By: Jimmy Leppert
Welcome to what could be described as a grab-bag. I’ll talk to myself about topics within ultimate from the past week, or whenever. In this first iteration, I dive into the upcoming World Championships of Beach Ultimate, the end of Buzz Bullets vs. Ironside from WUCC 2014 and showing respect to others while coaching.
A Word on International Ultimate
Sometimes, the international scene of ultimate doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
The World Championships of Beach Ultimate is coming up soon. Its hosted in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, and it all takes place between March 8th and 15th. To feel a little more in the spirit for it, the schedule and seeding has been released. Have any questions? Don’t worry, Sludge has got you – there is information on beach ultimate, Currier Island, streaming schedule, and a country by country breakdown among other pieces of info.
I guess what I’m concerned about is, the location. And what choosing it means, or could come off as meaning. It’s something I brought up briefly on Twitter yesterday, and is at the cornerstone of this year’s WCBU.
Immediately, I’m not familiar with beach ultimate. I’ve never been able to attend an actual beach tournament, something always came up. But since I was introduced to the world of ultimate that lies behind pickup games, Wildwood and other beach tournaments have been thoroughly discussed as the best experiences you can have playing. Beach ultimate tournaments are often described to me as having an extremely laid back atmosphere, usually involving some beverages and what have you, and other things that happen when giant groups of people collide. Besides all of this, ultimate prides itself whenever and wherever it is played on the spirit aspect of the game; the intangibles that make our sport accepting of all, and help us strive towards respect for all. That’s part of what makes the location so… interesting.
The location, Dubai, is known for being strict within their customs, within their laws. That’s fine, that’s who they are, and that’s part of their culture. It’s something that WFDF has even addressed with an entire page of questions and answers on the WCBU 2015 website. In it, drugs, drinking, homosexuality, public behavior, dress code, and women are all addressed and how it can be seen and punished within the United Arab Emirates. In an interview with Get Horizontal, Patrick van der Valk (of WFDF, Portugese Ultimate, BULA and more), briefly talks about the decision to choose Dubai, and how the culture and customs meet with the sport. The country has been known for human rights infringements (searches easily bring up two high-profile examples here and here), and particularly their [archaic] stance on LGBT rights (Wikipedia and the International Refugee Rights Initiative). While the WCBU guide states that homosexuality (and public displays of affection) are illegal, tourists and expatriates are rarely prosecuted it assures us. Alcohol is available, the guide says, but public drunkenness is not tolerated.
In the Get Horizontal interview, van der Valk is asked about both of these things. In response to the human rights infringements, his choice of phrase is questionable at best. He says in regards to their laws and traditions, “there are way worse countries in the region” and that “sports should not be political.” Swing and a miss. The first half of the statement is like your friends showing up to a party with 40s of Old English, and as you sigh with animosity, they assure you that they could’ve brought beer that is much worse. The second half is the same sort of avoidance that went on with the Sochi Olympics, the Brazilian World Cup, and continues to pop-up with the Brazilian Olympics of 2016 and future World Cups in Russia and Qatar. I don’t think, as the WCBU guide on local customs and laws tries to state, this is an issue of Western culture meeting another culture and an acceptance of both being worked out.
Sports may be a form of escapism, something to distract us from parts of reality that we perceive as unpleasant. But when that unpleasantness meets our escape, isn’t that a sign that more needs to be done to combat the unpleasant? When a world championship event conflicts with the spirit of our game, conflicts with the beliefs we hold which make our culture so strong, and positive, than sports do need to become political. Sports do need to step in.
I have little doubt that the players attending the event in two weeks will be very tolerant, as van der Valk talks about in his interview, because that’s how ultimate players are. But I’m still left wondering why this situation exists in the first place.
I like to watch ultimate, and do so in my room all of the time, so should you. Let’s watch the same game.
Before winter league, a teammate and I have started to get into the habit of watching a game of ultimate. It’s something that motivates us to go from the below-freezing temperatures to slightly-less below-freezing temperatures of indoor play. This week, we watched the second half (our time was limited) of Japan Buzz Bullets vs Boston Ironside from WUCC 2014. This video should get you directly to the pivotal call that game on double-game point (or click here). You know, the one you can get a poster of from the Skyd Magazine Store.
This call came at the worst possible time. It’s already the end of the game, and has one of the biggest crowds watching that has probably been seen the entire weekend. I don’t think this is a foul call. But I do understand the call, contact is made in the process of making the catch and when you feel contact during those motions, you’re inclined to believe contact was made.
