Tuesday, August 18, 2009

CUC 2009 Open Finals Review- The Best Finals Ever?


I had the chance to do commentary for the open, mixed and womens finals at CUC 2009 and I was extremely pleased to have the privilege to do so. Not only will a DVD be available for all three games, but the local host society was able to arrange for high quality coverage with replays shown on the jumbo tron during the games. Tushar Singh and Iamultimate was also able to stream the local feed live to hundreds of people, which is a exciting first step towards Canadian ultimate exploring quality webcasting.

It was my first time commentating, and my main goals were as follows
  • Be positive
  • Be fair to all players, teams and cities
  • Make it interesting for the listener but not take away from the game

Looking at the results on the CUC 2009 site, it was easy to see that parity made for an extremely exciting week in all divisions but one. (GLUM was a dominant force in the Masters divisions, and used their unbeleivable D line play to win Nationals and allow no more than 6 points in any game).
Open- Mephisto of Montreal vs Phoenix of Ottawa

Naturally, the commentator booth of Mike Wronski, Rahil Suleman and myself were excited to commentate on two teams with such a rich history and such familiarity with one another. Both teams also had one other thing in common- They had been on the doorstep of a national title for over 7 years and had never been able to win it all.

This was Mephisto's 14th Nationals. Their first Nationals was in Toronto in 1996. They have made it to the quarters all 14 times, the semis ten times and to the finals four times in that stretch. They easily vanquished Calgary's Invictus 15-3 in the semis to make it to the finals.

Phoenix was in their 8th nationals. They had two third place finishes and had never made the finals before. Their win over local team General Strike was by the narrowest of margins (11-9) but they survived a very good Strike team and an emerging superstar player (Mark Lloyd). Phoenix had a 2 games to 1 advantage over Mephisto in head to head play this year and that had to help team confidence leading into the final.

Translation: A very deserving teams was going to win, and I'm not sure if any open final was ever this even heading into the match.

It should be noted that Phoenix captain Jamie Craig predicted this very same final weeks before the tournament.

The game was amazing to watch from start to finish. From the very first pull, both teams gave a complete non stop ('balls out') performance. They knew their opponents as much as their own rosters, so the matchups and strategy was easily visible as they traded points.

Back and forth the action went. Despite many bids on each play, the offence for Phoenix and Mephisto were playing relative turn free ultimate in the face of good defence, stadium winds and wet weather.

As the half neared, the defensive intensity from both teams were now creating turns. Players were starting to show some fatigue. Mephisto's man defence looked suffocating from the commentator booth (it really looked like great team defence that forced lots of small bail passes and seemed to shut down the Phoenix huck game) while Phoenix was winning individual battles (Loose ball d's, great o catches and shutdown marks).

Mephisto takes half by a slim margin and it's really time to Phoenix to show their mettle. Are they going to adjust and keep fighting?

No one in the booth thinks this is over. Even when Mephisto gets a three point lead in the second half we just can't see Phoenix as down and out. The talent is there, the body language is good, and the strategy makes sense. If they keep plugging, they can get back in this.

They do get back into the game and even take a one point lead. It starts with big d's from a number of great players. Luke Phelan, Jamie Craig and Ewan Reid are the usual suspects, but players like teenager Robert Schmidt step in for points and create turns. Now Phoenix has altered their O strategy and it's working. Break passes underneath to either Andy Corey, Luke Phelan and Kielan Way translate into great hucks to John Haig, Ken Alexander and several others.

Kielan Way is simply dominating the game with underneath cutting. His ability to get open at will is causing major problems for Mephisto. The fans are in shock watching his replays, seeing him layout around Eric St Amant and snatch the disc on the other side of his opponents body.

Meanwhile, the game is slipping away for Mephisto. Phoenix is a very short team but they're winning fights for the disc and creating turns. Mephisto's offence is looking tight and a time out is needed to regroup and rest. Dan Fassina and Mark "Shaggy" Zimmeral are carrying the load with Christan Mathieu, Eric St Amant, and Jean Levy Champagne. But they know Phoenix is scoring on three throws, and Mephisto is being forced to make many more.

