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Author Topic: Referees in Ultimate - Lessons from the NBA  (Read 21283 times)
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Frank
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« on: June 18, 2008, 12:36:18 AM »

The old chestnut...I looked to see if there was another thread I could post this in, but couldn't find anything suitable.

I know in Australia we don't talk about referees/umpires in ultimate that much, at least not as much as they seem to in the US.

But I was looking at some stuff about the NBA Finals today on the internet and found this interesting little article about refs in pro basketball, and I couldn't help but think about how the concepts applied to Ultimate.

Full article is here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/14/sports/basketball/14rhoden.html?_r=1&ref=basketball&oref=slogin

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Playground Rules: A Game N.B.A. Players Grasp

'Magic Johnson, the legendary former Los Angeles Laker, was talking about officiating, the theme of the finals, much to the chagrin of the N.B.A.

In the midst of the series, the accusations of collusion between referees and the league will not go away. N.B.A. referees and league officials are being scrutinized. The integrity of the game is being questioned.

Is officiating overrated? Do we really need referees?

“You need referees,” Johnson said. “Somebody has to have control of the situation and of the game.”

But suppose, just suppose, that an N.B.A. officiating crew could not make the game and the players effectively had to police themselves.

Could the game be played?

Johnson made the point that every player in these playoffs and in the N.B.A. grew up playing on playgrounds and in parks, playing pickup games. They played without referees and could certainly manage without them in a pinch, and the results would be surprising.

“The game may be a little longer, some of the calls may be disputed by the other guys, though the superstar calls wouldn’t be disputed,” Johnson said.

“And then there’s going to be more trash-talking: When I bust you, I got to let you know, ‘I got you.’ In that sense, it’d take us a little longer, but I’ll tell you what: The game is still as pure as it is when you have referees.”

Johnson represented the purity of the game, the unbridled passion for the game. In the N.B.A.’s battle against the negative, Tim Donaghy-driven reports, Johnson would be a great ally.

Referees are, in theory, the great equalizers. But even without officials, players early on develop a sense of justice; they know what’s right and what’s wrong.

“On the playground, you knew who the players are,” Johnson said, noting that when a call was made, it was respected because “you had that respect for skills: ‘This guy can shoot,’ or ‘This guy can dribble’ — I respect his talent.”

You also knew when you didn’t make the right call. “Every person on the playground knew when he got fouled, when he didn’t get fouled,” Johnson said. “If you want the reputation that you really want, you know you can’t be calling bogus fouls. Then they’d be talking about you in the worst way. And when you start making bad calls, they don’t pick you. Dudes don’t like the game to get slowed down by bad fouls.”

He added, “Everybody knows when a foul is a foul."
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The debate over referees in Ultimate has been doen a few times over, but I think the perspective from another sport is an interesting one. Certainly the absence of officials in ultimate has helped to create a sort of self regulating system whereby players have to be civil towards each other in order for the game to function. Any fundamental change to that system such as the introduction of refs would also alter the dynamics of ultimate quite a lot, in my opinion, changing the nature of the sport somewhat.

Any thoughts? The article brings up some good points:

Would people who whinge about foul calls actually be any happier with referees?
Would the introduction of referees remove any 'sense of justice' that has developed in ultimate as a result of having none? Or is there no such thing as a 'sense of justice'?
Are people scared of making foul calls against the best players?
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Tenk283
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« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2008, 01:48:25 AM »

Interesting. Ol' Magic has a point. In all sports (especially those played in the school yard) kids play without referees and get by.

However, there is a big difference between the school and the NCAA. There is an even bigger difference between the school yard and the NBA.

In all sports the object is to win. Schoolyard, it doesn't matter so much. Its more about busting out your best moves or clowning a mate. Not many players would put sportsmanship ahead of that drive to win in professional sport. Especially if they are being paid to win. Especially if they are picked on a team to win. Especially if their coach and a few million expect them to win.

Ultimate is about fair play. Respect and above all love (it was created by hippies.....  Cheesy). Unlike every other sport, winning isn't of the utmost importance. "Spirit of the Game" is. The orientations of the sports are different. Ultimate is truly unique.

[ASIDE: I read the WFDF rules yesterday. Found out a few new things]

Those people that whinge about foul calls, they are within their rights to do so. I don't mind at all if people contest my foul calls. If it was really blatant, i would try to explain the rule to them. But if it was borderline, I would shrug and move on. Same when I contest, I only contest if i think they are wrong. I hope they take the same stance I do.

A ref will give no sense of justice. Thanks to our culture, ref's are amongst the most despised figures in sport. For the sad fact they are human. They make mistakes. As a result, one side is always the "loser" so to speak. They will always be on the end of an atrocious call and there goes any sense of justice. We expect refs to get everything right all the time. If they don't, they are biased. That is the expectations of the public and playing communities.... [aside: i was a soccer ref for 4years]

Ultimate is different, thanks to spirit of the game, it (in theory) shouldn't ever happen. There shouldn't be any atrocious calls. The emphasis placed upon sportmanship should cap that drive to win. But bad calls do happen. However, Spirit of the Game is a double edged sword so to speak. It tells us to respect each other, so if an atrocious call is made, there should be enough "spirit" to sort things out amicably. Again, doesn't always happen..... Its a nice dream though.

