How Events Go Bad

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The letter Y!ou know how to prepare yourself to judge an event. You have 10, 50, or even hundreds of events in your record history. The next one, a few days in the future, will not be different. You're not even especially thinking about it: things will run smoothly, with some unexpected events to manage, as always . . . easy task! You've done it well many times before.

But this event may have a particularity or two you're not used to, or that are unpredictable, or that aren't directly tournament-related: you'll work with judges you don't know, or this event is bigger than the ones you usually judge, or you became ill the day before the event...

Like if you're working for the NSA, you shouldn't fall into routine. Every problem must be recognized, and resolved, as best and as soon as possible. Even problems unrelated to the event can jeopardize your ability to judge properly. You may be tempted to ignore these small problems, as they may seem insignificant at the time, but if they accumulate, they can overwhelm you and lead to a crash. That's how events go bad. And, like if you're working for the NSA, you should avoid this happening at all costs.

Don't hide any problem, even from yourself! And there are people to help you and listen to your problems: your fellow judges and the staff. And part of your job as a judge, is to be able to listen to other judges' problems, and help them as much as you can.


Fatigue is something vicious, as there are many things that lead to mental inefficiency, and it accumulates slowly and without warning during the day. What creates fatigue? Mainly lack of sleep, illness, and stress. If you slept three hours the last two nights because you've been ill since the beginning of the week, or if you've spent a difficult week at work, you'll think you're OK at 10 AM just after coffee and breakfast. After 6 rounds of floor judging and dozens of decisions to make, perhaps you're not OK anymore.

How do you recognize fatigue? Suddenly, you forgot to do things you were assigned to -- cutting paper slips for example. Or you are making and accumulating unusual mistakes. Or your mind is mainly focused on things unrelated to the tournament. Or, you were asked a very simple question from a player or a fellow judge, and you're completely unable to provide a quick, crystal clear answer.

What to do? Don't be ashamed to be overtired. It happens to everybody. But you can't make it disappear magically! The best way to resolve the problem is to inform the head judge (or your team leader) about your condition, and ask them to reduce your workload. It's better to have a judge do some simple and easy tasks like posting pairings and distributing slips than an overtired judge who wants to keep doing many important things, like end-of-round-procedure or deck-checks, badly. You should also ask for a long break, and you must eat and drink even if you're not hungry nor thirsty.

Unusual Environment

Not knowing anyone :
Most of the time, you work with judges you know. It means you know how they tend to act, their experience, if they are bad-tempered or good-tempered. If you don't know anyone on the staff, it could be a stressful environment because you don't know how they'll react to your instructions or orders, what they expect from you, and what you can expect from them. And if the other judges know each other, you can feel a bit like a castaway.

It is easy to misinterpret the reactions of strangers, or be irritated by acts or personalities that you are not accustomed to. In some cases it is possible that this leads to a "silent" confrontation, where one or more judges end up considering their peers as enemies instead of allies. At worst, judges may begin to refuse to work together, refuse to follow instructions, or no longer do their assigned tasks. The whole tournament may therefore be affected: precious time could be lost, stress will be higher for all judges, and players may be aware of the problem. Ultimately it can affect players' image of the judges and the DCI's integrity, wisdom, and credibility.

To avoid that, it's important to try to understand others' characters as quickly as possible, and not to keep to yourself any frustration you may have against another judge. If you feel his or her behaviour was inappropriate, talk to him or her as soon as possible, and let him or her know your feelings. Most of the time, you'll receive apologizes for the mishap and get explanations.

On the other hand, if you don't feel you are in an unusual environment, you should check if it's the case for each other judge. If not, everything possible must be made to let everybody feel "at home." Giving a hand, talking, and joking with him (and not about him) isn't hurting!

Language issues:
Language can be a problem at a GP or PT. Always try to speak a language understandable by all judges surrounding you. And don't think, because someone knows how to say "Hello" and "Thank you" that he'll understand and speak English without effort! You must talk slowly and clearly to someone whose mother's tongue isn't yours. Otherwise you can be misunderstood, and you'll lose time repeating your phrases constantly. Frustration could arise from this.

Personal problems

We all face highs and lows in our out-of-Magic lives. Emotional, familial, or work related, sometimes they're haunting our mind so much it's impossible to concentrate on something else. It could happen to anyone at any time. Earlier this year, an airline transport pilot suffered a 'mental breakdown' over the Atlantic while flying an aircraft filled with nearly 200 passengers. He suddenly became uncooperative, started yelling, and became aggressive. Other members of the crew finally forced him out of the cockpit and restrained him in a passenger seat. Later, it appears the incident occurred because this well-trained, experienced pilot accumulated many personal problems the week before the flight.

You know when you're in a situation where your personal problems affect your capacity to work and think too much. If you're in this situation, there are not many answers: don't attend the event. Tell the organizer as soon as possible to check for another judge. If it's too late -- a few days before the event or less -- talk to the organizer and HJ and see if your presence is absolutely needed. If it is, told them you'll not be at best because you're facing private, personal problems.

If you have enough empathy, you should be able to recognize someone who may face personal problems, but it's difficult if you don't know the judge very well. He's tired because he's not sleeping too much lately. He's distracted because his mind is focused on his personal problems. He may be more aggressive than usual when taunted, when you make him a remark, or give him orders. Stay calm and pleasant. Offer to talk with the judge if he wants to, or to talk to one of his good friends, whenever possible. Don't insist, but keep an eye open in case he finally decides to talk, or if you feel things go worse.

Conclusion – Out-of-Control Emotions

It's important to do everything possible to avoid an event going bad, both for yourself and for all other people. The weakest link is the emotional factor. You must be very mindful of it. You should know your physical and emotional condition, and be able to analyze it properly. You should talk about any problem you have to the HJ, and any judge who you consider to be a friend. It's a good idea to be mindful of others, too. If you feel there's a problem for one person on the staff and he's keeping it to himself, or if you feel there's a problem between two or more members of the staff, never let things get worse by doing nothing.

It is of prime importance to do everything possible to have all people on staff feel happy to be attending the event. Each judge must be helpful to one another. If you're ambitious, remember that you'll make a far better impression thorough working with other judges, rather than by trying to shine through undermining others' authority or discrediting them in the eyes of higher-level judges.

In short, never let problems grow and never let them accumulate without doing anything. Not resolving them may ultimately lead to out-of-control emotions you'll regret afterward.

Last, but not least, be mindful of the judges' and the DCI's image. Whenever possible, don't let players be aware of problems concerning other judges or staff. And never talk about problems in a public internet forum, rather than directly to higher-level judges of your country, or to the DCI.

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