Photo by Kevin Leclaire –

Table Setting

Teams gaining advantage… Refs giving advantage… Double Coverage… An ugly start… Speed Kills or at least sets the stage… 100%… Perfect Pick… Rumbling Opportunity…


Short Sips of Hot Bitter Blackness. A hint of far-off stone-fruit sweetness. A smoky thickness lingers from the roast.

Vancouver throwing into double and triple coverage against the Stags repeatedly.

There are ways to beat the Stags. None of these ways includes repeatedly throwing into double coverage. Unless you have an advantage through strategy or personnel.

An advantage is a way to turn low-percentage plays into high percentage plays. On defense, it is the player who erases opponents or throws or areas of the field. On offense, it is the player who can throw to uncovered spaces or repeatedly render single defenders irrelevant or who makes a teammate’s routine play into an optimal play through anticipation. In either case, it could also be someone who possesses the opposite characteristic: The sort of players who provide offense after the block or defense after the throwaway.

It can be a scheme or concept which works well to disrupt the opponent’s strengths or to exploit weaknesses.

In any case, there remains no universe in which this season’s Nighthawks can beat this season’s Stags by throwing into double coverage.

Then there was the first point of Portland at Seattle:

Seattle pull skips out the back of the end zone.
Portland throws a 22-yard pass, incomplete.
Seattle throws a pass into end zone, incomplete.
Portland throws two passes in own end zone, incomplete
Seattle throws a pass into end zone, Goal.

Portland: 33 percent completion. 0-2 on holds.
Seattle: 50 percent completion. 1-2 on breaks.

Seattle really could not have asked for a much better start than this over 38 seconds.  

Of course, the next Stags score was much more to the point: Timmy Perston catches a deep goal from Raphy Hayes which took all of eight seconds of play. Many of those seconds involved Perston’s defender being worked over. First, he covered Timmy like a normal cutter coming out of the stack on a horizontal cut: Back him a little and see the thrower. However, this is Timmy Perston. Backing him by a little is irrelevant. Watch the cut again and see how quickly a 1-2 yard cushion turns into a 5 yard deficit. While it starts with hip control (Perston control both his hips and those of his defender), it ends with a display of speed.

A show like this tends to happen early in games for Portland. Doesn’t mean their opponents will be ready.

This reminds me of DeSean Jackson for the Eagles/Red[acted]s. He’s so much faster than everyone else that every opponent needs to relearn this lesson multiple times per game and season. Why? No opponent has anyone on their team as effortlessly fast as Perston/Jackson. The speed on a single cut here is something few can match at their best. Even fewer can match it over and over and over and over again over all of the plays in a game.

Or possibly a side of toast?

“Hi, My name is Gavin. I’ll be your server. Would you like wheat, rye, honey-rye, white, raisin, cinnamon-sugar or semolina for your toast?”

McKibben’s timing is impeccable.

And then there is this:

C’mon, Refs! Play on! He got the throw off to the open player for a goal!

Then, after the disc is put back into play, we have the game stopped to call ANOTHER foul on Portland which brings back another goal. We’ve got to give Seattle the goal twice scored rather than making them score it thrice (which they did)! And, for a moment, let’s go back to the band administered to Adamson. If bumping into your opponent and getting scored on is a band, 80 percent of MLU defenders (or more) also need bands. The thing which really sticks out to me is that whether there is a foul or not (and for all we know, the band could be for something other than the bump), this simply must be a goal. That Seattle scored three times is great. However, if they had turned the disc over after any of these play-stopping fouls (which could have been played as continuation), the Stags would benefit from quite cynical play. Which is precisely what we must avoid in ultimate.

Calling all of the calls accurately is the start of being a good official, but it is not the end-all. Context is king.


Tastes good so far. Future health consequences are sticky.

Nice Call Refs!

Trytiak reels in the powerful huck from Ostergaard, but his first contact was not in the end zone. The ref at the top of the screen sees it immediately and signals correctly. The ref at the bottom follows suit. Trytiak spikes the disc before confirmation. Far from the first time this has happened in ultimate, or in other field sports. Always a sight to behold.

Road Trip

Two weeks of play, two dominant road-trip performances from our respective conference leaders the Spinners and the Stags and one solid performance on a two-game weekend from Boston. But again, there are simple ways to see that the teams are taking advantage of the strengths of their players in different fashion:

PhilladelphiaPortlandBostonPoints Played

This clearly shows how Portland leans on the top of their roster more than Boston or Philadelphia and that, while the Spinners have the most players in the 15-24 range, if we consider 15-34 as one set of players, we’ll see that Boston (17) and Philadelphia (20) have most of their players in this group while Portland has most of their players in the 25+ range (14). The upside for Portland is that their best ultimate is likely better than anyone else’s best ultimate. However, if they suffer any injuries or roster changes for any other reason, there remain questions of how the Stags will respond. For Boston and Philadelphia, the more equal distribution of playing will likely leave the Whitecaps and Spinners in better position should anything negative happen to their players.

This is perfect defensive awareness by Raphy Hayes.

