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Rule Check: Windmill Windup Finals

by in Other with 55 Comments

The finals of the Windmill Windup pitted the USA’s Chiniya Rada against Germany’s Bad Skid. It was a tight game that came down to the wire on double game point. During that play, there was a controversial foul call by Chiniya Rada’s Sam Harkness after he felt he was knocked to the ground by a defender while chasing a jump-ball dump pass.

Watch (the play begins at 3:15):

This play was posted to WFDF’s Rules discussion board and Rueben Berg, the chair of the Ultimate Rules Sub-Committee, posted this discussion from Ben Wiggins, who was right there watching the play unfold:

The defense from Bad Skid got much more physical in the last three points. NOT cheating, just much more physical overall. It was a surprise to us, and honestly, I think they would have beaten us handily if they had played that quality of defense for the entire game. But far more plays were on the physicality borderline at the end of the game. Just to repeat: this is weird because the level changed, not because they were all of the sudden doing anything illegal.

On that play: I was about ten yards away, and when it went up I thought we were screwed because Ryan couldn’t get to it. But Sam closed on the play, as he does a lot, once he saw there was trouble. From the angle of the throw, I was already setting up to cut for Sam, because it looked like he would have it easily, if maybe a relatively easy layout.

Then Sam went down, and my first impression was that Flo’s second attempt clattered into Sam and was a foul. My second impression was that this was not a clear and obvious foul…that this is the kind of call that you hate to have to make at the end of a great game. Flo was angry, and I stepped in to talk with Sam after he asked Ryan, Tyler and myself what we thought. He often does this on any call he isn’t 100% sure of, and sometimes even on calls he is sure about (check out the second half of the recent Dogfish/Rainmakers game [on Youtube now] for an example of a call that Sam was 100% sure about, but asked for an opinion and listened to his teammates about in changing his call).

He asked me, and I told him that I thought it was a foul. Flo was angry, and I told Flo that it was a tough call (in terms of tough to make, and probably tough to accept) for the end of the game. I said something like “I truly think it is a foul, and I’m not trying to f*** you on this.”. Flo, still very fired up, contested politely and screamed to his teammates to fire them up for the coming defensive stand. The disc went back to the thrower after a few quick handshakes, IIRC. If Flo and other Bad Skid players were angry at us, they didn’t express it rudely then or later (which I say as a testament to their Spirit, and not as prove in any way about the correctness of the call).

We won a few throws later. It was tough to celebrate (and our celebration was very muted) because we all know what it is like to have a contested call at the end of the game and we wanted to respect that. Like any important call, I was nervous that I might have advised Sam incorrectly so I was definitely waiting for the video to come out….getting a call wrong in our favor on the final point and a perception of intentional misuse of the rules would have been the worst possible outcome. I definitely would have rather lost, and I know Sam (and Tyler, and the rest of our team) would agree on that. Having watched the video, I think that it was a close but correct call, and one that probably would not have been remembered were it not on the final point. Regardless, I do hope that Bad Skid trusts our intent to get the call right. We have a ton of respect for them as competitors (even before they waxed us on Saturday at Windmill) and I guess there isn’t much more to say than I hope that the next big game with them ends on a point with lots of physicality, with us trying to solve their great end zone defense, and with everyone congratulating the winner whoever it may be.

I know that is a lot of words, but it was a big call and deserves a second and third and fourth look. I’m glad it got posted here, and I’d be happy to answer more questions (although I think I put everything I know into this quick writeup).

What do you think was the correct call? Was it a playable disc that Harkness was impeded from getting to?

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About Charlie Eisenhood

Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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  • mossdismossdat

    At the time of the play, the WW TD explained it perfectly over the loud speaker (paraphrasing):

    “They discussed it, they came to a decision, they played on…thats how it works everyone.”

    I would advise Ultiworld to do the same here.

    • Jedi

      Totally Agree.

    • http://www.ultiworld.com/ Charlie Eisenhood

      I think it was handled perfectly by the players on the field — great spirit all around. That doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting play to discuss.

      • mossdismossdat

        In that case, it was a totally lame call. White throws it away for a turn. In an effort to ensure its a turn, red makes a great d in the air. While he’s falling down, another player makes a last ditch effort to make a play on a sailing disc. Calling a foul on someone who’s basically already on the ground on a hospital pass is weak, regardless of whether or not there was any contact.

      • Jedi

        I am kind of wondering, why Ultiworld brings this topic up NOW? It was 5 weeks ago on reddit ultimate. Is there nothing else going on right now?

  • zoor

    not a foul. the defender made a play and was landing awkwardly (catch your Ds). the guy who calls the foul, ran into the defender’s landing space and then is upset when he gets touched — closest thing we have to a dive.

  • MRB

    Should not be a foul. Harkness’s play on the disc was tenuous at best. And there should probably be a rule of anti-verticality: once a guy is in the air, you shouldn’t be able to call a foul by getting under him.

    • Al C.

      That is already a rule.

    • viewer

      vertical space doesnt include the space 4 feet behind you when you cant land on your feet and subsequently fall over. The player clearly landed and couldnt maintain balance and collided

      • Guest

        it doesn’t include “taking a charge” when marking a receiver either, but we all agree that that isn’t an appropriate way to play defense off the disc. I’d say if a runner is allowed the space immediately in front of them and you can’t just clip them mercilessly, then a player can land however they need to once they are in the air.

        The only choice you are leaving the defender in your scenario is not to bid for the disc… because a player behind you might decide to enter the play late? Defenders are discouraged from making reckless bids, where the odds of contact are high or the odds of success low; based on what the defender sees at the time or should see. But you can’t penalize them for making safe, very possible bids on the disc.

  • Jake

    It’s clear to me that play would have been meaningfully different absent the contact (I think he could have saved that disc). It’s a question of whether the aftermath of the defender’s landing is included in the player is entitled to the space he is jumping into, provided it was unoccupied at the time of the jump.

    My impression is that Sam chose a path to the disc, before it sailed by, that guaranteed contact with the leaping defender, and that the defender leaped with unoccupied space available.

    Extremely close call, but I believe not a foul.

    • Guest

      I could be wrong, but I think it actually looks like the defender lands his jump before the contact. If he had not landed off balance and stumbled, he wouldn’t have knocked the offensive player to the ground.

      • poopface

        In a championship double point game you don’t think about coming down when going up. Y

        • Guest

          Not sure how this is relevant. It doesn’t matter what the guy is thinking about, the only thing that matters is what happens. If this is a foul, it is clearly unintentional; that would not make it any less of a foul however.

  • Lions

    If you look closely, the guy who calls the foul is running from a good distance away straight towards the disc as it’s up in the air, The defender beats him to it and as he’s landing awkwardly the player calling the foul tries to change direction but gets tripped up.

    It’s weird but had he been running to where the disc ended up going from a different angle and gotten tripped up I’d say maybe, but to the point he’s running he just plain and simple is beaten to the disc, then calls a foul when his “second attempt” so to speak is impeded. Now I don’t have the worlds greatest grasp on the rules, but it looks as though he picks a clear path into which the inevitable outcome is there would be a collision and therefore I don’t think this should have been called a foul

  • MLU Fan

    To me it’s a foul – Taking down a person, especially if it’s not intentional or dangerous, (i.e. getting tripped up running out of stack, etc) when there’s no play on the disc isn’t a foul. However in this particular play, Sam’s D made the disc playable for the second receiver whom he then fouled. The fact that he went airborne does not absolve him of any ‘wrongdoing’ especially since his D unintentionally made the disc playable for the second receiver.

    Consider an alternative, but similar scenario, where instead of knocking over the second receiver on his way down, he slaps his arms causing him to miss the play. Clearly that would be a defender’s foul.

