugan's. Goleta hasn't played Boston this year but I think their first matchup will go unfavorably.

Jam vs Bodhi will be an awesome game and I might find myself on this sideline. I have already said that Bodhi reminds me a lot of Revolver and I wonder how Jam will handle them. I think the Boston youngsters will have the depth to stay competitive all day, I just think their lack of experience will present a problem. Gabe, Bart, Damien, Steets, Idris, Cissna and the rest of Jam should have the composure that these kids haven't earned yet, but I think Bodhi has a lot of success ahead of them while Jam is clinging to their history.

Round 2: The 2/3 game in this pool might be the best of the day, next to Chain/SZ. Jam/Condors is always a good game and I think this could be a problem for the Condors. Last year Santa Barbara took Frisco to 14-16 in power pools which set up each team to get lit up by Bravo and GOAT. If this happens again, Bodhi will be in a good position to steal a win and head into Power Pools 1-0. Likewise, Jam will be in a rough spot having to play Ironside after a long one. Bottom line I think each team is going to lose after this game.

Ironside vs Bodhi is almost too sappy to be a watch able game. Forseter and Zalisk coach A-Hole at Tufts, so Disney, get your Gordon Bombay camera ready. I see Ironside coming out way hot and taking this game big time. The last time these teams played, Ironside won 15-2 and while I think Bodhi will score a few more, this game should be a cake walk for Ironside.

Round 3: Ironside vs Jam will be an eh game. Both teams are veteran but Ironside should cruise. They have the youth that Jam has not worked hard enough to invest in and I think guys like Stubbs, Neff, and C-Mo will bring a defensive pressure that will force Jam to go to 3rd and 4th options consistently. While Jam's roster is unreal, I think two of Boston's main defensive strengths are youth and depth and I can't see Jam handling it well.

Bodhi over Condors is one of my upsets for Thursday and I really like the young guns in this game. Even if the Jam/Condor game does not factor into the equation, Bodhi has played well at every tournament this year and I can't imagine them going 0-3. The Condors have the ability to rely on their veteran presence to get W's over less experienced teams like GOAT, but I like Bodhi's intensity. They qualified out of the most competitive region in the country and will be ready to stick it to the 3 seed.

Pool D: 1) Ring of Fire 2-1, 2) Revolver 3-0, 3) Truck Stop 1-2, 4) Machine 0-3
Round 1: Its too bad Truck Stop and Ring are in the same pool. Had TS played half as well at Labor Day as Colorado Cup they may have gotten a better 3 seed. Ring seemed to come out strong at Regionals and I see more of that here.

I think Revolver should do fine against Machine. I know the Chicago guys have a decent squad with guys like Joel Koehneman and Kevin Cho but their loss to Madison at Regionals is not a good sign. Losing at Regionals but still qualifying is cool but when you're looking up at Revolver and Ring, not to mention a good Truck Stop team, there really isn't much of a margin for error. They got a win in pool play last year after Doublewide went 0-fer but each team ahead of them should play well. In addition, this is Revolver's first game at Nationals since beating Rhino 15-11 back in 2006, a game they had to play after losing 16-14 in quarters to Chain. They finished 5th that year and since then they have picked up Tyler Grant, Josh Greenough, Seth Wiggins and Martin Cochran. Yeah and is it hilarious to anyone else that Greenough got cut from Jam back in '06 only to pickup with Revolver a few years later and now he is on the better team? Mike Payne, you're a crafty one, you are.

Round 2: Ring over Machine seems like a fair assessment, but who knows, maybe Ring pulls a move like Furious did last year and goes 0-3. As for Revolver/Truck Stop, I think it is interesting that despite losing 13-6 to TS, Revolver is 7 places higher on the totem pole. Just shows you how volatile the Club season is. I think Revolver is considerably better now however, and Truck Stop didn't seem to make good on the momentum they picked up at Colorado Cup.

Round 3: Ring vs Revolver reminds me a lot of the Ring/Bravo game back in 2006. Bravo was ready to make a semis charge and Ring was battling with their own demons and Bravo (5th seed) took out Ring (4th) in a storming 15-9 fashion. I'm not saying I think Ring is going to go down that easily but the parallels are somewhat similar and I think Revolver will come out of pool play 3-0.

As for Machine and Truck Stop, I really don't know. I want to give Machine the benefit of the doubt because a year ago no one had Truck Stop pegged to take out Furious and look what happened there. These two teams are one of the closest on the score reporter with RRI's of 2628 (TS) and 2621 (Machine). Plus their only game head to head was a 14-13 barn burner at Boston Invite, a tournament where Machine played terrible. If Chicago can bring the team that did so well at Chesapeake and Heavyweights, we may see a nice little upset. But if Truck Stop gets their focus back and plays to their abilities, they should make it out of pool play with a victory. I've heard good things about Ryan Morgan and Gorgeous George Strange for Truck Stop and I look forward to seeing them in person.

