Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hammer Time!

Here we go again. Another discussion about officiating. Unfortunately it seems it's needed. The PSP has been a leader in developing referees and oversight but it isn't the sort of thing you get right once and then don't have to worry about any more. It is and always will be an ongoing process and while the ultimate quality of the officiating has fluctuated it has always been a PSP priority. Well, it needs to be front burnered asap.
Here's the situation. There is a new rule book for 2013 that included some significant changes. There is a new pro division. Has the Challengers division divided the existing pro crew over two divisions? (I was told no earlier this season.) There is and always has been some turnover among the refs. How many new to the pro field refs are there this season, if any? I was told in Chicago that one of the refs (nearly all) the teams have an issue with was on a short leash in Chicago after MAO. And if the rumor VFTD reported about dissension within the pro refs group turning into a verbal confrontation Saturday evening is accurate it's clear that the current effort at institutional control isn't working and even the refs themselves aren't in agreement.
Toss in some data offered anonymously in a recent comments section breaking down the points played this year in the Champions & Dallas and the number and type of penalties called at Dallas and MAO and it will perhaps be very revealing of what occurred in Chicago when (if) we get those numbers. Through the first two events minor calls have outnumbered majors slightly with a penalty being assessed approximately once every 3.3 points. If the Chicago results diverge either by type or number (and I suspect it will be both) then the league has a problem that it must deal with now.
At this time I can't say what all is contributing to what appears to be out of control reffing that is only getting worse but from a Big Picture perspective I know what needs to happen to fix this problem. First, all the refs must know the current rules inside and out and given a few calls in Chicago they don't--or they don't care. Second, the league should develop a set of guidelines for the refs that indicate how the league wants its rules interpreted to improve consistency of the calls. Third, there needs to be oversight focused on maintaining a high standard by constantly evaluating the effort on the field and working with the refs individually to assist in their improvement. Fourth, the refs need an attitude adjustment. They aren't the cops and the players aren't criminals. Their job isn't to punish the guilty it's to enforce the rules of the game to ensure a fair result. Too often refs have the mindset they are judge, jury and executioner and it's the absolutely wrong approach as it creates an us versus them mentality that is not in the best interests of the game.


Anonymous said...

I doubt the ref vs player mentality will ever go away as that is how the game has been made to be played.

There is a lot on the line at these tournaments and players will do everything they can to win. They will push the limits constantly. I'm convinced that all players cheat, it's just a matter of catching them in the act, which is why the refs have the attitude that they do. That's never, ever going to change unless the players don't cheat. Which is never, ever going to happen.

If the refs are not the "judge, jury, and executioner" then how do you expect the players to respect their calls? They argue with them enough as it is.

sdawg said...

What is interesting, is that these problems are shared by all sports at all levels, with perhaps the exception of perhaps the Big Time, mainstream professional sports. And even then, referees are always getting blamed, because of the convenience of doing so.

The root cause of refereeing problems in paintball appears to be that there is no referee development program of which I am aware. The PSP may hold one-day clinics a couple times a year at remote locations, but that's hardly enough. Look to other sports for examples of how to build a corps or officials.

As a competitor and a fan, I never understand why a minor or major penalty is thrown. For example, if a player is eliminated with an obvious hit and fires his gun, that is a major penalty, right? But seems like a minor penalty is sometimes assessed. A lot of referee discretion appears to be at play, which is probably the cause of this consternation.

sdawg said...

*corps of officials.

Nick Brockdorff said...


You absolutely exemplify what the problem is.

Players don't "cheat" - They play to the limit of the rules, and then sometimes happen across the line to where it is in breach of the rules.... and then they (usually) accept the penalty gracefully.

This whole mindset that paintball players are "cheats", is the primary reason there is an adversary relationship between players and refs, and it is (in any league), the organisation who is to blame, for not properly educating their refs on decorum and mentality.

Why is it that many refs seem to be short tempered, adversarial nazis, that seem to generally hold players in contempt?

Is it because they are recruited out of backwater scenario fields, where "cheating" is something almost as bad as stealing or drunk driving?

We have to have a complete change of the mindset, and it has to be imposed by the league(s), and in turn the individual they put in charge of their refs.

Refs are there for one reason - and one reason only:

To make the game fair.

It should (and is) possible to be friendly, mild mannered and courteous while doing that job, and if it is not, I put it to you that you have the wrong people doing the job, who lack the mental capacity and intellect to be level headed under pressure.

The most important thing a change of the reffing mindset will achieve, is that refs will become people you can actually talk to as equals, and not least, that refs stop being so scared of admitting when they make a mistake.

The simple act of sometimes saying "I fucked up, I'm sorry" will go a long way with players, and mean that players also change their attitude towards refs.

And now onto the rules:

First and foremost, It should be standard operating procedure, that when a player is eliminated, the ref tells him why.

No, this will not start a debate, or bring us back to when every call was debated endlessly.... but it will ensure the ref knows why he is making the call, and it will stop a lot of frustration amongst the players for what they perceive as "bad calls".

