Judge Not

Technology—it’s changed everything, including the Olympics.

What used to be a bunch of Greek dudes racing in the buff for sport has become the ultimate outlet for extreme electronic innovation.

Destinies, futures and fortunes are decided by hundredths of a second now, which can all be monitored by digital cameras and calculated by computers. It makes you wonder how many athletes in the past have been denied or awarded unjustly when we had to rely on human eyesight, judgment, and scruples to make the calls.

What if you sneezed, dozed, or daydreamed for a split second when someone’s dream was on the line? How would you like to live with the fact that someone ended up in rehab instead of on a Wheaties box because you had allergies that day? Why do we still even have the officials in dark suits standing by each pool lane looking over the side like they could really tell who touched first when winning and losing is decided between blinks?

Instant replay is exactly that now—instant. An official, judge or referee makes a call and seconds later the digital replay makes him look like a blind idiot. Then they confiscate his phone, computer and iPad to check his calls, texts, emails, and browser history to see if he’s recently been in contact with a booky.

I’ve been a judge before and it’s a tough gig.

Years ago I was asked to judge a high school cheerleader try out. I don’t mean to brag, but I was a member of the High School National Champion Cheerleader Squad, all girls division. Okay, so I do mean to brag, but I earned those bragging rights. My junior year of high school was pretty much a socially deprived sleepless blur as I attempted to juggle AP classes, a part time job, and grueling cheer practices run by a coach who I’m pretty sure was the inspiration for Sue Sylvester on Glee.

Anyway, a few years later, a friend of mine was working as a high school cheer coach and asked me if I’d use my prestigious cheer qualifications to be on the judge panel for their try-outs.

I agreed, stupidly.

The judging process was easy enough: Using a scale of 1 to 10, rate each girl’s performance based on technique and peppiness.

The first few girls were plenty peppy, but their technique was seriously lacking. I gave them 4s and 5s, leaving plenty of room for the more skilled performances I anxiously awaited to judge. The next few performances weren’t any better, so they got the same. And the next few, and the next few, and so on, and so on. As the end of the competitor list drew near I realized the skill level and competitiveness of the sport of cheerleading at this high school was considerably different than my experience.

I discreetly glanced over at the score sheets of the judges sitting next to me to see what their perspective was. They were giving scores as high as 8s and 9s!


They must have come from shoddy cheer programs like this one.

What should I do?

I hardly wanted to be the bitty judge with the stingy scores. Luckily they had given us a pencil to score with so I quickly started erasing and changing numbers. I decided to just add three points to everyone’s score. So long as I added the same amount to each score, that would be fair, right? I was frantically erasing and changing scores, while still trying to watch the rest of the performances and score them according to my new scale, whatever that was.

But then I started second guessing myself—worried that the first girls were judged the harshest because of my warped perspective so I padded their scores some more, and kept erasing, rescoring, and erasing some more. Then I worried I’d mixed up who was who and who deserved what score because I was going by memory instead of live performance like the last girls, and by the end one peppy blonde shaking her pom poms looked like another, so I wasn’t sure I’d given the right score to the right chick. I knew the difference between high school laurel and loser could come down to singular points when it came to cheerleader try-outs.

It was a nightmare.

Where was technology then to save me, huh?

Where was instant replay?

Where were the iPhone and iPad recordings, instant imaging or a “Blonde Recognition” app?

I was all on my own.

The fate of a bunch of hopeful clueless high school girls who think the world will end if they don’t make cheerleader was in my pencil-wielding hands.

I did the best I could with my finite non-digital human memory and reasoning.

I finalized my scores, handed them in, and gave the girls some spirit fingers in solidarity before I left.

Because of me some girl would get asked to homecoming by a football stud just because she’s a cheerleader even though she didn’t deserve it. Because of me some girl would be plagued by the disappointment of not making cheerleader and turn to a nerdy life of academics.

No matter how high-tech any judging process is, we all know that life isn’t ever going to be completely fair.

Truth be told, I hardly needed an instant digital replay to see that all those girls stunk and none of them would deserve the popularity and props they would get for wearing the coveted pleated skirt that year.

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