Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Officiating Bacaball

This post will not be an all-inclusive look at a new rulebook. For starters I have no intention of working that hard (right this minute) on behalf of a hypothetical format. What I intend to do in this post is explain the practical changes and the philosophy behind those changes. Think of this then as the early stages of laying a foundation. The rules themselves are largely in place and that part of the process would simply take into account the differences between Bacaball and the current iterations of various tourney formats along with some minor tweaking consistent with the new philosophy.

In my view there is too much emphasis on the punitive elements and too much of that is overkill given the nature of some of the infractions the current rules enforce. More simply put the penalty often doesn't fit the crime. While the rules necessarily define the game so too the way they are enforced. Too often a penalty assessed and justified as redress is in fact a method for altering an outcome. Don't get me wrong. Some infractions deserve harsh penalties but many do not if our singular purpose is to regulate a "fair" game and a final result based primarily on the abilities of the competing teams.
Here's how it will work. Each referee has four flags; white, yellow, orange & red. Unfurled they need not be any larger than say, 8 in. by 5 in. (Any size that is easily seen.) When there is an infraction the ref signals that infraction by briefly waving the appropriately colored flag and making the call which is duly noted at the scorer's table. The first thing the four flag option does is communicate more precise general information to the competing teams and spectators than occurs now. And in providing for more precision it becomes easier to make distinctions between infractions and their corresponding penalties. While removal to the penalty box remains a component of enforcement the focus is altered somewhat by more tightly tieing infractions to the violating player. This is done in a manner similar to soccer (futbol) officials handing out yellow & red cards. In Bacaball it's the accumulation of white flags and/or issuance of a red flag. The result is immediate player suspension(s) lasting anywhere from the duration of the current match to an event suspension. The rationale is that about the worst thing you can do to a player is deny him the opportunity to compete. And that the major impact of assessed penalties should fall on the player(s) responsible for violating the rules.
In current formulation there are a large number of (perhaps) necessary calls that are also, in my estimation, overkill simply because nobody has proposed a reasonable alternative. In Race 2-7 talking on the field after being eliminated is a minor penalty (when enforced--which is perhaps 50% of the time.) In the Bacaball system a first time infraction would merit a white flag in which the white flag denotes a warning that doesn't otherwise enforce an additional penalty--although the accumulation white flags over the course of a match would eventually result in an additional penalty when the limit is reached. Similarly Bacaball would assign a white flag in the first instance of a minor hot gun (along with the elimination of the player) instead of the current minor penalty assessment. The white flag concept allows for more nuanced calls than exist today and more accurately reflect differences in how an infraction more or may not have significant impact on the play of a point.
The goal is to moderate the impact of regulatory rules and/or minor infractions that may not merit the currently assigned penalty while still allowing sufficient deterrence to encourage "fair" play and ultimately apply the steepest penalties to repeat offenders pushing the limits (even in small ways) and those whose infractions unambiguously merit severe penalty. Additionally Bacaball hopes to limit the subjectiveness often perceived in current officiating with the extra tiers of potential calls provided in the two new penalty options. (If you'd like to debate the subjectivity inherent in the system please look here, here, here, here & finally here for the 2009 post series called 'Name That Penalty.'
Additional issues remain like how are the officials trained. How do they most efficiently coordinate on field and in making calls? What are individual responsibilities depending on how officials are working a given match? As a practical matter, for example, I have problems with refs making calls from behind players with hand signals. Or Ultimates gathering the refs for a midfield pow-wow before announcing the most recent penalty called. If ref A calls a penalty and the Ultimate finds the explanation unsatisfactory for whatever reason he should dismiss ref A and call over ref B to determine if ref B saw anything that can help clarify the original call--and so on--until the Ultimate is clear on the call. But at no time should the refs gather prior to a call being made. It looks bad. It looks like CYA and the number one complaint everywhere in the tournament world is poor officiating. This is magnified at the major league level because of the cost and it only makes sense to incorporate procedures that will likely help reduce the incidence of complaints.

That's it, kids. Sure, there's still lots of details to be worked out but the guiding principles are simplicity, transparency & the minimal necessary interference with the play of the game to retain good order and fair play.


TJ said...

