Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Let's get something out of the way: this is not about a hybrid referee/observer acting as the sole party making calls on the field. This is about striking a balance between two competing systems of officiating. So a quick recap...

Gripes with Observed ultimate (and especially ultimate without officials of any kind) from the pro-ref crowd:

  1. Players, in the heat of the moment, are disinclined and perhaps unable to make objective calls
  2. The nature of self-officiated ultimate -- with its occasional chat, aside, or debate team practice on contested calls -- drags out the game and renders it unwatchable. It's bad sports entertainment
  3. Refs add authenticity & legitimacy thereby immediately inviting lucrative broadcasting contracts
Rebuttals from the UPA/pro-Observer crowd:
  1. Our players have the discipline and respect for themselves and their opponents to call a fair game. (This argument was eloquently spelled out on this blog by a Former College Champ. Well worth the read.)
  2. Hmmm, yes, well ... #2 has some merit. Observers are directed to ask players for reasonably quick decisions; Observers are also trained to determine the correct call and announce it summarily upon request
  3. I call bullshit. No evidence points to this. People still see a Frisbee -- sorry, a disc -- and think of hippies and beach games. The sport's proponents need to buckle down on this conception.
As for me, I do like the Observer system and think, when perfected, it will keep most people happy. But recently I started thinking about a hybrid officiating system, a system where both players and neutral parties are empowered to make calls.

So here's the thought experiment. Neutral parties, called Observers and wearing something tasteful, number about five on the playing field, plus 14 players. Boom! 19 officials. When a player is fouled the infracted player or a nearby Observer are both able to make the call. If an Observer is not in position or does not see the play, the foul's outcome follows the current rules set-up. This prevents cheap fouls, the get-away-with-whatever-you-can tactic in ... well, in every sport I've played except ultimate.

In/out calls, travels, and up/down are all active Observer calls.

Let's say a receiver goes up for a disc and is blatantly fouled. Both the fouled player and the nearby Observer call "Foul!" Boom! Immediate judgment, play on. If the Observer makes a call and the 'fouled' player makes no call: no foul, play on.

Thus we have a system where players are still empowered to make calls, but Observers are also making active calls. When they agree, great: instantly play on. The result will be a game executed under the same principles as a self-officiated game, but with the necessary checks & balances to satisfy pro-ref blood-lust. Players won't call bad games because they won't get away with it. Refs won't ruin games because they won't be the sole authority.

I daresay this system would even lead to games where the Observers are largely unheard-from, except on in/out, travels, up/down, since players know that a bad call would be corrected (in the form of silence from the Observers).

I have probably missed some salient points, and there are likely flaws in this proposed system. But I think it addresses the concerns of the ref movement while keeping intact much of what players like about self-officiating.


Mackey said...

Sounds great--just a minor extension of the current observer system (logistical concerns of getting that many officials for games when we can't even provide 2 a game at anything short of the highest levels aside).

I'm a little unclear on the player call/observer no call scenario though. You say when the observer isn't looking, it's the standard rules we have now, but if the observer is looking? I don't know that observer silence always implies disagreement--an observer can see the play and be unsure of the foul, too.

And if the observer disagrees (no foul when the player calls foul), that means "play on?" It seems like if you're making this an active call on the observer's part you ARE empowering the refs to a pretty large degree. And at that point you can't fall back on our already established system as the observer has already made his opinion clear, providing no real incentive for the infracted parties to discuss.

I think some standardized gestures would tie in pretty well with this system. Maybe if the observer disagrees, we get no call and a hand-waving (think "safe" in baseball) to confirm disagreement, and if the observer doesn't know, she doesn't do anything? There's probably a better way to make this distinction clear and quick. Perhaps people who actually have observing experience could offer a better perspective.

Bill Mill said...

> Our players have the discipline and respect for themselves and their opponents to call a fair game.

Discipline doesn't have a thing to do with it; literally half the time on a huck foul call that I'm involved in I have no idea what the correct call is. I really wish I had somebody to fall back on when it's not obvious.

> In/out calls, travels, and up/down are all active Observer calls.

YES. This is the big step towards a real hybrid system that can work.

degs said...

I don't know that observer silence always implies disagreement--an observer can see the play and be unsure of the foul, too.

Yeah, silence would probably not suffice. Let's say a player calls a foul, and then if the Observer disagrees s/he says "No foul, play on." Something like that. As I said, tweaks will be necessary.

Twatson said...

