Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm Captain of the Ship! I'm Captain Kirk!

I love Star Trek. Always have. There are so many great episodes, so many unforgettable lines, so many forgettable guys in red shirts dying, so many hotties in uniforms that could pass for negligees. That was possibly the best thing about Star Trek. How cool is the thought that space exploration would mean the armed forces would start to look like The Playboy Mansion, but with ray guns? I mean, really. Sign me up.

Of course, the central greatness of Star Trek has always been the preposterous overacting. In fact, for a long time I’ve been getting big laughs by identifying some actor, often DeNiro (before he enrolled in the “Anything for a Buck” Acting School), as one of the five greatest American actors of all time. To the inevitable query, “Who are the others,” I answer, “Well, DeNiro, Duvall, Pacino, Brando, and…….Shatner.” Now that he’s the star of Boston Legal and the force behind PriceLine’s market share, who’s laughing now? (OK, all of us are still laughing, but you get the point.)

Still when I think about Star Trek, and forget for a moment about Playboy Bunnies and bombastic emoters, what I remember most is that for all the talk of technology and transporters, for all the “strange new worlds” and aliens, what the various plots focused on the most was humanity. That is, whether it was the human failings of the human characters, or the human tendencies of the alien characters, everyone on the show, and by extension in the universe, was somehow tied together by a fundamental “human” goodness. Perhaps it was simply another example of anthropomorphism at work, but I’d like to think that it was a reflection of the times, the post-nuclear, Cold War times, when technology and space travel were still new and a bit frightening, and something about believing that whatever we found out there would share our fundamental goodness made the whole enterprise a little less terrifying. There was something very cozy about putting a human face on space.

Contrast that vision with the world of Aliens, or the Terminator series, where space is dark and cold, and the future is sinister and inhuman. Yes, it’s probably a more realistic vision, but I’ll take Star Trek and its Styrofoam boulders, plastic models suspended from wires, and brightly colored landscapes (with hotties in mini skirts) any day.

It is perhaps because of my affinity for the show that I often find myself remembering particular episodes in response to things that are happening in my world today. Previously I have likened the experience of riding the New York City subway during rush hour to living on the planet Gideon, from the episode “The Mark of Gideon.” Recently, as I spent part of a sick weekend reading through more than 120 comments on Jim Parinella’s blog, I again found myself thinking about Star Trek. This time the episode that came to mind is “Court Martial.”

As an aside, the totality of Henry Thorne’s comments to Jim Parinella’s HOF discussion blog post is such that I can’t possibly go through everything here, but I encourage anyone who is interested to go and read them yourself. I will be addressing certain statements in this entry, and I expect to address more in the future, but in the interest of expediency I will be pulling comments out of context. I will make every effort to explain the context when I do so, but again, please go read them yourself. I am trying to present them in the way I believe they were meant, but I might be getting it wrong. I urge you to form your own opinions.

So why did reading Henry’s comments about my HOF candidacy make me think of “Court Martial?” Early in the string, when Corey questioned him on why he game me such a low score for sportsmanship, he brought up the concept of evidence, as though the HOF selection process were a court proceeding.

“The evidence from the three sources I described was overwheliming [sic].”

The sources in question were the HOF peer reviews, the responses to the Call to the Community, and my blog entries. I have already addressed the issue of blog entries and why I think it’s inappropriate to use them to determine the merit of a particular player’s candidacy (Seventeen). But even if I were to accept that all three of these sources should be used, do they really rise to the height of “evidence?” Maybe we’ll come back to that question later.

What I want to point out now is how, as this discussion continued, and other comments raised the point that perhaps many people who might have a more positive view had simply not responded to the Call to the Community, Henry seems to relent somewhat.

“To be complete here, there were a lot of people who said what you heard, that he didn't cross the line, that he must be in. In the data I got the split was roughly even, and there was a lot of it, the 60 person peer review group, then the 58 responses on KD from the Call to the Community.”

So, forgive me for quibbling, and perhaps all I really need is some elaboration, but how did the evidence go from “overwhelming” to “roughly even?”

But let’s be honest, regardless of whether the “evidence” was “overwhelming” or “roughly even,” when it’s as damning as this, perhaps the amount doesn’t really matter.