All it takes is the ref saying "in your harness" or "playing on", or whatever, while he eliminates the player.

Secondly, the rulebook needs to be simplified a great deal.

Let's do away with all the silly rules that were only relevant in the woods, like out of bounds rules, leaving equipment behind rules, etc.

Those kinds of rules serve only one purpose today: Dealing out penalties for stuff that have zero real impact on the game.

Simpler rules are simpler to follow, and simpler to uphold by the reffing crew.

Nick Brockdorff said...

One more thing:

We should do away with the whole "intent" thing in the rules.

When refs calls change according to whether they feel the player intended to cheat or did so unwittingly, we create a lot of room for mistakes (dare I say bias).

Again, simplify:

If you play on (unwittingly or not), you get a penalty - end of story.

It's no different in other team sports... it doesn't matter if you meant to "cheat" or not - the penalty is the same.... and instituting that change would make the job a whole lot easier for refs.

And yes, it sucks being eliminated and penalised for a harness hit you didn't know was there, while you are rolling your gun at the opponents.... but it HAS to be a penalty for 2 reasons:

1. It stops the bad apples from breaking the rules on purpose.

2. It balances out the game and makes it more fair, as the opponents have suffered a gun shooting at them that should no longer be on the field.

Anonymous said...

That verbal altercation wasn't a rumor... I watched it happen in person. Ref screaming at Leon, and had to be restrained. Fast forward to Sunday, and that ref is replaced on the CHAMPIONS field by a new ref... Not an experienced ref from challengers, but a new ref. Then that ref makes calls that affected the outcome of a top 4 pro match......

Anonymous said...

There should be no allowance for refs discretion. It either is a penalty or it isn't. One type of penalty.

The Penalty time needs to be 1:00 for Pros. 2:00 is way too long and dramatically effects the game. For divisional play it should be a 2 for 1.

Anonymous said...

There have been new refs filtering in and out the last few events, no matter what they say. And yes, they finally put a leash on Tony for his bs calls, to visibly change the game. They have had complaints and proof of bs for years but have always protected him. I do have to say, the two newer snake refs did a pretty decent job after some first day jitters. But there definitely needs some retraining or consensus, on how one refs see an incident as a minor and another as a major.

Anonymous said...

I REALLY hope Anon 1 is not a PSP ref ... LoL

I can't speak for everyone commenting on here but for me this isn't about drawing a line in the sand. It is not players versus referees or any of the ‘us against them mentalities’. Rather it is about figuring out what can be done to make the game better.

The bottom line question is: Is there enough oversight and accountability of Pro referees? I’m a big fan of Pitch F/X. Complex models that give a wide array of data of every pitch and subsequent call in the MLB. One subset that can be extracted is umpires behind the plate accuracy of calls. MLB has used some form of this data since 2002 I believe. What it does show is that when there is a model in place for evaluating in a tangible way, judging improves. Where it doesn’t, then measures can be taken.

I do want to say I disagree that players are cheating more or trying harder to do it. In the Pro ranks, prelims games have never had such narrow margins for success or failure. The risk factors are just too high.

The Ton Tons for example had at least THREE majors in their relegation game. I find it hard to believe they were deliberately rolling the dice with so much on the line. Overzealous, maybe. Poor decision to a split section reaction, possibly. Deciding to cheat with the consequence of spending at least 6 of the 20 minutes with four players? I just don’t see it.

Aside from any number crunching, the feel of to many games was that reffing lost its transparency. Instead of guiding fair play, it dictated outcomes. .. again and again. And THAT is what we want look into and adjust.

David Dorfman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Just wondering what your take on the incident during the 187/Infamous game. Where a few grandstand people and one of the 187 coaches caught an Infamous sideline coach calling someone in the pit area to run the same play again. The snake refs did nothing about it. Should it have been reported by them to Leon to investigate? Or is the communication rule with sidelines and pits no more??

splatkid10 said...

I agree with simplifying the rules. I played an affiliate league event and we were given a major for shooting downfield prior to the start (not a malicious act, just a whoops moment). On the webcast this past weekend a minor was thrown for that same offense in one of the challenger matches. In the rulebook it only states the player becomes inactive, so my interpretation is you can't play - start with 4. Regardless, that's 3 vastly different interpretations of the same rule when they should all be the same.

There definitely is an us vs. them mentality, and it's not just at the pro level - it goes all the way down to affiliate leagues and divisional play. Refs are there, IMO, for two reasons; keep the game fair and keep players safe! Those two reasons can be seen in any sport, that's what officials do! Unfortunately, refs feel like they are playing the match as well and it's almost as if there are bets between them on who can throw the most flags.

Also, it seems like a lot of time refs make split second calls when in disagreement with another ref. Anyone remember when the replacement officials bombed that endzone play (it was right before they all got fired)? More refs on the inside of the field may help with this. A good example is when a major is thrown for someone who appears to spin, but does not shoot, and his teammate roasted the guy from across the field - spinning penalty then thrown.

