1. MLU Championship Game
Before congratulating the winners, I was very glad to hear through Twitter Saturday night that Jeff Graham who suffered a concussion during the game, and Will Neff who suffered a broken wrist, were both okay. Congratulations to their team, the Boston Whitecaps, for winning the first annual MLU Championship over the San Francisco Dogfish, after a 20-15 victory. If there’s one thing the MLU has done right more than any of the other leagues this season, it’s that the game is instantly available for watching on YouTube after the live-cast ends. So if you missed it Saturday you can still watch it. Also can we all acknowledge how ridiculous MLU Commish Jeff Snader and VP Nic Darling look while holding the trophy (which looks great) in this photo? It’s no Stanley Cup guys, but it looks great nonetheless.
The Dogfish were a bit depleted, without Kittredge, Joye and Taylor, all at World Games training. Nonetheless, the Fish kept the game close throughout. They held a lead early in the first quarter, and in the third brought the game within one after Graham went out with his injury. But Boston stayed on top, showing the offensive knack they had shown all season – with this adding to the list of all but one game this season that saw the Whitecaps score at least 20 points, and as the MLU write-up points out by winning the last ten games by more than four points. Could the game have ended differently with the three star players the Dogfish were missing in attendance? Yes, but I’m not so sure it would have. All season long, the Whitecaps were able to show they had mastered the MLU style of play, on both sides of the disc. And an undefeated season is no fluke, especially with the resiliency the team showed through the injuries in the Championship game.
Before next season kicks off, we’ve got the two World events, the AUDL finishing, and the USAU club and college series’. But what the MLU announces in their off-season to capitalize on the success of this season, and on the Whitecaps undefeated season, could determine where they end up 4-5 years down the road. Does the MLU seek to expand? How do they plan on boosting attendance? Where do they go from here?
2. World Games
First things first, with just 35 hours left at the time of writing, this fundraiser for a broadcasting of the 2013 World Games, which start the 28th, needs around $10k to meet their goal. If you can help out in anyway, that’d go a long way to seeing not only more of Team USA, but of the other teams in attendance as well!
Another way to see the team though, is through the documentary ‘Bidding for Gold’. The documentary looks to not only capture the history of the sport, but also this team of players and their quest for the gold medal at the World Games – and the spirit each of the athletes show along their journey and subsequent playing. While the documentary probably won’t be out for quite a while after the World Games, I’m very excited to see what the filmmaker (Ultiworld’s Adam Shapiro) can produce about the team, and hopefully get us some game footage as well!
3. US Open Results
I’m a little late to the game on recapping this, but after looking at the results and being able to watch some of the games live, I couldn’t agree more with what Lou Burruss has to say. While Ironside wins pool play, and then takes a close game from Ring of Fire in the semi-finals, Revolver once again came out on top over the Boston boys in a great, close game. While no YouTube game footage yet, there is this highlight that is simply… wow by Beau. In Lou’s piece, he talks about the encouragement the top Open club teams that weren’t attending have to feel after seeing Ring and Doublewide falter a bit, and look beatable, while Ironside and Revolver seem to already be peaking (or close to it). That sets up an interesting rest of the season for Sockeye, Chain and company. With the polish Revolver and Ironside already have (as Lou, I think rightly, attributes to their MLU seasons) it’ll be interesting to see if they can have success trying to sustain that in the upcoming season, and through missing players to the different Worlds events that are taking place.
Looking into the comments section of that piece, and you see more on the disappointment in the lack of the top International teams. The top British and Japanese teams have announced they’ll be attending two other USA events this summer, which seems a little weird when this event was the one that was supposed to draw that talent. For the Buzz Bullets, not trying to attend an event on the opposite side of the globe is understandable when their other option was formerly ECC in Seattle. But for Clapham, Chesapeake over the US Open is a bit disappointing. I’m not sure of the events surrounding their decision, and as such think the fault lies mostly with USAU. Until they can make sure that the top teams internationally are the ones attending, can it really be booked as the premiere international event?
4. US Open Convention
While I haven’t seen much more come out of the convention, other than participants saying they had a great time taking in all of the different lectures, I was very encouraged by the piece by Jason Parker on the USA Ultimate website. In it, he gives his own take on the conference and a bit more detailed explanation of how it worked well enough that even players and coaches of teams could attend events.
I’m ready to make the quick hope over the border to Toronto from Buffalo this upcoming weekend to see the U-23 WFDF World Championships. My plan as of now is to cover as much of the USA teams as possible via Twitter (@Skyd_JLeppert) and written pieces, but of course keep tabs on the other international teams as well. If you have any information to pass along about the other International teams, reach out to me on Twitter or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) por favor!
