Sunday, June 20, 2010


Seems like an awfully long time ago that I was immersed in the HoF discussion, a discussion that in turn became a cheating, steroids, defamation of character, refzervers discussion. There was a time when I planned to respond to some of the comments that were made to the last two posts, but that time has passed. At one point I even envisioned going back and reviewing the tapes of all the National Finals I’ve played in to gather statistics on fouls made or called, upheld or overturned, and their potential impact on the outcome of the game had they not been made, called, upheld or overturned, but that point has also passed (and, truth be told, was probably beside the point to begin with). At some point toward the end of the discussion, someone (perhaps Phil) indicated that he was bored with it, and I replied “Amen.” I was bored with it. I still am.

Among my friends here in New York, “boring” and “bored” are words we use all the time to describe things we simply have no interest in as well as things we have lost interest in. It works best with a Brooklyn accent, but when someone suggests taking the ferry to Governor’s Island to see an outdoor art installation, there’s a good chance the reply will be “I’m bored with it.” At the extreme, when a thing has completely lost whatever interest it might ever have possessed, we no longer say we’re “bored.” At that point, with a fitting air of finality, we say the thing “died.”

Several weeks after my last HoF post to my blog, I was contacted by an old school player from Boston (coincidentally enough, the “rippee” from my confessional blog post that Henry Thorne found so damning). Having recently enjoyed a random connection with Pat King during a family ski weekend, he had been made aware my HoF candidacy and thoroughly brought up to speed on the entire debate. He reached out to me for two reasons. The first was to tell me that as the rippee, he found the story laughable and would give me his HoF vote any day. The other was to fill me in on an idea he had been kicking around.

The idea was The Spirit Ride, an event that has since passed (but if you’re interested there’s always next year). In his email he suggested that, like Tiger Woods signing more autographs and being more accessible to the press and spectators as a means of repairing his tarnished image, perhaps participating in the Spirit Ride would be just what I needed to gain acceptance into the HoF. Sadly, we’ll never know if he had something there. I already had two “can’t miss” events on my schedule that conflicted with the ride, so I missed out on this once a year chance to repair my damaged reputation with an eye toward finally gaining acceptance into the group of the greatest players our little sport has ever known. Quel dommage.

A little over a month later I received another email, this one from Joe Seidler, with the subject heading, “Don’t you want to be on this list of Ultimate Stars of the 80’s?” The list was a partial listing of Spirit Ride riders, and the point of the email was to generate interest and increase participation. Looking over the list I saw many names I recognized, mostly from back in the day when I first started playing the game. Finally, two days later, I received another email asking me to sponsor a rider, suggesting that even though I wouldn’t be able to make it in person, perhaps having my name on the list of donors might do the trick.

Maybe I was having a bad day. Maybe I hadn’t eaten enough fruits and vegetables, but whatever the reason, the whole thing started to bother me.

This is not the first time that, in the course of the HoF debate, I have been compared to Tiger Woods, a man whose respect for women in general and his wife in particular seems to have been pretty much non-existent. Does my having played an over-aggressive style of ultimate really rise to such a level of betrayal as that? In looking over the list of riders I see a few Hall of Famers as well as current and former voting members of the UPA HoF subcommittee. Do they also believe that my behavior on the field brings me to the level of Tiger Woods? Do they also think that if I participated in the ride or made a significant enough donation to the cause it might make me a candidate more worthy of induction into the HoF?

Damn! If only I hadn’t had those scheduling conflicts, this whole debacle might soon be mercifully ended.

Sadly, however, it was not to be. But what was so important that it would prevent me from repairing my damaged reputation and enhancing my standing in the ultimate community (and perhaps finally securing my elusive HoF inclusion) by participating in the Spirit Ride?

On Friday, June 11th, the day before the Spirit Ride, I was in Benson, North Carolina. I flew down to attend graduation ceremonies for the West Johnston High School Class of 2010. This was the last class of students that I taught, and in keeping a promise I made when I quit teaching, I have seen every one of my former students graduate. I also attended the Senior Brunch at school that morning, signing yearbooks and posing for photos. That night, following the ceremony, I attended two graduation parties, and at one of them had the pleasure of the company of the class Valedictorian and Salutatorian, both former students of mine. We chatted well into the night, and while at some point the challenge of keeping up with the hyper-energetic banter of super smart teenagers about to embark on their life’s voyage got a little tiring, I was never “bored.” With full rides to William & Mary and Duke awaiting them, they are surely destined for great things. It would be hard to overstate how proud I am of them.

On the morning of Saturday, June 12th, the day of the ride, I flew back to New York, popped in briefly at home to shower, shave and change, and headed north to the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown to attend The Celebration of Opportunity Gala and Awards Dinner hosted by the Cerebral Palsy Association. For my work with the Hudson Valley Chapter, I was honored to receive the Distinguished Professional Services Award. My work there includes development of a program designed to build universally accessible parks and play spaces where children and adults who experience disabilities can participate in age and skill appropriate recreation and competition side-by-side with their able-bodied peers. It’s an exciting project from which I derive many rewards, and I mean no disrespect or lack of appreciation when I say that the award I received that evening is least among them.

Now, sitting at home, enjoying my first quiet weekend alone in my apartment in some time, I am writing for what I hope will be the last time on the subject of the HoF. I’m not sure that I would have done the Spirit Ride had I been free, and I have no way of knowing that my participation or my sponsorship of a rider would have repaired my damaged reputation enough to make a difference. But honestly, who cares?

This summer I am playing in Westchester Summer League for the first time in 12 years, and I am enjoying myself thoroughly. After the games we retire to the parking lot for the classic mill, and though I only recognize a few of the faces, the feelings of community are extremely familiar. Last week I was approached by someone I hadn’t seen in many years, and after a few “How long has it been” pleasantries, he asked the question:

“Kenny, what’s the deal with the Hall of Fame?”

“The Hall of Fame died.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Mush From the Wimp


The character count made it impossible to reply in a comment, so you may have to read another post. Sorry.

But I really do think it’s kind of unfair for you to ask all of those questions and then tell me no more long diatribes because it’s making it hard to root for me (that’s me whining again). But you’re right; I really don’t care if you root for me.

Up front, I forgive you for not reading everything or having all the facts, but if you had them you wouldn’t be asking some of these questions. Nonetheless, because it’s you, I’m answering.

1. You complain that you're not in the HoF, you complain that you don't know Henry tells you why, and then you complain that Henry is spreading information that is supposed to be anonymous. For cryin' out loud.

No, I am not complaining that I should be in the HoF. I do know why. What Henry did was justify his vote (which I don’t think he even had to justify) by publishing confidential information in the form of a false accusation from an anonymous source that he had no business disseminating without verifying it. I am not a cheater. He should not have put that accusation out there. I am mad about that.

2. You're parsing sentences and dissecting words like a Rabbinical scholar: Henry wrote "revile" rather than "deplore", does that prove that he's biased against you? "Judge for yourself." Yeah, really, this is worth discussing?

My point is that even Henry, who has gone to such lengths in an attempt to guarantee impartiality, is probably biased without even realizing it. Nonetheless, I can’t argue your point (assuming that this is your point) that in the larger context this probably doesn’t really matter much.

3. Argument by innuendo seem pedantic and petty, as well as a bit craven. If you think specific other HoF voters are biased against you, say who they are and why you think they're biased.

I tried to make this point early in the post. Without knowing which voters participated in the process and to what extent, I, like everybody else really, am kind of in the dark. I just don’t know who reviewed the anonymous cheating and steroids accusations, although I know that the HoF made them available to every voter. I also know what Henry said about the process:

Instead there was an extremely arduous private discussion about 100 messages long amongst a group of Hall of Famers and workers who did a ton of work to get as much data, and fair data, as possible to allow everyone to reach as informed of a decision as possible.

So my general point is that anyone who took such anonymous accusations into consideration without thinking to question them is probably biased. And if the discussion was as long and arduous as he says it was, and no one questioned the use of those accusations (as I was told by The Official), then it stands to reason that a good many of them are biased.

4. It looks like you devoted a whole post to dissecting the meaning of the word "cheating" (again, the Rabbinical scholar) and concluding that everybody cheats so it's unreasonable to hold cheating against you. (Or something; I confess, I only skimmed this.) You also posted something a while ago in which you talked about ripping a disc out of another player's hand to deprive him of a goal, more or less bragged about it, and said you're not sorry. You've gone out of your way to thumb your nose at anyone who thinks 'spirit' or even sportsmanship has the least bit of relevance. So it's a bit rich for you to be shocked to be accused of cheating.

I think you went too far here, Phil. I’ve gone out of my way to thumb my nose at anyone who thinks sportsmanship has the least bit of relevance? That’s simply not true. I have ridiculed some sentiments, like that intimidation has no place in ultimate, because I think they’re worthy of ridicule. I have also pointed out that the vague language in the spirit of the game clause leaves it open to myriad interpretations, and thereby implied that it is difficult to come to a consensus on precisely what qualifies as good or bad spirit. But I don't think I've ever even suggested that sportsmanship has no relevance, nor have I thumbed my figurative nose at those who think that it does.