So with these predictions, I have the four power pools as follows:

E: Sockeye (1-0), Ironside (1-0), Jam (0-1), GOAT (0-1)

F: Bravo (1-0), Revolver (1-0), Ring (0-1), Chain (0-1)

G: DW (1-0), Bodhi (1-0), Condors (0-1), El Diablo (0-1)

H: SZ (1-0), TS (1-0), PoNY (0-1), Machine (0-1)

I usually don't do full previews, but what the hell.

Pool E: Sockeye (3-0), Ironside (2-1), GOAT (1-2), Jam (0-3)
I think the regional rematches in Round 1 will favor Sockeye and Ironside nicely. I think Sockeye takes out Ironside in the E1/E2 game mainly because Sockeye will be ready for Boston this time and I think their offensive velocity will be too much for Ironside.

As for GOAT and Jam, I like GOAT. They have youth and energy and Jam is in a position they haven't been in for as long as I've been watching the game. They have made semis every time they have made Nationals in the last 6-8 years but I don't see it happening in '08. With that being said, I think this game will be one of two that pushes Jam out of bracket play for the first time like ever.

Pool F: Bravo (3-0), Revolver (2-1), Chain (1-2), Ring (0-3)
Bravo vs Ring will be a Chesapeake rematch that Bravo will be ready for. Bravo has taken care of Ring well the last few years in Florida and I see more of that here. As for Revolver vs Chain, this game will be bad ass. Quarters two years, Revolver is better, Chain is better, should be a great contest. I want to take Chain but I wonder if they peaked early. I think Revolver will be poised to play their best at Nationals and they should be a pitt bull no one wants to face next weekend.

The second round of games will be less exciting. I think Bravo should take care of Revolver simply because their Mamabird heavy roster is more experienced at the club level than Revolver's Stanford heavy roster. Like I said, Revolver should play their best next week, but Bravo will as well and JB is already 2-0 against Revolver this year.

The Chain/Ring game will also be predictable. I definitely think Ring earned their one seed status but Chain is good at crawling out of the cellar at natties and I see them taking out North Carolina.

Pool G: Doublewide (3-0), Bodhi (2-1), Condors (1-2), El Diablo (0-3)
Doublewide's experience at this level should really help them in power pools. In my world they would face off against two very different and difficult challenges in the Condors and Bodhi. They took out the Condors 13-5 in Colorado and I think their veteran roster and chemistry will work effectively against the Condors inexperience. As for Bodhi, I don't even know. They should be able to take out the kids, but I get the feeling that anyone that underestimates Bodhi is gonna find themselves in a world of hurt. I think Texas' size will be an advantage and I think Bodhi will struggle as they did against GOAT.

As for El Diablo, my apologies but I don't think they are going to get a win until really late in the tournament. 4th seed Sarasota virgins usually have trouble for a while and I don't know what separates a team like El Diablo from the Van Buren Boys, Monster or PBR. Maybe you get a win over a team like Machine or PoNY late in the tournament, but I don't see it happening against anyone in this pool.

Pool H: SubZero (3-0), Truck Stop (2-1), Machine (1-2), PoNY (0-3)
SubZero should be really pissed to have to stick out in lower pools but that hunger will be a great weapon. I think Doublewide's victory over Chain has hurt SZ the most because they once again are strapped with a really rough road. They should do fine against Truck Stop and Machine and make the quarters play in.

As for Truck Stop, I think they have what it takes to get past PoNY. A 15-6 win over them at Chesapeake is a nice follow up to their 13-10 loss at BI. PoNY will be a in rough spot because Truck Stop will have the confidence New York still needs to earn, and I think this will really help DC. Both teams have similar tournament attendance records but Truck Stop should get the win.

The H3/H4 game should actually be pretty good. I think PoNY will have the talent to get a win in this game but Machine has experience. In their only contest of the year Machine took out PoNY 15-7 (Chesapeake) but I think PoNY is better than that. However, I think Machine will be itching to get a win on Friday and they should be able to get out of power pools with at least 1 victory.

Unless I have screwed something up here, the quarters play in should be Jam vs SZ and Ring vs DW. I think SZ/Jam will be an awesome game. I think Jam will have issues playing a game they've never had to and SubZero will really want to make it back to bracket play. If SZ wants to be elite, this is a game they need to be able to win and it will be a nice confidence boost for them to have to earn this quarters birth after a rough road through power/pool play.

As for Ring and DW, I like Ring. North Carolina was in this same slot two years ago and I think they have the experience to get past Doublewide. These two teams haven't played this year and I think this will be a game that DW earned because of their Chain upset but I think they will be in a bit over their heads.

Sockeye vs Ring: Yeah, the Fish should do fine here. I wonder if Sockeye is in the position Furious was in back in 2006, not having to be really challenged until very late in the tournament. Ring will be a nice opportunity for Sockeye to integrate most of their roster because keeping the starters on for a 15-7 routing isn't very productive.