Calling fouls on the best players? Love it. We have a few worlds players here in newcastle, and as soon as I catch something iffy, I call it. Just like I expect them to call a foul on me if I break the rules. People shouldn't ever be intimitated into not calling fouls. Possibly intimidated into marking off the player by 10m..... But never scared out of actually playing fair.

There is a difference between being an ass and wanting to play fair. Being an ass is pulling out some weird and unheard of rule to slow down the other team. Playing fair is calling a travel when the handler has walked into the huck after setting his pivot.

At most, we should have adjudicators. Or something similar. Experienced players that sit on the sideline (with a rule book) and watch the game. If there is a massive argument, they can be called on and a resolution found. I believe there will be something similar at the Youth Nats tourny next month. IMHO, they should only be called in if there is a major problem or the rule is unknown. Everything else is left to the players.
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a1214
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« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2008, 11:02:28 AM »

I played waterpolo for 4 years before moving to ultimate which is an interesting situation compared to ultimate and sort of sounds a bit like the end of the article about playing against the referee.

To give you an idea about fouling in waterpolo a short excerpt from "The 2002 Water Polo Handbook,"
(under the heading of general tactics - defense)
The object of the team not in possession of the ball is, naturally, to prevent the opposition from having a threatening shot at goal within the 35 seconds allowed...
... Before they reach the shooting area, try to slow down the break either by foulding of jumping between the attackers...
...(defending at centreback) ... This is a real art... When possible you must try and give the minor foul delicately, without holding, sinking or pulling back.

Exclusions for major fouls such as pulling someone who was about to score/swimming on top or someone and a few other things are so common that 6 on 5 plays on defense and offense were both expected and strongly trained points.

One of the first lessons we had from our coach was about fouls and importantly how to play the ref, how to draw out fouls (making things look worse than they really were to get a foul called) and how to foul delicately and discreetly (not getting fouls called on you while playing aggressively at the player/ball)

Referees definetly have a huge impact on the way the game is taught and played, as he says in the article it says knowing about the referee and pushing the limits as far as you can, a lot fewer people care about sportsmanship. I remember one game finding a ref that would literally let me push away a player with my hand while holding the ball (not allowed while in possession of the ball) and once i knew that, i exploited it every time i had it, and scored 2 or 3 goals that I really shouldn't have been allowed.

But equally I think the good thing about ultimate is that there is never a referee to SPOIL a game. As the article says people know when a foul is made, and so does everyone else weather they say so or not. There was too many games I played in waterpolo that were completely ruined by the referee. One was a set of 4 games over 2 days against 1 team, the first day we had a terrible referee, brutality underwater, pushing, shoving and grabbing were going on every player I marked. Both teams complained about the ref and second day we had a proper ref and the difference was amazing none of those things happened to meo n the second day playing against the same players. Keep in mind both the teams respected eachother and liked eachother, it was a yearly competition and that person who was punching you was also the person who let you sleep at their house that night becuase of billeting.

As for ultimate, I got my hands on one of the Ultivillage dvds with the tournament in the USA where there are 4 all star teams playing off and they played with refs. During one of the player talks after the second or 3rd game or something one of them mentioned that teams had started fouling a lot more since referees were missing the calls and players would foul until they were 1 foul of a serious penalty then stop it to take advantage of the fact you can gain from fouling.

So I guess this whole basketball pick up respecting players and the rules and how it works on the streets and for fun but not as well during real games, I think the exact same thing woudl happen in ultimate...
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gref
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« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2008, 11:43:37 PM »

I find from the US games that I watch, that observers seem to have almost the same effect as referrees.

If any kind of official were introduced into the world version of the game, I think they should be limited to line calls etc, and perhaps even not necessarilly able to overrule a player's viewpoint.
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Tenk283
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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2008, 03:03:01 AM »

I was a soccer referee for many years. One of the major issues was "positioning and proximity".

Basically, the angle at which you view things and how close.

Players have the best angle and the best proximity. It cannot be bettered. Grin Unless you pull out video replays. But I hardly see that as viable technology for league at the local park of a wednesday night....  Cheesy
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gref
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« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2008, 03:07:02 AM »

Also though... even with a video replay, fouls are incredibly hard to call, and players will block the angles of the camera.