    I think the reason why this play in particular is so hotly contested is because no one will ever know whether the receiver would of had a chance to make the catch or not. In my mind Sam’s D made the second guy a viable receiver. His interference prevented him from making even the attempt and thus a defender’s foul. Just about the only time I wouldn’t call that is if it was an end zone hospital pass or the like.

    • RobbieS49

      To be clear, I think you are referring to Flo, not Sam, on defense. Sam is on white, the player who call’s the foul. Flo is the one who got the foul called on him.

      • MLU Fan

        Yup, got those two mixed up. Thanks.

  • barkan

    So we don’t talk about these things, just accept them and move on? Ridiculous! Kudos to Ben for being so reflective. That’s how we get better. There clearly is no absolute right or wrong call on this one, that’s why it is interesting, complex. One thing is for sure, winning on a call like this sucks, and taints the whole experience of reaching this culminating point of a tournament. Sad to say I know it well. But what do you do? Sam thought he was fouled. I don’t see a foul but I am not Sam. That said, my main problem with the call is it happened on a miscue, where no one was really open, and it was a lousy 50-50 throw. I have always felt calls, by O or D, in these situations are very very dangerous. All bets are off – just play on and get it back. But that’s me. Either way, I like these discussions and btw find them way more interesting that analyzing a ref’s call. Thanks Ultiworld and Ben.

  • Not Sure

    As others have stated – it’s really hard to tell from the camera angle provided. With that having been said, it seems that the 2nd receiver was prevented from making a play on the disc because of contact initiated by an opposing player (who was not in the air at the time of contact). Tough, but a foul nonetheless.

    I understand the ‘contest’ though, because the defender (great D by the way!!) had no way of seeing the entire play, and couldn’t know how much (or little) their contact with the 2nd receiver altered the play on the disc.

    A neutral party with a better view probably upholds the foul call or sends the disc back (i.e., doesn’t make a ruling). It seemed like a well-controlled conversation by both teams.

  • Alex

    Under USAU rules, I would say this is not a foul. While it satisfies the general case of a “receiving foul,” the defender is entitled to take off towards, and land at, an unoccupied position. White basically runs into him from behind and interferes with his landing. Furthermore, one could argue that white takes a position that is “unavoidable by a moving opponent when time, distance, and line of sight are considered,” which would make it a blocking foul on white.

    I am less familiar with WFDF rules, which this game was played under.

  • mottsauce

    I’ve made a foul call like this before in an observed game. Got skied, but very little contact was made with the disc. Defender landed on my cleat. I would’ve had a good shot at the second-chance layout, but I got nowhere. Genuinely thought it was a foul, but had it explained to me after the game by the observer (thanks Mitch!).

    No foul.

  • Flo Pfender

    Rueben mentions the two main points in his post on the WFDF board:

    1. did the white player have a reasonable chance at the disc (without contact)?

    2. could the red player have avoided the white player?

    Rueben says from the camera angle, both questions are hard to answer. In my opinion, the view gives enough information to answer both questions with “no foul”:

    1. By the time of contact, the disc had already passed Sam, and he would have needed to turn more than 90 degrees, and jump somewhat backwards to get halfway close to the disc. Looking at how quickly the disc hits the ground, I believe that this would have been physically impossible.

    2. During the D, Flo is somewhat sideways in the air, a controlled standing up landing was very difficult, too difficult to ask anyone to do. So his stumble was unavoidable at that point, and the space the contact occured was his anyways. When he left the ground, that space was completely clear and unclaimed (Sam only later turned into that space), so no foul on Flo.

    All this said, without a replay, this is a call very hard to make.

    • guest

      I’m not convinced the player in white didn’t have a play on the disc, but I think it’s pretty clear that the defender took off with an open path, and the receiver comes into his path as he lands. The defender doesn’t even get to his first step post-landing, thus the offensive player initiated the contact. Not an easy call without replay, but I don’t think it’s a terribly tough call either. It was my first inclination watching the realtime replay footage. Certainly not an unreasonable call, but one that should be overruled if given the chance.

