Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Afternoon Thoughts

  • I just saw a Blockstack episode on Paganello. I officially want to go next year.
  • I hate that blogger corrects every British spelling of words.. colour vs color...
Hope everyone has a great long weekend.

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.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Team USA versus College All Star Alums- Who will win?


At the UPA College Finals. Team USA (World Games 2009 version) will face off against a team of College Alumni that once dominated the UPA college finals in their respective times. I personally am a fan of these all star games, and I'm glad to see a canadian named to the alumni team (Kate Crump).

Team USA Roster

College All Stars Alumni Roster tried to discuss this matchup, but fell victim to flammers/slaggers who usually subvert everything useful on that site.

Who do you think will win this match? More importantly, how does our Team Canada match up against the Team USA squad?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Contesting a Foul call on CUPA?


To be well known in ultimate, you need to play for a long time, be good at the game, and have a very distinct/passionate personality. For these reasons, Greg Lang is famous... or infamous... however you want to put it. Seriously, fewer people are as well known for their amazing hucks and ability to play when motivated. If you're playing Lang, I highly suggest you don't bug him. It does your team absolutely no good.

Mr Lang recently participated in the Toronto Ultimate Festival and watched Team Canada's World Games team scrimmage with some of Toronto's best players. He was very disappointed to see that almost all of the Team Canada roster is open and womens players and not coed players. He was so angry that he wrote a late night rant on his local league open forum and has called a violation on CUPA.

Brett Taylor at No Borders 2008
Photo Courtesy Dave Knowles

Violation on CUPA?

"CUPA has yet again selected non co-ed players to represent Canada in an international co-ed competition... Those men and women who choose to and dedicate themselves to the co-ed game of ultimate in Canada are the only Canadian players who should be eligible to represent our country in that division internationally."

As a board member of CUPA, I feel the need to speak to this. Here are my thoughts:
  • I don't mind Greg Lang or anyone else having an opinion and expressing it regarding CUPA decisions or team selections.
  • I'm not sure posting on open forums of local leagues is the best way to reach CUPA, and doing it long after team selection is a little reactive.
  • I completely disagree with Gregs violation call (I can't contest a violation) and his idea on how International coed squads should be put together.
Greg's idea, as I understand it, is that only Co-ed players should be considered for coed national teams. Instantly, we are limiting the talent that we can pick from, and we are discriminating againsts players and teams who may only be able to play for men's and women's teams in their area. How do we determine who is really a coed player and who is not? This could get messy.

CUPA is really trying to improve its processes for competitive play and team selection. Events such as World Games (the national team in selection) is a small rostered event that will feature the best players from the best countries. We worked very hard to recruit a talented selection committee (Andrew Lugsdin, Jeff Cruickshank, Eva Cham, Sherri Madigan, Lara Mussell) to try and cover all division across the country and put forward a winning team based on lessons learned from past World Games experiences.

It doesn't make it right, but when one looks at the Team USA roster, we see a similar trend in open/women player selection for the World Games roster. I do think that the overall best players are in the open/women's divisions, but I also hope that Team USA has not missed out on any hidden coed gems. It's Canada's gain if they did.

I want to see the best players picked for national teams, regardless of division, location, politics or gender. I think the entire CUPA board also echos that sentiment, and we're trying to make that happen on national team at a time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Factoid that Might Only be Interesting to me and Peter King


I'm not much of a betting man, but I do like to try and observe trends. Thanks to the upa site listing past champions, I wanted to look and see if what has happened in past years can help predict who can win this year.

A simple listing of past champions and the top four teams tells us a very very small piece of the puzzle. However, a very interesting trend emerges on the men's side:
  • Since 2000, only two teams (Florida 06 and Stanford 02) have ever won the title without finishing in the top 4 at the previous year's finals.
On the women's side, we see a similar set of trends
  • Only one team (UC Davis Pleiades in 2004) was able to win a Finals title without being in the top 4 the previous year.
What does this suggest? It very weakly suggests that although a team can walk into the finals and win on both sides of the bracket, the teams that win (as of 2000) are usually knocking on the championship door year(s) prior to their victory.

It also suggests that despite Ottawa's talent and Canada's high hopes, they might have the odds stacked against them to win it. UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and Washington all experienced the final four last year and return this year. In fact, the two teams with the highest RRI (Oregon and Wisconsin) have lost games to Washnington and UCSB. These teams have experience and they are winning big games this year going into the finals.

On the men's side, Carleton College, Wisconsin and Colorado all made the final four last year and are back in 2009.

The game is changing at the college level and we all see it when we look at the athletes. It really isn't a sport where a team can be assembled and win it all in one season. That means the ability of a school to plan and commit to a multi year recruit and development program is much more vital. I find that exciting and look forward to better approaches from teams that help develop the game.

So, who is your pick to win the open and women's crowns and why?