Mephisto scores to tie it again and then gets a big break. Back and forth the teams score and we're getting into universe point territory. At 16-15, Mephisto pulls to Phoenix and both teams take turns moving it up and down the field, but can't punch in it. Great d here, throwing gaffe there.. nothing is coming easy in the second half.

Finally, Mephisto gets what they need. A beautiful inside out flick hits the chest of Jean-Levy Champagne, and the star cutter becomes thrower as he quickly hucks to star Eric St Amant streaking towards the endzone. St Amant looks up to see the disc directly over his head and knows he must make up time to catch the sailing disc in the endzone. He accerlates and lays out into the endzone and catches the disc, completely horizontal. He maintains possesion landing and Mephisto has won the game 17-15.

Mephisto has finally won a national championship after 14 years, and it could not happen to a classier team or a more supportive city and local league than Montreal. Dan Fassina and Mark "Shaggy" Zimmeral, two of the greatest leaders in Montreal ultimate history, were able to help deliver a championship with exceptional offensive play. It seemed like they were part of every scoring play in the second half, and Shaggy served as the dominant handler for his team when they needed him most.

Ottawa's Phoenix is crushed with the result, as seen below is not taken well. The loss overides the fact that this young team played an AMAZING final, and it really took Mephisto's best to win by a narrow margin.

There you have it, one of the greatest open finals in CUC finals. Fans of both teams are just glad they got to witness it.


Ti-Loup said...

Thank you Steve for such a 'resume' of the open final! Great work...

I was just wondering if you have any details about the CUC 2009 DVD that you were thanking about. Will it be made by Ultivillage.

Thanks for the coverage of the CUC...

Pierre-Paul Champagne said...

Classy Mephisto !? You don't play in the same town as they are...everything but classy !


Sport Management Steven said...

Thank you for the support regarding the site posts!

I'm told that the DVD will be available either from the host society or provided online for free via iamultimate.com

As for Mephisto, their support of Canadian tournaments for so many years, their ability to play hard and keep things fun, and the team's culture (When's the last time you heard someone playing for Montreal and not liking the team and their experience?) makes me deem them a classy organization.

Daniel said...


Thanks for your kind comments about Mephisto. The final was a great one and for a moment I thought we let it slip away. A lot of credit needs to go to Phoenix because they played one of the best games I've ever seen them play. It's unfortunate that one of us had to lose but at the same time I'm glad it wasn't us.


Could you please elaborate your comment? If you are going to come out and attack us as being classless I think the least you can do is to try to back up your claim.

Mephisto runs a competitive structure in Montreal that does nothing but try to improve the level of ultimate of the players involved and we have many players who spread this knowledge back to the ultimate community through clinics and coaching. We select the best players available to us, period. We never discriminated against any players for any reason and have been open to giving any player that wants a chance to tryout. I'm not sure what is classless about that.


Pierre-Paul Champagne said...

First, I never try out for Mephisto. I never did wanna play for your team.

What I meant by not classy, it's you are always stealing Magma player when they become good (after we spend many years developping them). It's really frustrating. We never had this problem with RIP or Camelot (they always have been respectful toward our team). I don't understand why you are surprise about this commentary, I'll already wrote an e-mail to your team about it (and you did answer me by a sneaky insult).

By the way, when we are Demon, they are comitting violation on purpose (not nice !).


Sonia said...

Thanks Steve for a great write-up. Although it sure was exciting to see the game live (and extremely nerve-wracking at the same time!), I would be curious to hear the play-by-play commentary.

And welcome to the tensions of Open ultimate in Montreal! Never a dull moment, that's for sure.

Also, even though Furious and Traffic did not attend this year's Nationals, I feel that the shift in powerhouses has definitely been felt. No longer are they firmly entrenched in the west. With 3 out of the 4 semi-finalists in coed being from QC, 3/4 women's teams from the east and both open finalists also from the east, I think that the eastern teams are now stronger than ever and will only continue to improve.


Hodge said...

Mephisto steals players? Really! Can you call picking the a top player from another team because they tried out for your team stealing? I would imagine that players would develop in the lower tiered comp teams and then tryout for the big show. It only makes sense. I feel there is some sour grapes in the mix here.

