After a rough loss to the defending champion Boston Whitecaps in Week 1, Isaac Saul gives us his thoughts in the second edition of the New York Rumble Players’ Blog.
Well, that was ugly.
A few days after my first professional Ultimate game, I can truly say that I have some mixed emotions. Nobody enjoys losing, and we took the kind of beat down on Saturday that keeps you in the gym an extra few hours the following week. What the 22-14 final score won’t tell the casual fan is how many chances we had to make it a game; like when we were down 7-9 with the disc and our O-line on the field. As a unit, we were basically absent the first and third quarter. That is usually not conducive to a win.
Personally, I know I missed a few shots I’m not used to missing. I could talk about the wind, the Innova disc, the new teammates or the tough opponents, but the truth is sometimes you just don’t hit the throws you want to. Every great thrower I’ve played with knows that, and I try to emulate their short memories and unconditional confidence. As a team, we have a lot of building to do – and as a player, I know I can execute at a much higher level than where I was executing in Boston.
But that about does it for the negatives.
Despite the whooping we took, I can honestly say this was one of the most enjoyable Ultimate experiences I’ve ever had. Our day started bright and early on Saturday morning when we met at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Manhattan. Our team bus picked us up there, and from the moment we stepped on it I really felt at some odd intersection of the Ultimate I know and the professional environment I wanted. We were a traveling, professional, organized franchise. The team was rocking business casual, most of our players decked out in their very fly brand new Rumble jackets, and we were on the road.
A few hours later, when we arrived at Hormel Stadium and were escorted to our locker room, I got some flashbacks to playing high school basketball. One of my favorite feelings in the world is going on the road to play competitive sports, and on this day – with fans in the stadium and sponsorships all around – it really felt like I was taking my sporting career to the next level.
As it always is with Ultimate, the wind affected just about everything. It hurt the pregame ceremony and the actual game play. But what I found most interesting was how the new rules changed the experience for me. Here are some quick hits on what I noticed, a la Tina Booth (who I was glad to see in attendance and writing reviews!).
There is something eerie about not hearing a stall count. I found myself rushed a few times when I didn’t need to be. It took me a little bit to really understand the refs would always say ‘five,’ and that I was basically safe until I heard that (although I should be moving the disc earlier anyway). Still, though, the 7-second stall count is basically equivalent to the 10-second one administered by players.
Shorter time between points is awesome. It is more challenging, it keeps the game moving quicker and it gives an advantage to good defensive teams who can earn their offensive line a solid rest. Our D-line outperformed us this week, and I’m grateful they did.
The timeout substitution rule should be instituted everywhere. This is just kick ass. Having your D-line force a turnover on a long point and being able to call timeout to give the O-team a chance at it creates higher gameplay, more strategy and makes timeouts way more valuable. The same works in reverse. Our D-line came on a couple times when were exhausted and held off when we probably couldn’t have. There is no doubt this rule takes away from the sluggishness Ultimate sees on a long, grinding point.
Somehow, one travel wasn’t called. As a handler, you might be surprised to hear me encourage more travel calls. But I don’t know what to say except that there is no way there wasn’t a single travel in that game. I saw two. The refs simply didn’t see them, and for a penalty that results in an actual turnover, this needs to be enforced more rigorously (really hope I don’t become the victim here).
Boston is good. We did not play very well, but Boston is a great team. I’ve played a lot of awesome teams, and this was definitely one of those games where I felt myself playing up to my competition. It is awesome to see that kind of talent in this league.
It’s still the same guys! Two of my favorite moments in the game were when I got to chat in the middle of a point with Alex Simmons and Alex Cooper. As it always is in the Ultimate world, we have known and played against each other through various channels. Simmons told me he was pumped when he heard I was playing MLU, and I admitted I was equally excited when I saw his name on the Whitecaps roster (nothing like a college rival). Cooper congratulated me on some of the journalism success I’ve had recently (literally in the middle of a point), and at that moment I realized I was still playing the same great, community-based sport I’ve always loved.
My boys can play. Well, it’d be impossible for me to finish this blog without talking about two of my closest friends and oldest teammates on the squad. Especially when one of them layout D’d Boston’s best player on a play he had no business being involved in. I was so pumped to see Quinn Hunziker and Matt Wilson finally get a chance to play top-level Ultimate, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the MLU. Without question, the two of them had some of the best, most impactful play on the field in Massachusetts.
I didn’t lose any money. Finally, I’d like to go ahead and thank my boss, Michelle Kondracki. I got a ride to Boston, played in front of my college friends who made the trip out to see the game, rocked a bunch of Puma gear, ate two meals, interacted with great fans and now I have two sweet hours of game footage accessible on YouTube, all without putting a dent in my pockets. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever played serious Ultimate for a serious team without going broke to do it, and for that I am eternally grateful.
This week marks our home opener, and it’s going to be a brawl. I can’t imagine a better team to open The Nest against than the Philadelphia Spinners, a squad I’m both familiar and friendly with. That being said, there is no team I want to beat more than them this season, because there is nothing like bragging rights.