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:
- Players, in the heat of the moment, are disinclined and perhaps unable to make objective calls
- 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
- Refs add authenticity & legitimacy thereby immediately inviting lucrative broadcasting contracts
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.
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.