*** Edited Friday 2.8.08: READ THE COMMENTS UNDER THIS POST; a Miss Maple CIty judge has chimed in with her side of the story. ***
An article published yesterday by a Miss Maple City judge is getting quite a negative reaction in the pageant community. (If you haven’t read it yet, scroll below.)
Let me start by saying I don’t know Miss Maple City Heather Wells, nor do I know judge and article author Andy Pretsok, and I never held the Maple City title. Nonetheless, I only agree with one of the four negatives being discussed in online pageant communities.
The issues are sympathy toward Heather, the appropriateness of such an article, Mr. Pretsok suitability as a judge and the efficacy of the Top 5 ballot system.
First- like many, I feel awful for Heather. It’s not fair or kind for it to be made public that “Immediately, the four female judges — all pageant veterans -- formed a huddle and started complaining about the winner, saying her swimsuit was too revealing, she wore the wrong kind of shoes during the question and answer period and her toes were not pointed in the right direction during her dance routine. Then they began demanding to know who it was who voted for her.”
Second – Of course there is the argument that Mr. Pretsok should have never written this sort of exposé. Granted, I think the paragraph I posted above is a bit too specific, I don’t mind the article overall. In fact, I think it’s a good thing! As pageant fans we need to constantly remind ourselves that this world we are so used to is completely foreign to many around us. Anything that offers “pageant civilians” an inside look, possibly grabbing their interest, is a positive. I think it gives valuable insight on the judging process that contestants should read, and he highlights the ten minute interview and how impressive the contestants are.
Third- Mr. Pretsok admitted, “I was unclear on what exactly to look for in judging the contestants. The instructions were nebulous.” (Nebulous means vague, by the way.) Some fans are charging that he was unqualified to judge, that he should not have accepted the responsibility and that pageant officials did a poor job briefing their judges. *sigh* I literally shook my head as I read such allegations. If pageant directors gave specific judging instructions then they’d be accused of trying to sway their judged toward a certain contestant! Yes, the instructions are nebulous because everyone has a different opinion of who an “it” girl is, what makes a good role model, what type of talent is impressive, etc…
I don’t have a problem with “novice” judges; every pageant has them. If Miss America is supposed to be relatable to the general public, then a judging panel should include a member of that public. Not to mention the fact that national level pageants include celebrity judges who don’t know the ins and outs of pageantry either. Let the “qualified” judges score if she was wearing the right shoes, the novice judges score charisma and reliability based on a gut feeling and the scores all average out in the end! Finally, average is the key word-
Fourth- Since four of the judges supposedly had a problem with the winner, many fans are jumping to the conclusion that a tabulation error must have been made. Again, I shake my head because this indicates a lack of understanding of how numbers average out. As the article states, the judges are given a brief moment to rank the women; let me give you an example of how a Top 5 ballot works with some fake contestants:
Judge #1######### Judge #2 ##### Judge #3
1. Samantha ##### 1. Ms. Big #### 1. Ms. Big
Judge #4 ##### Judge #5 ###### Judge #6
1. Carrie ##### 1. Charlotte ### 1. Samantha
*** Since originally publishing this, I found out what values MAO actually assigns to the final ballot: 1 = 10 points, 2 = 5 points, 3 = 3 points, 4 = 2 points and 5= 1 point. The ladies would score as follows:
Ms. Big: 28
So, Carrie takes the crown (she is the star of the show) even though only one judged deemed her the winner. Judges either loved or hated Samantha and Ms. Big, while Carrie stayed in the middle and garnered the most points. Note, Samantha and Ms. Big were both first by two judges and Ms. Big was last three times to Samantha's two; yet, Ms. Big placed higher than Samantha because Judge #4 placed her second. Poor Miranda was only “last” according to one judge, but ended in 4th place anyway.
As for Miss Maple City, so four judges were surprised by Heather's win - that does not mean all four of those judges ranked her fifth. Thus, her win was mathematically possible. Getting even one first place vote gives a five point advantage over the other four ranks.
So you see, it’s entirely possible for judges to be perplexed at accurate results. If you take issue with this, it’s the Top 5 balloting system that you should fight to eliminate, rather than accosting the winner, judges or auditors.
I think maybe I am “okay” with all of this thanks to my Forensics experience. Sometimes the judges would know what they were doing, other times they were faculty from the Communications or Theatre department who merely owed a favor to the Director of Forensics who was hosting the tournament. In Forensics, you’re divided into groups of 4 to 7 competitors and you do your event 2 or 3 times, for a different judge each time, usually with a different mix of competitors. You’re given both a score and ranked against the others in your group. In the end, the top 6 compete in a final round. Our coach always stressed that you had to be the best in each round. Forensics speak goes like this: “You have to get the one. If you go one, one, six, someone with straight threes WILL beat you.”
For lack of a better phrase, sometime you get screwed. But if you’re good enough, you will eventually be successful.