What happens in the remainder of the point though? If you skip to the 1:54:00 mark of the video, you can see the remainder of the point (minus one call). A breakside around throw. Buzz Bullets throw a great inside-flick to advance the disc closer to the endzone. There’s a dump throw. Another foul. Another dump. A travel call. A breakside swing. An inside break into the endzone, called back on travel. A dump. A breakside swing. A dump. And, a bad break throw to a wide-open receiver in the endzone. Victory, Buzz Bullets.
Earlier in the game, I looked at both of the points around the 1:21:00 and 1:28:00 marks. The first is an offensive point for the Buzz Bullets, the second their defense plays offense off of a turn. In both points, the Buzz Bullets exploit the breakside of the field, and the space which opens up as their easy dump-throws are utilized – sometimes, these two both happen at once. Again, on the final point you can see the same thing happening.
Letting the call frame how you think Ironside lost that pre-quarter game at Worlds, or how the Buzz Bullets won, is a disservice to how the game was truly won. It was won through one team exploiting the strategy, a flaw, of the other. In both of the mentioned times above, and at other points, it doesn’t look like Ironside has a designated side for their marks to stand on. Instead, it switches depending on the location of the disc. But this only allowed the Buzz Bullets to further use, and gain from, their swings and looking towards the breakside of the field. Downfield defenders were often not directly with their assignment, because as the disc moved their positioning needed to move as well – but it didn’t always work that way. The last throw that’s part of what seems to happen, as the Ironside defender starts to prepare themselves for what’s next, because of the shifting mark, because of what the Buzz Bullets have been doing on the field.
Put Me In (to) Coach!
Selecting one coaching decision, and talking about it. From someone who truly hasn’t had much coaching to do.
Robyn Wiseman wrote for Skyd Magazine about respect within the sport. One of her most effective lines to get her point across, on just how important it is for us to show respect, will speak to the many who feel the need for mainstream acceptance of our sport: “The more disrespect and discontent we show for each other, the more disrespect we get from people “forced to watch this crap” on ESPN3 instead of a “real sport.” ”
And she’s right. It’s something which extends beyond division, beyond level of play or any other factor.
I’ve been guilty of this before. When helping to coach (advise? I sort of fell into the weird assistant/alumni type Robyn talks about) a team last fall, I placed myself into a similar situation as to what she describes witnessing. I was that person who was putting down an opposing player, but instead of using it for humor, I was using it to motivate, to push the player I was responsible for. It was a tactic that had been used on me, while I was playing in college, it’s something I’ve yelled at the TV when Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers lets in a goal to a fourth-line player, and have probably yelled more than once during a round of disc golf.
I remember at the tournament, later in the same game, a player on the opposing team asked me what I was doing. I replied with something about motivating my player, about helping them reach their potential. The player turned away, and didn’t want to engage in a conversation with me anymore. I forgot about that conversation until reading Robyn’s article, and it helped me realize exactly where I went wrong.
As a coach, I was thinking about how I could help my player, and didn’t give a single thought to the opponent. I didn’t show any respect to how the opponent would feel to me putting them down. It speaks horribly to my character, when I’m thinking that by putting someone else down would motivate someone else to do better.
Coaches are, at times, asked to motivate their players. But when they do so, they have to be mindful of the opponent. They have to show the opponent some respect as well.
Q&A (with myself)
Asking myself questions, which I will then answer, continuously.
Q: What do you think of the MLU streaming schedule for 2015?
A: As their announcement says, hopefully this will increase the quality of product that is delivered to the fans, and whoever else. All games will still be available on-demand through the MLU, and the announcement says that is geared to improve as well. It’s a more focused look at the league, similar to the AUDL Game of the Week series that started with their ESPN3 contract. And I think it helps them drive the national conversation of their league better, as fans will tune in to one game that can discuss topics within the sport, similar to how Jon Gruden may bring up other events within the NFL during the Monday Night Football broadcast on ESPN.
Q: What is this and why was it created?
A: I’m not sure why anyone would do this, and I’ve been struggling with that thought all day.
Q: Any interesting tournaments going on this weekend?
Q: What was USAU thinking with that awful College Series disc design?
A: Is it really awful though? It looks like USAU saw a promo for Mad Men Season 7, and decided their disc should come as close as possible to looking like that. Tiina Booth shares a lot of insights into the history of discs, and what this design could really be all about. I’m in the ‘get more word about Supercolor discs out there’ camp. If that’s a thing.
Want to join in on my grab bag fun? Email the blog, email@example.com.