Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Elucidation of the Obvious

I never expected to be writing this. To me, the specific facts of this most recent HoF debacle are so clear that it hardly seems necessary to review them, much less explain them in detail. But based on some of the commentary back and forth I have been having with Kyle Weisbrod today, I can tell that he is still a little confused. Given that fact, it seems plausible that there are others out there who might be confused as well, so maybe a little review is in order after all.

For continuity’s sake, I have decided to use Kyle’s most recent comment to my Captain Kirk post as our jumping off point. From there we’ll just have to see where the discussion takes us. I, for one, can’t wait to get started. Let the learning begin.

Note: Italicized comments are Kyle Weisbrod’s unless they appear in quotations, when they are Henry Thorne's.

Ok, I'm confused. What specific confidential information are you talking about here?

Sorry about that. I’ll try to be clearer in this post. Sometimes my enthusiasm for the discourse causes me to get ahead of myself.

You mentioned the comparison b/t you and Pat:

"KD had nine times as many negatives as Pat in the peer review. More than half (55%) of KD's peers checked the "his spirit should significantly detract from his qualifications" box. Next worst was 20%."

I'm not privy to the inner-workings of the process. So you are saying this was confidential (i.e. the respondents were told this would not be released)?. If so, sure, bad judgment.

Hmmmm. Before we get into the explanation, I couldn’t help but notice that you admit being unfamiliar with the inner workings of the process. I’m no expert, but I do try to make myself knowledgeable on a subject before I take a position in a discussion on that subject. It tends to lessen confusion and allow me to make more salient and cogent points. It’s not that I’m telling you what to do, but I’m just saying…

So, as to the process, the following is from the invitation to submit peer comments: “All feedback will be kept strictly confidential and will be available only to the committee members as part of their deliberations.”

So I guess what you admit is pretty much what I said all along. Henry showed bad judgment.

But I'm unclear on the other confidential information that Henry made public. Are you talking about your public statement? Yeah, agreed, bad judgment if it was communicated that that was for the committee's eyes only. Was that Henry's doing?

No, this was not Henry’s doing. It also was not a “public statement,” as you call it. It was information the UPA HoF requested from me to be used by the committee to evaluate my candidacy, and was also confidential information. The person who made the decision to post it has already admitted that it was inappropriate and apologized. I used the fact that it had been posted on upa.org to illustrate that the UPA HoF seems to have a sliding scale of sensitivity when it comes to being the guardians of confidential information.

Or are you talking about the anonymous cheating comment. If that's it - yeah, I'm not sure that's bad judgment. The argument that you don't deserve to get in based on "questionable spirit" alone is pretty much untenable with the huge majority of players.

Yes, that was the confidential information I was talking about, in addition to the stuff you’ve already admitted it was bad judgment to reveal.

As for the whole “huge majority of players” comment, I was not aware of that. Cool.

That has to be supported by some accusations that championships were won/lost based on unfair play to keep someone of your accomplishments out of the Hall.

That seems like a pretty big leap. We went from questionable spirit to altering the outcomes of championships through unfair play. But let’s say you’re right for the sake of argument. Are you honestly saying that the unsubstantiated anonymous accusations are reason enough to deny an otherwise worthy candidate entry in the HoF? Or do you believe that the accusations have to have some merit?

That’s a pretty serious distinction. Imagine a voter thinking, “Hey, that Dobyns was pretty awesome but he was a bit of a dick, and somebody somewhere says he cheated him out of a championship, and that’s good enough for me. Out.” I’d like to think the voters take their jobs a little more seriously than that.

Did he definitely violate anyone's confidence? That's not clear to me.

Again, all of the information is confidential. He actually has refused to violate anyone’s confidence in reference to the accusations of cheating because he believes the accusers deserve to retain their anonymity. But he nonetheless violated the terms of the agreement through which the information was obtained. I would also go so far as to say, as an elected member of the UPA Board who is rightfully expected to uphold a fairly high standard of ethical conduct, he violated the trust of the voters who put him in office.

How would it be any different than the claims of "questionable spirit?" or any of the skill attributes? The fact is that Henry didn't play against you so his vote is based on what other people said. If you didn't get in because he heard that you were a lousy thrower how would that be any different?

OK, the sotg clause, as I illustrated recently, is written in vague language that allows for multiple interpretations. It would be pointless to engage in a debate over whether or not a particular player has “questionable spirit.” There simply is no verifiable right or wrong answer. As for the skill attributes, those are a little more clearly defined in the sense that there are verifiable outcomes that can be measured. A thrower who competes at a high level, completes the majority of his passes and throws a lot of goals would reasonably be described as a good thrower.