  • Anon

    I’m surprised no one has posted this video.


    At 54:13 you can see a slow replay of the entire play with a much better angle. The disc floats for an awful long time after Harkness is knocked down, so I think he could have had it. I’m not saying that makes it a foul though. Re-discuss?…..

  • Joshgo

    what a bad call man. german dood goes straight up for it with the american (not harkness)…..sails over both their heads, then harkness runs into the german guy when german man’s on his way down. harkness clearly caused the “foul” by running into the german guy which in turn causes him (harkness) to fall….terrible way to lose and I’m sure once he sees this harkness will regret it (well not regret it, because making that call was the difference between winning and losing, but hopefully see that he made a brutal call)

  • one who HAD idols

    Foul?? Never ever!!
    Not in a single ruleset, not USAU, not WFDF, nor AUDL or MLU is a person tipping a disc and underrun by another (who wanted to go for the disc and now wants to chase the tipped one) fouling that person because he cant stay on his feet after landing!!!
    RIDICULOUS call – especially being “coaches” that weekend and representing the “ELITE” of the US at Europe’s best tournament!! You want to lead by example? What a great way to start! Congratulations – You’ve messed up!!

    • Sad Bunny

      I’m glad I didn’t attend and pay for that clinic!! We definitely don’t need “coaches” like this in Europe! Teach your “skills” elsewhere! We don’t need them here!! Let that kind of spirit stay on the US/Canadian border over there and have fun with it! Hope you guys don’t get invited back for the next Windmill!

      • Liface

        Your anti-american bias is sickening, and it irritates me how pervasive attitudes like yours are in European ultimate.

      • Jedi

        I was at the clinic, I’ve met these guys, played (with) them and drank beer with them. The clinic was awesome and their participation at the tournament war a true enrichment.

        There is one thing I can’t stand. It is when people judge other people only by a video. Never played them, never been there. Worse, if they judge a team by only one single call.

    • fyi

      from the video above, i can see how you drew your very-sure-of-yourself conclusion. perhaps look at this view? http://youtu.be/cFuxkWqiRzw?t=53m50s

      • anon

        Looks even worse from this angle. The D player lands, starts to stumble and the foul-caller takes a final, fateful step forward into his path. Additionally, you can tell that the foul-caller was expecting contact because he puts his left arm out in a defensive manner just before the contact occurs. Embarrassing, shameful call… particularly when being ambassadors of the sport. No ref on the planet makes that call.

  • udsbfkdsbf

    It is good to hear it was reasonably well discussed on pitch. I assume that is the point of the article. It stops everyone wading in with their own off-field perspectives. No wait…

    17.8.1. A Blocking Foul occurs when a player takes a position that a moving opponent will be unable to avoid and contact results.

    While Flo (D) was in the air, Sam (O) put his body where Flo (D) would land. Flo could not avoid contact. Blocking foul by Sam (O) on Flo (D). I can’t understand how there is even a discussion about it.

  • Greg

    Look at how Flo jumps. There is no reason he should not have landed standing on that jump. Therefore, Sam is not putting himself in a position that’s unavoidable. In fact, from the skyd footage, it’s pretty clear that Flo realizes the mac’d disc is still playable, and that he attempts to take a step in the disc’s direction.

    While we’ll never know if Sam would have caught the disc, he had a play on it, so it is a foul.

  • Jedi

    What is really a shame and I am 100% ashemed of being part of a community, part of a viewership in Ultimate Frisbee, which is booing, shouting down and whistle about a call. The call is only a thing between the players (and their sidelines). The make calls and make decisions. They solve this their way and we should accept that.

    • thefan

      dude, you’re ashamed at being part of a community of fans of a game who voice their pleasure and displeasure of a sport with sounds? that’s weird. do you hate all sports?

  • Ken

    Foul. And he definitely had a play on the disc.

  • supposedtoberepresenting

    there’s gotta be a sense of justice with players. not a foul. shitty throw. better defensive stand and the disc should go the other way. definitely should have trouble sleeping over this thing.

