Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fairness and False Starts

At the NYSAFC conference in Verona, on Friday, June 14, for the last race, the “Feature Race” of the day, an incident occurred that marred an otherwise nearly flawless competition. This is something that rarely happens: the siren goes off and no one races. Especially at the conclusion of the day’s competition. 

Let’s try to analyze what should have happened and what did happen, with an eye towards eliminating the problem in the future. 

The rules clearly state that you have Six Minutes to complete the course. This did not happen, ergo, both competitors should have been disqualified. That did not happen

The Starter gesticulated that they needed to “Go!” in every possible manner. Not wishing to end the competition on such a down note, especially in front of a large crowd, the racers were allowed another start. This does not happen in elite competitions like the Olympics. In fact, a false start in the track events results in a DQ. 

The big problem is attempting to be “Fair.” It’s subjective. Fairness only exists in the mind of the beholder. There’s no statistical test for fairness. What might have seemed fair to the racers was not at all perceived as fair by the other racers who had no penalty. 

These are the facts:

Now, the racer who false started might strongly hold the opinion that he didn’t foul. And while we don’t review videotapes, in the instant case, it just so happened that our videographer did capture the (actually two) foot movement(s) before the siren. The Starter also correctly observed the foul. 

The non-fouling racer elected not to run.

So, after contemplating the whole situation, there were several options...

1. Let the second attempt’s time stand
2. DQ both racers since the 6 minute clock elapsed
3. Allow them to run again and call it an exhibition
4. Allow them to run again and 5 seconds to both times

As the managing entity, we chose #4. But that call was not immediately made- and that was our “bad.” Not all options are immediately apparent, especially when the rules don’t cover a situation. Clearly, there’s no clear solution that would please everyone. And there’s downsides associated with each choice. 

You might think that after 22 years, we’d have covered every eventuality or permutation in the rules. But, every year, there’s some new twist that shows up. We will be adding a codicil to the rules that will go something like this:

“In no circumstance will a competitor derive a benefit from the violation of a rule.” You may recall that basketball was changed when it was beneficial to foul in the closing minutes of a game.

We also have the absolute right, and a duty to make a judgment at the time that may not be covered by a rule.

There is precedent in sport for changes after the contest. Like when people test positive for drugs and have their title vacated. Or, when there is a protest on the interpretation of the enforcement of a rule. Wind-aided times are cancelled. In this case, we made our best effort to do the right thing. 

This is not a professional sport, but we make every attempt to be professional. Rarely, do we have controversy over referee’s calls. In fact, it’s my opinion that our officiating is consistent and accurate. For those of you who have taken the time to direct your comments to me, thank you for weighing in on the subject.

We appreciate the passion our competitors have for the Challenge and welcome all constructive input from everyone.

In my next BlogSpot, I’m going to discuss the suggestions that we’ve received for the start. It’s my objective to remove the prohibition against any movement of the feet prior to the sounding of the siren.