Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nationals Day 1

Well, there's a lot to say. It's also, unfortunately, very exhausting to play three games, write the recap for USA-U and then go bloggin' around so bear with me a bit if you're hankerin' for some intel.

Quickly the two most notable things at Nationals today.

1) the era of unabated partying, the clubby camaraderie of belonging to "Nationals" and slamming down unlimited beers from the beer tent in grand appreciation of friends, the wonderful Florida weather and sun, and a great many toasts to the intrinsic fun of playing ultimate -- is over. Many a beery evenings spent with many lower-seeded teams, volunteers, writers and just damn good partiers will likely never return. It was a simple thing, made sense, and was probably needed for insurance purposes (ahhh, that evil but necessary insurance thing) but the new USA Ultimate officially nixed free beer. Now, it's 2 bucks. Budweiser and Modelo Especial, in very small cups. In a specific area.

Basically it's over. It's ok, we've been going to this split for awhile: fun, party tournaments and competitive, non-partying tournaments. In my memory it first took root at Regionals in Devens, outside Boston. There's a clubhouse there and the parties were great. Abut 8-9 years ago, they stopped, and Regionals became the only tournament I knew that withheld the time-honored Saturday-night party.

Well, you can add the USA-U Club Championships to that list. It's been a gradual process and the writing was on the wall. Last few years the beer-drinking was ghettoized. Now it's effectively gone.

Of course you can still drink cans of beer on the field so its not like we've totally gone down the rabbit hole.

2) The big fun matchup tomorrow may be the top scorer from Worlds, the unstoppable force Matsuno from Buzz Bullets playing on Furious George, playing against the only man known to have actually stopped him, Beau Kittredge from Revolver, in the upper pools tomorrow. Should be exciting!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nationals: Report from USA Ultimate

hung out at the captains meeting for the USAU Championships. Fairly remarkable, in my opinion

New director of the USA-U, Tom Crawford, basically confirmed that the mainstreaming of ultimate has fully been set in motion. Changing the name from the Ultimate Players Association to USA Ultimate was a clear step to make the sport more appealing, less cult-ish, and more in line with Olympics sports.

What surprised me was how fully behind the name change Crawford (and by extension, ultimate) really is. So far this year he's tackled just about every major issue head on and he's done so with vigor.

Last week USAU announced the Beach was going to be a division within ultimate for 2011. Thats a pretty big step.

At the captains meeting, he presented the fact that USA-U is actively enticing sponsors (he named but didnt name a confectionary company, a sports-beverage company, and others), that the numbers of Youth participants has, for the first time, out-numbered all others combined, has convinced CBS Sports to come down and take a look at the Club Championships with an open eye towards acquiring broadcast rights, signed an extension with CBS College Sports to continue and increase the coverage of College Nationals, and announced that the USA-U would host the "U.S. Open" which would invite international teams to compete against (presumably) top U.S. teams.

All of this, frankly, is a long time coming and all of this makes perfect sense. But it's being ramped up now, super-fast and it's impressive.

There are two things now in play which haven't been in play for ultimate in 20 years at least.

First is the Olympics -- this is a long-held dream of many an ultimate player. It makes sense on the most basic level: the Olympics sell the idea of sportsmanship and fair competition for all men and women from all countries. Sort of a basic principle of humanity thing.

Yet the Olympics has been about much more than that, it started as a geopolotical event and remains so. The Olympics is concerned with money and TV ratings, money to feed the every-hungry revenue stream for Olympic cities and the worldwide media coverage. And ultimate, we knows, has no truck with money (or advertising, or any of that).

But I will say this: Crawford has that dream of Ultimate in the Olympics wrapped inside his head. As he and members of the new USA Ultimate team have for a long time served on Olympics sports boards (Volleyball, Cycling, others) the Olympics is more a reality to them than to us.

And they are trying to bring it to the sport and they seem to really mean it.

The Olympics was debunked by the head of the UPA in 1990 (Nob Rauch) who sat in on USO meetings and actively pursued what it might take for ultimate to make it. All signs pointed to "no chance" (for various reasons, the most prevalent being -- its a team sport and the IOC cant pay for team sports, it doesnt have refs, it isnt in enough countries, it doesnt draw revenue or advertisers and other team sports are "ahead" of it).

So can Crawford revive, for real, the dream? It's in his head and he's running at full speed. It's interesting.

Second is the holy grail/cursed sword of ultimate: money. We've never had it, we never will. That's my perspective and and it's been tried trued and tested for 40 years.

But everything here has a subtext. Beach Ultimate. The US Open. CBS Sports, increased advertisers and sponsorship. All this either needs money or creates money.

It's there somewhere, the money. Paid athletes? Maybe just maybe something is happening and we don't even quite know what it is.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Nationals Preview

I actually posted this to but because it's so priceless I am re-posting here to fill up space in preparation for the Big Show.

This is not actually a preview of the USA Ultimate Club Championships. In case you were wondering.

it's an example of one of the worst articles ever written on ultimate, and that's saying something because there are plenty to choose from. I found it in my archives while doing research for the mockumentary script on ultimate soon to be, uh, finished!

Bonus points if you can count the number of errors: grammatically, stylistically and factually. I stopped counting myself.


'Flatball' Wizards

May 23, 2004
Remember when Frisbee was a rite of spring as cool and undemanding as catching rays in the campus quad or hanging out at the rathskeller?

Well, hold onto your hackysacks: Now, Frisbee is a fledgling intercollegiate sport at Hofstra University in Hempstead and Adelphi University in Garden City, and its players are clamoring for respect.

"I don't think [people] appreciate how hard it is to throw a Frisbee well, and the conditioning it takes," says Aaron Bjerke, 21, of Alexandria, Minn., a junior communications major and member of Adelphi University's Frisbee team.

The 25-member Hofstra team, formed last fall by A.J. Pave, 22, a history major from Holliston, Mass., prefers to call the sport "ultimate disc" or flatball. The team matched discs against Northeastern in Boston and Penn State before ending its first season earlier this month.

Ultimate disc "is fun and very, very competitive," says Michael Chan, 22, of Baldwin, a Hofstra player who specializes in airborne grabs.

The laid-back rules set by the Seattle-based Ultimate Players Association prize sportsmanship over winning. (For those keeping score, Hofstra beat Adelphi in three out of four games this year.) Players toss the disc down the field and score a point in the end zone, not unlike soccer. Disputes on the field are settled by the players themselves, but clashes - and crashes - are inevitable.

"I get really bad turf burns just from diving," says Seth Dellon, 20, the Hofstra co-captain with Amy Ostroff, 20. Dellon says this disc deserves respect - and maybe even equal footing with other varsity sports.

Whoa, dude, say varsity athletes.

"More power to these guys that they are really excited about their sport," said Thomas McCormack of Rockaway Point, a senior sports management major at Adelphi and guard for the varsity men's basketball team. "But, in all honesty, collegiate basketball and football can't be compared to Frisbee."

Which goes to show you, Dellon said, "We don't get respect from anybody."

Heading Back to Sarasota

Soon to be live from Sarasota: the 2010 USA Ultimate Club Championships.

Or what we used to call "Nationals."

I will be there with the Masters team Rumble in Pool B and covering the division for USAU. Expect some posts regarding Masters and other divisions as well, not to mention ephemera and anecdotes, as per the course.