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WEEK 5Connecticut Constitution vs Buffalo Hunters (12 May 2012)

I am excited to report that I attended my first American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) game in New Brittan, CT, yesterday. In front of a crowd of 750*, the Constitution won against the Buffalo Hunters, 30 to 15, bringing their record to 3 wins and 1 loss. You can take a look at all of the stats by going to the Constitution’s League Stats Page; and you can also learn more about the 25 man roster on their Team Roster Page.

The crew to see a game included some of my Long Island “Frisbee” friends and my favorite photographer, Jen (who will, no doubt, be posting her photos of the event soon). We decided to go to the Connecticut Constitution/ Buffalo Hunters game because we knew a few of the players on both of the teams (CC: Izzy and CJ; BH: Eric) and, well, it was one of the closer venues.  When I was looking at the Gameday Program, I also learned that I share a hometown with one of the players, too. Small world.

In the weeks leading up to the game, I had watched some clips and highlights of earlier AUDL match-ups, so I knew that there was going to be some differences between the way AUDL and USAU games are played and officiated.

Here are Some of the Differences I Observed:

Referees – The biggest difference you’ll see right off are the refs. Yes, in recent years, USAU has begun to incorporate Observers into the game, but as USAU’s national governing body states, “the primary difference between Observers and Referees is that Observers shall not make active foul and violation calls of a subjective nature, while Referees are empowered to make any call authorized in the rules, bylaws, officiating guide, or any set of tournament ground rules” (USAU Observer Program Page). In the AUDL, however, referees keep the stall count (which is 7 and starts once a mark is within ten feet), call all of the fouls (which can result in yardage penalties), determine fair catches (though we did see some great spirit during the game when a CC player called a “no catch” without the ref) and affirm scored points.

Connecticut Constitution’s Mascot and some HS players getting ready for the halftime game.

Time/Points – The length of the game is divided into four quarters and a fifteen minute half (Since it was High School appreciation day, yesterday’s halftime showcased an exhibition match between Chase Collegiate and Hotchkiss).  The game clock is stopped after points and then resumes when the offense receives the pull or puts an out-of-bounds disc into play. Teams play to time, so higher point ranges are to be expected than the usual 13 or 15.

Rules/Penalties – I downloaded the complete rules, but some that stuck out during they game were: fouls resulted in yard penalties (travels resulted in loss of yards, defensive foul a gain of yards for the offense), players seem to be allowed to double team (but not “triple team” see section IX Defense of version 1.1 of the AUDL’s rules), and picks were not called.

…You can learn more about the AUDL’s rules by downloading a PDF of the “Complete Rules” from their website.

I understand, or assume I understand, the reason behind the changes — to make the sport more viewer friendly and, in turn, commercial. Without the changes, for example, if there is a discussion on the field between two players over a call, then that slows down the game, which might not appeal to the casual viewer. With the change in rules, the stoppage in action is minimal, so the excitement of the big throws, layouts and fast pace is mostly non-stop. By keeping the action going the AUDL’s version of the sport might pull some additional interest from beyond the hard-core Ultimate players and fans. It can be a good thing for the overall exposure of the sport.

Does this mean I fully endorse or condone using Refs? No. Does it mean I hope that USAU will follow suit? Definitely No. As was noted in the CDP clinic I attended in March, “the coach’s role in Ultimate is different than other sports in that you teach your players how to both play and officiate the game”. We current players have been “raised” on a game that requires self-officiating, so we understand and uphold a high-quality of sportsmanship and respect for ourselves, our teammates and our opponents. If the sport moves completely to using refs then a major aspect of our sport will be lost. And the character of the next generation of Ultimate players will be forever altered….

That being said, I don’t want to end on a down note. Though, I am worried about the sport of Ultimate’s Spirit, I still had a great time watching yesterday’s match-up, and I plan to attend another game, soon. It is definitely worth the small admission fee (speaking of which, make sure you bring cash if you are going to check out a Constitution game to not only get in the door, but support the vendors who are supporting the team).

Thanks for reading and go out and support Ultimate in all its forms!

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*Attendance found on the Connecticut Constitution’s Website.

Photos by Danny Nelson

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