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

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