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Montreal 2003: Day Three
Added: August 14 2004

Friday, August 15, 2003.

Yay, military drills at 6:00am. Fortunately, I slept through most of the rest of the night, so I'm (modestly) rested. (Well, save for the fact that this is the third consecutive night of less than six or seven hours of sleep, and I typically need a lot more than that.)

We get out to the fields, and I feel pretty damn good. I'm expecting to have a heavier schedule for the second day of the tournament, granted that we're out of pool play and starting to get into the finals bracket. (Observer note: the more important the game, the more likely it is that observers will be requested.) However, glancing at the signup schedule, all we have are two Mixed games, one in the morning and one at the end of the day.

The first one features one of the teams from our last Mixed game. They make a point of noting to the other team that they didn't have to ask an Observer to rule during their previous game, and encourage that this game should be the same. (In a way, it's a veiled threat: "you know we're going to be spirited, so don't make a deal about it if we're not".) That doesn't end up happening, though - the other Observer ends up making at least one ruling. (As I mumbled before, my turn is coming.) But the play is generally fair and even-handed, so no major problems.

With the game over, the rest of the morning is wide open. Yesterday, I opted to simply hang out at Disc Central and be bored during our downtime. Today, though, I decide to be helpful.

Yesterday, the TD's attempted to set up a Beer Garden as the lone place on the fields where people can buy and drink alcohol. (Okay, probably a Biergarten, but they referred to it in the English form, so there it is.) Unfortunately, it was a little on the small side and slightly disorganized, so it got fairly congested once all of the teams were finished with their games.

Today, the TD's have decided to move it to a different location. Making myself available to help, I'm put in charge of organizing the "new" Beer Garden. I'm given flags and wooden stakes to mark the area, and tables, chairs, and umbrellas to fill it. I immediately get into "organized" mode and start carving out the territory. Within a couple of hours, we've built a really nice Beer Garden. I specifically put the serving tables away from other tables and set up a "bar" area that earns raves from one of the volunteers. I'm so proud of my Beer Garden that I pull out my trusty disposable and snap a pic.

My lovely Beer Garden.

Unfortunate that I don't drink.

After yesterday's Powerbar lunch, we decide to double-check about meal tickets and, yep, we're supposed to get them. So, today, we take full advantage and head over to the cafeteria for some grub. And, damn, they serve good grub. This ain't your average cafeteria grub.

I get back to the fields and decide that I've done enough volunteering for the day. I take a short nap, then head out to catch some Ultimate games.

I head back to Disc Central before the final round of the day, expecting to work the last Mixed game. Just as we're heading out to the field, though, a player from an Open team comes over and asks if we're available. (I kinda know him: I met him in Sarasota in 2002. We recognized each other the first day, but couldn't figure out why.) We check the schedule, realize that our other qualified Observer is free that round, and decide to send him and a Linesperson to work the Mixed game. That leaves the other Head Observer and I available to work the Open game.

We arrive at the Open game, and both captains seem surprised to see us. The other team's captain seems to take it as an insult that they've requested observers, but the first team's captain claims he didn't ask for us. After further discussion, it turns out that the co-captain of the first team made the request in the captain's absence. The second team continues to grumble about having observers on the field as the game begins. (In Ultimate, there are no referees: players make calls on the field as necessary. To some people, asking for observers implies that a team doesn't trust the other team to make fair calls.)

First point of the game, a player on the first team runs deep into the end-zone, grabs the disc, and claims he's scored. I'm standing eight feet away, though, and notice that the toe of his foot was on the line when he grabbed the disc. In Ultimate, the line is out, so I call him out. The player is furious, and cannot believe he was called out. The other team celebrates my call, and immediately begins goading the first team for asking for observers. I can't help but overhear the player tell his teammates, "We got fucked by the observer. I was two feet in".

After the next huddle, the other team breaks with, "1... 2... 3... OBSERVERS!!" The other Observer and I are clearly displeased, but there's very little we can do about it and try to soldier on.

Several points later, a player on the first team grabs the disc and fakes a high-release backhand. What he doesn't realize is that his defender's head is sitting right over his right arm, so the thrower ends up smashing him in the face with his elbow. The defender goes down in pain, and the thrower is horrified. The defender sits up, proclaims that the thrower hit him on purpose, and proceeds to jump him, knocking him down. The second team grabs their player and holds him back.

The other Observer and I huddle to discuss if we should award the defender a yellow card for unsportsmanlike behavior. Granted that the defender has apparently suffered a broken nose and clearly reacted in the heat of the moment, we decide against the yellow card. (In further discussion following the game, we agree that we probably should have given him the card.)

The rest of the game is comparatively uneventful. The first team is struggling badly, and ends up down 10-2 when the time cap is announced. Essentially, the game is over: the cap means that it's a game to 11.

Blurry pic of me from the game, cropped
from the background of another photo.
(Pic: Damon Holmes)

On the next play, a player on the first team goes to catch a disc in the end zone. He grabs the disc, clearly takes possession of it, but backpedals, falls on his back, smacks his head on the ground, and drops the disc. Dazed, he stands up, completely unsure as to whether he scored or not. His defender tells him that he definitely had control of it, and scored before he dropped the disc. While they're talking, I scroll through the rulebook, and cannot find a clear definition of what constitutes a score. He definitely had possession and was definitely in the end zone before the drop occurred. Finally, the first team's player asks me to rule, so I fall back on how I've seen it ruled before and call it a score. Both players seem satisfied.

Two seconds later, a voice from the second team's bench screams out, "THAT'S BULLSHIT!!" and proceeds to run over and chew me out about the call. If I'd had better judgement, I'd have ignored him and walked away, but for whatever reason, I decide it's worth trying to explain the call. He hits me with a hypothetical situation: "If a player caught the disc, dragged his foot in the end zone, landed out-of-bounds, and dropped the disc, would it be a score?" From my understanding of the rule, it seems logical that it would be a score, so I reply in the affirmative.

He explodes. "WHAT?!? THAT'S BULLSHIT!!! YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE THAT FUCKING CALL?!? You know what? FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING OBSERVER." This continues for a good thirty to forty-five seconds.

Needless to say, I'm a little rattled. The second team grabs the guy and pulls him back to their bench. The other Observer and I huddle away from the players and discuss what to do. I want to yellow card him, but the other Observer fears that it might incite more problems. He warns the second team's captain about the player's behavior, and the captain (and several other players) apologize for their teammate's behavior.

The rest of the game is inconsequential. Once it's over, I walk across the field away from all of the players, just to ensure that nothing further happens. I'm completely lost and confused. Did I blow it?

As we're walking back to Disc Central, I ask him what the rule is. He tells me that it's not like football. If a player catches the disc, lands in the end-zone, and drops the disc unintentionally, it's not a score. He supported my call on the field, saying that if the player took three steps before dropping it, it would be sufficient to call it a score. But he confesses that he was surprised by my call when he saw it.

Upon arriving at Disc Central, we notice that the Mixed game has ended. We find out that the Observer in that game handed out two yellow cards for a minor skirmish in the game. At that point, we realize that we really should have awarded the yellow cards in our game.

The Observer who worked the Mixed game is probably the most rules-knowledgable player I know, so I ask him about the rule. I note that I couldn't find anything in the rulebook about it. He says it's in there, and surprises me by opening the rulebook to the front, which includes definitions of terms in the game. Under "Possession", there's a note that the ground contact after a catch is part of the catch. Dropping the disc after hitting the ground is a turnover. (I know this, but it strikes me as something that might be different in a scoring situation.) He pairs it with a rule that says that a player must signal a score for it to count - any throw made by a player who doesn't know they're in the end zone counts, even if it's dropped. Furthermore, in his view, a player could conceiveably catch a disc, take ten steps in the endzone, drop the disc, and not have it count. He notes that he's stunned I didn't know the rule.

In my mind, it's one of those rules that you just have to see happen, and, in ten years of playing, I've never seen it. (Oddly enough, during a Summer League game a couple of weeks prior, I caught a disc in the end zone, slipped on some rocks when I landed, did a face-plant, and dropped the disc. We called it a score. Nobody questioned it.)

After the discussion, I'm throroughly deflated. I feel like I totally blew it. They flew me in from Atlanta, and I screwed up. Truthfully, I feel bad for making the wrong call, but far worse that I so mishandled what happened afterward. The correct thing to do would have been to simply say that I had made my call and ignored the player who came over to confront me. Had I done that, it's unlikely the verbal assault would have happened. But that's where my moderate lack of experience caught me. It's not uncommon for even the most experienced Observers to mess up rulings. But I made the mistake of trying to make everyone happy instead of simply walking away.

I end up wandering back to the house, grabbing my CD player, and just listening to music for a while. People start heading out for dinner, and I'm just not feeling like it.

A while later, the other Head Observer comes back to the house and insists that we head into town to find some dinner. Reluctantly, I agree.

We end up walking a mile or so into the main part of the city. Being Friday night, the city is active. On one street, a whole bunch of cars are parked side by side, all blaring their car stereos. It's a car show of sorts, with everybody showing off what they've got.

He and I end up at a place called the Cactus Cafe. We figure we're stuck ordering in French, but when he starts, the waitress reverts into English mode, and we move on from there. I end up ordering burritos, which turn out to be simply amazing.

We make it back to the house kind of late, and I hit the bed as soon as possible. I'm still a little deflated, but the good food and good company redeem the day quite nicely.

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Montreal 2003: Day Two
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Montreal 2003: Day Four