As for the play you refer to, I have since clarified it. No goal was denied, no call was contested, the play had no impact on the game or the score. As for cheating, as you point out, cheating enough and well enough to change the outcome of a championship game would seem to be difficult. Personally, I think it’s pretty much impossible. The closest I’ve seen any one player come is by making a questionable call on universe point, getting the call and subsequently winning the game (and I don’t think that necessarily qualifies as cheating – who’s to say the caller doesn’t honestly believe the call?).

5. Outrage is easy. It seems like everybody is outraged. Tiger Woods was outraged that people accused his wife of trying to beat him with a golf club. Floyd Landis was outraged that people accused him of cheating in the Tour de France. I get it that you're outraged. What I want to know is whether you were a cheater. That is a completely different question. It is one you have touched on, only obliquely, in only a few of the hundreds of your sentences I have read. To me, it's the only one that matters, when it comes to whether you should be in the Hall.

I was not a cheater. I am not a cheater. I never took steroids. But let me ask you, Phil. Is this how it should work? Should I have to make those declarations because I, a known person, was named in anonymous accusations? Why aren’t you asking the anonymous accusers to step up, identify themselves, and offer proof of those accusations?

And I know that’s not your job, so really what I’m asking (and what this is really all about) is why did the UPA HoF and the UPA’s administrator take those accusations in, go to the trouble to check the information to verify the person filling out the form played at that time, and then circulate those accusations without thinking to question the source, delve a little deeper, make a fucking phone call for chrissakes? They themselves said they knew the information was “toxic,” and yet they figured, “Hey, somebody who played at that time said it while requesting anonymity, and that’s good enough for us.”

I mean, come on, Phil. You’re a bright guy. Think of people in the HoF or who have made the slate of 8 voting. If this kind of accusation came in about them do you really think they wouldn’t question it? Even toss it out? But it comes in about me and they pass it along without even batting an eye? That’s tailoring the handling of the information differently based on the subject of the information, and that’s bias.

6. If you do want to get into the Hall of Fame, here's my advice. Drop all the bullshit. Instead, get a bunch of your former fierce competitors to step up and say publicly that they played against you in important, hard-fought, close games, and that you weren't a cheater. If they won't, try to live up to your own promise, and "suffer the consequences of [your] actions humbly and without recrimination."

Drop the bullshit? Are you kidding? Five hundred visitors a day to this blog, and the vast majority of them during the workday. I'm a one man economic slowdown. You think I'm giving that up?

I do appreciate the advice, but I don’t want to get in the Hall of Fame. Period. I filled out the form they asked me to fill out. The last question was something like “Tell us why you think you belong in the Hall of Fame.” I wrote, “I never said I did. You contacted me. Remember?”

But I also don’t want the Hall of Fame to use anonymous accusations to malign my character and question my integrity without having to answer for it. None of this ever had to happen. They don’t want me in their club. Fine. Stand up and say, “We don’t think Kenny Dobyns belongs.” But to say they didn’t let me in because I’m a cheater and a steroid user, and they know this because people have anonymously accused me of it and I can’t prove otherwise, that is weak. You’ve been pretty sharp-penned with me here, and I accept it because you’ve got a sharp mind so your pen should match. But when you see how the HoF handled this, do you really think I’m the one you should be calling petty and craven?


Monday, March 29, 2010

Toxic Avenger

Hey! Think the time is right for a palace revolution
'Cause where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Well, then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band
'Cause in sleepy London town
There's just no place for a street fighting man

- The Rolling Stones

Poor Henry. Up until now, he has been left standing alone to answer for the actions of a group, a group whose other members seem to have decided that it is better to sacrifice one man than it is to come to his defense and risk more casualties. Clearly the UPA HoF does not adhere to the code of the U.S. Army Rangers. Thankfully (but no thanks to his HoF colleagues), Henry is no longer alone.

Over the weekend, someone posted the list of HoF voters, although the list as posted was incomplete. Discounting the founders and the 80 mold, I came to a total of 25 voters when I counted them up, not the 22 that was posted. I’m not entirely sure what the final tally is, nor do I know how many of the voters actually participated in the process. It bears repeating that just because someone is on the list of voters it does not mean that person voted. Further, just because a person voted it does not mean that person reviewed all of the information that was made available by the UPA HoF committee. Unless someone involved in the process is prepared to reveal specific details, we will all be left to guess at how many votes were cast, how informed the voters were, and what weight might have been given to anonymous responses from the Call to the Community.

I’m going out on a limb here: I don’t think anyone involved in the process is going to be revealing any details any time soon.

Some of the recent comments to this discussion have focused on the mathematics of the process, bandying percentages about while postulating as to how many voters would have to have believed X in order for the vote to have been Y. Others have stayed away from numbers, choosing instead to focus on the obvious “fact” that the HoF is a sham unless I’m in. (I’m reminded of the character of Vizzini from Princess Bride: “Kenny Dobyns not in the Hall of Fame? INCONCEIVABLE!”)

I have no interest in speculating on vote counts in terms of yea or nay (although I do think it might be interesting to know how many total votes were cast, as a reflection of participation). Nor would I ever consider questioning any voter’s decision on any particular candidate (least of all myself). If a person has earned or been awarded the right to vote, they can vote as they see fit. My issue with the HoF has never been the outcome of the vote but the process itself. In Henry’s case, I have questions about the specific process he used to arrive at his decision, and the subsequent process he used to justify that decision on Jim’s blog. As it concerns the overall HoF committee, I have issues with how they collected information, what information they chose to consider, and how they went about handling it. Finally, I have issues with the way people involved in the UPA generally or the HoF specifically have reacted when I have made my concerns known. When I gather all of these things together, the processes, the justifications, the reactions and explanations, what begins to emerge is not a pretty picture.

In one of the earliest comments on Jim P’s blog, Henry responded to a question as follows:

The HoF voters had a great deal of information about Kenny's sportsmanship from many sources. They had the peer reviews where some 60 peers had to say whether Kenny's SotG should negatively effect his candidacy for the Hall. And there was the Call to the Community where some 100 people sent in their thoughts. There was also Kenny's blog where he's pretty frank about his sportsmanship.

What I find interesting here is how Henry described the peer review process. From his perspective, the peer reviewers “had to say whether Kenny’s SotG should negatively effect [sic] his candidacy.” That simply isn’t true, and the fact that Henry saw it this way, or at least described it this way, is telling.

The peer review form allows a peer to vote for (endorse the candidacy of) up to 10 candidates. The form that is used for that purpose is also the spirit rating form, so a peer reviewer must make one of three choices in order to endorse a player’s candidacy.

'+/positive' -- the player's spirit significantly adds to his/her qualifications
'0/neutral' -- the player's spirit doesn't significantly add or detract from his/her qualifications
'-/negative' -- the player's spirit significantly detracts from his/her qualifications

A peer is only required to make a selection if he or she is endorsing that player’s candidacy, so no peer HAD to weigh in on anyone. Additionally, although both positive and neutral are available choices, in describing the process as it related to my candidacy, Henry only mentioned the negative choice. Why would he do that?

To get a clue, let’s take a look at another comment. Although Henry admitted that he never played against me, and therefore has no personal experience to go on, he nonetheless shared this assessment:

KD was widely reviled for his misconduct while simultaneously admired for his ability and tenacity.

As a point of word choice, specifically related to connotative as opposed to denotative meanings, consider the contrast of “reviled” and “admired,” or revulsion and admiration. Is revulsion more negative than admiration is positive? Come to your own conclusion.

At another point in this discussion, Henry pointed to some raw data taken from the peer review forms as justification for the low spirit score (1 out of 9) that he gave me.

More than half (55%) of KD's peers checked the "his spirit should significantly detract from his qualifications" box.

If this is true (and I’m not saying I doubt it) doesn’t it stand to reason that 45% chose one of the other two options (neutral or positive)? If that’s the case, how did Henry arrive at a spirit score of 1?

As pointed out in a previous post, he also wrote at one point that the evidence against my candidacy was overwhelming, then later indicated that the responses were about 50/50. What strikes me when I take all of these things into account is that despite the fact that Henry seems to have gone to great lengths to create an evaluation system that would allow him to make what he believed would be an unbiased choice, it might have been a fruitless effort from the beginning. I think Henry may be harboring a sub-conscious bias against me, and I don’t think he’s alone.

When I first read Henry’s comments (almost four weeks ago – seems like longer) I contacted someone (hereafter The Official) who is very involved in the process, a person I don’t know very well but who strikes me as thoughtful and intelligent. We have spoken on several occasions in the past, and traded more than a dozen emails in reference to the HoF selection process generally. I must admit that at the time I was quite upset. Henry’s public posting of the anonymous accusation that I had cheated to change the outcome of multiple National Championship Finals was, in my opinion, quite beyond the pale. The combination of his repeating it while also stating his position on the UPA Board had the effect, I thought, of lending legitimacy to the claim. Perhaps most importantly, in the same string of comments Henry had described the vetting process the UPA HoF had gone through before the comments were shared with the voting committee.

