The Spectator: Start of AUDL Playoffs

By: Jimmy Leppert

Hello and welcome to ‘The Spectator’. It’s the last weekend of July, and the AUDL enters the first stages of its post-season with playoff games galore in a less than ideal situation. Plus some other ultimate news, a bevy of other tournaments, and more.

 

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In one weekend, the AUDL will have their four division champions decided, and the teams for their fourth championship weekend. With a total of seven games, it’s going to be one of the most exciting weekends yet for the league.

It’s important to point out though, that this isn’t how the AUDL planned this weekend to go. As highlighted in this week’s edition of Evan Lepler’s Tuesday Toss, the schedule that we are all presented with is troublesome even for the owners and league. But, Lepler writes, it is a necessity because of where the league sits – in relation to: family and friends (as it should), careers (as the AUDL does not pay its players a living wage), or the club teams the players compete with outside of the AUDL. As a result, all three 2-seed vs 3-seed games do not have the luxury of home field advantage. And of those three games, each will turn around almost immediately to play their next game.

Not exactly the most ideal of situations for the league. In the East, the #2 NY Empire travel to take on the #3 Montreal Royal today (7/24), and the winner plays the Rush in Toronto on Saturday (7/25). The Midwest has the strangest setup of the bunch, with both games taking place in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday. First, the #3 Chicago Wildfire play the #2 Pittsburgh Thunderbirds – but then the winner almost immediately plays the Madison Radicals. And the West has the #2 Seattle Cascades traveling to play the #3 San Francisco Flamethrowers on Saturday, and no matter what the winner will play the San Jose Spiders in that same stadium on Sunday (7/26). In the The South, by the way, as their one-off playoff game (due to the smaller division) on Saturday (7/25) with the Jacksonville Cannons at the Raleigh Flyers.

The schedule is partly a result of the league, and its stature compared to club ultimate. From the sound of Lepler’s article, teams felt more comfortable to cram the entirety of the playoffs into this one weekend, rather than stretch it over two weekends, and ensure player availability. Next weekend, of course, is the Pro-Elite Challenge – featuring teams from San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Part of it also is just the luck of the draw. As Lepler mentions in his piece, had the regular season swung differently, than perhaps where the games are played is a moot point. The situation in the West for example, where the games are doubleheaders, and in one central location, would probably make the most sense monetarily regardless of where each of the three teams where seeded. Travel isn’t exactly cheap, especially on last minute bookings.

Again, this isn’t the most ideal situation for the AUDL, especially during a weekend that remains extremely exciting. There’s only one game on the schedule that has the possibility of being an absolute blowout, and that’s the second game in Madison on Saturday. The unfortunate nature of that doubleheader, is that one team will be coming in off of fresh legs (the Madison Radicals), and the other having just played a playoff game (either the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds or Chicago Wildfire). Even then, both Chicago and Pittsburgh have given Madison some of their best games all season long, and hopefully the crowds come early in Madison to support both events.

Perhaps next season, the league can take steps to ensure this sort of conflict doesn’t arise. Maybe by starting a week earlier? Last weekend, besides the U-23 Championships on Saturday, many of these teams were wrapping up their regular seasons in the league. If instead, they were playing the first game of the playoffs, this sort of conflict could’ve been avoided.

For an in-depth preview of the games, check out this Ultiworld piece. My predictions for the weekend: Toronto out of the East over the New York Empire, Madison out of the Midwest by beating a tired Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, Raleigh out of the South in a thriller against Jacksonville, and Seattle out of the West after picking apart both Bay-Area teams. I think Matt Rehder is ready to make some noise in the playoffs.

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  • Two ultimate related endeavors that are worth reading up on. The first is USA Flatball, a recently announced organization, that’s bringing about a college mixed series and championship, and a college alumni championship tournament. The college mixed championship will be the first event, and is in late September of this year. Beach Ultimate Lover’s Association is also seeking sponsors for a new event they’re working on, titled the World Series of Beach Ultimate. The event would solicit the five best teams from three different events worldwide every two years, for a championship event in Dubai.  I touched on both of these in a post that went up yesterday.
  • Before Beane by Ben Lindbergh of Grantland is an interesting story on AVM Systems, the company that started baseball’s sabermetrics, and made the story of Moneyball possible. What’s really interesting is the secrecy surrounding the organization, even today, in what they did or could be up to today.
  • There was the great news this week with Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs organization coaching her team to the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League title, and the subsequent ‘rumors’ coming out that she would be a worthy choice for a head coaching job sometime soon.
  • The Lingerie Football Trap by Jordan Ritter Conn of Grantland talks of the horrible conditions for the players in the Legends (yes, not Lingerie) Football League. The players are there for free, with their bodies – instead of their skill on the football field – as the selling point, limited clothing and protective gear to follow that, and little to no health benefits to back it all up. The players keep coming back out of their sheer desire to play, but the league (and its audience) could care less about the role it plays in gender dynamics by endorsing what they’ve setup.

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