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.
Pretty soon my reputation preceded me, which hurt me having anything to do with a particular league (Once, I was almost late to a second half as outside whiteboard trying to set something up for after the after party) eventually word spread, and I no longer had to spend time chasing.
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.

League-B-Gone

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.

 

Cherry poppin’ in Cali

So I recently moved to Reno, NV;  It’s not Texas but I actually like it out here. When I arrived, one of the first things I did was reach out to derby leagues and let them know my background in roller derby and if they had any spots open I was willing to NSO or (preferably) announce a bout for them. a few got back to me and I was supposed to announce two weeks ago, but stuff on my end fell through.

However, I ended up being asked to NSO a double header for Sierra Regional RD… in Truckee…. California. Hey, derby is derby so I said of course. About a week ago they informed me that their announcer fell through and if I was still available to announce. So I bring out my gear and quickly realize I need to order much longer IEC and XLR cables. Luckily I was able to make it all work.

Home team bout sierra regional vs San Jose

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So I make it into California for the first time in my life. And it wasn’t as bad as Texans make it out to be. Granted I only went to a little bitty town that reminds me of Fredericksburg with a river running through it.

The first game was Sierra Regional All-Stars which consists of Reno, Tahoe, and Truckee area (and a few point in between I already forgot) vs San Jose’s Misery Loves Company.  This was a fun game to call which MLC kept the lead throughout most of the game by as much as 33 points, but usually by 10. In the final jam, Sierra rallied to close a 14 point deficit only to fall short by one point!

The Second bout was Sierra Regional’s B team, Battleborn something, something  (I’ve had a few concussions since my last post so my memory.. something, something)  vs Carson Victory Rollers. Sierra started with the lead, Carson gained it around the 30 point mark. Then Carson ran away with it and kept the point difference around 40 points. Battleborn did get within 9 points of Carson in the second half but had a few too many jammers get sent to the sin bin.

All in all, it was a great afternoon to call some bouts. Later at the after party, a skater asked me how these bouts compare to calling bouts in Texas. And I really couldn’t give her an answer. The outdoor bouts I have called previously were in pavillions so the acoustics are different. generally, I call bouts indoors and it’s always a different vibe. In short, it’s like comparing apples to iguanas. Neither are bad or better than the other, they’re just different. The one thing that is constant (at least from Gulfport Miss, along I-10 to San Antonio, up to Austin, Temple, Abilene, and DFW) is the afterparty derby love. (usually) everyone gets together has a few drinks and hangs out. (kinda like rugby — but that’s a different blog)

Full Metal Bracket


I know, I know. It has been quite a long time since I have posted anything new.

March of this year I retired from being a referee, there were a lot of reasons, ultimately I just enjoyed announcing bouts more than calling penalties.

I have not been proactive in seeking bouts to call. As word was getting out that I was no longer a ref, people assumed that I had quit derby altogether. When skaters asked why I quit derby I would have to correct them that I am now an announcer which led to being invited to call a bout. Also Piggy Phatness wrangled me into a Hurricane Alley bout and helped spread the word of my availability.

A while back I heard a rumbling about a possible B-Team tournament that might be hosted by Texas Rollergirls. I threw my name in the hat to try and get in on the action though I thought I had the slimmest chance to get on the Mic. I fully expected most of the teams to bring their own announcer along with their contingent of officials. Lucky for me, that was not the case, only two announcers came along, local announcers were busy, and Chip Queso was taking a step back to allow TXRGs new announcers to have a shot having some time on the mic.

I managed to call 8 out of 17 bouts this weekend. A great learning experience and an opportunity to work with Bikini Skills of Montreal, Bobby Narco of Gotham, Harlot and Bullet Sucker of TXRG.

What I learned this weekend, peppering in a foreign language can making calling a bout fun (thanks Bikini Skills), Sponsors don’t have to be read off the copy, they can be worked into conversation (Bobby Narco), Getting into character or a persona is totally fine (Harlot), calling derby doesn’t have to sound like derby, I can use other sports terms to paint the picture of what going on the track (Bullet Sucker).

All in all I had a great time these past three days and thank everyone who made the Full Metal Bracket Possible, and for all the factors that led to me being able to be on the mic so often this weekend.

Oh and some team from Texas won’t the tournament in case anyone was wondering.

TXRG Firing Squad first champ pic

Humble Beginings

This is the story of how I became a Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Official. It might not matter to you, but you might find it a little entertaining. 

One night a few years ago I was asked to pick up a niece from a skate party at Airline Family Skate Center in north Houston. I mentally debated on going home and started to watch whatever was on my Netflix queue, pick up something at RedBox or go ahead and go early to the rink and skate around for a bit until the rink closed. Nostalgia got the better of me and off I went to try and skate once more after hmmpfteen years since the last time I laced up a pair of potato skins. 

