Putting on Your Serious Pants

We just finished an awesome local roller derby season here in Minnesota. We all had fun, the bouts were close, and the fans were engaged.

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However, like many leagues out there, we are now transitioning from local season to travel season. With this transition in seasons, also comes the transition to an extremely competitive level of play (as my teammate called it, “putting on your serious pants”). In recent years, the type of play in WFTDA-sanctioned bouts has been called “boring.” (See links to posts about boring derby here, here, here, here…you get the point).

I haven’t thought much about this perception of derby until recently, when one of my coworkers mentioned wanting to come see derby for the first time. We have one home bout left this season, but it is a WFDTA-sanctioned bout. My first (internal) reaction to her interest in bringing her family to the bout was hesitation. Of course I want her to come (“butts in seats”), but I was afraid she might think it was boring. How can I think my own sport is boring?!

With the fact that score differential is so important in WFTDA-sanctioned bouts, it is difficult to get to a point where you can start mixing things up, trying out new things, or give yourself the freedom to make mistakes. I have played in bouts where we won by 200+ points, but still did not perform as well as we needed for the rankings. It was a blowout so many fans didn’t stick around, and we were disappointed after the game, despite our win.

In addition, many spectators don’t understand the rules or strategy, so it just ends up confusing to watch. Whereas my team might cheer after a jam that lasts 2 minutes with neither jammer getting out, others might see that as just a clump of skaters slowly moving with no apparent purpose. Where’s all of the quick action and the hard hits? Where are the fights that we apparently get into all the time?

So after my brief conversation with my coworker, I found myself sitting at my desk, contemplating my thoughts…

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How can we take the fun that comes with local season bouts – crazy outfits, big falls, lots of quick packs, skaters cheering on fans, etc. and maintain it for a travel season bout?

 

Sure, there are tons of derby fans who love the competitiveness of WFTDA-sanctioned bouts, but if we want to continue to grow as a sport, how can we make it something interesting for the random sports-loving person, even if they don’t know the rules at all?

And then I realized the answer.

WE CAN’T! It is not our responsibility to make fans like roller derby. There are a ton of people that think baseball is boring. And that soccer is boring. And that golf is boring. And tennis. And the list goes on…

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NASCAR was the inspiration for my derby name…in case you never made the connection.

Sports are boring to the people that don’t like the sport, and some people just don’t like sports in general.

We are athletes first and we are going to keep on doing what we do best – compete at the highest level that we possibly can. The fans will continue to find us – everyone from the retired skaters, to the die-hard fans, to all of our families and friends, and probably even some people who still don’t understand the rules.

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We all know that we play one of the best sports in the world – we’re just waiting patiently for everyone else to catch up.


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5 Responses to Putting on Your Serious Pants

  1. AC says:

    I am one of those who do not understand modern roller derby. And I may never like it, but I would at least like to understand more about why others do, as spectators. (Playing a sport is very different from watching a sport, almost all sports are fun to play but fewer are fun to watch.) None of my lack of appreciation for this sport is meant to take away from the sport, I applaud anyone doing any sport they love, you never owe anything to any audience and certainly not to a person who doesn’t instantly get it.

    As this posts rightly identifies, as an audience member, I find staring at a mass of bodies clumped nearly stationary for 2 minutes (and even for much less) to be boring. I don’t know how to see it any other way. I can’t see anything happening within that mass of bodies. I’m sure it requires a lot of strength and stamina, but so does watching a weightlifter hold 500 lbs above his head, and how long does that remain interesting to watch? It’s somewhat interesting when he picks up the weight, and when he first lifts it over his head, and when he puts it down, but that holding above his head part rapidly becomes not very interesting to watch, all the audience is doing is waiting for that moment to end.

    So, what about those jams (the ones that last more than a few seconds) do non-players (who do not intuitively feel the physicality) find interesting to watch? What subtleties am I not seeing/understanding?

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  2. Slamurai Jack says:

    I agree that derby is fun to play as-is, but I also understand, as a fan, that watching the stationary jams aren’t that interesting. I don’t know that the answer though is that we can’t do anything. The difference between derby and the other sports you mentioned is that the rules change EVERY YEAR for roller derby. I think there’s a very real chance for players to make a change in the sport if we don’t think it’s fun or if the rules need tweaking or whatever.
    Thanks for posting!

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    • Ah, this is such a good point! Even derby 3 years from now could look totally different than it does today because of changes influenced by skaters.

      Liked by 1 person

      • AC says:

        Is that a good thing? I feel like some things suffer for being changed too much or too often. Do fans ever get turned off by the evolving nature of the game?

        Like

      • I feel like these are great questions that I don’t have an answer to. The smallest changes in the rules seem to have a huge impact on the way the game is played. And sometimes even I have a hard time keeping up with changes. Although the rule changes might seem to alienate fans now, I do think it is necessary for the evolution of the sport (until we finally settle into the best rule set possible).

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