Friday, April 21, 2006

Competing in Fear of the USBC

A certain Darren posted a comment to my Coffee and a Cigarette entry. Don't really know which/who this particular Darren really is, but here's what he had to say:

Curious as to what you thought of the judging/judges this year. I heard they were a joke. Take what happened to Ryan Dennhardt. Yeah, they recognized their screw-up and reinstated him in the finals, but then made him pay for it anyway with a 7th place finish. When you do what the judges tell you to do and still get penalized. When the head judge doesn't catch/correct the mistakes of the other judges? This is a joke.

As far as I'm concerned, if you made the Semis you are clearly one of the top Barista's in the country. Who really cares about #1? Ryan came out of nowhere (Kearney, Nebraska actually) to make the Nat'l Finals three years in a row. He's got nothing to be ashamed of (in contrast to the Nat'l judges).

If you are going to continue to compete, I doubt you will say what you really think on this subject, but thought I'd ask.

If people really didn't care about being "Number One" then Dennhardt would never have protested the outcome of his Semi-Finals performance.

Overall, I thought the judging was pretty spot-on. Some of the best judging I've experienced in three USBC competitions.

Well, friendly Darren, you're probably not a listener of the famed Podcast where I've gone on (at times at length) about what I think is messed up about the specialty coffee industry. I even shared my thoughts rather vibrantly on the Dennhardt ruling at the 2006 USBC.

In a nutshell, I thought the ruling was bullshit.

A complete insult to every competitor at the USBC - especially the Finalists.

There is a method and a means to a protest in a competition. One would think (and expect) that such a protest be voiced and filed at the time of the incident. Not the next morning. That's worse than the Monday Morning Quarterback.

If one listens to Podcast Number 33, you'll hear Dennhardt wax poetic about missing the Finals. It's disappointing to miss the Finals, but there's no hint that anything is awry or amiss - or that he has any clue about how close his score was from the Finals or that there may have been some measure of impropriety on the part of the Judges or Runners.

All of that came later. And I think it's because someone improperly disclosed the scores.

Let's look at it from a more objective viewpoint. We're not talking about Dennhardt just missing the 15-minute mark and losing the Finals. He protested his SECOND overtime penalty at 15:30. He's already overtime and then to blame that on Runners and Judges? Like I said below, the Judges are your customers; your guests. They have the prerogative of taking their time and it's still your job to compensate. I'd give the seed of doubt if this were a case of 15:05, but it's not.

Others will desperately try to make it seem "legit." They'll argue about the integrity of the rules, or how some skeptical judge even said it looks legit. Sounds to me like they're just trying to appease the USBC Machine. Others will even question my support of the "Red Tape" - as though I'm not "Third Wave" enough to roll with this.

Fact of the matter is that I've always been a strong proponent of very explicit rules. Rules that limit and define strictly what can and can not be done. And when it comes to protests and challenges, then the rules need to be exceedingly explicit. No provision on video tape review means that there is NO video review. You cannot have video review at one competition without providing it for all competitions.

Don't get me wrong, I like Ryan. An incident in Seattle last year demonstrated to me that he can be a man of character and I respect that. However, it was a Cold Day in Hell in the competitor's room that Monday morning. From the other Finalists to the other competitors, to the members of the audience - the one remark that ran across their silent faces was: "That's bullshit."

It's disappointing to lose the USBC, but it's far, far worse to lose the respect of your peers.