Monday, June 3, 2013


I haven’t updated this blog in six months mostly because of two reasons:

1. Since November I fell completely out of love with derby and the direction it was headed. That position arose out of watching the national field of competition and problems brewing within the ranks of my own home team. I stepped down from coaching, hoping to focus on reffing more and hopefully working toward my certification. Due to our ref coordinator opting not to return, I stepped in to help train our zebra crew and staff our bouts. Those extra duties coupled with my horrible work hours led to me putting my own aspirations on the back burner. I certainly didn’t have the extra time to devote to derby, and that made me very bitter and cynical.

2. My job and ability to remain in the Quad-Cities was in serious jeopardy. My father’s health continues to decline and rumors of potential layoffs were in the horizon. I was planning more for the possibility of having to sell my house, most of my possessions and/or moving home or far away for a job that paid a lot less money.

My league was heading in a completely different direction and far too busy to notice that I wasn’t pulling my weight and I was quickly going downhill as far as my mental health goes. Derby people get real selfish sometimes, and it’s pretty easy to not notice when someone is having serious problems. That, and I’m too bullheaded to ask for help.

Everything came to a head two months ago when I completely lost it at a practice. The league was scrimmaging and, despite my best efforts, my calls or non-calls were raising the ire of the players and coach to no end. I tried to keep it cool as long as I could but I finally just stopped, geared down and left practice. I can take heckling and I can take arguing a call, but I was bombarded with bad attitude and unwillingness from both parties to discuss what was going on.

Maybe walking out was the wrong choice, but I couldn’t see how something constructive was going to come out of that situation. Little did I know that night would have a compounded effect on my confidence and self-esteem, all summoning horrible recollections of my childhood and the persistent presence of bullies and scumbags that seemed to gravitate to me (mostly because I was non-confrontational and I was one of a handful of non-white kids in my community). It made me sick, literally. I was nauseous, couldn’t eat … I could barely get off of my couch. I emailed the ref coordinator for an upcoming bout the day before and told her I wouldn’t be able to make it. I “disappeared” in the words of the Q-C coach, struggling with borderline depression, an immune system that had been leveled and everything else was compounded by recent flooding that left a foot of water in my basement.

Luckily I was able to alleviate most of my problems, and managed to ref a closed-scrimmage that seemed to help take a lot of the stress I was feeling. This is mostly thanks to the two teams not being a part of my league, and the teamwork I typically get from working with that particular crew.

Little did I know that scrimmage would open up a whole new can of worms with the league.

Everything finally came to a head when I confronted the team about the various events that transpired in those two weeks. Mostly about how I felt that the team didn’t respect me, and I therefore didn’t have any respect for the league, the skaters or the leadership.

That was apparently the proverbial straw, as the coach said it was “your fault,” and that if I didn’t have any respect for the team that I should leave and not come back.

And so I left. I resigned my position with QCR, and opted to head to our neighboring league. I’m not one to “jump ship,” but obviously if the relationship has gone that far south, something needed to transpire – and I didn’t feel that my sticking around was going to help matters any. I love QCR. I spent the better part of 5-plus years with that league, but it’s not where I want to be at the moment. 

I couldn’t see the situation getting any better, and I couldn’t see myself getting any better in that environment.

Leaving was simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing I ever had to do. I only wish the events that had occurred to facilitate my leaving hadn’t happened. I would have wished everything had gone a little more quietly. This isn’t always the case.

The biggest thing to come out of all this mess is that my confidence is so horribly battered that it’s a struggle to regain any semblance of my old self. I had hoped that time and practice would take some of the edge off, but I guess I just need a little more time.

It’s kind of like a bad breakup. You can’t hope to simply hop to the next one without a little more time for personal growth.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Denver jammers fly high to edge Charm City, 268-141

Denver’s Mile High Roller Dolls and Charm City (Baltimore) Roller Girls kicked off the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Championship Tournament on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, with the first bout of the weekend. 

Denver posted a 9-3 season heading into the tournament with a loss to Oly in the Western Region Playoff to earn the second seed. Charm’s 8-4 record included losses to East Region rivals Montreal, Philly and 2011 champions, Gotham, and edged London Rollergirls by 24 points to earn the third seed from the East.

Denver jammers Heather Juska (303) and Sandrine Rangeon (24) sprinted to a 24-0 lead after Charm City’s IM Pain (1618) was boxed for a Cut Major, and the Mile High team capitalized by earning lead, gaining points and calling the jam, keeping Pain in the penalty box through the third jam.

