Issue 47: TBA or not TBA?

Discussion around the Kitelife Office:

Okay – Kitelife Magazine is supposed to be all about “For the overall good of kiting,” right? I mean, that’s what we say out loud, and by and large we pretty much mean it… Still, every now and then we get to musing over some of the de facto “standards” in our sport – some of the ways we do things. Some standards make perfect sense once you understand ‘em, but a few really don’t make much sense at all. Lemme give you a perfect example…

One of the things we do, of course, is hold festivals and competitions. We say these gatherings are for our own pleasure – but they’re ALSO one of kiting’s major ways of enticing the public into joining us in our pastime. Mostly, we do a pretty good job at festivals too, with kiters (both the dyed-in-the-wool “comp” folks and the fun-fly/display kiters) being easy to talk with and pretty willing to chat freely about anything “kiting” with the public… And, if enough interest is shown by a non-kiter, things like casual impromptu flying lessons can usually be arranged right on the field. Shucks – we all want others to join us in our sport, eh? “Anything I can do to help…,” right?

Well, I’ve recently had the opportunity to announce at a small indoor festival. And one of the things that I always took for granted came up in a discussion with a non-kiter. They wanted to know why judged events delayed giving the scores out after each performance… and what the heck was a “TBA” anyway?

Now, I DO know the reason why… The “raw” scores are delivered to the Scorer, and at times will be “adjusted” at the scorer’s table. In some cases the high and low scores are dropped and the competitor’s remaining scores are “averaged,” all done in the interest of fairness. Anyway, it’s only after the scores are tinkered with that the competitor scores become “Official.” And, by the time that occurs, the next competitor is usually part way through their performance… So, an on-the-field score isn’t really a FINAL score, and it’s difficult if not impossible for the announcer to give out each competitor’s score immediately. Moreover, kiting has this strange desire to keep the top three scores confidential until later (those To Be Announced or “TBA” scores she was asking about) so the awards can be a big “surprise” at the coming evening’s Banquet! And that’s all well and good, right? I mean, that’s the way we’ve all just come to expect it to be…

But the non-kiter I was speaking with had an entirely different perspective on scoring. She’d been watching the Winter Olympics (on TV in between kiting events, of course), and so EXPECTED kite competition scores to be available to the audience immediately. “I mean – they do that in the Olympics! Why can’t we hear the scores over the PA system right after each performance?”

Hmmm… And I had no real good answer to her query! But maybe we aught to take a look at the whole concept…

What’re we REALLY doing here, folks? Yes, I know comps are for the competitors! But as an Announcer, I really see myself as both an “educator” and an “information source” between the audience and the activities on the field – helping the audience understand and enjoy “The Show,” if you will…

So, there’s the real rub! Are we kiters actually “Holding Competitions” for ourselves, or are we out there “Putting on a show?” And – never mind what YOU think – that audience, for the most part, believes that “The Show” is what interests them!

Okay, so maybe the two concepts are NOT mutually exclusive… I certainly think it’s possible to do both, and do them well at an event! So what’re the pluses and minuses, and what needs to happen? And, most of all – WHY?

Well, I personally believe that kiting needs to “adjust” itself to put on MORE of a “Show,” simply as a way to entice more people into our sport. In an age where more kids are into TV and playing video games than participating in ANY kind of sport, getting a few “newbies” into kiting is a concern. I mean – we’re seeing the AKA Membership decline, folks. Festivals are falling by the wayside. More kite shops are closing than opening by far. So what’re we going to do to pull more people into the sport of kiting? Well MY vote goes toward adjusting our thinking a bit to make kiting more pleasurable for the non-kiters. And I don’t think it’d take all that much effort either…

I believe – without some change to entice the non-kiting public – kite festivals will continue to decline, though slowly. And that’s a definite minus! Brick-and-mortar kite shops will continue to close – and while Internet kite shops are holding their own, it’s pretty hard to visit one and fly their demo kites. I also think that the kiting community can “play to the audience” a bit more and hopefully at least hold our own or perhaps even grow the kiting community slowly – which would be a real plus in my book. In addition, if we can standardize our “scoring” methods so that fairness is maintained and audience interest also increases, that’d also be a win/win situation!

WHY? Well, firstly for the growth of the sport, this is a real concern of mine. But also because I think the adjustment would hardly cause a ripple in the fabric of kiting, and might make some difference in enjoyment level for those who are NOT kiters… Yeah, we need a little thinking and discussion here to ensure that the level of fairness to competitors is maintained, but that’d be all it would take. Shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish, eh?

Granted, this is all just my opinion, here… Agree? Disagree?

What’s YOUR reaction?

Dave “Geezer” Shattuck

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