Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We’ll Be Right Back After This Message

For the first time in our 20 year history, we broadcasted the entire World Challenge XX competition via Livestream. Well, that’s not quite accurate. For the past two years we ran a stationary camera and a chat line.

Thanks to the contributions of Lion, this year we invested a lot of resources to bring you a live show that was worthy of Primetime. With two fixed cameras, two tethered shooters and a jib, all directed by 8-time Emmy winner Rick Lewis, the show had the look and feel of an ESPN production. Matter of fact this is very similar to the show that we produced for one of our ESPN telecasts using a production truck.

The numbers of viewers were impressive. We had a total of 757,337 total viewer minutes- that’s thirty times last year’s total. There were 42,371 US streams; 11,461 in Canada, Germany: 5,601; Slovenia 2,812; France 624 and New Zealand 507.

Right now, you can go to http://www.livestream.com/firefightercombatchallenge to view archival footage. All of the broadcast has been backed up on a 2TB hard drive and we’ll begin the process of editing the segments into clips for uploading on YouTube as well as some special features such as “Bloopers of the Challenge” and a highlight reel.

This is tedious work and will take some time, but hey- we’ve got five plus months before the season starts anew.

The really good news is the numbers of subscribers. We had viewers from around the world. The compliments that we’ve received warm the cockles of my heart and inspire us to add even more content and features next year. The Air Force Academy, Elgin and Warren produced vignettes on their teams and we encourage more of these kinds of features for next year’s show.

Maria Prekeges who is a familiar face on a number of ESPN shows conducted nearly 50 interviews. We’re going to make some changes to the placement of our loud speakers so that you’ll be able to hear her better. We’d like to hear from you- about anything you liked, didn’t like or wanted to see. This is the time that we start planning for next season.

I can guarantee you that there will be commercials; that’s how free TV works. This grand experiment had some significant costs; but now that we’ve proved the worth, as they say, “well be right back after this message.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Count Down to WCXX

The purpose of this BlogSpot is to get out in front of the questions that typically arise before, during and after the World Challenge. If this is your first World Challenge event, congratulations! If you’re returning, welcome back. After last year’s highly successful competition, we’re following our format for last year. The Wildcard Eliminations start without fanfare at 9AM (0900 EST), Monday through Thursday, November 14-17.

The Venue: Broadway at the Beach
All of the activity will take place on the parking lot at Broadway at the Beach. The landmark is the Hard Rock Cafe. We have rotated the orientation of the tower by 180°. This will provide even sunlight and reduce shadows. The Keiser Force Machines now have heated trays, thereby eliminating any differences in the coefficient of friction caused by temperature. This system has been in use for the season and has expunged complaints about red versus blue side differences. There is ample room for “camping out” with your pop-up and lawn chairs. This is one of the huge benefit over Las Vegas- a topic that I will address in an upcoming Blog.

Rule Change: Finish Standing
There is a rule change since last year on hand-held timing. Competitors are required to finish standing up. They must stop the clock by dragging the feet of the Rescue Randy® across the threshold. Lunging backwards is a dangerous and highly discouraged practice. It also damages the SCBA units and tears the carpets. And most importantly, it does not get you a faster time since it is the position of the dummy’s feet and not the torso of the Competitor that counts. Subsequently, we implemented a penalty of 2 seconds to be added to the Competitor’s time when a Competitor fails to stop the clock. Everyone that has ever been involved in a sprint sport knows that lunging or jumping interrupts terminal velocity.

Benefits of a Controlled Race
This has had an immediate benefit in reducing the number of finish line crashes and the associated ambiguities as to who actually won the race (i.e., we no longer have to have a conference of officials to look at hand-held stop watches to decide an outcome). Since its inception, the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge® has had in place the same timing paradigm and technology for measuring races. In an attempt to promote a safer playing field and consistency across all the nationalities that are licensed to conduct competitions, we will appreciate your cooperation and adherence to the protocol of running under control. Clayton County, who broke the World Record with a blistering 1:07, finished standing and even put the dummy on the transporter cart. If that doesn’t validate what I’m saying, then I don’t know what else will convince you. Well, actually the 2-second penalty might do it.

Wildcard Eliminations
The Eliminations have become highly competitive. While we like to boast that this is “The Toughest Two-Minutes in Sports™” the fact is that you’ll need a time significantly faster than two minutes to make it in the open category on the final day. An oft-heard complaint is directed at teams that make it with people who are significantly slower than two minutes. Our clear preference is directed to qualifying teams on the basis of their fastest three times. Everyone on that team is treated equally; they all get a pass. Historically, individuals who were predicted to have their time counted in the top three have had a bad run, resulting in a fourth member of the team contributing his time. Just as all members of the World Series team earn a ring, so likewise do the members of the winning team. Please don’t gripe about this structure. Get a team together and you can likewise collectively earn a spot on the final day. Simply stated, we just don’t have enough slots for everyone that’s sub-whatever to race on the final day. We have opened up sufficient individual slots to ensure that there is a fair representation within all the categories to guarantee that even a person not on a team has a chance to take first place.

