Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Legit" and "mainstream" derby

A Facebook email chain included me(surprisingly) amongst a group of various skaters from various leagues that asked about what things that WFTDA could do in the next three months to "legitimize" modern DIY derby. Of course, I'm not in a WFTDA league, but I do have a big mouth. I wrote a long-winded and rambling reply, and didn't really hear a lot of feedback from it. I don't know whether I covered the bases or everyone just thought I was a jerkfaced asshat, but I thought I'd repost what I wrote just for shits and giggles. Or feedback. Whatever you have time for.

First off, I hate the terms "legit" and "mainstream" in terms of the current modern DIY derby, whether it's flat or banked track. To me, those terms signify complete and utter boredom, which is what I think of when sports in general are brought up to me. Derby isn't a mainstream sport; why there are people pushing to make it "mainstream" is really beyond me. I won't watch derby if it's included in the Olympics. I just don't care. I like where derby is at right now. A little whimsy in sports shouldn't be frowned upon. Don't be swayed by what's already out there. If you were, you wouldn't be involved in derby to begin with. 

I would like to see modern derby try to grow its fanbase in a close manifestation of what we're experiencing right now. Fun names and team themes with serious athletic abilities, at least with what's seen in the top leagues in the country.


Anyway, here's some thoughts:

  • Get rid of minor penalties. If a skater sits in the penalty box, it needs to be obvious to everyone watching the game why she's there. Accumulations are BORRRRRRINGGGGG.

  • Another rule change, especially for WFTDA: GET RID OF NOT-STARTING DERBY. The pack whistle blows, the pack MUST MOVE. The rule needs to change about waiting for the last pack person to cross the pivot line. In WORD rules, the jammer whistle is blown 3 seconds after the pack whistle. In MADE rules, there's only one whistle for both pack and jammers. Either way, it's encouraging movement, which is what fans want to see. Not the standing-around-like-idiots play that bores the pants off of everyone except the skaters in that particular jam. Strategy doesn't mean diddly if people won't sit and watch non-movement when skating is supposed to be involved.

  • Have a handbook or some other source/guide for game/bout production. This includes how to run the door, lighting, announcers, timetables, etc. Sure, not all leagues can be all fancy in every aspect of game production, but if they had a guide to work off of, they can do what they can with current resources as well as set goals for future games to keep the fans interested AND informed while using what's available and affordable to leagues.

  • Continue to encourage any and all skaters in any and all leagues to go to bootcamps that are hosted by top skaters/leagues/whatnot. The idea is to bring more competitive gameplay to more leagues. If you look at rankings, whether they're WFTDA, DNN, WORD, etc, you see that there's a dropoff in...talent? ability? I don't know what the word is, but there's a small group of teams at the very top, and the dropoff to what the next group of teams' abilities is severe. So, say in a tournament situation, if you have #1 seed vs. #7 seed, it's going to be a blowout. Which for new fans is boring to watch. But if we're able to spread the training around far and wide so that more leagues get to a level where they're more competitive in a shorter space of time, that's just good for everyone.


  • Interleague. This goes back to building up the talent that's already out there. Interleague is a great way to do that. But not just the all-star teams. I love TXRG's example of using their home teams as "B" teams for interleague play. It not only encourages city-to-city competition that modern sports thrive on, but it introduces a higher level of gameplay to more skaters in a particular league. And then they'll strive more to achieve higher excellence. This also helps address the problem that many leagues have of their intraleague drawing more fans than interleague. If the home teams are used in more interleague play, then that gets the fans used to more interleague matchups, which generally makes the skaters and the fans happy.

  • Skater names. This is a touchy subject. I myself love my skate name. But there are some names out there that aren't...family friendly. Now, as non-mainstream as this sport is, it's also a sport that's gaining popularity in Jr. leagues across the country. It behooves leagues to not have skate names such as Slitty McCuntergash if they have a Jr. league going on. Or if they have all-ages games. Or both. To build a following that will last beyond any hipster fad, you gotta suck the kids in. A little discretion can go a long way to having a skater feel like she's expressing herself the way she wants to while having the league build a following that's going to think of the future of the sport by having kids around to get them hooked.

  • Recreational leagues. Not everyone coming into a league is going to be all-star material. Some won't even be home team material. But dammit, they love to skate. Maybe they volunteer for your league, and having them around is a good idea for whatever reason. Give them a place to go skate. Same for retired skaters who maybe can't make the training schedule of a team for either physical or scheduling reasons...give them a place to come to so that they can give advice to the up-and-coming skaters. Or give them a reason to justify the cost of their brand-new Antik skates. Whatever. Rec leagues are another avenue of spreading the derby love while being low-cost and casual.