  • X

    No foul. The defender was carried by his momentum towards the disc and the offensive player came into the space that the defensive player was carried into. The offensive player was creating that contact. That’s a pretty bad call. I’ve always thought that in the case that it’s a floaty or terrible throw like this one, the offence is putting everyone involved in a dangerous situation where there will be contact that goes both ways, so unless it is a completely egregious foul, it should go the defender’s way.

  • Martin Gottschalk

    I like this article as it´s a great example on how this type of situations should be handled. Respect for both teams and players involved. Winning the game, for me, lags way behind the actual victory, which is playing great ultimate with great spirit at the same time. Congrats.

    Also, the analysis is great if we take it as a community learning process and not as a judgement.

  • Anson Reppermund

    Foul. Flo made a legal play on the disc, landed off balance due to the nature of his athletic attempt to get the disc, and fell onto Sam who moved to get the disc. Though it was an accident on the part of Flo, he clearly stops Sam’s legal attempt to get the disc.

  • Sam Harkness

    After my good friend and teammate Nate Castine told me about this thread, I took a second and thought it might be kinda cool to be the first player NOT intvited back to Windmill Windup. Seriously though, he summed up a few of the arguments for “right call” and “wrong call” for me. I didn’t pay much attention to why it was the right call, because I already knew those arguments.
    What caught my attention when he was advocating for the “bad call” arguements (and I love that Nate challenges me and keeps me honest this way) was that I may have ran into Flo’s path which he had started a second or two before I moved into that space. When Nate said this to me my first thought was “EFFFF WORRRD… I just robbed a gold medal from the better team…” This thought has been with me for about 2 days now as Nate and I were camping until today having no way to check the video again. Thinking back I don’t remember realizing Flo was even going to hit me…The only memory I really have of that play is knowing Flo had the better play on the disc and pulling away from the pile and watching the disc fall to the ground which while I was also flat on the ground felt like it was falling forever. I clearly remember feeling like I could have caught that disc 100%, because well…I’m fucking fast and explosive and believe me, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with any of the top 4 teams there were that not the case.
    When I got home I was ready to face my impending doom, even after reading the nice words Ben had written about the play. I felt even ashamed that it never even occured to me that Flo had started his jump before I moved into that space, resulting in Flo heading straight for me with no way to change his direction or momentum. The only one who could have made a concious effort to avoid that colision, would have been me. DOOM DOOM DOOM!
    I now just watched the video and noticed something that solidified my belief that it was the right (although extremely tough) call. I had no memory of knowing Flo was going to colide with me because I had my eyes on the disc the whole time. There’s even one point where my back is turned to everyone else (which is when I get hit). There’s no way I could have known Flo would put himself in a position to set himself up for a crash course to the spot I wanted to spot the disc from. Incedental contact? Yes. Super shitty to have to make that call in the final point…yes.
    I did doubt this call, a lot. The driving factor that made me hold this call was that I CHOSE not to get involved in the pile up and play the second bid, and when I saw it fall, I was 100% sure I could have caught that. The only thing I’m sorry for is that my call made an amazingly competetive final have a bitter end. I was very proud to have participated in such a high level game with an almost equal high level spirit. If all the games I played were at that level…I’d probably have to retire real fast.

    Sam Harkness
    Sockeye #9

    • Jens Achenbach

      Sam…nice to get to read your view on the play.

      Had a good look at the play live and checked it on video several times.

      Though I wasn’t happy with a call on such a crucial play in an exciting finals I do believe it is an ok call. Is it a clear foul? I don’t think so. I am not a guru of Ultimate rules and a lot of times trust my sense and idea of SOTG.

      So not knowing all the x and y’s of whose space and trajectory etc. I believe you made a correct call on a very unlucky play from Flo.