GOAT vs Revolver: I filled out this whole bracket thing just to get to this game. Last year, this game was Chain vs GOAT and once again, GOAT lucked out with the 8 seed. This seed is money because you draw the weakest 1 seed, which matters when/if the pool D 1 seed isn't stellar. In '07 Furious sucked and two years ago Bravo leaped frogged Ring. If Revolver can assert their dominance over Ring, this should be the best quarters game. In years past it was GOAT over Chain 15-14 ('07) and Chain over Revolver 16-14 ('06). If it goes down this way, I like Revolver. I think like GOAT last year and Chain the year before, they are the team that will crack into semis that is not a 1 seed.

Bravo vs SubZero: School is in session and Bravo is ready to play teacher. This SubZero team is so close to what Bravo was 3-4 years ago and I think that experience will allow Bravo to be successful. I think SubZero making it this far is a great indication of their potential and I like them to fight tooth and nail in consolation games to finish 5th.

Ironside vs Chain: I like the Chesapeake Finals rematch only this time Ironside should be ready to role. I think Boston's weakness in Maryland was their O-line efficiency and from what I could gather at Regionals it looks like their O-line will be DoG-esk in the sense that it will rely mostly on veterans while their D-line has their athletic studs like Neff, Stubbs, C-Mo, and Teddy. Chain's depth on defense might pose a problem, but I think Ironside's patience will be lethal in that they just won't give Chain a chance to make big plays on D. Plus Forch will want to remind Zip who is top DoG.

Sockeye vs Revolver: For the last few years it seems like Revolver's main challenge has been Jam because they are so closely coupled, but now they should be eyeing Sockeye. However, unlike Jam, they don't have a lot of success against Sockeye yet and despite two close games this year, I like Sockeye. I hope for Sockeye's sake that Revolver gives the Fish a game because if history tells us anything, the team with the closer semis game usually performs better in the Finals. In 2007 Sockeye and Jam went to 17-15 while Bravo owned GOAT 15-11 and in 2006 Sockeye duked it out with Bravo 15-13 while Furious rolled Chain 15-7.

Bravo vs Ironside: This game is like Sockeye vs Bravo two years ago and Sockeye vs Jam last year. It will be the clash of the 1 seeds with no clear front runner. I think Bravo has a slight advantage just because they have been there more recently, but this could easily be the game where Ironside shows just how good they are. I like this to be a 15-13 barn burner with Bravo coming out on top. Bravo knows how close they are to a National title and I think this is their year and despite Ironside's talent, I think their Finals charge is still 1 year away. Plus Bravo has met their end to Boston a few times in bracket play and I'm sure they like the reverse relationship.

Sockeye vs Bravo: It's funny, if you pay enough attention for long enough, you really tend to pick up trends in this sport and if things turn out to be as predictable as they are in my head, this game should favor Bravo. I think back to 2006 when Sockeye first beat out Furious and 2008 draws similar parallels. Only this year Sockeye is the team everyone expects to win and Bravo are the young brawlers that everyone knows could win. In '06 Furious was the 1 seed and Sockeye was 2. Furious had an easy road to the Finals and I see Sockeye getting that advantage this year. Bravo on the other hand will have to face off against a good SZ team and a great Boston team before they can even think about the champs.

While I think Sockeye has all the pieces to earn a 3rd consecutive National title, I like Bravo. They are so ready and this is easily the best they've ever been. Sockeye is amazing but they aren't as good as last year with their roster departures. Bravo on the other hand is absolutely ready to win it all and I don't see anything stopping them. I really think their quarters and semis challenges will help them prepare for the finals and considering the fact that Sockeye has ended their last two seasons 15-13, I think 3rd times a charm.

Closing Thoughts
It's been a crazy ride this summer/fall. College was a ton of fun to follow earlier this year and while Club was much more difficult and challenging, I like where things ended up. Much like college, I feel like each team in Sarasota will have some sort of story behind them and I think that is important. In reality, no game is inconsequential and for me it is really important that everyone has some dialog associated with their team. For all intents and purposes what I write should NOT be read by the competitors because they have other things to focus on, but for you at home, hopefully reading stuff like this will make your UVTV subscription worth something to you.

As for my own reflections on the year, I think 2008 was pretty sweet. Ironside's resurgence, Hector's free agency, Chain's consistency, Worlds, Bodhi/PoNY, DW over Chain, Furious missing out on Nationals, Truck Stop at Colorado Cup, Bravo's charge for Gold, these have all been great stories over the last 6 months and now we all get to witness the circus that Sarasota will be. I think Chain's loss to DW is the biggest curveball so far and with Ring potentially being in a similar position as Furious last year, who knows what could happen. Likewise, Jam is looking down the barrel of a gun they've never seen before and I think the Bodhi/Condor game is very interesting because it pits a veteran team with no Nationals experience against an experienced Nationals team with fewer veterans. I can't wait for next week and I hope you all are as excited as I am. Stay tuned.

just my thoughts

match diesel