Side note - Part of the issue is the speed of the game, and I'm not talking how fast we all are out there...but almost every call could be bang, bang because of the speed paintballs travel at.

Anonymous said...

Rule Question. No person appearing on the roster of a team may employ an electronic. . .device. . .to communicate. No team may engage non rostered persons to employ electronic . . .devices. . to communicate. . .or relay information to the players or staff.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised Tony was only sat one game after his blatantly obvious call on the 187 Tonton game in Dallas. He tried to argue with the 3 other refs that had the best view and new what happened. Leon came out and reversed Tony's major against Tontons, then followed Tony around the next few 2 min breaks berating him it seemed. No one would respond or address that incident on PBN and brought out a lot of eyes on him. That is one reason I think you are right about a leash put on him. I did see Jason Trosen give him an earful this last tourney over the bs major he threw on K-Fed.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Those communication rules need to be reworked.

They are there to ensure nobody uses a bullhorn or something similar to snake coach (or indeed countercoach).

These days, nobody can stop a guy from being in the stands and texting plays to the pit (ever see the russian coaches in the stands with their clipboards during their own matches? ;)), so we might as well dispense with that part of the rule.

And anyway, why IS it illegal for a coach on the snake side, to call plays between points electronically? - it's a BS rule that has no relevance to the game.

I say:

Go back to rostering the snake side coach, go back to giving him a specific enclosure - like in old school x-ball - but put it between the netting and the spectators, and let him communicate to his heats content, electronically, between points.

Anonymous said...

snake side coaches are allowed non the roster again.

Anonymous said...

are allowed ON the roster again.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Well, there is no point to rostering them, if they are basically just spectators.... why is why I call fo the designated coaching areas to be reintroduced.

Anonymous said...

Being on the roster allows access to the pit before and after a match.

Some snake side guys are more integrated into their team than others.

If for no other reason its a convenience thing.

Baca Loco said...

953 anon
It remains illegal to contact the pit electronically--though in the past when it was discovered it wasn't always penalized, simply stopped.

IP said...

Nick Brockdorff,

Your idealism about referees is heart warming and laughable at the same time.

Until there is significant financial incentive as well as much more stability and consistency to the position, smart, personable, and level headed people are going to be anywhere BUT working on a paintball tournament field. Thats like asking the Queen of England to be cabbie in Manhattan. Not happening.

I have a lot of respect for refs. They have to put up with more egos and primadonnas than a gay pride parade. On top of that we have an ingrained culture amongst the top ranks of DO EVERYTHING IT TAKES TO WIN. EVERYTHING! And it isn't new. I remember old school players like Marty Busch teaching his clinics and teaching up and coming players not only how to get away with everything short of wiping mask hits, but also how to argue a ref into submission.

I totally agree on the interpretation stuff. Allowing for "intent" determinations is asking for trouble, and consistency has always been a challenge. These are areas where there is opportunity for improvement.

But really, lets just call a duck a duck. Players ruthlessly push for every edge they can get, legal or illegal, and there is not enough incentive to draw refs from a talent pool that includes all the qualities we would all love to see. That combination makes it very easy to slip into laziness and/or totalitarianism on the ref side.

Pete said...

Re: Nick Brockdorff and intent...
I agree the intent clause in the rule books is problematic, however your assertion that no professional sports consider intent in their penalties is entirely wrong. Basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer certainly do, not sure about football.

Nick Brockdorff said...


There are plenty of "the right" people out there who would want to ref the top division in the best league in our sport.... but without the right person to do the hiring and infusing the right mindset in them, it's not going to happen.... I've reffed plenty myself to know.


Basketball: A screening penalty is the same whether it was "intended" or not.

Baseball: I have no clue :D

Hockey: An offside call is the same, whether "intended" or not.

Soccer: A penalty kick is a penalty kick, it doesn't matter if you were just clumsy or brought the guy down intensionally.

I'm sure you can find examples for "intent" being part of those rulebooks, if you dig enough, but that isn't really the point.... the point is we should not use it in paintball, except ofcourse in those penalties that are outside the normal scope of play (violence, etc.)

Nick Brockdorff said...

By the way:

PSP has 17 affiliate leagues in the US alone.

Is there basis for having 10 full time employed refs, that ref them all as well as the Champions field in the PSP?

Probably not... there will be too many dates that clash.... but maybe we can get halfway there?

Pete said...

Stick penalties take intent into consideration, so does knee on knee contact and come head contact. Baseball hit-by-pitch takes intent into consideration. BAsketball there's the whole Flagrant foul issue and intentionally striking someone with the ball... Soccer tackles and other things take intent into consideration... But I am agreeing with you, just maybe being a dick about the veracity of your examples. I think things that look more like assault than intentionally playing on are what you're talking about with intent, and I agree whole heartedly again, like J-Rab and Thomas Taylor.