That's just off the top of my pointy little head. I'm sure people have brilliant ideas on how to grow the sport. The question is, will that growth be "legit" and "mainstream", or just...growth?

18 comments:

Nicole said...

As an avid derby fan I completely agree with you on the slow pack, the interleague play, and about the blowout issues. Blowout games are just painful to watch. Just to throw in this spectator's two cents.

RedDiabla said...

Thanks!

Little Kenny said...

BOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRINGGGGGGGGGG!!





Heh. I keed, I keed. These are topics that not only affect the skaters, but also the enjoyment factor of the fans. This is from a fans perspective.

For the first timer the game is all about the action. (Well that and all the hot ladies.) The more action and the faster it is the better. It's pretty darn impossible for a new fan to identify a penalty, even for experienced fans actually, unless that elbow hit so hard a nose flies into the stands. That action is important for the returning and die hard fans as well. While I can appreciate that a strategic and technical game can be fun and interesting for the skaters it can be a dreary thing to watch. If it's fast strategy and technic that's a different story. If on the other hand that strategy involves a DUMPTRUCK (<-- eh, eh?) load of slow skating well then, meh. Slow strategy is BORRRRRRINGGGGG.

I think my two biggest peeves when it comes to derby are slow skating and shit tons of timeouts. I realize that everyone wants everything to be correct, but nothing is more disheartening after a super sweet, fast as hell jam then seeing a zeb run up onto the track pounding there shoulders calling a timeout. If it only happened infrequently then no big deal, but it doesn't. Timeouts happen a lot and they are BORRRRRRINGGGGG.

You won't find a bigger fan of the refs than me so don't think I'm digging at them. They're doing what they need to do and are currently allowed to do in order to get it right. I get it. It doesn't mean it's fun to watch a zeb conference every other jam though. While we're at it the call challenges could be eliminated as well. All I ever see it do is cause a stoppage in play and let everyone take a sizable break before the challenge is denied and the game continues. I honestly don't ever remember seeing a call overturned. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened, but it sure doesn't happen very often. I'm rambling now. Can you tell. Anyway the point (wait there's a point?) I'm trying to make I guess is that from a fans perspective the faster the game moves the better. To that end simplifying and/or changing the rules to increase the speed and flow of the game would be great. How do you do that? I don't know. I'm only a rocket scientist after all.

Basically I'm in agreement with you. Stuff that makes derby more enjoyable is definitely good. For the skaters, for the refs and for the fans.

Good stuff lady. ;)

Little Kenny said...

Just a quick bit more after that novel I just wrote. I'm with you on the mainstream. I am a sports fan. I like my footzballz and my hockeez. I also like derby. It's accessible. You can interact directly with the skaters, the refs, everyone. The atmosphere is fun. Sometimes corny, but that too is a great thing. Most of the rest of my life is serious. Derby is awesome because it doesn't take every little thing serious. Anyway that's all I've got.

For now.

RedDiabla said...

Holy carp, LK. You do like-a to type after all! Thanks so much for the fan input!

I'd like to point out to those who may not know that Little Kenny has been a thick-and-thin fan of the Derby Dolls for at least five years. He's no stranger to DIY derby or its evolution, so he's not just talking out of his ass.

Samurai Simba said...

ok, since you make many good points, i thought I would give a lil "devils advocate" feedback. (Since you said it was ok to feedback XD)

I fully understand your desire to keep derby "DIY", and I agree for the most part. HOWEVER, the idea of derby being at a "Olympics" level, can be a good idea. Now I'm not saying that every derby league needs to strive for that. that would be like saying, every amature sports league, for every sport, HAS to go and try for the olympics. That obviously isn't going to happen. But having leagues or individuals in leagues, wanting to see the sport go that far is a positive. Let them take the sport where THEY want to see it go and YOU can take it where you want. If they don't match, that's ok! Because there will ALWAYS be leagues out there for people who want what you want.


Minor penalties: I'm on the fence on this one. ESPECIALLY as a ref. I'm waiting for more info before I make an educated reply on this. :)

Not-Starting Derby Play: as a ref and as a fan........BOOOOORRRING. HOWEVER!! I understand the reasoning behind it. I think there needs to be a happy medium for those rules.

Bout Production: How about you get LADD to make that handbook! Cause your bouts are amazing and fun. Most leagues have had to learn on their own or copy as much as they can afford to do from leagues like yours. This could be an amazing networking/business opportunity.

Bootcamps: HELL YES! Best times and most learing come from those! I love them and promote them as much as possible!

Interleague: I like the TXRG idea actually. Never knew they did that. I don't have a lot of opinion on this one.

Derby names: first and foremost "Slitty McCuntergash" made LOL so hard I stopped reading, cause I couldn't see my keyboard anymore. is this a REAL derby girls name? Cause if so, i NEED to be her friend on fb. That aside, I fully agree with you on this one!

Rec Leagues: YES PLEASE!! want want want want!!! My fave is still wRECk league with you guys though.

In closing....

There will always be a place for pretty much everyone in derby for many many years. "mainstreaming" derby will continue on it's way, with or without you, but the wonderful thing about this sport is, that there are so many people who feel and think like you do (for the most part) that we will have a home to go to, whatever our goals! (holy run-on sentence batman!) I love reading your blog, it makes me happy. Thanks for letting me feedback 8D.....Simba

Little Kenny said...

Although I do excel at talking out of my ass.

jerryseltzer said...

You have suggested many things that I have proposed, except everyone seems to think I want to bring back old Roller Derby.....those who know me realize that is not true, but there is far too much tinkering with the rules and that makes it very difficult to watch with all the penalties, all the officials, all the times out, etc. This is an action game. Protect the players safety, but let them skate!

Bill said...

I agree with you too. This season, I've seen our team play the no-pack-movement strategery. It was interesting for the first couple of jams, then the novelty wore off. Watching the pack move from the whistle is more interesting.

I'm torn about the names. While I recognize the issue of exposing our nation's youth to indelicate derby names, I'm also not particularly interested. Jr League Derby skaters should choose age appropriate names. Adult skaters should pick whatever names they want. One of the things I love about bouts with unfamiliar teams is reading their names. Slitty McCuntersnatch is *charming* in a way that is appropriate in the context of derby. It takes balls to skate under a colorful name and I respect that kind of chutzpah.

I accept that there is a line of crassness that can be crossed, and that a team may choose a policy of keeping names in the PG-13 range. I just long for the good old days when kids had something to look forward to when they came of age and adults had more child-free activities to engage in.

.

Bonnie D.Stroir said...

Agreed. On most points.

The mainstream one is the only one I vary slightly from you on. Lady Gaga is mainstream. Nicki Minaj is mainstream. They're also totally nuts with personal style.

Mainstream's just another way of saying : so popular everyone knows who/what you are. Even if what you are is shiny and fantastic.

xoxo!

The Original Donald said...

I PRESUME LADD is a shoot league unlike, say, ARSD. in which case, you WANT to be known as a LEGIT league, and not another spectacle like the Manhattan Minx.

As far as being mainstream, it sounds as if you DON'T want a typical sports fan such as myself to come to the bouts. I warn EVERYONE depending on the hipsters is sure-fire way of being passe rather quickly.

The Original Mac Taylor
something is rotten in the Kingdom of Jamalot ;)

RedDiabla said...

Simba: do you feel better now that you've expressed yourself? ;) I think there's enough room for all the different types of derby out there, but is there enough respect? We already see how a non-WFTDA league feels like they can't always be comfortable stating that, even if they're not doing anything negative to/for the overall derby community. So it'll be interesting to see what happens with that. You still can't have my Golden Girls shirt, however. ;D

Bonnie: I get what you're saying, but it seems that in relation to derby, most people seem to think "mainstream" = "sucking the fun aspects out of it". Is that a wrong assumption? I don't know, really.

Bill: hi there, I could be termed a DINK, and I'm not ashamed to not have kids. So I understand about adults-only type of stuff. However, outside of metropolitan areas, DIY derby leagues depend on having a kid-friendly atmosphere for their games. And I can see here in LA that continuing to be strictly 21+ is not expanding our audience. So kids have to be considered to some degree. And really? Slitty McCuntergash can find a way to express her joy in her vulva in a more clever way than having that name.

Donald: I don't know what a shoot league is, so I can't answer that question.

As for me not wanting "typical sports fans"...if that means not having people who think that skater names are stupid, uniforms have to be perfectly uniform, and levity isn't to be exhibited on the track under any circumstances because it looks "unprofessional", then you're right. I wouldn't want "typical sports fans" who think like that at my games.

Cagey said...

I really, really LIKE that almost all LADD games are 21+. I get irritated with all-ages games where there are kids running around, I like being with adults and not having to watch my mouth, etc. I recognize that it is keeping our audience numbers down, but one of the things I like best about derby is that our announcers are foul-mouthed, skaters have names like Vulvarine, and there are no screaming babies. For me, it's an escape from everywhere else I go (which is obviously nowhere exciting).

To me, "mainstream" means toning things down so that it appeals to a wider audience. If you don't get/like what we're doing, that's a shame, but I don't like the idea of trying to make derby more friendly to people who aren't willing to expand their minds a little. It's a cop-out and a compromise to everything we've worked for and all the quirkiness that makes derby what it is.

Little Kenny said...

Got another novel for you Tara. I read the new comments here this morning and felt the itch to write down even more of my thoughts. Rather than just segregate solely over at my blog I'm going to steal the comments section of yours. ;) This one really is a novel. As well it's gonna take a couple posts since the comment section only allows 4096 characters per post. :D Can you say verbose? I can.

Define "legit" and "mainstream" in regards to current, modern roller derby from a fans perspective. I'd like to emphasize that, a fans perspective. Both flat track and banked track.

Legit in regards to roller derby. To the masses the current DIY derby is not seen as any different to "old school" staged derby. No matter how much we wish it otherwise. I still answer questions to new fans in line waiting for their first bout concerning that. I still answer questions from friends and coworkers concerning that. They're all asking all the same questions I asked over 5 years ago. Is it scripted? No. Are they racing? Kinda. What's the point? To win. And have fun. Are there rules? Yes, absolutely.

To be considered legit is important. One of the definitions of legitimate from Merriam-Websters is "conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards" and while at first glance that might seem to go against everything that derby started out being it may not actually be a bad thing. Conforming can have some bad connotations, but in this context it is what derby is doing. Whether it be with WFTDA and their ruleset or with LADD and their current ruleset or any of the other leagues out there. The leagues have chosen to do their respective derby in their way and they expect those that play with them to do the same. So in this aspect these types of derby are legit. We absolutely are and that's good. It's one of the points that is always expressed. These ladies are skating hard, hitting hard and falling hard for real. Doing all those things while trying to help their team win enough to get to and to win a championship.

It behooves derby to have the perceived norm go away from being a staged event designed to showcase acrobatic skating towards that of a legitimate sports event with teams of players striving to skate hard and win.

Being legit in no way precludes derby from being all the other fun and awesome things it is. It is a counter-culture activity. Of course it is. As such it attracts those that don't like the current mainstream activities. That's part of what makes it fun. You never know who or what you're going to see. There aren't, or at least shouldn't be, strict social constraints or rules on how you do it at least in regards to attitude, attire, etc. It doesn't mean it shouldn't have some rules regarding how the game is played, but the rest should be left open ended. This is probably the biggest part of derby that is seeing change. The game takes care of itself. You skate hard, you win. You skate hard, you have fun. That's the easy part. The hard part is how to deal with the inevitable change that is and will always occur in everything.

This leads to mainstream in regards to derby. Mainstream is important if the future plans for derby are to continue the expansion of the DIY leagues and eventually elevate some of them to the level of professional. If that is the plan then relying on a small group of dedicated fans is not going to cut it. As well relying on a group that is solely looking for the latest cool thing isn't going to work either.

Little Kenny said...

To get bigger becoming part of the mainstream is going to have to happen. Otherwise the only "big" exposure derby will have to anyone other than those of us already involved will be playing bit roles in TV drama shows like CSI, to which Donald is referring I believe, or reality shows like Gene Simmons family jewels. I'm not saying I'm not stoked when I hear/see that derby is making an appearance in a popular show. Not at all. I love that it's getting exposed, albeit over dramatically, to a much larger audience. I want to share it's awesomeness with as many people as possible. At the same time I don't want it to lose that smaller crowd, counter-culture, I'm in on something really cool feel.

The derby that I fell in love with, that we all fell in love with, when we first saw it is legit. Totally. Women go out there and skate their assess off against their friends and teammates in an effort to win. In an effort to show that this sport really is a sport. That it is hard. That it is dangerous. That it is fast, fun, dirty, quirky, DIY. It is absolutely legit. What it wasn't when we first saw it was mainstream. It still isn't. Part of the reason it still isn't is because of what the scene was and still is.

In the life cycle of these things current modern derby can be considered still quite young and at the same time it has survived it's latest incarnation for over six years now. Almost unbelievably so with the unprecedented expansion of both the banked track leagues and most assuredly the flat trackers. It's huge. There are growing pains, but they'll be worked through. There are just too many women finding this outlet, for whatever they wanted/needed an outlet for, for it to just die overnight. Also, with the junior derby springing up and getting the next generation of skaters involved I can only imagine it getting better. I can't wait.

After putting all of that down the question that is raised for me is what do I see my derby doing? Growing, changing? As stated above I like my derby the way it is. Thank you very much. It's changed a bit, increased rules, fancier uniforms, etc., but it's still basically like I found it and that's what I like.