About 50% of times a try is scored in Rugby, they don't have an angle which the video ref can use to confirm/deny the try.
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The Brucemaster
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« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2008, 08:46:26 AM »

I've been a football (soccer) referee since before I started playing Ultimate and I've always pondered this question. I think there would be problems both created and solved by introducing referees, especially in Ultimate. The main problem is the one brought up by a1214, that as soon as you introduce referees there is probably more fouling that is going to occur. This is because without referees, it is the players' responsibility to play fair, whereas as soon as you have a referee it is his or her responsible to ensure fair play and the players will do whatever they can get away with because they no longer have that sense of responsibility.

On the flipside, though, I can see it stopping some of the disputes that occur on the field and prevent people from calling fouls that aren't fouls or calling them when they can't etc. As an example, I was playing in a league semi where I was on the mark and the player hucked it a good 30 metres but as he followed through (and after he released the disc) he made contact with my hand and called a foul. I would have said this was incidental contact and, because he got the disc 30 metres down field, didn't affect the throw so therefore no foul. What annoyed me more, though, was when he tried to quote the rules saying that rule 4.6.1 (which doesn't exist and also rule 4 is about equipment) justified his call. Having a referee would have prevented the dispute, if not the call itself.
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gref
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« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2008, 11:42:49 PM »

In that case, it's up to the offending players team to say withdraw the foul if they are sure that it did not happen.

In the case that fouls like that are called repeatedly, teams or players should be warned of bad spirit, then not allowed to continue in the competition if similiar event recur.
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MattA
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« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2008, 12:14:02 AM »

as a halfback in Aussie Rules footy, i will give my opponents a minimum of 15 wedgies per quarter, while they were pulling their pants out of their cracks, i'd stop their toes....and the best part is that when the turned around and punched me in the face, well my team got the upfield penalty because the ref's could see the obvious fouls/punches etc.

in short on the aussie rules field i am a BASTARD.
reason? because if the ref does not see it, then it didn't happen.

I DO NOT WANT THIS IN ULTIMATE.

watching certain players form USA (James Studarus - worst calls i have ever seen, but otherwise a good handler) is painful, because the game becomes a farce. we counted over 75 foul calls in the 04 Open finals at WUGC. not a great game if you've ever watched it. i use it as a teaching tool to show newbies what NOT to do. (ie: do not call a foul if you grass the disc and the nearest defender is 3 feet away from you!!!!)

only in savage 7's are there no sideline viewpoints that can be queried a-la 08 Notionals Open game - players could not determine feet in or out, asked best perspective sideline spectator, call agreed by players, move on. (a great example of how the game should be played.

refs = the death of spirit.

my $0.02
cheers
mattA
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luweekoh
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« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2008, 12:15:55 AM »

What annoyed me more, though, was when he tried to quote the rules saying that rule 4.6.1 (which doesn't exist and also rule 4 is about equipment) justified his call.

cam, you dont have to name the player but which team was this?

people who think they know the rules but dont (they dont know the correct rules or have misinterpreted) annoy the hell out of me. its fine not to know every single rule (i dont) but if you are not sure then dont argue! all too often you get (especially experienced players) people who either dont know the current rules (stuck in their old ways) or just have misinterpreted rules (too stubborn to get clarification).

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Jangles
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« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2008, 12:33:15 AM »

I think observers if they have been trained well would work great at an elite level however i havent had too many games in which they would have been used.
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gref
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« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2008, 03:18:24 AM »

Watch more games with observers in, before you make that call.

Here's the finals of College Nationals in the US.
http://www.cstv.com/video/?s=videohub&vid=6792

In the first point a guy calls a foul on the mark, because the stall gets high, although in general this game wasn't as bad as I had remembered.

Edit:
Here's the game in fullscreen without ads, right click to save => http://mfile.akamai.com/9192/wmv/cstv.download.akamai.com/9192/cstv_videos/collegiate_nationals/2008/060608_cn_ult_open.asx
« Last Edit: June 27, 2008, 04:00:11 AM by gref » Logged
simmo
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« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2008, 03:47:00 AM »

A key difference between us and the States when it comes to spirit is that we all know each other, so we're less inclined to be a dick.
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Tenk283
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« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2008, 03:53:18 AM »

I hate elusive foul calls too....

I've had a similar one called on me. The fellow threw the disc, it went flying up field and on the follow through he hit me in the forearm with his fingers.... Clearly had let go of the disc. Anyway, there are only two ways to go about this. Contest and don't get into a massive argument over it. OR have adjudicators.

I figure, if I think they have called a BS foul, I contest and leave it at that. Later on, I often try to speak with them about it. When the heat of the moment has passed and we both have our heads on straight  Grin.
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Tiger
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« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2008, 06:49:28 AM »

We should just have ludicrously hardline rule changes that would neatly solve the problem of long, protracted arguments about fouls without the need for observers.

Listen-

If a call is contested, the appropriate action is taken. Any unnecessary talking/bitching results in a point for the other team.

Both sides are presented the opportunity to explain themselves at the party if the call is important enough to whine about six hours later.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2008, 06:52:45 AM by Tiger » Logged

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