Saturday, April 26, 2008

Falling like a cat twisting in the air to land on its feet

Wow, Poko. Great recovery!

I usually take a lot of pictures, mostly videos, of the matches I attend.

At this weekend's club match at Dundee, I decided not to even carry my camera with me. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny Spring day (68 degrees, no wind, no rain, no winter's cold ...) and SWMBO is home with Walking Pneumonia. I've missed more matches than I have competed in for the past six months, and I just wanted to relax and enjoy the folks and the match.

On the second stage of the day (Stage 1), I reconsidered my decision. The great thing about taking a LOT of videos is that often I serendipitously capture a defining moment which nobody could have predicted. It has happened before, and I was astonished in the event at having caught a competitor performing an amazing act of shooting legerdemain ... or, alternatively, crashing and burning in the most spectacularly manner imaginable. I decided not to go to the camera because, frankly, I was having too much fun and enjoying the company of a bunch of amiable old-pharts which whom I was squadded.

Not ten minutes after having decided not to start filming, an incident occurred which I wished to heaven I had photographed.

S. Pokropowicz, a Paraguayan national (I swear, per prior agreement, that he is not of Polish descent) got tangled up in a rope which was part of a stage prop and took a particularly nasty spill.

At that moment, I regretted most sincerely that I was not running the camera.

Fortunately, another squad member WAS filming with a VHS-style camera, and they have assured me that they will send the video to me for inclusion here, as soon as possible.

Here's what happened:

Stage 2 was an all-steel stage, the central target array of which was a Texas Star. The competitor was required to open the door, which pulled an attached rope to a weighted arm of the Star and initiated rotary action on the target array. Essentially, open the door and the Star starts moving.

In the actual event, the Paraguayan National "Poko" (I swear he is not Polish) "shouldered" the door to prevent a rebound action which might have interfered with his shooting. It worked for him, the door was not part of the shooting problem for him.

Unfortunately "the rope" was a problem.

When he muscled the door out of his way, he added another vector to the stage props, which caused the rope to form a bight. That is to say, it dragged slack from the rope into the area in which Poko intended to stand; he stepped into the loop.

When he moved quickly toward the next shooting position, the rope caught on his boot, then on his ankle.

When Poko reached the end of the rope, it tightened on his ankle and tripped him as assuredly as an 19th century (or 21st Century "man trap".
Poko tried to balance on his free leg, but he had built up to much forward momentum; he went down. Hard.

The rope tried hard to twist him in the air, but he somehow managed to counter-twist.

When he hit the ground (and at all moments up to this point), the muzzle of the gun was pointed down-range in a safe manner.

Poko ... was not. He was all over the place, but he retained sufficient presence of mind to ensure that the (loaded, cocked-and-locked, safety definitely OFF and finger definitely OFF THE TRIGGER) pistol never for a moment pointed in an unsafe direction.

Range Officer "Walt the Revolver Shooter" handled almost everything right. Correction: his every action with regards to safety issues was flawless.

First, Walt observed that by the time the body parts stopped bouncing the gun had (a) never pointed in an unsafe direction; (b) the competitor's finger was off the trigger; (c) the gun had been safely deposited on the ground; and (d) although Poko had realistically assumed the "Dying Cockroach" position, he was still in effective control of the gun,

Walt then hovered over the gun until Poko was back on his feet, then WALT (the RO, not the Shooter) retrieved the gun and determined that it was in a 'safe' condition (unloaded, hammer down) before safely returning the gun to Poko.

Poko received the safe gun and returned it safely to his holster, being at that time having recovered to a standing position.

At that time, Walt scored the appropriate miss / FTE (Failure To Engage) penalties on the final eight targets, and the rest was all administrative trivia.

After Action Report:

  1. Walt had effectively stopped the competitor from any other action, and assumed control of the stage ... also of the competitor and the gun.
  2. Walt scored the targets, and Poko was distracted by Geek attempts to convince him that he really NEEDED to (a) clean the serious 2nd degree abrasion on his right knee, (b)a pply a topical antibiotic cream (Neosoprin), and (c) apply a large bandage over the wound, so that his denim trouser would not further abrade the wound during the final three stages.
  3. While RO Walt correctly (and prudently) insured that the range was 'safe' in all respects, he did overlook one small administrative requirement: Rather than to offer the competitor the option to stop the stage at that point, or to continue shooting, the RO arbitrarily stopped the stage and assigned all applicable FTE and MISS penalties for the eight-target array which had not been engaged. This essentially imposed a Zero score for the state, and while we were happy that nobody was threatened by an out-of-control gun, the choice to either stop or continue (accepting a monumentlal time disadvantage proerly should be the choice of the Competitor, not of the RO.
In the actual event, the Competitor was severely discomforted, both physically and competitively. Given that it took him a full minute to recover, I'm certain that he would have elected to stop the stage at the moment of interruption, rather to continue.

Still, that is a choice best left to the Competitor, adnd for the future benefit of Range Officers, it warrants comment.

The fine folks who were actually filming at the time the "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" incident occurred have assured me that they would forward the film to me for inclusion here. I have not yet received the film (hence its non-inclusion here) but I will receive it in good time. I remain confident that you will accept the video as an object lesson which will benefit us all, and not as a reflection on the gun-handling skills of the competitor.
Perhaps contrary to the expectations of a few readers, this incident does not reflect negatively on:
  • The stage designer, who could not have anticipated the bizarre effects of "shouldering the door", but who will doubtless consider this in future matches;
  • The Range Officer, who is admittedly relatively new to the concept of being the final arbiter of Competitor Performance. He focused on the safety aspects of a disturbing and difficult situation. He correctly focused on safety issues; all else is just 'paperwork'.
  • The competitor, who had no way of appreciating that the rope would snag him during movement, and who instinctively recognized that his highest priority during the fall was to keep the muzzle of the un facing in a safe direction.
I'm not saying that any of the participants/contributors of this sate are without fault. I'm just saying that every actor participated in the sense of "good faith"

After the match I talked to Evil Bill, who was the Match Director of this match.

He stated that he not only was a witness to Poko's Downfall, but that he watched the next dozen competitors and NONE OF THEM demonstrated a proclivity to being tangled up in the satge activator props.

It's just one of those things. Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

UPDATE: 03-MAY-2008
the video, which does not include 'The Rope', is available here.

No comments: