Sunday, October 19

Quick Nationals Sunday Morning Post (please excuse formatting.. running out of time)

Well, at least my intent is to make it quick.

To start with, the ultimate has been rather strong in the games I have seen. This may be selection bias (Follow Scandal around and you'll see some good ultimating) in part, but the games have been compelling for the most.  Comebacks, teams playing unafraid and the like.

That said, the spectator experience is difficult.  Nothing about this complex or setup has the spectator in mind.  The fields are separated by roads and fences.  The field assignments change.  None of the games on Thursday are particularly relevant.  

This event is about the players.  Later in the evening on Saturday, the players become spectators.  But even then, there are often multiple semis to watch at once (Women's and Mixed) on different quality fields (seating and surface) with different quality production values.  Different speaker systems, different scoreboards, different different different.  That this is unavoidable is likely more true than false, but that doesn't obviate that there is an implicit value statement in the placement of the games.

But the point isn't to complain about all of that.  The point is to paint a picture.  However fragmented and strange, the experiences I can type about are my own. One of the things that has been nagging the heck out of me since watching MARegionals has been round length.  It was a debacle watching unobserved game after unobserved game at Regionals end short of 15 points as teams took extra-long halves without even realizing.  I assumed that this would improve in the observed games.  Well, a little bit... in that at least the halftimes weren't greater than 10 minutes.   At the same time, the semifinal between Temper and Patrol ended at 12-11.  The game-to-go to the game-to-go between Patrol and Garden State ended at 12-13.

Again, I've fulminated a bit on this before (though I can't find it... if you go back to last year's Nationals, there were a ridiculous number of capped games in bracket play across all divisions) but I was hoping to be proven wrong.  Welp... let's just look at one of the (multiple) capped games I watched over the last 2 days.  We'll look at the very fun Ring v Ironside men's semi.  Why?  Because I actually took some notes via twitter last night regarding points and time.  Usually, if I'm going to write about a game, I record the number of throws and amount of time taken for each possession (when possible) and definitely for each point.  Since I'm not really "working" at Nationals, I haven't been doing this.  However, the data from the semi last night is near-complete and very basic.  Just score and time.  I missed two data points (clocks at 4-7 and 6-10) for which I just averaged two points together to come up with a reasonable facsimile of what occurred.  Listed below are all of the points of Ring v Ironside sorted by length.  Sadly, I didn't time the final interminable point... but then again, that was literally the only point of the game which was truly untimed.  So... perhaps that was right?  On to the numbers:


A quick summary:  

4 points under 2 minutes
3 points btw 2 and 3 min
5 points btw 3 and 4 min
6 points btw 4 and 5 min
3 points btw 5 and 6 min
2 points btw 6 and 7 min
1 point over 9 min

The obvious problems with this limited data set are that I'm lacking fouls, observer interventions (WHICH TAKE FOREVER AND A DAMN DAY WHILE THE WHOLE OF THE CROWD HAS LITTLE TO NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING), injuries and a handful of other things.  Nor did I track the time from a goal to a pull.  And beyond that I have literally no data to compare this to.

However, that will not stop me from having some relevant thoughts:  

1.  This game, while it had its share of calls and observer interventions and the like, was not out-of-the-ordinary for the men's division.  At least in my (reasonably respectable) experience.
2.  75% of points (18 of 24) were 5 minutes or less. (3 points were 5min and 5 sec... so 21/24 or 87.5% could reasonably be considered of a group).

So, let's do a little more basic arithmetic.  If a point last 5 minutes, and games are to 15, how many minutes will it take to play to 15-13?  Well, 28 points at 5min a point plus 10min for half is 150 minutes.  That's two and a half hours.  Currently, the "soft cap" goes on 100 min into each round, and the "hard cap" takes effect 120min into the round.  If we take halftime out of the total, that's 110min of game play.   Which, if we're using 5min per round, leads to 22 points being played.  That works out to 11-11 game to 12.

I wonder how many games of 23 points or fewer (with the winning team not reaching 15) have occurred in 2014 Nationals...

[I'll spare the description of me getting repeatedly angry at the abominable USAU Nationals Site while gathering all this info]

23 or under pointsnon-15

Also shown is a tally of the number of games in which the winning team did not reach 15 points.  As you can see, over a fifth of games across all divisions result in total scores under 24.  Across all divisions, 46.49% of games do not reach 15 points. (Oh... that bottom row in each is percentage of games that match the column descriptor)

The numbers say that it isn't quite as bad as I expected, but this is not good.  At least not for those of us who appreciate accuracy in language.  If it is 50/50 over the Men's and Mixed division whether either team will reach 15, we should not be stating that we play to points.  We should be stating that half of the time we play to points and half of the time we play to time.  When asked how we know which is which, we can respond that the game dictates its own end.  (Maybe it is the fault of the men for not getting to points?  The chart above shows that the more men involved in your game, the less likely you are to reach 15.  I have some pet theories on this... but I'll not type them at the moment.)

