Monday, October 10, 2011

Psychological Sports Insight/ Field Positioning

Great Skyd Magazine post by former Sockeye captain Lou Burruss about Sockeye's Regionals collapse. I liked the insight and observations but make sure to read all the comments afterward which shed additional light and open up more discussion.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

WCBU2011: Mixed finals

All tournament Germany and USA were on a collision course to meet in the title game. The tall and experienced Germans—a team with key players from the international beach veteran club the Woodies and featuring five who were at WCBU in 2004 (gold) and WCBU 2007 (silver) were captained by Paganello bon vivant Rü Veitl and Janne Lepthin and dominated Pool B with relative ease, their closest games three-point wins over regional adversaries Poland and Austria.

The Americans, culled primarily from a core of the 2010 USAU Mixed Champions Polar Bears and joined by other California stalwarts, were led by beach aficionado Dave Hammond and veteran Steve Dugan and also went undefeated in their pool.

The finals proved the two teams' supremacy.

Sometimes it doesn't matter which team you're rooting for when you get a game like this: Big upwind hucks for scores, layout blocks for Ds and a massive comeback completed with a layout grab leading to the game-winning goal shot.

Still it was a disappointment for many as the role of underdog spoilers belonged to the archetypical favorites—the Americans—who fought back from a 6-2 deficit to defeat a strong German squad and take the championship, 9-8.

Early in the game Germany's ultra-patient and effective offense capitalized on American turnovers to take a decisive 6-2 lead, forcing the U.S. to take a timeout. At that point fortunes changed for both sides.

Scoring downwind, USA pulled upwind to the commanding Germans. Perhaps the Americans changed their defense or maybe Germany just wanted to hit some downwind goal shots but in a decisive series of plays, Germany—uncharacteristically and against their captain's wishes— twice hucked endzone-to-endzone to an open receiver and both times the throw was carried too far by the wind. USA's Greg Marliave then laced a half-field IO forehand to Erol Yildiz for a crucial upwind goal and momentum-builder.

"Definitely [the American's] upwinder at 6-3 was the point to go," wrote Veitl afterwards.

After two upwind chances for Germany, USA converted the down-winder to close it to 5-6. On the next possession a solid pull trapped Germany in their upwind end zone. Trying to break out without the huck, a short up-field shot was instead the victim of a layout D from American June Srisethnil. An easy score from there tied the game at 6s and gave the U.S. a ton of confidence.

Facing the wind, a German short-field miscue gave the U.S. an easy goal and their first lead, 7-6. Again for another downwind Deutschland opportunity the U.S. utilized a defense that all of the U.S. teams were playing—protect the unders, play a straight-up mark and force throwers to bend or hook their hucks. Even with the wind at their backs this strategy worked. Germany's open looks were deep and temptation ruled again as a throw that sailed long was picked up by USA and converted upwind, this time an impressive, forehand rip from Tyler Grant that came out fast and high before seeming to float down like a UFO into the waiting arms of An-Chi Tsou and Sally Mimms for the back-breaking upwinder and an 8-6 lead deep into the match.

Finally Germany recovered behind the strength of their veteran A line. Two goals later, an upwinder from Nicolas Fink to Marvin Horter (one of five on the team to compete in his third WCBU) and downwind Arne Reusch to Daniela Sprunk (another of the five) and the match was tied at 9s, game to 10.

Similar to the Mixed Masters' final, the Germans failed to hear that the time cap had been called. The American's top line then took the field seeking to close out the game—although like his Condors teams of the past, co-captain Dugan utilized an open/non-sub-calling strategy and players went on the field of their own accord. In quick fashion a layout catch by Mimms at half-field gave her two looks to rip an unmarked backhand and the second look found a small spot to hit Adam Raty and just like that the match was over.

This was a thrilling game and I'm sure the Americans were overjoyed with their comeback.

For their part the classy Germans won silver and the Spirit of the Game—no small feat and a sign that the veteran German side was built with precision and passion and an unwavering belief in playing good-spirited disc no matter the circumstances.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

WCBU2011: Masters Finals

My view of the finals is colored by the fact that I was in uniform for USA.

We faced a rematch with the only team that defeated us in pool play: Austria. They took us out three days earlier by playing a smart, motivated match in front of hundreds of cheering supporters on the main beach field, 10-9. It was a good game but we played tight and looked forward to meeting them again.

Finals started at 4pm which gave us time to relax, sleep in and keep it loose. That all changed when we showed up at the Beach Arena at 3 o'clock. The stadium was empty but the Austrians had taken over the sand. They were practicing a variety of throws in the wind and looked more than solid.

All tournament the weather was hot, humid and unbearably still. It seemed as if eternity had consigned Lignano Sabbiadoro to a breeze-less existence—until the Saturday finals. Now the wind was whipping flags and turning over discs. I felt this could be an advantage for Austria.

We did our usual warm-up and then tried to get in as many throws as possible with the new conditions. We did find one sweet spot on the field where the seaside stands blocked the wind and provided a clean release and flight for 30 yards or more. It would turn out useful as we scored two upwind goals from that spot.

Once the game started our adrenaline was strong. We had worked on a new defense to prevent some of Austria's keen bladey forehands and quick-look passes. Add in some nerves, perhaps, on the Austrian side (it also helped that our team had played in the arena before and knew it was a fast track) and two upwind goal shots, from Billy Maroon to Rook and Billy again to Kelly Swiryn and in short order we were in command of the match at 7-2.

The Austrians had their strengths but the Hannes half of the tall, rangy twins Michael and Hannes Zellinger went down with a foot injury early in the match, deflating the Austrian side (he would return three points later and end up with 3 goals in the finals and finish with 46 overall caught and thrown, leading the division while Michael was third overall with 40).

Whenever the Austrian offense did manage to score, the USA O line led by Al DeFrondeville, Ricky Eikstadt, Trey Katzenbach and Jim Parinella would match downwind and score with seeming ease. At no point did Austria get two goals in a row whereas the U.S. was boosted by a five-goal run in the middle.

In the end the we kept up the pressure and won handily 12-5.

It makes me think back to that Wednesday match on Field 1 when they upset us. The crowds were thick lining the field and one side was entirely Austrian supporters, cheering wildly on every pull and once, during a timeout, streaming across the field with three massively large Austrian flags to raucous cheers. It was truly impressive.