The penalty luck looked to swing in Charm’s favor after Julie Adams (19) would be penalized for a Cut Major, as Crowella Devil (101) managed to pick up 14 points before being boxed for a Forearm Major, thanks to Denver’s front three-wall of Suzie Long (831), Ariel Quicley (1982), and Krisana Barrett (28) working hard to counter Charm’s passive offense, to Adams’s 9 points..

Charm’s front wall contained Denver’s Rangeon to 2 points in the 5th jam, utilizing what was called a Ladder, a front-wall that bridged every 9 or 10 feet to allow the blockers to continue blocking the opposing jammer.

Charm and Denver traded 4-point jams, before Charm called a Team Time Out at 21:21, the score 39-18 in favor of Denver.

Adams would earn Lead Jammer quickly in Jam 8, but was boxed on a Cut Major 30 seconds into the jam, while Pain picked up 25 points before Adams would be released from the penalty box, and earned an additional 9 points after Adams’ release, for a 34-8 point swing in Charm’s favor.

An Official Time Out stops the clock at 18:50 in the first half, the score now favoring Charm 47-52 on the back of Pain’s monster jam.

Jam Eight began with Denver players Quicley and Deirdre Sage (5) and Charm players Battery Operated (2AA) and Free Radical (8) in the box, for a two-on-two pack. Charm took the back two-wall defending against Rangeon, as DeVil snuck through to the front to push the No Pack call. DeVil was called for an Illegal Procedure minor at the start of the jam, which was later upgraded to a Major 14 seconds into the jam giving Denver the advantage. Denver’s Rangeon earned 4-5-5-5-5-4 jam before time was called to DeVil’s lone score pass of 4 points, putting Mile High back in the lead, 75-56.

Denver was on a mission to lock the game down before the half, earning Lead Jammer 14 times in 16 jams, with a distinct 78-11 point swing, simply by getting LJ, earning points and calling the jam off.

The scoring drought continued in the second half for Charm, held to 11 points in the first 15 minutes as Mile High stretched their lead to 224-84.

A determined Baltimore team refused to give up and managed to edge point swings in their favor thanks to Denver penalties. Pain scored 24 points in the jam 16 of the second half on a Rangeon penalty. In jam 18 Holden Grudges (63) scored 19 points after Adams was boxed for a Lowblock Major, notching the score at 229-130.

With less than six minutes to go, Charm’s Jam Ref, the Shoveler, makes an unpopular point reporting, awarding Allie B Back (T2) zero points, as the crowd lets him know how they feel with a chorus of boos.

Charm never put up much of a threat against Denver as time wound down, and the mental errors hurt Baltimore. Lining up in the 23rd jam of the second half, Charm’s Battery took an Intentional Fourth Minor, shortening the pack to dangerous proportions after her bench failed to field a blocker, leaving only two defenders against Mile High’s Adams.

With Denver holding a monsterous lead over the team in yellow, Shaina Serelson earned lead, picked up 4-5-5-5 and successfully called the jam after DeVil was boxed for a Cut Major, ending the bout 268-141. The Mile High win pitted Denver against the No. 1 seed from the North Central, Windy City, during the second round bouts on Saturday.

Bay Area sticks it to Teflon Donna, V-Diva; BAD ends Philly’s Championship run

Game Four of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Champion Tournament on Friday paired up the Philly Liberty Belles, the Eastern Region’s No. 2 seed, against the No. 3 seed from the West, Bay Area Derby Girls. 

Bay Area brought a 8-3 2012 record into the tournament, including a 229-point win against Sacred City in a bout during the down time between the Western Region and Championship tournaments. Philly posted a 12-4 record previous to Friday. 

Philly would draw first blood in the second jam with a quick 4 points and a successful call off, however the BAD defense would close down Teflon Donna (85) for subsequent grand slams to swing the lead back in Bay Area’s favor, 10-4.

The Liberty Belles took a team Time Out at 24:12 left in the first half, after Chantilly Mace and Ivy Profane would snag back-to-back 4-point jams, pushing the score to 5-14.

Philly lined up Donna behind the jam line against Nock Nock (32), but BAD managed to get a quick Lead Jammer at 10 seconds into the jam. As Nock Nock spun around the track for a couple grand slams, Philly would swap some blockers in the box and transition straight into the Runaway Kitty, in which the team that isn’t lead gets to the front of the pack and begins skating as fast as they can, with 70 seconds to go in the jam. Nock Nock took her time to free a boxed blocker, as BAD was facing a 3-2 pack disadvantage. With an additional four points, Nock Nock extends the Bay Area lead to 5-18.

