Overheard: Judges Losing Cred

June 20, 2013 on 6:45 pm by Michael Grey | In Overheard, Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts, Solo Piping, Tips | Comments Off on Overheard: Judges Losing Cred

Here’s something: an abridged version of something I overheard in the Cobourg, Ontario games beer tent last weekend (just after Boghall & Bathgate had played their entertaining victory sets). I assume the man talking played in a competing band that day. My impression was he was more bundt than cake. He said:

“The guy [judge] knows shit. He hasn’t even played in a band in ten years”.

Where to begin? Ten years? Forget that there’s no “best before” date on proven experience – at least as far as I know – and, for someone to suggest there is, well, that’s just ignorant. Yeah, times change but expert understanding doesn’t go with it.

I remember being a very young, cynical, smart arse fellow (this guy wasn’t young, by the way) with lots of opinion built on fluffy clouds of nothing. I’m now a not-so-young cynical, smart arse fellow … but with a little bit more wisdom – I hope, I really do.
Trust the Judges
Artists – including pipers and drummers (and our judges) – are as good as their best performance, their best work. Not their last.

Our judges are artists wearing a different hat at a slightly different, perhaps less jaunty angle – though not always. We need them to partner with us to help move the thing – what we do, the piping movement – forward.

I never thought I’d be writing this – at least the 25 year-old me never thought I’d be writing this, but we need to find a way to balance our criticism of judges a little more – and I include me, in that “we”. There’s always room for healthy, constructive criticism of judges – it is a two-way street, after all.

Its very (very) rare (though, I say, even now, not beyond the realm of reality) that a judge knows “fuck-all”, as some say. But, really, in the vast majority of cases, our judges do have credibility and have – ready for this – good intentions.

I think judges can help their own cause a little by tempering what I believe is at the core of the problem: perception of bias. Where possible consider the questions competitors ask themselves all the time:

Geography: Where did s/he come from – what part of the world formed opinions? This can’t be helped but balancing the natural lean to the home town/country team is watched.
Background: Who did they teach? What band did they lead? What band(s) do they teach?
Financial: How many gigs (workshops, interesting judging jobs, golfing trips, etc.) have gone the judge’s way thanks to a band and/or it’s leadership?
Business: Has the judge designed or sold something to the band that is a part of the performance? Kilts, chanters, drums, reeds, tunes?
Relatives: Is the judge married to the cousin of a best friend of the Pipe Major? (sort of joke)

Sometimes these sorts of questions can be tempered, managed by judges. Sometimes, we all know, its impossible.

I suggest that both competitors and judges have a part to play in the overall scheme of things. We need to keep working at doing two things:

1. We need to be aware of the perception of bias – especially in the hyper-sensitive world where we compete and
2. We need to lighten up.


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