Rocky Mountain High

The most amazing weekend in the 10 years of modern Roller Derby took place in Broomfield CO, at the 1st Bank Center, located halfway between Denver and Boulder.

This beautiful, modern arena with all the accoutrements you expect of an indoor sports palace:  a huge jumbotron, great seating, lighting, sound, etc, and a beer for just $8.75, hosted the 12 best teams ever to compete in the WFTDA national championships.

Not only weren’t the westerns the besterns, but the talent was so even that all regions were well represented. Congratulations to Texas, Kansas City, Nashville, Minnesota, and all the other unexpected teams that showed that they all know how to play Roller Derby.

And what a well-oiled machine Gotham is!  To fully understand how to play the flat track game; following simple-looking but very complex strategies of protecting your jammers, stopping the others, and having the amazing talents of Wild Cherri (congratulations on the MVP!),  Bonnie Thunder and Suzy Hotrod to pound the opposing teams jam after jam.

And wide open, slam bam, full speed Derby, the way the game is meant to be played and will be the future of the game when it moves even more onto the public’s perception.

Personally, I had the best time ever, being in the booth with Doug Martin and the wonderful Phoenix Hellfyre, and meeting and talking to literally thousands of new and old friends; autographing one beautiful lady in a most unusual place, and raising almost $800 selling bracelets for our lovely Lori.

And the Voice of America, our official government propaganda agency that lets the world know about the USA, covered the tournament and asked the Commissioner for a few words about the start of the sport, etc.  They got more than a few words, but if they are smart, they will edit it.  It should be on the official Voice of America news website in a few weeks.

Of course the delightful Robin Bond was on hand with her beautiful daughter.  Robin said that “Derby Baby”, the 90-minute film about our game, has been delayed till Spring so footage from the World Cup can be included.

OK, why can’t I leave well enough alone?  Because I can’t.  The discouraging part of the tournament was the amount of time that the best players were sent off the track; in one game alone there seemed to be an endless amount of time that one team had no jammer because of penalties and skaters sent off for reasons I could not comprehend.

The best team won the Championship, so I am not quibbling about that.  But why does a game with just a total of 10 players on the track need 6 referees, and 10 (or 13?) officials, trying to enforce 50 plus pages of very specific rules?

I can’t blame the 16 or so enforcers:  they are given specific instructions, and if you are in a uniform shouldn’t your presence be noted?  But when the outcomes are so affected, so many official times out (yes, that is the correct grammatical usage); the slowing down of the contest; don’t others agree that there is something wrong here?  The WFTDA and Denver Roller Dolls had the best event ever;  please allow the skaters to really perform in the future.  And don’t forget you have fans watching, and they deserve better also.

I think you all know I am sincere in my love of the modern game.  Let’s make certain it is ready for prime time, and that the players who work all year to be part of the Nirvana of the Championship feel they are getting a fair shake.

Now you might think that the players who left it all on the floor would take a break, but no:  Kitt Track has a banked track tournament November 17 and 18 in Chicago, with the champion Gotham Girls, RMRG, Windy City, and the LA Derby Dolls, with the winning squad getting $10,000!.   Is this the start of a new era in Roller Derby?  If you are going to be in the Chicago area, please go to  And then just a few weeks later, the World Cup in Toronto, with the best skaters from 13 nations competing for the best in the World……Damn it, I told you all to keep it underground.

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18 comments on “Rocky Mountain High

  1. The rules allow for as few as three referees. The thing is, that’s been tried and most who’ve gone with a minimal compliment of referees found it lacking. Refs aren’t super easy to get, to train, and get to away games. If the “fewer refs” idea really worked all that well, leagues would be going with it in droves.

    The most common arrangement is two jammer refs, two inside pack refs. One covering the front of the pack, another covering the rear, often the rear would be Head Ref given their visibility. Outside pack refs there’s usually two or three of, and they follow the pack in a “skate and wait” rotation. They have to move faster/farther than the inside pack refs.

    One jammer ref follows each jammer, calling lead jammer, counting her points and calling penalties on (usually only) her. With the three ref set up, that generally leaves just one ref (generally the head ref) watching the pack. Very easy to miss calls in that situation. More often than not skaters complain more about calls that didn’t get made on their opponents than “bad calls” that were made against them.

    Jam referees also rely on the outside pack refs to spot track cuts and no-pass-no-penalty calls that would mean their jammer isn’t lead jammer.

  2. As to “everybody else,” those folks are my area. To get useful statistics that don’t just track jammers and points, a number of non-skating officials are needed. Scorekeepers (critical job, and just one doing it caused grief in a past tourney). Penalty trackers (one at tournaments, two for some leagues). Outside white board to relay minors from OPRs to the infield penalty trackers. Timekeeper (because refs tended to find that task distracting).