We were bitter after the loss, stung by their success and aggressive attitude. They basically took it to us.

We deserved to lose and it helped us, in a sense, focus on getting better as players and stronger as a collective team.

Maybe to some the finals were a foregone conclusion, but I don't think we ever got ahead of ourselves. They beat us once and there was no reason they couldn't do it again. This time we got the breaks, stayed focused and won.

WCBU2011: Mixed Masters Finals

This was the inaugural year for the Mixed Masters division (defined as players born before 1978) and no one knew what to expect. Would speed be a defining factor? Beach experience? Strategy? Confidence?

Perhaps all. This turned out to be the most interesting of the six finals as savvy and speedy Great Britain surprised the USA 11-7 in a convincing performance before the setting of the sun.

USA had gone undefeated in ten games of six-team pool play including wins over GB and Germany, each twice. They had expected to meet Germany in the finals because Germany had beaten GB in both matches and played the USA to closer outcomes.

But that's where Great Britain staged their first coup, knocking off the Germans in semifinals 11-9. By the time the finals were set the G.B. team was prepared for its final take-down.

Scouting was their first step: they devised a game plan for each of the top USA players. Secondly they disguised their strengths in pool play knowing results there were relatively unimportant. They sat their top player Si Weeks in the first game against USA but in the finals, Weeks was causing trouble everywhere on the field. One of their captains, Lucy Byrne, also sat for games against the Americans to nurse an injury. She too played a key role in the finals.

Perhaps USA underestimated the depth of Great Britain. GB carried core players from three-time Paganello mixed finalists Poughkeepsie, they had two women who won gold at the 2007 WCBU in the Women's Division, several men from the GB Masters team that won Silver at WCBU2007 and they had recently eligible Weeks—a human stat machine at Paganello in 2007, among other tournaments.

In other words, this team was stacked.

Great Britain also changed up their defensive sets and came out of the gates aggressive and confident. Put it all together and what we witnessed on the field was a series of turnovers from the Americans and lightning-fast strikes from Great Britain. The turnovers came everywhere: USA could not find a rhythm. Drops, miscommunication throwaways, overthrows, nothing seemed to work for a team that hadn't been down in a game the entire week. Only a couple of big plays from Kimberly Beach and some solid handling from Rod Hannon kept USA alive.

The ending was unfortunate and seemed to sum up the confusion that reigned on the American side and on the part of the time-keepers. Down 9-6 with a scant few minutes left in the time cap the Great Britain team scored on an easy 12-yard throw up the sideline. But the goal came back on a call and a discussion ensued. Upholding the call meant USA was taking a gamble. They could have let the score stand to get another point of offense before the cap. Instead the time cap was called during the discussion and shortly thereafter GB punched the disc in easily with the same throw to make it 10-6, game to 11. This gave GB a chance to win the game on defense.

To be fair to USA, the time cap was never signaled properly to either team and the Americans never checked so they never knew it was coming.

The U.S. scored on offense, Great Britain did the same and unexpectedly the game was over, 11-7. After a ten-minute delay to explain what happened to a confused American it was decided that GB had indeed won the game.

It was a fair choice by GB who would have won in a game to 11 regardless. To cap it off, they won the Spirit of the Game award for the division, a double peak for Beach Worlds.

My final impression of the Mixed Masters division was that it worked. We saw solid play, quicker-than-expected players and above all, the kind of great play that comes when you've been playing with your teammates for ten, fifteen years. Never hurts.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WCBU2011: Women's Finals

The setting was certainly unique: the game started is twilight before the evening floodlights filled the beach arena with an eerie glow and a touch of cinematic drama.

But first and foremost: USA versus Canada finals was a heavyweight bout. Both squads came out ready to compete seeking a mental and physical edge over the other.

The sides formed a mirror image: physical marking and chippy handler defense on the USA side was duplicated by Canada as the squads jockeyed for the edge. A massive forehand IO huck goal shot from Canadian star Malissa Lundgren (six goals thrown in the finals, 48 total for the tournament) was countered by a Kathleen Ratcliff forehand huck. The cuts from speedy American Marie Madaras (22 goals thrown, 24 caught) left her wide open for unders and deep goals while the fleet-footed number 42 Kate Jardine for Canada found herself with steps on defenders seemingly at will.

Both teams had their lines set by finals but whereas the United States had enough depth for solid starting O and D lines with second lines in place, Canada had shorter lines due to a lack of depth. The team had top Capitals players and veterans Anja Haman and Anne-Marie Carey but also brought several younger players and beach rookies.

Despite a slew of impressive plays from #55 Lundgren, including two quite improbable deep IO flicks and two run-through blocks on under swing cuts, USA found themselves with a two goal advantage at the time cap, 9-7. It would be a game to 10.

Canada scored on offense and then kept several of their O line players on the D line, moved Jardine over to guard Madaras and benefited quickly when Haman got a block and Canada converted to tie the game at 8s. Pressure was now on the Americans.

With their A line on the field it looked like the game was over when Ratcliff hung out a forehand for a racing Madaras. But the disc fell too fast for a turn in Canada's end zone. It sounds strange to say this on game point, but I believe that the choice to huck was a wise one to gain field position and almost immediately USA got the turnover back at mid-field. They tried to punch it in again and failed but when Lundgren picked up the turnover her cutters were swamped by the Americans' D and the final turn of the game gave USA the disc back with only a third of the field to the goal. After a dump and a swing, co-captain Rohre Titcomb had the disc in the middle of the field and slung an IO forehand to the far side short cone that sailed wide—but a foul was called by Titcomb, marked by Lundgren. It sure looked as if the disc path looked true. But after a short discussion with Titcomb illustrating her throwing motion and Lundgren seeming to suggest that the hit on Rohre's arm had come after the release, the disc was checked back in and Rohre again chose the IO, this time painting the corner but short of the goal. After a quick cut opened up a short dish up the line the coup de grace was made and the game was over with USA's second gold medal of the day.