Why do you think Ottawa CoEd suffers a lot of the time? A majority of the players start playing comp with them and move on to the Open or Women's game since that is the top level. If you are playing in either of those fields I would imagine that you would want to play for the best team that you could.

There are some players that are true to the Ottawa CoEd team and decide to stick with the structure, but you would be hard pressed to hear them whining or complaining about a person's decision to play with another team, whether in person or on a blog.

I think someone needs to grow up a little. It is one's personal decision who to play for. Of course I could see your point of view if Mephisto is luring players to their team with luxurious gifts. I heard once that if you play with Furious you get free Gatorade powder, whereas GOAT will only get you free Powerade. Decisions, decisions!

Hodge said...

Oh by the way, Steve, great commentating on the game. I only caught a bit of it, but your professionalism was very apparent. It was nice to hear the person speak of both teams and know the individual players.

I can't wait to see the whole game!

Pierre-Paul Champagne said...

I believe teams should get what they are working for.

As I said, we never had this problem with RIP or Camelot (mixte). It's one thing when player decide to try out for an another team, but it's an another when this team come ask directly to your player.

Anyway, the succes story have been Goat who were able to develop a good relationship with the others opens teams and develop a great feeder system. GT and Roy have good young player, I think Goat gonna be on top for many years.


Et said...

Speaking of team who gets what they deserve, just to let everybody know that after only 2 years the Demon/Mephisto relationship is stronger than ever.

Demon had a cinderella season regardless of CUC results not quite as good as expected. This success is a lot due to Demon leveraging Mephisto knowledge of the game. Thanks to Dan, Eric, Shaggy, JL and other Mephisto players for their unconditional support, dedication and comittment to Demon success. It took some time and a lot of people had to go over their pride to make it happen, but the reward is so far definitively greater than the effort it required. Writing they are not classy is very very sad. All Demon & Mephisto players are today great ambassadors of this project (thanks to Ottawa and Toronto for the inspiration). Everyone who is interested in benefiting and giving some inputs into it has always be et will always be welcome.

Hey PP, you are right; Demon mark is sometime and little too.... enthousiastic. It actually causes us more trouble than anything else, giving free reset to the other team. But we are working on it. Hope it did not get into your head... you how a cheater I am...

Ho yeh almost forgot; Good job Steven ! And yes, it was the best open final I ever saw.

Daniel said...

It has been my impression that most of the Magma players who have come to play for Mephisto have come on their own free will. Mephisto has never done any active recruiting of Magma players beyond asking guys to try out for Mephisto. We have never guaranteed anyone a spot on the team in an attempt to recruit them. I don't see anything wrong in asking a player if he is interested in elevating his game by trying out to play for a stronger team. There are no player contracts in this sport; a player can play wherever and with whomever they choose. Likewise, teams have no rights to hold onto players. Magma has lost players to Mephisto and Mephisto has lost players to other teams. It's nothing personal, some people just want to challenge themselves to play at the highest level available to them. For some people that means moving on from Magma and for others it means moving on from Mephisto to something else.

The reality about running a high level ultimate team is that the number of roster spots available for bringing in and developping raw talent diminishes very quickly as a team gets more competitive. Do you think that Ironside, Revolver, Sockeye, etc. bring in any unproven players? The answer is no, their players all develop their game somewhere else and then make the jump onto the top team. I'm not comparing Mephisto to those teams because we aren't there; we still can bring in some raw players and develop them but we can't take too many from year to year.

While I think that your model is good for the first step of a players development it isn't good for developing players into top talents or for creating a top level competitive team. I think your model offers a great opportunity for players to learn the sport but by having too many players to develop you hold the team and the better players back. That isn't meant as an insult; it's just that some people develop faster than others and not every player has it in them to become a great ultimate player.

If it is any consolation, the reason that we have created our two team structure in Montreal (Demon/Mephisto) is so that we can develop our own players and not have to be reliant on any other team to develop our players for us.


Christian Mathieu said...

I just want to say that playing this final was one of the best sport moment of my life. Thankx to all my teammates who fought like true warriors from start to finish. I would fight again any war with all of you guys!! I'm so proud to be part of this team and I see great ultimate coming for us in the futur.