I'll stand on the side of either play to 15 with longer rounds, play to 13 with the same rounds, actually play to points, or actually play to time.  Pick one, be clear, and make reasonable assumptions about game length.

A secondary (though possibly more important) suggestion is that if we're using time caps, we should cap each *half* of play, not just the whole game.  Think about it for a breath... If a team wins the flip and gets to choose for the first half, which turns out to be longer than the second half due to the cap, they've got a leg up in that game solely by virtue of a flip.  Similarly, if a team is down by 2 or more at half, in order for that team to win the game, the second half will likely consist of more points than the first half (say you're down 8-3 at half.  You have to score 11 before the other team scores 7.  If you score 11 straight points, both halves are 11 points long.  If the other team scores a single point and you win, the second half will be longer than the first)

A tertiary suggestion is to reduce halftime in timed games.   5 min half adds a point to the second half.  


Notes on uniforms:

- When I arrived on Friday, the only teams I could easily identify from any distance (having never seen 97% of these jerseys before) were Rhino, Brute Squad, Ring and Truck Stop.  Everyone else could have been just about any team in any tournament.  These were teams that had clearly established macro-styles to their jerseys.  Either neon (Rhino shirts, Brute text), orange&black blocking (Ring) or a takeoff on the city's flag (Truck).  Admittedly, once I found Scandal, I stopped looking for teams.

- Hats.  IF the USAU is going to require players in the semis to have matching hats, THEN they should require matching hats in every game at Nationals (And I'd argue every game in the series...).  Why?  Well, what's the point of the matching hats in the first place?  To make the team look uniform.  Why? Potentially for TV, for advertisers, for highlight clips, for all sorts of things.  Well, if that's the case, why would you not want to do that for the other games? I was always told that it is what you do when no one is looking that reveals your character.  In this case, the USAU is revealing a waffling nature.  This is literally the highest quality ultimate tournament in the world.  If at no other ultimate tournaments throughout the year thereare matching hats and gear, at *this* one, it should be a requirement. For all teams in all games or for no teams.  This is in part b/c there simply should not be games played under different rules within the same tournament.  It's like playing games on day one to 11 and games on day two to 15.  Wai..What? We already do that?  Nevermindthen.


Other notes:

- North Dallas/Frisco/Lweisville is such a weird area.  Hyper-elevated highway interchanges.  Every road looks like a highway. There are chains of chain restaurants on the way to other chains of the same chain restaurant.  Jimmy John's is ubiquitous.  Starbucks.  Subway. And a billion other things I'm forgetting. 

- Is this tournament for the players? Why is it in Frisco? Is this tournament for the USAU? What do players do here on Saturday night after elimination? What are the benefits of Frisco?  I really... I guess I'm just happy I don't come here to have my season end.

- If the Master's division can't have Nationals on the same site as the rest of the club world, please reduce my membership dues.

- The observers this weekend have been... uhm... slow.  And too deferential to the players.  And too ridiculously slow to signal goals.  The cards and TMFs and PMFs I've seen have been curious and impossible to understand from the stands.  There have been really obnoxiously dangerous plays that go unnoticed and, all things considered, rather clean plays that have been addressed.

- The language restrictions are just absurd.  This is not high school.  Adults are allowed to curse themselves.  Audibly if they so choose.  Considering how few non-player spectators there are (and most of them are related to players in some way) I have literally no idea who this benefits.

- Once you start charging me an entry fee, we're at a different relationship.  Don't think that turning your organization's *members* into customers alters nothing.  What do I get with my membership if not admission to the organization's events? Is it just for all of the other people who play ultimate? Was it just a part of my entry fee for three tournaments?


Last thoughts:

Had some conversations yesterday that got me all misty-eyed for my playing days.  I miss so many things about playing.  The hairs standing on end, the excitement before the games, the anticipation, the times where you get your teammate's back, the warmups, the hard-fought points, the times where you work over a really talented player, the throws that you will never forget... and the investment.  The investment in my teammates and their investment in me.  But honestly... I don't deserve that investment any longer.  And my investment in teammates and team is not as valuable as it once was.  I do not belong on those fields these days.  I just wish I could find somewhere to play at a similarly high level but you know... for fun, not for victory.

In talking with a very drunk former teammate, I mentioned that the only thing you can do on a team is go to work every day and refuse to be outworked by anyone else doing the same job.  Your job is to be excellent.  If you can look yourself in the mirror every night and truthfully say "I gave all I had today" even the pain of loss and failure can be enlightening.  If you fall short of that heaven, you might still be found among the clouds.


Off to cheer for Scandal in the Women's Final.  
Maybe I'll stick around for the Men's final too...

1 comment:

dusty.rhodes said...

From me commenting on the notion of scoring last and losing by one back in 2008:

"We should pick 'time based' or 'point based' instead of 'a half-ass of each.'"