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Montreal 2003: Day Five
Added: August 16 2004

Sunday, August 17, 2003.

Morning comes early once again. Gracefully, the first game doesn't start until 11:00am, so we end up getting a little extra sleep than the other days. Or, at least, I do.

It turns out that the other Head Observer had a later night than I did. From our best guesses, I may have gotten the last bus of the night. He stayed until just after 2:00am, got down to the traffic circle and waited. And waited. Then he found out that the busses stopped at 2:00am. He and those remaining at the party had one option: walk. Yep, after working four games during the day, he ended up having to walk down the mountain back to the hotel. Fortunately, there's a direct walking path, but it's still a couple of miles that he didn't need to deal with.

And it turns out that the commotion with the police cars was because the party was supposed to end at the chalet at 2:00am, but that wasn't common knowledge. (The tournament website even said, "party all night".) They were actually supposed to have had the whole place empty by 3:00am. So the police were just there to make sure everything was shutting down. Why they were screaming up that dirt and gravel path is anybody's guess.

Anyway, for whatever reason, he's up before I am, and heads down to grab breakfast. There's a "free continental breakfast" coupon thingy, which he lets me have. It's basically a couple of blueberry muffins. As we're eating, his friends from Vancouver arrive for breakfast, so he sticks around talk to them, and I head toward the stadium.

One cool facet of this tournament is that the organizers have decided to rent out Molson Stadium (where the local CFL team, the Alouettes, play) to have the finals. (I believe it was necessary because of a lack of hotel space in Saint-Jean for Saturday night because of Montgolfieres, but I could be making that up.) It's nice because it means that everyone not in the finals gets a great seat to watch, and it's far easier to watch a game in a stadium than in a mass of people on the sideline.

On a map, it looks like it's only a couple of blocks from the hotel to the stadium, so I decide to walk it rather than deal with getting a ride. But, good lord, it feels like it take me forever to get there.

Molson Stadium, during the Open final.

The other Head Observer and I have agreed to split the games so that everyone works two of the three finals. Only the Mixed final has requested active Observers (the other games just want Linespersons), so we decide that he'll take the Open game early, we'll both work the Mixed game, then I'll take the Women's final. The other positions will be filled by our other volunteers.

The Open game's finish is pretty much a foregone conclusion. Furious George won the previous two UPA Club Championships (ie, the best teams in the US and Canada), and there's been some mumbling that they're only playing in Canada's Nationals to earn a spot at Worlds in 2004. They win rather handily, but it's a fun and good-spirited game.

Furious George about to start a point.

The Mixed final features the team who's played in every Mixed game I've worked, so we're relatively familiar with them. We know it's going to be a close, contested game, and it doesn't disappoint. I end up having to rule on several close calls. During one play, a player feels that the disc was pulled out of his hand, so he calls a strip. I overrule him, though, granted that it didn't look like he ever actually caught the frisbee. After the point, he comes over and discusses it with me at length.

During half-time, the four Observers come together at mid-field and start throwing around. Suddenly, it turns into a game of flutter guts. Basically, the idea is to toss or flip the disc as oddly as possible towards another player, who then has to catch it one-handed. Mind you, there are a couple thousand people watching this transpire, and I'm a complete novice at the game. But I watch what the other guys do, and make many more catches than I expect to. At one point, one of the guys makes an amazing layout to grab the disc, eliciting a solid burst of approval from the crowd.

The Observers at mid-field. (Pic: Glenn & Mara Walker)

An amazing layout during flutter guts.
(Pic: Scobel Wiggins/UltiMarketing)

The Head Tournament Director is doing play-by-play over the loudspeaker for the finals, and ends up doing some play-by-play during our little flutter guts game. When I speak to him about the game later, he notes his surprise that "you guys were actually good at it!!" I was pleasantly surprised, too.

After that, the Mixed game gets back underway. The closest call of the game is another that comes to me. Woman goes up to catch a frisbee in the end-zone, her defender goes up with her, there's contact, the defender knocks the disc away, and both land on the turf. Offensive player calls a foul, then is helped off the field injured. They turn to me to rule on the foul. Initially, I can't tell what they're asking, so I stop and ask them to clarify what's been called. They explain it, and, rather than side with one or the other, I send the disc back to the thrower. Clearly, there was contact, and a player went out hurt. Only the two of them knew how much contact there was and whether it was incidental or not, so replaying it seemed the most fair option.

Chris asks for clarification during the call.
(Pic: Scobel Wiggins/UltiMarketing)

The defensive side (the team who's been in every Mixed game I've worked) complains loudly. The offensive team puts the disc back in play and proceeds to score. Once the point is over, the defensive team lets me have it. They claim that I should have made a call one way or the other. They continue to complain throughout the rest of the game.

On a later call, I'm asked to rule if a disc had hit the turf or not before it was caught. It looks to me like it hadn't, but I know that the linesperson on my side had the perfect angle to see the play, so I run over and ask his opinion. He agrees that it looked like it hadn't hit the turf. So I make the call.

Later, I find out that some people think that because of those two rulings, it looks as if I am unconfident as an Observer. On the contrary: my modus is to try to make the right call, the one that's the most fair for all parties involved, not just guess the call that seems to fit. If I had to make those calls again, I would make them exactly the same way.

The game ends, and is lost by the more familiar team. I end up working that same sideline for the Women's final, and have to hear all manner of grumbling from that Mixed team, namely about that end-zone call. Again, I know I should keep my mouth shut, but my head keeps screaming: they're only complaining because they don't understand how Observers work. I try explaining to one player that Observers don't have to make a call on every request. One of his teammates finally tells him to shut up: and adds that the game wasn't lost on that one call (or on any of our calls).