      What might rub people (mostly Europeans I assume) the wrong way is how physical North-American Ulimate is on jumpballs and floaty throws. There’s hardly ever a foul call on contact in those situations. Taking this into consideration your call in said final might seem a little ticky-tacky…

      Good on ya for speaking up and presenting your point.

      Hope some of you will come back to spice up Windmill Windup 2014.

      Jens #91 (M.U.C.)

    • Big Cat

      The only harm done here is admitting Nate is your friend and spirit advisor… happy in retirement sincerely

    • anon

      Embarrassing call followed by an even more embarrassing explanation. This further underscores my belief that Ultimate players, in the vast majority, are made up of second-rate athletes who got cut from their football/baseball/soccer teams and/or have always had the proverbial sand kicked in their faces by jocks all their lives. What happens then? They find a sport that they’re good in because, well, its full of second-rate castoffs like them, and suddenly they’re big fish in a small pond and feel like they’re “fucking fast and explosive” and can do no wrong. The problem is, they still fear deep down that they’re second rate athletes who get sand kicked in their faces and cling to a ridiculous rule set that allows them to mask their character deficiencies with horrendous ego-saving calls like the one captured on video above.

      Yeah, you stole an opportunity for that team to beat you fairly, and honestly you robbed your team of winning the game fairly as well. Live with it. If you truly doubted the call AT ALL you shouldn’t have made it. You didn’t doubt it at the time because you wanted to win and you wanted to be “fucking fast and explosive” Sam Harkness who saves the day and proves all the jocks wrong.

      Seriously, it would have been better if you came on here and said “it was a fucking foul, period” instead of your self-promoting lame ass “apology”.

      Thanks for another great example of why Ultimate needs officials in high levels of competition. (As if the recent calls fests at U23 Worlds and World Games wasn’t enough.)

      • Koho

        Projecting a little?

      • Ken

        Wow, this is a first – there is not a single sentence in this post that I agree with.

      • James Woodbridge

        “Anon”, now there’s a surprise.

  • Josh

    After reading all about this play before watching the video, I was expecting it to be much more ambiguous than it turned out to be. That was a DEFINITE FOUL!!! A defender can’t land & then fall into the legs of a receiver (who CLEARLY is about to make a play on a very floaty pass) and call that incidental or any type of non-foul contact. It did not look intentional, but it was definitely a foul.

  • Jed

    Let’s not get abusive (granted, most are not). I agree that it’s clearly not a foul, but I can certainly see why Sam might have thought it was. No one was trying to cheat IMO. All he knows is that he was knocked down from behind, taking away a legit play on the mac’d disc; in the vast majority of cases, that would be enough to justify a foul call. But in this case, he had just run into the airborne defender’s path, so he’s really the one initiating contact.

    A big part of the problem is, the only person who’s allowed to make the call doesn’t have a very good perspective. Unfortunately this is too often the case.

    Thought experiment for those who think’s it’s a foul. Let’s say that Flo is on O instead of D, and that he catches the disc instead of Mac’ing it. But then he collides with Sam (now on D), and drops the disc as a result. Clearly a foul on Sam, no?

    • Gary

      It boggles my mind that people are still arguing that Sam undercut an ‘airborne’ Flo. There’s no question that Flo had landed (in a space unoccupied by Sam) and then fell into Sam. It clearly wasn’t intentional, and maybe it was unavoidable based on the trajectory of Flo’s jump, but the contact came after Flo landed and fell into Sam. No one is arguing malicious intent on either side, but the space that Sam occupied was a legal space – you can’t expect him to know that Flo would have fallen into that space after landing.

  • S. Powell

    After a number of looks at this play, it appears that Sam’s momentum carried him into a falling player and he got caught up in the tumble. You can clearly see him put his arms up and slow himself with his hands on the back of the falling defender. It’s unclear but it even looks as though he pushes down and away of the shoulder and chest of the defender. I don’t really see how putting yourself physically against a falling player, regardless of whether you’ve seen them or not gives you the right to call a foul. Bad call, no; incorrect call, yes.

  • Jack Deschler

    I would have called it

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