This is the latest in the Rewriting the Rulebook project.
We have gone through all of the existing tournament rules as written, but there are other rules, incorporated through precedent and/or tradition that also affect the way the tournament is run.
Today I want to start off my talking about something that I know has a wide range of opinions and feelings associated with it.
The Wild Card team / Last Chance Slam. (It is named at the whims of the festival organizers at times.)
First, let me explain what I am talking about.
A slam is held on the first night of the festival where the top 4 (or 5) poets from the slam form a new team and it is entered alongside the other teams sent from individual slam scenes.
This has taken a variety of forms over the years.
The first time this was done was in 2008. There was an odd number of teams (11, I think) and an extra team was needed to even that up. A slam was held that was mostly filled with the alts from the various teams entered.
In 2009 it was held again. This time there were a number of top poets who had previously decided to not be on teams (with one notable exception, which I am not going into here), who decided to go out for the team. They made it to the Finals that year.
In 2010 there were 15 teams registered so a slam was held to create that team. This time there were so many people who wanted in, we held an advance lottery give spots in the event. (That has not been needed since.)
In 2012 there was a last minute slam created when one team that was expected to arrive did not. In 2015 there was a slam scheduled the day before most teams arrived, to make up the even number.
Some people love the Wild Card idea. Some people don’t.
Here is the current rules, previously unwritten: When all teams have registered, if there will be an odd number of teams a Last Chance Slam will be held to create a Wild Card team. Once formed, that team will be treated like any other team in the festival, with one exception. Any poems performed during the Last Chance Slam cannot be performed during the main competition that year.
That last rule was waived this year because nobody told the competitors that before they slammed.
Evening up the teams matters a lot. Scheduling an even with an odd number of teams means that at some point there needs to be prelim bouts that are a different size that others. That doesn’t create fair competition. The Wild Card team fixes that.
As I said earlier, some people love the Wild Card concept and think that we should include it every year. (There are various ideas about how to deal with the ‘odd number’ problem if the Wild Card team would CREATE an odd number.)
I am not one of those people.
I think of the Wild Card team as a fix to a problem, but not something that is desirable. I have always thought that the Wild Card team is a little unfair and quite a bit insulting to the poets on teams who had to work incredibly hard to get to where they are.
Let’s look at a ‘standard’ slam. At CapSlam, a poet has to have slammed at least 3 times during the season to qualify for our semi-finals. Then they need to compete against 7 other poets for the right to go to the finals. If they make it to the finals they compete against 7 other poets for the right to represent CapSlam at CFSW.
Once on the team those pets work together all summer, raising money and working on their poems as a team. This is five months of dedication before they have the opportunity to share their work with the National Community. This is a year of supporting the community they are representing. Coming out to shows and giving back to the community that is sponsoring them.
Or they can sign up for a Last Chance Slam, finish in the top 4 or 5 once, and skip the whole process.
That doesn’t sit well with me.
I remember IzREAL saying that we would see how many people still like the Wild Card idea if they win a championship. Some people still would, I am sure.
It does not sit well with me. At all.
So, my proposal is to take the current unwritten rule and put it in the actual rules, but otherwise don’t change it.
I know there will be other opinions about this one, so have at it. 🙂