Now, what Henry wrote was that cheating took place (not "unfair play" as you put it) and that my cheating resulted in multiple National Championships being won or lost. Now since NY never lost any National Championships, I did make the assumption that he was saying that I cheated to win. And that, too, like a goal, is a verifiable outcome.

Therefore, Kyle, it is dramatically different from claims of “questionable spirit.”

He didn't have to engage in this discussion yet he did in earnest.

And once again, I appreciate his efforts. But he made several egregious errors that I believe indicate poor judgment. I asked you point blank if you agreed, and you wrote about the process as being the culprit. No question the process is flawed, but Henry’s actions were his own, and I say, once again…

In choosing to publicly post anonymous accusations of cheating that question my integrity and the legitimacy of multiple NY championships, Henry committed an ethical lapse that reflects very poor judgment, and thereby called into question a former player, an entire team (over multiple years), any UPA observers who worked those finals with NY, and the UPA National Championship series as a whole.

And I'm trying to help you out here because I think this decision and process appears to be ridiculous. So quit being an ass.

I read what you wrote, Kyle. The way I interpreted it you were dissembling and deflecting, all in a bid to avoid admitting what to me was an obvious truth, an admission you have since made. I apologize for upsetting you, but I think calling me an ass shows “questionable spirit” on your part (it felt kind of like belligerent intimidation).

In the interest of encouraging greater transparency from the UPA and the Board it is probably counterproductive to make Henry's uncommon (for Board Members) stating of his opinion publicly in to a referendum on his Board membership. That will almost certainly make other board members less likely to be public with their opinions and that is bad for all of us.

I did not make it a referendum on his Board membership. He did. Henry chose to end a post by writing about the privilege of being given the authority to make such decisions by the voters. The decisions he referred to include the decision to use an unsubstantiated accusation of cheating to give me a sportsmanship grade of 1 out of 10, and thereby determine me unfit for the HoF. He also passionately argued that the anonymous accusers should not have to take a public hit, even as he was publicly calling my integrity into question with those same anonymous accusations. I believe it showed incredibly poor judgment. We elect people to representative office based on the hope that they will exercise good judgment, so how is it inappropriate to point it out when an elected representative fails to do that?

Finally, as a former board member, for you to suggest that rather than point these facts out I should be quiet because if I don’t other board members will be less likely to speak up is a little bit unsettling.

Wouldn’t it be great if the response instead were, “Hey, Henry made a mistake, but let’s examine what happened and how it happened, so maybe we can keep it from happening again in the future. And hey, cut the board a little slack. They’re just starting out with this whole communication thing. They may stumble at first, but they’ll get it right eventually.”

Of course, that’s the response we might get from a board that was committed to openness and transparency, and based on what I’m seeing, the UPA board is anything but that.


Kyle Weisbrod said...


Fair response.

If I was deflecting it was completely ingenuous and I only intended to semble.

I also meant "personal" statement when I wrote "public" statement. My mistake.

In Henry, the Board's, the UPA's and my own defense, running a membership based organization with 30,000+ members for a sport that is quickly evolving is a challenging task. The organization frequently makes decisions for new programs or initiatives.

Those decisions that only have positive affects no one notices. For the decisions that have negative affects, those who are negatively affected are acutely aware of the decision. In some cases, the decision is made rightly (just because some are negatively affected does not make it a bad decision for the sport or organization overall). In others, the decision is wrong. In all cases, those that are negatively affected will focus on that specific issue, while the Board members are spread between all of them and still working full time jobs besides that.

What am I getting at here? Board members are frequently in the position to make judgment calls. Yes, sometimes their judgment is wrong.

Henry took a chance (yes, I know you've credited him for this) to get feedback on a controversial decision by a UPA committee. I think it was good judgment to enter the public discussion. Whatever he wrote that showed bad judgment, I'd hold that close for now so as not to intimidate other Board Members. Otherwise we may never see those members' judgment whatsoever.

Your writing (like your play) can be intimidating. And it's not just you, it's the dozens of other opinionated players out there who will pounce on any poorly constructed argument or indication of bad judgment.

And it's not like people are rushing to join the UPA's Board of Directors. So, where does that leave us? With an organization that is scared to be transparent and communicative. With a Board that sometimes gets upset at their own when they enter the public fray. With a membership that distrusts its governing body and a governing body that, in some ways, distrusts its membership.

