Confessions of a Head Judge

A few funny tidbits from tonight’s Spelling Bee:

  • Mr. Davis is stumbling through the rules, doing his best to explain how many different ways a kid can fuck this up. He wants to be clear about everything. Say it. Spell it. Say it. A word can only be misspelled by two contestants. If both spell it wrong, the next contestant will get a new word. It seems a bit excessive. He’s taken fifteen minutes to read through six rules. It’s going to be a long night.

  • A-B-O-U-T
    A-F-R-A-I-D
    A-N-O-T-H-E-R
    B-E-C-A-U-S-E
    B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y
    B-R-A-N-C-H-E-S
    G-H-O-S-T

  • PGD’s “use-it-in-a-sentence” examples are the highlight of my night.

  • “Ghost. We needed to call the Ghost Busters to help get rid of the ghosts. Ghost.”

  • G-I-R-A-F-F-E
    A-L-T-H-O-U-G-H
    C-O-U-G-H
    D-A-M-A-G-E
    D-I-S-A-P-P-E-A-R
    E-N-O-U-G-H
    G-R-O-C-E-R-I-E-S
    E-N-G-I-N-E

  • “Engine. The little engine that could. Engine.”

  • Max Price spelled it right but forgot to say it the second time. That’s why we read the rules.

  • “We all love chocolate…in some form or other.”

  • These freshmen are amazing. They’re smart enough to bang out words like “amusement” and “amendment” in three seconds but can’t remember to say it first.

  • Cocoa: Taking fuckers down since 1927.

  • “Crystal. We drank from a crystal goblet at the wedding. Crystal.”

  • Blue just swept sophomores. After the last white contestant was eliminated, Ian Kaye didn’t understand that deciding first and second was unnecessary. He wanted that blue ribbon, damnit!

  • Guest Judge Mark “Pee Wee” Glovin just passed Shif a note: “Juniors are dumb.”

  • PGD just threw marijuana into the mix for seniors. I think that’s a good time to get out. “Marijuana is an ILLEGAL substance” might never be topped.

Being a Color War Head Judge is probably the biggest roller coaster experience of my life. On the one hand, I’m given an inordinate amount of power over camp for a week. Every meal, every lineup, every period, every single bugle is on me. Any and all questions have to be run through me. Every important decision is made by my pink staff. The power is exhilarating and addicting, but not for the reasons you would think. It’s not the control I love. It’s the accountability. When a call has to be made, everyone looks to me. They’ve all put their trust in me to be the fairest and most efficient judge possible, and I relish the opportunity to reward that trust.

On the other hand, I have the biggest target on my back all week. When a member of one of the teams screws up, they only have to answer to themselves. Being understanding is beneficial to them and their players. But when I’m in the wrong, the only way they can deal with it is by arguing, filing protests, and screaming their fucking faces off. When I screw up, I have to answer to them, and it gets ugly.

So, essentially I love and hate my job as a Head Judge for the same reason. Color War is the biggest week of the summer, and for the Captains, Bunk 14ers, and Generals, it’s the biggest week of their lives. The stakes are as high as they can be. And that puts the pressure on the refs and judges to keep everything as impartial as possible so the teams can decide the winner. And I — for lack of better phrasing — eat that shit up.

The excitement of Color War is intoxicating, and I love being a part of it. I can smell the intensity in every game. I can feel it emanating from the campers themselves. It’s literally seeping from their pores. It’s in every chest pound, every team cheer, every huddle, every curse word. Seeing the fire in the kids’ eyes takes me back to my years as a camper, when I waited all summer for this week. I would envision the battles with Keith Agoada and Dave Chella, the verbal wars with the other teams’ lieutenants, the staredowns and dirty looks at meals and lineups. And when the war finally broke, I would enter into another dimension. Watching these kids fall deeper and deeper into the Color War trance is an absolute joy. They surrender themselves to it. What I wouldn’t give to be in their shoes for one day.

But alas, I remain a humble Pink Flamingo, twirling my whistle, carrying around my clipboard, hiding my tired and baggy eyes behind sunglasses for twelve hours a day, checking rosters until 3 a.m., and waiting for the next game to start. And I’m sure once I get there, a coach will be waiting there to yell at me about some stupid Kickball rule. Such is life.

Day is done. Gone the sun. See you on Day 4.

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4 Responses to Confessions of a Head Judge

  1. General 3-Peat says:

    Stick to being a Color War General – it’s way more fun and you get to yell at the dumb-ass Head Judge!

  2. Michael Gleason says:

    There are some PGD classics.

    “Percolator” is a perennial CW spelling bee word.

  3. Katcher's Dad says:

    After reading your blog Josh, I now have a much better understanding of why you all crave to return each year and why Ben still dreams about going back. Great stuff! Keep writing.

  4. Pingback: 2010 in review | The Summer of Zen

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