As the Chief Genii has requested - I hope I can get the formatting correct! I'm not very savvy with posting on this great forum!
My issues with the 2014 Combined Convention
My paternal grandfather could not speak, read, or write English. However, when he was looking for a job any job in the early part of the 20th century, he could recognize those signs placed on various shops and factories:
Italians need not apply.
Wops not wanted.
Fortunately, all of my relatives had a particular characteristic that Southern Italians are noted for:
Testa dura - stubbornness, perseverance, hard-headedness.
Of course, truth be told, ALL immigrants who faced similar and worse discrimination shared that quality and America is what it is because of that. They all proved that coming to America was not just a verb and a place, it was a life choice for themselves and their families.
The 2014 Combined Convention will, undoubtedly be a great convention. The two teams of three dedicated magicians each from the I.B.M. and S.A.M. have worked and will continue to work to make this a stellar event. Yet, there is one aspect that has caused several others and me great concern. It involves the preferential treatment given to residents of North America who will be competing in the FISM Component of the contests.
The following has NOT been publically disseminated, but it is a verbatim statement sent to The Chairperson of the I.B.M. Contest of Magic. It is also what I was told following several conversations with various members of the Convention Committee and after many emails were sent by me in response to some questions from a few members of that Committee. It also is the stance taken by the Committee and what is behind a recent email informing me that I would be replaced as Chairperson of The S.A.M. Contests of Magic.
Assignment of the 15 North American F.I.S.M. slots
Contestants who live in North America and have been given a qualifying score of 70% or higher will be eligible to be chosen as one of the 15 to be sponsored to compete at F.IS.M. If there are more than 15 qualified North American contestants the 15 with the highest scores will be sponsored. If there are less than 15 candidates from North America with a qualifying score, the remaining places will be filled by contestants from outside North America with the highest scores above 70%.
Also, the North Americans with the highest qualifying score in stage and close-up will be named the North American Champion of Stage Magic and the North American Champion of Close-Up magic. The North Americans with the second highest qualifying scores in stage and close-up will be named the runners-up. This ends the FISM portion of the competition.
I.B.M./S.A.M. Finalist Selection
The final level of competition for both the I.B.M. and S.A.M. awards is something entirely new in North America.
The six contestants selected for the final IBM [sic] and SAM [sic] stage and close-up competitions will be those who received the highest total scores in the qualifying competition. The competitors country of origin will not be a consideration in the final I.B.M./S.A.M. competition. [My emphasis P.Critelli]
These 12 finalists (six in stage and six in close-up) will be given membership to the organization, either IBM or SAM, to which they do not belong. If anyone belongs to both, he will be given an extended year of membership in the organization of his choice.
The 6 finalists in each of stage and close-up will compete for I.B.M. and S.A.M. awards and the I.B.M./S.A.M. 2014 Peoples Choice Awards and the IBM/This finalist competition will be simultaneously judged by a panel of S.A.M. judges and a panel of I.B.M. judges. These two judging panels will select the prizes to be given by their respective organizations.
In addition, performing contracts to perform at conventions around the world will be awarded.
End of the statement.
Two important points must be clearly stated and understood.
1) There is absolutely no pressure upon me to run The S.A.M. Contests differently than I have run them for the past 23 years.
2) The people on the Committee and the people who have expressed reasons for the preferential treatment given to residents of North America have been and will always be, at least from my view, some of my dearest friends within and outside of Magic.
Among the more important outcomes that these statements define are:
1) The North American residents will be given a lower threshold to meet for FISM slots than the non-North American residents.
2) Regardless of score in the FISM rounds, ONLY North American residents are eligible for The North American Champions of Magic titles.
3) It is possible that performers in the I.B.M. and S.A.M. Contests would be all non-North American residents as participation in those contests is based solely on scores and not mailing address.
I asked for comments and corrections of this understanding from all the members, but was given no correction by any of them. Hence, I am left with this understanding.
The reasons given for this differential treatment and it IS that since ALL applicants who want to compete in ANY of the contests MUST be a member of either the I.B.M. or the S.A.M. (it is unclear whether a member of only one of the other two North American Magic societies that are members of FISM are eligible to compete) are varied as regard to details, but can be summarized as follows:
In the past notably at the 2011 S.A.M. Convention two S.A.M. members who were not residents of North America did win The North American Champions of Magic:
Close-up - Hecter Mancha
Stage - Kim Hyun Joon
Since the award is called North American Champion of Magic the recipient should be a resident of North America.
