Rewriting the Rulebook – Section 3c & d

Posted: November 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

The next instalment in the Rewriting the Rulebook project.

c) A designated team representative will provide information to the
Slammaster before the bout begins denoting the names and corresponding letters for each of the four or five members on the team.

I included two points for this section because where could there be discussion about this one?

Purely logistical.

d) Each bout will have a sacrificial poet (also known as a calibration poet), selected by the Slammaster or their delegate, to calibrate the judges. The sacrificial poet will perform before the official competition begins, and will receive scores from the judges as if they are a part of the competition.

Everyone knows about sac poets, but there is an unwritten policy about them as well. One that has been broken over and over… and one that I think it is okay to break.

The unwritten policy always has been that the Slam Master will not choose a Sac Poet who has any sort of affiliation with any of the teams in the bout. That sometimes is broken due to circumstance. At the recent CFSW, Brad Morden ended up as Sac Poet in a bout that CapSlam was in. Brad is the former Director of the Capital Poetry Collective – the organizers of CapSlam.

Nobody seemed to care.

I think the REAL unwritten rule is that the Sac Poet should not be given any sort of introduction. Nobody will be told where they are from so the judges will not know of any connection. Only the poets will, and that doesn’t really affect anything.

So, I would say it is PREFERABLE that there be no connection between the sac poet and any of the teams, but as long as there is no ACTIVE, IN-BOUT connection (like the Sac is coaching a team or something), it is not a big deal.

  1. […] Discussion: Bout Draws Section 3b – Discussion: the ‘alt’ rule, or lack thereof Section 3c & d – Discussion – Sacrificial […]

  2. Christopher says:

    Could the Slammaster act as the sac poet? Perhaps here, and in many sections, and two-tiered list of qualifications and/or restrictions could be used. That is, a *shall not* and a *should not* level of guidance.

  3. halogenglass says:

    Not sure if this is the right section to comment on, but has there ever been a discussion of limiting how high sacrifice scores can be? I’m not sure exactly how the slam masters explain the sacrifice to the judges, but from my experience, in bouts where the sacrifice gets high scores it throws everything off for the rest of the night, especially once score creep sets in.

    At CFSW we tend to have sacs who are fairly prominent poets, often doing one of their best poems, which means the scores often start in the 9’s and have nowhere to go. What would happen if the judges were told they couldn’t score the calibration poem over 9.0? If it really was the best poem of the night then everyone else gets 7’s and 8’s and that’s fine.

    I’m not sure if that’s actually a good solution, but I do think the slams where everything is between 9 and 10 are a real problem.

    • rpriske says:

      It is a tough issue. I recently had someone suggest to me that we shouldn’t pick sac poets that are so good, but that is its own problem.

      The interesting thing about very high scoring bouts is that either they are really, really tight and the decision is not rendered until the final poet OR someone gets a lead that is by definition insurmountable.

      I WILL say that the real problem isn’t high scores. The real problem is (and always is) score creep. The numbers don’t matter. Only the numbers in relation to each other matter. If I get a 9.5 and you get a 9.6 it is no different than if I get a 7.5 and you get a 7.6

      The problem comes when I get a 9.6 and you get a 9.1, NOT because I was better, but because I went later in the round.

      Of course we all know about score creep, but I once had it confirmed when I heard a judge say that Poet #1 was her favourite of the night, yet she didn’t give Poet #1 the highest score. Why? Because Poet #1 went first. She scored that poet well (her score was dropped because it was the highest), yet later poets got higher scores. Score creep in action.

      We HAVE taken steps to try and fight creep (like not reading scores low to high), but there is still a ways to go. Addressing sac poets is one of those ways, but I am afraid I don’t have a good answer right now. My best suggestion is building a standard judge instruction spiel (which I was going to do anyway), and emphasize to them the purpose of a sac.

      (I will also say, no matter what, if the sac blows away the room and the next poet or two is not up to the challenge, their scores will go lower than they otherwise would. The scores will then bounce back, contributing to score creep. It is a tough situation.)

      • halogenglass says:

        Agreed, the problem is the scores in relation to each other, not how high they are, but I think when they are higher overall it skews things. I mean that in slams where poems are getting between 6-10, the scores seem to reflect what the quality of the work better than when everything is between 9-10.

        I think the explanation given to the judges at the start is really important, and a standard one could help, especially if it emphases that the audience will boo ANY low score 95% of the time, even if they agree with it, and even though everyone cheers 10’s, the poets WANT low scores for the pieces that aren’t quite as good. Or maybe reminding them that giving a 10 is the equivalent of saying “I can not imagine how any other poem tonight could be better than this poem in any way.”

        I know some hosts periodically remind judges to think back to the sacrifice score, so maybe that could be made more standard too.

        To help with score creep in a more concrete way, what if we handed out a pen and paper to the judges with their score cards and said that part of their job was to write down the scores they give, rather than making it optional? It wouldn’t be that much extra work and might make a big difference.

      • rpriske says:

        All good ideas. Thanks.

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