The Call to the Community went out, responses came in, the responses had to include where you played, at what level, and what overlap did you have with the nominee. An administrator checked that information, removed it if it didn't match up, then removed the name if requested.

In other words, the UPA HoF collected the information, put it through a vetting process, deemed it worthy of consideration, and disseminated it among the members of the voting committee. A UPA Board member, in turn, published that information in a public forum. When a newspaper publishes a story based on anonymous sources, if that story turns out to be inaccurate, it is the newspaper that is on the hook. By the same token, given that the UPA vetted this information before one of its agents published it in a public forum, it is the UPA that should be on the hook. That was the point I made when I reached out to The Official. I told him the accusation of cheating to change the outcome of National Finals is totally outrageous, and quite possibly libelous, and that I planned to speak to an attorney about it.

At this point things started to get weird. The Official, with a very serious tone, suggested I probably didn’t want to get attorneys involved, because if I did, even more damaging information would have to be revealed. Imagine my surprise. I had been publicly branded a cheater, my integrity had been trashed, my accomplishments, and those of my teammates, had been called into question, doubts had been raised about the competence of the UPA observers who had worked the games in question, and the very legitimacy of the UPA Championship series had been threatened. And yet, there was something even worse out there. Wow! I had to know more.

The Official explained that there were two “toxic” accusations about me among the responses from the Call to the Community. The first was the accusation of cheating, which Henry had already revealed. The second, clearly the more toxic of the two, had not been revealed by Henry, but it had been among those the UPA had vetted and submitted to the voting committee for consideration. What was this bombshell whose revelation would be so damaging to me that the mere thought of it would cause me to abandon my efforts to get to the bottom of the cheating accusation? What could be so horrible that I would quietly allow my name and ultimate legacy to be tarnished forever rather than risk its revelation? What was this dark secret?

After a solemn pause, The Official revealed it: Steroids.

I tell you the truth: I laughed loudly and long. In fact, if it weren’t so fucking tragic I’d still be laughing.

First, steroids are not illegal in ultimate. Still, if someone used steroids to achieve greatness that would otherwise not have been possible, then surely one whose job included determining whether or not to officially recognize that greatness would have to consider the implications of steroid usage in that evaluation. Fine. I get that. But come on. Seriously. We’ve all seen how steroids work. McGwire. Bonds. These guys went through physical transformations that made Michael Jackson look consistent. I’ve looked like this since elementary school.

In the fourth grade, an assistant principal stopped me and my best friend, Herman Moriano, walking down the hall of Northwood Elementary in Highland Park, Illinois. “Look at the two of you,” he said. “Your arms don’t even touch your sides when you walk.” In ninth grade, I was recruited onto the varsity wrestling team at Riverdale not because I demonstrated any aptitude, but because the coach saw me outside without my shirt at lunch (throwing a frisbee, btw).

From my earliest days as an ultimate player I was a scowling, muscle-bound, beast prone to temper tantrums, and I remained that way my entire career. And if any of you are so simple as to say the tantrums were ‘roid rages, try again. When I was ten years old my mother tried to teach me to play chess. The third time I scattered the pieces across the room after losing, she stopped trying.

Yes, the steroid accusation is utterly preposterous, but it is also insidious, and the manner in which it was handled, both during the voting process and afterward, suggests at the very least that the people in charge of the process at the UPA HoF behaved irresponsibly. I believe it’s much worse than that.

What makes accusations like these so insidious is that there is absolutely no exculpatory evidence. I simply can’t prove I didn’t take steroids. But the anonymous accuser didn’t have to prove I did. All he did was fill out a form, ask that his name be removed, and then let the HoF committee distribute that information to all the voters for consideration. Same goes for the cheating accusation. How do I prove I didn’t? Where is the evidence that exonerates me? And yet the accuser had no such burden placed on him to prove the accusation. He merely filled out a form, asked that his name be removed, and let the UPA HoF do the rest. That they did. They checked the accuracy of the names, dates, overlap – everything but the information itself. Some of you may rightfully wonder how I can expect them to verify every piece of information on every form. I don’t. But let’s not kid ourselves. Not all pieces of information are this serious. By The Official’s own admission, they knew these accusations were toxic, and there were only two of them. Surely they could have done something other than blithely pass them around for consideration by the voters. Surely they could have decided to take some responsibility for the information that they were collecting and distributing, particularly when that information concerned issues of personal integrity and drug use. But they didn’t. Do you wonder why?

Remember that when The Official first mentioned the second “toxic” accusation, he did so in an effort to encourage me to drop the matter. The only way his strategy would have been successful is if it were true. In other words, for him to think that the revelation of the accusation of my steroid use would keep me quiet, he had to have already decided the accusation was true. Considering how cavalierly the cheating accusation was publicized by Henry, one can rightfully imagine a similar feeling among the HoF voting committee about that accusation. Think about it. If Henry really thought there was nothing to it, would he have used it to buttress his argument? It’s probably fair to say that in so far as the HoF voting committee was concerned, the accusations of cheating and steroid use didn’t need to be proven, because they were simply confirmation of what they believed all along. Chew on that one a little while.

Once The Official realized I was not undone by the steroid bombshell (I think I was still laughing, but my guffaws were dying down) he probably figured his strategy was going to fail. At that point he tried a different (and rather pathetic) tack, with predictable results.

Official: You’ve never taken steroids?
Me: Never.
Official: Methamphetamine?
Me: No.
Official: Caffeine?
Me: Are you serious?

He was. That’s when it hit me. This whole HoF fiasco isn’t about my play, or my style of play, or my spirit. It’s about my life. It’s about the way I carried myself on the field AND off. It’s about the fact that from the very beginning, when I was a young fireplug without throws on a marginally talented, over-achieving team, I never gave a damn what anybody thought. I launched myself into the air, into tirades, and into parties with passionate intensity, and never cared about the collateral damage. Eventually I learned to throw, learned to harness my emotions, learned to manage my buzz, but I never learned to care what the powers that be thought. I still haven’t.

Almost four weeks ago, I started this blog episode simply because a UPA Board member had taken an anonymous accusation which is totally false and published it in a public forum. When I approached The Official, the King Kamehameha of the HoF about it, he tried to intimidate me into keeping quiet by passing on another totally false accusation. I believe that both of those people are guilty of gross irresponsibility at the very least. But that’s not what bothers me the most.

As recently published, there is a long list of names of people who share in this debacle. Every single member of the HoF voting committee had access to this information. Everyone who reviewed it should have known better. Is it really possible, as The Official told me, that not a single one of them thought to say, “Wait a minute. Do we have any proof that this shit is even true? Has anybody looked into this?”

Imagine that. All those great players, who know precisely what it is to train, compete, sacrifice and achieve, and not one of them steps up. Kind of surprising, but then again, maybe not. Maybe they were just pleased to finally have confirmation of what they had always thought. Little did it matter the confirmation came in the form of anonymous accusations. Any port in a storm.

As my conversation with The Official came to a close, he made one last attempt to convince me to keep quiet about this whole thing, or at least to keep the lawyers out of it. I agreed on the lawyers, and he seemed pleased. He suggested that it was possible that Henry owed me an apology, and I facetiously called it a gracious admission. He allowed as how the Hall of Fame process is still flawed, but it’s getting better. He added that he thinks the whole thing is at a vulnerable point right now, and he’d hate to see it fall apart as a result of this incident.

When a guy is involved in distributing false accusations of cheating and drug use about you, grudgingly admits that maybe you deserve an apology, and then tells you what he’s really concerned about is his private club, you get a pretty keen sense of his priorities.

Some things aren’t worth saving.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Am A Jelly Doughnut

I'm not quite sure what I expected, but with apologies to those who took the time to respond, I was a little disappointed with the stories. When the Call to the Community went out there were more than 50 responses which, if I'm to believe what I was told, were passionately vocal in their expressions of either support or disgust at my potential inclusion in the hallowed (virtual) halls of the HoF. In fact, so polarizing a figure am I (again, as I was told), that it is probably not much of a stretch to suggest that the stories ranged from "Kenny Dobyns cured cancer" to "Kenny Dobyns is responsible for the Holocaust." Given their track record, one can imagine the HoF powers would no doubt have dismissed the first for straining the bounds of credibility, while taking the latter into consideration without formally vouching for its accuracy.

Sadly, all that anonymous storytelling seems to have completely tapped out the creative reservoirs of the ultimate community, for when I asked for stories all I got were brief reminiscences of a few snide comments I might have made at some point in time, and one aggrieved husband's lament that his wife thought it prudent to step between a runaway refrigerator and his destination. Quel dommage.

