It’s not about my heritage


A friend I spoke to on the phone yesterday, who is a very successful head of a company that presents a sports attraction, was talking about Roller Derby with me.  The content of the conversation isn’t that important, but he did make one statement:  it is so great that Derby is back, and I am sure you want to see your families’ heritage continue to grow and be successful.

I have never honestly thought about it that way;  I started in managing as a way to make extra money for my growing family, and when I had to shut it down, I realized that part of my life was over.

So oddly enough, I have become more excited and attached to modern Roller Derby which didn’t even start until some 30 years after I exited the sport.

I know so many of the leagues and people involved, and it is no secret that the majority of my facebook friends are Derby connected.

And I am certainly not hesitant about giving my opinions.  And when I do there are many different reactions:  agreement, acceptance, and often a real outburst against what I am saying; and when I am attacked I am often told that because I am not a skater or I was the head of the “old” Roller Derby, and all I want to do is bring that back.

Well, I am not a skater, and the last thing in the world I want to see is this game turned into a controlled exhibition…..Today’s players, at often with great personal sacrifice have brought back the game and have proved it  is a  great sport when played legitimately.

So why do I keep putting my observations out there?  I want the sport to continue to expand and to grow  and to bring more  people to it not only as participants, but as spectators.

For those who might not know, I promoted Derby very successfully, bringing in huge crowds across American and Canada; and the skating, although often an exhibition, was tremendously athletic and exhilarating.

I have to commend TORD and the promoters of  the world cup.  The venue was not suitable in my estimation, but the players, many of whom probably hit the high points of their lives, made you forget it with the effort they put forth, whether winning or losing by 300 points.  And their experiences will allow them to make the game even better when they return to their own countries.

And as far as the USA team is concerned:  comparatively, it was better than any of the US basketball teams in the Olympics.  The skill and the way they played was amazing.  And you have to commend their opponents; although badly beaten and overmatched, there wasn’t one squad that wasn’t trying as hard on the last jam as the first.

However the game is not moving forward from a spectator’s point of view.   To many of you, that is not important.  To others who want this sport to be increasingly meaningful to them, I hope you heed the message.  This is not the game I saw at the western regionals last year when Oly played RMRG.  Huge 40 point jams take away the meaning of scores; standing still and holding back opposing skaters so the jammer can endlessly pass without any real blocking, etc, etc, will not give an audience any concept of what the real game can be.  I have expressed my view of the changes that can be made so easily in previous posts and on facebook.  It makes no difference to me what you may feel, because these are my opinions.

I really feel that OSDA,  MADE and USARS rules allow the skater to skate the game with more freedom and not be penalized by a coterie of refs and officials and maybe have more fun in playing.

I would hope that those affiliated with WFTDA consider upcoming rule changes to make the game more interesting, both for the skaters and the non-involved spectators.  I watched a bit of most games this weekend, and once I saw one team start the 100-point explosion, I moved on to something else.  The concept that power jams will allow teams to come back from a big deficit rarely works; often they just allow the team that is leading to increase its lead.

There is no reason that tournaments such as the WFTDA Championships and this event should not be played before 10,000 or more spectators.  It probably is time to consider which path is the one to future success.

It is not easy for me to write this.  I could just shut up and show up at functions and games as the “Commissioner”, but I cannot do that in good conscience.  Before you attack this post, think carefully about what I have said.  I am, in fact, just a former promoter and a fan of one of the greatest games on earth.

21 comments on “It’s not about my heritage

  1. Hiya Jerry. What specifically do you think should change in the rules to keep the skaters moving forward? If the rules state “must skate forward” then they’ll just take little tiny baby steps to satisfy “forward”. How did they do it back in your day? I’m struggling with how we would word a rule that keeps the pack moving at a decent rate. How can the refs accurately judge speed? Is there some other wording that would be easy to enforce and still keep the pack moving?

  2. jerry, i was in ft. laud. this fall for 6 wks. and during that period the all girls team from south fl. skated two games at the war memorial auditorium in lauderdale. but i couldn’t muster up enough get up and go to attend.. no banked track skating and no mens line-up turn me off. just my opinion.

  3. Jerry,
    You are one of the greatest resources the Modern Roller Derby Leagues have, you have first hand knowledge of how it was, what was good AND what wasn’t good. The fact that your prepared to give this knowledge and experience out to anyone who wants it reflects who you must be, so for that I say thankya.
    I couldn’t agree more that a blowout is not a ‘good game’, but sadly it seems that only a minority of people understand that. I think until leagues start realising that as soon as you charge someone to come through that door and watch you play, then you are offering them a service. From the calibre of game play to the seating and venue facilities.
    The fact that some people don’t want to hear what you have to say shouldn’t ever make you feel that you should ‘shut up and show up’ for every person who disagrees and says something there is 10 people who agree with you so much they don’t feel they have to say anything at all.

  4. Poobah, I look at the video you sent and I agree….that is not what I was talking about…..and your reference to the old Derby is not what I want. I just would like all to look at what changes might help the present game. And Dan’s game is dreadful in my opinion, but apparently there is an audience for that.

  5. John somebody posted on facebook the current rules (I hope for WFTDA) 6.9 that state there must be motion forward, (counter clockwise only) and that going backwards or blocking when not in motion is a penalty.