V-Diva (1818) got lead and earned the first points in about four jams.

Neither team made significant strides until BAD’s Lulu Lockjaw (21) would gain Lead and capitalize on Philly’s jammer Antidote (100) Cut Major penalty with 1:40 remaining in the jam. BAD transitions to Passive Offense, remaining stationary and allowing the jammer to push the opposition Out of Play, and Lulu would score four grand slams, to score 20 points and put the score at 23-56 in Bay Area’s favor.

In the 15th jam, V-Diva toe-stop side-shuffled through a scrum start to pick up the LJ in 10 seconds, and she would score 2 points by passing one Bay Area blocker and picking up the Ghost Point on a boxed BAD skater.

Bay scrummed in the start for the 16th Jam to capitalize on a three on three pack, and force penalties on Philly. Teflon Donna was forced to fight against a BAD’s pack of 505, 7, 1 and 828, holding the Belle’s jammer to an initial pass for 1:43 of the jam. Meanwhile Nock Nock swung the lead to 25-74.

Philly swung back when Nock Nock lost lead after getting boxed for a Back Block Major with 1:09 remaining in the jam. Donna escaped her first pass with less than a minute remaining, nab two grandslams and a pass for three points as time would expire on the Jam Clock and Nock Nock’s penalty minute, matched by Nock Nock’s grandslam earlier and the 3 points she had earned before heading to the penalty box.

The energized Belles put BAD on the defensive after earning LJ and points in back-to-back-to-back jams, cutting the distance to 59-91, and closing out the first half.

V-Diva took an Intentional Fourth Minor, as Donna and Mace wore the stars for their respective teams. Teflon Donna got out first but not clean, giving Mace the opportunity to earn LJ, which she did and she called it with a minute left in the penalty. While no points were called, the calloff actually kept V-Diva in the penalty box a little longer and forced Donna to jam again in the subsequent jam.

Both teams traded points back and forth for a few jams, until Philly called another Team Timeout at 24:50 after V-Diva and Mo Pain (8) managed to put 7 points on the board, cutting BAD’s lead to 29 points.

Fresh off the bench, V-Diva skated to an 8-0 jam with 23 minutes and change left. Pain earned lead and get 3 before successfully calling the jam to further cut the Philly deficit to 18 points.

With a bit more than 22 minutes left in the game, the refs boxed Nock Nock for a Back Block Major 0:25 into the jam, and V-Diva also be boxed for a Cut Major at the 0:28 mark as she began to exit the pack on her first pass. V-Diva would get to the box first, getting sprung as Nock Nock sits, but neither waited very long before jumping back into the pack. A Belles three-wall held back Nock Nock long enough for V-Diva to complete her initial pass and begin her scoring run. BAD managed a 9-4 point swing after the jam expires on time.

Lulu Lockjaw put up 8 points on the board, helping BAD pull away a bit, 84-115.

Philly’s Antidote (100) and Donna swung back with 4 point jams apiece, edging closer, 95-115.

BAD capitalized on a penalty on Philly jammer V-Diva, who was called out for a Cut Major and sitting with 1:31 remaining in the jam. Nock Nock picked up two grandslams before calling it with penalty time remaining for V-Diva and force the Belles jammer to start the next jam in the box. Mace would turn around and put 14 points on the board for Bay Area.

Time worked against Philly with over 10 minutes remaining in the game, as the Belles weren’t able to capitalize, only earning 17 points to BAD’s 19 points to skate to a 119-169 win for Bay Area. BAD advanced to the second round of the tournament for the first time, to play the South Central’s No. 1 seed Texas.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kiss my grits - Championships

The last two years, I posted some warm-up blogs to preview the upcoming WFTDA Championship tournament, this year hosted in Atlanta, Georgia.

Out of time constraints, I'm not going to do that this year. My tickets are purchased and I'm gearing up for a major road trip south. On Monday I'm coordinating a stopping point in Nashville, Tennessee, where hopefully I stop on Thursday night to rest before making the rest of the trip on Friday.

Championship weekend is always different. The Region Tournaments always seem so packed with derby starting early in the morning and going until late. The final tournament's one-loss-and-done format shortens the bout days considerably.

Eight teams will play Friday to determine who advances on against the No. 1 seeds, who begin the tournament with a bye. Four games for Friday means that the event starts in the afternoon and should wrap up in time for everyone to grab a beer afterward.