So, without further ado I bring back to you the one thoroughly entertaining post in the bunch, a true gem that manages to accomplish the rarest of trifectas: it is funny, it is (quite possibly slightly) offensive, and it is totally accurate (although it seems likely that a couple of small details might have been lost in translation).


Anonymous says...

I play on team Japan at Worlds 1990. We all excited to play against team USA/NYNY (team Canada no good back then because Furious George boys still in middle school).

We hear about Kenny Dobyns from stories tell by Americans visit Japan and by Japanese who play against in other Worlds. We hear that like Japanese, Dobyns short, brave and willing to crash self into ship for good of team. Unlike Japanese, Dobyns stick knife into stomach for fun; not to regain honor.

When big game against USA come, we surprise by one thing: many player on team USA can do things Dobyns no can do! Cribber and Blau sky higher. Pat King more well-rounded. Walter and Benji no throw frisbee away. Jon Gerwertz and Skippy play better defense on tall player, even though they not tall. Bob DiMann throw flat huck; not blade huck like Dobyns.

Still, when team USA not play well or enemy play very well, other team USA player look to Dobyns because Dobyns face round and have scary glow like carved pumpkin with candle inside used by Americans as decoration at harvest celebration.

Some player anger make teammate upset and no play better, but Dobyns have special anger that somehow make teammate play better and win close game. Pit bull with head like pumpkin have rare ability to motivate cannot be explained.

After game, when we bow to Dobyns, he looking at Japanese girls on sideline. We offended, but we forgive.

It OK to put scary offensive man in hall of fame, even if no like.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Strong Work

It has been a long two weeks since I stumbled across Henry Thorne’s comments on Jim Parinella’s blog, and many people have been working very hard ever since, reading, thinking, and discussing while trying to make sense of the situation at hand. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “enough already,” but I’m afraid we’re not done yet.

Still, given the effort already expended, and the fact that we’re really not even all that close to the destination, it seems a brief respite is in order. We need some time to rest our brains, catch our breath, and recharge our batteries. And yet, I really don’t want to lose the thread of the discussion, lest we find it hard to reacquire when it’s time to get back to business. So how can we do that?

Story time! Actually, this idea was inspired by Nathan’s story, which I have lovingly titled, “The Roller Pull or The Pussy.” As our respite, but as a way to stay focused on the task at hand, the combination of skills, accomplishments, championships, and heinous, indefensible acts of cheating that have made me the most polarizing, distasteful, and inappropriate candidate for the UPA HoF in its insignificant history, you are all being invited to share your personal stories of my ultimate ways.

Right here, in a comment, just as Nathan did, tell your story about Kenny Dobyns. Yes, since I allow anonymous posting to my blog, you can remain anonymous, just as the anonymous cheating accuser(s) did. Yes, since Henry and others within the Hall of Fame hierarchy have made it clear that my blog is fair game as “evidence” to be considered in evaluating my candidacy, you can have an impact on the process. And no, since there is no way to verify it, your story doesn’t even have to be true. There is one requirement, however, and that is that you have to tell it the way you remember it. Be faithful to your recollection, however flawed, drug and drink addled, or motivated by long simmering bias or jealousy as it may be. Tell it like you think saw it, without fear of recrimination, reprisal, or, the worst possible outcome of all, the risk of losing friendships. Have no fear that your anonymity will be revealed. You will forever be wrapped in the safe and snuggly warmth of the security blanket provided by Henry “Protector of the Anonymous” Thorne.

Rest easy, raconteur, and let the words flow freely.

This should be fun.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I’m a Cheater, You’re a Cheater, He’s a Cheater, She’s a Cheater. Wouldn’t You Like To Be a Cheater, Too?

During my last semester at NC State I had to take a philosophy class to satisfy a requirement, so I registered for The Philosophy of Religion. After all, I thought, what better place to take such a class than in a Bible Belt state?

Generally, the class was a bit of a disappointment. It might have been because, generally speaking, devout people are a tad too serious about religion to really delve into some of the more intriguing examinations of faith and its underpinnings. It also might have been that, in my final semester, I was already a little burned out on what might best be described as academic pontification. Much of the content of the class has long since faded from memory, but I can still remember the assignment for the first paper. Answer the following question: “Is it reasonable to believe in miracles?”

I cannot remember what my answer was, but I do remember that I received an A on the paper, largely because I started by doing something that most of the other students in the class never did. I started by defining both “reasonable” and “miracles.”

In truth, I did it to take up space, because I really didn’t think there was any way I could fill up enough pages with my meager argument, but it turned out to have been a stroke of genius. Yea, me!

I was reminded of this recently when I reflected on the ongoing HoF/Cheater discussion and realized that while there have been many accusations and counter accusations of cheating flying about, we have yet to establish a consensus on precisely what constitutes cheating. I think it’s high time we did, so I’m going to take a stab at it. Feel free to amplify at your leisure.

I suppose we can start with a failure to abide by the rules of the game. It seems logical to add the element of intent, similar to the way the legal system works. Homicide is the killing of a person, while murder is the criminal killing of a person, which generally includes the element of intent, among others. So it seems that we should start our definition of cheating with the intentional failure to abide by the rules of the game.

Somehow that phrase, failure to abide by, needs more oomph. Let’s make it an act, as opposed to a failure to act, which is somehow less oomphy than acting. I think an intentional violation of the rules sounds better. But does a single instance of intentional rule violation rise to the height of cheating? Or, more to the point, is a player who intentionally violates the rules one time a cheater? Or does there have to be a pattern, a repetitive and systematic intentional violation of the rules? I would say so. I mean, somebody who is otherwise assumed to be a well-mannered player might one day ignite the most shameful brawl in the history of the National Championship tournament by striking an unsuspecting opponent in the head without provocation. We surely wouldn’t want to keep that player out of the Hall of Fame (or even delay his induction) over such an isolated incident, no matter how shameful and embarrassing it was to everyone who has ever played the game. So I think we have to go with repetitive and systematic intentional violation of the rules. Yeah. That’s cheating.

OK, so now that we have a working definition, let’s put it to work and see how it goes. I think we should start with one of the most common types of rule violations, the defensive foul. So what we have established is that while we can look the other was for one intentional foul, any more than that rises to the height of cheating. So that means that most all of the fouls committed in ultimate must be unintentional, because otherwise the sport would be full of cheaters. So when a guy goes up on defense, and the receiver has better position and times his leap better, and the guy on D goes ahead and takes a big swipe at the disc anyway even though it’s pretty clear that he probably can’t make the play and will certainly hit the receiver, that’s still an unintentional act, because if it were intentional then that player, and all the other players who make plays like that, are cheaters.

OK, we’re getting somewhere. Now let’s look at the mark, namely traveling, fast counts, and marker/thrower contact.

OK, traveling is an easy one. I mean, anyone who would deliberately travel is definitely a cheater. So if you have traveled more than once, then it must be true that you couldn’t help yourself, because holding your feet in place is hard, and nobody would ever attempt a throw, like say a break mark throw, that they knew they couldn’t complete without moving their pivot foot. Therefore, all travels must be unintentional, otherwise pretty much everybody in the sport would be a cheater, and that can’t be true.

Fast count. Now we’re moving. Everybody knows how long a second is, and the rules say you get ten seconds to attempt a throw. So nobody would deliberately count off seconds that are less than actual seconds, and surely nobody would ever speed up at the end of the count, making those last few seconds even shorter. And yet fast count is a pretty common call, so we have to assume that every person who has ever counted fast or sped up near the end of the count did so by mistake. If not, then any player who did it knowingly more than once would have to be described as a cheater.

OK, disc space. The rules state the marker must not take a marking position with a disc’s diameter of the thrower, and to do so is a disc space violation. Clearly no marker would ever intentionally take up a position that he knew was inside the disc space limit, and no marker would ever bump a thrower while marking. Any marker who repeatedly marked inside disc space or caused contact with a thrower would be intentionally violating the rules and would therefore be a cheater.

Finally, let’s look at line calls. Surely no ultimate player would ever call himself in when in fact he was out. And surely no player, when presented with a small army of people telling him that they had a better perspective and he was definitely out, would ever say, “I think I was in so back to the throw.” Any player who ever did that would have to be a cheater.

I think you get the point. Basically speaking, the rules of the game are violated repeatedly during the course of play, and it would not be a stretch in any way to say that the vast majority of ultimate players have committed repeated violations of the rules of ultimate. So we’re in a bit of a quandary here.

Either all of those violations are unintentional, or there are a hell of a lot of cheaters in ultimate. And you know what the worst part is? There’s no possible way for us to know.

Fundamentally speaking, since we all recognize that rules violations occur in ultimate with great frequency, and that pretty much everyone who has played the game at the elite level has committed rules violations on numerous occasions, the only way we can determine whether or not a player is a cheater is by knowing whether or not the violations in question were intentional. And there is simply no way we can ever know that.

Now if a player were to admit, “Hey, I’m a cheater,” that’s a different story. But in the absence of a confession, we must rely on our ability to judge intent in order to distinguish between the cheaters and the non-cheaters out there. And guess what? We have no ability to judge intent with any degree of certainty.

The plain truth is that outside of a certain drug-addled former player from Boston and some old-school carnival charlatans, humans lack the ability to read each other’s minds, and therefore cannot know another person's intent. In a court of law, attorneys argue, witnesses testify, evidence is presented, and still jurors go into the jury room and use their gut instincts to decide whether or not a defendant committed an act with intent. Ultimately they may render a verdict, but they will never know for sure.

On an ultimate field, we have no testimony, no attorneys, and the evidence is being presented before us at high speed in the context of a game in which we often have a vested interest. Can we really believe ourselves capable of not only being certain of exactly what happened on a given play, but also of knowing what the intent of the various participants was? The idea is absolutely ludicrous. But that doesn’t stop us from judging. So the default position in the ultimate community at large is that players who are generally good-natured and likeable don’t cheat but occasionally make bad calls. Conversely, players who generally aren’t good-natured and likeable, and who don’t seem intent on making friends when they compete, well those players are cheaters who generally make really bad calls. What a joke.

I played for many years, and I can tell you that I have seen a bunch of questionable calls, obvious fouls, super fast counts, and fouling marks, but I have never looked at anyone and said, “That player is a cheater.” Over the years I have played against at least two full team’s worth of defenders who extended their arms to slow down cuts, grabbed shirts when they were caught going the wrong way, stuck out their knees to create contact, and generally did whatever they could to slow me down. And I understood. Often it was a relative newcomer or a defensive specialist who had been given the assignment of guarding one of the most prolific goal scorers in the game. They came into the match up knowing I was on a mission to score goals and they would have to do everything they possibly could to contain me, and sometimes everything possible includes certain behaviors that are outside the boundaries of the acceptable norms as defined by the rules. But did that make them cheaters? Hell no. They were good, tough, physical defenders, and so long as they would accept the same kind of play when they had the disc, then play on.

And now we’re right back at square one, the same place we found ourselves when we were discussing belligerent intimidation. In a self-officiated sport every single player on the field has an interpretation of the rules, and it is on the basis of that interpretation that they play the game. One man’s foul in another man’s tough D. One man’s travel is another man’s foot watcher. One man’s double team is another man’s tight cup. And if everyone who violates the rules is a cheater, then we’re all cheaters.

Welcome to my world.

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 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.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm Captain of the Ship! I'm Captain Kirk!

I love Star Trek. Always have. There are so many great episodes, so many unforgettable lines, so many forgettable guys in red shirts dying, so many hotties in uniforms that could pass for negligees. That was possibly the best thing about Star Trek. How cool is the thought that space exploration would mean the armed forces would start to look like The Playboy Mansion, but with ray guns? I mean, really. Sign me up.

Of course, the central greatness of Star Trek has always been the preposterous overacting. In fact, for a long time I’ve been getting big laughs by identifying some actor, often DeNiro (before he enrolled in the “Anything for a Buck” Acting School), as one of the five greatest American actors of all time. To the inevitable query, “Who are the others,” I answer, “Well, DeNiro, Duvall, Pacino, Brando, and…….Shatner.” Now that he’s the star of Boston Legal and the force behind PriceLine’s market share, who’s laughing now? (OK, all of us are still laughing, but you get the point.)

Still when I think about Star Trek, and forget for a moment about Playboy Bunnies and bombastic emoters, what I remember most is that for all the talk of technology and transporters, for all the “strange new worlds” and aliens, what the various plots focused on the most was humanity. That is, whether it was the human failings of the human characters, or the human tendencies of the alien characters, everyone on the show, and by extension in the universe, was somehow tied together by a fundamental “human” goodness. Perhaps it was simply another example of anthropomorphism at work, but I’d like to think that it was a reflection of the times, the post-nuclear, Cold War times, when technology and space travel were still new and a bit frightening, and something about believing that whatever we found out there would share our fundamental goodness made the whole enterprise a little less terrifying. There was something very cozy about putting a human face on space.

Contrast that vision with the world of Aliens, or the Terminator series, where space is dark and cold, and the future is sinister and inhuman. Yes, it’s probably a more realistic vision, but I’ll take Star Trek and its Styrofoam boulders, plastic models suspended from wires, and brightly colored landscapes (with hotties in mini skirts) any day.

It is perhaps because of my affinity for the show that I often find myself remembering particular episodes in response to things that are happening in my world today. Previously I have likened the experience of riding the New York City subway during rush hour to living on the planet Gideon, from the episode “The Mark of Gideon.” Recently, as I spent part of a sick weekend reading through more than 120 comments on Jim Parinella’s blog, I again found myself thinking about Star Trek. This time the episode that came to mind is “Court Martial.”

As an aside, the totality of Henry Thorne’s comments to Jim Parinella’s HOF discussion blog post is such that I can’t possibly go through everything here, but I encourage anyone who is interested to go and read them yourself. I will be addressing certain statements in this entry, and I expect to address more in the future, but in the interest of expediency I will be pulling comments out of context. I will make every effort to explain the context when I do so, but again, please go read them yourself. I am trying to present them in the way I believe they were meant, but I might be getting it wrong. I urge you to form your own opinions.

So why did reading Henry’s comments about my HOF candidacy make me think of “Court Martial?” Early in the string, when Corey questioned him on why he game me such a low score for sportsmanship, he brought up the concept of evidence, as though the HOF selection process were a court proceeding.

“The evidence from the three sources I described was overwheliming [sic].”

The sources in question were the HOF peer reviews, the responses to the Call to the Community, and my blog entries. I have already addressed the issue of blog entries and why I think it’s inappropriate to use them to determine the merit of a particular player’s candidacy (Seventeen). But even if I were to accept that all three of these sources should be used, do they really rise to the height of “evidence?” Maybe we’ll come back to that question later.

What I want to point out now is how, as this discussion continued, and other comments raised the point that perhaps many people who might have a more positive view had simply not responded to the Call to the Community, Henry seems to relent somewhat.

“To be complete here, there were a lot of people who said what you heard, that he didn't cross the line, that he must be in. In the data I got the split was roughly even, and there was a lot of it, the 60 person peer review group, then the 58 responses on KD from the Call to the Community.”

So, forgive me for quibbling, and perhaps all I really need is some elaboration, but how did the evidence go from “overwhelming” to “roughly even?”

But let’s be honest, regardless of whether the “evidence” was “overwhelming” or “roughly even,” when it’s as damning as this, perhaps the amount doesn’t really matter.

“KD's blog post quoted below was typical of the stuff we were hearing but, worse than this, it was happening at high levels of play effecting [sic] championships won and lost.”

Now that is a serious accusation. My actions changed the outcomes of multiple championships. A careful reader by the name of AJ is one of the few who caught on to just how serious it is.

“AJ asked: "Are you saying that based on your discussions with "the hive" you found that KD was "un-spirited" (kind of a dick on the field, but not systematically effecting [sic] the integrity of the games), or that KD was "cheating" (changing the outcomes of series games through systematic violation of the rules)?"

The second.”

So now it’s out. Henry Thorne confirms that I am not only a cheater, but my cheating has changed the outcome of multiple championship games. Even as I was reading this I couldn’t believe it. Was a UPA Board member and the UPA HOF Liaison really stating in a public forum that I had stolen multiple championships for my team by cheating? I was blown away. Reading further, I saw that another reader named Kyle needed clarification. He had seen me play. He also had trouble believing what Henry was saying.

I watched Kenny make that leap, it was amazing. I'd just won with the Seven Sages in the Masters division. But answering your question, did he cheat to win championships? There are players who have told me he did. Finals of Nationals.”

He goes on to paint the precarious position he found himself in once he came into possession of this “evidence.”

“They could be wrong, but I'm just telling you, it isn't that we're making this up, there is a real problem here, either those players who claim that will feel that we've completely dropped sportsmanship as an important criteria or we'll have the Toad's yelling and screaming.”

At times I tend to make light of things, but there is no making light of this. This is a very serious issue, and I’ll get into just how serious in a moment, but for now let’s take a look at how Henry, an elected UPA representative, sees this situation.

First, Henry uses the plural, “players,” but my HOF source tells me the cheating accusation appeared on one response from the Call to the Community. Still, Henry saw them; I didn’t. I’ll go with his recollection. So in Henry’s perception of how this very serious issue is manifested, what we have is:

On one side, players fighting for sportsmanship by anonymously accusing me of cheating to win National Championships.

On the other side, we have “Toads yelling and screaming.”

Is it just me, or is this pretty much a textbook example of the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy? Surely there’s some middle ground somewhere out there, isn’t there? I mean, Henry, are you seriously telling your constituents, all the members of the UPA, that in your world view there are anonymous accusers on one side and Toad and his ilk on the other? And that’s it?

As you can probably imagine, at this point in my reading I was getting a little bit upset, and that’s when I thought of Star Trek.

