The Frisbee Cliff: Where Will The 18 Teams Fall?

Dead Horse Point, Utah.Two competing visions. A late-night deadline. Rampant speculation. Egos. Leaders on both sides whipping votes at the last minute.

Am I talking about the narrowly-averted “fiscal cliff” that the United States faced just days ago? Nope. This is the “frisbee cliff.”

NexGen’s Kevin Minderhout has a meeting tonight with a final team that will, he says, give him responses from each of the 18 teams. Today is the deadline for teams to decide whether or not to sign a “letter of intent” expressing their interest in the NexGen league.

As far as we know, Doublewide’s Kurt Gibson — who is representing those teams in discussions with USA Ultimate — has yet to meet with the Boulder officials. It is unusual, then, that teams have committed one way or the other.

Teams have continued to remain silent about their intentions. But the fact that Minderhout is putting off an announcement until tonight’s final meeting does suggest that nearly all teams have signed on. If there had been definite nos, he could have already announced that the league would not be happening.

Just as in the US Congress, the game theory at play in these discussions is fascinating. Who holds the cards? Players? Certainly if the 18 teams announce their intentions to play in the NexGen league tonight, that puts immense pressure on USA Ultimate. But Gibson has yet to meet with Boulder officials. If teams were ready to walk away from USAU, they wouldn’t have set up a meeting.

So what’s the move here? There are two possibilities: the teams are sincere, or they’re bluffing. Perhaps they — deep down — don’t want to do the NexGen league, and they are using this “letter of intent” to pressure USAU into making changes they would like to see.

Is USAU prepared to make major changes to the Triple Crown Tour structure in that situation? They tend to be methodical about their planning — and such a last minute change is not their style. But if they want to maintain “control” over the top men’s talent in the game, they may be forced to do so.

Here’s the thing: USAU could call what they see as a bluff. Maybe they say, “The top finishers at the Club Championships will get the Worlds bids. Period. End of story.” Would teams blink? Are today’s club players so committed to Minderhout’s vision that they would forgo an opportunity to play on the international stage?

These teams are inherently risk-averse and, as this blog post from San Francisco’s Revolver shows, committed to one thing: playing the top competition. A split championship (NexGen league and USAU Club Champs) would leave questions about who the best is, right? What if new teams form? Are teams like Revolver (which only came into existence in 2006) comfortable with blocking other teams’ opportunities to rise to the top like they did?

I doubt it. I think we should all be sure to take tonight’s announcement — whatever it is — with a grain of salt. Not until the meeting between Gibson, Will Deaver, and Tom Crawford is anything certain.

Credit for the “frisbee cliff” analogy goes to PoNY’s Jack Marsh. And a shoutout to Slow White for the perhaps better-named “DISCal cliff.”

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    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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