GZ decimated San Francisco on one semifinal, allowing only four goals while rolling to a 3-0 match victory. The other game between the Founders and the Santa Barbara Condors, one of the few teams that kept the Ultimate name for use in the tourney, was close but boring. A Goaltimate match consists of five games to five points; after one team wins three games, the match is over. When the San Diego players practice, either across from the Mission Beach roller coaster or on a little triangle swatch of grass next to the boat-launching ramp at Ski Beach, they usually play five to seven games, depending on how many people show up. For many years the goal was the arch between two Magnolia trees on the grass fields opposite Mariner's Point. The constant pounding around the trees began to worry the park caretakers, and eventually they kicked the players off the field (later on, plastic goals were developed, which can be placed anywhere).
Conner, who ran the tourney while Donnie Wallace ran the referees, added nuances in preparation for an imagined television audience. After each game, a one-minute break was established. Teams were allotted three time-outs of two minutes each. But in order to make sure games finished in time, a one-and-a-half-hour time cap was placed on each match. In the Founders vs. Condors semifinal, this led to the stultifying -- yet wise -- decision by the Founders to use their last two time-outs at the end of the game to burn out the clock once they had built a 2-1 game lead in their match with Santa Barbara. If Santa Barbara had won the fourth game of the match before time ran out, the game would have been decided by whoever was leading the final game or, if it was tied when the time cap went off, by whoever scored the next point. The Founders won the third game of the match with little time left on the clock and knew that they could stall the time-out. On Sunday this stalling led to a rethinking of the use of time-outs, and for a moment it was decided that no time-outs would be allowed in the last five or ten minutes of play. This elicited groans from the Condors and was quickly rescinded. If you were smart enough to save your time-outs, then how you used them was your own business.
The final was close to a point, with Ground Zero scoring quickly and often in the opening game to roll to a 1-0 lead. Then they became too passive, allowing the Founders to storm back and win the second game of the match by an identical score, 5-1. It was at this moment, with three ESPN film crews covering the field, that it looked as if the better team might melt in the morning sun. In the GZ huddle, they decided to put more pressure on the Founders getting back to the clear line. I counted several times where the Founders needed 20 passes just to get back to the clear line. The added pressure worked, and the Founders' defense, which gave lesser teams absolute fits around the goal mouth, succumbed to weird upside-down throws, caught inches off the ground. Cliff Smith caught eight of these funky goals including the third and fourth of the last set.
If there was any play that might have been controversial, it was Smith's third goal in the final game. Catching the disc in the air outside the goal mouth, like a fullback he cradled the disc toward the plane of the goal line. This game situation, where a player running hard toward the goal mouth leaps in the air and lands in the goal, has not been sorted out in the minds of most players and refs. The rule is that the receiver (in this case, Smith) is allowed a place to land. Stu Downs, a big-shouldered, salt-and-pepper haired defender for the Founders, closed off Smith's landing zone like a linebacker, knowing he must prevent the disc from breaking the plane. The resulting collision was compelling as Smith was knocked back through the goal. Wallace ruled that Smith had broken the plane with the disc, although it was unclear if his feet landed in the goal. The Founders complained and became lax on defense. GZ moved the disc to the clear line and back, and Blackard threw something ugly and upside down to Smith, who grabbed it with two hands over his head as he was falling backward with his feet just inside the goal boundary. Suddenly it was 4-1, and the next goal by GZ would win it. Even though the Founders rallied for three straight goals, tying the score at 4-4, Ground Zero had many near misses and it seemed only a matter of time before Blackard found "Daddy" for the winner.
The oddity of watching seven of your friends all place their hands on an oversized check for $30,000 was disorienting, as if suddenly you didn't know them anymore. I didn't get a chance to congratulate them, and within 30 minutes of the last goal the polo club had mowed over the chalked lines and kicked every disc player off the field. The next day, I ran into Fergie on the Muir fields at UCSD, and he gave me a nice compliment on my reffing. The day after, Pinz called to ask if I wanted to go play some golf with Daddy, Blackard, Fergie, and some others. Conner's show got 30 minutes on ESPN, and it's already been rebroadcast twice (it airs again on ESPN2 Tuesday, August 24, at 5:30 a.m.), but getting that call and that compliment made my Father's Day weekend.