Monday, November 28, 2011

Different Place, Different Platform

Same Diesel

Monday, October 3, 2011

Out with a Bang

If the Canadians are out next year, Furious definitely leaves on top. No they didn't win the region, but they bested their bitter rival in dramatic fashion and what better way to piece out?

For the first half of last decade, Furious was the class of the NW. Grant, Lugsdin, Shank, Nichols, Savage, Seraglia, Maley, and more comprised a team that seemed all but invincible. Three UPA titles, a world title, and any Canadian championship they wanted.

However, over the next 5 years father time hovered over Furious like an opportunistic vulture. First Shank and Nichols, then MG, Mauro, and Lugsdin. Fast forward to 2011 and the Monkey is a different beast altogether.

They weren't the only ones though. Their foes across the border went through a similar transition and what once seemed like an endless line of 6' CUTers and Callahan winners, was now a collection of youngsters and a blue eyed Great Laker.

And it seemed as if this New Look Salmon squad was the aggressor. A pair of national titles, an impressive performance in Prague. While not being the penciled in champion of yesteryear, they still were a force to be reckoned with.

As for Furious, 2007 was just the beginning. Aside from a spectacular gold medal win at home, it seemed as if Furious was headed out to pasture to join the Condors. The new junta was basically the products of Vancouver's ultimate system and what they could achieve sans Disc 4 was yet to be determined. No natties in '08 or '09 and a forgettable performance in '10. Add that to the fact that GOAT was not going away (see Colorado Cup results) and it seemed as if Furious was on it's last leg.

Given all this, there was a fair amount of uncertainty regarding who would represent Canada once the dust settled. GOAT had been on the outside for so long and considering the fact that these two Maple Leaf programs rarely play one another in meaningful games, Toronto seemed determined to not repeat their 8-15 performance of 2007. Further, considering CUPA's policy on out of province players, it is likely the best 6-8 players on either team would be on Team Canada anyway. I remember asking Morgan about this and despite admitting that a few guys were headed to Japan either way, Furious came to win.

To be honest I thought GOAT had a shot to upset Furious. They seemed to have met each other in the performance spectrum with comparable talent and series success so I figured the hungrier squad would prevail. However, that is omitting the notorious Monkey Bear Trap.

Now I do not know how intentional this is, but it seems like Furious' best weapon is playing opossum. In 2005 Seattle saw themselves as the cream of the NW crop. They were younger, faster, and more confident than Furious and were riding high after a 2004 title and a 3-0 record against Furious. Even after a semifinal surprise at Regionals, the Fish were unafraid and took out Furious in power pools at Nationals. But in the Finals, the trap was sprung. Right when Seattle thought the championship was theirs, Furious came alive and snatched their 3rd title in 4 years.

The same thing more or less happened in 2008. Furious gets whooped at Nationals in 2007 and go 0-4 to Sockeye teams coming into Worlds (not to mention a 6-15 stomping in finals of Sockeye Invite). The Fish see Japan as their biggest foe and entering Worlds, Canada seemed weak and feeble. We all know how that ended.

Fast forward 3 years and Furious is more or less in the same position as the previous one. Sockeye is 2-0 against them after Solstice, they lose to GOAT in Boulder. Hell, outside a 15-13 win over NexGen, their wasn't a lot to be confident with. One would think Furious was in the worst possible situation.

And that is exactly what they wanted GOAT thinking. "We got these guys. They are past their prime. Sure they picked up Gabe, but he has been out of the game since Worlds in Taipei. This is our time." Trap sprung!! It may not have been 15-8 in pouring rain, but Furious still got the W and will represent Canada yet again.

But surely they couldn't carry that success over to the US, right? In 2007 they looked good following Canadian Nationals with a solid performance at ECC and even a win over Sockeye at Regionals, but they would eventually sputter out finishing light years behind their legacy in Sarasota.

2008 was more of the same, but worse. After Worlds they missed Nationals for the first time this millennium and 2009 was the same story different verse. Taken a step further, considering the fact that the free agent tides had shifted a few hundred miles south to SF with Revolver being the new stud on the block, it appeared as if Furious was not only on their last leg, but approaching irrelevance. In 2010 with no Prague data and a 12th place finish at Nationals (thank you Jam for vanishing), it seemed as if Furious was just drifting on an iceberg waiting to melt.

Entering the series this year, that iceberg was down to a cube waiting to fall beneath the surface. Sure the Monkey won CUPA's, but with only 2 bids out of the NW they were going to have to get past at least Sockeye, a team that had just stomped them 15-7 at Sectionals.

