Monday, October 05, 2009

Celebrating mediocrity

I noted with some interest a few weeks ago that our first regatta of the fall was about to institute a team points trophy. These are usually awarded based on a points system that considers not only where one placed in the event, but the kind of event. They tend to favor teams with breadth, or at least scale. And I freely admit that as a large organization, we do well in these. We have many people who race many events, and we tend to do well. I figured we'd be a lock.

Seems the points system in place for this regatta failed to consider one other important element: How many people were in your event?

Now it may or may not be fair to award more points for winning the 8+ than winning the 1x. One can argue that a club needs just one great rower to win the 1x, but needs 8 to win the 8+, and the award is for overall excellence.

But I think it stands to reason that one also ought to consider how many other boats were in the event. Winning the 1x is impressive: You're often racing 20 other people, sometimes more. In the 8+, sometimes there are 12 crews, but for some of these smaller races it's only 7 or 8. Granted, it takes 8 folks to field a boat, so there are naturally fewer entries. But I think some kind of relative hierarchy where

8> (4+ = 4- = 4x)> (2x = 2-)> 1x (if number of entries are equal)
Winning over more entries > winning over fewer (if same event class)
Winning > placing

Seems one of the local high school programs showed up. And they were the only high school that showed up. So for about 4-5 events, they were the only competitor. They won by default. And when you take first and second out of 2 in all the high school 8+ events, you get a lot of points, because there's no discount for racing no one.

Meanwhile, my club won and often took many of the other top spots in almost all the other events. Where we actually raced other clubs and crews. i.e. there was a non-zero probability of not getting first place.

Yet we didn't get the points trophy. Wow.

Petty of me, but I like putting more hardware in the trophy case. And it's nice to give the other clubs a chance to go home with one, I suppose, as we're pretty dominant.

But I thought we were out to celebrate excellence, not entering the under-subscribed events. And when you create a perpetual trophy, you want it to be more than just a self esteem award. Oh well, rant over.