Well, first of all the reason I loved the pivot was because I created it. And the proper use made the game better.
There were no designated positions in Roller Derby for the first 25 years of its existence……anyone could jam, any one could block. Usually the plays were determined by the coach (or women’s captain….I know, sexist), and of course the fastest skaters were usually sent on the jams, and the slower bigger skaters would do the majority of the blocking.
For those who don’t know, Roller Derby was a very simple game, not a lot of rules: five skaters on each team at a time, when the pack was intact (see link), a jam would start, and within the two-minute time limit the skaters would attempt to gain a lap on the pack, and for each player the jammer passed he (or she) would get a point. Both teams were on offense and defense at the same time, which made the game unique. The men skated against the men, women against the women, 8 alternating periods, and the final score was cumulative, and it was on a portable banked track.
We had a loyal coterie of fans who attended our games, and they understood what was going on pretty easily; however, as we started videotaping our games and syndicating them (to eventually 110 stations in the US and Canada), we were getting comments that the casual viewer was confused by what was happening, so we came up with the idea of helmets to signify what the players’ functions were.
Originally there were three blockers (solid color helmets) and two jammers (cross-stripe helmets). The blockers helped their teammates out of the pack (there was no starting line in original Derby except at the start of each half; the jammers started from the rear of the back) and tried to prevent the other jammers from getting out and from scoring; they also were blocking the other blockers (confused?) during the jam in order to knock them out of position or down so their jammer could score. The blockers could not go more than 20 feet in front of the pack or 20 feet behind, the team was penalized if the pack was not in constant motion, and backwards skating and blocking were a penalty, and the lead jammer was the skater who had the lead.
So we had scrimmages every day to see how the game worked, but we realized we were missing a critical element. Each team always had a superstar: Ann Calvello, Joan Weston, Charlie O’Connell, Ken Monte, etc who could really function in both positions. So I came up with the Pivot: always at the start of the pack before a jam could start, but if he or she couldn’t get a jammer out, then the pivot was eligible to jam. And that was the clincher….it added so much more to the game and the fans could see the superstars in constant action (Roller Derby was always built on stars).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfy6Jv3vyfo Click on this link to see how the game was played.
The jammers got smaller and faster and even though they could block each other during the jam, they usually reached the pack within thirty seconds so the jam time was cut to 90 seconds and then eventually 1 minute (which works for the LA Derby Dolls). And there was no time for power jams, especially if both teams had a jammer out…..and the player was penalized, never the helmet.
So now we had a game that people loved and understood, and although “color” was added especially for TV, the skating and skaters were awesome. And they loved the playoffs and championships when they could just skate the game without the “junk” as my father called it….the games then had real meaning. (Remember, we owned all six teams!).
So understand why I love a game where the pack and action don’t stop, where penalties do not inhibit play, where only two referees (three for playoffs), not on skates could handle the play from the infield.
Don’t misunderstand me, when I see teams in the championships who can go full tilt, know the importance of pack play, that makes a lot of difference….I would hope the rule changes to go into effect and maybe more later will get the games to where they will be filling 15,000 seat arenas again, if that is what the skaters want.
I would sure love to see full arenas again.