Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Being Classy is Free"...


Every year, teams and players go through the unfortunate following:
  • They say no to players trying to make their teams
  • They cut current players and leaders that they longer wish to "retain"
  • They get passed over by players who leave them to join other teams
Now, we can agree that these decisions are not easy. We can only handle/train so many players, so many voices, and so many egos on a team. We have no way to retain players in this amateur sport, and players have the right to leave when they want to. We can only assume that when these tough situations happen, teams and leaders need to do it with class.

As a friend said recently, "Being Classy is Free". And yet, in ultimate we are rife every year with stories about poorly handled situations where that unlimited and free resource of Classiness is not applied in ultimate.

Non-Football Example- Bobby Bowden Gets Axed at Florida State

This week, the president and athletic director of Florida State University unceremoniously gave football coach Bobby Bowden, head coach for 33 years at the school, no choice but to "resign" at the end of this season.

Bowden, 80 years old, was clearly nearing the end. In fairness, being 80 and running a national football program is a daunting task. His ability to recruit and field a powerhouse had waned, and a conference full of coaches who are younger, more tech savvy (Does Bobby Bowden tweet?), and more effective was clearly hurting the FSU program. The school was getting all the ego and swagger of a college football coach, and none of the results. I'm sure Bowden was a jerk, but that doesn't excuse one from their actions.

On the other hand, Bowden was an icon at the school. He made that school. The football field is named after him. His teams were top 5 in the country from 1987-2000. Won two national titles. And let's be serious- He brought more money to that school that anyone ever has.

What will the FSU Football girls (pictured) do without Bowden?

The major problem with the firing.. errr resignation was the way it was done.

The President, who made the firing, and the athletic director were responsible for the decision. In order to announce it, they used two current players to face the media. They refused to address the media and answer for their actions. Not only did they fire a legend, they didn't want to explain why.

Bringing it back to ultimate, I think these kinds of awkward situations are caused by poor leaders, or simply people who focused more on their own pursuits than the feelings and dignity of others. I think people forget that we play a volunteer amateur sport that the real world doesn't really respect a whole he&& of a lot.

There is no real hard and fast rules about being classy, but I would simply advocate the 'golden rule' of doing onto others as you would would have do onto you. That's a simple start.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One Play Does Not a Game Make


Last Sunday night was the Canadian Football League's championship game. One of very own ultimate players works for the CFL head office (Let's call him "Loic") so it is great to see the league doing so well and being so popular in Canada. 6.1 million viewers watch the final game of three down football in 2009.

The Montreal Alouettes won the game with a 28-27 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. This was Montreal's 7th appearance in the cup final this decade, and had only won once before in six tries. If they didn't win, I was going to write an article asking you readers if great players whose teams don't win are still great. (Jim Kelly and Dan Marino anyone?)

After a somewhat quiet first three quarters, the game picked up and saw Montreal come back froma 27-11 deficit to win the game on the final play of the game.

Pretty normal stuff right? But for those of you who didn't watch the game.. here's where it gets tricky.
  • On the final play Montreal's kicker (Damon Duval, who set a league record for points in a season this year) misses a 43 yard kick.
  • Saskatchewan celebrates their win
  • Flags are down amid celebration
  • Saskatchewan has too many players on the field for the final play. 10 yard penalty and another chance for Montreal.
  • Montreal boots the 33 yard field goal and wins the Grey Cup
So, this is probably the only time in professional sports both teams thought they won the championship. Replays clearly show the Roughriders had too many men on the field. There was no arguing the call.

The news headlines and TV coverage were pretty consistent: 'One big mistake costs Grey Cup'. But was that really the case? Was it just one penalty that decided the game?

We are guilty of this same type of analysis in ultimate. We often point to a single play as the "TSN Turning Point". That big d block "turned the tide" or "made the difference". It's simply not true.

Blaming a loss on one player making one play/mistake is very unfair. When you blow a 27-11 lead in a football game or a 14-10 lead in ultimate, there were many wrong things that lead to the loss. The defence failed to stop the opponent. The offence stopped scoring. Players allowed one play to get into their game and distract them.

Conversely, I also get disappointed from the overused word "clutch". Somebody can miss 70% of their shots in a basketball game, but if they hit a game winning shot at the buzzer they are clutch. Would the game have needed that shot had the player made more of their shots earlier?

Why should we try to avoid judging a game by one play?

The consequences can be heavy. It's a heavy burden to bear for the person that is at fault. It can also lead to overvaluing someone who makes a key positive play.

Look no further than Bill Buckner. Buckner had a stellar Major League Baseball career and made it to an All Star game. However, he and his name is now synonymous with one error in the 1986 world series. It doesn't matter that the team had another game to make up for that play and lost game 7, he is still the goat.

Right now the Saskatchewan team refuses to identify who was at fault for the play. They don't want someone to be labeled and I salute them for that. I hope ultimate teams behave in such a manner when the unfortunate happens.