You do realise this plays right into the North American stereo type of needing a thousand umpires and refs...

but anywhoo

I would prefer the observers have a silent means of showing their nay or yay of a contest/foul. Its tough enough trying to run a flowing offence if every little infraction is called by someone. All the little piques, travels, slight double teams and minor touches being called will kill an offence.

I have vague memories of a sport having the refs drop red or white flags...

In/outs, up/downs and major travels would all be good examples of situations where an observer might be able to give a good decision, as long as they only have to do so when they are sure of the decision.

Also where would all these observers be on the field? I'd hate to have them cluttering up the field...

Anonymous said...

"In/out calls, travels, and up/down are all active Observer calls."

This along with penalties for consistent intentional fouls on the mark would be enough. You certainly don't need large teams of officials to make our sport work.

Anonymous said...

well i have never observed game one of ultimate but i've reffed a couple dozen, SO I'M CHIMIN IN!!

Degs, have you actually givin this system a try (other than in your mind) cause, if not, you aint no different than kramer and his levels....."SHOW ME THE LEVELS!!!".

You poor poor ultimate players. when you gonna realize that you cant reinvent the wheel. Why you feel the need to keep tryin, i'll never get.

What type of penalties are you gonna attatch to this rule set. Twat is worried about such calls killing the mo on the field (the big reason now that many o teams cheating and tactical ways go uncalled). Point is.....make a travel a turn and people will respect the rule. Make a bump on the mark a "personal foul" (with a 3 per game limit) and watch em quit doing it. Give significant yardage penalties for teams that double team (OR make that a personal foul too) and watch teams quit doing that. We all saw the simple rule of offsides get disreguarded and disobeyed at worlds due to lack of safeguards and deterants.

Without an equitable and balanced risk/consequense dynamic people will ALWAYS manipulate the rules of ANY sport......officiated or not. And c'mon, lets face it, its hard enough for people to remain impartial now.......add penalties to the mix and you would have more of a mess than you would know what to do with.

one more question.....where does sotg (what ever the fuck that is anyways.....have we even slightly aggreed on its definition yet?) fit into all of this. Or, an even better question, would we FINNALY be able to shelf sotg with this system. If so, i'm down....mark me down.

Sam Rapson said...

I like it... in many ways it's similar to the current observer system (basically same rules of resolution).

But the addition of active up/down, in/out and travel calls along with the immediate ruling by the refs would speed things up nicely.

I might add the stall count to the list of active observer/ref calls. It's unambiguous, easy to be objective and consistent about and is frequently impinged upon in current play (I'd say most stall counts are in the 6-7 second area)

Ben said...

I don't think your point #1 tells against observers in any way: "Players, in the heat of the moment, are disinclined and perhaps unable to make objective calls". Exactly--that's why the observers are there, to overrule those non-objective calls. It only tells against non-observed self-officiating.

I actually think that at Nationals spirit scores should be a count of calls your team made that were overruled by the observer.

degs said...

I might add the stall count to the list of active observer/ref calls.

Yeah, I've wanted a shot clock–style stall count for a while.

Anonymous said...

ben....spirit scores???? shouldnt they just be nixed altogether? Why not use that time energy and effort critiquing the accuracy and effeciency of the observers and the rules rather than critiquing each others spirit.

i see where you are coming from though......spirit(bad spirit) should be based on how many shitty calls a team makes....not their attitude or behavior. To which, wouldnt the observers themselves be the better judges of who is and isnt spirited?

god damn this sport is fucked up with all this spirit shit!

and degs......these hybrid ref/observer people.....theres a name for em....."refzervers". Of course you are proposing that they too would now have powers to initiate foul calls as well. Inching ever closer to complete transition. just trade in sotg for four guys with whistles in striped shirts already, and be done with it.

degs said...

just trade in sotg for four guys with whistles in striped shirts already, and be done with it.

Be done with it? You're missing the whole point. If everyone on the field can make active calls:
1. cheap-shots and 'wait til the ref's not looking' fouls disappear, and
2. bad calls made by players with a stake in the outcome are off-set by neutral officials.

Toad, people have serious reservations with a ref system. My proposal addresses those concerns.

Anonymous said...

degs....."people" dont have ANY reservations with ref systems.....its just ultimate players that do (and the minority of em at that, i'de say). And, in reality, it seems like the main reservations are connected with the efforts envolved in managing and payin em.