And we've seen it over and over - candidates run and get elected with increased transparency as a major plank in their platform but nothing changes. The UPA has been unable to adjust to communication and it's even harder because communication has rapidly evolved over the past 20 years and now anyone with an internet connection, who should be the hall of fame, can point out the mistake and be read by everyone. Every mistake big or small is there for everyone to see.

But, anyway, hey, Henry made a mistake, but let’s examine what happened and how it happened, so maybe we can keep it from happening again in the future. And hey, cut the board a little slack. They’re just starting out with this whole communication thing. They may stumble at first, but, hopefully,they’ll get it right eventually.

Nathan said...

So many posts, I am not sure where to write what I want to write, so I apologize if some of this is off-topic.

I was lucky to be introduced to NYNY early in my playing career - my college team played Div 2 sectionals at the same site as NYNY Div 1 sectionals. As others have written, NYNY in general and Ken in particular defined high-level ultimate for my team. We saw them as agro-ass-kickers who dominated aggressively...but never as cheaters.

I played against Ken several times, but never at Nationals. Most of those games were very lopsided losses by my team. One was a very close game, the details of which I have tried to forget, but I can say without a doubt that there was no cheating in that game (Ken's team won).

I had the fortune (misfortune in some cases) of playing with many guys who did play in MANY games against Ken at the highest level of the sport. I never heard a whiff of an accusation that Ken had cheated his way to championships.

From my perspective, I want to know a lot more details about these accusations of cheating, and I would not be comfortable with Ken's entry to the Hall being denied based on anonymous accusations which are out-of-line with my experience and the reported experiences of my teammates.

While I have the floor(keyboard?), I have two anecdotes about Ken. They have no real message, but perhaps they will provide further insight into Ken.

The first took place at Club Regionals - I believe it was 1997. Ken was playing with WSL All-Stars. I was watching them dominate some team on Saturday. A younger player on WSL has the disc about 5 yards outside the endzone, and Ken cuts to the cone with about half a step on his defender. The player does not throw it to him. WSL works the disc around and scores. After the play, Ken goes ballistic at this player - he screams something like "You need to deliver that fucking disc! I have scored, conservatively, 10000 goals in my lifetime...you cannot look me off! If you want to win, throw me the disc!" I learned a ton from him in watching that one interaction - I wish I had the chance to learn more from him.

The 2nd occurrence was a couple years later, at Turkey Swamp. I was trying out for DoG, playing with several of his long-time rivals (if I may use that word, given the rather one-sided nature of the competition). This was when the "new pull rules" were being put into place, so there was some discussion before the game about how to implement these rules. At the end of the discussion, one of the older DoG players said something like "So what about a roller pull that rolls out the back of the endzone? What if somebody knocks it out the back?" Ken then replied "Let's just agree to not throw a roller pull." As we are walking back to receive the first pull, two older DoG guys agree to each other "if he doesn't throw a roller pull here, he is a total pussy." Of course...Ken throws a roller. Draw whatever conclusions you want, but one conclusion is that these guys knew Ken pretty darn well. They never mentioned anything about his cheating to me over several years playing together. In addition, they think he should be in the HOF.

Anonymous said...

The UPA needs to do 3 things: 1. Fix the HOF induction process for future classes. 2. Do the due diligence necessary to determine whether the claims against KD can be substantiated (e.g., question in confidence and in detail whoever claimed that KD cheated his way to multiple championships and ask that person's teammates, the observers and anyone else who was there who might be able to substantiate these claims). If the canot be substantiated, then they must be disregarded. 3. Develop clear communication guidelines to give some level of transparency to the process while respecting confidentility. Oh, and fucking put KD in the stupid HOF already!

jacob said...

Kyle W:

"[I]t's not just you, it's the dozens of other opinionated players out there who will pounce on any poorly constructed argument or indication of bad judgment."

Kyle, you make this sound like a bad thing.

"The UPA has been unable to adjust to communication."

The communication problems here are really collateral. The underlying problem is the hubris poorly disguised as humility which led to the decision not to admit KD to the hall of fame. The fewer bad calls the UPA makes, the less important clear communication about its decisions will be.

parinella said...