Pheonix played an awesome game and I was really impressed by their Hucking skills. It's always fun to play you guys, each team battles till the end.

As for the Demon/Mephisto bounding I think its great. The sport is growing and a solid structure is being put in place.

I really tought that the Mephisto / Magma crisis was over. I think that Mephisto players and former Magma players have put this behind them. Personally I just want to play at the higher level I can and learn from the best. I think it's the same for every player who join Mephisto.

I'm in love with this game and in the end the only thing important for me is to have fun and play has hard as I can with others like me...

Pierre-Paul Champagne said...

I just want Mephisto/Demon to be respectful toward the development of my team. All Montreal open player know this has not be the case in the past (hey, I heard you all complaining about Mephisto way when I was playing with you). Now that you are on the others sides, it's correct ? When Eric refers to the dark side (for Mephisto), what do you you think he was refering too.


Sport Management Steven said...

Pierre Paul,

I really really respect the work you have done with Magma over the years. I try to make a point of discussing it in every tourney Magma plays.

However, this post might not have been appropriate for an airing of grievances.

I can write a new post on the idea around your argument, but in the end player movement is done by the free will of the players. They make the decision to leave rather than stay and build something bigger with you.

elstagio said...

It's about time that ultimate receive more exposure in the media (internet, press, etc.). The live broadcast was sweet....Kudos to Wronski and Steven for the great commentaries.

I find this debate really interesting. While MTL has 3 open teams, with the understanding that there is a clear system between Mephisto and Demon, and then Magma, Ottawa on their end decided to go with only a A team (no A & B system this year), and Quebec decided to focus on CoEd due to the lack of Open players, and other reasons.

Montreal is lucky to have so many open teams. You should all put your effort going toward the same direction and fixed goals.

PP, is your brother not playing on Mephisto?

shags said...

To PP,

I feel sorry for you that you are still giving your bitterness energy. This is not the forum and this is not your moment. Actually,PP,there is no forum left out there for your need to perpetually put down Mephisto's recognized efforts of player development and your need to "own" players. This has become boring.

If anything, you should be proud that you helped develop some of the players who performed so amazingly this weekend. Your posts dishonour your hard work and theirs. It is embarrassing.

To Ultimate Players,
I would strongly request that you no longer spend any more of your valuable time responding to PP's story of bitterness to Mephisto.

It is his story alone.

Let's focus on the hard fought finals and the upcoming fall series. Kudos to Phoenix and Mephisto. What a pleasure to be on the field with both of you!

To Steven,
Thanks for the great article!


Eric St-Amant said...

Once again Steven, great job covering the event, writing predictions, reviews and so on. I did not get the chance to see the video feed yet, but I'm sure you did the commenting very professionally.

I would like to congratulate Phoenix for the massive effort they brought into this final. A lot of young teams like theirs would have abandonned at 11-8 but they did not. They fought hard, came back and came really close to take it away from us. Their defense was extremely tight and forced us to make multiple throws and mistakes. Kudos to their work.

On a different note, I was very impressed by the quality of the jumbo tron video feed. I watched most of the coed and women games and the filming crew had the same professionnalism of a football game coverage. If it wasn't for the million turnovers and the numerous fouls called, it could be very fun to watch on TV.


Christiane Marceau, AUM said...

Out of curiosity: are the observer allowed to use the jumbo tron replay to ajust their calls or is it still their best perspective only? Is there rules about this somewhere? Is there or will there be a debate about this? I'm only curious. Thanks!

Hodge said...

From what Ken Lange said on the OCUA Open Forum, it is based on what they saw, not the replay.

Mortakai said...

We (the Observers) definitely did not use the replay as part of our calls resolution.

It would be unfair for us to do so because we cannot be assured of it's consistency or unbiasness... that could only happen if it was an "offical" camera controlled by the officials. For example, what if the camera operator was a Phoenix fan and only showed replays that for plays that supported Phoenix calls and 'conveniently' did not for those that went against?

As always, we called what we saw and did not call what we did not see.

Rahil said...

We tried getting them to slow down the replays until after calls were made. But unfortunately, it never worked out.