It's Not Whether You Win Or Lose...

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Editor's Note: The subject of this article is unfair national campaign tactics. In discussing the examples of poor sportsmanship and questionable campaign strategies employed by some national campaigners, it is not meant to imply that all owners of national winning cats behave this way.

The cat show season is over. While the winners have not been officially announced, this season's national campaigners have been busy making their own calculations, and most know exactly where they and their competition stand... goals met or goals missed.

There are breath-taking cats who have earned the coveted NW title... and equally stunning cats who will just have missed out on a national win by a handful of points.

Many campaigners ran a clean campaign and showed their cats with honor. Others did not.

The end of every show season is always stressful for the national campaigners, especially those jockeying for those last few slots in Championship and Premiership. Unfortunately, this year saw the continuance and the debut of some especially distasteful campaign tactics by some exhibitors.

Winning At All Costs

Too many people in the year 2006 believe more in the philosophy of "Winning isn't everything; It's the only thing."

Attributed to the professional football coach Vince Lombardi, this proverb was meant to stress the importance of making whatever effort is required to reach your goal. The implication was never that the effort would include cheating, manipulation, sabotage or corruption.

Competitiveness is good. It pushes us to our full potential and helps us succeed. Yet there is a dark side to the winning-is-everything philosophy. If it means that in order for one to win, others must lose, too much competitiveness can cause a person to step over the line of what is right and fair.

In other words, if I'm not equally concerned with how the game is played, I may cheat those stronger than me and take advantage of those who are weaker.

The Sportsman’s Prayer:

When the Great Scorer comes to write,
He will not write whether you won or lost,
but how you played the game.

The Cat Fancy

In the past cat show season, I have seen wonderful cats owned by quality people who ran honorable campaigns. At the same time, this past season has seen an escalating trend of more exhibitors engaging in distasteful campaign strategies that range from shenanigans to truly disgraceful and corrupt behavior.

THE QUESTION

Should I do everything I can do to win, or should I play the game
with the highest level of respect and sportsmanship possible?

Stuffing To Manipulate National Standing

Stuffing a show - entering cats for the sole purpose of inflating the count and garnering extra points - began over a decade ago. Initially it was done at a show or two. While obviously ethically questionable, it is not against a specific show rule, although one could certainly argue that such behavior falls under conduct detrimental to the cat fancy.

Because stuffing has not been penalized and in fact has rewarded exhibitors by giving them more points than they would have earned if the show had not been artificially enhanced, the practice of stuffing has escalated year-by-year. More clubs knowingly accept entries that are "stuffers". More and more campaigners co-operate in entering stuffers and even split the expenses of paying for entries for other people to stuff the shows. Some entry clerks actively help campaigners stuff by letting them know who has "for sale" kittens entered in the show so the campaigners can offer to pay their entries if the owners put the kitten in a single ring to add to the count... and the scenarios just go on-and-on.

Stuffing rewards the unsportsmanlike, and penalizes those exhibitors who choose to run a clean campaign.

Stuffing has now played an integral part in determining both the #1 position and the bottom slots in the top 25 on more than one occasion, in more than one season, in Kittens, Championship and Premiership.

Stuffing to manipulate national standing is disgraceful and distasteful and represents a total lack of sportsmanship. This was never the way the founders of CFA envisioned the top winners would be determined. It is not the way the modern CFA should want to have its national winners decided either.

Withholding The Count Publicly While Revealing the Count To "Preferred" Campaigners

Campaigners often enter more than one show in a weekend, waiting for the show counts to be announced in order to determine which show would be best for them to attend. It is standard procedure for cat clubs to announce their counts once their show has closed.

Several clubs this season chose not to reveal their show counts publicly while letting their "preferred" campaigners know the count. This refusal to give out the count was only revealed after the show closed and entries were accepted from exhibitors who expected to know the count in order to choose the best show for their cats that weekend. Refusing to give the count to all exhibitors resulted in penalizing the people who didn't know the count while the "in crowd" who knew the count gained an unfair advantage.

Rejecting Entries After Closing

One club holding a show on the last weekend of the year accepted entries from several national campaigners, including sending them their confirmations. After the show closed, the club contacted the owners of the cats and told them their entry had been rejected because payment had not been received before closing. Typically, payment for entries is accepted "at the door" on the first day of the show. If the club required immediate payment, it should have notified the exhibitors prior to confirming their entries.

Such behavior would seem to be an obvious attempt to lock certain competitive cats out of the show in order to clear the field for "Preferred" cats.

Inflation Of The Count To Lure Campaigners

In a new twist on "stuffing", one high-profile campaigner competing for the 25th slot with just a few points separating the cats in contention entered 10 cats in the last show of the season, helping to increase the count. Indeed it was "The Show" to be at if you had a top-winning campaign cat.

The exhibitor then flew with her own campaign cat to a different show - a show at which most of the top cats would not be present because they had been attracted to the higher count show. Of course the first show had a lower count than expected, partially because of her absenteed cats. The campaigners who came expecting a huge count were disappointed.

The show the exhibitor attended had less campaign competition as a result and became a much easier show in which her cat could final.

Was her intent to lure the top cats to one show while she went to another? Or was it a just a last minute campaign decision to go to the fly show with her one cat instead of her original show with her stuffer cats? If her actions were innocent, then this is another example where stuffing is responsible for leaving a nasty taste in people's mouths. If her action was deliberate then it is shameful. Either way, is this the sort of thing we want to see on the national campaign scene?

Judges Studying National Standings

It appeared that more than one judge this season was actively basing their finals on moving cats up or down in the national standings. Should a judge be looking at the epoints of the national campaign cats to see how many points a certain cat needs to make it into the top 25? Obviously not - yet that is exactly what appears to have been happening.

It begs the question - Should a judge be following the national standings? Should national standings influence where a judge finals (or doesn't final) a cat? Should a judge be campaigning their own cat one week and then judging their competition the next - with the power to influence their competion's success or lack of finals?

The Future

At a time when sport is threatened by unhealthy competition resulting in doping, performance enhancing drugs, Olympic judging scandals and other unfair practices, it is hoped that the leadership in the cat fancy will inspire present and future generations of fanciers to take a higher road.

The sportsman’s prayer says:

When the Great Scorer comes to write,
He will not write whether you won or lost,
but how you played the game.

Perhaps there is a lesson in this for the cat fancy... and perhaps for the game of life as well.  

THE QUESTION

Will the leadership of the cat fancy step forward
and eliminate the prolifer
ation of
unethical, distasteful and unsportsmanlike campaign tactics?

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