Monday, May 14

Rampage at Spinners, Sat. May 5

Welp, I finally made it to an AUDL game And I tweeted the heck out of the first half.  But the Spinners were beating the crap out of the Rampage, so I opted to yell more and type less during the second half.  The game finished 24-18 in Philly's favor, which had the added advantage of making my 7pt pre-game line a rather accurate prediction considering I'd never seen an AUDL game.

Here are my thoughts on what's up with the AUDL, now that I've moved past theoretical debates and actually experienced the product:

- The larger field is excellent.  The only downside to this is that there aren't enough players (yet) who can actually pull far enough to make it to the endzone.  Maybe they lack the experience in trying, but the effective field length for most points was not 80 yards.

- The removal of the double team rule is excellent.  The issue is that the players/teams/coaches have not yet discovered how to use this.  The zones that were run in this game were minor variations on standard ultimate zones.  3-map cup, 1-3-3 matchup... with the width of the field coming into play to provide space for the hammer these zones are rendered largely ineffective.  Those zones are designed to take advantage of the lack of ability of the offense to get completely around the zone due to the 40yd width of the USAU ultimate field.  With the added width, the ability to change the angle of attack increases significantly.

- The wider field. There are far fewer opportunities to get poachblocks.  Personally, this means that I would likely never get a block in AUDL play.  On the other hand, the width of the field would put me in situations on offense that allow for a larger variety of throws to attack the defense.  A good swing pass (w/ or w/o a dump) changes the angle on offense to a degree not previously possible.  The other two thoughts on this are that ultimate players don't yet know how to cut with this width.  Most players up to this point were taught that there is one angle on an in-cut, for example, in large part because with only 40yds to work with, there was generally only one effective angle.  This is now different.  The other is that the largely horizontal cut (as well as the square cut rather than the pure comeback) has much more space to force a defender to commit fully rather than jog at your heels in an attempt to bait the block.

- The speed between points is awesome.

-  The difference in conditioning/strategy btw Spinners and Rampage is a chasm.  I've not seen any other teams play, but... this was striking.  It was apparent by midway through the first quarter that on every possession at least one Spinner(?) was beating his man by 5+yds in every direction.

- The refs.  The refs were inconsequential.  They didn't have to make many calls b/c in large part, ultimate players avoid fouling to begin with because they know no other way of playing.  Contrary to the MLU experience, it is not the gross intentional fouling that becomes insidious in sport, it is the "persistent infringement of the rules" (to steal from soccer) that changes the game.  Rather than one shove or tackle or intentional foul, constant physical play, hands on body restricting movement, subtle shirt-tugging, consistent Matt Murphy-style foot-entanglement, not slowing down quite quickly enough as you transition from receiver to thrower, flopping... these are the things that change over time as refs become the sole arbiter.  The players don't know how to do that yet, so the refs are largely unchallenged.  The experience levels of the refs varied wildly, as did their confidence in the power of the whistle and their ability to communicate with the players to coerce the game to run smoothly.  There was some yapping at the refs, and some missed calls.  This will get worse before it gets better-- I'm not sure who the refs they've got lined up for the future are, but the hope that they will be experienced both w/ ultimate AND reffing is... a hope.  Again, no issues here, but the envelope is far from being pushed.

- The concessions.  The concessions were... rabidly expensive for Spinners gear ($30 for a hat?) and rather cheap for food and the like.  If you want to make a mint selling something at AUDL games, get a license to sell alcohol and stock the cooler up with craft brews. 

- The overwhelming presence of Trey.  Here I am at a semi-pro ultimate game, and it sounds just like nearly every club tournament I've been to from 2003-2012... a dull patter of players, coaches, fans and passerbys saying things, an occasional collective sound in appreciation of a play and then this one voice just tearing through everything at what seems to be a unique frequency available only to him.  The guy is unique in ultimate-- let's just leave it at that.  The only other Trey note is that it looks like he finally learned how to throw.

- The crowd.  no comments on the size (we were at some random high school in Philly-- not exactly Franklin Field) but the intelligence of the crowd was solid.  They were reacting not just to first level plays (skies, big throws and the like) but also displayed an understanding of the game.  They mostly seemed to be parents of ultimate players, with a smattering of kids and college kids.  The demographic missing?  The male from 18-35.

On the whole, the game was well managed and presented.  Watching this, it is unclear why so many people have been down on the idea of ultimate as a viable spectator sport for so long.  If it was just the refs and the professional presentation (field, announcer, scoreboard), all ultimate players prior to the AUDL who wanted this to happen should be ashamed of themselves and walk up to Ulticritic and say "You were right."  If there is something more than that (using a frisbee, a relative newcomer to the sporting world; lack of true athletes; origins of the game [elitist b/c of only existing at colleges for so long]; whatever else) well, it was only a matter of time.

If the marketability of this sport is due to the elimination of self-reffing, everyone who played pre-AUDL *and believed in spirit of the game as a governing principle* should be ashamed of themselves.  The reason that the reffed version is different is because of the elimination of arguments, not the efficacy of the system in terms of making accurate calls.  That is, every time you:

- argued a call instead of "contest/no contest", 
- stomped around in a circle in anger
- threw the disc over to an adjacent field b/c "fuck that guy"
- refused to abide by a legit call
- didn't grasp that "best perspective" does not mean "closest player"
- made a call to get back at someone
- made borderline travel calls to slow the game down
- continued to throw after you heard the call
- fouled intentionally
- never actually read the rulebook which you were required not only to abide by but to enforce
- cheated in whatever other way when you *knew goddamn well you were cheating*

you were digging the grave for self-officiating.  If you agreed to play ultimate, you agreed not to do those things to the best of your ability.  By not doing so, you chose to undermine the game.  You perverted it in the most insidious fashion possible.  You broke the system and proved to everyone all over again that humans are not to be trusted- not even in something as trivial as a game.  Ultimate was built, to some degree, on very lofty ideals.  To play the game was to agree to attempt to live up to those ideals to the best of your ability.  If you never even tried... well, you were just a reject from some other sport or someone who never gave Ultimate a chance.  You were forcing your own ideals onto the game rather than agreeing to the conceit of ultimate.  This is like playing a soccer match, picking the ball up, running it into the goal and then telling the ref that *he* doesn't know the rules as he gives you a redcard.

Anyway, it was a fun overall experience and I will go to another game when/if I'm close to a game in the future. 


dan said...

hi, I really appreciated this look into the AUDL. It's definitely an interesting experiment. Unfortunately, my only exposure so far has been through Skyd's highlights. The highlights don't do much to convey the atmosphere of the games, not to mention the apparently entirely new tactical changes that the larger field introduces.

thanks! :)

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Kenneth Crosby said...

Really liked reading this blog! Your points were really good. I personally enjoy watching AUDL games, mostly for the fact that I gain more knowledge and techniques from watching professionals play. I agree about the refs though, they do need to be a little more qualified, but they are doing a good enough job as of now. I cant wait for the AUDL to grow in size and number of fans!