On Sportmanship*

Posted: February 15, 2012 in Roller Derby, Thoughts



I was more than happy to ref a game for a league relatively close to my hometown** when they asked me to, I’ve done it before. I’m not going to lie, I don’t think too highly of their coach, but whatever. I wasn’t going to be head ref, I didn’t have to listen to her. Then last Wednesday, I received an email saying that they didn’t need me after all, they were going to use one of their new refs. Or so I was told.

I went down anyway. I was kind of excited to be able to watch a game, but as usual, I brought my stripes and gear just in case. Turns out it was a good idea. The ‘ref’ I had been replaced with was a) not a ref, but a skater in a ref’s costume. b) not going to become any sort of regular official, skating or otherwise, but was just doing this while she was getting off the injury list. c) clueless. A fellow ref asked me if I would be willing to put my gear on, and of course I said yes.

And, so I learned after the game, Coach Who Shall Not Be Named was a little upset about that.

I skated on the outside, shadowed by Clueless “Ref,” and holy shit. I made calls. LOTS AND LOTS OF CALLS.

And people got… upset.

Things got… heated.

I heard a rumor that my life was threatened, but at the time, I was pretty sure it was just the possibility of a parking lot slap fight with a big-mouth blocker who, ahem, disagreed with my call and then wouldn’t tell me her number. (the one written on her arm was illegible)

Team That Shall Remain Unacknowledged played heavily to the outside, with a lot of sloppy hits and penalties. If I made bad calls, it wasn’t because I didn’t know what I was seeing, it was because I was completely overwhelmed. If I got one mixed up with the other, I apologize, but it was probably a switch in my brain trying to make two calls at once.

Based on my experience with Coach WSNBN and Team TSRU in general, and the reactions of those people at the game, and who exactly it is who sets Team TSRU’s ref roster, I can only come to the conclusion that they were stacking the refs to gain an advantage at the game. Nobody expected (or wanted) anyone skating on the outside who would call penalties.

They were cheating.

If you’re playing clean, it’s not going to matter who’s wearing the the stripes, you’ve got nothing to worry about. But if you’re playing dirty… well, that’s another story all together. HOW YOU PLAY SHOULD NOT BE EFFECTED AT ALL BY WHO IS OFFICIATING YOUR GAME. If your whole playing strategy hinges on having sub-par referees? Well, you have a shitty strategy. Because the visiting team’s ref is going to pull in a friend off the side lines, and put a big ass wrench right into the middle of your works. If you get a lot of calls, you don’t throw away the rules, you step up your game.

And I don’t know who did it, the coach, the players as a group developing strategy. It doesn’t matter. It takes a lot of time and mental energy to think about how to get around the rules like that. More than, say, learning to play it straight.

And please, spare me your lame cries of “B-b-b-but it’s roooooller deeeerby!” It actions like fucking with refs, making horribly dangerous blocks, and being all around bitches that keeps WFTDA derby saddled with the reputation it had in the late 70s and 80s, that it’s nothing but a joke. Flat track derby, whether teams or individuals like it or not, is year by year becoming a legitimate sport. These childish actions are holding not only you and your team back, but the movement you profess to love so well.

In the end, Team TSRU lost by 40 points, I lost my damn temper, but I went to bed knowing that I did a good job.

And with the determination to ref every single home game that Team TSRU plays until I die.


*Or sportswomanship, whichever you prefer

**I won’t name them, but if you know me in person, you’ve heard me tell this story A LOT over the last couple of days.


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