Also though I was wobbly, I managed to push off and gain momentum and not hinder traffic too much out on the floor. After a few songs I got the confidence to try some crossovers instead of right leg pushoffs. And I almost completed the turn…. Almost. that is until I planted my rear right wheel of my right skate with the frontleft wheel of my left skate. Which, with my momentum caused my upper body to remain in motion while my feet remained in place. In half a second I realized that I was airborne and would not be able tuck and roll. All I could do was pull my arms into myself and land on my forearms. Luckily I didn’t break anything, no not even my ego… cuz some kids were like “WHOA!” can you fly again mister?!”

I loved the feeling of skating past slower people (than me at the time) it was almost as good as being back on a bike (motorcycle) . Ok not so much, but similar if you quint your eyes and don’t compare speed or sound. In any case I figured I’d give this skating thing a try for a few weekends. Turned out I still liked it, so for Christmas I gave myself a pair of Brass Knuckles 2.0, Proline plates and some wheels that are no longer on the market. I spent at least one night a week skating til I was out of breathe at Humble Family Skate.

While at work that the Hess building in Downtown Houston, installing electrical conduit, Copperhead comes by during break and asks if I wanna buy tickets to a roller derby game. Sure why not?! I think I had recently seen the movie Yes Man with Jim Carrey, this is the only explanation for my exuberance to just go out and try new and new to me things. I went to the game and that following Monday I made every excuse to work around Copperhead and talk about the game. Eventually it came up that I was skating again. We ended up making plans to go see a bout in Texas City to watch a banked track game at Southside’s House of Derby with some of our friends. On the way back it had come about that Houston Roller Derby might need some refs. “Really? what do I need to do?” well get better on skates and learn to skate backwards for one, as well as learn the rules to the game. However it turned out that there was some miscommunication, and at the time their practice was too far away. I find this funny now, because I officiate and announce within a 200 mile radius of Houston.

But I gave up on the idea of reffing for Houston Roller Derby, after all they’re a big name and ranked league, like consistently top ten in their division. So I just kept skating. One afternoon, I found a friend from middle school on Facebook. After about an hour of catching up, I got invited to Champion’s Rollerworld, on a Thursday night? that’s a “school night” and I wanna be rested so i can go skate at Humble after i get home from work on Friday. But i went a head and said yes. When I got there I saw a bunch of girls in derby gear skating around and bumping into each other. There was one skater that i was certain I recognized from somewhere. I’ve always been outgoing just not agreeable. So while this skater was showing one of the girls how to turn around and skate backwards. I went up to her and asked her if she could show me how to do the same thing. “sure, just open and close the book” something that to this day I cannot do, I turn around another way that doesn’t require me lifting more than two wheels at a time. After that exchange I ask her if she has anything to do with HRD becuase she looks so familiar. Turns out that I was talking to Private been Jammin. So I ask her if  this is a new league or a new HRD team. “Oh no no no no, this is a new league” She points out the league president and has me follow her up to the prez. So I asked why a new league? turns out HRD is reaaaaaaaalllly popular. So much so that their boot camps fill up quick, and there really isn’t an outlet for new skaters to start of and learn.

Dominique Socks Ya wanted a place where any skater could come out and play, after proper training of course. HRD isn’t setup to take in girls who “never skated in my life” or “haven’t skated since I was 10”. The boot camps are geared towards showing skaters, who can skate, how to safely stop and fall in derby. Northside Fury wanted a spot where anyone can come out and start from the ground up. Or in many cases from the wall towards the track. They were fortunate enough to have Private Been Jammin, Chainsaw Chic and TeeTotalher (formerly known as Queen Obscene) to help with training from endurance to basic derby skills and skate maintenance. Side note eight skaters who started out with Northside Fury are now on HRD home teams

I on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. You see there wasn’t a ref training program, just learn the rules watch some bouts and guess what? We’re going to Corpus Christi to ref a mashup. Wait! Whut? How did I get roped into this? Well Krez Sez is a bit of an overachiever. But this was my foundation in willing to travel for derby as well as being comfortable in stripes, pink or black. See Krez has over twenty years of a background in officiating various sports. So he’s a natural at this. Personally I love having to keep on my toes mentally and physically. 

To ref, at least for me, I have to be able to gauge impact between two opposing skaters, in addition to a group of skaters who may or may not meet the definition of a pack as well as the skater who may or may not be within the engagement zone of a pack as well as the jammers who are trying to zip their way through the EZ into the pack and back out, while skating and trying to compile all I see in front of me and peripherally (now not as much with the stricter pack rules) against 50 pages of rules. Which includes non skating penalties such as not having a mouthguard fully seated or being stopped on the track and to what purpose. Within fractions of a second while listening for verbal cues from other officials and ignoring the cat calls and boos from the fans. And only getting to rest between jams or when a team calls a timeout… I often wish both teams would use all of their time outs evenly spaced throughout the bout. 