Last summer, Revolver was the representation for Team USA at the World Championships after winning the 2011 USAU Club Championships. Now imagine if this summer, Pittsburgh on the open side and Oregon on the women’s side were gearing up to travel to Toronto to represent Team USA at that event, having won their college division? (If you’ve forgotten, here are the actual teams for U-23.) Obviously, you have to first move past the constraint that not all members of the team would be at the right age. And the big question would then be, what do you do with the mixed team – is it a team of all-stars like the World Games team is? Do we see a mixed division start up in the college scene for this purpose? How would the teams do? Could the college teams carry enough depth to last every single day? The answer probably isn’t a positive one to a lot of those questions; but it is fun to speculate.
Now if the College Championships did determine who represented Team USA at the U-23 event, I imagine recruiting for the top programs would take on a totally new role after the event happens a few more times. Once the events popularity is reaching new heights, why wouldn’t programs that made it there – like Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Oregon or whomever else wins – start to use that to recruit potential players? The top high-school players may get phone calls from the Carleton CUT coach and players, but if Wisconsin is saying “Hey, we were the last team to represent the USA at this event – we want you to help us do that again!” wouldn’t that seem more attractive? All of this is a pipe dream for now, but adding another layer of competition to the college scene as it continues to grow would be beneficial as well.
6. SOTG, Morality and Economics
I haven’t considered looking at the rules, and spirt of the game, in ultimate as an economic and moral function – but this piece at Understanding Ultimate does, and it’s quite interesting. The author, Benji Haywood of UK Ultimate, talks about how punishments for penalties (i.e. TMF’s or yardage penalties) can be thought of, and at the end briefly talks about what he thinks should be done. I do understand the point of not wanting strategy in the game to include hacking away at a guy – as it sometimes can when a wide-receiver beats his man in football, or a forward gets a breakaway in hockey – but also understand the counter argument of trying to fit the game into the more ‘professional’ landscape. This makes the BVH and Dobyns pieces from earlier this year on where the sport is going even more interesting, to think about the sport not as players or potential spectators but those deciding how to judge the game.
7. Terminus Preview
Lastly, a preview of Terminus – and while the US Open features the top four teams from the year before, this tournament features everyone else. Machine comes in as the overall one seed atop Pool A (as of writing), but they sit in a potentially very upset heavy pool. The fact that Chain and Johnny Bravo sit behind them could spell disaster for the Chicago team. In pool B, GOAT is the top seeded team, but with Sockeye right behind them. As Lou said in his piece, Sockeye and Chain (with Johnny Bravo likely to enter that mix) have to feel very good about its chances to take down the top four teams. But if they’d like us talking heads to continue thinking of them that way, then they’ll need a strong showing this weekend to prove that. Anything less than semi-finals from those three teams, and I expect talk to shift from “is this their year” to “will team x threaten at Nationals?” Of the Canadian teams, I wonder if the U-23s starting on Sunday with opening ceremonies have any effect? For Furious, the impact is great – their team blog mentions that ten players and two as coaches will be attending the tournament. Even if all of those players ship out to Toronto late Saturday night or even Sunday, their play will be affected as ten of their guys will be expected to be competing for a week straight (potentially). When visiting with the AUDL’s Toronto Rush earlier this month, they mentioned that they’d be losing players sporadically to training and to the U-23 games (the AUDL won’t affect team Cananda’s players, as the Rush don’t play again until the 3rd of August) and I imagine the same is for GOAT, and that they’d be setting off to Georgia in a similar boat.
Regardless, games to watch this weekend could just be the entire tournament, since this is our first good look at these teams, but there are a few that stand above the rest. The 1 vs. 2 matchups, Saturday at 5pm EST for Machine vs. Chain, and 4pm EST for GOAT vs. Sockeye, are two of those and conveniently fall at the end of the day. Sunday morning at 10am, right before the different brackets split off, also gives us two interesting matchups in the 2 vs. 4 seeds – Chain vs. Johnny Bravo, and Sockeye vs. Furious George. Granted the Sockeye/Furious game may not be as interesting if a lot of the Canadian’s have already shipped off to Toronto to make the opening ceremonies, but hopefully still a good game. Aside from that, Truck Stop vs. PoNY for East Coast dominance, and the performance of reloaded Rhino will be interesting to watch as well. Here’s hoping the Open club picture is a little clearer after this weekend.
Feature photo by Sean Carpenter – Ultiphotos.com