In the article titled Me or We, we discussed the unsportsmanlike conduct demonstrated by some cat show exhibitors when they criticize their competitors who show a purchased cat as opposed to a felines of their own breeding.
Response to this article was overwhelming. Obviously, the poor behavior of some exhibitors is a problem at cat shows across the country, and not as isolated as we would wish.
In fact, there is another behavior that can spread through a show hall like mad cow disease, infecting exhibitor after exhibitor... It's the Big Mouth Phenomenon. Big Mouth pops up sporadically throughout the show season, but often intensifies near the season's end.
Hang around the show ring at a typical cat show and sooner or later you will run into it... Some exhibitor will make a critical comment, often at ringside, about a cat on the judging table.
Big Mouth Is Against The Rules
Most cat registering organizations actually have a rule which is meant to address the Big Mouth Phenomenon. In CFA it is Rule 11.26 and in part it states:
"Exhibitors must not make any comments on exhibits within the judge's hearing "
Clearly, an exhibitor making comments at ringside risks having their behavior reported to CFA and having a protest filed against them.
Stopping The Big Mouth Phenomenon
If it's against a show rule, you may wonder why the Big Mouth Phenomenon is allowed to flourish? While there is no easy answer to that question, it may be explained by just one word - Tolerance. Despite it being against the rules, despite it being bad manners, despite it being poor sportsmanship, Big Mouth is often tolerated just because fellow exhibitors do not know how to respond to it.
The Judge - The First Line of Defense
Because the critical comment is often made in an attempt to influence the judge, and because the judge is the most powerful person in the ring, the first line of defense against the Big Mouth has to be the judge.
What SHOULD a judge do who hears a comment from the audience? Well, perhaps the first thing is that the judge must consciously, CONCIOUSLY, not allow any overheard comment to influence judging.
But secondly, and perhaps just as importantly, it behooves the judge to stop the Big Mouth Phenomenon. The judge should give a look of disapproval at the Big Mouth in question (or in their direction if not sure which individual made the comment). The judge should give them a long, hard stare... then go back to the judging...
If you are sitting or standing near a Big Mouth, and the judge looks up, but is not sure who made the comment, point to the offender. If 4 or 5 people were to all be pointing to the offender, the judge would be sure who made the comment. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it avoids the problem of the judge mistaking YOU for the offender. So... self-protect!
If the judge doesn't look up but you hear someone making critical comments about an exhibitor's cat, you should point out to them how rude and inappropriate their comments are - and how badly their behavior reflects upon them and the cat fancy in general.
What Not To Do About A Big Mouth
What should you do if you are the target of the Big Mouth's comment? Well... you have several options of what NOT to do...
- Don't Ignore It: The one thing you should not do is ignore it. By ignoring the Big Mouth phenomenon, you allow it to gain momentum and spread.
- Don't Get Into a Cat Fight: The second thing you may be tempted to do is to lash back and get in an argument with the Big Mouth. Do not get into a yelling match with the Big Mouth. This type of behavior in a show hall reflects badly on both of you.
- Don't Defend Against The Specifics of the Comment: Thirdly, do not address the details of the comment the Big Mouth has made. The specifics of their derogatory comment is not the main issue at hand...
So... What Should You Do?
If we don't do something about the Big Mouth Phenomenon, it will continue to infect the cat fancy to its detriment. So, each of us must take part in stamping out the disease? So... What can you do or say? If you are present when the comment is made, turn to the perpetrator and say,
"Why would you make such an unsportsmanlike comment?"
And no matter what they respond, you continue to address their behaviorin making the comment, not the substance or their right of free speech. So, the might go conversation something like this:
Exhibitor: "Why would you make such an unsportsmanlike comment?"
Big Mouth: "I have the right to say anything I like."
Exhibitor: "Of course, you can say and think what you like. That's free speech. But when you make nasty public comments about your competition, it is unsportsmanlike and reflects badly on yourself and the cat fancy in general." NOTE: If the comment is made at ringside, you can add "And frankly, it is a protest-able offence."
Big Mouth: "It's a free country."
Exhibitor: "Of course. I just wanted to point out to you the damage you were doing to your own reputation with your behavior and the reputation of cat shows should any spectators hear you making such comments."
The Big Mouth's Agenda
A Big Mouth always has an agenda. Usually, the point of the comment is either to impact negatively on the cat's show success or to try to influence people who hear the comment against the cat or its owner. Often the Big Mouth dislikes or is jealous of the owner of the cat or the Big Mouth (or a friend) has a cat in direct competition with the cat. The Big Mouth is always self-serving.
Avoiding The Big Mouth Phenomenon
Clearly, you are allowed to discuss with a friend the positive and negative points of cats at the cat show in the spirit of learning and sharing. The key is to be discreet. If you are at ringside chatting with a friend and you want to make a comment, lower your voice. Lean close to your friend's ear. Whisper. Cup your hand over your mouth when speaking to them or use your catalogue in front of your mouth to help direct your words only to your friend.
Stamp Out the Big Mouth Phenomenon
Don't be a Big Mouth. When you hear someone infected with Big Mouth spouting their venom, speak to them and try to guide them gently into a better behavior. Do your part to stamp out the Big Mouth Phenomenon and our show halls will become better places for everyone to spend their weekends.