Sunday, March 16, 2014

Should Closing Out a Division Be a Double DQ?

One of the great innovations of the IBJJF Pan 2014 tournament was a double disqualification in the men's master light feather finals that sent rivals for first and second packing for the bronze, and boosted the Pair Formerly Known As Third Place Winners into a contest for gold and silver.

The most appropriate, if not accurate, point about the double DQ suggested that the two players, both in guard (of course) were essentially "daring" the referee to call repeated stalling penalties. The referee more than met the challenge, handing out double stalling penalty after double stalling penalty against the would-be leg wrestlers until eventually calling both "competitors" to their feet to administer the disqualifications.

And while this was not the first double DQ for stalling in a high level competition, the solution, giving the third place finishers the chance to compete for first and second, was novel. And something I'd like to see more of.

The stalling penalty is fundamentally a penalty for refusing to engage. What is a greater refusal to engage than to refuse to even begin the contest when your turn is called? And so much the worse if the contest in question is the most important one of all: the one that decides a champion.

So if two competitors reach the finals and refuse to compete, why not let them eat bronze? They still get their place on the podium, and the hardware for smartphone photos with teammates and fans. But we as fans of sport jiu-jitsu get what every sports fan in every legitimate sport gets - now including Division I college football: a final contest.

Half of the finals in this year's adult male black belt division were division close-outs (I'm generously including the Absolute division, otherwise it would be more than half). Light-feather. Feather. Light. Medium-Heavy. Heavy. All wrapped up without a final match to determine a champion. That is madness.

There are more modest solutions than the one I'm proposing. Teams could be limited to a single entrant per division per school to prevent close-outs. More divisions could be added to give teams better ability to spread their top competitors around (allegedly Atos' Andre Galvao competed at Ultra-Heavy this year for just such a reason).

But radical times call for radical action. And if 5 out of 10 closed out divisions isn't radical, I don't know what is.

While the IBJJF is busy trying to keep black belt riff raff out of the Worlds, the Federation might want to spend a little time figuring out how to ensure a final in at least half of its matches.*

* This does not include the women's divisions which, for a variety of reasons, did not have a single division-close-out. That said, I'm willing to bet that the ladies would give us a final regardless of who was on the other side of the handslap and fistbump.