Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
Joe owned one of the finest bird dogs ever seen. It had won many trophies over the years. One day, Joe got a call from a friend named Dave, who asked if he could borrow the dog to go pheasant hunting. Well, Joe told him that he never loaned his dog to hunt, and asked Dave if he had ever hunted with a dog. Dave said, “Oh sure, grew up hunting with a dog”. “Well then, you’re a pretty good friend, I guess you can use him”, Joe agreed. Dave showed up, and Joe brought out his champion dog and loaded him in the truck.”Good luck,” Joe said,”hope you brought plenty of shells, see you later”. That evening, Dave came back to Joe’s. “Well, how many did you get?” Joe asked. “We didn’t get any,” Dave shouted. “That’s unbelievable,” Joe exclaimed. Dave said,”Yeah, it was the funniest thing, we got there, I loaded my gun, and I let out your dog and we started hunting. All of a sudden, your dog stopped. He had his head pointing straight forward, his ears were straight forward, his back was straight as an arrow, his tail was pointing straight back, his one paw was lifted up off the ground, and he just stood there. Couple quick kicks in the butt broke him of that!”
I hear from range officials from all over the country who have tried to do the right thing with stage design, safety calls, procedurals, etc., in an effort to keep their local match on the right track with respect to USPSA rules. Despite their best efforts, they have been shouted down, ostracized, and alienated as “rules nazis” or “hard-asses”, simply for trying to stay within the rule book. Because of this, they give up–like that dog in the joke–because they are tired of having their butts kicked by the willfully ignorant members that don’t understand the rules, don’t care about them, or even worse, are working from either an outdated or their own version of, the rulebook. Pat Sajak, when asked why they took away a win from a contestant, who’s answer was deemed by many to be “close”, said: “You can’t do close, otherwise you got no game”.
I frequently hear about disqualifications for safety infractions, or procedural penalties being overturned by Match Directors or RMs who state, “it’s just a club match”, as if that excuses abdicating their position and abandoning the rules. I sometimes hear about occurrences of this at higher level matches as well. Without rules, you have no competition, and certainly no “safe, fun, fair” USPSA or Steel Challenge competition, and without someone following and enforcing those rules, well, the wheels fall off the wagon.
What can a conscientious range official do about this? For starters, stand your ground! Bring the rules with you, point them out, make others aware of them. And, refuse to be shouted down or bullied if you are in the right. Some willful violations of the rules, or ignoring such violations, are on the verge of cheating, and USPSA takes cheating very seriously. Besides affecting the outcome of the match, not following the rules is a tremendous disservice to your competitors. Imagine a club member who ventures to another match where the rules are being followed ending up with penalties or even being disqualified, for something that has been blithely ignored at his home club. Sadly, this happens more often than we’d like. Lax attention to the rules will ultimately lead to fewer competitors coming out to shoot, simply because they never know what to expect. The same goes for trained range officials–if they are not allowed to do their jobs correctly, or are constantly overruled, they soon quit trying.
It’s up to all of us to maintain the integrity of the sport we participate in. We have a stable set of rules to go by, and they aren’t open to interpretation or manipulation. Stand your ground and enforce them, professionally and courteously, but firmly.
“Doing the right thing is a decision, which in many cases means you stand alone.” Sebastian Kurz