Colorado Coach Brent Zionic On The T-Town Spike

Brent Zionic, one of the coaches of Colorado’s Mamabird, weighed in on the T-Town Spike discussion in the comments of an unrelated post about Major League Ultimate. I don’t want it to go unseen.

Here’s his take, lightly edited, with his comments in block quotes and my responses in regular font.

[quote]I listened to the podcast, watched the video, and read the comments from the coach and the players themselves. I think it is prescient of you to review the play, in the context you described.

(1) What I think is missing from your commentary is a deeper clarification of “legitimate.” Both you and the other speaker on the podcast frequently refer to the need for this kind of enforcement or policy in order to help Ultimate become more “legitimate.” For some people, I think the counter-cultural roots that remain strong in the ultimate community would prefer to shun the kind of ‘legitimacy’ you allude to, but don’t fully elucidate. In part it is covered by the discussion of “tiers” of play, but it is clear there is an agenda in your head that should be clarified.[/quote]

Great point. There’s no question that our entire argument is controversial. We’ve taken some abuse in the comments about even discussing the T-Town Spike.

The conversation about “legitimacy” has to do with the way the sport is advancing. If we are going to be taken seriously as a sport by incoming athletes, spectators, and a growing TV audience (remember, 600,000 people reportedly saw the College Championships final on CBS Sports Network last year), we have to have consistent rules in place to deal with the breach of normal, accepted behavior on the field.

As more game video becomes available, it seems crazy not to have a policy in place that actively issues penalties and/or sanctions on unsportsmanlike conduct, flagrant fouls, fighting, etc.

The “legitimacy” argument has to do with being taken seriously by mainstream sports fans and players. Yes, this is controversial. But I feel that for the sport to continue to grow, we have to both embrace the strong community that currently exists while adapting the sport to a more mainstream vision. In real sports, there are penalties for bad behavior. It is as simple as that.

[quote](2) There’s more discussion about “legitimacy” in the conversation than there is about “player safety,” which is topical considering the recent NFL decision to put neurologists on the sideline next year and (despite Hunter’s suspension) the NBA’s focus on player safety and “fan experience,” also alluded to in your discussion on the changes to the “flopping” rules. Which is more important to the sport? (Or to the growth of the sport?)[/quote]

I talked a bit more about player safety in my response to Andrew Roca. This is a huge part of why I think these rules are important. There is very little right now that a player can do if his defender is consistently laying out through his back in a dangerous way. That should absolutely change and I think it’s crazy to say otherwise. I don’t want to make this too much about the T-Town incident — this is a broader point.

You should be swiftly reprimanded for dangerous plays, even at unobserved tournaments. It’s not about needing referees, it’s not about spirit. It’s about making sure players are not getting their legs broken by crazy bids.

This is a distinct argument from the “legitimacy” one, which has more to do with broadening appeal. But the goals align in the same direction. Both are important for the growth of the sport.

[quote](3) My last comment is about consistency. If there is to be a policy with penalties (and I was in favor of many of your ideas), how do you ensure any kind of consistency in enforcement? Videos can be posted by anyone. Do you require USAU-sanctioned tourneys to have Observers at all games as a consequence?[/quote]

As we talked about on the podcast, yes, the ideal world is observers at every tournament. If that is not possible, every other means possible should be used to enforce the suggested rules. Consistency of enforcement is definitely the trickiest part of this proposal, but I think it would quickly be mitigated. If video was used when available, but the current process of submitting a complaint to USAU was still in place, incidents worthy of sanctions would get reported very consistently.

  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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