“KD's blog post quoted below was typical of the stuff we were hearing but, worse than this, it was happening at high levels of play effecting [sic] championships won and lost.”

Now that is a serious accusation. My actions changed the outcomes of multiple championships. A careful reader by the name of AJ is one of the few who caught on to just how serious it is.

“AJ asked: "Are you saying that based on your discussions with "the hive" you found that KD was "un-spirited" (kind of a dick on the field, but not systematically effecting [sic] the integrity of the games), or that KD was "cheating" (changing the outcomes of series games through systematic violation of the rules)?"

The second.”


So now it’s out. Henry Thorne confirms that I am not only a cheater, but my cheating has changed the outcome of multiple championship games. Even as I was reading this I couldn’t believe it. Was a UPA Board member and the UPA HOF Liaison really stating in a public forum that I had stolen multiple championships for my team by cheating? I was blown away. Reading further, I saw that another reader named Kyle needed clarification. He had seen me play. He also had trouble believing what Henry was saying.

“Kyle,
I watched Kenny make that leap, it was amazing. I'd just won with the Seven Sages in the Masters division. But answering your question, did he cheat to win championships? There are players who have told me he did. Finals of Nationals.”


He goes on to paint the precarious position he found himself in once he came into possession of this “evidence.”

“They could be wrong, but I'm just telling you, it isn't that we're making this up, there is a real problem here, either those players who claim that will feel that we've completely dropped sportsmanship as an important criteria or we'll have the Toad's yelling and screaming.”

At times I tend to make light of things, but there is no making light of this. This is a very serious issue, and I’ll get into just how serious in a moment, but for now let’s take a look at how Henry, an elected UPA representative, sees this situation.

First, Henry uses the plural, “players,” but my HOF source tells me the cheating accusation appeared on one response from the Call to the Community. Still, Henry saw them; I didn’t. I’ll go with his recollection. So in Henry’s perception of how this very serious issue is manifested, what we have is:

On one side, players fighting for sportsmanship by anonymously accusing me of cheating to win National Championships.

On the other side, we have “Toads yelling and screaming.”

Is it just me, or is this pretty much a textbook example of the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy? Surely there’s some middle ground somewhere out there, isn’t there? I mean, Henry, are you seriously telling your constituents, all the members of the UPA, that in your world view there are anonymous accusers on one side and Toad and his ilk on the other? And that’s it?

As you can probably imagine, at this point in my reading I was getting a little bit upset, and that’s when I thought of Star Trek.

In the “Court Martial” episode, Kirk is on trial for causing the death of a crew member through negligence. I won’t go into details. The important point is that the testimony the court is relying on is the computer record, and it’s pretty incriminating. As Kirk watches himself on the monitor release the pod during a yellow alert as opposed to a red alert, thereby causing the crew member’s death, even he is perplexed, twisting in his chair as he offers a passionate, albeit feeble, defense: “But that’s not how it happened.” But just when all hope seems lost, Spock discovers that the computer has been tampered with, Kirk’s attorney, Samuel T. Cogley, takes the floor, and the computer takes a back seat to humanity once again.

“I'd be delighted to, sir, now that I've got something human to talk about. Rights, sir, human rights--the Bible, the Code of Hammurabi and of Justinian, Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, Fundamental Declarations of the Martian colonies, the Statutes of Alpha 3--gentlemen, these documents all speak of rights. Rights of the accused to a trial by his peers, to be represented by counsel, the rights of cross-examination, but most importantly, the right to be confronted by the witnesses against him--a right to which my client has been denied.”

Wouldn’t you know it? Someone else, our friend Kyle, is also a fan of Star Trek, and he suggests to Henry I should be given a chance to face my accusers, or at the very least they should be identified. Henry’s response?

“Like a public trial Kyle? Zero chance of success.”

Clearly Henry does not adhere to the Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies, as he clarifies in a subsequent, more elaborate explanation.

“Kyle,
If we present the actual incidents then shouldn't KD be given the chance to "contest" their "calls?" I think so, which gets you to the public trial.

And would the people make those "calls" on him if they were to be publicized with their names attached? No. Why should they take the public hit?”


I’m guessing Henry doesn’t feel very strongly about the Statutes of Alpha-3 either. But in his defense, Kyle, he might be right. I mean, why should they take a public hit, when they can remain anonymous while UPA Board Member and HOF Liaison delivers the public hit to me, and then argues passionately why it is so critically important that they remain anonymous.

