Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ties not limited to Father's Day

In September 23, 1908, Fred Merkle committed a base running error when his teammate crossed home plate for the winning run for the New York Giants. The crowd stormed the outfield. Convinced the game was over, Merkle, who was heading to second base on a Al Bridwell single, turned around and headed for the club house. The Chicago Cubs recognized Merkle had never touched second base and scoured the area for the baseball, even tackling a Giants fan for the trophy. Long story short, the Cubs retrieved the ball, tagged second, and recorded the out, negating the winning run.

In all the hoopla, the game ended in a rarity for the sport of baseball, a tie.

The National Hockey League eliminated ties in the 2005-06 season, ruling that games would end in a shootout after a five-minute 4-on-4 overtime period. Prior to the ruling, teams earned 2 points in the standing for wins, and 1 point for a tie. Currently, any team losing in the overtime period or shootout is awarded 1 point for an overtime loss.

The National Football League currently records 17 games ending in a tie, the most recent between Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals who played to 13-13 on Nov. 16, 2008.

Historically, they don't occur often. Roller derby, or more specifically the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, has particular guidelines to ensure that games do not end in a tie.

That changed on June 16, 2012, during a contest between Windy City and Minnesota. While the scoreboard at the end of the game showed Minnesota the victor by a 160-155 margin, further scrutiny of the score showed the point total should have ended 155-155. The game and its outcome are currently under review by WFTDA.

You can watch the bout, available at YouTube.

The game remained incredibly tight throughout the 60 minutes.

In a game in its amateur stages, roller derby doesn't have the luxuries afforded professional athletic competitions, namely the backing of an independent officiating organization.

Derby's DIY attitude unfortunately extends to the referee and non-skating officials, as each league is customarily sharing talent when they bout. The home and away teams each bring in their own talent to staff bouts.

Thankfully, with WFTDA's recent addition of a leveled certification for NSOs and it's already rigorous referee certification process, the sport is slowly transitioning into a uniform standard. Most tournaments are staffed via a head referee and head NSO selected talents from an applicant pool.

I'm not sure how the MINN-WCR bout was staffed, but I'm assuming it's through the former process of a shared talent pool.

The problem with any system is that mistakes are made. The problem with derby is that there's so much uncertainty to be translated by a small set of eyes.

Points in most other sports are easy to spot: The ball goes in the hoop, the puck goes in the net and the guy with the ball crosses into the end zone. Points are clearly assigned based upon an event in which very little interpretation is necessary.

In roller derby, the jammer scores the points by legally passing blockers as she skates in bounds. Points require a jam referee to be watching his/her jammer while accumulating information from several sources.
-An outside pack referee relaying a penalty or No Pass No Penalty inside
- An inside pack referee relays Out of Play penalties so a jam ref can appropriately determine pass/point
- The penalty box may hold ghost points

Even after points are awarded, the officials may find that points were Awarded in Error, and must take them away or that the jam referee missed a point in the box.

Or worse, there could be a math error or a mistake between the score sheets and the scoreboard.

Lots of things could happen. And they do happen. Mistakes are made. It's unfortunate that a bout had to be "called" if even unofficial in error and now the outcome is left up to WFTDA.

I'm not sure how the situation would resolve, but if it is found to be a tie, then I think the teams should have to skate in a makeup game. Regardless, Minnesota certainly proved it deserves to be at the top of the North Central Region.

The last six minutes from fan video: