Monday, December 15, 2014

Not Your Usual Ski Race Prediction Game

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Our intrepid reporters don't seem to be as productive as they were in the past. We sent a team of our intrepid researchers to figure out why. Suddenly, our research team also took a big turn for the worse and stopped coming up with information for the reporters. What was going on? We finally hired an independent research team, even though their researchers are not nearly as intrepid as ours. But what choice did we have? It turns out that our reporters and researchers were very busy..............inventing and playing games! We would normally not put up with that nonsense because our employees are being paid to report the things that the others don't dare to print, not play games. But in this case, the game that they came up with was so good, we plan to ask others in the ski world to play it starting next season. Here to explain how this game works is one of our reporters, who was also one of the inventors. She wanted to be called Mary for this interview. Let's find out what she has to say.

BB: Tell our readers about this game. 
Mary: Each player starts off with 10 racers--
BB: Whoa! That sounds just like Fantasy Ski Racer.
Mary: No, it is different. At the beginning of the season each player picks 10 racers in each discipline. For example, for the men's slalom a player will pick 10 slalom racers. He will keep these 10 racers for the whole season.
BB: Are the players supposed to figure out who will finish first through tenth? It seems that you are copying Fantasy Ski Racer.
Mary: Not at all. Our game has a twist. Of the 10 racers that a player picks for the season, at least two must be ranked outside the top 30 on the World Cup Start List (WCSL) in that particular discipline, and at least two must be ranked from 16 to 30 on the WCSL. But you don't pick which racer will be 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. 
BB: So what do you do?
Mary: Wait until the race is over. If the racers that you chose make it into the top 10, you get points. You get 10 points for 1st place, 5 for 2nd and 3rd places, 3 for 4th and 5th places and 1 for places 6 to 10. But if one of the racers ranked 16 to 30 is in the top 10, the points are doubled. You get triple points if one of your athletes outside the top 30 makes it into the top 10. 
BB: I see. What happens if one of your athletes is injured or changes position on the WCSL?
Mary: If one of the athletes gets injured, you are allowed to get another one. Also, if you have an athlete ranked outside the top 15 or 30 who moves up, you must pick another one so that you have at least two from those positions and get rid of one that you already have.
BB: I see. It sounds pretty straightforward, getting points for how well the racers you picked perform. But I see one drawback. If you are picking and keeping track of 10 racers in each discipline for both men and women, that is 100 racers. That seems awfully complex!
Mary: We will have full-time game administrators who will keep track of the points and the racers' rankings and players' points. They will have all of the data on a computer and will make backups.
BB: I hope they're not using their work computers.
Mary: Uh......of course not.
BB: So that's all there is to it? Pick a pool of 10 racers and you get points for their performance.
Mary: No. There are also some bonuses and penalties.
BB: Bonuses? That sounds like the PPP game in one of the big Facebook ski racing groups. And penalties?
Mary:  We have both bonuses and penalties. I'll talk about the bonuses first. The first one is the artistry bonus. If one of your 10 racers gets the most artistry points for a fall or unique move, you get 5 points. It doesn't matter if they finish or not. Let's say that you had Patrick Kueng as one of your 10 racers for men's downhill. Even though he didn't finish the downhill race in Beaver Creek, he got the top marks for artistry. Anyone who had him as one of his 10 racers would get an extra 5 points added to his score.
BB: Interesting. That is one way to get some extra points in your game.
Mary: The next bonus is for racers who come from a team without a witch doctor.
BB: If you have an Austrian as one of your 10 racers, you would automatically get a bonus if they had a top 10 finish. 
Mary: No. Austria is the exception because that team is so good it doesn't need a witch doctor. But if any of your racers from a team without a witch doctor finish in the top 10, you get a two point bonus per racer. I know that the USA doesn't have a witch doctor because they don't believe in voodoo. So any US racer in the top 10 gives the player a two point bonus. It's the same for other teams without witch doctors.
BB: What about teams that are under a witch doctor's curse? Sweden was under a curse last season for kidnapping Germany's witch doctor. 
