More on the rest of Championals later, but for now, a million congratulations to Gotham Girls Roller Derby for being the only team to take home the Hydra twice. Well deserved, hard fought, and the perfect end to an amazing season. It's an honor to officiate for the hardest working league in the game.
We're preparing for our final bout of the season, a charity bout between mixed teams. Because we're a WFTDA league, it will naturally be played by WFTDA rules, but it's basically a "scrimmage with an audience" type bout. Everyone has been thinking of ways that this can be a fun and profitable end to the season, and one of the ideas that was pitched took me a little by surprise: a modified penalty wheel.
After taking a whirl on the banked track, I was excited to finally get to watch a bout up close and in person. After struggling to just keep myself upright for two hours with a year of skating under my belt, the idea of people actually freaking playing on the banked track was incomprehensible. I've heard a lot about banked track--that it's faster, it's less strategic, there's less hitting, there's no stopped-pack or reversing--but it's all hearsay. I thought back to a phone conversation I had with a friend after she had just seen her first banked track bout. I asked her how she liked it. "It was alright," she sighed deeply "I'd like it better if they just followed the rules!"
This past weekend I packed up my skates and stripes and headed to the home of lager, chowder, and so many other things that sounds better in a Boston accent, for a beginner-level WFTDA Officiating Clinic.
I was excited to attend an event that would be all officials; as I told one skater, every league loves their refs, but nobody really likes refs. Her response was revealing: “I don’t think that’s true. [beat] I just don’t like refs that make bad calls, like when I didn’t do anything and they send me to the box for a back block.” Uh-huh. Either way, it seemed like getting some immersion training would be a good way to help my constant struggle to be a ref that is occasionally despised rather than universally reviled.
The only thing more fickle than the gods of WFTDA standings is my bracket for Uproar on the Lakeshore. Because I'm not really a super sports-fan type, I pick my favorites using factors like scrappiness, underdogitude, whether or not they send me messages on Twitter, and whether or not they are the Texas Rollergirls. But I recognize that there is a difference between favorite and favored.
My prediction, based in part on the stunning way Gotham dominated the Hometown Throwdown, was an Oly-Gotham championship game with Gotham taking home the Hydra. Unfortunately, this meant that there would be a Gotham-Texas game in there. Damn.
This put me in the position of having my favorite team against my favored team. Tough situation. As I tweeted yesterday, I predicted a Gotham win, but secretly hoped for a Texas upset. Nothin' doin', and I definitely shed a little tear as the Texies got shut out 151-52. Okay, no sweat, right? I can cheer for Gotham for the rest of the tournament without a second thought (even though they were now up against Rocky, which has really grown on me after their upset win at Westerns--I love upsets as much as I hate blowouts).
Then came Gotham/Rocky. This game was painful to watch, not least of all because the feed kept crapping out on me (my computer hates me sometimes). After the 108-79 Gotham loss, I was all grumpy like "why the hell am I going to watch the rest of the tournament on Sunday if I've already seen both of these games, hmph!" After some human contact last night, I feel a little better about it.
Ultimately, the way I pick favorite is totally arbitrary, but that doesn't keep me from getting really attached for a hot minute.
How do you pick favorites when your team isn't playing? Do you go for the underdog? The favorite? The team with the most fun personality (New Skids!!)?
I knew that there is a real name vs. derby name controversy within roller derby, but--because I have not had to go through the naming process--it had never occurred to me that there might be something amiss with the way names are registered.
Auntie Social at "This is How I Roll" lays out the problem pretty straight up, questioning the authority of the Two Evils Name Registry and a system whereby people who have been skating under their name for years can get snaked out of their name by, say, a newbie ref in Australia.
On some level, I don't feel like I'm entitled to have an opinion on this -- I'm not even meat yet, I should just worry about one thing at a time. On the other hand, I'm not planning on being the Roller Wannabe forever, and the derby name that I have been thinking of as mine (which I won't share because I'm superstitious!) might require me to write some pretty pathetic entreaty emails even though it's clearly different by a hard consonant sound from the next-closest names.
I guess my answer comes back around to the real name vs. derby name controversy: what if people wanted to skate under their real name, but there already was a Sally Smith? What if there are two NBA players called Mike Jones? Professional players' identities are multimillion-dollar brands that they have every interest in protecting and controlling, but in the end there is nothing that they can do about their name. They have to differentiate themselves in other ways. This is life, and it's kind of a pain. When a friend of mine discovered that her stage name had been taken by a roller derby player in the same city, she was mad as hell, but had to suck it up and just prove that she was the better What's-her-Face. When we come up with our own names, avoiding duplicates seems fair, but the prohibitions against similar names and the "arbitrary rejection" clause seem to go a little far.
Additionally, the algorithm that they seem to be using to determine similarity seems to compare phoneme-by-phoneme or perhaps letter by letter, essentially ruling out names that are puns on the same phrase. For example "Scary Bradshaw" and "Carrie Bandsaw" would probably turn up "very high" similarity, allowing one skater to shut out the other (or, as seems to be the case pretty often, exercise a pocket veto and just not respond to email requests). If they're trying to prohibit riffs on the same pun, they should probably just say that. I suspect that the reason they don't is that it would be apparent how much it restricts skaters in their name choices.
To me, there's something about the way that the system is constructed that is a little disappointing. Of course, I recognize that derby is 100% volunteer run, and that the keepers of the keys do so on their own personal time. For this, we salute them! But it also seems that the name registry is running on a 6+ month time lag, which means that people can find out that their name is rejected after they've started bouting and buying uniforms. And names that are taken are taken forever, even if they're from a 12 person league out of Nowheresville or the player quits after 1 season.
I don't know what could make this rule better, but I feel like there should be some way of determining whether a player is high-profile enough to merit taking the name forever. If the primary concern is that it will be confusing to fans and announcers, it might make sense to say that anyone who has ever played in a regional championship has superior claim to a name. If the primary concern is that of intellectual property and wanting to be totally unique... well, it might be worth examining whether the level of protectiveness (and perhaps even treading into arbitrariness) of the current system is entirely warranted given that players have many other ways of creating unmistakeably individual skate personas, even if they're both plays on the same reference.