The Women's final is definitely the best game of the day. At one point, it looks like it's going to be a blowout, with one team up by five. Suddenly, the other team starts crawling back into it. They end up tying it while on a 9-1 run to pull out the comeback win. Just an amazing game.

Chris makes the call: in-bounds.
(Pic: Scobel Wiggins/UltiMarketing)

One kinda weird note, though. When I came to Montreal, I brought along a plastic water bottle (like a Crystal Springs 20oz bottle) that I'd been using for several weeks at Summer League games. (With as much water as I consume while playing during the summer, it would get awfully expensive if I opened new bottles every time.) I also used that bottle throughout the tournament to that point.

Late in the game, I notice my bottle is sitting way away from the sideline, ie, not where I left it. Figuring someone just kicked it by accident, I pick it up and bring it back. During the next point, the team nearest to me on the sideline calls a timeout, and one of the players calls for the team to bring out water. She walks over to my water bottle, picks it up, takes a big swig, hands it to another player, who takes a big swig, then tosses it back on the sideline. Um, that bottle later goes into the garbage.

After the game, I stick around and help clean up. While I'm wandering toward the loading area, the guy who asked us to work the Open game where the "incident" happened stops me and thanks me for my dedication in coming all the way to Montreal to help out. He's been offering posters during the tournament (he runs a really great Ultimate magazine), and hands me one. I'm quietly stunned and immensely grateful. (I hope I expressed my gratitude as much as I felt - with all of everything that was going, I wasn't sure that I said enough.)

Finally, many of the tournament volunteers end up over in the loading area filling up the truck. The official photographer is there, too, and gets us all together to take one final group photo.

The volunteers. (Pic: Scobel Wiggins/UltiMarketing)

(You can't tell from the photograph, but the guy at the very front with the beard is doing a complete split.)

From there, everyone starts dispersing, and I start feeling that little sense of sadness knowing that everything is coming to a conclusion. I'm quietly bummed, knowing that I will probably never see any of these people again. I have to admit, of all of the tournaments I've ever worked or attended, this is the closest, friendliest group of volunteers and organizers I've ever encountered. I certainly had every reason to feel out of place, granted that I was the lone American involved in the entire tournament, but that never happened. Even the organizers treated me as one of the group: I never felt like I was working for them, more with them.

I'd been fortunate to chat with Scobel (the official photographer) a bunch of times during the days in Saint-Jean, and sometimes, during the games, I'd wandered over and checked in with her, and she'd shown me some of the pics she'd taken. During the Women's final, she showed me one layout picture that was just simply amazing:

(Pic: Scobel Wiggins/UltiMarketing)

Simply put, she's an amazing photographer.

After the volunteer pic, we know it's time to head back to the hotel. Since the tournament's over, we have to check out of the Holiday Inn. She and I both are staying elsewhere: the TD who invited me here has offered me her couch for a couple of nights. Scobel is carrying a ton of heavy camera equipment (and it turns out that she walked all the way from the hotel with it, by herself!!), so said TD offers me her car keys so that I can take myself and Scobel back to the Holiday Inn and I can grab my gear.

We wander outside with loose instructions as to where the car is. I'm carrying Scobel's heaviest (and most expensive) lens. It seems like we're where the car is supposed to be, yet it's not there. We head down another road: still no car. The lens is super-heavy, and I can tell that Scobel's looking a little nervous about me and the lens. (I do not know how she made it from the hotel to the stadium carrying that thing and all of her other gear. I was beat, and we'd barely gone half-way.) I end up leaving Scobel on a random sidewalk, holding who knows how much worth of camera equipment, and run back to Molson to find the TD.

With her help, we're finally able to track down the car, and Scobel and I head back to the hotel.

She and I head up to our floor. When we arrive, she finds that her key no longer works the door, yet all of her stuff is inside. I was slightly panicky in advance: the only reason I didn't take my gear to Molson was because the other Head Observer decided to pay for another night in our room rather than find another hotel for the night. She heads back downstairs to figure out what to do, and I head to my room to gather my gear.

The other Head Observer is there, cleaned up and relaxing in front of the tv. I grab my stuff and we say our goodbyes. We both have to laugh: we've literally spent almost every hour of the previous five days in each other's presence, and we haven't killed each other (or ever really argued). It was definitely a lot of fun. I wish him well, and head out the door.

By then, Scobel's been able to get into her room, and, fortunately, her stuff is still there. I help her carry her stuff to the (not-so busy) elevator and down to where her ride is waiting. I offer my goodbyes, load my gear into the car, and head back to Molson to meet up with the TD.

The TD and I arrive at her apartment about 8:30pm. What's really interesting to me is that her street consists of one long row of connected apartments on each side. I've never seen anything like it. To me, the coolest part of all is that the street level apartment one section over is a convenience store. My mind boggles on the concept. I think to myself: if I need a drink or something at home, I have to get in my car and drive a couple of miles to get it. Here, all you have to do is walk downstairs.

We're both completely burned out from everything, so, rather than going out for food, we order Chinese. We watch a little bit of TV, but she heads to bed pretty early. I remember spotting TV cameras at Molson, so I figure it's worth staying up to see if there's any news coverage.

I end up changing it to CTV local news at 11:00pm. Eventually, they start running a piece about the Finals. Since Ultimate is (relatively) unknown, they try to explain the sport. They also explain that the sport has no referees: that the players make the calls "and discuss them". Narrator: "We noticed them discussing this particular play for several minutes." While that's being spoken, on the screen is some footage of me from behind - from the contested call during the Mixed game. I laugh. (Oddly, it's the same segment that's captured in the picture of me above, just from behind me.)

I figure that's enough for me. I hit the lights and hit the couch.

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Montreal 2003: Day Four
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