2013-10-17 – You might get mad at the refs for a bad call, but did you ever wonder what your favorite sport might look like if there were no refs? No? Well give it a think!
If you’re having trouble visualizing this, just think about the behavior of the US Congress over the last several weeks. Or even the last several years. These hallowed halls have rule, sure, but there’s no one to call fouls or to eject players from the game. Even basic principles like majority-rule give way to arcane little cheats. And no one gets called for it.
When I was in high school (in the fabled Sixties), I took a year of speech class. I was a sophomore, of course. We did extemporaneous speeches. We did impromptu speeches. We did demonstrations. We did dramatic reading, We did debate. And we did parliamentary procedure.
In the parliamentary procedure unit, the class formed a legislature of an imaginary country. We conducted our sessions according to Robert’s Rules of Order. Our teacher, the flat-topped Mr. Weidner (who was both wide and quite tall), gave us assignments each day to get a particular type of motion introduced into the business of the legislature and voted on before the bell rang. The assignments were written on cards and distributed at the beginning of class. You could make any other type of motion you wanted for fun, but you had to complete the assignment motion.
In Mr. W’s deck of cards was a “rabble rouser” card. If you got this card, your assignment was to use parliamentary valid motions to disrupt the business of the class-legislature. He gave this card to me early on. He probably noticed that I had taken a keen interest in the rules and figured that I would be good at rousing rabble.
And he was right. I had the business of the class so confused after 10 minutes that he took the card away from me. Instead, he assignment me a normal motion to complete and he retired the rabble-rouser card for the day.
But I continued making motion after motion until Mr. W challenged me. “What do you think you are doing?” He asked. I told him that I thought I was probably the only one in the class who knew the convoluted path of disruption I had followed and that I thought I had to untangle things so that ordinary business could proceed. He accepted my explanation, but rather than take up any more time on rabble, he simply declared all my prior motions void. A kind of do-over. An instant replay.
There is no referee in Congress. The mess created in the last few weeks is still there.