This is the continuation of the Name That Penalty trilogy of posts found here, here, and here. If you missed them first time around (or skipped them) or just plain forgot them ‘cus it’s been so damn long do a quick review because the content of this post assumes familiarity with the ‘Name That Penalty’ (NTP) trio of posts. (If you are wondering why I didn't stick with the 'Name That Penalty' series title for all related posts you haven't been here long, have you? I'm afraid that would be too easy and make too much sense. That, and I'm switching gears a bit with these follow-up posts. What can I say? Embrace the eccentricity. Or, for the geek crowd, resistance is futile.)
Each of the NTP posts posits a very common situation in the format formerly known as xball. Each of the NTP posts asked readers to describe the outcome as a decision made by the refs. And as one might have easily predicted there was no unanimity in the responses. Now this could be attributed to the limited information supplied or an incorrect understanding of the rules–since at least theoretically Faction’s interpretation must be correct given that he wrote them–but regardless, the point was (and remains) that situations that occur potentially dozens of times in a single match are open to interpretations that include no penalty assessed to possibly minor or major penalty assessments. Each one requiring the judgment of a referee. And in less time than it takes to read, much less, a referee must decide what the appropriate outcome should be and act accordingly. (And we haven’t even begun to touch on the touchy topic of whether a particular penalty really is appropriate given the game we claim we want to play. That’s tomorrow.)
In the running and gunning a corner scenario the player may or may not know he was hit and cannot know if the ball broke. The question then becomes what do the rules require him to do? Apparently he is allowed to finish his run but not continue shooting. So how many steps is he allowed if any? For that matter how long does it take to recognize a possible hit and then stop shooting? How does the ref know whether or not the player in question did or didn’t stop shooting? The whole run takes no more than 3 seconds.
At this point a couple of factors come into play. Let’s consider this first in terms of risk/reward. As a practical matter would anyone trade two seconds of shooting their gun for two players removed from his team? Of course they wouldn’t but not everyone acts sensibly all the time either but the real hazard here is the ambiguity. What does the player understand the rule to be? Will the ref call it or not? Did the player realize he was hit? And so on.
The other question I have here is about the fairness–or appropriateness--of a penalty assessed and its’ deterrence value. (I’m not a big advocate of penalty as deterrent, btw.) As a practical matter we have a gun being fired for anywhere from 1 to 3 seconds too long and the penalty is the removal of one or two players; 20% or 40% of the team for a given point. Is that an appropriate penalty or is that an attempt to deter a behavior? Can it be both at the same time? Does it in fact deter or does a combination of inconsistent interpretation, the speed of the game and the value players and teams assign to the ability to run and shoot simply create an oft-repeated situation that results in a frustrating crapshoot? [This applies to divisional play as this is not a call made in the pro game 99% of the time–though every once in a blue moon ...]
In the second NTP scenario we have a snake runner hit in the legs below the hips. Break or no break? When, and where, does the player check? (Here’s where a case could be made that Faction got his own rules wrong as 2.8.7 says a player in motion must move to the "nearest cover.") So unless the possible hit occurs at the last possible moment the snake runner, and the corner runner for that matter, should not continue running to their primary but stop at the "nearest cover" and, in fact, be liable for some assessed penalty if they don’t in any situation where the player may or may not be eliminated and can’t know which at the time it happens. Is that the way you want to play the format formerly known as xball. Me either.
Look, I’m running long so I’ll stop for now. Real world officiating is not and probably can’t be as clean and simple as rule book rulings because the rulebook can’t cover all the possibilities. For example, the current PSP rule book doesn’t even include a definition of playing on–it simply assumes in a couple of places that everyone knows what playing on is.
First things first, penalties need to be appropriate to the infraction and refs need to know the whole rule book. In addition a handy item for promoting consistent officiating might be a Referees Guide to the Rule Book written by somebody other than Chris.