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.

 

First time again

So Saturday started like any other day, except that this Saturday was

YRDG Nerds v Jocks

photo by Steve Beard

Yellow Rose Derby Girls first Friends and Family bout. I forgot the headache it is being in charge of making sure you have all the officials accounted for. Backup officials in case anyone can’t make it. Relaying info with bout production. Basically spending the morning texting, Facebook messaging, calling (on the phone–weird right?), emailing and relaying messages.

Whew I need a drink, all because I raised my hand volunteering myself to run for head ref for yellow rose derby girls. Don’t get it twisted, this isn’t a complaint. It’s just a reflection on how great it is to have made so many friends in a few years that strangers are willing to travel across town (in some cases stay longer while out-of-town) and work with others for free based on the word of a friend.

I am proud to be counted among the friends of the many NSOs I know, have worked with and am more than happy to work with again. Even if I’m only considered someone they tolerate more than someone else.

heartbreak hotel

where do I begin?

CTRG Bout 6 flyer

Firstly thanks to Cen-Tex for finally being able to schedule me to ref, again. This was my first time reffing at the Frank Mayborn Civic Center, confused yet? last time I was scheduled I had car trouble en route. Then I was set to announce and I ended up having to work that weekend.

In any case, it had also been over a year since I’ve seen most of Alamo City Roller Girls. So when I finally geared up skated out and saw ACRG warming up and chatting with Pleasure to Beat you, my heart continued to break in half over and over hearing about LOAs, 9 month injuries and other league related details. I only recognized about 5 skaters. Whereas I had grown accustomed to showing up to the Rollercade in San Antonio and not recognizing one or two skaters.

So Snippy Snap, formerly a play on Eiffel tower and Evil (long story) is running around getting her ducks in a row. Something I admire about her in that she rolls with the punches to get the NSO paperwork in order. I had a sampling of NSO work, all positions at RollerCon last year, I appreciate all NSOs because all are stressful and important. more so the Head NSO, so I tip  my motorcycle helmet to you Kristi.

The Announcer who’s replaced me, Bad Dog I believe is his name, was really great. I feel like I might have to re-earn a chance to announce at Cen-Tex next season.

I must admit that although as a whole team zebra missed some calls, we can;t call it if we don’t see ALL of it, skaters didn’t lose their cool or argue calls they clearly didn’t agree with.

In all I’m glad for the opportunity to get to be on skates again, for two teams I admire and am treated like family.

Crazy Weeks

Man
life has been rediculously crazy lately. Busy actually, crazy is just sort of the norm around here in what we like to do around the track. There’s been so much derby going on, rumors flying, accusations thrown, bouts, practices and thats all before I even log off of facebook and head to practice in my few hours of downtime a week.

A few weeks ago I was Head Ref for Twin CIty Knockers out in Schreveport Louisiana. I had fun and tried to keep the bout going as smoothly as I possibly could. No major injuries that I recall, and only the coaches kinda sorta yelling at me. I was also an Outside Pack Ref for Cen-La in Alexandria, crazy side street/feeders/frontage roads for those who don’t normally go to/through Alexandria.

Last week I was in Jacksonville Texas for East TX Bombers v Cen-La. Sadly The Doctah didn’t bring cookies, for some reason I believe this merits some sort of punishment. However, since a penalty can’t be called on a ref, I guess I gotta let him slide.

This past weekend, June 8th, I was supposed to ref down in McAllen, TX for the South Texas Rollersitas. However, I work a ridiculous amount of hours in a short period of time. From time to time I get called in on my days off. Normally this doesn’t bother me. If they wanna give away money at my job who am I to turn it down? Well that plus I’m still in my probationary period (90 days). Which leads me to RollerCon at the moment it looks like I may not make it this year. Not that many, if any, of you care. Butt I’m sure KiKi, Scarbie and Dancer might be a little disapointed in not getting to sit on my shoulder. That’s not a typo, I can fit a skater on each shoulder. Somewhere theres pics to prove it.

But I digress, next weekend, June 15th I’m supposed to be in Cen-Tex announcing. I keep missing out on reffing opportunities out there, through circumstance.

I’m definitely going to have to modify my two a week posts to hopefully at least two a month.

Until next time, hug an official.

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. 

First of the year

Battle_for_the_Beach_20120603_106

Stash & DJ TJ (Photo credit: Matthew Prejeant)

So this past Saturday was my first time this season reffing a bout with the new ruleset. I’ve announced a few games and watched a few under the new ruleset. But I finally found an opportunity to get in on skates.

The most interesting thing is that this weekend was pretty big for derby, a lot of people were in Dallas for Clover Cup AND several leagues had their season opener the same weekend. I had already committed to Acadiana and not to long after was asked to ref in a few other places. Not that I’m in high demand, more like a short supply.

I had a brain fantastic during the bout, like calling off the jam when my jammer was not lead. After telling her she can’t because she was out of bounds. I meant not lead, but another ref said “yes she can” and in that instant I forgot that she in fact was not lead jammer and called it off. Fortunately that was my only major snafu, but it wasn’t the only one of the bout. They happen, not too often but more than they should. Then again, as Short Fuse says “when they skate a perfect game we’ll call a perfect game”

Coach Friday for Acadiana, post bout told me that I was the most consistent with my calls. He didn’t agree with all of mine, but he likes that I’m consistent and suck “just as bad both ways” I think he meant for both teams but this was at the after party and I’m sure it made more sense in his head.

In any case I got to chat a bit with my favorite announcers in Louisiana. Catch up with some friends and have that overall feeling of community with all my derby sisters and brothers.

I wanna thank Wicked Weezy for the ride in from the airport. Finally have a face for the name. As well as giving me a renewed perspective on fruit roll ups. To Bulldog for flying me in, who knew a ref could be a pilot? Unfortunately now I’ll never want to fly commercial again.  Stash for the stogie and to all of Acadiana and Cajun RG for having me out for a night of derby.

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)