I have a few comments:
a) Confidentiality. No one's opinion in The Call was made public, and moreso, no actual quotes were made public to reduce even further the chances of a claim being attributed.
b. Those claims. We have heard nothing that indicates that these claims were taken at anything other than face value. THat is bad. Perhaps those reading the claims trusted heavily in the at-that-point-named names to put great weight on it. Someone on my blog suggested that when a particular player's spirit "significantly detracts from their candidacy", that specific queries go out to long-time teammates and competitors to get the truest story. Whether this is too time-consuming to do in every case, I don't know. Henry was convinced enough, and some other unknown numbers of voters were similiarly convinced. The anonomyity of the whole process doesn't just allow for these types of accusations, it also prevents a candidate from reviewing his buddy's Peer Review votes and saying, "How could you vote for that guy over me?" THe voters aren't disinterested sportswriters, they are teammates, opponents, and friends of the candidates.
c) Cheating. Ok, let me start this off my saying that DoG has been called "the nicest cheaters in the game", and that we've all witnessed teammates make very questionable calls (but which we weren't 100% sure of ourselves) and let them slide. Having said that, NYNY was not just aggressive, they belligerently intimidated, and NYNY was not just belligerently intimidating, but they cheated. Not "they" as in every single player all the time, but some were egregiously bad. I remember remarking to one player that he had fouled me more "than the rest of ultimate combined". At Regionals in 1992, I had my arm grabbed on a break mark attempt and called foul. When asked why I didn't try to throw it anyway, I said, "I did, but he grabbed my arm again." WOrlds quarters 1993, double game point, to everyone's eyes but his, a NYNY player deliberately fouls a taller more athletic receiver in the endzone to prevent a game winner, contests, then does the same moments later. This time, the too-nice-of-a-guy receiver (not me) doesn't call it. So let's not kid ourselves here that players on the team NYNY did not, in fact, cheat to win (which is infinitely better than cheating to lose by 2). (It's a loser's lament to blame those plays for the loss or to let intimidation get to you enough to take you out of your game, so I'm not going down that road here. I'm just pointing out that we're not dealing with angels.) But unless Ken bears special weight for his teammates' actions, this seems excessive. Like Nathan said, Ken wouldn't have made DoG's "Most Wanted List" in this regard.
d) 10000 goals? Please. He had been playing for 15 years, perhaps 100 games a year. No one averages 7 goals a game, especially when your team wins games 15-2. Is he counting practice goals? And did he really pause to add "conservatively"? I think we have uncovered a credibility issue...

Corey said...

right, jim. reminds me a lot about the story of alex's horrible call to win a world championship. everyone in the entire stadium saw alex get point blocked, except of course for alex. it's all in the eye of the beholder, right?

here are the cheating-ist teams in ultimate for my 12 years of serious club level disc, in no particular order: NYNY, DoG, Condors, Furious and Sockeye.

Wanna guess what they all have in common?

kd said...

Whoa Nellie! Put the cap back on the Percocet and step away from the medicine cabinet.

If information is confidential, you don't have to release a name to break confidentiality. You simply have to release the information. You say no one's opinion was made public - that's simply not true, Jim. The opinion of the anonymous cheating accuser was made public, although his name was not attached to it. So what? His CONFIDENTIAL opinion was posted in a public forum.

As for the cheating, this is yet another example of why taking any one person's account of a play, anonymously or with a name attached, without considering another perspective is probably a bad idea.

Based on the comment, "to everyone's eyes but his" we can assume that Jim thinks he has achieved omniscience, and perhaps now considers himself a deity (like I said, that Percocet is serious shit). Still, from my perspective, the play from Madison in '93 was a lot of bumping, each player giving as good as he got, on yet another swill Boston huck (probably from Alex). To call that play cheating is (forgive me) fucking BULLSHIT! You have a problem with a call in that game, go with Matty J's call. That was weak, no doubt.

Of course, historically, Boston had great success throwing swill hucks to a guy with a white dog, because every deep throw to that guy over a period of several years was either a goal or a foul call - in his mind there was simply no other possible outcome. Admittedly, the nice guy was not such a blatant cheater. I do, however, remember double game point in the finals of Spring regionals at Amherst when nice guy slammed me pretty hard from behind on a potential game winner. When I failed to call foul Will Longtain went ballistic. "How can you not call foul? He hammered you." To which I responded, "Yeah. But I should have caught it." Boston won.

I really don't see the point of getting into all of this, Jim. I mean, I still have bruises from some of the guys you sicced on me over the years, but what you saw as cheating maybe I just interpreted as tenacious defense.

Regardless, the accusation was that my cheating in National Finals changed the outcome of the game. What did we beat you by in '91 and '92? Eight goals? Did I really cheat that much? And got away with it? Damn, I'm good. Since the UPA HoF is obviously out, maybe I can get into the Cheating Hall of Fame.

