The Dark Side of Derby


What to write about?

While browsing the internet at random for story ideas, bullying came up a few times. I rarely think about it, mostly because I am the type of guy that calls bullshit when he sees it, and I very rarely apologize–much less allow anyone to get the better of me. But after reading a few posts about Derby I thought I should chime in. 

Who am I?

First, let me start by describing myself. By no means am I “hot” at least not based solely on my physique. I’ve let myself go a bit so overall I look like a retired linebacker. However, how I dress and carry myself I look like a tattooed Latin Mr. Clean. The quintessential bad boy if you will, and I know my role quite well. This will be relevant soon.
Second, let me discuss my personal experience, I got into derby by accident. I took up skating with a middle school buddy I found on Facebook. While relearning to skate, I ran into a newly formed league that needed refs. Sure why not?! I’d get to skate and hang out with hot (not single) women. Well, they’re bound to have hot friends right? While hooking up was not a major factor in my decision to join derby, it was a welcome by-product.
By this point, I had gone to RollerCon, my eyes were opened to the intricacies of officiating, and how much referees need NSOs and how much work the NSOs do not get the proper respect they deserve. I was a pretty good and fair ref, and I would rarely turn a skater, ref, NSO down for a good time. After RollerCon 2012, I wanted to be known/accepted as a capable referee. So I turned a new leaf and started turning down skaters’ advances.


I have known a few leagues, that no longer exist, that would allow ringers to come in and play in bouts without ever showing up to a single practice. Usually, these skaters were a part of a higher ranked team in the area. They were either on LOA from their home league or just laying low trying to avoid some sort of drama (that no one in the smaller/newer league knew about at the time). This, however, would cause a rift with the skaters who were a part of the league and wanted very much to play.
So what do they do? they spoke up!
Skater– “Hey skater superstar from X league has never practiced with us! why is she playing?! I’ve only missed one practice in 6 months!”
League – “Your skill level is nowhere near skater superstar’s level and she just transferred, do you really want the team to lose a bout because how badly you suck?!”
Skater – “Oh… sorry”
Eventually, as the league gets bigger, it draws more trouble makers from the bigger league who have been or about to be kicked out. Since these skaters have years under their belt vs the noob skaters with a league that is just a few months old, they welcome them with open arms, not realizing the trouble they’re getting themselves into. Soon the new to the league trouble makers, politic, rally, and get themselves voted into the BOD and from there wreck house by only promoting themselves and the skaters that support them. Leaving the noobs disenfranchised with the choice of either A- never to have anything with derby again. B- making them give the biggest league in the area a try or C- breaking off and starting their own new “for the (new) skaters by the (new) skaters only” league.

Fresh Start part deux

My sister knew I changed my ways about the time she was co-founding a league. The biggest reason for this new league was to bring derby to the Southwest side of Houston where a roster’s worth of skaters lived and wanted to not have to deal with 2 hours of traffic per practice day. By this point I settled down and decided not to be such a slut, just keep it casual with one or two women.
After a few months, the other co-founder wanted her vision of the league to be done a certain way (hers). Through my experience as a head ref for two leagues I knew my duties were relegated to making sure bouts were fully, or nearly fully staffed with competent officials, both zeebs and flamingos. I was berated in front of a few people just before a bout for not making sure the production timeline was being followed. Taking the higher road I said nothing at that moment. During halftime I skated up to her, when she was by herself and told her, the timeline is announcer’s purview as they have the mic and can coral people, and to not ever yell at me in public in a tone to ensure that I sent a shiver down her spine. In hindsight, I should have had an impartial witness with me.
A month after this bout I was called to a committee meeting to have a serious discussion. Committee heads were in attendance, and I was being asked to step down as the head referee because of an accusation of sexual harassment. Now I am a blue collar worker, I can make the dirtiest of jokes and turn half of what anyone says into double entendres or “that’s what s/he said” jokes. But I make sure to only do so around the skaters that were ok with such joke (because they would say/make just as dirty jokes before I could get a word in more often than not). I was never told what I said or what I allegedly did that constituted sexual harassment. Simply that a complaint had been made and I am been asked to step down. No investigation, no statements simply someone said so and now you’re out. I refused to apologize for something I did not do. At which point, I was asked to resign my post as a referee and have anything to do with Yellow Rose Derby Girls.
After I the meeting was concluded, one of the committee members texted me and said she was jealous it wasn’t her I sexually harassed. A few months later my sister was ousted, ever since about one skater a year gets removed or forced to resign. Usually for an innocuous reason, but the truth of the matter is that they either crossed or don’t fall in line with the other co-founders ideas for the league.

Bad apples don’t always spoil the bunch

So while there are leagues that have bad reputations they can turn around and clean up their image. One such League is Gulf Coast Roller Girls – Lafitte’s Ladies, Now known as Gulf Coast Roller Girls – missfits.
Years ago (2011-2012) Laffites ladies had a few problem skaters. So bad that visiting refs would not visit again, myself included. The one game I ended up reffing with them, a ref called a skater out on a penalty, Her response? “you stupid mother fucker. Fuck you, you don’t know how to call” and kept skating. He just shrugged it off and told his penalty tracker to not write down the penalty. A few jams later same skater cuts the track in front of me (as OPR) I call the track cut, She yells “you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about” TWEET misconduct “What?! no WAY!” TWEET insubordination “say something and you’re ejected” in a tone that was devoid of any uncertainty. She skated away and sat her 3 minutes in the box.
At the afterparty she tried to apologize using the excuse, “it’s just the game man, you know the adrenaline, I don’t know what I was doing” (would you let a rapist get by with saying this?) I ignored her and vowed never to come back and officiate for this team. I let any league/team I reffed for to politely decline any offer to play against Gulf Coast.
Fast forward a few years and my sister messaged me to come see her play for Gulf Coast. My reaction was not that of excitement for her. My sister lets me know that they got rid of the bad skaters and have become a very good, cohesive team. So on my sister’s word I go and announce the bout and hory chit Korean Batman! They got their shit together and now go by Gulf Coast Roller Girls, they dropped the Laffite’s Ladies and bad apples altogether.
The moral of the post is to inform you that if you’re stuck in a bad league that either is run by a dictatorship or a bunch of bullies, you stand up for yourself and band together with everyone who has been bullied and take back your league like Gulf Coast did. If that’s not an option, you may find better luck in another local league. I would not recommend going the route of starting a whole new league. Skaters generally want to skate and not have to deal with the BOD issues of running a league.



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