Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baca's Mailbag: Reffing & Playing the Game

Mark said...
Minimizing the impact of that "third" team on the field would be a good start. I gotta say it is still pretty intolerable at times to watch a game where no one makes moves, and the only "excitement potential" is whether a penalty will be thrown. This can "appear" to open up the action as the opposing team wants to capitalize as well as save the penalty time for the next point, but it's at best artificially induced, and at worst arbitrary and on a whole makes the game look like the amateur-production it wishes to aspire beyond. 

Someone inevitably brings up the real pro sports in discussions such as these, and I'm the first to cringe when they do, but where they swallow their whistles and let the players play (dirty or not) in big moments, at least paintball has the advantage where the officials can (or used to) actively enter the fray and signal/pull eliminated players. 

And just how does a major on the Dallas layout equal a major on the MAO layout? If a paintball referee uses the same criteria for a major penalty how can a league abide by an average 3 point swing at one event and a 1 point swing at another? How does it look for a team to come up from the challengers bracket, then blow through their prelims in champions, then be suddenly plagued with penalties in the final game? No fanboy here, just how does it look (big picture-wise) as an aspiring serious sport?

I wanted to respond to Mark's comments and questions more comprehensively than "comments" allows so here we are. Partly because his remarks appear be directed at the PSP--though he doesn't say so directly--and is something I can discuss with some authority and partly because his remarks also reflect, or so it seems to me, a frustration common in tournament paintball wherever it is played and likely to be of general interest to this audience. I will respond to the first two paragraphs broadly in responding paragraphs and then answer the specific questions by order of appearance in Mark's remarks. Hope that's clear.

First I want to agree whole-heartedly with the spirit of Mark's first paragraph. I have seen my fair share of cringe-worthy calls and at times they had nothing to do with the accuracy of those calls according to the rules. But here is where I would diverge from Mark's position. Suggesting that calls made are "artificially induced" and/or "arbitrary" may simply be rhetorical devices but they're also unfair and unproductive. Artificially induced suggests 'made up' or nonexistent implying refs are making calls that don't exist and arbitrary implies randomness. I will agree there is, and must be, some degree of randomness but only because the refs aren't going to see everything and not because they're picking and choosing what to call or not call. If Mark's larger point is that he would like to see more consistency and less game-changing calls made I think everyone would agree including the refs. But it's important to understand for our part we have to assume good faith at a minimum or what's the point of making any effort to improve? And beyond that it isn't simply the refs, it's also the rules and how we understand and apply them. And in paintball it's also the fact that we don't have a lot of options in what the impact of a called penalty is so we're sometimes left with what seems like overkill and other times leniency. But on the plus side these are all issues that are being addressed. Nobody likes hearing that it's going to take time but at least in the PSP a comprehensive effort to improve is underway.

Given the first paragraph this one seems a little schizophrenic but whatever. It describes, whether intentionally or not, the tension that is a constant part of officiating. How non-subjective do we really want our refs to be? And do we write our rules accordingly? Or do we write them in black and white but give the refs some leeway in their interpretation? One school of thought says black and white across the board. Rules are cut and dry and enforcement ought to be as simple as implementing the rules 'cus we don't want our referees doing anything except enforcing the rules. Another school of thought might be called educated subjectivity which relies on straightforward rules but gives the refs some leeway in calling a game based on standardized training and an official interpretation of the rules in-house. On one side of that coin you get the calls by the book in each and every instance regardless and in the other you (hopefully) get a regulated game that takes more account of the game play than simple rules enforcement. The problem is you can't have both when one or the other suits.

Because the penalty remains the same.

The potential impact of a penalty may vary but that is a function of the teams playing and the layout they are playing on. One unintended consequence of "fast" field design is that it can produce an impact variance from penalties called.

While that particular situation hasn't occurred this season the implication is, if it had happened, or when something similar happened, "they was robbed!" Of course this assumes the only variable is the refs and also assumes either incompetence or some sorta conspiracy. None of which is true although granted refs sometimes make mistakes and sometimes see calls differently than you or I might see them.
As to the Big Picture implication nobody--especially the league--wants important matches to either swing on penalties or appear to have been decided by other than the play of the game on the field. But as I've tried to demonstrate it's a more complicated problem than do something about the referees. And if the reference is to the Heat-Impact match in Chicago that was both a little bad luck and self-inflicted. One of the Heat's majors was for tossing a hit pod (which should have been a gross major) and another was for a shoe hit--and given the brittleness of the paint in Chicago--could have easily happened with the player none the wiser.


