Doing the Right Thing
Over the weekend I attended the Central Washington Regional at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. My experience up until the final round was wonderful. Folks were having fun, the volunteers were great, matches for the most part were running smoothly, I saw some terrific robots, and, I think, I made some new friends. Things did not go as expected in the final round, though, and it caused some significant pain for many present. I’d like to talk about this.
The final rounds were between two very closely matched alliances. The blue alliance won the first match, the red alliance won the second match in a nail-biter – only 6 points separating the two alliances, and the final and deciding match had apparently ended in a tie. The Head Referee carefully reviewed the rule regarding tie-breakers in elimination rounds in the rule book, and worked out the final score with the Scorekeeper. The Game Announcer announced that we had a tie score, and the venue erupted. He then proceeded to carefully read the rule regarding ties aloud – even with an audience of thousands, you could have heard a pin drop. The first tie-breaker that becomes active is the number of foul points incurred, with the alliance that had fewer foul points being awarded one additional point, and so winning the match. If the number of foul points is equal between the two alliances, there are other levels of tie-breakers employed, but in our case, these were not necessary. The red alliance had a single 3-point foul assessed against them during the match, while the blue alliance had none. When this, and the final score, was announced, the venue erupted again. The blue alliance had won and earned their slots at Championship, after an exhilarating set of final rounds. The Game Announcer later told me his announcement of the tie and the winner was one of the most exciting things he had ever done in that position. I could see why!
Unfortunately, after the winner was announced and the score was displayed, we learned something was wrong. A single disc that would have given the red alliance two points and the victory had been overlooked in one of the goals. This was a red disc, and so was the same color as the front of the goal, making it harder to see than a white disc would have been in the same position. We checked, we double checked, we compared notes. There was no question in anyone’s mind that the disc had been scored by the red alliance according to the rules, but had been not counted in the final score.
I’ve seen some rumors that we reviewed video evidence in determining that the additional disc had been scored; this is untrue. This would have been a direct violation of section 5.5.3 of the manual. I was behind the scoring table the entire time when this was being discussed, and never saw anyone looking at video. At one point it was offered to us, but we declined. We already had overwhelming evidence the additional disc had been scored per the rules.
I want to emphasize at this point that FRC has the most dedicated, most caring, most conscientious volunteers anywhere. But many of their jobs are hard – really hard. And while some of our volunteer jobs have significant requirements showing in their position descriptions, ‘Perfection’ is on the list for none of them. A simple mistake was made, that anyone could have made. The folks involved knew what this meant for the match, and were devastated, but did the right thing by stepping up to the plate to let everyone know what was going on.
So, we made a very hard decision. We adjusted the score in the final match to reflect what we know happened – that the red alliance had actually won the match, and earned those slots at Championship. This was announced on the field. I can only imagine what it feels like to be told you have earned your way to Championship, only to have that opportunity taken away from you a few minutes later. I am very sorry that this happened. No one wants to see an event end like this, but I firmly believe we did the right thing, as difficult as it was.
I want to thank Team 360, The Revolution, Team 2557, SOTABots, and Team 3789, On Track Academy, for displaying the utmost in Gracious Professionalism when it was revealed that they were not, as we believed, the winners of the event. Members of the other alliance came up to me after the event was over and pointed out how gracious they were being in receiving this extraordinarily difficult news. And they were right, of course. These three teams are examples for us all.
I’ll blog again soon.