Most that know me personally understand that I am a football fan. Not a casual fan, but a Bears fan…Da Bears! Anyway, if there is a game on TV, I am assuredly watching, and if you too are a fan of football, you are aware that the NFL has locked out their referees in a contract dispute. The NFL started the season with replacement officials, mostly from the college ranks. As the preseason was underway, I thought they were doing okay, and even as the lockout progressed into the season, I thought they would get better. That just didn’t happen and as the games got faster and more physical; the officials just could not adjust. More and more, the topics of the sports media focused on the poor officiating.
"I believe the game's just moving real fast for a lot of these guys," said Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson of the replacements. "It's kind of like coming from college to the league; things are moving a lot faster.” Thinking about having watched the poorly officiated Falcon vs. Bronco Monday night game on September 17, and then seeing Johnson’s quote, I remembered something I wrote last October in my “Over the Edge” editorial.
ISU Communication No. 1700 just came out and the US has just one judge at this year's ISU World Championships...in pairs no less. Yes you read that right...one judge... although that pair judge gets to judge the preliminary round of ladies as well. Great...in comparison, Turkey has 2 judges, as does Russia, Japan, Italy, Canada, Austria, Denmark, Czechoslovakia and Israel. Belarus, Germany, and Great Britain have 3 each. But the big winner is China with 4! FOUR! How does this happen? This is how that happens ...
Is this really the best way to judge our most important event? In my opinion this selection process is more like a lottery and you have about the same odds of winning. I'm sure this is done so the ISU can stand back and throw up their arms in defense and say it's a fair and impartial draw. I understand that...they go to great lengths to convince everyone that this is a fair process....even going so far as to pay for an independent certified Swiss auditor to witness the draw, but by doing that the ISU have introduced randomness to this very important process…
Regardless of the process, the outcome of the draw DOES influence the makeup of the panels. Just because everyone gets an even shot at a spot does not mean that we get the best panel. It's left to chance and although it protects the integrity of the leadership from media scrutiny, I don't think this helps the outcome. We all expect our leadership to stand tall and lead...not to hide behind a process that gives the same odds as you get in Vegas.
I liken the NFL using replacement officials to the extreme randomness of the ISU Rule 582.4 that picks the judging panels. As noted in the editorial, the US had one judge at worlds, and Turkey had two judges. Like the replacement officials, you cannot tell me that the quality of the judges from Turkey is going to be among the best in the world. They just don’t have the opportunity to see and judge a level of skating in their country that prepares them for the world stage. In football, the lead story every Monday is now about the poor officiating, not the games being played. Is this something that figure skating can afford to happen as well? Can we allow judging to be the story? Honestly, there were concerns expressed regarding the judging of the dance event last year. The ISU has to come up with a better plan to select the very best judges for ISU events. The sport is depending on it!