Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Cheat to Win (without Cheating): Scrapple

This is the final segment in the Cheat to Win series and will deal with all the odds and ends that didn't have a home, comments and questions.

Calling people out. I always assumed in writing this series, that because of my own history as a player, I was calling myself out. About halfway through, I realized that not everyone who was reading this was there to remember, so I'll make it clear. There is a reason I know all this stuff and it's not because I was an innocent victim. I included people and stories I thought were pertinent to the topic at hand in order to make my point, not to settle old scores. Generally, calling people out is irresponsible and counterproductive. Thanks to Donovan for having a sense of humor - our sport would be better off if more people did.

You can make every call correct and still be a cheater.
There are a million calls to be made in any game, which you choose to call defines you. If you are consistently calling fouls and violations that benefit your team and the timing of those calls is calculated for maximum effect and they are made without regard to your own behavior as a player, then you are a cheater. Well, sort of. It's a weird situation because technically you aren't a cheater. However, you've created an unfair game because two different expectations for rules and enforcement are being used. Typically, a person responsible for making a game unfair is considered a cheater. The more you engage in this sort of gamesmanship, the more your calls and play will be scrutinized and disrespected. Every single call you make will be seen in the most cynical light and you will no longer get the benefit of the doubt in anything you do.

The 'contact' rule

KFC wrote: "Isn't the 11th edition "disc space" call basically your "contact?"
Mortakai wrote: "Now the reset to 0 also comes with a stoppage (stoppage = advantage: defense), whereas play does NOT stop with the "contact"/reset to zero (no stoppage = advantage: offense). I think THAT was Lou's point."

It was.

Fight fire with fire.
Heinous boy wrote: "The problem with drama is there is more of an advantage than just the mental edge you get. You can't expect to win against an equal opponent if they're making more calls."
#28 wrote: "One thing in particular I've considered- that instead of playing your normal game and being the white knight, you should change strategies and play their game harder than they play it. Don't match them call for call, as Carleton did, [but] make their calls look reasonable by making egregious plays to shake them up."

First, I'd like to disagree with Heinous boy's proposition that you can't win against an equal opponent if they are making more calls than you. One of the main points of the Drama article was that you are often better off making fewer calls. The Carleton-Florida game is just another in a long line of games where one team (Carleton) would have benefited from fewer calls and stoppages. Matching call for call is penny-wise, pound-foolish.

Secondly, fighting fire with fire is a sure strategic failure. I've had a front row seat to see it fail on multiple occasions. Sockeye won a game-to-go over Portland in 2003 where a portion of the Portland team attempted to match Sockeye's meanness. Their elan and athleticism was more than we could really handle, but they tried to beat us where we were strong, which was toughness and tenacity. At the end of a long and hateful game, the young fresh talent on Portland wilted under the pressure. I also discussed the 97 Worlds Final (where DoubleHappy tried to match Sockeye's gamesmanship) in the Drama post, but perhaps the granddaddy of them all was Boston's 93 season. After watching NYNY's nastiness win four consecutive National titles (and 5 of 6), Boston inherited a transfer from NYNY, Joey Giampino. With a little nudge from Joey, Boston went down the dark road and tried every mean trick they possibly could. It was a titanic failure and the poison from it is still out there today.

It's a moral failure as well. The only possible way to "win" with this line of thinking is to match or out cheat-and-game the other team. The only way to "win" is to become the very thing you despised in the first place. Gambler's take on marking sums up the strategic decision leading to a moral failure well: "If your team's own marking style is aggressive (code word for cheating), then you get to practice playing against that all season. You'll be prepared for other teams that play that way. But your marks are also going to be illegal, perpetuating the problem and institutionally violating SOTG." Very few players set out to cheat their way to victory. Most just set out to get theirs and make sure that the score is even. The problem is, the gamesmanship skills involved are tough to learn and have to be practiced and then are ingrained and then...

The 4-person cup. Ben Iberle asked how to beat it.
I think the best focus on this one is tactical rather than through calls. Women's teams use the four-person cup a ton and most of the time, it is played legally and effectively. First of all, don't let them catch you and never let them catch you on the sidelines. Move the disc immediately to the first open player. Your wings should stand 5-10 yards clear of the sidelines and when they catch it, they should be getting rid of it immediately. Second, a varied attack makes a huge difference because it keeps the defense from keying in on any one thing. There are four ways to break any zone: inside, around, through and over. You want to set up with the inside (the little hand-off in the cup) because it gets you a couple yards, sets you up for the through and pisses the cup off. As they begin to react to the inside, then your around or through will open up more. It's a bit like establishing the run to set up the play-action pass; you want to get those linebackers (middle-middles) to bite. This is a good illustration of these principles.
From a call-game perspective, there's not a lot you can do without observers. You can sit back for the swing and call double-team after double-team until they back off. I have seen that done and be effective in changing the other team's behavior. It's a way of saying: 'We're not going to play until you play fair.' But again, I don't think you want to do that much. You still have to beat the zone. And if they are really cheating with the big-time double-team, they are creating a huge hole behind the cup. Crash and collapse the cup, then take advantage.

Summing the whole thing up.
1. The more you know, the better.
2. Just because you know how to play the call game, doesn't mean it's the right strategic choice.
3. Just because you know how to play the call game, doesn't mean it's the right moral choice.
4. Your team should discuss and create a plan for the call game.
5. Ignore antics from the other team and stick to your plan.

What's next?
Thanks for reading all this stuff. I hope you found it helpful and interesting. I'm going to work a bit on organizing the Without Limits blog roll and get Fugue up and running for 2011. Then, coming in January, I am going to take a look at referees and why they are a really, really bad idea.


  1. Strong work, Lou. Thank you. I would be intrigued to see/hear/learn more about the inner workings of a team you are leading.


  2. can you clarify/expand your first point "calling people out" and why it is "irresponsible and counterproductive."?

  3. Shiv - Thanks. You might want to go into the archives of 97430 (old blog) to read about Fugue at Nationals last year.

    Kyle - What I had in mind with that comment is when people get on rsd and torch another team over a particular call or bad game. This is irresponsible because it is completely out of context. Only one side of the story is presented - the side of the complaintant. In none of the circumstances I've ever seen did the complaining team take any responsibility for what happened. You're going to publicly set out to destroy someone's reputation because of one game? One call? Please. The core of good SotG is taking care of your own behavior - not watching someone else's.
    I think it is counterproductive because it actually sets up a situation for more antagonism and acrimony. How do you think the second game between Western Oregon State and Salem Community College is after Salem CC flames Western all over rsd? Spirit is based on mutual respect; flaming a team or player only worsens the situation.

    As a coach, I have had some problems with the way other teams and players functioned, but I have chosen not to say anything about it. I certainly wouldn't say anything publicly, but I have been reluctant to say anything privately either. I'm not really sure what to say. How would I get what I want - which is a team or player to play differently? That's tricky. Also, I have struggled with our (Fugue's) responsibility in these situations. Here's a hypothetical example: let's say I'm pissed because a team is calling 8-10 travels a game on us. Shouldn't I look at our footwork first? Shouldn't that be the first fix? It doesn't seem right to go whining to another team when our own house isn't in perfect order.

  4. This series was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Thanks much!

  5. Great stuff, Lou. Looking forward to reading your case for why refs are a bad idea.

  6. Thanks Lou. It has been interesting reading this series of posts. By the way this is the Kyle from Canada you met at the Seattle Ultimate camp in August of last year.