Even after a first round surprise, the Fish were still in good position. I'm sure TK, Skip, and MC shrugged it off with a "No biggy, its who wins on Sunday that matters." And who could fault them? Furious beat them 15-12 on Saturday in 2007 only to get crushed 15-6 on Sunday.

Nevertheless, much like Worlds in 2008, Seattle had their sights set on a different threat (Revolver) and went punch for punch only to lose in the front door semis. Fear not say the Fish, this is where we eviscerate the Monkey like we have a million times. But over on the other fields the opossum was as fresh as Sockeye was weary. Trap sprung!!

I don't know how they do it, but much like the Jets ('10) and Giants ('07) against the Patriots, the Monkey knows when it really matters. Such discipline, to take jab after jab waiting for your spot and then WHAM, a single pulverizing uppercut. When Furious finally edged out Sockeye yesterday I couldn't help but think of Rounders, "I flopped a nut straight."

The ride may be over for Vancouver, but who cares? You will leave the better man. You won as a favorite and you won as a challenger. Your legacy will be the sting in Sockeye's mouth, not once, not twice, but thrice!! Worry not little fishies, like Wisconsin in 2006, this feeling will be your motivation. Unfortunately, Furious may not be there to satisfy your hunger.

Just my thoughts

Match Diesel, PhD

PS Thank you for not losing to Rhino, that would have made this post more of a challenge.

Monday, July 11, 2011

NexGen Thoughts Part 2

After watching the Furious game and reading KW's thoughts on Sockeye, I have a few follow up thoughts on the NexGen tour.


It looks like club teams are not bringing it the way I thought they would. In watching the Furious game, there were some notable players missing including Oscar, Gabe, and Andrew Brown. I'm not certain where in the game they would have improved things, but each has valuable assets and I think a break here or there could have been reeled in with them on the field.

The argument is even stronger with Sockeye. Only 11 players? Wow. One of the things that struck me from the Furious game is how shallow the NexGen roster is. On the sidelines there was so much more red than black, and considering the gambit NexGen is signed up for, I hope everyone stays healthy. Nevertheless, 11 vs 13 is pretty comparable, making Sockeye's 15-11 win appear more favorable for NexGen than it could have been.


Regardless of how hard Furious or Sockeye fought against NexGen, I fully expect them to bring it to Rhino. The confidence and chemistry developed in these two games are significant not only becuase guys like Eric Johnson and Nick Lance have made huge plays, but they have come against what these kids believe are two of the best teams in the world. Egos were already huge on this roster and now they are only bigger.

Intangibles aside, I think NexGen's biggest weapon tonight will be their two Rhino members (Dylan Freechild and Cody Bjorklund). In addition to providing skill and scouting tips, their absence will be felt with Rhino. Portland had their heyday in '06-'07 but now that Seth is long gone and they haven't been to Nationals in a while, they really need all their standouts. Given the competition Rhino faces in the NW, a loss to NexGen won't be that big a deal. Portland has enough trouble and one more drop in the bucket shouldn't be that significant.


Given NexGen's success against Furious and Sockeye (ie not getting blown out), I think their remaining opponents will be incredibly focused. I fully expected Revolver to crush NexGen and I am even more certain of that now. Don't suck Chicken ;)

However, of the games left, I am the most interested in NexGen vs Bravo. JB has quietly added Austen Gregersen and Joe Kershner, two of my favorite ultimate people. Austen was a stud for Sunburn and Barrio and Kershner hasn't come up for air since winning the Callahan. Unless I am mistaken, this NexGen game will be our first look at these two players together since (cue misty eyed Match) they captured our hearts back in 2008. Hopefully both play.

Closing Thoughts

I think NexGen's first two games have gone as good as one could hope. They have been close, expectations have been met and momentum has been built. Given the fact that July is typically a down month for elite club teams, I suspect NexGen will get past a few slumbering squads. This should be good for NexGen becuase it will validate the entire tour and teams caught sleeping will have a wake up call before the series.

Keep up the good work.

Match Diesel, PhD

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

NexGen Tour Thoughts

It has been quite a while since I picked up the ultimate pen and while I still follow the game, real life has taken my focus. Since my last post I have finished my PhD, gotten engaged, and started my new career as a professional medical writer. However, of all the topics that have sparked even the slightest inspiration over the last 8 months or so, none has left the impact of NexGen.


