Rewriting the Rulebook – Section 3e

Posted: November 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

The latest update to the Rewriting the Rulebook project!

Follow along! Have your say! Join the conversation!

Anyone who wonders why I am not posting this on the SpoCan FB group, it is because for some reason there are a bunch of us (including me), who can’t access that group. We have a ‘ticket’ open with Facebook to figure out what the problem is. When it is fixed, I will post there as well.

e) Poems can be performed in any style and must be no longer than three minutes in duration. Each performer receives a 10-second grace period beyond three minutes. Every 10 seconds thereafter (or portion of 10 seconds thereafter) will be penalized with a 0.5 point deduction.

This is a section I desperately want to rewrite.

Start with the first line. The rules should be instructions on how to compete and run a slam. There is no reason to say that poems can be ‘performed in any style’. There is nothing in the rules to imply otherwise. It is out of place in this section which is ostensibly about the time limit.

Then there is the time limit…

I have no desire to change the time allowed (except in the smallest way). It is well established and consistent with the way slams are run across the country.


I am going to put this in caps because it makes my logical brain spin…


There never has been a grace period. This is a meaningless addition to the slam spiel that actually adds nothing to the competition. It makes the slam rules clunky AND it has created an environment where poets are AIMING to be under 3:10. A team repping my show once missed advancing to Finals due to going over by less than half a second. That seems harsh. It isn’t, because they weren’t over by less than a half second. They were over by 10.5 seconds. The time limit is 3 minutes. (In fact, they were over by 20.5 seconds because the ‘big room’ adjustment was in effect. More on that later.)

The rule SHOULD read: There is a 3 minute time limit. If the poet goes over 3 minutes they will receive a .5 penalty for every 10 seconds they go over.

So, if they go 3:03, how many allotments of 10 seconds did they go over? None. No penalty. If they go 3:11, how many allotments of 10 seconds did they go over? One.


No grace period!

Except when there is. šŸ™‚

Here we get to one of those ‘unwritten rules’ of slam. Over the past few years, CFSW has adopted one of those NPS rules were they give an extra 10 seconds if the room is large enough. A bigger room sometimes slows poets down due to the crowd reaction interfering.

When this first came up, I was opposed to it. I figure that the poets should be responsible for ensuring that their poems come in under time.

I have adjusted my thinking over the last couple of years. Having the championship decided due to technicalities is something nobody wants. A bunch of time penalties at the finals puts a real downer on the whole event.

AND I have watched poets who never get a time penalty, just go a BIT slower due to the SUCCESS of their poem in a room full of 500 people.

It is always left to the discretion of the Slam Master AT the event (though teams are told before the bout starts).

It is important that it only be called at the event because if you give advance notice, poets will start planning for the extra time and completely eliminate the reason it was instituted.

When this option is called, the poets NOW have a 10 second grace period. AFTER that 10 second grace period, poets are given a .5 penalty for every 10 seconds they go over, so the first penalty kicks in when they reach 3:20.

In practical terms, this new writing of the rule changes one tiny thing. Under the old rules, penalties were not given until the stopwatch reached 3:10.1 (or even 3:10.01 if the stopwatch goes down to that level of granularity).

Under the revised rules the penalty starts at 3:10

Incredibly minor change that will improve ALL slams. (Seriously. Stop announcing that poets have 3:10. It sounds so random.)

  1. […] rule, or lack thereof Section 3c & d – Discussion – Sacrificial Poets Section 3e – Discussion – Time Limits & […]

  2. Dan(AKA Dan Murray(AKA Dan)) says:

    If it is truly to be “minus 0.5 for every 10 seconds over”, the penalty -must- begin at 3:10:00:00:00…This is the difference of declaring a 10 second grace period, or declaring a penalty for every 10 seconds. A 10 second grace period means everything up to and including 3:10:00 is safe. 10 seconds over means that 3:10:00 is the first point of penalty.

    It seems like nitpicking, but I’ve seen, as I’m sure you’ve seen, poems that clocked at 3:10:00. Do we call this a penalty or no? If we’re declaring “10 second grace period” we do not, because it is within those 10 seconds. If we are declaring “penalty for every 10 seconds over” we do. The difference is very faint, but I believe each wording has its own individual point of where the penalty begins.

  3. Christopher says:

    Your proposed wording clears up any confusion. The term grace period always struck me as a poor way to explain that you would be penalized for every 10 second interval and not a part thereof.

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