Re-runs have really become a biggie in the world of recreational team roping recently. While everyone is in agreement that they are necessary, the interpretation of the PRCA term "ability to compete" has been debatable and fairly subjective. The entire issue is causing a perpetual headache for contractors and flaggers as they try to establish balance in handling them and at the same time try to figure out what to do with the chronic customers requesting reruns at every turn. These chronics seem to fall into two groups, the people who reason they have nothing to lose by asking for reruns at every roping, and the people who believe that anytime they miss it is the fault of the steer.
The rerun issue has reached a point where finding and keeping good flaggers is getting harder, particularily at large ropings. The flaggers argue that they are in a no-win situation as not granting and sometime granting, seems to create a conflict, and their explanation rarely ends the conversation. As a result, flaggers seem to avoid those conflicts by two different methods; those who rarely give anyone a rerun, and those who seem to give everyone a rerun. Obviously, that statement might be a little simplistic and extreme, but if they plan on flagging for an extended amount of time, they generally develope a personal policy for conflict management that doesn't involve the philosophy of the contractor or association.
With millions at stake we went way overboard at this last Finale addressing fairness with the cattle. If you were there, then you couldn't help but notice how much extra attention we gave to be certain the bulk of the rotations were clean. We had a rerun judge sitting at the back of the arena to pick up anything a flagger might have missed, had the break-out barrier to settle the speed arguments, had a support official in the arena to intercept ropers before they reached the flagger and act as laison between the roper, flagger and me to make sure every contested run was reviewed. And finally, we had the instant replay video.
Let me share a little of our experience from the 2012 Finale replay desk. About half of the ropers who requested reruns refused to agree when instant replay did not go their way, even after two or three replays. It is pretty clear why the NFL has the replay guy in a booth by himself. The NFL makes the decision upstairs, followed by the head official making the announcement on the field, which is followed by the television cameras quickly scanning over to the coach on the sideline so you can read his lips as he mouths "that's bullshit." The difference at the Finale is that we voluntarily put ourselves in the position of standing next to the roper, their partners and sometimes their spouse at the exact "that's bullshit" moment. We know there is a lot of money at play, but in most instances the roper, with his/her gang of support, wants to argue regardless of the evidence. Our experience this year has caused us to rework our thinking in reviewing re-runs at the next Finale.
In the history of team roping we know of no one that has dedicated the amount of resources that we did to make sure contestants at the Finales had more than adequate oversight. But evidently that was not enough……………. if the team did not get the decision they wanted the debate seemed to continue. Our NEW PLAN for the 2013 Finale- At this year's Finale a replay official will be monitoring from an isolated location. The replay official will have the absolute final decision, and the debate WILL end at that point. The answer from the replay judge will be a simple yes or no, with a one-sentence explanation. I expect a few attempts to appeal to me directly, but I have confidence in this review process and therefore should have plenty of time to perfect my "ridicule and scolding" speech should someone reject the process. It will be short.
But even with these efforts it doesn't answer the overall issue of how our qualification contractors deal with this growing problem with their flaggers. As noted in the rule book I have asked all the contractors to step up and handle the situation. After the flagger makes his call, step in and take any conflict away from the flagger and away from the middle of the arena. Obviously we have some of them that aren't crazy about that idea, and they are generally instructing the flaggers to be super conservative. But that doesn't go over real well and creates more conflict for the flagger. If we aren't careful the idea that you should get a fair shake can backfire and the flagging actually start being worse instead of better. We have noticed that about half of these rerun requests are being generated by the same individuals. We are doing our best to make sure that the flaggers at the qualification ropings know who the chronics are, and make sure they these folks don't get the benefit of the doubt. That addresses half the problem, but to be honest we don't have a clue how to do anything different or better than what we are already doing.