International Growth
It is our quest to create a truly international competition. I cannot say with certainty how long it will take to achieve critical mass of say, 25 nations fielding teams, but ultimately, the World Challenge will be comprised of only one team from each country. The event may also move to another continent. And what is now the World Challenge will become the US Nationals. Until that day, we afford our foreign visitors byes into the final round because they have earned these slots through competition in their native land. This is difficult for some Competitors to accept as they feel that the final day should be based solely on merit, and not based upon the country of origin. We subscribe to the Olympic model, even at this early stage of our competition. If we want more foreign teams- and we do, then this is a reasonable concession. To this end, we opened up the number of US slots so as not to deprive the truly outstanding athletes an opportunity to compete. The practical reality is that we can’t run an 8-hour competition. Next year, we will be holding events in Germany, Canada, France, Austria, Brazil, New Zealand and Slovenia. All of these competitions welcome you. We hope that you’ll appreciate the hospitality and camaraderie that is extended by this rapidly expanding international brotherhood.

The March On
There will be a formal march on of all the states, provinces and countries on the last day (Saturday). We will play the national anthem of the host nation only. This not meant as a slight to any person or peoples; but from a practical and protocol perspective, we will follow Olympic traditions.

This year will be providing a professionally produced Livestream broadcast. Last year we had over 25,000 viewers with no promotion other than word of mouth. You’ll be able to watch live- on your computer every day’s activities including post race interviews and analyses. Lion is the presenting sponsor and we extend our thanks to them and our other sponsors for making this possible. This will be of great benefit as you’ll have a sense as to where we are in the start order by viewing the home page. A word of warning, however. You are still responsible for showing up on time. Not unlike the Olympics, we have had to disqualify people for being no-shows.

In Summary...
I trust that this information is of benefit. I also hope that the people who need to read this will avail themselves of the opportunity to realize that there is a bigger purpose behind the growth of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge than to satisfy everyone’s ego.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Let’s Hear It for the Old Guys

This past weekend in Fort Piece was a homecoming for a lot of Challenge veterans. In one of the over 50 relay races, these competitors boasted over 500 years of collective life experience. I had some quality time talking to Walter White who’s been with the Challenge since its inception. He’s seen his original department, American River morph into Sac Metro. Walter is now a Battalion Chief and is running solo. At one time, American River was a national threat. It seems as though the younger generation doesn’t have the same mental toughness as the old guys. We’ll talk more about this and expand on Walter’s particular insights on the Challenge and the fire service in an upcoming blog. (BTW, Challenge veterans, have you ordered your patch yet- it’s on this link: http://firefighterchallenge.com/VeteranProgram/home.php)

But, in the meantime, what was very interesting were the comments of the course volunteers. Indian River State College provided some of the best support we’ve seen so far this season. Comprised of instructors, staff and students the red shirts made the event run like clockwork. It was as though they had been training for this event for some time. A recurring topic of discussion was the respect and admiration for our over 50 crowd. This indelible image of real, tough guys who were posting impressive times was not lost on the spectators.

Our announcer, Mike Word would point out many of the accomplishments of these grizzled veterans, never failing to mention their ages. For recruits, what better example could be made of firefighters in the twilight of their careers still able to run the course in blistering times. This does not happen by accident.

For the better part of 9 years, I wrote a column for Fire Chief magazine. In one such article, I facetiously remarked that we should eliminate PT (physical training) from the recruit curriculum. Actually, I was half serious. After all, why should it be management’s responsibility to rehabilitate you to get the job that you should have been prepared to do the day you walked in the door.

If you had not been maintaining your fitness on your own time, what makes us think that you’re suddenly going to have a change of heart and start working out once you’re actually hired to do one of the toughest jobs in America today? A recent anecdote makes my point. Larry Hinds had suggested that climbing an aerial should be a routine drill for everyone. After all, this is an essential function of being a firefighter. The chief pushed back, knowing full well that a significant number of incumbents were physically incapable of performing the task. He’s still looking at it.

Hard to believe that we can take seriously the mantra, “everyone goes home” when in fact, a lot of these people should stay home. And it’s even worse that we know we have the problem and won’t do anything constructive to address the huge, looming problem of a workforce that is unsafe at any speed.