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The whole sports world was talking about the Stephane Auger and Alex Burrows saga. But if there’s a point to be made (or learned) it’s that nobody wins in this kind of dispute.

For those who don’t know the story, it goes like this: On December 8, 2009, Vancouver Canucks player Alex Burrows was crosschecked by Nashville Predators’ Jerred Smithson. He wasn’t injured, but lay on the ice for a long time giving the impression that he had been. As a result, referee Stephane Auger gave Smithson a 5-minute game misconduct penalty instead of the usual 2-minute crosschecking penalty. The NHL later rescinded that penalty, which made Auger look bad.

Then on January 13, during a game between the Canucks and Minnesota Wild, Auger spoke to Burrows before the game began. We don’t know exactly what was said, but it became the source of a major dispute that made headlines around the sports world and may be talked about for some time to come. Late in the game, Auger assessed a penalty on Burrows when he was doing nothing more severe than picking up his stick off the ice, which led to the entire thing.

After the game, Burrows insisted that Auger told him he would “get him back” for embarrassing him in front of the NHL. Many people hearing that accusation connected it with the phantom penalty which cost the Canucks the game, and drew the conclusion that Burrows must be right. Auger says he did nothing of the sort, but did talk to him about the earlier incident. Now what?

This “who said what” or “who thought what” kind of argument can’t possibly be useful in any way. Burrows can’t possibly win, even if his allegations were true. Both men’s reputations have been tarnished. Both will be suspect in all future games. Canucks penalties will be analyzed to death for the rest of the season, especially those from Auger. Everyone will be focusing on the wrong stuff.

A number of commentators have compared this to sports like ice skating, where the marks are not based on who crosses the finish line first or scores the most goals, but on a highly subjective scoring system.

In DanceSport, we have a judging system that is based on subjective scoring, just like ice skating.

Dancers are always complaining about judges “having it in for them” as if there were a kind of vendetta system or preferential treatment going on. Give me a break! Judges take their jobs very seriously. They won’t risk damaging their reputation as adjudicators to favor one couple over another or take out a grudge against someone.

We’ve all seen cases where one judge from one country marks that country’s couples first in all five dances while all the other judges mark them much lower. Immediately there are cries of favoritism. Many criteria are used in judging. That judge obviously liked something about that couple, and it may well have been related to a quality which is stressed or valued more in some regions than in others.

But even if it were true that a judge marks one couple higher because of national pride or some other phantom issue, there’s no point sharing those accusations. There is too much else to worry about, like the quality of your dancing. If you truly outperform the field, enough judges will recognize your effort and you’ll receive your proper placement. Whether it was unanimous or not doesn’t matter.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that dancers who know a judge because they work with him or her receive favorable treatment. This urban myth is thrown around so often that people believe it without looking up the facts for themselves. You’ll find that the opposite is true. Invariably when I’ve checked these statements out for myself, I find that the judges who coach couples on the floor marked them more severely than those who don’t. I assume this is because they know what their biggest flaws are and can see them in action!

Dancers, just like anyone in the world of sports, need to understand that these accusations don’t help anyone. Nobody wins. People are human and mistakes might happen, but you have to live with that reality and move on. Instead of assuming you were somehow wronged just because you didn’t get the marks you expected doesn’t make it true. And when you hear those accusations thrown out, please speak up and set people straight. It’s just inappropriate. We shouldn’t listen to that stuff.

I’m reminded of an ugly scenario which played out some time ago after a major DanceSport competition. One couple, who shall not be named, did not make the final round and were convinced that a particular judge made a deliberate effort to keep them out of the final. They even went public with their complaints, mentioning their accusations on web forums.

In reality, their arguments were silly. They missed the final by far more marks than the five callbacks they would have received from one judge. Several judges did not mark them into the final, a fact they conveniently forgot in their heated statements. In their zeal to attack one judge, I don’t think they ever bothered to add up their total callbacks. But the damage was done. The reputation of the couple was damaged and so was that of the judge they accused. Nobody wins.

Let’s just do our jobs and assume that the officials are doing theirs, and we’ll all get along!

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the Senior (30+) Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in Senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in 30+ Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy are professional teachers with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

More posts by George Pytlik

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