OK, Tim Roy, you are partially right, and it took Santa Cruz Roller Derby to prove it.

What a great weekend!

On behalf of Brown Paper Tickets and the American Red Cross Blood Drives I took a trip to Monterey and Carmel over the weekend.   The Monterey Peninsula is one of the best places on earth, and I was happy to see the ocean was still running (all night too).

On Friday night I met with the great people from Monterey Derby Dames.  We went over the upcoming blood drive (which had been set up by Hanna Malak of the American Red Cross) and also got to spend some time on marketing and PR.   They use Brown Paper Tickets (of course!), but like so many of the users, really don’t know the literally dozens of free services available to them.  I think they do now. (look at http://www.brownpapertickets.com for services, just go get an idea).

Monterey Derby Dames!

Photo: Great seeing you tonight!!<br /><br /><br /><br />
I hope you and Judi enjoy your trip

Randy Boose from Santa Cruz Derby Girls had invited me to come to one of their games for a long time, but now they have moved into a new arena, are the leading participant in the blood drives (they are providing two days in August!) and I really wanted to see them play again.  They had been skating at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium where ironically we had booked occasionally about once a season in the 60’s; really a very small venue (about 1000), but SCRG had built a loyal following.

The city of Santa Cruz hosts the most laid back campus of the UC  University system; unlike their big brothers UC Berkeley and UCLA they are much more relaxed about things;  420 is their biggest holiday, and the name of their athletic teams (I kid you not) is the Banana Slugs.  The population of the town is 60,000, and as I found out, SCDG is neither small town nor laid back.

The Golden State Warriors NBA has their D league team (the Warriors) in Santa Cruz, and this year the city and Kaiser Permanente provided them with a brand new 2500 seat arena.  The building is clear span, very raw in terms of amenities (you go outside to use the bathrooms), but is about the greatest Derby venue imaginable.  You walk right into the arena, through no lobby or hallway and are right there.   And right in front as you walked in was the blood drive table, where fans were signing up for the upcoming event.

the building was packed: about 2000 on hand; surprising since it is summer vacation, and parking is impossible……the location is very near downtown, and there just isn’t any parking nearby.

I was greeted by Randy and went to my reserved seat.  And then one of those things happen that are so funny and leave a person wondering.  I was next to a nice lady, probably in her fifties or early sixties, who said to me that this was the first Roller Derby she was going to see since she used to watch in Minnesota.  I had not told her of my background.  “Did you watch on Sunday mornings at 11 on WCCO, channel 4?”  She looked at me startled, and said yes.  I then excused myself and walked down to the floor.  I used to know every city and time and day our tapes were shown in all 120 cities across America.

It had just been announced a few days before the Santa Cruz would be the number 1 seed in Division 2 WFTDA in the upcoming regionals.  Ironically, their last game previous was a loss, so they fell out of the top 40 rankings to #41, which meant they would not compete in the Division 1 regionals, but would be a favorite in Division 2, which might give them a path to the Division 1 championships in Milwaukee later.  Confused?  check it all out on the WFTDA site.

The fans went crazy when their home team appeared.  And they were doubly excited when the local paper the day before had announced the city’s representative would be #1 in Division 2, and the team basked in the audience’s approval.

The opposition was the Humboldt County (far northern California) league.  Due to injuries, they only had 9 players on their traveling squad, so I was ready for the slow down, sit down, twirl around pattern of skating.  Was I wrong.Photo

Right from the first starting line both teams bolted out and engaged.  Great pack blocking and skating, and the outmanned Humboldts stayed with Santa Cruz for a while, but then the home team showed its dominance…..no slow down by either team, no disengagement-let’sstandhereandlookatthecrowd skating.  And the fans loved it and responded.  They had been there before, they would come back next time (like the LA Derby Dolls fans, the Gotham Girls, the BAD girls etc, all who skate action games).  I was so impressed by the Santa Cruz jammers!

At half time, a tremendous response from the crowd (their team was up by a large margin).

And great halftime entertainment:  a group of women danced in Brazil Carnivale fashion and not much costume.

The fans got what they came for, the players got the love from the audience (and the money from the gate!) that let them know they were stars and appreciated for what they give up to be part of Roller Derby.  And the wonderful Mildred Fierce told me that since moving to the new arena skater tryouts and junior wanting to skate had skyrocketed.

Now Tim Roy had said to me that the rule set was not at fault for the problems with Derby.  And if leagues want to play an action sport and ignore the loopholes as I saw on Saturday, he is partially correct.  I still would like to see the pivot able to provide the function the position was created for:  to block and jam if no other jammer was available; the jam time cut by 30 or 60 seconds; penalties for skating backwards or stopping, and allowing the pack to keep moving; elements which are available in other rules sets.

But if all games were like what I saw on Saturday….it is a great start, unless you don’t care whether or not fans  (outside of friends and family) show up.

Good show, SCDG.  Hope you make it all the way to Milwaukee!

2 comments on “OK, Tim Roy, you are partially right, and it took Santa Cruz Roller Derby to prove it.

  1. Jerry,

    I am no fan of “stand around derby” or “non engaged conga line derby” either. However I don’t agree that skating backwards or momentarily stopping should result in a penalty. There is a lot of skill required to stop on a dime, reverse direction, skate side to side or hold up a jammer for an extended time. Particularly if it is a single blocker holding the jammer back for an extended time. If a blocker is successful in forcing a jammer out of bounds, I see nothing wrong with the blocker skating backward to force the jammer to re-enter at a point behind where the jammer was knocked out of bounds. I find that maneuver exciting if that’s your favorite team causing the opposing team to retreat. It is a smart and skillful blocker that can do this. I have watched modern derby for some years now and noticed how much the skill level has improved and how you need to know the rules, skate the rules and play strategically. That’s what the better teams do. The best teams minimize penalty time and win consistently. The best teams put footwork and teamwork into action. I don’t know if they study the rules and take tests on the rules, or skate practices with referees, but either way or both, smart is better. I viewed the Gotham/LA Derby Dolls Roller Derby Xtreme three game disc set. No standing around, but I wasn’t necessarily convinced that a 60 second jam is superior for fans to a 120 second jam. Cutting the duration of jammer penalties, and as you suggest letting the pivot jam if the jammer is out on penalty, and possibly allowing the jammer to employ more of their arms and hands (but not elbows) to break through walls might speed the game up or cut down on the number of jammer penalties.

    • I don’t disagree, and like your suggestions…..you do not want to take the skill and strategy out of the game……but standing or just stopping while a jammer goes around endlessly seems to be boring to many people. The 60 second jam will come to pass eventually, especially since the skilled jammers now catch the pack in 20 seconds.

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