    If the referees kept signaling the pack to keep moving at all times and sent a skater to the box if not, that is one solution…..but really, the concept of Roller Derby is that of continuous motion and action.

    • In MADE we signal to the skater to pack up, and come back to the pack if they are moving too fast, any engagement in a no pack or out of the 20 foot is a penalty. And also our “out of play,” (basically if you are doing something out of the rules, you are out of play, so step off the track and go sit yourself down on the bench).

      Even though our rules are only 4 pages long, the wording is very specific, and MADE derby play is down to a science. Many of our rules prevent slow pack, blowouts, etc. as a whole. Not one rule by itself, but all the rules as a whole working together. Hence why our logo has a ying-yang on it.

      I honestly do not feel that the WFTDA rules can be “tweaked” to fix this stuff. If they do that it would lead to MORE problems, because the culture is so loophole and ref obessed. Our refs are a backdrop, not a show in themselves.

      MADE has a TOTALLY different culture. Our players do not look for loopholes. MADE and WFTDA might as well be different sports.

      I am not saying this to dis WFTDA, they have many strengths. It is just how the foundation of both organizations were set.

      And it is going to be people just choosing which one they like better. Neither one is ever gonna become like the other.

    • The problem is that 6.9 only says that it’s a penalty to block while stopped or skating backwards. There is no penalty for stopping or skating backwards if you’re not blocking. Hmmm.

  6. I still love this game, and to think it should be the same as “then” is silly – we have all changed, as have our equipment, our limits, and our expectations. As a “new convert” to this sport, I can say honestly the matches I’ve seen with theatrics/scripting are made ridiculous the minute the “show” starts. The actual skating and action on the track is the best! The flat track I’ve seen is too reminiscent of bad times at the roller rink when bullies and older kids would block the way or terrorize less experienced skaters. As skating rinks disappear, that image won’t last, but neither will the audience. It’s my guess the folks who were those experts are the ones who don’t have negative flashbacks – LOL! Seriously though – Venue is important, as is today’s total “new media” experience – it should be inclusive of all the interactions and promotional opportunities of legitimate athletic events (as it is one!) but minus the theater that distracts and de-focuses the fans. You want intensity? You need it to go forward, but that intensity will only come with a unity of cause and symbol. Too big a hole at the end of the funnel disperses the power and the intensity of the exit.

  7. Don’t ever apologize for your opinions. This “new” Roller derby sport is so new..and yes 10 years is new…and the rules still are not set in stone and I think as the games gets bigger we realize that there needs to be changes and coming from you, I think we all need to listen.
    And what was with the knee down start always at the world cup? Is this a new start to the game with the Jammer just at the back of the pack? Rules are for changing.

  8. I think it would be a great move forward to have a more universal rule-set. So much debate is about which rule-set is the better, etc. Having as many teams as possible playing under one set would help us all move forward. Of course, we will always have more than one set: Banked vs Flat vs Renegade, etc. and some leagues will also choose not to affiliate if they don’t agree with the ruleset. But knowing that all tourneys etc will be run the same – that has to help us move forward, I think.

    • obviously, we will all see what if anything happens…..at least we are talking about it, and meanwhile, support your local Derby.

  9. Having one ruleset would be great….but its never gonna happen. WFTDA folks love them blowouts. MADE folks don’t. It’s like apples and oranges. They are both fruit. But obviously you like one over the other. There is nothing wrong with that. There will just be two derby worlds living side by side. It’s like rugby and football. They are kind of similar, and certainly a footballer is a footballer, and each has the skills to play the other. But they are different with different cultures.

  10. That’s why I am happy with my league, We weren’t even allowed to touch skates until we passed a bunch of physical tests. I played soccer and softball, so I did okay, but didn’t have a whole lot of skating experience. I am starting to get the hang of it though. We don’t use any of these rules however. We have discussed them briefly, but that was it. We don’t have stoppages, slow packs, etc. some have actually been yelled at for going too slow and removed from drills! I am just on the B-team right now, the A-team has women I am not sure I even want to play against. They are pretty mean(on and off the track). I think some are just in it for themselves(they get paid to play) which is fine, but the majority are really nice and helpful.

  11. Mos, having talked to many people affiliated with the WFTDA, I do not believe that they love the blowouts and certainly many would like to eliminate them entirely, which is not possible until all teams are the same caliber….however, that is a problem they have to deal with.

    Sharde, which league are you playing for where the skaters get paid?

    smspirate, there is no need for any theater in the game……watch the superstars and they provide the excitement necessary….Roller Derby has stars!

    • Jerry, I was referring to flattrackstats.com where they rank teams by how many points they score over the other team. And also the huge deal they make over high point jams. I am sure alot of people want to change this…in MADE we are fighting for every single point. So that was just what I was referring to…one is much easier to score points than the other (we’re lucky if we score 3-6 pts per jam). I see this as the biggest difference between the two versions. That’s all.

  12. I play for rink warriors, well sort of. I am just training right now so I am not getting paid or listed as one of their players, but a girlfriend of mine invited me out to see her and she gets paid to train other women and gets paid when she plays. She gets paid really good too, so I am just trying to get past training so I can do what she is doing. I guess they gave her a heck of a time before they started paying her, which is what they’re doing to us new skaters now. I guess it’s just to see if we’re serious or not, but they won’t make me quit!

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