Is Revolver’s Dominance Bad For The Game?

Was there ever any doubt? The answer might be a problem.

Revolver’s Nick Stuart celebrates with teammates after catching the title-clinching goal. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

San Francisco Revolver is your National Champion again for the fifth time in eight years. With one of the best rosters ever assembled, they were the heavy favorites to take home the title and did so with authority. After a test in the semifinals against Ring of Fire, Revolver was dominant in the final, taking half 8-2 on Doublewide. It ended quietly, 15-7.

The world’s highest level tournament was a showcase of the most talented team in the world, not the potential of Men’s ultimate as a spectator sport. Revolver is obviously deserving of their title, but it was a disappointing end for the objective fan that endured mostly unattractive Men’s Division games.

For those that understand the technical brilliance of San Francisco, watching their offense blitz through an opponent can be enticing. Coaches and players can clip segments of a dominating performance to teach the fundamentals of spacing and defensive positioning. But to attract new fans, presumably the goal of the renewed ESPN contract, there has to be narrative. There has to be doubt.

Imagine the casual fan that found the men’s final online, if it’s possible to find something casually browsing through ESPN3. They tune in to find an 8-2 scoreline with one of the ESPN featured stars, Beau Kittredge, having played zero points. Thrilling!

After losing to Ironside in the National Championships in 2016, Revolver added Nick Stuart, Eli Friedman, Justin Lim, Antoine Davis, Tom Doi, and Sawyer Thompson. Every one of those players is a starter for any other team in the country. For some, additions like those are the difference between getting knocked out in pool play and making the bracket. But Revolver merely added to their depth, and even the brightest of stars took limited roles in the tried-and-true Revolver system.

“It started with a commitment to young players, spirited play, and role playing,” Revolver head coach Mike Payne said. “People are attracted to our values.”

What makes a player want to be a part of a team that expects a title every year and is disappointed without one? A team that can only reach expectations, never exceed them?

The assembly of the Revolver program began with Beau Kittredge’s move to San Francisco and an ensuing emphasis on what brought him there. Elite players have flocked to San Francisco not just for championships, but for the culture as well.

“People like Beau set the precedent,” said Revolver coach Mike Payne. “Beau came from Colorado where he was asked to do everything. I remember sitting down with Beau when he told me he was going to come. I asked him if he was willing to be a role player, and Beau is very smart about this game. He basically said, ‘that’s what I’m looking for,’ and that we’re in an age of ultimate where a few guys can’t win a championship anymore.”

Kittredge finished with only two points played in the final.

The end result is a team that has one of the best available offensive units in the division playing defense, and one of the best available defensive units playing offense. They’re yet another Bay Area juggernaut — already stacked and still adding talent — with no Cleveland Cavaliers to challenge them.

You can tune in for the showcase of talent, but the disparity is so large that there’s hardly a doubt. Pointing to the regular season doesn’t mean much. There’s no way to catch this team sleeping at Nationals.

“Every other team, we can see who they rely the most on,” said Doublewide coach Steven Darroh. “Props to Revolver from top to bottom. They could do without any one player on the field and still be a really formidable opponent.”

Concentrated talent like this hurts the appeal of ultimate to a broad audience, but what could realistically be done to change it? Most of Revolver’s players live in San Francisco. They practice together, travel together, and win together. They were as much of a team as any other in Sarasota.

Historically, super teams are brought down by players moving on to a new challenge or joining an emerging rival. No rival is in sight, and San Francisco is obviously happy with yet another championship run. With Worlds next year, there’s still something to prove, but as things stand now, we can expect Revolver to be the prohibitive favorite at next year’s National Championship.

With no salary cap or luxury tax to get in the way, they could remain the favorite for years to come.

  1. Preston Thompson

    Preston Thompson has been a staff writer for Ultiworld since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama where he played for four years. He started playing ultimate in the AFDC in Atlanta, GA in 2009. You can reach him by e-mail (preston.james.thompson@gmail.com) or follow him on Twitter (@pston3).

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