Our Karl Dittebrandt

Photo credit: Robert Lai

On behalf of HH Racing and the entire NYC racing community, we would like to thank Karl Dittebrandt for the service and support he has been providing to ensure NYC racing series would have their USCF officials and Chief Referees, season after season, for the past 10 years. We in HH Racing thank Karl for his role in officiating our Thursday series earlier this 2018 season. Without his support, judging by what I have witnessed personally in the other new series later in the season, the HH Racing Thursday FBF Race Series would not have gone well and smoothly as it did.

Left: Eddie (Chief Judge). Center: Eric. Right: Karl (Chief Referee) preparing for the HH Racing Thursday FBF Race Series in the early part of the 2018 season.

Individuals who have been around year after year involving and helping the NYC racing scene don’t stick around unless they have some emotional connection to the sport and the people involving in it. Karl is no exception. Back in 1991, he started to race track in the Kissena Velodrome. Before that, he was into long distance cycling tour ranging from 200km to 1200km lasting for several days. It was a new experience for him going from 200km randonneuring to 200m sprint. He became an USCF official while racing track in the Kissena Velodrome back in 1994 and up to 1999. He was mainly officiating track and CX events. Not until 1999, he began to officiate road races. By 2010, he became a moto official as well. In total, he has over 15 years of experiences in officiating road races and track events, and over 5 years in moto pacing and marshaling.

Karl working as a moto marshal during the CRCA Grant's Tomb Crit in March, 2018.

Getting to the both Central Park and Prospect Park races is a herculean task in itself. Getting up at 3 am or 4 am predawn period, especially in the early Spring Series with the temperature in the freezing mark, with little or no sun light, is one of the many challenges everybody has to deal with in either racing, supporting, and helping in these park series. You add rain too?? As an USCF official and Chief Referee, Karl has been managing these challenges and it has been a part of his race preparation routines. Waking up at 3 am in the morning. Getting to the race an hour earlier. Understanding his duty for that morning, no more and no less. Never tried to do more. Never tried to do everything all at once. And extra preparation for being a moto for that day and to ensure sparing no expense to keep himself dry and warm, this includes redundant equipment too. He takes extra precaution and preparation for being a moto. He would call out that morning if he isn’t well prepared.

His sense of professionalism and responsibility to the NYC racing community is unparalleled to the point that he would cancel an important surgery in order to make sure the race would go on smoothly. His doctor was not pleased according to Karl. He knew he did his job well when the local race didn’t make the local newspaper’s headlines…..he told his doctor. He felt that the important role of the USCF officials played in these races are very often overlooked and underestimated just because the races went well. Many express that they could do better and to dictate how he does his job. According to Karl, many have tried but didn’t last long. To Karl, being a Chief Referee is like being a director of a movie set, of who controls every aspect of the film production. The difference is that officiating a race happens in the real time and no redo or retakes. In his other profession, Karl is an actor for the filming/movie industry.

Karl is about to head home on his Honda after the HH Racing Thursday FBF Race Series.

No one knows when the USCF officials shortage becomes an issue but it is a nation-wide problem, not only in NYC. Is an issue we don’t talk much about and only once in a while you would read up an article on it from another local racing team. For me, it became an issue when another new series was trying to get USCF officials to run their races from late July to late September this year. It is a problem that could jeopardize all of our NYC racing series, regardless how much anyone thinks our racing culture is thriving. You can’t have a NYC racing culture and to think it is great when there are no races to race in.

A month ago, Karl was hospitalized for his heart condition and many of us saw the signs. I was concerning about his health and if he could still officiate the NYC races. According to Karl, the number one factor for our USCF officials shortage is nepotism and senior officials playing seniority. A handful senior officials taking up all of the assignments and hording all of the jobs…leaving nothing for the newcomers to learn from. Since the pay is low to begin with and the effort and time required to become a B official and then to an A official takes up more than 3 to 4 seasons, and the grueling 3 days exam and study to become an A official, nepotism creates an acute problem in general for everyone. Unattractive job with low pay and little to no perks and benefits, and with a bunch of older officials hording all of the jobs and assignments are a recipe for a spiraling death and stagnation.

Karl's own selfie while being hospitalized for his minor heart medical condition during August 2018.

From my own observation, I don’t see nepotism playing a role in our NYC USCF officials shortage at all. I noticed that few officials I met have another jobs besides officiating NYC races. Our park races aren’t exactly being held in some friendly morning hours either. I think our problems are largely with few people interested in becoming USCF officials. According to Karl, there are about 4 to 5 USCF officials acting as Chief Referees serving in the NYC racing scene for track racing and road racing. Karl and couple of senior USCF officials such as Alan Atwood have tried to bring in more people. So far, the shortage issue has been somewhat mitigated for now when race promoters are paying a flat rate and enough to cover most of the travel expense, and more than under the USCF pay guidelines. The current scheme is meant to retain the current USCF officials staffing, but not enough to attract more people to become officials unfortunately.

I believe the USCF officials shortage has to be solved on the grass root level. We can not just rely on the upper management in USCF to make changes and having the solution trickling down to us. Nepotism isn’t the reason for our NYC problem because we just don’t have enough people getting interested in becoming USCF officials. Race promoters should be responsible for grooming and encouraging talented individuals to become USCF officials. They should also provide the additional momentary incentives and perks to make the position more attractive. USCF does not pay the officials but the race promoters. Who wants to work for a cheap promoter anyway? Instead of having 4 to 5 USCF officials acting as Chief Referees for the entire NYC racing scene, the numbers should be doubled to 10. Karl isn’t getting any younger and he may decide to take it easy some time in the future. Other officials may have different plans. At the moment, we have no backups and replacements.

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