For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Human Factor of Judging

We don't like to think of it, but racing is judged by humans, which means they can and will make mistakes.  Either they miss something during a race (and no one claims an objection) either by looking at what is going on up front or blinking their eyes at the wrong time, or when the inquiry goes up the judges feel the video is not conclusive, the rule leaves wiggle room, or dare we say, the judges misinterpret the rule and blow the call.

Truth is, while harness racing revolves around gambling at the pari-mutuel tracks, payoffs are based on the outcome of a game and when there are humans officiating a game, mistakes can be made.  Mistakes are made everyday in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey either through non-calls or blown calls.  Fortunately, most of the times a blown call doesn't impact the outcome of the game and even if it does, it is just one game out of many; there is typically plenty of opportunities to recover from a mistake. 

Even in professional sports where there is video, it doesn't mean a blown call is overturned.  For example in football, for a ruling on the field to be overturn, the video replay must be 100% conclusive.  On the whole, the official's ruling holds supreme.  Of course, since most people are not wagering on sporting events (at least legally), most mistakes are forgotten by the time the next game is contested.

Of course with racing, the difference is each race is an isolated event and errors are much more critical.  Anytime the judges make a decision, someone is going to be happy or miffed, to put it delicately.  Therefore, it is important the judges make the correct decision.  But as we all know, since the judges are human, even the best judge is going to make the occasional mistake.  Fortunately for owners, there is an appeal process which can rectify an errant call but for the gambler, there is no second chance to get it right.  If you have been playing this game for any length of time, you have likely been on both ends of a blown call, something which will be of little comfort if it costs you a big score.

This is why it is essential for racing commissions to review their judges.  An appointment to the judges stand should not be considered a permanent appointment.  Anytime there is an inquiry or a rare objection, it is essential that the racing commission reviews those races in addition to a random sampling of races to check the judges' decisions or no-decisions for accuracy, even if the race doesn't end up in front of the commission as part of an appeal. If an unacceptable number of blown calls or non-calls are made, judges should be reassigned, retrained, or replaced as appropriate.

Commissions owe the gamblers nothing less.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well thought out and I have to commend your thoughts and your prose...nice job! Will pass it along to someone at the Meadows!