After the game several of us on the Blockstack TV video crew (I was commentating live for the web broadcast) gathered around Tushar Singh's laptop to replay the critical foul call that so disappointed the crowd and seemed like it could have been bad. Zooming in to grainy footage and stopping the video frame brought us this: In one frame the disc is out of Rohre's hand and in the next frame Malissa's hand hits Rohre's arm. Replaying at normal speed you can see Rohre's arm snap back. But was the hit after the release? It looked like it. Would any thrower be able to know when the hit occurred exactly, especially given that a good IO needs follow-through? Doubtfully. And would a foul call be made even then, considering that at least a short follow-through on an inside-out flick is particularly necessary?

The game was a great one, it had elements of the epic Fury-Uno 17-16 Worlds title game of 2010 in Prague with neither teams ever up by more than two.

In the end Canada had two chances to score and the USA ended up with three chances to score and the third one counted.

Both sides showed some real grit and talent and special props has to go to Canada for getting to the finals with a team many didn't quite see coming.

Monday, August 29, 2011

WCBU2011: Open Finals

The scores have been posted, the final results tallied and medals awarded: WCBU2011 ended on a high note in the Discraft Beach Arena in front of thousands of players and curious onlookers witnessing six championship games of excellent beach ultimate.

From the beginning to the end Beach Worlds was a memorable experience filled with spirited fun on the beach and top competition on the field. It's no coincidence that the field is the beach and the beach the field… fair-minded spirit and competitive fire were united at this tournament.

The result can't be a surprise: the United States defeated the Philippines 13-9 in the finals and brought home gold as predicted. The Philippines—primarily represented by the club team Boracay Dragons— are known worldwide as masterful beach specialists and repeated as silver medalists.

Switzerland, led by Paganello stars Lorenz Stauffer and Robin Brüderlin, stifled Italy to claim bronze in the third place game.

The USA-Philippines finals gave fans everything they wanted: spectacular layout grabs, waves of speedy defenders, well-executed offensive sets and two teams prepared to compete for gold.

In the end too many early unforced errors from the Filipino side and too much firepower from the Americans proved the difference.

Twice the Philippines got caught looking for the next pass and dropped easy hammers: Perhaps USA's changing defensive sets and junky zones disrupted the Filipino flow just enough.

On offense the Americans were able to send in lines featuring cutters with just as much foot speed as fleet Filipino defenders Panoy de los Santos and Jeffrey Rodriguez. Coupled with the steady handling and deep-look options from veterans Tyler Kinley, Adam Simon and Webster McBride and a healthy height advantage the American offense proved tough to contain.

Still the Philippines fought: Down three breaks 0-3 to start they tied it at 3s before USA separated again with three straight and the counterpunching began. A spectacular hammer layout goal from Rodriguez closed it to 9-7 but was followed by a score and layout D from American Teddy Browar-Jarus to up the lead to 11-7. A double happiness D and score from Hendrix Manning was matched by a step-back flick huck from Simon to make it 12-8. There was some parity here, even if the Philippines' electric fast-moving "Dragon style" offense of quick passes proved unmatched on the beach and the Americans' calm under pressure rarely wavered. The match finally drew to a close with a Kinley throw to speedy Asa Wilson.

For the USA the tournament ended with a healthy respect for the competition and a satisfying win over a worthy opponent.

It was also notable for the USA's 12-10 showcase loss to Italy that confirmed what was suspected beforehand: even sending a hand-picked All-Star team from a nation of 40,000 full-time ultimate players isn't enough to overcome a steady and determined opponent.

For the Philippines they had to be happy getting back to the finals in what was clearly a more difficult field of competition than WCBU2007—down a break late in their quarterfinal against an upstart and largely unheralded Canadian squad, for instance, the Philippines had to run off two straight to win on double-game point.

In their semifinal against Italy, however—which initially started as a physical call-fest interrupted by a spirit-circle time-out—they strung together five straight scores twice to win in a blow-out.

But WCBU2011 in some ways may be the end of an era for the Philippines and the Dragons. The Filipino team we saw was the same group from four years ago and age may steal away some of their stars for future tournaments. Only a handful of players on this team are in their 20s and if the Philippines wants to get back to the finals in 2015 they will have to start a youth rebuilding process soon.

The Italians looked strong all tournament in defeating the USA and the Philippines in crowd-pleasing Beach Arena showcase games before mysteriously battling nerves and a sense of fear before taking the field in their doomed semifinal against the Philippines. Still the Italians proved their style of play marked by an aggressively opportunistic offense and fearless defense was a solid and successful model.

And finally we have to remember Switzerland as a presence here and a team we can expect to see more of in the future. Their tight 12-10 loss to the USA in semifinals said as much about their talent and savvy as anything.

One final note: as mentioned in the preview, competition-wise, this tournament suffered from its proximity to the European Championships. Grass is still considered superior for most of Europe and players from EUC Open finalists Sweden and Great Britain were not in attendance. GB's best player, Si Weeks, fitted himself on the Mixed Masters team, for instance.

But that takes nothing away from the players that did come to compete and a tournament environment that produced absolutely awesome displays of competition, spirit, fun and entertainment for players and spectators alike.

BULA has made it clear that it wants the ethos of beach ultimate to be different than that of the grass field game and if WCB2011 was any indication they have succeeded.

the Great Delay

Beach Worlds is over!

By, like, 2 days now. I'm an avid baseball fan. Phillies, if you must know. About 11 minutes after a routine Phillies game ends there's a complete write-up with video recaps, photos and statistics up online.

When an ultimate tournament ends there's a delay because one guy (me) is kinda maybe supposed to—although never explicitly stated—write up the results.

And i'm at a hotel outside the airport in Venice begging for spare change and emailing like a hound chasing a rabbit trying desperately to get photos of the tournament so i can put them up on Skyd.

It's sad but true. But we're getting better and we're getting closer. Any day now, any day.

Did I mention I now have a gold medallion? Traded for it. Traded my SOUL. Just kidding. In actuality I spent 23 years playing this ridiculous game to get it. Not bad, certainly better than playing 23 years without winning a championship of any kind....

Friday, August 26, 2011

USA Women, Great Britian Mixed Masters, USA Grandmasters win Gold

The beach arena is an excellent location to showcase ultimate. The track is fast, the stands are high and echo the cheers of the many countries there to watch the big games.

The action started this afternoon with USA versus Austria in Grandmasters. With precision offense and big ups the U.S. team hardly had a turnover on offense en route to a convincing win, albeit not a blowout.

