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More ref discussion/ The UOA

November 23, 2009

Thoughts on Officiating

Is it just me, or is all of this talk about the officiation of Ultimate gaining steam? Maybe I’m being dumb– afterall, Frank will always be crazy, Toad will always be an ass, and they’ll both always be there. But it seems like more and more middle ground is emerging, and a lot of people are starting to deliniate between extreme personalities and their sometimes progressive ideas.

Maybe the outside world is responsible for stirring up discussion within Ultimate. Last week, France’s Thierry Henry pulled a Hand of God en route to advancing to the World Cup (and eliminating Ireland). Lots of RSDers were quick to use the the the Henry debacle as the latest platform for pointing out the fallibility of officials, and while I think this argument is pretty predictable and basic, it holds some serious weight: refs would not fully eliminate cheating or any of Ultimate’s other problems, and thinking they would is stupid. I’m sure we can all think of times when refs have blown it, and most of the time, there’s nothing that can be done about it. The game will go on.

Tim Donaghy’s recent return to the sporting world’s conscious stirs up even more complex questions about referees. Let me be clear: Donaghy has some serious monetary interest in the public buying his stories, and everything he says has to be taken with a grain of salt. But it’s not like he’s the only one out to make a dollar. The NBA is, afterall, a business, and I have no problem at all connecting the dots between superstar success and revenue. And I doubt David Stern does either. So really, is it that hard to believe, at least in some cases, that the NBA would lean on refs to encourage certain Association-friendly outcomes? And League aside, is it beyond anybody to think that referees develop personal biases for or against certain players? I really don’t think so.

My point, really, is two-fold. First, the referee/observer/whatever argument is not black and white. There’s no simple solution, and expecting one is foolish. Referees have their downfalls and biases, and so do observers. I’ve seen it in professional sports, and I’ve seen it on the Ultimate field (both for and against players). Second, once an institution starts to make money off of a product, all bets are off with regard to fairness. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on this, so expect more to come.

The UOA/Wilmington 8s

From a more tangible perspective, all of this UOA talk is really interesting. Mike G is making no bones about what he wants to do: contract out Wilmington 8s-style tournaments while recruiting more UOA observers in the areas where the tournaments are held. From there, a network of Mike G-trained coordinators and officials would be able to offer their services to college teams across the country, spreading hand signals and making WUFF Campers out of all of us.

Seriously, though, this has some real potential. Mike’s plan seems straightforward enough to work, and the result could be a spread of observed ultimate in the college division. The format of the 8s really is a good one: every game counts, and the eight team format (to me, at least) intensifies the competition between the teams in attendance. Also, the UOA has been clear in saying that they intend to make their tournaments UPA-sanctioned, meaning that they’re working with the current governing body while expanding their own service. Nobody else has stepped up to do this, and they deserve some serious props here.

Mike has said publicly that he’s locked down tournament directors for DC and Philadelphia locations, and that he’s looking to expand to Seattle, Boston, Denver, and San Fransisco, among others. Again, this has tremendous potential for college competition, and like it or not, could be a big step toward profitable (for somebody) Ultimate. The UOA has my attention for sure, and it looks like it has the UPA’s as well.

That’s all I got for now. I want to update more regularly, so I may return to bullet-form type posts so that I can somehow justify rambling inanely whenever I’ve got Ultimate on the brain.

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