Field Day tension?

I’ve recently discovered the /r/amateurradio section over at Reddit, and I’ve enjoyed the lively discussions and comment areas on a variety of current amateur radio topics. It’s a nice filtered look at the interesting articles and Internet finds that other hams are buzzing about.

Yesterday a topic pertaining to Field Day came up, and it’s something that I’ve thought about also: The “tension” on Field Day between those who want to contest and operate competitively, and those who simply want to hang out, set up emergency gear, test new gadgets and do public outreach. The whole thread makes for some very interesting reading.

Here’s an excerpt from the original poster:

… the different ideas that different groups have about what Field Day should be sometimes cause friction. A contester may become frustrated that others don’t want to operate all night, or that the group doesn’t have the most up-to-date contest logging software, or that the techniques used are not optimized to get more contacts faster.

And some of the follow-up comments have been just as interesting:

This “contester vs non-contester” friction extends well past Field Day. For instance, time and again I’ve been jammed/heckled on the air during contests. It’s like the jammer can’t just move to a WARC band or join in the fun, or go mow the f***ing lawn (and maybe sober-up a bit). (From “jackspace”)

This commenter took a strong stance against contesters:

That post is a good example of why I cannot stand to be around contesters, either in person, or on the air. It’s the “our way is the only right way, we’re the only ones taking this seriously, we’re better than you because we spend stupid amounts of money on equipment, etc” attitude. Saying most contesters wish that everyone else would recognize this really translates to “you should acknowledge your superiors”. (From “fotbr”)

And here’s a “pro-contest” stance:

If it’s not a contest then why are they awarding points per Q, Points for emergency power, points for getting the media involved and so on and so on. Then they PUBLISH the point by category. It looks like a contest, It feels like a contest, It tastes like a contest. IT’S A CONTEST. (From “ItsBall”)

It’s fun reading, no matter what side of the fence you are on, and all the commenters have great points to make.

Personally, I enjoyed the competitive aspect of Field Day. Perhaps it’s further evidence of the “gamification” of every aspect of our lives, but it gave me more of a goal to work towards. The setup of our station was nothing that I hadn’t done before, but the attempt to make a large number of QSOs specifically for points was a new experience for me. It was EXCITING to see the numbers go up, knowing that I was contributing points to our team.

The emergency preparedness aspect of the hobby is interesting to me, but ultimately a little boring. The guys in our club are just too good at it. They make it look easy. Consequently, most of them operated out of trailers in comfortable conditions. I fully suspect these guys would be ready for any disaster and would respond with enthusiasm and professionalism.

So if I was so into making QSOs, why didn’t I operate all night or the next day? Well, aside from working a band that closes at night, I worked with a partner, and both of us wanted to be able to enjoy aspects of our weekend beyond the radio. Field Day, being the mild contest that it is, allowed us to work when we could, without feeling like we were letting the club down.

Field Day is really about the diversity of the hobby and I think it offers something for everyone. I look forward to the next one!

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