Mary: Hmmmm....we didn't think of that situation. I'll have to meet with the others who helped to create our game and see how that fits in. I would imagine it would be the same as not having a witch doctor. I'll have to get back to you on that one. But the third bonus is for racers from teams who have trainers from the new Austrian Convicts to Coaches program.  (see this story)
BB: That sounds like a rule that would benefit the USA. They seem to hire a lot of Austrian and Swiss trainers with questionable pasts. 
Mary: They do. But everyone deserves a second chance in life. For every athlete in the top 10 from your racers, you get a one point bonus if he or she has a trainer from that program.
BB: Fair enough.  All of these bonuses will keep the game administrators busy. Will they have time to get their real work done? The game creators are supposed to be researching and reporting, not playing games. 
Mary: Of course this will be done during their time off. It won't take up as much time as you think because one of us is married to a software engineer who came up with a program to calculate the points, bonuses, and penalties. One of the administrators just enters the names at the beginning of the season. The program has also been written so that players whose racers move up into the top 30 or top 15 are notified so that they can make the necessary changes before the next race. This will be done on a personal computer instead of a work one.
BB: Tell our readers about the different penalties.
Mary: The first one is what we call the "prima donna penalty." There are actually two parts to it. The first is that a player who picks a racer who does not wear the normal team uniform speed suit, and that racer places in the top 10, will have five points deducted from his score.
BB: What about a young racer doing a World Cup race but wearing his team's Europa Cup suit?
Mary: That is okay as long as it is an official team uniform.
BB: It sounds like you are discriminating against Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, who wear their own speed suits. 
Mary: And what is wrong with the official team uniforms? Why are Lindsey and Julia so ashamed of their country that  they refuse to wear the official speed suit? But remember, if they get the most artistry points in the race, the player will get a bonus. Also the USA doesn't have a witch doctor, so those bonus points can offset an athlete refusing to wear the official team race suit. The second part of the prima donna rule is that racers who train separately from their team can result in a three point penalty for a player.
BB: What about racers from very tiny countries like Liechtenstein? For example, Tina Weirather trains with the Swiss team. Chemmy Alcott trained with Norway because the British Federation didn't support her. 
Mary: Those who train with others because their teams are tiny, or because they don't have proper support from their national federations, are exempt. Larisa Yurkiw was dropped by her federation and trains on her own. Tina Maze trains by herself because she didn't get support from SloSki. Adam Zampa trains with the Kostelics and Croatian team. This rule is more for racers from the powerhouse countries who think that they are too good to train with their teammates. There are some Austrians and Americans who train separately instead of with their teams. They obviously realize that there is no I in team.
BB: That sounds fair I guess. Are there any other penalties?
Mary: Yes, there is a second penalty. If the racer is wearing a speed suit that would give him or her an artistic impression deduction, the player gets a two point deduction.
BB: Any player who has a Finnish racer who finishes in the top 10 gets an automatic deduction for those speed suits. The same for the French or Julia Mancuso with her patchwork suit. 
Mary: Like the FIS, we believe that the athletes should look good. They are supposed to be in a ski race, not Clown College! (see this link)
BB: But the racers don't pick their suits, except for a select few. The national federations do. 
Mary: Once our game takes off, the national federations will give their racers better speed suits. The federations don't want to be guilty of causing players to get a deduction because their athletes had horrid speed suits.
BB: I see. Do you know what you will be calling your game?
Mary: We don't have a name for it yet, though we are looking for suggestions for a catchy one that people will remember. But we are hoping that it will be bigger than Fantasy Ski Racer or the PPP game. Of course the Blickbild will be promoting it.
BB: Of course we will. Our employees came up with it after all! The Blickbild's reporters are not only intrepid, they are very creative. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and for telling us about your game. I'm sure it will be a big hit next season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters should get a big deduction for shirking their duties and playing a game, but a bonus for inventing it.

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