In Mixed Masters the upstart Great Britain team led by an unstoppable Si Weeks began the day by upsetting the German team in semis before storming out of the gates on defense and offense against undefeated USA in the finals. It never seemed that USA could find a proper rhythm as miscommunications led to far too many turnovers for the USA O line. GB's squad, bolstered with women who won WCBU Gold in Brazil and Paganello Mixed division winners Poughkeepsie were stacked from the start so the question was how did they actually manage to lose to both USA and Germany twice in pool play—twice?

I talked to them after the game and it turns out that they played the numbers very well, using a large squad to rest top players like Weeks and Lucy Byrne over the course of pool play games before letting them fully anchor the team in the finals. They also saved up energy for the final and used heavy defensive pressure coming in waves to completely dismantle the American O.

The women's final was the highlight of the night. Both teams looked to come out of the gates hard and fast, knowing that the first 2-3 points of a quick 45 minute game can really set the pace. And that they did, blistering speedsters running down on defense, huge hucks from Canada's Malissa Lundgren (who, incidentally, dominated the leaderboard for the weekend with 44 goal shots, an average of 4.4 a game) massive ground-eating under cuts from USA's Marie Maderas and physical marks and hard D: this game was defined as a battle from the beginning.

Breaking the O and D proved not too difficult as turnovers weren't uncommon. But neither squad could find the right D-line handlers to withstand the pressure and more often than not the D would prevail. USA went up a break late in the game, 9-7, and held on as the cap went into effect meaning it was a game to 10 and Canada had the weight on their shoulders to score.

The O line managed to make it happen giving the Americans two chances on O to win. when the first one failed, however, the score was tied at 9s and the pressure returned to the American shoulders. With so much speed out there I felt the defense had the advantage and this almost proved correct after two USA turnovers had given Canada a chance to win the game. But it was not to be -- the defense of the USA proved equally stout and refusing to give in and the Canadians forced up two throws for turnovers. Finally with both crowds of stands roaring, the Americans, bailed out by a foul call on an IO throw that initially looked clean, converted the break after the same IO connected and won, 10-9, a stunning and anticlimactic end to a fantastic game.

WCBU2011: Masters, MixMastas, GrandMasters Semis and Beyond....


The Masters division here has two things going for it: parity and some serious height. It seems that the taller guys keep playing longer as teams across the board tend to outsize their Open counterparts. Or maybe a little extra girth makes them look taller.

Pool play has finally ended this morning and settled final positions for the playoffs. Perhaps expected, perhaps not, the Canadians managed to defeat the top-seeded Austrians this morning at 9am even though the game meant little to either team. Austria, crafty, tall, perhaps not as good looking as the U.S. Masters team, knew that win or lose they would likely face France in the semis.

France defeated Austria 11-10 and will be fired-up to do so again and make it to the finals. The French team is young, hungry and they run quite well so it will be interesting to see if they can do it again.

With the Austrian loss the U.S. regained the top spot and face off against Spain whom they defeated 13-6 yesterday—although it was clear in some ways that Spain was not putting out their best effort in the game, perhaps holding reserves for the likely semifinal re-match.

Of note is that if the U.S. and Austria win their semis we can expect a raucous crowd for the re-match in the finals. Wednesday's Austrian upset win over USA was punctuated by an energized and active sideline of fans waving flags, cheering loudly before and during plays and at one point rushing the field with four giant Austrian flags during a timeout. It was an impressive display that seemed to rattle the Americans and if they meet again we can expect more of the same—which is great for the game and great for the fans.

Both teams have been warily eyeing each other since that electrifying Austrian win and the scouting ledgers have increased. If this game happens, it will be a good one.


Following their countrymen, the Austrian GM team rattled of the last two of the game on defense with Johannes Petz connecting with Stefan Pichler to upset the favored Americans on Thursday and tie them for the top spot in the pool. However, USA had defeated Austria earlier by more points meaning they retained their top spot.

Still the Austrian win is a big one for their confidence even if it does motivate the Americans now to seek revenge and come out fired-up. After what should be an easy semi for the Americans against either Great Britain or France and a more difficult one for the Austrians against Germany, we'll find out tonight who's planned better for the expected rubber match to be broadcast live.

Great Britain upset Germany in semifinals this morning, 11-9, perhaps a shock to the German system and will now face an undefeated USA team in the finals this evening.

USA earlier outlasted Austria in their semifinal 13-6 led by their height, Jeremy Clark, Kimberly Beach and Sarah VanWagenen. In GB they will see a familiar Paganello foe, a team with several ex-Poughkeepsie and Iceni players and some serious goal-scoring from captain Si Weeks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Recap of the Week and Semis Preview for WCBU2011

As we peek into matchups coming up for quarters and semis let's remember that there's been a fair amount of close games and the parity and spirit here is a pleasure to experience.

Where once it looked like USA might run away with all six divisions the results from yesterday have upset that prediction and placed USA in a weaker position heading towards the finals.

The biggest upset may have been in the Open division as Italy overtook and outplayed the United States in a showcase match at the Beach Arena. Playing loose, relaxed and connecting on wild scoobers and long hucks, the Italians seemed to get in the heads of the tight Americans whose number of unforced errors was remarkably high.

It may have been a good thing for the Americans to knock them down a notch early enough in the tournament to not suffer any real loss of positioning. The next game after the loss the American offense that looked quite shoddy in the showcase match went 8-8 against the Germans to put away a tough opponent.

The upset placed Italy atop the pool, followed by United States, Philippines and Germany and all four teams looked solid on the beach with tight games against each other. The strength of this "pool of death" will strongly test Pool A in quarters as what appears to be a weaker side with Switzerland at the top (but let's not forget they have more than a few Paga all-stars on the team) followed by Canada, Spain -- unexpectedly, in my book -- and Austria.

It's interesting to note that the teams that are closest to Venice -- Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Spain—have been the biggest surprises of the tournament so perhaps a regional advantage exists.

The news is already out that Great Britain squeaked by USA on double game point yesterday sending the Americans to their first loss and propelling GB atop the leader board. It didn't last long however. By the end of the day today the American women re-adjusted their cuts to orient less on massive deeps and unders and more on shorter more economical maneuvering appropriate for the beach. It must've worked as they put up enough points on Canada in a 10-6 win to virtually lock up first place as Canada had earlier defeated Great Britain 9-7.

