The Tally Classic was a great tournament. There really aren’t many other ways to say it. Florida State has some fantastic field space in a brand new complex that allows for full fields with little to no slope, bumps or divots in them. The program also has a great vision for where Ultimate tournaments are headed. The format is designed with the players and, perhaps, future spectators in mind. The tournament packets given out to every team were informative and useful. Food on Saturday night was distributed effectively and efficiently. Needless to say, the inclusion of trained observers in every game is an alteration that soon will be the norm in college Ultimate.
However, there were downsides to the tournament. They were easily outweighed by the upsides but they existed nonetheless. There were really two polarizing issues for the weekend and we’ll try to explain the upsides and downsides to each of those issues in this post. Those issues were the observers and the format.
The clear upside to every observed game is a guarantee of a neutral, unbiased perspective on the game. Games can no longer be decided by phantom travels, soft fouls, fast counts and general lack of spirit. There isn’t a game from the Tally Classic Division I bracket in which the better team did not win. In every game the outcome was decided fairly and justly. That point simply cannot be argued and the importance of that point cannot be overlooked.
Another pro of the use of observers is the increase in spirit in heated games. In the 2nd place bracket on Saturday afternoon, LSU and Winona State squared off in the battle of the Hendrix themed teams (LSU Purple Haze and The Winona State Experience). Winona State shot out to an early lead before LSU staged a furious second half comeback and eventually force Winona to win the game on double game point, 14-13.
In the aftermath of the loss, we spoke with some of the LSU players who were lamenting some of the calls they felt had been missed by the observers. We then posed the question to the team, “You feel calls might have been missed, but when was the last time you walked away from a double game point loss having enjoyed your opponent for the entire game?” After a pause the answer was quickly delivered, a resounding, “Never.”
Therein lies the problem though. There seem to be potential observers in any Ultimate community that has the drive to drum them up. However, the act of training those observers and training them well is a difficult one. There were many times when we were watching games and observers were out of position. Even one instance we know of when an observer was not paying attention, admitted the fact and as a result the disputed call needed to be sent back. On the flip side of the coin was the observer who felt he/she must make a call when a dispute arose. Too many times throughout the course of the tournament observers would make ruling on disputed calls that they could not possibly have had a good perspective on.
For the moment, untrained observers are better than no observers. The Ultimate community, specifically the UPA, cannot get complacent about the fact that observers simply exist. In the coming years, Ultimate should no longer be forced to claim that it is a self-officiated sport with observers. It should be able to claim that it is a self-officiated sport with highly trained and professional observers. This is a criticism that applies to UPA and UOA observers alike.
However, as we’ve already said, the use of untrained (when we say untrained, we mean that whatever training the observer has gone through simply hasn’t prepared him/her well enough to be a reliable observer, not that he/she hasn’t done some training) observers is far better than the alternative of using no observers. So, sacrifices must be made in order to maintain the integrity of the game. We can only hope that the UPA and the UOA will maintain a genuine dedication to improving their observers’ quality and skill.
As far as the experimental roles went, it was clearly an improvement on the game. Active travels and stalls are nice for a spectator and the players seemed to enjoy them. We would like to see the observers stalling out loud on every count, even 1-5 but that’s merely a personal preference. In addition, a way to more clearly express a stall count delayed by a double team would be nice. The observers also seemed to run into trouble with stalling on hucks. If a 50-60 yard huck goes up, it’s difficult for the trailing observer to be in a good position to tell whether or not the receiver should be being stalled due to the distance that mark has from the receiver.
Overall though, the role changes seemed effective and were certainly enjoyable for a spectator. The players seemed, for the most part, supportive of the role changes as well.
There were more complaints about the format than there were about the observers, at least that’s the way we saw things. While long rounds and byes for every team are nice. The total length and amount of byes at Tally were, possibly, excessive. Anything that results in teams starting their day at 8 in the morning and ending it at 10 in the evening, is just a little much for us.
While having five or six games in a day is too much, there is probably a happy medium in between the long Tally Classic schedule and a crammed schedule.
Overall, we were thrilled to be a part of the tournament. There was some great competition and it’s clear that the organizers behind the tournament are ready to do whatever it takes to make Tally Classic one of the best tournaments in the nation. We believe they are well on their way and you should be dying to be a part of it. In short, submit a bid next year, you won’t regret it.