Alas, I keep officiating and occasionally announce, because of the great community that is derby. Occupation, race, or creed doesn’t matter. All that matters in derby is derby. 

But I wish it were Sunday

So Sunday night I announced for Rocket City Rollergirls who played at home in Deer Park against the  South Texas Rolleristas. RCRGNow they had ten on their roster. Two couldn’t make it and one had a flat on the way so they had to bring another skater in, who made it late.  So by the end of the night they were playing with eight skaters. This is more of a disclaimer. It was great to see some friends that I generally have to settle conversing with on facebook if that. (I’m rarely on there except to pimp this blog out). I got to work with my friend Sunnie with a chance of pain and I gotta tip my hat to Rolleristas for bucking the trend and using real last names.

Now as usual I get to the venue early and chit chat with the refs. Though this time it was more of listening in on the previous nights antics. I was excited to see Fairlane and Frogher (Spindletop referees) though sad to see that they weren’t reffing, just fans for the night. There were fewer fans than I had expected, but derby has those lulls of high/low fan attendance. But among the fans were other derby peeps as well. Rocket City has several well seasoned players with banked track experience. Also some of their noobz are getting well trained and holding their own.

Sunnie I think has got her groove in announcing, seeing and calling plays as they happen and dropping little anecdotes as well as explaining some game mechanics. It’s also great to have someone to co-announce with and bounce off each other in getting the color commentary going.

STRSTR really busted their butts earning every single point the got on the board. Most skaters playing back to back to back to back to back to backs. With only one or two jams to rest, I’m sure they were grateful for every official time out. Knowing Krez Sez, I wouldn’t put it past him to have extended an official time out by a second or ten. He is very fair and as any good ref should, looks out for the safety of the skaters FIRST and then ensures the proper enforcement of the rules.

So far I hope I’ve been keeping y’all entertained and or interested enough to keep coming back. If you have any suggestions comments complaints or post ideas leave a comment and I’ll get back to you promptly

just another weekend

so this weekend I’m reffing and announcing.

Saturday in Lafayette in Acadiana Rollergirls’ season opener against Cajun Rollergirls. two of my favorite announcers will be on the Mic, DJ TJ and Stash Merkin. They work quite well with each other, they oughta have their own podcast or something.

Sunday night I’ll be back home in Houston and announcing for Rocket City Roller Girls’ season opener against South Texas Rolleristas from McAllen, TX.  more to come on Monday

Cajun Rollergirls

Cajun Rollergirls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

my first time alone

Saturday night, March 9th I single handedly announced the season opener for the Cen-Tex Rollergirls. Stash I doff my hat to you good sir. That was my first time on the mic all bow wow self.

Little background, Stash Merkin announced a bout all alone that I was jam reffing in Lafayette last season. I believe that it was against Mississippi Roller Vixens. I told him then and I say it again, good job. I didn’t get kicked off the mic… Prolly cuz there wasn’t anyone else to take over. Although I had a good time rocking it.

2013 Cen-Tex Season Opener Flyer

2013 Cen-Tex Season Opener Flyer

Before the bout I was told that there’d be some comedians that have been on HBO/Bet who’d join me. Which would have been great because any questions they had, I could’ve explained to the audience to fill time and not be doing a play by play all night.

They didn’t show up but I still manage to throw in some derby knowledge and ref signals out there and tossed in a few jokes with the refs.  I’m no Chip Queso or Dump Truck mind you, but with a referee background I know the hand signals and constantly have to fight the urge to tell a skater to watch her the opposing Jam ref. I could go on a tirade on how much information a ref gifts(thats not a typo) skaters by hand signals and their eyes. Especially when you have Quicksilver as your Jammer ref. She has pack awareness and opposing skater awareness.  In any case I got some feedback that I did well,  and I’m more than welcome to get on the mic again.  So that’s reassuring and I look forward to it.

I’m scheduled to co-announce later this  month and then back again at Cen-Tex in Jul for their bout against Alamo City Rollergirls.

One thing that had me a little excited was that the South Texas Rolleristas skaters and staff go by their last names this season. Bucking the “skater name” trend and I learned the real names of a few friends. I might make that leap some day, but I like being able to easily separate my several hundred Facebook derby friends, from just over a hundred friends and family.

One last thing to note, a shout out to Bear and Cubby I have a shirt idea for you guys “‘I Announced the CRAP outta that game!”