Living the dream, Chapter 2: The End of a Sport?
Well, its been far far too long since the last time I touched on this topic....or posted anything at all, for that matter. This is a response to the recent developments that happened surrounding the Big Dawg Finals at the US Water Ski Nationals, as well as a follow up to "Living the dream, Chapter 1" , which you need to read first, if you haven't already. If you need to get caught up on what happened at the Big Dawg finals...use This Link to get your foot in the door....if you need more....you can find that Here. A lot of discussion has come up regarding one of the best skiers in history, Jeff Rodgers, asking for a re-ride in the Big Dawg Finals. Ultimately, he was granted a re-ride (basically a do-over), and after more than an hour of delay, and 75% of spectators leaving the shoreline....Jeff moved on to the final...bumping out Dave Miller. Jeff lost to Andy Mapple shortly after that, and ended up with a second place finish...but no one really cared about any of that. The focus was on the huge delay, and the judgement call that spurred it all to begin with. This highlights a fundamental problem with Water Skiing at the moment: the ability to lean on the judges to make the call. Let me take you back to US Nationals a couple of years ago, in Illinois. A skier in Men 3 goes inside buoy #4, but continues skiing and ultimately gets a score that puts him in first place. Everyone watching knew he went inside the buoy (as a slalom skier, you have to go OUTSIDE buoys to get credit for having gone around them...kinda makes a lot of sense), but the judges working the event had already scored him. There's nothing that could be done. He goes on to win, unjustly. I immediately sparked a conversation on the shoreline with one of the officials and leaders of our sport....we talked and realized there is absolutely NO RULE that allows a skier to correct their own score when they know they have been given something they didn't get: whether its missing the gates, or going inside a buoy. Now think about that for a second. In a sport where the skier cannot correct their own score, what sort of culture does that nurture? I will tell you it develops the unwritten rule that exists today in competitive skiing all over the world: If the judge gives it to you, keep skiing. In 2005, at a MasterCraft Pro Water Ski Tour Stop in Flushing Meadows, NY, I was skiing in the semifinals. It was a very challenging site, and many of the best skiers in the world had fallen or continued to fall early at the 39.5 off pass. I struggled through my first 3 passes....and as I came into 39.5 off, I drifted at the start. As a result, I went too early for the gates and center punched the right hand gate buoy. Pissed, I kept skiing....was early to buoy 5, safety turned it, and coulda tried to squeak around the last buoy, but had no intention of risking it as I knew I was gonna get the pass taken away. The Judges gave me 5. I had to speak to 3 different judges, including the chief, and they all said it was a judgement call and that they scored me 5 and that they couldn't change it. I ended up tying for 3rd place. Their has to be a new rule, that allows skiers to correct their own score. We need something that will help to change the paradigm in this sport, away from "if the judges give it to you, keep skiing", to "if you know you missed it, do the right thing." As a true professional, I know that my job is not only to ski the best I can ski and represent my companies to the best of my ability....but also to inspire the youth. Not just inspiring them to ski, but inspiring them to be better people. Taking a buoy I didn't get is the exact opposite of teaching future generations to be better human beings. That leads me back to Big Dawgs. Dave Miller might have got the short end of the stick (no dawg pun intended) the other night....and good on him for speaking up and wearing his opinions on his fur sleeve, many folks gain respect for him for that...but I have to highlight 2 things:
- Dave said the following regarding Jeff Rodgers and the controversy "...the reason all the Big Dawgs went wild is because none of them would consider asking for a re-ride due to lights. Its just not something that would cross our minds. It is not that Jeff is a bad guy he just hasn't been a part of the Big Dawg group long enough to know. He did what he would do in a Pro event." I hate to read that from such a well respected Big Dawg. Insinuating that Big Dawg skiers hold themselves to a higher standard than Pro Skiers, is a hard pill for me to swallow. Because I can't buy it. Its not true. Of all the night finals I've skied or witnessed....I can't remember 1 where a skier asked for a re-ride due to lights. Dave is heated and emotional...I don't fault him for getting wrapped up in the moment....but Big Dawg skiing does not contain any higher amount of moral fabric than Pro Skiing....if it did, there wouldn't be a need for an internal call to action for Drug Testing due to the suspiciousness of Big Dawgs being able to ski 5 practice rides the day before they ski 4 tournament rides.
- Just the day before, in the 1st round of qualifying, I caught some of the skiing. I witnessed Dave Miller run 2.25 at 41 off. But What I saw, along with at least 3 other Big Dawg skiers and countless others, was Dave going inside buoy 3. Not a big deal. As I have stated before, there is no precedent (unwritten rule) for a skier to correct their own score if they know they've been given extra buoys.... I don't fault Dave at all, because the system is set up to allow the skier to lean on the judges call at all times. But looking back, in light of what happened during the night final and Dave's resulting opinions on the controversy.....I can't help but see a huge conflict. Yeah, Jeff Rodgers felt he was entitled to ask for a re-ride...so he asked. He asked, in my opinion, because there is no penalty for simply asking. Remember, our system is setup to allow the skiers to lean on the judges at all times. So, Jeff innocently asked for a re-ride. Dave was bummed....Big Dawgs don't do that. The judgement call of allowing Jeff to get a second chance was not "acceptable" according the the Dawgs at the dock....and thus you have a 1+ hour delay. But the day before, Dave accepts the judgement call of 2.25 at 41 off. It was a call that was in his favor. He went further and posted it on Facebook. I don't know if he knew he didn't get around 3 or not....but he certainly must have realized it was too close. A lot of people watching that day saw it and knew he didn't get around 3. But Dave leans on that judgement call to the point of sharing it with the world.