Saturday, is arguably the busiest day as the No. 1 seeds finally see play during the tournament, and the lower seeds hope to sneak out a win against the dominant teams in WFTDA. After the first four games, we play two more to determine the placing in the tournament and decide which teams will play for 3rd place and which teams will play for 1st place.

Sunday, the shortest day of them all, we'll only see the medal games. And since they are in the mid-afternoon that allows everyone to tour the host city or recover from their hangovers from the night before. When the games finish up around 4:30 p.m., the medal ceremony will take place with plenty of time for people to celebrate afterward.

I'm likely to head back north once the final game is over. If I can put a ton of road behind me on Sunday, that means less time I have to spend traveling on Monday.

Here's how the brackets look in text format placed in chronological order.

Bracket 1 - 2 p.m. Denver versus Charm
Bracket 3 - 4 p.m. Minnesota versus Kansas
Bracket 4 - 6 p.m. Philly versus Bay Area
Bracket 2 - 8 p.m. Atlanta versus Naptown

Bracket 8 - 10 a.m. Texas versus Winner of Bracket 4
Bracket 7 - Noon Oly versus winner of Bracket 3
Bracket 5 - 2 p.m. Windy City versus winner of Bracket 1
Bracket 6 - 4 p.m. Gotham versus winner of Bracket 2
Bracket 9 - 6:30 p.m. Winners of Bracket 5 and Bracket 6
Bracket 10 - 8:30 p.m. Winners of Bracket 7 and Bracket 8
Bracket 11 - 1 p.m. Loser of Bracket 9 versus Loser of Bracket 10 for 3rd/4th place
Bracket 12 - 3 p.m. Winner of Bracket 9 versus Winner of Bracket 10

Friday, October 19, 2012

Derby journalism pool

I had a fantastic conversation with Dumptruck last night about derby journalism and the standard DIY attitude a lot of us have when it comes to giving our favorite sport (derby) the right coverage.

There are any number of bloggers, photographers, podcasters, announcers, Twitter accounts, video production, etc., types in derby, but we're all spread out.

The nature of our now-global sport is that the people who care most about it have a hard time ever coming together, unless it's RollerCon, World Cup or Championships (there are other examples, yes, but these are the top 3).

Dumptruck, of course, is world-renowned as an announcer for roller derby, and has participated in countless bouts (suck up points?). He also worked a lot with Megatron on the Derby Deeds Podcast. Beyond that, the man is incredibly knowledgeable about the sport and its recent history.

What would it take to build a talent pool of strong derby journalists using a Web-based hub to create a focal-point for derby coverage to come out of?

Essentially you could create a wealth of information as various people cover the sport from multiple angles, and it would eventually grow our product as we're providing amazing insight into a sport we care deeply about.

The Internet and social media already serves as a way for us to disseminate our writeups, photos, videos, etc., so it makes sense to create a group in which we able to share our craft. All intellectual rights and copyrights would stay with the creator, but it would give the writers an opportunity to include other voices in their blog, increasing the content, and building web hits. 

The photographers would have a place to share their work, and give the writers a launch point for story ideas. The podcasters would cover the game from a whole different angle, but give us the sound quality and bites that we so desperately crave.

The idea certainly has merit.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Poodle versus playing

I had a conversation with a visiting referee from Cajun Rollergirls on Wednesday, in which he recounted penalty wrangling for a Texas home team bout featuring a team of veterans.

In that bout, the team deliberately didn't poodle (intentionally picking up their fourth minor through an False Start Illegal Procedure). Instead the team would somehow play and pick up fourth minors through regular game play.

I marveled at such a feat, essentially playing the game at an extremely high level and having the control to pick up your fourth minor during a jam, rather than intentionally pick it up at the beginning at the jam.

Both strategies have their merit, but the level of play that it takes to pick up your fourth through game play just astounded to me.

I guess in a world of minors that will soon end, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. I'm incredibly excited when we refuse to allow something as simple as a minor penalty affect strategy or game play.

Last night we played Mid Iowa Rollers. We had scouted them pretty hard a few weeks back when they played and defeated Iowa City's Old Capitol City Roller Girls, and developed our own strategies based on a few miscues from OCCRG.

What we didn't practice was picking up our fourth minor during game play.

We didn't win. But then again we did way better than I thought we would. We managed to force them to play derby.

Our two top jammers in rotation would start to pick up their minors and it eventually came time to decide whether to poodle them or let them skate. It was more out of necessity to have them skate, as one player already was in the box. With both of my jammers playing as blockers in the same pack they managed to pick up their fourth minors at different times and get clean for their next jam rotation.

