There was a there in Fresno


The Convention Center did not have a lot of traffic around the area.  But there was a lot of excitement inside.

I think you all know that I love and support all Roller Derby.   There is much that I like and some that I don’t like, but that is only my personal preference.  When I think of the game of my day, I think of the players (men and women) flying around the track, trying to pass blockers within the 6o (!) second time limit, with usually a jammer from the other team close behind and if they could get 1 or 2 points before cutting it off, that was usual…..Our games were in the high 20’s or low 30s for score, and some  jams had no score at all.  There always had to be at least one jammer at the start of a jam for each team; the player was penalized, not the helmet.  A maximum of 2 players would be in the penalty box at any time; if there were more, they would go to the box as other players came out.

And the jammers started at the rear of the pack, the skating was continuous, there was usually time between the jams for the skaters to change helmets (maximum 8 skaters on a side), and the jam would start when the pivots, blockers, and jammers were all in position, the referee would signal the start…..going backwards and blocking moving backwards were not allowed, as was stopping; the referee would warn, and if not changed immediately, the penalty would be called.

The USARS rules are closer to the original game, although not completely; jams are still 2 minutes which seems ridiculous as jammers catch the pack in about 20 to 25 seconds which of course leads to power jams (I don’t like them, but they are part of a ruleset) where skaters just skate as they are passed lap after lap, to me throwing the game into a scoring imbalance.  but there other aspects that make this ruleset allow fast and furious action:  skating or blocking backwards is a penalty; and the pivot skater takes on a new meaning with the ability to go on a jam after the other teams jammer has left the pack, thus partially solving the no jammer situation.  There were no slowdowns except of the start of the jams from the starting line (yawn) with one whistle……and the interminable official timesout.

If you were in there skating, you skated.  There were basically four levels of ability among the 8 teams.  at more of a starting level:  Birmingham, Deep South, and Underground; intermediate, Tulsa;  at a proficient level, San Diego, Resurrection, Port City; and at world class level, Oly Rollers.  Oly rolled through the preliminary rounds, and you can’t say it was a close game against San Diego in the championship, but there were constant action and great effort with Oly winning 181 to 35.  Many of the jams had skaters from each team out and it made the game exciting.  One thing I saw that I hadn’t seen a lot of, was good sportsmanship in the scoring.  Oly knew they had it won going in to the last two jams, but the player who could have gone on a 30 or 40 point power jam against the tired San Diego team got her grand slam and a few more points and called it off. (my goodness, no piling on!)

This is a game I prefer just based upon the speed and the action.  If all teams could skate like the final four in the WFTDA Championships, then there is no need for the slow down game which is so common now.  Again, I urge you to look at those final games at WFTDA; but very few teams have that kind of skill, and to me, that is sad that the fans don’t get to see what Roller Derby is in my mind.

Champion Oly Rollers with the Seltzer Cup. Photo by D. E. SIGN

Champion Oly Rollers with the Seltzer Cup. Photo by D. E. SIGN

I was honored to have given out the Seltzer Cup to Oly, and the medals to them, San Diego, and my own home team, the Resurrection Roller Girls of Sonoma.  The whole tourney was just a joy and fun to be at.

I can hear the criticisms coming, but remember, I am not part of USARS, WFTDA, MRDA, MADE.  I am a fan of the game that I like to see, which has often been skated at the BAD girls games that I attend.

Enjoy the game you skate; and those of you who over defend or condemn others for changing the “original rules” better stop and think before you say that to me.

I will continue to see and love all Derby that I can…..personally I and most fans want to see an action game which has strategy, but does not just stop in front of us.  I have a feeling more leagues will be learning to skate more rulesets……hey, it is supposed to be a game and fun to skate!

And USARS gave me an official jacket AND an extra ticket for my granddaughter Sydney (Leo’s great-grandaughter) to attend. Yes, the games are archived at DNN.  And Danielle Fairbanks and Fernando and all the volunteers are to be commended for a very professional and friendly event.  And Notown were great hosts!   Can’t wait until next year.

7 comments on “There was a there in Fresno

  1. Couldn’t agree more with your statement. I think its important to try different rulesets in this ever evolving sport. As a community we need to have an open mind and honest discussion about what works best and is more fun for the skaters, officials and the fans. We can take this sport to the next level of organization and play but only if we can agree on rules that will allow us to do so. Maybe its USARS or a combination of USARS/WFTDA or maybe something completely different. As a player I think it would be fun to learn and play by different rulesets. Forget the mindset of having any ruleset be the holy grail right now. This is Roller Derby!!! Skate fast and hit hard 😉

  2. I dunno’ Jerry … without 500 or 600 point wins and the infamous “great learning experiences” that goes along with them, I’m not sure anyone’s ever gonna’ be able to learn how to play a style of game where teams actually battle for points and have to skate all the time….

      • The answer to what problem, JM? Because blowouts happen (specifically, boring blowouts) when teams of very different skill levels play each other. As it turned out, all the 8 teams that participated got to play in at least one very competitive game, because they all got to play against teams similar to them in abilities. And a majority of the games on Saturday and Sunday (if you count the juniors and the scrimmage that wasn’t broadcast) were very competitive and very fun to watch.

        I don’t understand why people are so quick to judge USARS derby when fewer than 40 total games have been played under the ruleset. Based on what I saw in Fresno, USARS should be pretty pleased with what it managed to get in a national tournament that started with 16 teams that had only 2 or 3 months to learn their style of game. I sure as hell had a good time.

  3. of course I did, I was there…..there was much imbalance because of the different capabilities of the teams (see mention in post above), but games with Port City, San Diego, Resurrection were remarkably competitive and made more so by the ruleset……and very entertaining without the slow downs…..As the leagues spread and grow USARS games will only get more competitive…..Only one team, Oly, was the equivalent of the WFTDA tourney teams. And if they incorporate the 1 minute jams, it will eliminate the foolish power jams.

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