Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Throw in the Green Flag

I'm going to be talking about officiating--some more--and the first question that comes up when I do is you lazy slackers want to know what happened at the most recent event to put that bug up my donkey--again. The answer--again--is nothing out of the ordinary. (But you may be able to read something between the lines if you peer deeply.) Nothing other than what is the norm occurred at MAO. However, the immediacy of the events serve as active reminders that short-comings remain a part of the process. What better time to revisit a topic than when it's fresh in one's mind?

I mentioned to two or three people during the event that teams ought to be able to throw in the green flag once a match, like a challenge flag in pro football. (Green only because it's different from the yellow and red used now to signal penalties.) If you see a penalty called (or not called?) that seems an obvious and egregious violation of the rules as it currently stands there is no recourse. There isn't even much time to get clarifications on the actual penalties called. Frequently you have to use your timeout in order to argue a (non-) call. (Which is a complete waste of time and energy and effort.) Everybody I spoke to thought the green flag was an interesting, maybe even a good idea, but from the first time I said it I knew it wouldn't work. And it won't work because there is no non-subjective review possible at the present time. There is only the process we have now that oftentimes sees a clutch of refs huddle after a thrown flag and through the alchemy of proximity codify the call made. But if the green flag isn't a realistic possibility I do have a couple of other suggestions that might be helpful.

All the teams want is consistency. It could be harsh consistency or lenient consistency but the key to good officiating is consistency. Everybody knows it. No reasonable person can dispute it. The PSP commish acknowledges it and to his credit is trying to get the ref crew there. But it's not. They can't even call the no talking after elimination rule consistently. Are you kidding me?

To put a number on it I'd guesstimate that 95% of all calls made are straightforward and should be simple. There aren't multiple things happening with players converging on each other in hard to observe portions of the field, etc. And yet there isn't anything close to 95% consistency in the calls that are made. (Some time ago VFTD did a series of posts on officiating that speak to this particular issue. Check them out here, here & here. The comments are revealing as well.) I can't really explain the lack of consistency in the routine calls--well, yes I can, different refs call the same situations differently, even from incident to incident--but part of the problem is likely to be procedural and the physical act of officiating as it's currently done. Let me explain. On the break there are interior or backline officials and wire officials. If an interior or backline ref sees a player get hit he signals, via gesture or radio, to a wire side ref to pull the hit player. Seems sensible and on its face it is. It even works a goodly percentage of the time. But sometimes it doesn't. (And those sometimes aren't rare occasions.) For whatever reason wire corner refs are often deep in their respective corners somewhere out of the players line-of-sight. The call is made, the signal seen and the ref makes the appropriate hand gesture of elimination--that the player can't see. Not only does this sort of thing happen off the break but it also happens during points from positions all over the field. Refs gesturing a player eliminated from a place the player can't see. The time gap between the gesture and reaching the player often results in a by the rules violation that merits a penalty flag. Which becomes penalty roulette (including the non-call.) Would it be so hard for the refs to verbally call the player(s) out at the same time they are gesturing their eliminations? The players have numbers all over their jerseys. How 'bout the gesture plus "21, you are eliminated. Leave the field."

Next up the simultaneous wire elimination that usually sees bunkered and bunkerer removed from the field accompanied, at some phase in the proceeding, with assorted penalty calls part of the time. This single oft repeated event on the field of play is the most consistently poorly called element of the sport. Period. And the fact is it's not that hard to get right. Most of the time when the wire simo occurs it's predictable. The refs can see it coming and all they need is a second or two of advance notice. The other thing required to make the right call is two refs on the one wire. The ref nearest the player about to be bunkered watches the bunkering player and the ref closest to the bunkering player watches the player to be bunkered. The last requirement is a vocal call. The first ref to see a player hit verbally signals the hit. If both refs call it close together pull both players. If one ref called it with a noticeable gap between the other refs follow-up call eliminate the first one out and wipe off the other guy and keep playing. Is it perfect? No, but with practice it would be a vast improvement that would also see more consistent and appropriate penalties called during bunkering runs. As it stands now refs can't see all the action alone and are often out of position because they have the wrong responsibilities for the given situation and as a result they just pull bodies and sometimes throw flags as an afterthought without real clarity as to what exactly happened.

This last is merely a suggestion. And I'm telling y'all this 'cus nobody else will. When a flag is thrown and a penalty called why is it necessary to get most of the refs in a huddle? Sure, when there's been some moments of chaos on the field and nobody is 100% sure what happened I can see the value in trying to come to some consensus but only just. Even in those situations somebody threw a flag. Or flags. Is that penalty call going to be overruled? Go away? Is the new guy ever gonna say he thinks what three other refs are saying is mistaken? Isn't it all just theater? An opportunity to create a consensus of self-justification?
Look, I understand that reffing pro paintball is almost an impossible task but the refs don't do their cause any favors with all the huddles. If it's a simple call that one ref made why make it harder? If ref A throws a flag is anything more really necessary than that he signal that call to the ultimate who can communicate the appropriate details with the scorekeeper? Every time a routine call turns into a pow-wow it looks suspicious. It just does. Everybody knows calls don't get changed and don't get explained until after the pow-wow. What does that sound like to you? Yeah, me too.

I realize these sorts of posts don't garner me any friends amongst the officiating corps. Heck, for all I know, it results in some unspoken payback but I've been doing this for a long time now and things didn't begin to get better until people were willing to openly address the issues. (And two leagues began competing for customers.) There's another issue related to officiating, a Big Picture issue, given the acknowledged inconsistencies that I'll address tomorrow.


CadeX said...

Do you think a green flag do any good without a way for an official to visually review the play/call in question?

CadeX said...

Do you think a green flag would do any good without a way for an official to visually review the play/call in question?

Don Saavedra said...

The process you described for determining the right call in a bunker/bunkeree situation is exactly the training Mr. Shroepfer put me through in the one reffing clinic I attended. What is maybe missing is practice? Pro refs reffing Pro practices week in and week out. Practicing as often as the players do.

Baca Loco said...

Did you read the whole paragraph? :-)

Good for Tim. On our field there is no verbal component and the refs clearly aren't looking down the wire which is why even with sufficient refs present the call is mostly generic. Toss 'em both.

sdawg said...

As someone who has refereed at the National level in another obscure combat sport, I have the following comments. These problems are common to every sport. Paintball is just too young a sport to expect such a degree of consistency in officiating. And, Dan is right. There just isn't a chance for refs to learn until the national events. By then it's too late. What's missing are local leagues where new guys can learn. But the focus in this sport is the national level, and there's no incentive for field owners to lose money on tournaments.

houdini said...

I'm amazed that verbal calls aren't made by the refs... I haven't bothered reading the PSP rule book but is there a reason for this?

Is this the case for all calls on the field?

Baca Loco said...

It may be the pro field refs are hindered by their radios. It would be ironic anyway as the divisional field refs don't have the extra technology