I like where you are headed with this, but I see a complication. What is to stop a team from using a "less valuable" player to execute some action of cheating in order to gain an advantage? For example, sending player A to the center. He wipes hits or w/e he must, and this gives his team an advantage. His team wins the point, and he leaves the point with a white flag or is at worst forced to leave the match (If I understand correctly). But that team does not care, he wasn't one of the star players anyhow. Normally, the entire team would suffer and they would not gain this advantage.

I know that kind of seems far fetched, but I hope you grasp the general concept of my concern.

vijil said...

As a ref myself I'd hate to have 4 flags. It's hard enough to throw the right one when you've only got two. And then on top of that somebody has to be counting white flags. You're making the refs job and the general job of running a game a whole lot harder.

houdini said...

Paintball is probably one of the only sports where the game isn't paused to access penalties so I have to agree with vijil... the 4 flag concept would be a nightmare for refs to use properly and even harder for the scorers to keep track of, given the speed of the game and sight lines to the field.

I think Bacaball has to patent some new marshaling technology where all new goggles must incorporate an electronic HUD/Color light system, radio transponders and a mini speaker.

This new patented competition system will be used by refs to indicate to players that they are out and the type of penalty they have received. Obviously RED lights flashing in your HUD means you're screwed - Baca could also add personalized in-goggle announcements just to remind players just how screwed they are.

Refs all have a nifty point and click electronic marshaling controller unit - they simply point at the player they are calling out and press one of 4 buttons to indicate which penalty the player has. This info is electronically transmitted to the scorers unit/scoreboards for play-by-play updates.

This system would also be great for broadcasters and commentators trying to follow the game. They'd no longer have to second guess refs calls.

Remember the paintball industry has gone out of its way to make markers faster utilizing electronics so it's not such an out-of-the-box suggestion that they also should use similar technology to marshal games...

tom said...

Those same buttons on the MCU could shup down the players gun........

ScotchMonster said...

I believe Kee is working with Marc to develop a way of shutting down guns for penalties in Grid Fighters. We should see more advancement with this later in the season.
I agree too many flags will be problematic for referees. Maybe tower refs could confirm with ground refs and the ultimate would post call on the board-all being linked of course.
This might alleviate the huddles, subjectivity etc.

Mike said...

I agree with vijil the point about having 4 flags sounding like a hindrance. I do however quite like your theory of making it more like soccer where a yellow/red card system (or flags, whatever) comes into play.

Don Saavedra said...

You shouldn't introduce technology that is prohibitively expensive for a local/regional league. In order for a major league to have teams that know the format, you need minor leagues that play the same format.

Besides, this is paintball, not the Light Cycle track in Tron...

Missy Q said...

I agree that the much maligned refs would have an even tougher time, and that there would be even higher expectations of the group of individuals most often criticised (unfairly in many cases) for not meeting existing expectations.
I like the theory though.

Don Saavedra said...

This theory doesn't exist in a vacuum, and I can only hope is bolstered by other institutional changes in Bacaball. So it's tough to judge on the surface.

And, I think the idea is the refs on the field are not counting white flags... that is done off field by another official, and penalties are tallied and assigned while the game clock is dead. I could have read it wrong, but that seemed to be the structure. In that case, each ref only has to worry about the specific call he makes based on what he sees, rather than worry about big-picture stuff. In that case, I think remembering 2 more things is something they can handle. Maybe not all refs. But the ones we want reffing Pro games will.

houdini said...

@ Don - totally agree but I'm assuming Bacaball is a pro format... and that lower divisions have dumbed down versions of the rules... just remember who to credit in a few years when someone rips off my idea :/

Baca Loco said...

Apparently gentlemen--and I use the expression loosely--we have differing standards. Maybe we need to insist referees aren't allowed to ref and chew gum at the same time.
Sit down for this one--I'd even insist that the refs actually know the rules, too!
Granted, there are all manner of issues related to reffing and in general it will never be better than the people doing the job--but there remain plenty of ways to improve the existing practices.
You are reading it correctly and it will, I hope, become clearer as added elements of the game are explained.
The rules and enforcement procedures are the foundation of all the variants of Bacaball. The larger point is that it's the rules and their enforcement that shape the game experience as it's played. Bacaball isn't intended to be some new look paintball grafted onto the old ways of doing things, it's intended to be a new playing experience.

