The Big 5 is over, most roller derby action in the USA has all but ground to a halt, and we have ranted and raved about a whole lot of things in 2011. But, it’s Turkey Day, a day to reflect on all that is good and positive and hopeful. Despite our ongoing criticisms of the sport, the rules, the business and all that, we are thankful about many things in modern roller derby. Here’s a few more thoughts from our contributors and readers on that.
- I am thankful for my broken collarbone. No. Seriously. It put a lot of things in perspective. I received a ton of love and support during that time (and some darn good drugs). It re-inspired me to buckle down and work more on my skating. It definitely reminded me how much I love, love, love roller skating. Injuries are as much a part of derby as roller skates, unfortunately. As long as you have primary medical insurance, a loving support system, and a good attitude, it doesn’t have to be the worst part. Plus, I got a badass scar (and some darn good drugs).
- Spring Roll. The Ft. Wayne Derby Girls’ annual tournament is fast becoming the highlight of the men’s derby calendar year. There were hundreds of guys playing a ton of games at the highest level. It was overwhelming in a really, really good way. I stood there watching skaters spin, jump, hurdle, hit backwards, and execute complex strategy. I thought, “Damn, these guys are REALLY good at this.” I was at the first Spring Roll (which was called Fall Brawl back in the day), and I played in the first “REF JAM,” which was like rodeo clowns on skates. It was a mess, but it was a fun mess. There were like three or four men’s derby teams in the whole country back then. The rest of us had to hold out for Rollercon once a year. REF JAM at Fall Brawl gave men’s derby in the midwest a much-needed shot in the arm. Men’s derby went from rodeo clowns to a serious endeavor in just a few years. Now there are a dozen men’s teams in the midwest alone, and MRDA currently has 18 members. Seeing how far men’s derby progressed in such a short time was really inspiring. I think men’s derby grew up in 2011, and Spring Roll was the Debutante Ball.
- Hannah “Ouchocinco” Barbaric, my fiance. I went ahead and popped the question in 2011, and she went ahead and said, Yes. We are officially the ultimate derby power couple now and you should fear us. (Love you, baby!)
- Slow and steady wins the race. Seeing Rose City make it to the world championships inspires me. One of the best games I have ever seen was Rose City vs. Sin City at the Dust Devil in (2006 or 2007?). Back then, Sin City was a real good team, and this game was close, back and forth, and Rose City ultimately lost. They spent a few years as a kind of inconsistent team, but fell in the rankings and out of the national spotlight for a time before creeping back into dominance. I know little about what fueled their rise, but I do know that their story should serve as a faint glimmer of hope for all teams that are out there.
- Upsets. They don’t happen as often as I’d like, an indication of the severe lack of parity across the board in roller derby. But they do happen just often enough to remind us why all sports are great. Upsets capture the underdog story, the fascination we have with “David vs. Goliath” tales. They reflect the real world both historical and present. They give hope, salvation, and pride. They offer teams the hope that just maybe, if we work really hard and do the right thing and believe in ourselves AND get a little bit of luck, we can be great. Upsets are the story of America, of Freedom, of Democracy, of Humanity and Civilization. Upsets rank among the best highs know to humankind. They erase the drudgery of life and take us away from the real world, much in the same way as art, music, love, sex, drugs do. Upsets are the definition of epic. Now, can we just have more of them?
- Men’s derby. In 2011 I saw the light. I had resisted men’s derby. I had seen it before and it was a joke and unnecessary. But when I witnessed a great game in a closed warehouse with a handful of spectators and saw some of the most amazing game play and skate skills I have ever seen, I couldn’t help but change my mind. What really drove it home for me though was seeing these men do it for the pure sake of love and thrill and camaraderie, free of drama and expectation and tears and glory. Derby for derby’s sake. Nothing on the line, no expectation. It still happens out there to be sure, but it’s not as common as the community would have us believe any more.
- I’m thankful for NSOs being taken more seriously this year. The position of Head NSO is beginning to take form at sanctioned bouts, invitationals like Brewhaha and this year’s Big 5.
- North Central. There is awesome derby and officiating happening up here. The derby world may have been surprised by some of the upstarts coming from the North Central, but we weren’t. Also there’s a lot of cool stuff spawning from the MidBest; have you checked out http://tv.mnrollergirls.com yet?
- Derby for all. More people are getting it. More people of all ages and sexes are skating, officiating and watching. More people are sharing their derby all over the web. So many new blogs, op eds and folks taking things way to seriously (in all the best ways).
- High quality video. Yep, that was totally a cut and now we can all see it and the # of the skater and referee who called the penalty.
- Improved variety and general call of announcing. Unlike years past, whether it was ECDX or the Big 5, I got to hear a wide variety of different voices making the call. Some were long-time veterans, some were just making their first times on the stream. But I’m thrilled that announcing for the stream has been thrown wide open so that more and more in the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of announcing can be heard and can get a chance to refine their craft on the stream (which is a totally different animal than calling over a venue P.A., let me tell you). As good as the veterans are, we’ll always need new people who’re ready once the veterans put down their mics for good. Additionally, organizations like the AFTDA have stepped up to help announcers become more familiar with hand signals, rules, and a uniform code of conduct for what should and shouldn’t be done on the mic. The vast majority of announcers stepped up this year in their performance, be it through passing the AFTDA Certification Test at various events throughout the year, or just generally kicking ass. I’m thankful for the improved variety and quality in announcing this year.