Fighting to make semis are Germany and Finland, both at 6-3 and both playing 8-1 teams tomorrow (Great Britain and Canada). Germany has the edge with a win and tiebreaker over Finland and Finland is rumored to be losing some of their players tomorrow meaning semis should look like this:

USA (1) versus Germany (4). Pool play result was a USA win 11-8.
Great Britain (2) vs. Canada (3). Pool play was a Canada win 9-7.

These four teams are evenly matched and the GB-Canada game is expected to be quite a battle.


Estonia's Sexy Legs, despite their thrilling come-from-behind win over a top-loaded Australian squad, are out of the running for quarterfinals. At 4-4 they appear to have a shot with one more game tomorrow to close at 5-3 and tie Poland if Poland falls to the Netherlands. However, head-to-head Poland wins a tie so they are locked into the fourth seed in pool B meaning Poland—coming out of an initial #17 seeding—will cross over to play the British tomorrow in quarters.

Rounding out pool B will be Switzerland in the second spot presuming they take care of business with Italy. Riding high with an impressive showing and the pedigree is Germany, defending silver medalists and frequent beach tournament winners. Tonight they play Australia under the lights in the highlight match which will certainly be their strongest test yet but one they are expected to overcome.

What it looks like at the moment is this:
USA (1) versus Australia (3)
Germany (1) versus Portugal (3)
Great Britain (2) versus Poland (4)
Switzerland (2) versus Austria (4)

Some note here: Poland's team is based on the club team Grandmaster Flash and their run to success here is somewhat of a surprise and a great thing for growing ultimate in the country.

If my guess at the snake is correct (its what Open is doing) then Australia's mixed team, the one expected to medal, could be relegated to a fight for 5th pretty quickly.

Switzerland's success caught me off guard, I was not privy to knowing what kind of team they put together and have not seen a Swiss mixed team to my knowledge at Paganello in recent years.

Great Britain's resurgence behind the Forth twins is for real and the do have every mean of defending their title.

Germany, you just have a sense, could be the team whose year has arrived. Led by international jet-setter playboy Ruë and his merry band of Munich-stein raisers, they will have a lot of mojo on their side.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Interview with Karen Cabrera

simple piece

Boracay Interview post game

Make sure to check out the livestream webcasts I will be doing this week from WCBU throughout. Check out the fcebook page for more info

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beach Ultimate: The Place Where the Surf Meets the Sky

[Note: most of my posts are also simulcast on Skyd Magazine's Beach Blog]

In the late 1990s when the Pacific Northwest-oriented mixed division (then called co-ed) was introduced to the National Championships in the United States it brought with it a high regard—both in principle and regulation— for the Spirit of the Game.

Teams were encouraged to have fun, express themselves and bring back a love of the game that didn't necessitate winning. Spirit scores were tallied assessing whether teams played fairly and "spirited." It seems commonplace now but at the time it was both controversial and neo-revolutionary.

More importantly, the new free-spirited division brought back the joy of play and the camaraderie of the worldwide ultimate community.

Co-ed teams were organized around groups of friends and not captains and juntas making cuts. Costumes, parties and general amounts of silliness were encouraged and rewarded. Co-ed brought a different way of thinking to the competitive North American arena of the Open and Women's divisions and thrust summer fun tournaments to the forefront.

In much the same way, the World Championships of Beach Ultimate—a spinoff of the high-spirited, rollicking beach party tournament Paganello—calls upon that same level of fun and fair play.

It's not a coincidence that WCBU was founded by the Beach Ultimate Lover's Association (BULA) and its leader Patrick van der Valk, an energetic, ebulllient man known for peculiar headwear (a fake horned viking helmet) and playing with a bacchic, pleasure-seking Paganello team that proudly sports sleek banana hammocks when not playing in costume.

So even as beach tournaments have mutiplied around the world in the short decade since BULA's founding (I would estimate perhaps 100 beach tournaments now and less than 10 in 2001) the emphasis on good parties, Spirited play and beach malarkey has remained.

If you've been to Van der Valk's supremely ecstatic Bar do Peixe tournament in Portugal you would see all of this in action as Van der Valk truly believes in the power of the party to expand ultimate's base. He is now the chairperson for the Spirit of the Game committee of WFDF and reminded WCBU teams to keep SOTG high on the priority list with this recent Facebook post:

During the WCBU, at the end of each day, all SOTG scores are evaluated. Teams with significantly low spirit scores will be talked to in order to understand the facts and for them to have constructive feedback to improve.

Teams that do not improve low spirit scores during the event run the risk of not being eligible to play in the semi finals. We think this will not happen, but I wanted to make sure everyone is aware of this BULA rule.

Denying a team a chance to play in semifinals would never happen under Patrick's watch and would be considered shocking at any BULA event. In fact, I doubt van der Valk's sense of Spirit of the Game would even allow such a thing to happen!

Or as Lukas Kahwe Smith posted recently on the WCBU page,
"We meet next week to celebrate sprit of the game, winning medals is just a sideshow. So captains, encourage your players to give it 110% when it comes to spirit. Players speak up if your captains forget and when in doubt .. give a hug .. see you all there :)"

So leave the real world behind and join us on the beach where the surf meets the sky and the horizon is endless.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Uganda Article

my article on Uganda ultimate is up on Sky'd finally.

Update on the team is that the captain/founder Alex Matovu is going to a meeting at the Italian Embassy in Uganda to see if he can swing a deal to get the team to come.

The question is whether or not some players will defect to Italy/Europe and not return to Uganda. It may be a valid question, I don't know enough of the team or the process to pass judgment. But at the moment that is a sticking point -- the Ugandans need to find a way to prove or insure their return to Kampala.

anyway, here is the article

Seven Hills to the Sands of Lignano Sabbiadoro

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

All the Wildwood 2011 Results At Once

if you just click on this one link! Guaranteed!

All Sorts of Sandy: Wildwood 2011

Except for the following bits which I learned in the last few hours about the competitive 2-2 division, parties and USA vs PoNY showcase game.

Party Q&A Number 1: Friday
Was there beer served for the 400+ captains who had to wait hours in line to register? Apparently not. Fail.
Was there a lotta dancing at the Bolero and fun n games on the Boardwalk? Yes.

Party Q&A Number 2: Saturday
Was the tournament video shot on Saturday and edited that night kinda cool? Yep
Did the beer at the beer tent on the sand run out with 400 people waiting? Yep. And one has to wonder: for a tournament gathering in which a staggering $143,000 is generated just by team registration (and an equally unsightly low number representing expenditures is conjoined) how is it humanly possible to run out of beer? There should be 150 kegs just on standby. There is simply no excuse for that. This tournament used to have free and very tasty food after the games and that's gone and the expense is the same. I would wager tournament organizers are pocketing 10-15K easily from this tournament. Turns out that capitalism and ultimate DO go together, who knew?

USA vs PoNY Showcase Game
During the aforementioned beer freeze and, I guess, some of the beer consuming too, the tournament set up a showcase match between USA and a gathering of New York PoNY players who were down for the weekend competing on various different teams. This would be USA's first and only real 5-on-5 open game before Italy as sand events preceding had either been coed (Sandblast, Wildwood), scrimmages (versus us, Team USA Masters) or 4-on-4 (Wildwood again). but in this game they extended the field to BULA 5-on-5 and brought out the big guns and wow -- what a difference. The conservative give and go offense that looked, at times, ineffective for USA at Sandblast and WW was nowhere to be seen. Instead nothing but streaking deeps, massive under cuts and huge field length bombs for scores by both teams but far more effectively by Team USA. Their defensive speed and pressure was also highlighted as they put a thorough beatdown on PoNY and impressed all watching and the video crew filming it [full discretion: i was a commentator for the action and if it ever sees the light of day you can heckle me for my miscues].

Except for those at the beer tent because they were blocked from watching the game by ugly plastic neon orange terrorist fence material used at Guantanamo Bay. So you either had the choice of drinking beer (at least it was good beer -- Magic Hat came from one of the taps) or watching the showcase game but you couldn't do both. Or if you were wise you waited until the $143,000 worth of beer ran out and ran over to watch the action.

Competitive (called the Open division) 2-2
Here's what I got from Kim Tischler and Drew Jones who played in this division on the team People I Like (Plus Drew Jones)

Drew: "We lost in semis to Hennessy [at Halftime] 13-16. Stout, Teddy and Cal were tough to overcome."

Kim: "We lost in the semis to Hennessey. Great game. Mostly everything we did ran through our women. They mainly used their men namely Stout and Calvin. O-Pig bested them [Hennessey] in the finals in a big way. Fans were denied a third game."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coming Up: The Ultimate Scenes in Kampala, Uganda and Chennai, India

For this years WCBU11, aka, Beach Worlds 2011 in Italy this August, I have been interviewing two unique teams coming to the tournament for the first time: the Kampala-based Team Uganda and the Chennai-based Team India.

Their stories are similar but different and will be recognizable to all who have played ultimate in developing nations. Typically, expats and NGO workers from UK, USA, Canada, Australia and the like support ultimate in local "international" schools and show up for informal pick-up games in towns and cities.

Eventually local players start to fill out the ranks and build up viable clubs, leagues and traveling teams.

Team Uganda, long-time leader Alex "Queenie" Matovu explained to me, used to be 70% expats and NGO workers but is now reversed with 90% Ugandans (with a few Kenyans and Rwandans in the mix).

Team India founder Narayan has a twist on this story however, as the Chennai team was founded by Indians who studied in the United States and played ultimate, returned to India and started up the scene.

This week look for full interviews with both Queenie and Narayan on the WCBU11 site and the Beach Blog on Sky'd Magazine.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

“Even Shameless, Pathetic Losers Occasionally Bumble Their Way to The Top"

One has to ask -- when does age disqualify you from success in Summer League?

If you have an 80 yard bomb in your arsenal and a savvy knowledge of throwing lanes why can't you dominate a seasonal series filled with part-timers, college undergraduates and parking lot drunks? My guess from both experience and from this particularly noteworthy roster--

Westchester Summer League (NY) - Team White Open Draft Division

-- suggests that, well, most readers here, even those on this team, have a few generations to go before age prevents them from playing at a sustainable summer league level.

But therein lies a conundrum. Can an aging core (conveniently labeled [core] in this roster) get by with skills and thrills in a league where speed is cheap? From my experience playing Open league WSL there's a ton of wheels out there and trying to cover all of them is like trying to eradicate graft in Afghanistan.

So even if Team Red has been labeled a bunch of shameless losers by a veteran war hand who knows how to put down an insurgency or two, will it matter in the end?

I don't know a single name on the Red roster. On White I've played with half of them and at 38 I pre-date that half. Put that White roster circa 1996 up against PoNY circa 2006 and I think White's got more than a chance. But maybe, just maybe, an ungrateful shameless foul bunch of losers like Red circa 2011 have more than a shot against the aging former champs.

Only time will tell.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chicago Sandblast Sunday Finals

Sandblast Final Results

Sandblast finals Sunday

The clouds came in the afternoon today making for a temperate finals with a touch of wind. Great weather for watching.

As expected, top seed Team USA was in the finals with their deep bench and bounty of speed. They matched up against Drazba XX, presumably a team going back to the Southern Illinois days or at least named in homage to the SIU captain killed in a car crash in 1985.

Now a Chicago-based core who has played together for more than ten years, Drazba added Ron Kubulanza and Alicia White to the mix, formidable pickups for any team. The combination proved effective as Drazba took half 8-7.

Team USA finally reeled in Drazba by converting giveaways and looked to close it out at 14-11 before Chicago rebounded with two straight to make it 14-13. Finally a Jared Inselmann forehand down the line to a streaking Brett Matsuzaka provided the win for the Beach Worlds team.

In semis, it was Drazba over Team USA2, aka the Masters team, 15-12. A sloppy game for the most part on both sides but Drazba proved more up to the task, completing the big plays and buckling down when needed. It ended a nice run for us (Team USA 2), playing together for the first time and initially seeded 11th.

In the other semi Team USA defeated Red Stripe. Red Stripe then removed their Speedos, donned velour tracksuits, set up the loudspeaker, and live commentated/heckled the finals entirely in Italian. To understand more, you have to see the DVD.

