Friday, May 15, 2009

Is the Callahan Award Just a Popularity Contest?


One of the best ultimate sites in the world, The Huddle, has posted an article about the Callahan award. An annual award given to the best male and female college player, it's an excellent award and should be a huge honour to anyone who has the chance to be nominated/awarded the prize.

Not only is the award a good thing, but the discussion and voting process is also good for the game of ultimate. It's nice when people are looking for the good players on their teams and on other squads. Those that go out of their way to nominate and advocate others are definitely to be saluted.

Here comes the but...

BUT with so many teams and so many players, combined with so little stats in the game of ultimate, how is the Callahan Award system anything but a popularity contest? I know we are following in the footsteps of pro sports, where sports writers are usually charged with the task of voting for MVP. Usually there is a lot of bickering over the definition of the MVP and the stats that most writers really don't understand.

I'm not saying the winners are not good players. Generally ultimate people can pick out the fast, the strong, and the spectacular play makers. However, winning a Callahan award involves the following keys

  • You have to play on a good team and get exposure
  • You have to have good champions to lobby for you
  • In most sports the scorers tend to get more love from MVP voters, and I assume ultimate is no different. So you have to be a big thrower or scorer.. and that's more important than being efficient and truly the most valuable
  • As with the case in all aspects in human life, it would not hurt to "look the part".
Despite all these issues with the award, I wouldn't want to see the Callahan award cease to exist. If we can improve our evaluation process as the game advances, it would be great. In the meantime, we'll keep watching the highlight clips, reading the campaigns and pick MVP needles from the proverbial haystack.

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