Late in the game between Washington, D.C.’s Truck Stop and Philadelphia’s Southpaw, Truck had the disc on offense with a one-point lead, 13-12. Southpaw’s Frederick Brasz got a big layout D on a swing pass, giving their defensive line an opportunity to tie the game.
The disc got moved around to Jibran Mieser, a Southpaw rookie and Rutgers sophomore, on the forehand sideline. After about two seconds, a pick was called downfield and play stopped. Tom Doi, the Truck Stop defender,
indicated he would be coming in on stall two communicated information to his teammates by holding up two fingers; the observer took that to mean he was coming in on two. However, after that, the two players discussed it and — somehow — agreed that the disc should come in on stall seven, a clear violation of the rules.
Doi started stalling at seven and promptly got to ten; Mieser turned the disc over. The observer, unable to make any judgment without a call from a player, said nothing and ran down the field.
This was a bizarre moment in an already contentious game. We will reserve judgement about the motives of the players involved. The bigger issue is that it highlighted one of the biggest complaints about the observer system — they are unable to overrule a clearly incorrect call if a player doesn’t ask them to. However, it has long been required that players know the rules — it is a self-officiated sport, after all.
We think this game makes clear that observers need expanded powers in big games like this one. They are charged with knowing the rules and, with some exceptions, do indeed know them better than the players. Why not let them intervene in a situation like this that is clearly a violation?
Here are some of the best comments about the situation from our game recap.
Unfortunately, at most levels of the sport, there are people with minimal knowledge of the rules willing to make ridiculous arguments (one i witnessed recently – the pulling team has to all have their foot on the line, not allowed to run up and pull)
It’s embarrassing that this level of ignorance can be displayed so prominently, but it really shows a glaring problem, that has an easy two fold solution.
Observers need to be available at more levels of ultimate. if 5 year olds running around playing soccer can have a ref, then summer league can have an observer. If you want to participate in the USAU series, you can read the rules – and we can enforce this with something like a 50 question multiple choice test when you sign up for your yearly membership.
USAU needs to change the rules and require referees at these tournaments. Spirit of the game is a nonsense term that might have made sense when this sport was not as competitive as it is now. Non-biased officials are the only way to ensure legitimacy.
The answer to this question is no.
Let’s look at every other legitimate professional sport in the world, do they use referees?
The answer is yes.
What makes any of you think that self-officiating is a reasonable way to decide an athletic competition? Just because it is a system that may work some of the time and also might inspire players to play with more integrity does not necessarily make it a fair system. People should play with integrity regardless of the system that is in place to enforce the rules. There will always be players who abuse the rules and do not play fairly, but this is to be expected at the highest levels of competition. The best way to ensure people play fairly is to have an unbiased official that can enforce penalties to keep unruly players in line. If anything, a self-officiated system gives more leeway to players who are willing to abuse the rules in order to gain a competitive advantage.
Let us know in the comments how this situation should have been resolved. Does it show the need for changes in the observer program? Do we need full-on referees for big games? Should this have been handled by players on the field, like the Truck captains intervening? We look forward to your thoughts.