1. people can still take "cheap shots" when they think the refzerver aint lookin just as easy. and whats the big motivation(and your big fear) in even taking a "cheap shot" in the first place when there is a ref (and an attachted risk of severe consequense) over taking one currently with an observer and little to no consequense?(please dont say "because you get ostrasized by your peers")

2. are people penalized for said "bad calls" that are off set by neutral officials? Cause, you know, how can you trust these same people that will take cheap shots with refs not to make bogus calls with refzervers, just so they can kill the mo of the opposing teams?

I still dont see why you instist on trying to reinvent the wheel here. If there was a better way to arbitrate sports surley a sport thats been around a helluva lot longer than ultimate AND has a hellofa lot more experience with facilitating, developing and refining its arbatration system would have already thought it up.

degs said...

Look, Toad, this system has all of the advantages of refereed ultimate that you support. I don't care about penalties -- sure, they could be a part of this. This basically is reffed ultimate, but there are 14 players who can make calls in addition to refs.

I'm not re-inventing the wheel. I'm making the wheel obsolete.

Anonymous said...

degs, get a grip dude. Everything you are talking about is complete fantasy and speculation. Basically you are sayin that somthing that YOU thought up, thats NEVER been tried is superior to systems that have been in place and refined for over 100 years. where do you get the ego???(and between the two of us, only one has actually put his theorys to practice......and we both know who that is)

falacy 1: "this system has all the advantages of refereed ultimate that i support". how would you EVER get the idea that i am supportive of partial opponents making impartial judgements on each other in the least bit?

falacy 2: not caring about penalties. Penalties are the cornerstone of incentive. People will simply break the rules if the incentive isnt there to follow it. Why else would an otherwise "spirited" bunch contstantly break rules that are as elementary as "offsides" to ones that are as vauge as a "bump on the mark" or a "double team"? heres a hint....."because they can".
With out deterants....whats the since in having (or on the marker bump)the penalty to begin with.

falacy 3: the notion that player envolvement within the rule enforcement system is even remotely the same as a reffed reffed system. Why must you cling to that "player envolvement" dynamic?

Anonymous said...

degs.....i forgot to comment on your closing statement about making the referee system "obsolete". Seriously????

Do you and other born again ultimate players that cling to this player envolvement/control dynamic (the way christians cling to their insane "jesus" theory) really think that you can make refs obsolete before they simply take over ultimate (and make sotg obsolete)? And wouldnt that kinda be like these "christians" thinking they could make all other religions obsolete???And are you talking about making them obsolete in other sports too.....or just ultimate?

forgive me for being so inquisitive but i just have a hard time understanding what the real motivations are in not just making a clean break from player envolvement altogether.......and it just baffles me so.

help me understand degs!!!!

The Pulse said...

It seems pretty obvious to me - we would like the correct call to be made in every situation, and this system guarantees that more than a pure referee system.

DHunt said...

This is similar to the system we ran at Solstice. Active travel calls by the observers and very quick resolution (seconds) when calls were made. The system worked pretty well and most of the players seemed to like the active travel calls. The games moved quickly and the time between pulls was shortened. I don't see the need for more than 2 observers on a field other than linesman, so 4 max. We had maybe one active up/down call the whole weekend of Solstice, but that can change depending on the weekend.

As for the "cheap shots" observers have been more pro-active in giving TMFs out early to keep teams in line. At college nationals, excessive fouling on the mark and intentional double teaming decreased when the team had already received a TMF for that violation. And, was almost non-existent when they were handed two TMFs with the fear of yardage penalties.

A referee system is not without its flaws also. Active marking fouls can hinder an offense that would normally play through the occasional bump and keep the disc moving.

Anonymous said...

how do you figure that? i mean, if a ref can miss a judgement call how is it that an observer cant miss a similar call(when refered to). And how can a fantasy system that has never been tried guarantee anything(other than it being a lot more easily manipulated than a stiff risk/consequense penalty system)?

Gambler said...

What would the advantage of this hybrid system be over a system with observers and immediate referral?

With the system you proposed, I would imagine some problems with the timing of both the observers and player needing to call "foul" simultaneously. I just don't see how that would be better than IRS where there's an established sequence.

Anonymous said... seem to be saying that tmfs were a good deterant in keeping players from being overly aggressive on the mark. couldnt personal foul limits do the same thing? As for playing thru the ocasional bump, dont ya think they prefer not getting bumped to begin with and simply play through because its to there own disadvantage to stop play.