That said there's no reason that there can't be more types of derby than just mine. As it stands my type of derby consists of what first attracted me. If you want your type to become something else or something different then go for it. Break away. Attract those that feel the same way and start your own league. If there are enough others that feel the same it will take off. If not, well there are plenty of other failed ventures. I guess my feelings are this and they're based kind of on the old man syndrome, I don't want the things I like to change. I like things staying like I expect them to. In that vein don't change my stuff, but if you want to do something different then by all means go your own way and make it happen. I'll support you whole heartedly in your efforts. It would be awesome to root for my national, professional roller derby team on Saturday nights on ESPN. At the same time I still want to be able to go to my local league game, see the familiar faces I love, see some new ones and root wholeheartedly for not just my team, but for all the skaters tearing up the track.

Specific to my home league I don't know what the end game target is. I hope it doesn't stray too far from what attracted me in the first place. At the same time I want to see it do what it needs to do to keep providing the venue that both the skaters and the fans need to enjoy this activity. I hope I can live with and enjoy whatever it becomes, but I'd rather it live on rather than it not.

Vive la Derby!

Little Kenny said...

Ok, I don't know what happened to this first part yesterday, but here it is again. :) This should have preceded that other novel you posted for me. ;)

Define "legit" and "mainstream" in regards to current, modern roller derby from a fans perspective. Both flat track and banked track.

Legit in regards to roller derby. To the masses the current DIY derby is not seen as any different to "old school" staged derby. No matter how much we wish it otherwise. I still answer questions to new fans in line waiting for their first bout concerning that. I still answer questions from friends and coworkers concerning that. They're all asking all the same questions I asked over 5 years ago. Is it scripted? No. Are they racing? Kinda. What's the point? To win. And have fun. Are there rules? Yes, absolutely.

To be considered legit is important. One of the definitions of legitimate from Merriam-Websters is "conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards" and while at first glance that might seem to go against everything that derby started out being it may not actually be a bad thing. Conforming can have some bad connotations, but in this context it is what derby is doing. Whether it be with WFTDA and their ruleset or with LADD and their current ruleset or any of the other leagues out there. The leagues have chosen to do their respective derby in their way and they expect those that play with them to do the same. So in this aspect these types of derby are legit. We absolutely are and that's good. It's one of the points that is always expressed. These ladies are skating hard, hitting hard and falling hard for real. Doing all those things while trying to help their team win enough to get to and to win a championship.

It behooves derby to have the perceived norm go away from being a staged event designed to showcase acrobatic skating towards that of a legitimate sports event with teams of players striving to skate hard and win.

Being legit in no way precludes derby from being all the other fun and awesome things it is. It is a counter-culture activity. Of course it is. As such it attracts those that don't like the current mainstream activities. That's part of what makes it fun. You never know who or what you're going to see. There aren't, or at least shouldn't be, strict social constraints or rules on how you do it at least in regards to attitude, attire, etc. It doesn't mean it shouldn't have some rules regarding how the game is played, but the rest should be left open ended. This is probably the biggest part of derby that is seeing change. The game takes care of itself. You skate hard, you win. You skate hard, you have fun. That's the easy part. The hard part is how to deal with the inevitable change that is and will always occur in everything.

This leads to mainstream in regards to derby. Mainstream is important if the future plans for derby are to continue the expansion of the DIY leagues and eventually elevate some of them to the level of professional. If that is the plan then relying on a small group of dedicated fans is not going to cut it. As well relying on a group that is solely looking for the latest cool thing isn't going to work either.

evewitch said...

"As for me not wanting "typical sports fans"...if that means not having people who think that skater names are stupid, uniforms have to be perfectly uniform, and levity isn't to be exhibited on the track under any circumstances because it looks "unprofessional", then you're right. I wouldn't want "typical sports fans" who think like that at my games."

Yes, this. And also I you. You wrote exactly what I had percolating around in my pointy little head but haven't had the words to express. There is a reason I continue to take a beating (ouch, knee), and it isn't to play a mainstream sport. I could have stuck to swimming for my grand athletic comeback if I wanted that. Olympics? Maybe - but only if I can still wear my Boo panties and stripper skirt. And keep MY name. :)

Moll Adjusted

Purple and Gold said...

I guess I am a little late to the party, but I have a a couple of pennies to share.

My biggest gripe is not "slow" derby. It's STOP derby. I have a real problem with "stationary" walls. The WFTDA rules already state that it is illegal to block at a standstill and that positional blocking need not include contact. But how many times though does the jammer get a backblocking call in that situation? Virtually every time. I have no problem with a wall, as long as your wall moves counter-clockwise.