Since some of you are hung up on four flags instead of two keep in mind the flags don't represent "extra" penalties, they simply add some immediate clarity as to what was just called to anyone watching the game.

vijil said...

Still, complexity and extra officiating jobs = bad unless absolutely necessary. You'll have a hard time convincing me that four flags is necessary to the experience of the game. I'd say (as a ref and a player) that extra clarity isn't worth the trade.

Just trying to be constructive :) - even so, we'll see the whole context soon enough.

Baca Loco said...

You just lost your gum chewing privileges, mister.

Whining about 4 flags instead of the current two doesn't strike me as particularly constructive.
Think about this while you try to find another way to say "I still don't like this." Take your best guess at what percent of the attrition of teams from MLP should be assigned to frustrations and unresolved issues tied to officiating. Convert those lost teams (players) into lost revenue and see if it's "worth it" then. Maybe not to you but perhaps to promoters and otherwise unsatisfied players.
And if it's any consolation I'm not sure anybody would want you reffing Bacaball. ;-)

raehl said...

The problem of 4 flags vs. 2 is a minor problem compared to the requirement that someone has to track not only how many of each color flag is thrown, but also exactly WHICH player the flag is thrown against, AND do it in near-real-time, with possibly multiple flags being thrown on multipe points on the field at the same time, and if no one is paying for an elevated platform, from ground level where bunkers may be obscuring what's going on.

The penalty system as proposed is completely unworkable with anything near the budgets currently available to run events.

But, after reading your scoring post, I think there may be a better option.

You are absolutely right about a big problem we have with paintball: The smallest penalty we have come up with is taking a live player and making them dead. Especially when you have only 5 or so players on the field, that is a HUGE penalty for what could be a minor infraction. And when pulling one player form the field is the best you have for a minor penalty, you have to pull 2 for a major penalty, or keep one player off the field for multiple points, to differentiate the two. And then we have the issue of end-of-point penalties: What do you do when a team illegally causes all of their opponents to be eliminated resulting in a no-point? That's a non-penalty (or even incentive) to act illegally in a lot of circumstances, but a mandatory swing point is a very significant penalty as well.

Maybe you keep the multiple flag colors - red, yellow, white, and assign something like 4, 2 and 1 points to them. Refs still pull players that are eliminated, but beyond that a small penalty gets the 1-point flag, a major penalty (like playing on with an obvious) gets the 2-point flag, and flagrant fouls get the 4-point flag. At the end of a point, total up the penalty points for each team. If it's the same, they wash out, if one has X points more than the other, then there is X penalty points against that team. If X is 1, you put a 1-point penalty flag at the 4th flag station that the non-penalized team can get during that point. If X is 2, the penalized team starts down a body. At 3, it's down a body the next point plus the penalty flag. 4 is down a body plus a 2-point penalty flag. And maybe 5 is 4 real points on the scoreboard.

A team can't win if the last point played ends with the "winning" team having penalty points yet to serve, unless their lead is so great that the losing team can't make it up on the next point.

That's just off the top of my head - almost certainly need some fine-tuning on what exactly X number of penalty points causes for the penalized team, but the basic concept is you have penalties that convey an advantage to the opponent's of the penalized team, but might turn into no penalty at all depending on the outcome of the athletic acts of the teams on the field. (Like free throws, or yardage penalties, or free kicks.)

Baca Loco said...

Given that you have always been from the Brownshirt School of Penalty Enforcement consider me amazed that you are both aware of and agree with me about the nature of the big problem paintball has with some aspects of enforcement.

Beyond that it appears you are responding to an issue that isn't or shouldn't be any more of problem under my system than it is currently. I'm NOT advocating or otherwise suggestions penalties aren't enforced when the infraction is committed. The whole point of the extra flags isn't to defer any calls, it is simply intended to create categories of consequences more appropriate to the infraction.
The only significant difference is that the official making the call communicates the identity of the player called by number and the Ultimate communicates that to the scorer's table. Seems to me all that would be required is a modified roster sheet and/or scoring sheet.