Michael Brozak said...

The "win at all cost" mentality is rampant in all sports. If players didn't cheat we wouldn't need refs and Paul you would be "outta job". Unfortunately rules are rules, so black and white seems like the only option when enforcing rules and issuing penalties. Subjectivity in calling penalties is a tough one, just based alone on everyone's different moral character. What's wrong in one persons eyes absolutely might not be wrong in someone else's. I don't mean any of this to be negative towards players or refs, its just a hard road for you travel Paul and I don't envy your position (no offense).

Baca Loco said...

I think perhaps you misunderstand the context in which I'm using subjective. There is no moral component. I'm not interested in policing "cheaters" or enforcing rules because they are, well, the rules. Sometimes rules need to be changed. When I refer to subjective officiating I'm references interpretation of the rules in a manner consistent with the flow of play. I don't a single rule interpreted ten different ways; I want the application of the rules to be understood by the refs in context. My next post will address this concept in greater detail.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks there is no subjectivity in reffing (judging, policing, etc) is naive.

Everything so some degree or another is subjective. Because we're all individual (subjects) and our perspectives, interpretations, what we see, etc. is all somewhat unique.

Obviously there is a lot of overlap where we can find a bunch of common ground.

But there have been too many experiments and studies to list that have shown we all observe and take notice of different details when viewing the same event.

So we can pretend this subjectivity doesn't exist and consistently be frustrated at the margin (where our commonality of agreement ends) or we can recognize the subjectivity and work with it in a productive way.

That being said, I'm absolutely unqualified to offer details on how to take this into account...

Michael Brozak said...

Paul -
Understood, but on what grounds would their interpretation be based? Aren't the rules written in black and white? If not would it still be considered a rule or just an option that one could choose to enforce or not (aka the proverbial grey area). Then at that rate wouldn't it then be subject to a moral reasoning. Maybe what I'm thinking about is the severity of the penalty - is it a major or a minor? A penalty is a penalty, but what's the damage going to be?

MistyQ said...

The solution to reffing 'errors' is simple. Each team gets a 'Joker Card' per event. They can only play it once, after a major penalty, and once played, the penalty comes off the board. The joker needs to be a large inflatable that the pit-crew have to throw onto the field in a comical fashion, or it doesn't count.
This way, every team gets to rid themselves of that one penalty they (for sure) didn't deserve.

If you think about it, its genius.

Mark said...

Sorry if I wasn't clearer in my first paragraph. I meant the ACTION is artificially induced when the refs pull a penalty during a boring point, not the refs penalty itself.
Nor did I mean to imply the refs calls were arbitrary (their choosing red or yellow flag to the contrary perhaps), I meant for the game as a whole. Hence big picture. The game just watches bad (if you are hoping to see the players decide the outcome).

Today there are more refs and less players on the field than at any other time in this sports' history. For 10 years we've had this penalty box system and there doesn't really seem to be any decrease in infractions. Assuming it is all warranted, the players are not playing that much cleaner (Ok maybe CEP is), and as a result the game does not look as good as it could in my opinion. It just seems that the refs officiate more than they referee the game.

I am (or was) a fan of the game, not a player nor a team. I played it, I enjoyed watching it once.

Anonymous said...

Everyone agrees that there will always be the possibility of officiating errors. Intentional or not they can swing games or downright decide them in the worst cases. The question no one is asking is: Is there a way to minimize or correct gross errors by the officials? Most professional sports have solves this with technology, instant replay and limited challenges. On the higher divisional fields of PSP and Millennium, how hard is it to install cameras to record the match and allow then each team to have 1 or 2 challenges? Like other sports, the decision on the field can only be overrules by an obvious error. Given the investments of time, training and money teams put into this sport (and drive its success), it seems only fair to implement a system that ensures that all that hard work is resolved by the players on the field, not by the officials.

Baca Loco said...

Thanks for the clarification.

Interesting idea but I don't see it being practical. Is there extra monitoring equipment? A review ref? Or does it all go thru the scorekeeper and their laptop? How much time is allotted to check video? What's the standard for changing a call on the field?

I think we've seen enough from other sports where continuity is important to see that instant replay isn't instant and frequently doesn't add to the game in any real way other than to over rule the occasional call. I'd sooner the NFL and MLB do away with the technological aids and go back to warts and all football and baseball.