Is this the more vocal response? Can we go back to tepid?

Anonymous said...

You guys are seriously arguing about whether or not a foul occurred almost 20 years ago???!!! KD quotes Star Trek, I'll quote Springsteen:

"I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it but I probably will.

Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of,

well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days..."

Let it go guys, let it go...

parinella said...

Ok, I'm busted, I was being my usual contrarian self of agreeing yet pointing out logical gaps. Some calls stick with you because they happen at game point, others stick with you because they happen to you. I thought I made it clear that "the point of getting into this" was that my crowd of peers didn't think Ken should be the poster child here, but that other players on the team quite possibly could have a little more to answer to.

On that play where I was "omniscient", I've always thought highly of the defender and don't hold anything against him. And the guy I have the biggest problem with on that play is the guy who threw both of them (and it wasn't Alex). And myself for throwing a pass a few points earlier that Cribber laid out and blocked. And Gainesville for beating NYNY in pool play so we played NYNY in an 8 am quarters instead of finals. And with whoever brought that bottle of tequila.

Confidentiality again. Presidential votes are confident, yet the results are compiled and released and broken down by precicnct. At work, we are asked for "confidential" assessments of others' work. We know that whatever we write, even with the extra provision that the reviewee knows who his reviewers are, that whatever we write will be given to him but with enough information removed that he won't know where it came from. In this case, EVEN MORE INFORMATION has been stripped. The comment may have been as specific as what I wrote above (but with names), and yet all that came through was "player X is reported to have cheated in some sort of championship game." How can you consider that a violation of confidentiality? By your token, the only way that full confidentiality to be preserved would have been to stop all conversation after the announcement of inductees. I think we're a lot further along now than if that had happened, though none of us are extremely happy with every step along the way.

Yes, you whupped us in those two finals. In '92 ('91 was before my time), we choked. One unlucky play and maybe some internal strife changed it from a close game to a blowout. In '93, we were on paper the stronger team, but the melee early on took us out of our game. As I've written previously, we were douchebags that year, and in the melee in question, both teams were equally responsible for creating the environment, and our team was probably more responsible for igniting it.

But enough about me.

maplerowfarm said...

Do I get into the cheating Hall of Fame now, too?
Thanks for the infamy.


maplerowfarm said...

By the way, guilty as charged on that weak call. The only one in my career that I truly lose sleep over. I don't ever even remember making any other call in my entire career.
damn you for bringing it up again, now I have to go back to counseling.


kd said...


I appreciate your thoughtful use of analogies, but I would appreciate it more if they actually applied to the situation in question.

Voting: Please, Jim. Of course the votes are compiled and released. What would be the point of voting if they weren't?

Review at work: As you point out, a condition of completing the review is the understanding that the reviewee will receive the information.

By contrast, the responders to the call to the community were specifically told that the information would only be used by the HoF committee to arrive at a decision. It is a TOTALLY different scenario than the ones you presented. It's not the same ballpark. It's not the same league. It ain't even the same damn sport.

Hypothetical: I am a player who feels that one of the candidates up for Hall of Fame induction might have cheated in an important game some time ago. I'm not sure, but I think so. I could decide that, since I'm unsure, I shouldn't say anything. But what if someone else has the same suspicion? If only one such statement arrives, it might be ignored. Two would be harder to ignore. So I decide to send it, but only because I know that it will never get out in public. After all, I'm not sure, and the last thing I would want to do is have my suspicions take on the appearance of surety by having them released in a public forum.

Imagine how I feel when my suspicions are suddenly made public. I was specifically told that would not happen. Now I am indirectly responsible for a public accusation of cheating when all I ever had was a suspicion.

Hasn't my confidence been betrayed, even if my identity has been kept secret?

There are two agreements at work here: An anonymity agreement, which has been upheld; A confidentiality agreement, which has been violated.

Do you really not see the difference?

And Matty, I'm sorry. I noticed after the fact that I had been very careful not to include white dog and nice guy's names, but had thrown yours right out there for everyone to see. Not cool. I apologize. I'll buy you a drink at my Cheater Hall of Fame induction party.

maplerowfarm said...

Maker's Mark please ;-)

Yaacov said...

I think that the main problem here is that rather than ask for feedback on process, instead feedback was asked for on an unchangeable result.

If you want feedback on whether a decision is good or bad, ask for that feedback before you make the decision, or at least while it can be changed. Once it's made, ask for feedback on those things which can prevent bad decisions from happening again.