Vote of the crowd during freestyle football battles ?
We are used to have 3 judges for small competitions and 5 for bigger ones. The judges panel is made of experimented freestylers who know the history of the sport, the subtlety of tricks, the nuance in terms of difficulty or when a new trick is pulled off. We tend, in general, to have a balanced panel so that every criteria is well considered : technique, creativity, variety, musicality and so on…
As far as I remember, there hasn’t been any big competition that gave the responsability to the crowd to judge. And this for what seems to be a good motive : the crowd is far less familiar with freestyle football and less aware of the subtlety of various tricks. It doesn’t know who created the tricks and whether a trick is new or not.. So with this analysis, it is fair to admit the crowd will be wrong about the battle more often. But this notion to be wrong or not about a battle judgment is very subjective anyway. But you get my point.
However, the crowd will for sure miss the nuance and fine detail that the judges would see. Thus, we have this negative preconception about the crowd. That was my case for a long time, which isn’t anymore. I’m going to explain.
The crowd will miss undoubtedly lots of things during a battle but will be focused on a more general impression the freestyler and his/her movements convey. I am now convinced the crowd will have a very good general point of the view in this concern. It will not fall into those easy and cheap bias : « woaaah, his outwear and haircut are amazing.. plus he can do a backflip and a carousel !! » The crowd, in my opinion, is not so naive anymore. Of course, some people in the crowd will think that way but it won’t be the majority. People can easily perceive those things:
- if the freestyler drops a lot or is consistent.
- if the freestyler has his own style or is different from others
- if the freestyler has good and aesthetically pleasing moves
- if the freestyler is on the beat
- the relative difficulty of some moves, but not the absolute.
Of course, the crowd won’t be able to know if a freestyler copied tricks or even the whole style from another freestyler which is not in the competition nor the real difficulty of some tricks that seem easy at a first glance.
But beyond this, the crowd will be more paying attention to the body language, the attitude and aesthetics of the movements than the average freestyler or even an experimented judge. Those will be their criterias to vote. Why ? Because, the crowd doesn’t have the technical approach to judge the battle, so it is going to focus more on different aspects. To me, the crowd will have a bigger picture of the battle that go beyond the field of freestyle football. Which is not necessarily the case of a judge because our criteria in freestyle football are quite specific. The vision of the crowd and the vision of a judge panel complement each other, in that perspective. One is more general, the other is more specific. In most cases, freestylers reproach the crowd this generalistic view and lack of knowledge. But it does not mean the crowd is wrong, it is just a different view.
Small note regarding the attitude. It is naive to think an agressive attitude or all other « cliché » attitude will seduce the whole crowd. It is important to remember the crowd is a miror of our society : the crowd panel represents all different tastes. Some people will like this sort of attitude, other will like someone who does not show off too much.
Anyway, to me, I have thrown away those misconceptions about the crowd I had at my beginning. I’ve seen during my shows and battles, people had a large spectrum of different tastes regarding a trick, an attitude or a style.
I assume there can be this fear that one can feel if we give the crowd the chance and responsability to vote during battles : tricks and combinations would lose their detail and freestylers would tend to do what the crowd wants. But do we really know what the crowd likes to see ? I will take an example only : one can think that doing tricks with the weak foot is not anymore necessary. Because the crowd won’t see this detail. But doing tricks and combos with both feet in a big picture can be seen : there is a symetry and aesthetics. The crowd will perceive, at least, in a unconscious level.
In the same way, if every freestyler does a backflip to seduce the crowd, people will adapt and won’t consider anymore this trick as something so good to their eye. People are like us, freestylers, they like to see new things that surprise them.
There is a final variable which is very important regarding the vote of the crowd. It is the collective intelligence.
Francis Galton made an experiment where the crowd had to guess the weight of an ox. He predicted the crowd would be wrong and after collecting 750+ estimations, he was surprised. The average of all estimations from the crowd was 547kg whereas the actual weight of the animal was 545kg. Every time the experiment was conducted, the result was the same as long as enough people takes part at the experiment and as long as they do not influence each other.
For the matter of judging in freestyle football, it is more subtle because the result is not something factual : we can’t verify afterwards if the crowd was right or wrong because who’s better in a battle is subjective. Anyway, if we follow the conclusion of this experiment, it would mean : every person in the crowd has a personal opinion about the battle but the totality of opinions represent a point of view which is very lucid and relevant.
Best thing to do, is to organize a classic competition with a panel of judges. But when the judges raise their hand to vote, the crowd does the same (with for example blue and red cardboards). Only the judges’ decision would count but we collect also the crowd vote. After the competition, we ask freestylers to express their opinion about the battles the following day (in that way, they have a more lucid view) and then we compare the crowd’s vote with the judges’ vote. I think we might be surprised.
Red bull organizes a competition called « Dance Your Style » where the dancers of all styles battle. The crowd votes with this blue/red cardboard method.
I still think the best way to judge a battle is with a panel of experimented judges. Moreover, it is deep rooted in our culture. But I would like to see some competitions with the crowd having a small impact at least. There is also a problem when the vote of the crowd is not so clear, for example 55-45%. It is impossible without a specific technology to decide only by looking at the cardoards.