Beachface, the ND alumni team always sporting the camouflage, took the betty pool with three straight in the morning to win out for 9th and an overall 6-1 record.

In the Sky'd writers versus Sky'd writers II (who knew so many Chicagoans?), Team USA 2 defeated Randy Graves and the Kansas-Deerfield combo team Beach for America in quarters. This was the game I learned the bro-smash and hope to employ it as a psych-up tool at the next tournament.

As usual tournament director Twirly provided plenty of giveaways for everyone. Spirit winners Drunkards and Dragons received some nice schwag, the tournament champions on Team USA got shirts and a free bid for next year (!?) and everyone got plenty of drinks from Fuze, 5 Hr. Energy and Cruzan Rum at the Saturday night party.

No, actually, no one paid me to write that. I just thought it would be nice if I did.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chicago Sandblast Saturday

Sandblast Saturday

First, some answers from Thursday's preview.

1) Team "Threat Level Magna" is actually a typo as the team is supposed to be Threat Level Magenta. In the high-stakes action on the beach today the defending champions TLM were upset by Scottie's Revenge, a team entirely outfitted in Scottie Pippen #33 Chicago Bulls pinnies. Led by some monster with huge ups named Tyler, the Scotties rolled as TLM faltered badly.

2) Team USA – will they lose in the semis like that Potlatch year or win the whole thing like several other iterations? Right now their number one seed looks spot-on as they rolled. Their speed is just too much for most teams and when you realize it's Team USA Open + Team USA Women's then you kind of get how good they are with very little fall-off top to bottom.

3) Team USA 2 found themselves in the aforementioned pool with TLM and the Scottie Pippens and finished 4-0 fairly easily, ending the day with a thrashing of the TLM defending champions who never looked comfortable. "On second thought we shouldn't have gone with a roster of 21," reflected captain Matt Davidman afterwards. The USA2 win also ended a personal challenge as I defeated Sky'd founder Elliot Trotter and he owes me a six-pack.

4) Number of teams representing the Midwest with an over/under of 48. This is a tricky one. Of the 20 teams I polled, only four weren't local. You do the math.

In other news, in the Spirit division the Teenage Mutant Ninja BUFF squad, alumni and undergraduates from Bradley University playing in the D5 position and dressed entirely in Donatellos, Leonardos, Michelangelos and Raphaels, won 13-12 on double game point in the last game of the day.

Euro-themed Red Stripe sporting swank banana hammocks underneath their Euro-styled velour warm-ups, finished 3-1 with a win over the 2nd place team to advance. I think this is actually the same group of guys from the original Speedo team I remember from 2005.

Notre Dame alumni Beachface fell to North Park (Chicago-based, likely alumni) in a reversal of College Regionals past. Beachface may have a chance to advance to quarters based on point differential.

Party tonight is at a rather large bar eatery called Mad River on North Sheffield. Much drinking to be had by all as wristbands get competitors free beer for some amount of time.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sandblast 2011 Preview

This may also be posted on Sky'd Magazine as we are doing a cross-promotional beach tour '11.

My last trip to Sandblast was in 2005. That year I shot, edited and commentated the finals for the tournament DVD and played with Hurt Locker. Back then there were several teams that could make finals but you couldn't tell who they were. The crew wearing thick tans and thin Speedos? Bunch of guys and girls in button-downs and ties? And there were friends you didn't recognize because you weren't used to seeing them on sand.

I'm back for 2011 and have to wonder about the tournament and how much it's changed or remained the same. Here's a few questions I am asking myself for the overdue return to Chicago.


Defending champions Team Esquire changing their name to Threat Level Magna — mistake, typo or savvy marketing? (answer tomorrow from captain Matt Davidman).

Team USA @ Sandblast – Potlatch semis losers or Poultry Day champions?

Team USA 2 – First losers, second-tier winners or the age-defying 2011 Dallas Mavericks?

Number of teams representing the Midwest out of 60 total across both divisions. Over/under: 48.

Quantity of Fuze drinks given away by Fuze, the Official Sponsor of Chicago Sandblast 2011. I'm gonna guess 750.

A question we've all wanted to find out the answer to: who plays better on the sand, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids or Sheboygan?

Beach etiquette: should I call that travel or just maybe hold it back because the sand is really deep today and heck, it's only beach?

Looking at the pools I see eight teams with dirty, double entendre names referring to adult situations. How many more can there be?? The eight I have are: Ski Unit, Highlighter Nation, Labor Party, Hoffman's Mom, Big Fun, Crunkzilla, Team USA2 and Beach for America. Gnarly stuff.

Crystal Ball: Looking to the future USA Ultimate is starting a Beach Division in 2012. There's a theory that the beach game could go big like beach volleyball's raging success in the 1980s. Let's say the ruse works and beach ultimate is the hippest activity on the planet. Does Zima provide the first major sponsorship? Or Kangol?

How many months away is the 2011 World Championships of Beach Ultimate this August 21-28?

If something happens on the beach, does it stay on the beach?


Answers to some of these questions, a Q&A with Davidman and other burning answers tomorrow sometime.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Team USA's Beach Tour 2011 -- Chicago Sandblast

my return trip to Sandblast is just around the corner. It's been far too long since I've experienced the tournament. THe giveaways, always a treat in this low-profile sport.

The radio station at the fields. The effervescence of Tournament Director Adam "Twirly" Levy. The team that plays in speedos. The warm water. Heck, Chicago is even in its early summer glory.

Six years have passed since my last trip to Chicago for the tournament. Last time I got to throw down with a pretty good bunch of Wisco and CUT guys and girls. This year I have the privilege of playing for Team USA in the masters division at Beach Worlds and one of our "training" tournaments is Sandblast.

Of course Sandblast doesn't have age-specific divisions and is 100% mixed male and female. So it's not quite so much a practice in terms of strategy and structure. More like a chance to get out on the sand, comingle with teammates, and TAKE DOWN REIGNING CHAMPS ESQUIRE!

There. It's been said. Bring it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

College Nationals Turns a Corner

Simply put, there are some kinks to be worked out,but the coverage of Nationals is the best yet and the concerted effort from USAU and Skyd and others is paying off for viewers and anyone with internet access.

thumbs up.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Badminton Tries the Toad Method

For years certain member of the ultimate community, like badly-trained dogs, have insisted, among other things, that ultimate ought to have cheerleaders. You know, to bring some fans to the game. Like the NFL, Toad would insist. Like ultimate and the NFL are even in the same stratosphere.

