A few years back Gymnastics regrettably went to a new scoring system. The idea was to eliminate any chance that judges could sway a result by skewing scores one way or the other. Gone was the concept of the “Perfect 10” and in came scoring for difficulty and execution and the provision of confusion.
Meets are more fun to watch when you see how close a gymnast is to perfection. A 9.8 was dang close and an 8.4 was not. Now, we don’t know whether to get excited or be disappointed. Is 20 perfect? If it is, is a 16 a good score? If it’s not, is a 16 a good score? It’s not fun anymore.
There may have been impropriety in judging but at least the casual spectator could identify the result. Feeling like you know what you’re watching made it more enjoyable and thus people watched more. I would extend the argument to say that the new scoring system has, in fact, hurt this industry. By making the spectators feel lost it has diminished their interest and so we have fewer fans and thus fewer young kids entering into the sport. This hurts our bottom line as gymnastics businesses but it also provides less of a base from which to choose the next champions. What’s worse is that the new code has not done one thing that it set out to do. Judges still have bias and still have human errors in judgement. As coaches, athletes and parents we have even come to accept it, regardless of the code. Not that we don’t complain when scores seem off but we do keep in mind that judges are human. Sometimes they’re wrong; that’s part of the sport.
If we were so concerned about bias and human error I have an idea: I know a guy who could design a computer program that could calculate a result. We would enter the skills of a routine, the computer would calculate a start value based on requirements, bonus connections and in comparison with an International database, add in an originality bonus. Then the computer’s camera would scan the gymnast prior to the routine. Joint angles and congenital abnormalities would be recorded and considered during performance. Then the gymnast would perform the routine, the camera would compare optimal body positions and take form and execution deductions accordingly. By the time the music concluded we would have a score flashing and the next competitor could already be scanned. Meets would run faster, no judging expenses, no filing inquiries and best of all, no bias. Granted we would have to worry about hacker coaches fixing scores and blue tooth connections to fans with laptops in the bleachers messing
around with the results as they are calculated; but we can fix that too. How about no more meets. Coaches upload video of their athlete’s best performance to a main computer meet site and the result is downloaded back. We would always have out best performances to show and never have to worry about kids showing up late to a meet, or feeling sick, or nervous. We would strategically list kids to go against other teams strengths and weaknesses, like a fantasy football league they might only have stats compared. And think, only 1 routine per year. We could even splice video cuts to piece together a great routine. It would always be in the system to “compete” with other gymnasts, and we would upload a new routine every “season”. Groups of spectators could collect in gym lobbies and watch “a meet” on a monitor. They could watch results unfold or they could just watch gymnasts perform for the entertainment value. If they didn’t like a routine or a leotard they could just hit the >> button and go to the next routine. If obsessive parents/coaches just want the results they could be e-mailed to show how their daughter/gymnast faired and awards could be mailed directly to the home. Wow this whole riff is a great idea! Meets would be cheaper, no lost weekends, no travel, lower expenses and best of all NO HUMAN BIAS. We could call the system Human Analysis Logistical calculation or H.A.L. for short. Hey F.I.G (Federation of International Gymnastics), just say the word and my guy is working on the creation of H.A.L. and saving Gymnastics as we know it, but for now could we please go back to the 10.0 because H.A.L calculates better on percentages over the weird system you have created. And since the goal is to eliminate bias and the emotional connection the development of H.A.L is inevitable.
All joking aside, gymnastics is a human art, it is judged subjectively and you have good and bad days of training and good and bad days at meets. It’s unpredictability is what makes it fun. What kind of meet will they have today? Let’s watch and find out. That score of 9.8 means it’s clearly a good meet day. Easy. Understandable. Human. Fun. Right?