ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

JUDGING THE JUDGES

So the boys and I are sitting around, talking sports.

"I don't know," Joe Jr. said. "I'm not sure they really stuck that triple Lutz like they should have."

"You've got to be kidding," his brother-in-law, Mike, replied. "Didn't you see the elevation they got? And the rotation?"

"And there wasn't so much as a wobble on the landing," future brother-in-law, Nate, chimed in.

"Besides," 10-year-old Jon added, "she's cute."

My sons all looked at each other. They smiled and nodded knowingly.

As far as they were concerned, the decision had been made and a gold medal awarded.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking I just walked into an episode of "The Twilight Zone."

I mean, just two weeks ago this same group was huddled around the big screen discussing linebackers, tight ends and hard-hitting Super Bowl strategies. Last week we gathered to pay homage to the best slam dunkers and long distance shooters in the National Basketball Association. And now we're arguing figure skating?

FIGURE SKATING?!?!?

The Winter Olympics will do that to you - especially when there's a judging controversy. Suddenly a bunch of guys who don't know a Salchow from a Jersey cow are arguing the finer points of toe loops and double axles like they normally argue zone defenses and safety blitzes.

"Great interpretation of the music!" Joe said.

"Great athleticism!" Mike said.

"Great costumes!" Nate said.

"She's cute!" Jon said.

Smiles all around.

Thumbs up!

As events of the past couple of weeks have shown, Olympic judging is a little more complicated than that. It requires skill, insight, experience, technical expertise, courage and personal integrity - and the ability to pull that all together to make a split-second evaluation. And Olympic judges must do all of this knowing perfectly well that most of the athletes they are judging have devoted a significant portion of their lives to this one moment, and that whatever they decide will not only make a difference in who receives the gold medal, but that it may forever alter the lives of the participants.

Thankfully, most of us don't often have to make such impactful spur-of-the-moment judgments in our lives. We usually have time to consider options and alternatives, and to carefully weigh the possible consequences of our decisions. Hopefully that will help us avoid making a "French judge" kind of a mistake - you know what I mean?

But even when our judgment is faulty, for whatever reason, we usually have the opportunity to adjust, re-evaluate and make things right - with or without a press conference. And then we can get back to more important things - like talking sports.

Which reminds me - could you believe the curling finals?

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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.