He is matched up on Luke Jesperson in a space which affords Hayes a view of the thrower, Jesperson he is covering, and Steve Gussin, the cutter one level underneath him. As the thrower (Chris Rupp) looks off the initial upline cut, he then casually tosses the around break. Hayes, as soon as the thrower pivots over, is already taking off for a catch block about a foot ahead of the intended receiver (Gussin). Excellent vision, awareness and execution. This is a textbook case of a defender taking advantage of compromised offensive spacing/awareness to get a block.


Ah, the core of the non-vegan breakfast. Boiled. Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Loco Moco’d.

Vancouver has two players with 100 percent completion (Aponte 9/9, Davidson 4/4, combine for 13/13).

New York has five (50/50).
San Francisco has seven (35/35).
D.C. has eight (50/50).
Philadelphia has eight (101/101).
Seattle has nine (73/73).
Boston has nine (77/77).
Portland has 10 (87/87).

If we take top-level information from this, the Dogfish might seem a bit weak (though they have but one game played) while the Rainmakers may be underperforming (in part because they’ve only played Portland).

Of players who are contributing the most completed throws for their teams, Trey Katzenbach stands out as the early league leader at 41. Katzenbach has completed more passes without error than all of the perfect players on two teams: Vancouver and San Francisco. Nick Thompson and Jibran Mieser are second with 24 passes without a throwaway.

Teams are subbing their players differently.

If we look at every player who has played no more than 60 percent of points on either offense or defense, the differences can be base-level informative:

TeamPlayersO PointsD Points% Off% Def
New York9899548.3751.63
San Francisco5262056.5243.48

The closest Whitecap to this cutoff is Hirschberger, and the closest Current is Kerr. They have stepped in for their respective teams. The Rumble and the Nighthawks are the two teams who came into the season with the most new players, so it seems natural that they would use more players in more roles. This is not the only way to use players on both sides of the disc, as Portland shows a different strategy of playing a handful players at the top of the roster.

Three teams in the East have either zero or one player pulling double duty, and three teams in the West have five or more players doing so. These numbers can shift any number of ways over the course of the season and are quite useful in understanding the evolution of the teams and players over time.

Veggies? Fruits? Yogurts?

Something light and possibly a positive decision.


I laugh aloud 83 percent of the time I watch this. Not sure I’ve ever gotten more enjoyment out of any clip of ultimate.

Two consecutive Portland break possessions:

Grant Cole to Bjorklund to Brian Penner for the break.

Grant Cole to Riley Mienershagen to Penner for the break.

Nadon is [insert language here] for “Not a reader”? Ya gotta keep your head on a swivel more like D.C.’s Barnhardt last week.

Just go ahead and stick your paw up and grab the wriggling disc like a grizzly swatting salmon, Johnny Stacy (#24).

A wasted shoulder-high layout from Topher Davis. Or(/AND!), another example (this from Gussin) that focus on the disc is a critical component to success.

Waffles or Pancakes?

Choose… but choose wisely.

Tom Levy managed to get the score of the Portland Vancouver game exactly correct at 28-12. That’s the first perfect score this season. The only undefeated prognosticators thus far are Levy, Tim Brubaker, William Curb and Matt Ruby.

It seems that I’ve fallen to the bottom of the standings fully after last week’s D.C. over Philadelphia pick. That and Poster picking the Rainmakers over the Stags (which looked like genius for most of the game) were literally the only wrong winner picks on the week. Which are good enough to put us together in the basement. Last in the standings but first for your ears.

Salute to Phife from Tribe to solo career and all in-between.

Beverage of Choice

Players or matchups to watch.

San Francisco versus the Portland Machine

While we watched Portland go 2-0 last weekend, the Dogfish sat with a 1-0 record accumulating video of Portland. Without too much to go on from the Dogfish, the Stags are likely to approach this game as a “business as usual” affair. If San Francisco can find something the Stags haven’t yet seen, they might well catch Portland unawares. This will be a good early test of who San Francisco is in 2016 after an opening week blowout over the Nighthawks, who appear have put a lock on the West Coast cellar.

New York’s Big Adventure

How will New York respond to their first trip away from home? Not only that, they’ll be traveling to D.C. where the Current are known to protect the Dojo from on field and off. Whether they can pull to .500 with two wins or simply get a positive result in the wins column this weekend, the Rumble should remain focused on the opportunities they will have this weekend rather than the difficulties they will doubtless endure.

D.C. is the last new opponent for New York to face, and if they lose the first game, the clouds will officially begin gathering over the season. If, however, New York can find a way to convert on the incompletions that D.C. seems intent on throwing, the Current could be the sole remaining winless team after the weekend.

The Place to Be

Personally, I’ll be…following the New York Rumble around this weekend. First in D.C. calling their contest against the Current with @cleatscufflinks co-host (and MLU holder of some official title or other) @nicdarling. That should be a blast. Then, the following day, I’ll be up in Philadelphia to call New York’s visit with my frequent collaborator, Mr. @geoff_poster.
Aside from that, from one son of the Twin Cities to another, I’ll just be missing you, Prince (Appended by me forever with: Formerly known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”). If you don’t know Prince, then the Kevin Smith bit about Prince, the Dave Chappelle bit (on Prince, basketball and pancakes) and literally all of Prince’s released music will get you started. Then keep it up for a decade or more, travel back in time and see him in the tiny flesh at least once. Prince was and will remain a truly fascinating, earnest, engaging, beautiful and multifoliate expression of humanity through music.