In the “Court Martial” episode, Kirk is on trial for causing the death of a crew member through negligence. I won’t go into details. The important point is that the testimony the court is relying on is the computer record, and it’s pretty incriminating. As Kirk watches himself on the monitor release the pod during a yellow alert as opposed to a red alert, thereby causing the crew member’s death, even he is perplexed, twisting in his chair as he offers a passionate, albeit feeble, defense: “But that’s not how it happened.” But just when all hope seems lost, Spock discovers that the computer has been tampered with, Kirk’s attorney, Samuel T. Cogley, takes the floor, and the computer takes a back seat to humanity once again.

“I'd be delighted to, sir, now that I've got something human to talk about. Rights, sir, human rights--the Bible, the Code of Hammurabi and of Justinian, Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, Fundamental Declarations of the Martian colonies, the Statutes of Alpha 3--gentlemen, these documents all speak of rights. Rights of the accused to a trial by his peers, to be represented by counsel, the rights of cross-examination, but most importantly, the right to be confronted by the witnesses against him--a right to which my client has been denied.”

Wouldn’t you know it? Someone else, our friend Kyle, is also a fan of Star Trek, and he suggests to Henry I should be given a chance to face my accusers, or at the very least they should be identified. Henry’s response?

“Like a public trial Kyle? Zero chance of success.”

Clearly Henry does not adhere to the Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies, as he clarifies in a subsequent, more elaborate explanation.

If we present the actual incidents then shouldn't KD be given the chance to "contest" their "calls?" I think so, which gets you to the public trial.

And would the people make those "calls" on him if they were to be publicized with their names attached? No. Why should they take the public hit?”

I’m guessing Henry doesn’t feel very strongly about the Statutes of Alpha-3 either. But in his defense, Kyle, he might be right. I mean, why should they take a public hit, when they can remain anonymous while UPA Board Member and HOF Liaison delivers the public hit to me, and then argues passionately why it is so critically important that they remain anonymous.

“If instead, they were not only not allowed to be anonymous to the voters but they were also going to be publicized with their names attached, then we would be forcing them to essentially be whistle blowers and the number of people willing to step forward and give data would drop a lot. Why should they be the ones to take the hit, they care more about their friendships than whether KD gets into the Hall.”

Once again, Henry returns to the safety and comfort of the false dichotomy.

On one side we have people’s friendships.

On the other side we have my HOF candidacy.

I hate to break it to you Henry, but by going public with these anonymous accusations, you kind of upped the ante just a smidge. Allow me to explain.

Taking the accusations at face value (I’ll address in another post how there’s ample evidence not to do so), let’s take a look at the ripple effect.

First, you have publicly questioned my character and integrity, which is a hell of lot more important to me than the HOF.

Second, all the Nationals Finals I played in were observed games, so by suggesting that it is plausible that I could have cheated enough to alter the outcomes of those games, you have questioned the competence of the UPA Observers and the UPA Observer system. Or maybe you simply think they might have been in on it.

Third, by stating that there is some reason to give credence to these accusations, you are effectively calling into question the legitimacy of multiple UPA National Championship tournaments, and by extension the integrity of the UPA National Championship Series as a whole.

So, Henry Thorne, UPA Board Member and HOF Liaison, do you really think that preserving the anonymity of the players who made these anonymous accusations so that they don't risk friendships is more important than everything you have called into question by repeating those accusations in a public forum?

But I guess I’m really asking the wrong person the wrong question.

“On the appreciation for the work I do...
Thanks. I love this game. But It's also a privilege, a privilege to be given the authority to make decisions like this one. And I've been given that authority by voters who hope I'll represent their views.”

So, voters who put Henry in the privileged position to exercise his authority, is he representing your views? Do you also believe that protecting the friendships of the anonymous accusers whose accusations have called so much into question is of paramount importance?

Is that the spirited thing to do?

If the Code of Hammurabi and of Justinian can be invoked on behalf of Captain Kirk, why not me?

After all, I’m Captain of the ship.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Listen and Learn

UPA Board Member and Hall of Fame Liaison Henry Thorne had many interesting things to say in comments to a post on Jim Parinella’s blog recently. I will address some of the most interesting ones in considerable detail soon enough, but in the meantime I want to share some of what I experienced when I brought his comments to the attention of another member of the UPA HOF’s hierarchy.

Because he is someone I respect who was drawn into this morass reluctantly and through no fault of his own, I won’t name him. I will, however, share some of what he had to say in general terms as a catalyst to a broader and, I think, more illuminating discussion than could be had were we to confine ourselves to the fairly obvious details of my HOF outduction.

To begin, he “revealed” several facts that were not exactly surprising. First, based on the responses the UPA HOF received from the Call to the Community, I am a deeply polarizing figure. Second, a huge portion of the time spent in consideration of HOF candidates was spent considering the merits of my candidacy. Finally, is response to my statement that some of the things that Henry wrote on Jim’s blog were absolutely outrageous and borderline libelous, he dismissed my concerns by suggesting that the blogosphere is generally populated by (my terms, not his) nitwits, extremists, conspiracy theorists, and general nutjobs, and that the more reasoned portion of the population would remain blissfully unaware of Henry’s condemnations of my character. Effectively, he suggested the offerings on the internet are generally mindless blather.

Initially, as an erstwhile rsd poster and current blogger, I was slightly stung by his criticism, but I quickly dismissed his opinion as being woefully emblematic of the default position for any member of the UPA hierarchy when it concerns such matters. In time, and after some reflection, I thought there might be some truth to what he said. After subsequently re-reading many blog posts and comments on the matter at hand I realized that his assessment is largely accurate.

As a brief aside, it has been suggested that I really don’t care what people think about me, my playing career, my HOF candidacy, or my ultimate legacy. In fact, I do, but perhaps not in the way that you might imagine. It’s true that I don’t lose any sleep over people’s characterizations of me as a comical Napoleon, and I don’t lie awake at night fretting over my HOF exclusion. Nor are my feelings hurt when I am criticized, often anonymously, as an ultimate asshole or worse. But I do care what people have to say in the sense that, when time permits, I take the time to scroll through rsd and various blogs, as well as the comments to my blog, and “listen” to what people have to say by reading their words and trying to make sense of them. At times, it’s a fairly fruitless proposition.

To be fair, to say that all ultimate blogging, rsd posting, and subsequent commenting is mindless blather is too strong a statement. There are some thoughtful people in the blogosphere who take the time to craft carefully worded, illuminating posts that clarify the issue under discussion and enrich the dialogue. They are, however, the exception, and the vast majority of contributions to the various discussions taking place in ultimate cyberspace can be characterized by one thing: an astonishing absence of any evidence of disciplined thought.

There are many such examples, and it would be a foolish waste of time to catalog them all here, but I would like to highlight two recent examples to show that even people who seem reasonably intelligent often fail to take the time to think before they write.

Recently, someone posted on rsd in reference to an article that ran many years ago in the Wall Street Journal, and followed that post with the following query:

“Anyway....a basic UPA HOF candidate question:

Was Kenny Dobyns representative of the sport?”

I would say the question is irrelevant, but it’s not even irrelevant; it’s incoherent. Players are not representative of the sports they play. They are the sports they play. Ultimate is a grass field, eight cones, and a piece of plastic. Baseball is a dirt and grass field, some chalk lines, four bases and a mound. But when players step onto those fields and play the games, the games come to life, and they live through the players who play them.

You want a HOF candidate question? Here’s one:

Did ultimate at that time represent the candidate?

Now think about the players who are in the Hall of Fame. If you had the opportunity to see them play, then you know that often the answer is yes.

Now here’s another question:

Did ultimate in the late 80s and early 90s represent Kenny Dobyns?

Whether you like it or not, the answer is yes.

When Mark McGwire pathetically stated that he wished he hadn’t played in the steroid era, he tried to suggest that everything had happened to him, as though he were a passive victim, innocently caught up in the maelstrom of performance enhancing drugs. It was sickeningly disingenuous. The steroid era in baseball was what it was because it was representative of Mark McGwire and those of his ilk, not the other way around.

Along the same lines, the era that stretched from the mid 80s through the mid 90s in ultimate was characterized by a highly competitive, hyper aggressive, push the envelope of the game, in your face style of play that was representative of the people who played at the time. The theory has been advanced that what transpired in the game back then was the direct result of a system of lax enforcement of toothless rules. Perhaps that’s true, but such arguments are a little too close to a McGwiresque justification for my comfort. We chose our style of play. It didn’t happen to us. We looked at athletic competition as a war between opposing forces, and we were determined to prevail against all comers. To make sure we were prepared, we reminded ourselves in the huddle before we stepped onto the field: no mercy, no prisoners. If the people whose opinions drive the process have decided the UPA HOF is no place for people who played the game that way, then they are absolutely right to keep me out of their little club. No harm. No foul. But so long as the discussions continue, I’m going to use them to address the lack of disciplined thought I mentioned earlier, which brings me right back to Henry Thorne.