- South Central stepping it up in the post-season/Big 5 – Since WFTDA went to four regions in 2009, no team in the South Central (other than Texas) had ever won a bout at Championships. Going into this year’s “Continental Divide and Conquer,” I predicted that Kansas City would still be reeling from those mistakes in the second half of this year’s South Central Region Championship bout, and would fall to Rose City’s Wheels of Justice in the opening round. I am happy to admit I was sorely mistaken. The Roller Warriors’ run through Denver was nothing short of amazing, defeating not only Rose City and the Windy City Rollers, but almost toppling the Oly Rollers in a classic semi-final bout for the ages. Kansas City finished fourth after losing to the Texecutioners (again!), but for the first time in WFTDA history, the South Central had two teams in the Final Four. I’m thankful for Kansas City (and yes, for Texas) stepping up at Championships, and hoping that it was a sign of things to come from the South Central Region, and not a one-shot deal.
- I’m thankful that I get about two months off before this whole crazy roller coaster of roller derby starts back up again in 2012, and we get to do this all over again.
- The Best WFTDA Playoffs/Championship Ever. Without a doubt this was the best post season the WFTDA has presented on multiple levels. In the past regional tournaments had been filled with blow outs and easy to pick games. This year that changed and while many of the mainstays of the WFTDA Championships remained (Gotham, Philly, Texas, Rocky, Oly, Kansas City, Windy City, Charm), nothing was for certain outside of who was eventually playing for the Hydra. The 3 vs. 4 spots were wide open as there were multiple games that turned into nail biters. Mix in London proving that international derby is no joke across the pond, an entertaining as always Westerns, the unpredictable South Central, and a North Central region that continues to improve. Was there controversy? Sure, Dutchland was a big topic for a weekend, watching Rat City stand around found me devoting my time to playing Gears of War 3, and Atomatrix questioning the reffing at Championals both in person and on her Facebook page shook things up a bit. But all of this paled in comparison to the action we saw game in and game out on the track. Overall, this year was a step in the right direction.
- Watching Derby Online. So far the triangulation of WFTDA, AFTDA (Association of Flat Track Derby Announcers), and Blaze Streaming Media looks to be a healthy partnership that delivers everything you could ask for while watching roller derby. In the past you never knew what you were going to get when you tuned into a playoff game on the web, maybe you were going to get multiple camera angles and 2 announcers who knew what they were talking about or you might get something that looks like it was shot on a flip phone while being narrated by a drunk “Boom, Goes the Dynamite” impersonator. This year Blaze delivered, for the most part. When there were technical problems, they were just an email away to help. AFTDA put their best foot forward by putting announcers on the call that didn’t distract or detract from the action, but instead enhanced it. Finally WFTDA made full use of Twitter to interact with fans, give live score updates, and spread important information in real time. I would like to give everyone involved a turkey leg to say thank you, but my wallet can’t handle it and I am not sure if anyone wants to eat their Thanksgiving dinner from a Fed Ex box.
- Suzy Hotrod. All sports need a face, someone who everyone in the sport knows but more importantly those outside the sport know as well. The NFL has Peyton Manning, the NBA has Lebron James (for better or worse), the MLB has Brian Wilson, the NHL has Sidney Crosby, MMA has George St. Pierre, and the WFTDA has Suzy Hotrod. She is everything you could want in a spokeswoman for your sport. She is a legit bad ass who jams like one of the infected from 28 Days Later, always aggressively moving forward. She is intelligent and funny, easy to talk to in person and one hell of an advice columnist for Five on Five. She is covered in tattoos, plays guitar in punk rock bands, and knows more Simpsons quotes than you. This year ESPN magazine picked her for the body issue and introduced her and roller derby to a new demographic of fans. When WFTDA starts to actively pursue coverage outside of the derbyverse, Suzy is the person they need to put out front on the PR trail.
More thoughts from some of our readers:
- bjmacke Clipboards, whistles, stopwatches, retractable whiteboard markers and, of course, effen magnets.
- sharklegs coconut water! it really gives me that extra oomph at practice without added sugars or dyes!
- bizarroclair hard-working leaguemates, Minnesota nice, and ouch-free knees
- BiffMixalot I am thankful for the
@chicagooutfit, @ldnrollergirls, and the @newskids and the fun and energy they bring to the sport.
- GarrisonKiller The upsets and the heartbreaks. If you don’t scream at the scoreboard after the game, it didn’t count.
- FNZebra thankful in 2011 for being an official. Worked new leagues, some striving for regionals, &
#WFTDABig5. MRDA, too. All good.
- sfour the action packed rugby scrum start. Stand around starts are dead.
Lauren BloodyElle Goller my leaguemates. no matter which of the 3 teams we skate for, we’re all supportive of one another. the chicago outfit is the best.
Andi Struction #10 50 new best friends. Street cred. And this high, hard ass.