“If instead, they were not only not allowed to be anonymous to the voters but they were also going to be publicized with their names attached, then we would be forcing them to essentially be whistle blowers and the number of people willing to step forward and give data would drop a lot. Why should they be the ones to take the hit, they care more about their friendships than whether KD gets into the Hall.”

Once again, Henry returns to the safety and comfort of the false dichotomy.

On one side we have people’s friendships.

On the other side we have my HOF candidacy.

I hate to break it to you Henry, but by going public with these anonymous accusations, you kind of upped the ante just a smidge. Allow me to explain.

Taking the accusations at face value (I’ll address in another post how there’s ample evidence not to do so), let’s take a look at the ripple effect.

First, you have publicly questioned my character and integrity, which is a hell of lot more important to me than the HOF.

Second, all the Nationals Finals I played in were observed games, so by suggesting that it is plausible that I could have cheated enough to alter the outcomes of those games, you have questioned the competence of the UPA Observers and the UPA Observer system. Or maybe you simply think they might have been in on it.

Third, by stating that there is some reason to give credence to these accusations, you are effectively calling into question the legitimacy of multiple UPA National Championship tournaments, and by extension the integrity of the UPA National Championship Series as a whole.

So, Henry Thorne, UPA Board Member and HOF Liaison, do you really think that preserving the anonymity of the players who made these anonymous accusations so that they don't risk friendships is more important than everything you have called into question by repeating those accusations in a public forum?

But I guess I’m really asking the wrong person the wrong question.

“On the appreciation for the work I do...
Thanks. I love this game. But It's also a privilege, a privilege to be given the authority to make decisions like this one. And I've been given that authority by voters who hope I'll represent their views.”


So, voters who put Henry in the privileged position to exercise his authority, is he representing your views? Do you also believe that protecting the friendships of the anonymous accusers whose accusations have called so much into question is of paramount importance?

Is that the spirited thing to do?

If the Code of Hammurabi and of Justinian can be invoked on behalf of Captain Kirk, why not me?

After all, I’m Captain of the ship.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Dobyns,

I have a question for you that I'd rather not discuss in a public forum. The email address available on RSD is no longer in working order. Could you contact me via email? My address is magicelf@rocketmail.com

Thanks for what you do,

Drew

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Hey, KD, so it's clear, I (Kyle) am also a former UPA Board Member. While on the Board, Henry and I disagreed about several things and agreed on many more.

And while we disagree about this issue (which I know is exceedingly personal for you) I believe that Henry is one of the UPA's best and most productive Board Members. He is very engaged with the players at many levels, is active in listening and responding to members, and proactively seeks out opinions from members. Certainly moreso than the majority of board members.

Henry has pushed for greater levels of transparency (even on this topic) and has been eager to refine and improve the HoF selection process. While he voted against your inclusion this year, the fact that he's discussing it publicly indicates that he is not sure of his decision and wants more feedback on your HoF candidacy as well as how to refine the process so that the decisions can be right from the first vote on.

I don't think it is Henry's decision to not allow the call to the community comments to be made public. Although since the comments were given in confidence he does believe (as I do) that it would be wrong to share them. If anything, there should be a process change in future years whereby any comments made about HoF candidates to the HoF committee are publicly available and it is clear to those submitting comments that they are not doing so privately.

In the interest of encouraging greater transparency from the UPA and the Board it is probably counterproductive to make Henry's uncommon (for Board Members) stating of his opinion publicly in to a referendum on his Board membership. That will almost certainly make other board members less likely to be public with their opinions and that is bad for all of us.

Kyle Weisbrod

kd said...

Kyle,

I know who you are, but since you didn't out yourself, I didn't think I should.

Yes, Henry is better at communicating with the membership than other UPA board members, but isn't that like saying you're the best Jamaican bobsledder? I mean, you're still not a very good bobsledder, right?

As for Henry's effort to add transparency to the process, I've already said (twice) he should be commended for the effort. My problem lies in how he went about doing it. Let's not forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Henry makes no mention of living up to the confidentiality deal as it relates to releasing the names of the anonymous accusers. He writes that they should not have to take a public hit or risk losing friends.

