Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Sportsmanship - Role & Scoring Method in a Tournament Setting
OK, next big tournament subject to go through, and I'm hoping for comment/input from ya'll (for the marginal "ya'll" that trolls here by now).
An early warning - I'm in a quotables mood today.
What is it, *really*?
Sportsmanship is a variable term.
Defined simply, and not in relation to Warhammer 40k, it goes a little something like this:
1. fairness in following the rules of the game
2. Sportsmanship is conformance to the rules, spirit, and etiquette of sport. More grandly, it may be considered the ethos of sport.
3. the behaviour exhibited in playing sports, either good or bad; the good attitude/behaviour displayed by players of a game; fairness, determination, winning or losing gracefully
4. An attitude of athletes that strives for fair play, courtesy toward team mates and opponents, ethical behaviour and integrity, and grace in losing.
I think one of these definitions in some capacity covers most real definitions of what sportsmanship is.
Regardless, to further bring forth thoughts about sportsmanship in your mind ...
Some quotes that I think have a lot of direct bearing on sportsmanship ... in fact, they're from the National Sportsmanship Day's website.
It must be true, they're famous!
Jesse Owens was an African American participant in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. He spent a lifetime of highs and lows pursuing good sportsmanship.
To quote him as he talked about sportsmanship, and what it took to be a winner,
"In the end, it's extra effort that separates a winner from second place. But winning takes a lot more than that, too. It starts with complete command of the fundamentals. Then it takes desire, determination, discipline, and self-sacrifice. And finally, it takes a great deal of love, fairness and respect for your fellow man. Put all these together, and even if you don't win, how can you lose?"
Near the end of his life, Owens argued against boycotting the Moscow Olympics, arguing the Olympic games represented a time to be separated from politics.
Famous football player and current 49'ers head coach Mike Singletary once said, "Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play."
Finally, a quote that I think will be relevant later on from Mark Twain, " Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."
Sportsmanship in 40k is (or, at the least, has become) something far different or more complex than the above, depending on what event you are at, and who you are. In 40k, instead of sportsmanship simply being something of an adjectival description of a person's behavior, it is often times a SCORE, and it influences the final placing of the participants in a tournament.
Let's take a few common examples of sportsmanship scoring, to highlight the variables in the hobby ...
1. Tournaments with NO sportsmanship scores at all
2. Tournaments where sportsmanship guidelines are in place, and where judge-determined penalties can be applied
3. Tournaments where your opponents rate their opponents in order of preference (most enjoyable to play against), and an individual's average rating is their de facto sportsmanship score
4. Tournaments with a detailed opponent-judged sportsmanship scoring sheet, with points given, deducted, or simply "not given" based upon their opponent's behavior and their opinion of it
OK, Mike, enough already, where's this going?
So what is the point of all of the above, anyway?
First off, Games Workshop provides a game for us to play (or games). These games have a set of rules and guidelines by which everyone must follow in terms of how to participate in the game, and how to design your "army" with which to participate. While often poorly written and in need of FAQs for clarification, these rules are generally pretty clear. Akin to my post about composition, there are no guidelines in the rules regarding sportsmanship, or the manner in which the game *should* be played, other than to say that it should be fun. On this, we can all agree, until we try to define what "fun" is and whose fun is being talked about. Then things get all messy. This is NOT a post about "fun."
I think it's critically important to understand the difference between "sportsmanship" and "trying to make the person you are attempting to beat also have a lot of fun." The former is something we should ALL aspire to when competing at anything, and the latter is an acute impossibility. If you beat someone, you directly inhibit their fun. Outside of a game where everybody draws, or everybody wins, all the time, no matter the result .... you cannot be held responsible for your opponent's "fun." If he loses, he's not going to have as much fun, and the OBJECT OF THE GAME is to win. Now, the object is also to have "fun," but again - outside of your own private groups, this is an impossible variable to evaluate.
Sportsmanship is a factor that encourages players to compete with integrity, ethics, honesty, and good will. It is one thing to not have to ensure your opponent has fun, while it is another entirely to not have to be a considerate human being at all. There's a key difference, and sportsmanship highlights this.
Let's reference the quote of Jesse Owens, a near-lifetime goodwill ambassador and all-around good guy who is still real enough to have had to struggle with his own mistakes as well. Winning is assuredly in part the manner in which you treat your fellow man. Winning is also about determination, desire, discipline, and effort.
Whether it is clear to you as the reader or not, he is speaking of sportsmanship. Doing your best to win with determination, desire, discipline and effort is a critical component of sportsmanship. You insult your opponent and yourself if you do not attempt to win. Similarly, winning and losing with grace and compassion for your fellow man is equally important to sportsmanship.
I see a lot of things in this hobby that make me feel the least sporting individuals are those who most complain about it. The second that you accuse someone of bringing an "overpowered" army, are you being sporting? The second you blame a loss on someone not playing the game in the "spirit" of the game, is that a sportsmanlike thing to say? Rest assured, that when someone is playing like a "colossal douche," it's not difficult for the wide variety of people to ascertain. It certainly has nothing to do with the army he brings to the table.
Let's reference Mark Twain and replace "world" with "40k," eh? 40k was here before you as a hobbyist, no matter when you started. It does not owe you anything. Your opponent is required to play the game within the bounds of the rules, not within YOUR bounds of opinion.
I found interesting note when speaking with a fellow 40k player who attended the St. Valentine's Day Massacre this past weekend with basically the same army he played in the tournament I attended 2 weeks ago. At that event, he considered my army "overpowered" and broken, and insulting to bring. He considered his own army fluffy, balanced, and appropriate. When he attended the SVD Massacre, he was graded poorly on composition b/c the organizers considered his army overpowered and broken/cheesy.
I don't disagree with ANY of those evaluations. I think my own Straken guard is suboptimal, while someone else thinks they're overpowered. That same someone may get the same treatment from someone else with a different perspective.
Does any of this have a bearing on sportsmanship? Should it?
There's a deep discussion to be had here about sportsmanship, but I will try to abridge it and leave it to contributors in the comments section to further investigate. What I will say is that the more power you give to PLAYERS to judge their opponents meaningfully on their "sportsmanship," the less integrity the judgment contains, for as much as people who win disgracefully are unsporting, those who lose disgracefully are just as wrong. More importantly, you punish people who play within the bounds of the GAME'S rules, but not within the bounds of their random opponent's opinion.
To those people who target people for lower sportsmanship because of the army they bring, and because they don't think it fits within their idea of the game, you are who Mark Twain is speaking to, and the world owes you nothing.
A tournament is responsible for ensuring some level of sportsmanship management, but it must work both ways. To that end, what do you think is the best way to judge sportsmanship? Should it be player judged and a significant portion of the overall score? Should it be not judged or contained at all? It should be clear that I sit in the grey, but I don't want to argue yet for a specific position.
Hopefully this has all given you - at the least - some food for thought.