And which is a greater deterant to not playing over aggressively, a yardage penalty(of what proportion?) after how many tmfs (i still dont know why they are even called tmfs to begin with when its just one player misconducting), or the risk of actually fouling out of the game?

so yea, both systems are flawed. And the fact that a bunch of people with very little experience in the field think a system that has really never even been used can, with a straight face, say that it is superior to those that have been used in countless other sports for decades and decades is what makes you guys come accross as a little......well, certifiable.

Anonymous said...

the worst part of degs proposal is that its nothing but hot air......just like all these and similar idiot wind proposals.

how about this for a more proposals on hybrid ref systems ultil AFTER the proposer goes and experiments with it first hand.

but yes gambler, i agree that such a system would get quite messy and have too many variables. The simpleist way to deal with it(game management and rule enforcement in sports) is just give all the power to the 3rd party. why is this not obvious to you people?

On a different note gambler, i never got a response from you on my comment concerning your teams apprarent lack of knowledge of the offsides rule while you guys were competeing at worlds. care to comment?

degs said...

Part of the reason I wrote up this system before trying it was to work out some flaws. I'm also not running a tournament anytime real soon. Besides, Toad, you haven't run a tournament since gas was less than a dollar a gallon... you're the one excreting hot air.

DHunt said...

Anonymous...A personal foul system would also be a deterent to overly aggresive defense. However, I don't see removing players from the game necessary for controling their play style. If we are able to minimize overly aggresive play with yardage penalties then why do we need to remove players from the game?

I don't see either system as being superior to another. We will need to experiment with different systems as the game evolves.

Anonymous said...

d hunt......there is only one system that is superior (thats the one used in all sports, professional and amature), and then there the one that dosent even exist. how can you even lump your fantasy rule enforcement system into the same catagory?

Jackson said...

Toad said: "how about this for a more proposals on hybrid ref systems ultil AFTER the proposer goes and experiments with it first hand."

Toad, please suggest a way to try out a system before proposing it. Wouldn't it need to be proposed so that everyone trying out the system knew how the system is supposed to work? Maybe having these kinds of discussions is exactly what we need before we experiment with a system; so that when we do experiment we have already worked out many of the kinks beforehand. A little thought and preparation can save a lot of work in the end.


I agree with pulse; we should try to implement a rule system that results in the correct call as much as possible. I think this would be a hybrid system with player and ref (observer, third-party, whatever you want to call it) officiation. Who gets to actively make the call should be set in the rules based on who will usually have the better perspective for that call (refs: travels, up/down, etc. -- players: fouls, maybe picks, etc.)

Anonymous said... ask how? think it up and go fuckin do it, thats how! Prior to experimenting with refs (pre NUA comp) i simply rounded up a few friends and went out and officiated a uncw inter squad scrimmage. ITS THAT EASY!!!!

whats the sense in proposing ANYTHING when no one is willing to make the personal efforts to get off there ass and go try it?

people have been discussin this for YEARS. the time for discussions is over. Put it in to action already.

people, or should i say, ultimate people are too lazy, aloof and apathetic to actually do the "work" side of such experimentations. great at the talkin about it part though. Prove me wrong, go experiment with this system at your next practice, THEN lets talk about it, how about. Otherwise you are no different from kramer and his "levels".

Anonymous said...

so degnan......hows your little hybrid officiating system working out? You are gonna actually TRY it out in real life with real people, right? I mean you werent just falppin your jaw about all this stuff were ya? Or is it that youve done the "thinkin it up" aspect of its developement and now you are waitin for SOMEONE ELSE to pick up the ball and run with it. If thats the case than why even bring it up to begin with?

Anonymous said...

yep......just what i thought.

degs said...

I would like to try it -- sooner rather than later. I couldn't post this comment earlier because I had an actual tournament to attend, something you're unfamiliar with recently.

Anonymous said...


Hh said...

Obviously not Toad. Why would we practice a experimental way of playing the game when Nationals will be played in two weeks by a very different set of rules?

You are an annoyance, nothing more.


Anonymous said...

good point why in the fuck is your boy degs offering this proposal at this juncture.....that dumbfuck, dosent he know nationals is in two weeks?

as for me annoying you.....mission accomplished!

Hh said...

As for you actually doing anything productive or furthering the sport in any way...well, "Mission Accomplished", but think air craft carrier and flight suit.

Anonymous said...

well i cant do anything productive untill i get up in one of them board seats now can i there h. but hey, i'm doin just as much, if not more than, the next guy by challenging the upa and their methods constantly.