But you make a good point about living up to the deal. When the UPA HoF came to me and asked for my personal statement, they did so by stating the information would be used internally to help guide the selection process. Then they published it on the UPA web site. It seems the UPA's sensitivity to revealing private information is somewhat selective.

On your final point, there is far too much fodder there for me to respond in a comment. I'll address it in a full post later.

But quickly, do you think that Henry showed poor judgment in revealing the confidential information that he has revealed in a public forum?

Kyle Weisbrod said...

KD,

I certainly agree that if the UPA told you that your statement was only for internal purposes and then then they posted it publicly than that is inappropriate.

As far as Henry's judgment goes - I think that's tough to answer here. The process is clearly broken from the get go and seems to have put the HoF committee and Henry in a bit of a catch 22. Because of your accomplishments and fame (notoriety?), as soon as you didn't get accepted to the HoF there was an implicit calling in to question of how you accomplished your success.

In other words, if the process works you would either get in OR it would have been at least justified why you didn't get in. As it stood you weren't in and there was no justification. Henry felt the need to justify it (as I think he should). But he could only go so far because he had to protect the "private information." Did he go too far? I'm sure some would say yes. Probably others would say he should have gone farther. They got themselves in a pickle because they made what, on its face, appears to be an unjustifiable decision on information that they can't share.

As for the UPA's poor communication, I'd love to hear you weigh in on the discussion. Having seen most sides of it, I can say I don't like it very much but I'm not sure what the solution is.

kd said...

Really, Kyle? Really? The HoF fame voting triggered an implicit calling in to question how I achieved my success?

Like, "Kenny not in the HoF? Then how was he such a dominant player?"

Because if that had happened then, of course, Henry would be perfectly justified in answering "Well we had an anonymous tip that he cheated and through his systematic cheating was able to win multiple championships that NY otherwise would have lost. We can't verify the claim. Actually we didn't even try. But it justifies my vote."

You know, Kyle, the best part is that the more you guys try to wriggle your way out of admitting the most basic and simple truths, the more ridiculous the UPA, UPA Board, and UPA HoF look.

It is obvious that Henry exercised poor judgment. Yes, his intentions were honorable, but he never should have brought up the anonymous accusations. He could have accomplished everything he set out to do, justified his position with my low sportsmanship score, and simply never given a public platform to an anonymous accusation for which there is no proof. But he made an error (actually two, because he also revealed the specifics of the comparative scores for me and Pat, something he also shouldn't have done since that information is also confidential). And now we're really in a pickle.

And here you come, dissembling pathetically, deflecting disingenuously, and generally making a bad situation worse. And all you had to do was simply tell the truth, even though it might have hurt a friend's feelings.

Yes, Kyle, Henry showed poor judgment. It could have ended there. Oh well.

El_Hornito said...

Let me begin with a question: WTF? Are you kidding me? [Sorry, that's two questions.] I'm pretty sure Kafka wrote a story with parallels to Kenny's treatment a few decades before they put James T. Kirk on Trial. This whole sorry tale of rejection is one big fucking joke.

Kyle, are you seriously suggesting that Kenny's exclusion from the Hall calls into question his career accomplishments, rather than, conversely, the UPA Hall of Fame's own legitimacy? Wake up, man. You've got it all backwards.

Henry, are you seriously revealing that you, and hence the UPA, are taking the word of some anonymous slaggers [perhaps, if Ken is right, the word of one anonymous slagger] to keep indisputably one of the "Starting 7 Best Ultimate Players of All Time" out of the Hall of Fame? Dude, if this is truly the case, it's time to start naming names. Are we the members expected to accept the exclusion of a legend on the basis of anonymous testimony??

Until this issue is addressed satisfactorily, and by that I mean that Kenny Dobyns' #44 is rightfully put in the Hall of Fame, the UPA, and its anonymous slaggers and its silly justifications for a ridiculous injustice, present themselves as little more than a petty, vindictive oligarchy running a bush league operation.

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Ok, I'm confused. What specific confidential information are you talking about here?

You mentioned the comparison b/t you and Pat:

"KD had nine times as many negatives as Pat in the peer review. More than half (55%) of KD's peers checked the "his spirit should significantly detract from his qualifications" box. Next worst was 20%."