Why? This is where the issue gets complicated. The following are paraphrases of various reasons that have been given to me. Comments in [ ] are my very brief responses to those reasons.
1) Performers from other continents HAD their chance in their region, and they should not be permitted to compete against North Americans who may not be AS good but are still very good. [I recall two recent First Place winners from North America. Another Brother in Magic responded to the comment from a Committee member who said there just were not any North Americans who were better than many from other countries: Work harder!]
2) There MAY be something in the FISM rules that says it has to be this way, but Im not sure. [Several well-posted people who are very familiar with the FISM rules changing rather often as they are have stated that FISM didnt really have any rule or saying about selecting regional champions.]
3) Since other regions dont let outsiders from other regions compete, why should we North Americans be any different? [Precisely because we ARE North Americans, and we look at fairness and level playing fields differently, and we dont, usually, need to have a lower bar set for us.]
4) The number of votes given to The North American member societies does not reflect the membership correctly. [This and other numerical and reasonably-sounding points have been put together by Rod Chow and sent to the RVPs. His conclusion is that there are both structural and practical reasons to limit FISM eligibility to North Americans. Rod is both brilliant and truly concerned about Magic, and I see him much more as a Brother than just a friend, but I have come to a totally different conclusion than he.]
There is much more that has passed between the Committee, various individuals, and me, but I want to make this document relatively concise.
My thinking, in part, is:
1) If there is no FISM rule that states how regional champions are chosen, and since ALL members of S.A.M. and I.B.M. are, in fact, members who pay the same dues and abide by the same rules, ANY preference given to ANY group of members is ethically wrong. Is it on the same level as the discrimination faced by our immigrant forebears? Of course not! However, differential treatment based on ANYTHING that is not germane to the group is still discrimination.
2) If there IS (or will be) some FISM rule that states that ONLY members of their member societies who live in the REGION defined in the title of the award or implied by the award are eligible, it is time to confront that illogical and discriminatory rule. Only Magic organizations can BE members of FISM. Hence, since a member organization is made up of individuals who may reside in places quite distant from the main office of that organization, that organization has a duty to make sure its members are fully protected and NOT subject to discrimination in any form. Even if FISM can, illogically in my view, switch from an organizational view to a regional view, we (as members of The INTERNATIONAL Brotherhood of Magicians and The Society of American Magicians that has hundreds of members who are neither American nor residing in North America) must NOT be negligent of our duties to support our Brother and Sister members.
3) Winners at FISM, according to many reports I have received, are identified by their nationality and what organization they are representing. Having Hector Mancha and Kim Hyun Joon represent US The S.A.M. speaks to the wonder that IS Magic. A famous Japanese Magician who was a judge in an S.A.M. Contest said, I know I should think this performer is great because he is Japanese, but I have difficulty doing that. My response was to him and to every judge: There is no Japanese or American or French or Australian here only Magicians. We still smile about that today.
4) There will be problems defining and enforcing the North Americans only rule. What about an American living in Tokyo for many years with no American address right now? What about a person from an Asian or European country who has a mailing address in North America or who uses a friends or relatives address? What about a performer who was born in Canada but whose magnificent shows aboard cruise ships have kept him outside any continent for 15 years?
I have informed the Convention Committee that I will not run The S.A.M. Contest of Magic if that differential is maintained for North Americans. I fully acknowledged that this is my decision, and the thoughts in this document you are reading are mine and mine alone with regard to the Contest team. In my last conversation with Oscar Munoz, the Chairperson of The I.B.M. Contest, he indicated that he had decided to follow the format with regard to the differential given to North Americans as he felt running the I.B.M. Contest of Magic was the best way, now, to support his fellow-members. Although I disagree, I respect his decision as I do that of the Convention Committee. I have been informed that a new Chairperson will be selected to run The S.A.M. Contests of Magic in 2014.
If this document has given you knowledge that you did not have, it has served its purpose. I maintain that if a very large proportion of the members of S.A.M. and I.B.M. and the other two North American Magic organizations know ALL the facts and the decisions made by a small committee, there may be some reason to question those decisions. Letting the leadership know of your support for or objections to a proposed policy is vital to any organization. Letting the decision-makers know that you are fine with the differential and lowered bar is one way to go; letting them know that you take the following line from The S.A.M. Oath seriously and with inclusivity is another matter.
I will treat all my fellow compeers and all magicians with respect, encouraging fellowship, unity and cooperation.
S.A.M. Contest of Magic