As I said, in the not too distant future I will address some of the egregious and indefensible statements Henry made, but for now I want to examine, for the purposes of instruction, how he made them. Basically I want to point out yet again how seemingly intelligent people sometimes fail to think before they write.

In response to Jim Parinella’s blog post encouraging discussion of the UPA HOF selection process, Henry posted over a dozen times. In some instances he was careful to point out that he was expressing his personal, not official, opinion. In other instances he was not so clear. But even when he did say something along the lines of “This is me expressing myself as an individual,” he added his official titles as UPA Board member and HOF liaison. He then made it clear through his writing that his opinion had been shaped by information he only had access to because he is a UPA Board Member and HOF Liaison. Given those circumstances, regardless of whether he is presiding over an official board meeting or posting to a blog from his basement, his opinion cannot be separated from the process through which he arrived at it. It is not the opinion of Citizen Thorne. It is the opinion of a UPA official and HOF voter, who also happens to be named Henry Thorne. One would imagine he has enough sense to realize that, but perhaps not.

Additionally, in responding to questions and supporting his process and conclusions, Henry revealed information (gleaned from HOF documents) that is almost certainly supposed to be kept confidential. Did he not realize that? It’s one thing to say, “based on the information provided to me about the candidates in question, I can say that some were rated significantly more negatively than others when it comes to the spirit category.” It’s another to quote specific statistics and attach them to particular persons. I recognize that these people are volunteers, and that you get what you pay for, but Henry should absolutely have known better.

In an earlier post in this forum I wrote that Henry should be commended. I still believe that. The UPA HOF selection process is clearly flawed, and while some people have expended a great deal of energy trying to improve it, there’s still more work to do. But in the areas of communication and transparency, areas where the process has so far failed spectacularly, I have seen precious little effort to improve, and nary an official admission of the need to improve. In fact, the only thing that has come close to an official engagement in substantive discussion of the process is Henry’s contribution to Jim’s blog. Based on my conversation with my respected but unnamed HOF hierarchy source, we probably have only ourselves to blame.

It has often been suggested that the UPA should use public forums (such as rsd) to engage directly in discourse with the ultimate community at large. I have heard at least one UPA response stating that the rsd community is not a representative sample of the ultimate community at large, a point I’d be willing to debate. I have also heard at least one UPA response stating that what passes for discourse on rsd is something less than true discourse, and that is a point it would be harder to debate.

When I was a teacher, I used a classroom discussion exercise to force my students to listen and think without speaking. I would tell them that on Friday after their weekly vocabulary quiz we would be having an open discussion on a topic I knew they would find interesting (the school dress code for example). Once the quiz was over, they would be all fired up to share their thoughts. Then I would have them reach under their chairs to retrieve a card. Depending on what was written on the card, they would either be required to speak during the discussion, or be forbidden from speaking during the discussion. Those forbidden from speaking would be required to start by briefly describing their feelings at the top of the page, and then take notes of what the speakers said during the discussion. In addition, they had to respond during the discussion with their own thoughts in writing, without ever being given the chance to speak out loud. Although they initially found it frustrating, in time they realized that by listening carefully and responding on paper, they often found their opinions on the topic changing ever so slightly during the discussion. By contrast, those who spoke their views openly generally left the class feeling the same as they had when they came in.

The take home lessons are that it is only by being silent that we can listen, only by listening that we can hear, only by hearing that we can understand, and only by understanding that we can learn. It is a sad comment on the state of rsd, and our society as a whole, that there is far too little silence, and precious little understanding in what passes for discourse these days, whether it takes place on rsd or on Fox News. Given that fact, I can’t really blame anyone who resists the request for engagement. Can you?

As I stated earlier, I periodically go back and read the comments on my blog. It is with some measure of disappointment that I note that many of the comments come from the same person, that all of his comments generally say the same thing, and that rarely does anyone continue to contribute to what, at that point, is no longer a discourse. It’s a pity. Some time ago I made a vow to neither delete comments from my blog nor restrict anonymous comments. Recently I have been considering a change to my policy. Would that instead the person in question would reach under his chair and retrieve a card, then sit in silence and listen for a change.

We all might learn something.

Monday, March 08, 2010


No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Many years ago, while discussing ultimate, Andy Borinstein, UPA Hall of Famer, used a phrase which I have since borrowed from him many times, without proper attribution. He described ultimate as a sport that “catches people who fall through the cracks” of other sports. I have always used the phrase in the way I believe he meant it, which is to say that people who might not be tall enough or strong enough or sleek enough or fast enough to play more mainstream sports find a home in ultimate, where hand-eye coordination and stamina go a long way to assuring at least a modicum of success, whatever one’s other shortcomings might be. Recently I have come to realize that there is another way to interpret the statement. Whether or not Andy meant it this way is irrelevant; the shoe fits, so we might as well wear it.

In various discussion threads and blogs, the question has been raised whether intimidation belongs in ultimate. By that I mean, it has been suggested in some cases, and stated outright in others, that intimidation is a violation of sotg and anyone who intimidates an opponent is guilty of a violation of the rules of the game. By extension, a player who purposely intimidates is knowingly violating the rules of ultimate, and therefore a cheater. With apologies to those of you who interpret the sotg clause this way (sotg specifically refers to “belligerent intimidation” without explanation), I am of the opinion that it is laughably ludicrous, and only players who have little to no understanding of competitive sport could think such a thing. Yes, ultimate catches people who fall through the cracks of other sports. In this case, I suggest that we try to make the game a coarser mesh sieve.

NY ultimate lore is full of many entertaining little tidbits that we never tire of rehashing. One time at worlds, while playing against Sweden, I found myself being guarded by a very young, eager, and wide-eyed player, who seemed a little bit nervous. As the disc was being walked to the line, the deep, reassuring voice of one of his teammates called out a bit of last minute advice: “Don’t look at his muscles.” Clearly there was a concern that the young man might be intimidated by my physique. Should he have called a foul, and required me to wear a baggy, long-sleeve shirt?

1989 National Finals against Tsunami, I am on offense, running down a hanging huck in the end zone with Marty Stazak right on my hip. Marty gets a great run and leap, but he’s a touch early. My timing is better, and I catch the goal. In retrospect, I’ve come to believe that Marty, aware of the rumors of my leaping prowess, might have been intimidated into making his jump early, and that enabled me to catch the goal. Marty, if that is the case, I’m sorry I cheated you out of the D.

1992 National Semifinals against Rhino Slam, we pull downwind and play zone to start the game. Rhino shows astonishing patience, throwing what must have been fifty passes while working it two thirds of the way up field before an errant pass sails out of bounds. I walk the disc to the side line and throw one pass, a long forehand to Walter, for the goal. Rhino, possibly intimidated by how efficiently and quickly we struck, is never in the game, losing by an astonishing margin. I realize now we should have thrown more passes and been less intimidating. A replay of the game might be called for.

1993 Worlds, also in the semis against Rhino Slam, we’re on offense trailing late in the second half, when I call timeout on a high count. We set up what looks like a standard dump play to reset the count, but we also isolate Cribber in the end zone. On the restart I throw the forehand (which they were giving me) to Cribber in the far corner (which they were giving him) for the goal. We run the table to win the game, and I realize now that Rhino might have been intimidated by our willingness to go big when circumstances (trailing late in the game) called for the safer play. They are arguably the 1993 World Champions.

OK, so these are pretty ridiculous examples, but no more so than the suggestion that sotg prohibits intimidation from ultimate. For comparison, let’s take a look at an example from another sport with a sotg clause, golf.

When Tiger Woods has a one stroke lead on Sunday, does a PGA official tell him he can’t wear red? Do they tell the media not to remind everybody within earshot of the guy’s record of greatness? Of course not. Tiger wears red, and the media reports go out and Tiger’s opponents spray it all over the course, and then once in a blue moon somebody like Y.E. Yang comes through. Why? Because Tiger wasn’t intimidating that day? Because he wasn’t wearing red? No. Because Yang wasn’t intimidated.

Intimidation is the flower of self-doubt, and in the absence of self-doubt, intimidation cannot flower. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, people can’t be intimidated unless they allow themselves to be. Yang didn’t allow it. Rhino did. Whose fault is that? Should anyone be held accountable when players or teams allow themselves to be intimidated?

As indicated earlier, the sotg clause refers specifically to “belligerent intimidation,” but based on RSD posts and blogs, a few people have decided to apply it to all forms of intimidation. This is at the heart of so much of what is flawed about the sotg clause and its enforcement. Individual players selectively emphasize certain words or phrases while ignoring others. The language itself is so vague as to open itself to multiple interpretations even when players agree on the wording. Case in point: “belligerent intimidation.” What does it mean?

If I’m on a team that hasn’t lost in months and I happen to be belligerent, is that belligerent intimidation? What if I’m a belligerent but mediocre role player on a great team? Is that belligerent intimidation? What if I’m the belligerent leader of a terrible team? Is that belligerent intimidation? A poster to Parinella’s blog suggested (perhaps with tongue firmly in cheek) that he has made many bad calls but nobody cares because he’s a mediocre player. Does the “belligerent intimidation” provision in the sotg clause effectively apply only to good teams/players, because people don’t really care too much what the teams/players that lose are doing (and because, generally speaking, there’s nothing especially intimidating about losing)?

The point I’m trying, and perhaps failing, to make is that a self-officiated sport must place a greater emphasis on specificity in its rules. The officials in officiated sports attend regular clinics and meetings where they are TOLD precisely how to interpret gray areas in the rules. In ultimate, every player makes his or her own subjective interpretation, so that at any given time there are as many as fourteen different versions of the rules being enforced and/or adhered to. For the purposes of illustration, and because I find the topic rather amusing, I have chosen to focus on a single, two-word term from what is said to be the most sacrosanct clause in the rules and shown how, taken to an extreme, it can yield some pretty absurd results. But the sad truth is that a quick read through RSD will tell you that some people are quite serious about using the vague terminology in the sotg clause to suggest that intimidation, an essential component of ALL competitive sporting endeavors, has no place in the game of ultimate. What other less obvious but equally absurd interpretations are being made on a daily basis?

Finally, because I really can’t get it out of my head, I’d like to ask someone, anyone (Henry Thorne perhaps) to define “belligerent intimidation.” This should be good.

Me: So what exactly is “belligerent intimidation?”
Henry: Well, it’s a little hard to define, exactly. But I know it when I see it.

(With apologies to Potter Stewart.)

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Mann: What was the awful thing you said? To your father?
Kinsella: I said I could never respect a man whose hero was a criminal.
Mann: Who was his hero?
Kinsella: Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Mann: You knew he wasn’t a criminal. Then why did you say it?
Kinsella: I was seventeen.

In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner plays a character, Ray Kinsella, who goes to great lengths to re-connect with his long dead father, without even understanding what it is that he’s trying to do or why. I saw the movie in a theater soon after its release, with my then girlfriend. She found the movie laughably sentimental and utterly unbelievable. I, on the other hand, found it to be genuine and moving. At the time I attributed the difference in our experiences to the fact that I love baseball while she does not. It wasn’t until many years and many viewings later that I realized that a more likely explanation for my emotional connection to the film was my status as a son who also has a complicated relationship with his father.

My father is not dead, although he’s not well. I have spent much of my adult life alternately trying to make sense of our relationship as it is, or shape it into the relationship I have always hoped it would be. I have not enjoyed success in either endeavor, and it would be difficult for me to over estimate the amount of time I have devoted to the effort. Such is the nature of the always powerful and often confusing bond between father and son. I have long since given up the hope of trying to turn my father as he is into the father that I wish for, but I am still trying to come to terms with our shared reality. That is, as they say, my cross to bear, and though it would be inaccurate (and not a little grandiose) to say that I bear it proudly, it is probably accurate to say that I bear it resolutely. I once received a greeting card that said that selecting a pet is the only time we get to choose a relative. In contrast, my father is the only one I’ll ever have. So be it.

Because it is the best tool I have for the job, writing is how I process life’s conundra, and my relationship with my father is no different. In fact, much of my recent writing has been devoted to a pseudo-memoir, a piece of creative non-fiction that details our tortured relationship by having the character of the son (that’s me) spend all of father’s day meandering through a series of seriocomic reminiscences only to discover that in doing so he has let the entire day pass without ever calling his father. Wracked by guilt at his failure to execute even this simple responsibility of sondom, the son (that’s me) crawls into bed to endure yet another year of inadequacy. No, it’s not exactly the most uplifting story you’re likely to read.

For those of you who don’t know, writing, like other creative pursuits, is an arduous undertaking, always lonely, sometimes painful, and invariably inadequate to the task at hand – knowing the unknowable. In an obituary of Ruth Kligman that appears in today’s New York Times, the artist Franz Kline is quoted thusly: “They think it’s easy. They don’t know it’s like jumping off a twelve story building every day.”

Throughout my five year stint as a North Carolina public school teacher, I wrote about the experience for the local newspaper, the News and Observer. I can’t even remember how many times, in response to my articles, editors, relatives, friends, colleagues, or assistant principals at my school came to me and asked, “Are you trying to get fired?” I wasn’t, but as a writer I had made a commitment to being the only thing that really matters, in life or art – honest. In time, that honesty burned enough bridges at my school to make my position there untenable, so I left. I harbor no resentment to the administrators who did their best to force my hand; they did what they felt they had to do, just as I had done. Life goes on.

Recently, I have been embroiled in another controversy that also involves my writing and how some readers (or reader) have interpreted it. The controversy is UPA HOF selection, and the reader is Henry Thorne.

For the record, I think Henry should be commended. While many members of the UPA hierarchy in general, and HOF voters in particular, have been reluctant to engage in substantive “discussion” with the masses, Henry has put himself and his thought process “out there” for everyone to see. For this alone he deserves our respect. But (and you knew this was coming) having read a portion of what he has written, I feel compelled to respond.

First, some background: I am sick. It’s your basic flu bug, but it has knocked me on my back for a couple of days and, because I don’t own a TV, has left me surfing the web looking for something to occupy my time between Nyquil induced naps. That is how I found myself on RSD and, subsequently, on Parinella’s blog, scrolling through an astonishing number of comments on the subject of my HOF deduction (the opposite of induction, yes?).

Second, at this time I am only responding to a specific comment that Henry made in response to a particular post. A more thorough response could follow, one that might address the many interesting angles reflected in the myriad comments posted thereto (save those of a certain poster who rarely plays more than one note, and not a terribly pleasing note at that).

So, somewhere between the lengthy list of comments to Parinella’s blog and the exhaustive “analysis” contained in the RSD posts, I came across a comment from Henry Thorne that characterized a post on my blog as “damning” in reference to my possible induction into the HOF. There are a number of reasons why that comment gave me pause, and I will try to address them in some semblance of logical order.

To begin with, I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice to Mr. Thorne. Try to avoid using words like “damning” unless you’re planning to assume the role of the almighty in the near future. Consider for a moment how your comment might have been interpreted differently had you used a phrase like, “His post gave me pause,” or “His post led me to question his candidacy.” Better, don’t you think? But let’s not quibble here. After all, I already said you deserve our respect; I may come to regret that statement as well.

Next, I have to question whether it is even appropriate for a HOF voter to take my blog posts into consideration when evaluating my candidacy. The HOF asks each candidate to fill out a questionnaire, and in turn asks them to have persons of their choosing submit references. In addition there is the Call to the Community, where individuals can anonymously lend the weight of their recollections to the decision making process. It is generally understood that a player's history in the game will determine whether or not that player deserves induction into the HOF. But I don’t see any place where it is expected, encouraged or even understood that a voter will seek out the writings of a candidate in an alternate forum to determine if those writings might somehow inform said voter in his or her effort to arrive at a conclusion as to the merit of that candidate.

As I have indicated previously, writing can be a brutally honest endeavor, and anyone who has read even a portion of my blog can attest to the honesty to be found there. If every HOF candidate were required to submit a personal journal of his or her reflections on his or her career, what might we find therein? But since no such requirement exists, how can one justify using his or her interpretation of my blog posts to judge my candidacy?

It is impossible for me to know how much of my blog any voter out there might have read. More importantly, it is equally impossible for me to know how much of what they read they have actually understood. For that reason, I feel it is necessary to engage in a little bit of review.

In my series on Poppy, the greatest dog in history, I pointed out that certain elements of the story were left out because they were not germane to the story that was specific to Poppy. The implicit point is that all writing, other than straight reporting, is inherently selective. This is why we actually have a term such as creative non-fiction. Yes, the basic facts are true, but we unfurl them in a manner and with such adornments as to make them more entertaining to our readers.

With this in mind, my question to you, Henry Thorne, and to anyone who puts so much weight to my words as to call them “damning,” is how can you distinguish among fact, fiction, and a combination of the two when you are reading my blog? More to the point (since I know that you can’t make such subtle distinctions), how can you use such a dull instrument (your understanding) to make such precise cuts (your assessment of my candidacy)? The point here, of course, is that you can’t. And yet you already have. And that’s a pity.

For the record, the play in question, the one involving Phil “Guido” Adams, occurred at April Fools, in the very earliest stages of my playing career. At the time, I doubt that there was even a strip call in the rules. Regardless, the play in question, a caught goal, resulted in exactly that: a caught goal. No contest, no do-over, nothing but a goal.

In the years that followed, I did some serious soul searching over why, in that moment, I pulled that disc out of Guido’s hand. Nothing that I did changed the course of the game, but I still had done something I couldn’t feel good about. Many years later, I wrote about it on my blog, and then someone who knew nothing about the circumstances or the outcome used it to pass judgment on me and my entire career as a player.

So why did I do it?

Like Ray Kinsella, I was seventeen.