I'm not privy to the inner-workings of the process. So you are saying this was confidential (i.e. the respondents were told this would not be released)?. If so, sure, bad judgment.

But I'm unclear on the other confidential information that Henry made public. Are you talking about your public statement? Yeah, agreed, bad judgment if it was communicated that that was for the committee's eyes only. Was that Henry's doing?

Or are you talking about the anonymous cheating comment. If that's it - yeah, I'm not sure that's bad judgment. The argument that you don't deserve to get in based on "questionable spirit" alone is pretty much untenable with the huge majority of players. That has to be supported by some accusations that championships were won/lost based on unfair play to keep someone of your accomplishments out of the Hall. Did he definitely violate anyone's confidence? That's not clear to me. How would it be any different than the claims of "questionable spirit?" or any of the skill attributes? The fact is that Henry didn't play against you so his vote is based on what other people said. If you didn't get in because he heard that you were a lousy thrower how would that be any different?

He didn't have to engage in this discussion yet he did in earnest.

And I'm trying to help you out here because I think this decision and process appears to be ridiculous. So quit being an ass.

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Yes, that's what I've been fucking saying. There is a choice - either the HoF is not legitimate or Kenny's championships are not legitimate. If it's Kenny's championships there has to be some serious "evidence" beyond anonymous testimony. That's what I said on Jim's blog and that's what I'm saying here. So, yes, both are called in to question when KD was not voted into the Hall of Fame.

luke said...

shatner is canadian. 54'40 maybe, but we haven't yet annexed the fighting 51st.

Anonymous said...

The only thing the whole sordid little tale called into question for me was the judgment of the voters and an assumption that a few of them still have bruised egos/bad feelings.

The voters are still a tiny community of people. We are a small, cliquish sport, the roster of voters is likewise. The bruised, the peevish, the simply not particularly bright or logical, have louder voices in such set ups. Size (more voters, more scrutiny from the unwashed masses) will improve the problem. But don't the big sports halls still have this problem? Not for the clear first ballot guys like Ken, but the "bubble" guys. Bubble guy A was a dick to reporters, bubble guy B was a glad-hander. Bubble guy B gets in.

I'm firmly convinced that this fuckup will be fixed within the next two years.
Dan Murphy

dj said...

I agree with El Hornito, this whole incident calls into question the legitimacy of the HoF and the UPA, not Kenny's career.

KD not being voted in seems ludicrous on its face; it does not make me question his credentials but those of the HoF committee and voters. I don't recognize the majority of people that have been voted into this supposed hall and yeah that doesn't mean that they are not deserving. But one of the few names I do know is KD's and it is legendary. No I didn't play against him or even see him play. But I have heard the stories. His fame is the type of fame that existed before newspapers, blogs and lameass "Halls of Fame". How many people get to play this sport and people still know their name long after they've retired? I have no doubt if this issue was voted on by all of the UPA members, KD wins in a landslide.

But even worse, the justification for his exclusion is libelous. A board member violates the rules of the process by releasing confidential information that calls into question the man's character? So not only do you not vote him in, but you spit on his reputation? Based on an anonymous comment that he cheated? What is this, high school? Because that's what it looks like.

And Kyle, KD's reputation and the reputation of his championship teams was called into question publicly based on an anonymous comment. If you don't understand why he's justifiably upset, then I'm glad you're a former UPA board member. "Quit being an ass"? That comment is so ridiculous that I have no respect for anything else you might say on this subject.

I love to play ultimate but this incident just furthers the reputation of the UPA as a joke.

/Drew Jones

Anonymous said...

Drew,

You're a little worked up here. I fully agree that the voters fucked up. But, well, they're a small group of people. Small groups of people fuck up ALL THE TIME. This doesn't mitigate their "wrongness" in this instance. But nor does it "question the legitmacy of the HOF" or the sanity of the voters. They just fucked up (like you, i suspect, for petty reasons).

The good news is that KD appears to be a man in robust in middle age. There are many years to put the recent mistake to rights. And I guarantee you that they will.

So, when they put KD in, will the clearly illegitimate hall of fame voted on by a bunch of clearly incompetent wankers suddenly become the clearly legitimate hall of fame voted on by a bunch of clearly competent paragaons?

No. It won't. It was never the first, and it will never be the second.
Dan Murphy