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!

This will piss some off, but here goes.

There is a great facebook page:  Derby over 40….so the other day some idiot (male) all of a sudden blasts me for every crime known to man except pedophilia with the Grand Canyon.

His point (I thnk) was stay the F… out of our Roller Derby today, you old jerk, has been, etc (pick your own word). I of course responded twice as violently, which I later removed from the site and apologized for this non-appropriate comment there.

I guess some people do not like that I pretty much express my opinion, and if they think I hate modern derby they are so wrong;  it is just I will always say what I feel that I think (note: my opinion) makes the game better, and certainly more appealing to the fans and skaters.

Someone I really respect posted on one of the well-read sites that his league (he is an NSO) was told by a sponsor that they may pull out next season if the games are as boring as the one last Saturday.  OK, that is a matter of choice.

And yesterday there was posted the new changes of the WFTDA rules (by the skaters, for the skaters,by the 5-person rules committee).  On cursory reading I do not think they made the game any more fan friendly or encourage actual skating by the players who pay to skate and mostly want to play a more participatory game.  And unless I am wrong, clockwise skating is legal.

Look, I don’t get credentialed by WFTDA any more (actually, that wouldn’t make any difference), so this might just increase my unpopularity with some, but for crissakes, can I say you are destroying the game I love right before my eyes.

When I say I love what LA Derby Dolls have  done to simplify the game or that Donna at One World is doing, or that USARS and MADE are providing a game that is far simpler than the 70 or so pages of rules that have fans and skaters confused (I have no idea what most of the penalties are called for, which would not be meaningful except it can cost teams victories). And they seem to be presenting an attraction that has skaters standing around while a jammer speeds around the track unimpeded.

And the rules encourage teams to pile on meaningless points so that the “rankings” can be higher; what kind of sportsmanship is that?

Hey, USARS does not have that many leagues.  If I were a league that knew they weren’t going to make it to the championships for years, I would quickly contact USARS now to get in their tournament this year, skate what I think is a more-engaging game, and be on a major TV live stream, and maybe skate against the Number 2 team in the world, The Oly Rolllers in a fast paced game!

Wake up, WFTDA, I became a big fan of modern Derby because of Val and the Windy City Rollers in 2005 and today I go to the Resurrection, Sonoma County, BAD  and Sacramento games whenever I can – you can verify that with the leagues if you want -but hate to see the fans decreasing in so many areas because of the “loopholes”, penalties, whatever.

You are not skating to please me or anyone else except yourself.   If you feel there is any truth in the above, then think about it.  Maybe I will see you in Tulsa for the USARS championship; you will see me at Rollercon and also in Milwaukee.

Dammit, I love Roller Derby, it is in my DNA.  Please get an anti-rule committee and make the game fun to watch.  And if you think I am wrong, that is fine too…..we can all express what we feel.

We are on the cusp….

of a New Year and a new era for Roller Derby.

Certainly more people than ever know what the game is and that it is currently being played, and many know someone who is playing it.

And the recent BBC piece on Roller Derby said it is about to explode!

Photo by lelu1973 from stock.xchng.com

Photo by lelu1973 from stock.xchng.com

and Bonnie D Stroir tweeted:  “Progress, people in my town now ask me if I play Roller Derby instead of what is it.”

My feelings (no shouting or pointing fingers), until there is some super ruling body to set up leagues, practices and standards, the game will still be splintered (as many people want).

College sports are under the NCAA umbrella, most amateur sports under AAU or ISOC,  pro sports have the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL (OK, not right now).  Although these all incorporate rule sets, they are a lot more.  They impose control over the individuals, teams, leagues under their domain.  Obviously neither WFTDA, USARS, or any of the other rule sets really control any of the leagues other than what is presently controlled.

So leagues form, split, and often overwhelm their markets in a topsy turvy manner.  And even worse, because of anger that causes the splits, they won’t play each other.

What if everyone (hah!) decided on a ruling body or Commissioner (sorry, I decline……this would be 1000 times worse than asking for a ticket), had control of setting up meaningful leagues, style of play, playoffs, and championships, based on different divisions, similar to baseball, football, or soccer in the UK.

And if the commissioneress said to the teams in a metropolitan area, like Seattle, Chicago, Denver, etc. that their will be just 4 (or 6) teams in this area, and they will all compete in one league, post a schedule at the start of the season, promote all games as to their importance in final standings, and the followers of the game would know when their team is playing, against whom, and what bearing these games have not only as rivalries, but as actually leading to something important that could be achieved.

And there would be rules over player behavior, standards, training, promotion, marketing, officials, etc

And she would negotiate television deals that would benefit everyone and allow the game to grow as it should.

We all know this is completely impractical.  Happy New Year!

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