    Lineup trackers are needed because without them defensive stats don’t happen. Today’s game happens in the pack, and without knowing which skaters are in which lineups, you can’t get objective stats. We’ve tried tracking blocks themselves, but I’ve found it impossible to get it done consistently and objectively.

    When/if a no-minors rule set is ratified some positions might go away or be able to move out of the center of the track. Outside whiteboards wouldn’t be needed. I think more leagues would be able to get by with a single penalty tracker who could stand off-track as well. Minor penalties that get called without whistles are the reason PTs are generally on the infield.

    You may have seen “extra people” who were using Rinxter and shadowing the some of the folks who were keeping the required pen and paper stats on the forms Ian, Adam and I designed for WFTDA.

    Rinxter is a web-based application that makes for instant stats on the fly. That sort of thing is needed to take the sport to a level that would be comparable to televised major league sports. It’s still a bit wonky and temperamental though.

  3. The simple solution to not being sent off for committing penalties is to not commit the penalty. Not every team was penalty heavy. If Rocky and Oly had players spend less time in to box (and not had some of their star players foul out) then the outcome of the championship may have been very different. Personally I thought it was one of the things that added to the nail-bitingness of the games! And I’m not seeing where the players were stopped from ‘truly performing’? Do you mean because so many were sent to the box and ejected? They have only themselves to blame for that.

    Nevertheless, it was a brilliant tournament! I cannot wait for the B&T World Cup in a few weeks!

    • Amanda, it is not a simple solution in my mind and others who find the penalty every few seconds annoying to say the least. Why doesn’t hockey have 15 referees and 30 officials, and football and basketball and all other sports the same percentage? Are the penalties so severe (and I mean primarily the minors) that it should really rule the game? Is that what you really want the game to be? Not me…..the primary concern is to protect the players, not to impinge upon the game.

      • As a fan, I find it immensely frustrating to see a game go the “wrong” way or be won or lost due to inadequate officiating. I’m sure the players and coaches do, too. So if you want the game to advance in the public eye, you can’t have players getting away with egregious violations all the time. If that means more refs and officials, so be it.

        And (pro) hockey is a terrible example. Yes, it’s popular, but it’s also widely regarded as a game in which you can expect to see officials turning a blind eye to what would be criminal assault, were it happening anywhere but in a sponsored sports arena in front of the TV cameras. That is not the direction derby needs to be moving.

        I also didn’t find anything exciting whatsoever about the abundance of racing and chasing in the last games of the tournament. Your “wide open, slam bam, full speed” derby is utterly dull when every jam ends the same way: called-off and scoreless because the jammers are neck-and-neck. I kept wishing for there to be no lead jammer or for some power jams, just so some “slam bam” and actual scoring could happen.

  4. Other rules are a little less verbose and can function with less referees. Such as M.A.D.E. and OSDA. I think for such important games, a few extra referees is not overkill. Having jams without jammers is unforgivable.

  5. It is time to get rid of minors. There is no need for them. If you are committing a penaltiy that affects game play then go to the sin bin otherwise let the game keep moving. Nothing is more lame than watching a bout and having a player go out on a forth minor for forums or multi player block. LAME!!!! I feel like Majors are more clear cut and can easily be seen by the fans as well as the ref’s. Then there is not a lot of “Discretion” BS.

  6. and while we are at it, the lead jammer often is not the lead, and only the jammer in the lead should be able to cut off the jam….original rule, why change it?

  7. Jerry, the problem is not the officials (or number of them); it’s the ruleset. Remember that the rules are created and maintained BY THE SKATERS. Officials don’t have a say and have to enforce the rules as written. Don’t blame the officials!!

    • please note, I did not blame the officials……they have been given a job, all 23 of them, and they are required to follow the rules to the best of their ability….too many rules, too many officials…..remember, I am just a fan and these are my opinions, not necessarily the gospel.

      • It’s all good Jerry. Yes, there are too many rules (I’m a big fan of eliminating minors). I’m not sure you can eliminate outside pack refs though, even with a lot of rule changes. Too much stuff happens out there and is very difficult to see from the inside. That means we’ll still likely have seven refs per bout, even with a much smaller ruleset.

  8. I agree Jerry. The refs and officials are following what the current rule-set is, but it can be pretty frustrating. One of my issues is that of sight-lines. With such a crowd on the inside of the oval it can be hard to watch the action on the other side of the track. I’m a new skater, so I haven’t played enough bouts to comment on play, but as a spectator – it does make the game harder to watch.


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