An unexpected side effect to such a tactic: You're giving your (future) jammer a minute to rest in the box, instead of poodling her, letting her sit for a minute and then have to play as a blocker.

By having her pick up her fourth after the pack whistle you minimize how much time she has to skate before she will jam.

Sure, it's not without its faults. One picked up a major instead of her fourth, but she eventually got rotated into the pack again and picked up her fourth minor. And a player could end up picking up her minor at the the end of the jam, only to sit for a minute, then play, then jam. But in a world of 45 second to minute:thirty jams, it doesn't really affect the game that much.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Top 10 Things to happen to Derby in 2012 - For better or worse

(Editor's note: I'm going to preface this with a quick note that opinions in this blog that are entirely my own.)

WFTDA.TV charging for live video stream: Numerous complaints came about the low quality HD feed, but remember the simpler days when DNN provided fantastic coverage and only asked for donations? I do. WFTDA continues to find ways to leech off the people who helped put the organization together. If we keep cannibalizing off each other, we will kill this sport, and have no one else to blame but ourselves. The FREE audio feed keeps dropping out, and the commentary is set up for video, not audio. So for all that practice at being an announcer with a live crowd, your primary audience has to pay to see the action. Un-fucking-believable. Why would I pay 50 dollars for the video pass, and then have to fork over another 15 dollars for a DVD. Is this money going into better broadcasting, because that's where WFTDA should put there money before they pushed DNN and other web journalists out of the mix.

The end of the Gatekeepers versus New York Stock Exchange bout during Spring Roll. Behind considerably, NYSE takes exceptional liberties with the rules to manipulate gameplay into a come-from-behind win. As angry as you want to be, you still shake your head at the impossibility of come back facing New York, yet they managed to pull out a win.  The Gatekeepers got some measure of revenge against NYSE in their August 11 rematch, winning 197-141.

Gotham's win streak: Gotham's 187-84 win over Bay Area tied the WFTDA all-time sanctioned win streak at 22 on Sunday, July 22, and later broke that record with their 265-60 win over Star of Texas hostesses Texas. Gotham (hasn't/hadn't) lost a game since November 6, 2010, when they lost by 34 points to Rocky Mountain, 113-79, in the semifinal game of the 2010 WFTDA Championship Tournament. Rocky Mountain went on to beat Oly by one point, 147-146, to earn first place. Since that loss, Gotham went on to win third place against Philly at the 2010 tournament, blazing its 2011 competition, becoming the 2011 champions, and currently undefeated in 2012 season play.

Peg-Assist at ECDX - While not nearly as game-changing as Windy City's use of the Spiral Staircase last year, Rose City's little manuever to swing their jammer around to the front wowed fans and players alike. Within the next day leagues were posting links and videos of the feat, and more than a few hundred skaters were practicing it. Windy City would use the manuever against Bay Area during the Star of Texas Bowl on July 22, 2011.

Gotham's possible repeat as champions - Every other championship caliber team, save for the top two North Central teams, seem to have had a mass exodus of players. While New York has had its share of players leaving, it's hurt their competition more. Oly and Rocky took considerable hits to the roster, leaving Rose City as the West Region's gem.

The North Central tournament hosted in New York - What the fuck? I understand that leagues put in bids to host the region and championship tournament, but did no one from the North Central actually bid? Why the fuck does Niagra get to host the tournament, when they're in the East Central?

New rule set - There's been a lot of speculation over the past coming months what with WFTDA's announcement of the new rule set. A lot of fans and players are talking about the riddance of scrum starts. Least of anyone's worries: No minors.

Minnesota-Windy City Rollers skating to an uncontested tie. What the fuck. WFTDA declared that no game could end in a tie. And then they ruled that it ended in a tie. Of course, this only shakes up the North Central Region, as the two teams have jockeyed in the No. 1 and 2 slot for the past three playoffs (at least)

Oly's charter roster: Who's on it and where do they come from? There have been rumblings about Oly pulling players from other cities to come and play for the Cosa Nostra Donnas, many of which never actually practice with the team.
The recent retirement of Romina "Stella Italiana" Muse, left a hole in the roster no doubt, but compared the level of skaters Oly is pulling in, that news remained rather quiet.

Really?: This was written last year, arguably during the rise of men's derby, but it started to creep into circulation again, thanks to Facebook. I can't believe anyone would have the audacity to print this. I'd be interested to see where the writer's opinions rest a year later.