Beach Diaries, Open (Brach) 8/25/11

Posted: August 25, 2011 11:45 AM

Day 4 closed with adversity for both the open and women's squads.  The women lost a double game point heartbreaker to Great Britain, 9-8, and we men lost 12-10 to Italy on the stadium court.  Somehow, between the fans, the arena, and the pressure of an admittedly quite strong Italian squad, we gave up the disc one time too many.  Though we lost by just one unconverted possession, the game somehow never really felt close.  A tip of the cap to the Italians for bringing just perfect offense and defense to the match - still, we think we can do better.

Despite the road bumps, we all bounced back, the women with a 13-3 win over Japan and Day 5 victories over Germany and Australia, and the men with a hard-fought 13-9 victory over a strong German contingent.  We're both set to enter elimination play on Day 6 near the tops of the brackets, with medals still in sight.

Although rebounding from losses has been huge, the U.S. players have started to get a little irked over another, unexpected wrinkle in the European game: spirit scores.  In European competition, teams rank each other for spirit on 5 criteria, ranging from sportsmanship and fair play to simple congeniality and basic rules knowledge.  With each criteria being scored on a scale of 0-4, average "good" scores tend to range around 13-15, and we've been giving nearly every team we've played a very high mark of 17 or 18.  This is not just to blow smoke, either: it's because we respect our opponents and their play and think that nearly every game we've played has been spirited and fun.

And yet.

Our spirit scores - the ones we've received from other teams - have been abysmal.  We've gotten some 10s.  We received a 5. A 5?  Following the scoring rubric, the only way to even score that low is to legitimately not understand the rules at all and to refuse to even shake hands with the opposing teams.  And we certainly haven't been doing that.  The only other rationale - unless teams have been sandbagging each other on spirit scores across the board, which doesn't appear to be the case - is that other countries' teams are smacking us around and penalizing us simply because we're the USA, because we're seen as a strong program and "the bad guys," the New York Yankees of Ultimate.

Frankly, that's frustrating.  We traveled all the way here at our own expense to play hard and have fun, and other teams are effectively telling us - not to our face, not in the post-game spirit circles, but behind our backs and on paper - that they don't appreciate our efforts and they don't want us around. 

Though I'm loving the competition and trying not to let it get me down, I'm having a hard time coming to grips with what really feels like deceitfulness out of these supposedly "more spirited" European teams.  Because why come out and play a hard game only to snipe at your opponents after?  Is that an embodiment of good Spirit of the Game?  It doesn't seem like it to me.

Our last pool play game is to come: tonight, we play Belgium.  The women, for their part, have a chance to battle back and win their pool if they beat Canada by more than 2... we'll be pulling for them. 

Team USA Beach Diaries

Some members of Team USA will be submitting diary entries during the event to keep everyone posted on their experience in Italy.

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