I was really excited to be invited to play at CHC 2010 this year with Maverick (Open, from Ontario, Canada). They were down to only 8 guys from the standard roster so I think they were a little desperate for players but it was still a huge honour to play with them. The tournament was wet and misty on the first day, which lead to some great conditions for pictures both from a lighting and from a number of layouts per minute (lpm) point of view. It was a huge tournament with ~80 teams total and good representations in each of the tournament team divisions (Open, Womens, Mixed). My team did fairly well for a team with a maximum of 12 cleated players, we won 3 and lost 1 on the first day and then lost both games the second day, but not without putting up a fight.
At the end of the first day, there was an exhibition game that was special because it was advertised as a “Refereed” game [pics 7-11]. This meant that there were 5 observers on the field (maybe some of them were lines-persons) and that they were following the regulations for the most active level of ultimate observing, ie. active stall counting, travel calls and offside calls. The game did closely resemble the sport I love to play, but the flow was interrupted but the numerous travel calls and it seemed like every pull had at least one offside call, if not two. On the other hand, it was interesting to see how much the typical high level ultimate player travels, and how we seem to ignore offside rules almost completely at nearly all levels of the sport.
When I was learning the rules of ultiamte from those older and wiser than I, I was told that some violations are typically not called (travel, offside, disc space, fast count etc.) unless it is at a pivotal point in the game. This lulls the opposing team in to the habit of making these violations increasing the chances of them doing it when it matters. With “active everything” observers, this strategy is completely neutralized, which changes the tone of the game. Several times I’ve wondered why we play ultimate without observers all year long until we get to a really important game, and then we put them in and change the way the game works. It’s a little like replacing the final at the Word Checkers Championship with a chess match.
I’ve recently been working for a ball hockey league, and have realized that they have referees from 5 years old and up. The rules and the people on the playing surface are nearly the same from a house league game up to the national championships. I figure that they have a good idea here, either we should have observers starting at juniors tournaments (league games is more out there than I’m willing to go tonight), or we should remove observers from all levels of play.
Ultimate is great as an exercise in compromise, negotiation and mediation. It has a long history (ok, 35ish years) as that strange team sport where you call your own fouls, for better or worse. I’m inclined to say that it you want to hit a guy when the ref isn’t looking, you should go play soccer (football), or football (american football), or hockey (hockey). Ultimate’s niche in the sporting world, is a game designed so that responsibility of following the rules rests on the players, rather than officials. I think is an important statement in the world today and probably a good reason to keep observers out for the time being. Some day, I’d even like to see a final at a high level tournament without observers, just to prove to myself that ultimate can help to save the world.
The following pictures were taken on day 1 (it was a 9 hour trip home on Sunday) of the Chicago Heavyweights Championship 2010 by Jon Hines.