Friday, March 16, 2012

Rules and Common Sense

2012 PSP Galveston tourney play saw a player perform a DMW (Dead Man's Walk). There's a thread over on PBN with lots of the expected debates and comment. ( You can go check it out if you like. There's even video from what looks like a marker cam that seemingly proves the player executing the DMW was never shot and never indicated that he might be eliminated by calling out or raising either of his arms anywhere close to shoulder level (his arms were hanging down at his sides).

The play was legal. There is no rule that says a player cannot walk in the open on a field. DMW's are not executed much anymore these days. In general, players playing tournament ball are "helped" off the field with some extra paintballs, or shown some "extra love" once they have been eliminated. For the record, I hate bonus balling. I think it greatly hurts the growth of our sport. I hate it on tournament fields and even more on recreational fields. If a player at our (recreational) field purposely bonus balls another player, that player will not be returning to our field for a while, or possibly ever.

The player executing the DMW did not break any rules of the game. Was he playing paintball in the spirit of the game? Of course not. Paintball (at least tournament paintball) isn't about theatrics. It's about physical ability and skill. There is no way rules can be written that would specifically disallow a DMW. Refs would need to make subjective decisions as what is and isn't a DMW and rules should eliminate as much as possible the need for refs to make subjective decisions.

But there are rules in place that deal with DMW's. If a player calls himself out or raises his hands above his shoulder, he has indicated that he is out and can no longer engage in play and must make his way off the field to the dead box. There is no gray area there. It's black and white. However, many players will call themselves out (some don't even do that) and walk off the field without raising their arms. These players are often "helped" off the field. Most often there is a lot of noise during play that players will not hear a player call himself out. If that player than moves out of his bunker without having his arms in the air, he has no reason to complain if he gets a few balls coming his way. However, if the player has one or both of his hands raised high to indicate he is no longer in play, he should not be shot at, especially if the first thing that exits the bunker is his raised marker. If he then gets some extra love, the player that shot him should immediately be called out by a ref. There is not much gray area for the refs to get lost in. But refs choose all the time not to pull the offending bonus ballers. It's "part of the game". But should it be part of the game?

Other sports try very hard to protect the health and safety of their participants. The NHL regularly changes rules in the spirit of making the game safer. More importantly, refs are given the mandate to make calls that are seen as an attempt to go beyond regular physical play with an intent to injure. For instance, a player may body check a player along the boards. It's done many times during a game. But if a player deliberately hits another player with an obvious intent to injure, especially if hitting from behind, the offending player is penalized, often times with suspensions lasting several games and financial penalties (fines). The NHL refs obviously have to make some subjective decisions, but without eliminating physical play completely, that can't be helped. The onus is on the checking player to check in such a manner as to not deliberately try to injure another player. For the most part, it seems to work. Overall the objective is to make the game safe for players competing and obviously that is in all the stakeholders best interest. It's good for the players and it's good for the league.

Competitive paintball has rules in place. The DMW in Galveston will undoubtedly strengthen the desire to "help" players off the field. In my opinion, in competitive paintball, if a player is walking on the field without his arms raised to indicate he is out, he should be shot. It's not a difficult thing to lift your arms. However, if a dead player is shot while his arms are raised in the air, players from the other team should be pulled. Consistently. There is no reason not to pull offending players. If a player argues that he did not see the dead player's raised arms...too bad. The onus should be on players to make sure players they are shooting at are indeed alive. It doesn't make sense to have rules in place and not enforce them, especially when they are hurting the sport.

Eliminated players should raise their arms and keep them raised until they are off the field, and players shooting dead players with their arms in the air should be pulled. Every time. Common sense. Enforcing these common sense rules will only help the sport grow. There is no negative side to the enforcement. I don't think players are going to stay home because they are not being bonus balled and I don't think players have an argument when they get pulled for bonus balling. If players stay home because they don't like getting pulled for bonus balling. Good riddance. The sport will be better off without them. Let's let common sense prevail in the spirit of the game.