Re-Writing the SpoCan Rulebook

Posted: November 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

So, I was elected for another term as the Spoken Word Canada National Slam Master.

Right up until the night before, I was unsure if I would re-run and was leaning towards no.

What changed? We started talking about rules.

Basically, there is a wide interpretation of the rules of slam. The rules are as written, but the application of them is quite varied. Often it comes down to a judgement call which leads to inconsistency.

I am actually not opposed to judgement calls, but we have found ourselves in a situation where by-the-book rulings don’t always ‘feel’ right.

There were two penalties awarded during CFSW this year that I didn’t agree with, despite them being the correct call as per the rules, both written and reiterated on orientation.

I witnessed two rules complaints during finals, neither of which I agreed with (and they weren’t called), but both could be argued given a very strict reading of the rules.

All of this brings up the conversation… rules according to whom?

When I started slamming, the rules were passed on my word of mouth. People just kind of ‘knew’ the rules. I went years – literally – before I saw a non-time related penalty levied. I have never given one (though I have given warnings).

That’s right. Never.

It wasn’t until I started hanging out with Sean McGarragle that I learned where these rules even came from… and that they had been codified and set in stone.

They were National Poetry Slam rules. Why? Well, just because, I guess. They were doing it before we were and there was this idea that they knew best.

(Side anecdote, just to bug Sean, if he reads this: As early as 2009, I was lobbying to change our tie-breaker rules to use ‘Strength of Schedule’, as we called it in the L5R community. It was a clearly better way to determine who had achieved more during the competition. Sean was skeptical. I tracked it for a few years, showing who would have been in the semis instead if we used that method. Then, around 2012, I think, Sean sent me a link saying that NPS had adopted a new tiebreaker system and it looked pretty good. He wanted me to check it out. I did. I replied back, “You’ve got to be kidding.” He answered, somewhat sheepishly, “This is what you’ve asking us to adopt for the past 3 years, isn’t it?” It was.)

So, my question at this point is, why do we follow the NPS rules?

I am not saying there is anything intrinsically wrong with them as a concept, just that they may not be what serves our community the best.

So, this is my goal for the year, between now and CFSW 2016 – I want to rewrite the rules of slam, line by line.

And I want your help to do it.

I am going to post each discussion up here, and I am really hoping people will weight in and give opinions on the rules and what might be better options. I will kick it off with my opinion, but I would like to see a real discussion.

I will take that feedback to the soon to be formed Rules Committee and we will take recommendations to the SpoCan Board.

I’m not talking about changing the fundamental nature of slam… but you never know. Let’s see where this takes us. IN the end I hope for better, clearer, easier to follow rules that actually suit OUR community, as opposed to the NPS community.

This should be fun.


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