Lets start with praise. Unlike many ultimate ventures out there, NexGen is a fantastic product from both a macro and a micro perspective. At the 'big picture' level you have a spectacular platform to showcase some of the best up and coming talent in the sport. I do not know how this is being funded, but it rivals Dartmouth's Big Green Bus of the mid 2000s as far as ideas go and blows it out of the water from a competitive standpoint. The scheduling alone is a modern miracle and I think it is fairly safe to say that aside from WUGC 2012 chatter, NexGen will gobble up considerable attention this summer.

From a mico scale perspective, the execution of NexGen is pretty solid. Their website is a bit junky with drop downs that are blocked becuase of clutter, but the sheer definition of their pictures and interviews is unlike anything we have seen before. Much like the ESPN feel of college nationals highlights this past May, the HD-esk appearance of NexGen is a major leap forward in the marketability of ultimate. Pending SNAFU's with their execution (and considering that this is ultimate, nothing is garunteed), I think this experiment will compete with MLU, C1, ECU, Ultimate Peace etc.. as far as hype is concerned and considering the fact that success is solely expected within 2011 (as opposed to indefinitely), it will leave an exceedingly postive impression for future players/ultimate enthusiasts to emulate.


I don't know who or how this schedule was crafted, but it is incredible. It is not the first time we have seen a team showcase itself against the best teams in North America (Team USA 2005 and 2009, Team Australia 2008, etc..), but it is certainly the best thus far. Taken at a cursory glance, NexGen is scheduled to play Furious, Sockeye, Rhino and Revolver, a very respectable lineup, but NW heavy. However, if you open their full schedule, you'll see that they are playing just about everyone. Bravo, Chain, Ironside, GOAT, Truck Stop, Ring, not bad. I wish Doublewide and PoNY were on this list ahead of Oakland and either Madison/SubZero, but that is being nit picky at best. I think I speak for the bulk of the ultimate community when I say that I would gladly buy tickets to see one of these games if any were near New Haven, CT.

Now the bad news. As excited as I am to see this product come to fruition, I think the youngsters are going to get smoked. Given their youth and lack of experience as a unit, I think elite club level talent will tear them apart. It also doesn't help that their first game is up against one of the most experienced teams in the world, Furious George. On Friday, these kids are going to roll into UBC and faceoff against players that were in their place 5-6 years ago. Oscar, Morgan, Alex, Menzies, Gabe...these were the college superstars making club noise when NexGen was in middle school and they've already got a few rings and medals on their shelves. You have solid experience in guys like Stubbs, Kapinos, Arenson, and Murray, but it is peanuts relative to their competition, which raises some concerns about the roster in general.

Given my experience in actually putting together an ultimate product, I am aware of how hard it is to get people to sign on the dotted line, but I have to draw some attention to those not on this roster. First and foremost, I think Grant Lindsley, Christian Foster, and Hylke Sneider should all be on this list. I have no idea if they were asked and/or turned it down, but I think all three bring useful elements to the roster and could be invaluable to NexGen success.

Further, I am surprised that there is no Florida representation. Colorado, CUT and Wisconsin all have included personel and even more could be put forth (see above). Neverthless, their is one missing competitive piece and it deserves to be included. Cole Sullivan is a stud and just as 'Next Generation' as any of these other players. I would even argue that Brodie Smith and/or Chris Gibson should be on the roster given their relative youth and play making ability. Perhaps all were asked and each one turned NexGen down, but regardless, a +6-foot cocky superstar will be necessary against the likes of Morgan, Nord, Beau, Mac, Dylan, Jolian, Hassell, etc.

Closing Thoughts

Most folks know that I am a Furious homer, so favoring them comes as no surprise. Considering that Furious is well on their way to Condor/Ring status, I would not be surprised if NexGen made it interesting. However, FG is just the tip of the iceberg. Sockeye is absolutely vicious and will eat these kids alive. Take a look at what they have done to the Buzz Bullets in big games and they are 10x more experienced.

And it only gets worse. Revolver could switch their O-/D-line sets and cruise. Bravo, Chain, and GOAT would love to show that they are still relevant. Maybe NexGen gets past a crumbling Ironside, but by that point most of their best games will be behind them. I want to see these kids shine on the big stage, but I fear their lack of chemistry will turn into break after break for these cold blooded veterans.

Long story short, I'm pumped to see how this tour goes down, but my money is on CurrentGen.

Just my thoughts.

Match Diesel, PhD