Well, maybe Toad should watch badminton!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cheerleading Dances on Our Gravestones

well, you know, there's lot of competition out there to hit the big time. Here's another.

Removed Portion of Article on Skyd

This email came to me this evening:

Hey Tony,

FYI, USAU has requested that a portion of the article be taken down. You are welcome to reword it but you'll have to check with Andy Lee to see what they want out there -

This was removed:

And once again the semifinals and finals will be broadcast (not live, of course) on a television network, CBS College Sports. Since the niche cable outfit College Sports Television (CSTV) and the UPA worked out a deal in 2003, broadcasting the Championships has been an awkward affair.

There really aren't a lot of spectators out there for the game despite all of ultimate's best attempts. The UPA kept the details of the CSTV deal under wraps but suffice to say the UPA paid for that coverage, which sort of undermines the common perception of how the business model works for sports and broadcasting.

But ultimate is surely not the only niche sport to pay for its own broadcasting and if you think the sport is popular enough to sustain media interest, think again.

"The last contract we had with CBS College Sports expired this fall. So we took the opportunity to test the market. We pitched to Versus, Fuse, NBC—there was no interest. CBS was the only show in town," spoke USA Ultimate's Marketing Director Andy Lee in a recent conversation.

"With CBS it's a barter deal. We cover production costs and in return we get inventory which is advertising time," explained Lee. "CBS wont give out ratings of their shows but it was a good sign that the deal got significantly better. This year was one-quarter the cost and three times as much coverage."

Monday, January 31, 2011

Polar Bears go Nationwide

As we know now from reading the USAU Magazine, the national-champion mixed team Polar Bears got their name from the pickup line:

PICKUP ARTIST: How much does a polar bear weigh?
PICKUP ARTIST: Enough to break the ice. So, what's your phone number? Let's have sweaty Eskimo sex.

I added that last line about sweaty Eskimo sex because it gets to the point and here in New York that's the point.

It's a creative, albeit hackneyed and perpetually silly pickup line, but when paired with an ultimate team of giggling 20somethings egging on teammates to use the line (the team did not take it seriously) then you've got a good story and at least some legitimate context.

And then came Hollywood. Coincidence? Of course not. Hollywood knows all about ultimate. Joel Silver, one of Tinseltown's most famous mega-producers, co-founded and helped popularize the sport. He knows what's up.

So the movie trailer for the latest cheeseball flick "Hall Pass" should come as no surprise. I've looked for links online and found this below:

Hall Pass

But oddly enough, it doesn't have the "Polar Bear" pickup line (i've seen a different version on TV ads) yet it does contain a scene with some chicks throwing frisbees.

Make your own judgment call on all this.

Hollywood + ultimate. It's happening. Be prepared.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some Basic Lei-Out Results

To follow will be more tales from the sea and Santa Monica.

But for the meantime, here are the results.

Semifinals in A bracket was Strawberry Love, not sure where from but I recognized Jared Inselman from DC/Truck Stop on the team, against Sb Antimony III -- a Santa Barbarba/Condors-based team with Husak, Dugan, Steets, Burfiend, Regetz, others I am sure.

And apologies for not knowing the women. I recognized a few of them but not as much as the guys. Strawberry goes up 2 or 3 but eventually loses by 2 I think?

Other semifinal was Woodies in LA in their Munich-gear and random pickups (Kimberly and Rocky Beach conjoined! No relation, however, except for perhaps one category) versus San Fran outfit Crazy Go Nuts University with 3 PoNY guys and others. CGNU basically crushes in this game to make finals.

Finals was good. i missed the first half to watch the Jets take down the Patriots at a bar on Muscle Beach with some NY teammates and let me tell you, this was a good call. Tallboy PBRs, a bunch of meatheads and those upstanding Patriots getting faced was primo.

Anyway, second half I get back and SB Antimony is up a couple. Husak making a bunch of plays basically. Some dicey turnovers from CGNU and also some good plays on D. SB Antimony wins by three eventually and Hollywood Husak, according to Corey Sanford, becomes the winningest Lei-Out player in its 12 year history.

In B pool the competition seemed pretty good. We escaped a team called Straddle with some Huck Finn players on it by making some pretty dicey in/out calls apparently (I really can't say much except that one of our players was very insistent on a few calls so the disc went back to thrower) to get to B quarters at 6-0. We played Mustache Rides, an Austin-based team with Straw and a bunch of dudes and dudettes from Doublewide, Showdown, Dirty Birds, Chewbacca, etc. Basically all Nationals talent. Not sure how we even kept this close although I think me, Babbino, Tucker and Tisch held the fort as long as we could before falling 11-9.

B-pool semis was then Mustache versus an A-bracket descender, Pandangerous. Pandangerous seemed to be winning. Other side was Guns of Westwood (presumably ex-UCLA?) versus PieMo (presumably Pie Queens + Ugmo, the two sides of Cal Berkeley). I think PieMo won this one.

Shenanigans in next report.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Scripts in Santa Monica: Lei-Out 2011

There's been much to write about about and little effort to do so. From New Year's Evening celebration with some ultimate dignitaries and a few purposefully unpublished photos.

After that: New Year's Day hat tournament in the snow when some Swedish guy skyed me and then left during the third game on cross-country skis. Lots of snow. Great tournament, as always, as its a great way to start the new year.

But one thing you cannot get in the new year 2011 in New York is a prescription for medical marijuana which is something that come very naturally if you walk down a street in Santa Monica and run into a guy holding a sign that says "4:20 doctor." If you ask the doctor for s script you will have to go through a checklist and sign off: name. reason you are requesting a prescription. are you a resident of california. what is your medical condition?

apparently all you have to do is answer all the questions pretty much straight-up except the residency status. you want to say "california" for that one. go for ADHD as your illness, talk the guy down from $100 for his doctor's consultation to $65.

then pop on over to one of the green pharmacy sign/dispensiary and get a recommended strain/dosage, fork over $55 for a 1/8th and voila! You have medical relief for your troubled ADHD.

And that's the day before Lei-Out. The results of the tournament and some other tidibits will follow.