Sep 192011

There are some pretty harsh words flying around about the Dutchland Derby Rollers right now. If you didn’t hear, after their win Friday afternoon over Maine Roller Derby (the first bout of the Eastern Regional Playoffs) Dutchland advanced in their bracket to bout against Gotham Girls Roller Derby for a shot at the championships. They made the decision (a WFTDA first) to forfeit that game. You can read their official statement here.

Dutchland entered this tournament as #8. Gotham (we all know…) is #1. If you have read anything about this decision you have probably seen these words: “disgraceful”, “pathetic”, “embarrassing” or that “they threw away a shot at the championships”, “they don’t want to win”. As fun as it is to think a lower ranking team could come in and upset number one, let’s be serious about this. Gotham is so far out of every one else’s league, it was embarrassing to watch them play anyone in this tournament. Dutchland bench coach Merv the Perv explained that he wanted to reduce the risk of injuries to skaters and start the next day in the consolation bracket with a “fresh” team (he also wanted all bad mouthing to be deferred to him, not the skaters). Why not? Sure there are things to be learned by skating against a higher ranking team, even if you have no chance of winning, but why risk injury and fatigue (not to mention a total f*ing beat down) when you have a chance to actually progress on a more level playing field (which sadly they did not- they left the tournament remaining #8)? And if forfeiting a game were so demoralizing to the WFTDA, then why would they even allow it?

Let’s face it, Gotham and Dutchland don’t even belong in the same bracket. This may be a call for the WFTDA to look at how tournaments and brackets are organized. Could uneven match ups be prevented by switching to a system of divisions, where teams move up or down accordingly with other teams of the (relatively) same skill level? With a lopsided talent pool, there must be a better way (for fans and skaters) to dictate competition besides just a zip code.

"C'mon Dutchland... don't be 'unsportswomanly'..."

Fans… won’t someone think of the fans!?!? The fans did not get what they expected (as one blogger put it, they  were “given the middle finger” instead). At 4pm on Friday instead of a sanctioned bout, they watched Gotham scrimmage Maine and Carolina for 30 minutes each. I would actually consider this a bonus. They also got some WFTDA history. They also were saved the boredom of watching Gotham win yet another bout by a grotesque amount of points. The Seattle Roller Derby Examiner claims that of the teams who didn’t make it into the top 10 “… all 17 of those teams would have happily stepped up and taken a crack at winning this tournament” then went on to call Dutchland’s presence in the tournament a “total fraud”. Come on! No one had a chance of winning this tournament! It’s Gotham’s!
The DNN comment board even has some calling out for a boycott of Dutchland for the following season, or to ban them from future tournaments and even the WFTDA. Forfeiting is not a crime against humanity. Actually, it’s a procedure that even exists in the rules (article under several different parameters.  Merv the Perv commented in response to the mega-hate happening on DNN “Sports teams often pull starters from a game that has no meaning to them… they do it to protect the players… For people to comment that they would not vote us in the top 10, regardless of our merit, is even more disrespectful to WFTDA, and the way it is set up.”
There were cries to let Maine have their seat and move on to play Gotham, which commenters speculate Maine would “love to” have the chance to do. Well, guess what? Maine lost. The Cincinnati Roller Derby Examiner calls this a set back in women’s roller derby’s progress to be “taken seriously”. He writes that, “… this is a nick in that hull. This decision is not only embarrassing for Dutchland, but it slaps the face of every woman who laces up a pair of skates with the dream of making regionals.”.  Well, I do dream of competing in regionals, and the only slap I’m feeling from this “event” is the ill-will and lack of compassion I’m reading on the subject. Why are spectators taking this so personally? Is everyone drunk? What gives people the entitlement to say all these nasty things? It makes me sick. Windy Man (please read Windy Man’s Roller Derby Notes) writes, “Modern roller derby is still a young sport, but with youth comes immaturity…and I think the reaction to Dutchland’s decision was far more immature than the decision itself”. Amen.

The Dutchland Derby Rollers are being called “unsportswomanly” from far and wide (I hate to do this, but I really have to: “unsportswomanly” is not a word. Sure, I get what they’re trying to do with it – we can’t be unsportsmanlike, because we are women! But it’s patronizing – I digress). Why don’t we call Gotham “unsportswomanly” for relentlessly demoralizing every team they play? I don’t want to say they are poor sports, because they are phenomenal athletes with proven abilities. So I am going to assert that if there is a poor sport in this equation, it’s the people boo-ing what isn’t really that big of a deal.
Perhaps I’m just as “pathetic” for not being outraged at the fact a team would forfeit during a tournament and I suppose I can brace myself now for untoward comments. Does this mean that I am not a true fan or that I don’t really love derby? No. Does it mean that I am an uncommitted quitter? No.

I’m sorry that fans throughout the world of women’s roller derby have been so rattled by this event. I’m sorry for the Dutchland girls that they have been attacked so viciously (and will probably never be able to recover from this bad-press-nightmare on 95). Perhaps we should all take a step back and look at how we watch and judge other people and their actions. To me, roller derby is not “everything at any cost”, it is a give and take relationship (that mostly takes, am I wrong?) that many people will never understand. But I do not require their understanding. And I will give everything I can, until I can’t give anymore – and when that happens, it is for me to decide, not fans/bloggers/skaters/announcers/coaches – me.


Have a nice day



By the way, did anyone enter the Big 5 Bracket contest with a forfeit for game 5? ‘Cause you might really have a leg up.


  7 Responses to “Dutchland: I’m not mad at you.”

  1. “I will give everything I can, until I can’t give anymore”

    While you would do that…Dutchland didn’t do that. They gave until they thought it was strategically better not to. And that is why people are upset. Gotham stepped up and made sure the fans who paid money to see a bout weren’t shafted and showed themselves as being respectful, and putting the sport first – but fans didn’t come to see two scrimmages. They came to see the best play at their best.

    As for fans getting “history”? Do you really think any fan in the stands said to their neighbor, “Boy, I hope we see someone forfeit! I’d love to be a part of history!” Try that next time at your home bout. Charge your fans and then don’t play. When they start complaining, tell them, “But you’re now a part of history!”

    People are upset because Dutchland gave up to Gotham without even stepping on the flat track. Strategic or otherwise, you expect better of teams at the Big 5 level. And can we just be honest? Just because something is legal doesn’t mean its something you should do.

  2. That’s what everyone says.
    The fans were ripped off because they came to watch Gotham play the winner of game 1.
    Well, I watched Gotham play the winner of game 3 (#4 Steel City Derby Demons) and I felt ripped off. There is nothing stimulating about a 404-30 beat down.
    Fans may be the future of roller derby, but they do not dictate how coaches decide to run the games.

    Regardless of weather or not people were upset by the forfeiture, name calling and bad mouthing is tact-less.

  3. If Gotham really are that good… I don’t wanna fork out to see a game like that. That is just humiliating and demoralising as a fan, not just for the losing team. I’ve seen games with a 200-point spread, and I couldn’t even watch, there was no action, no excitement, just a bunch of girls giving their best and getting their butts kicked. I think Dutchland’s desicion to forfeit on the basis of safety was a fair call to make – and more importantly, it was THEIR CALL TO MAKE!
    Plus, it’s not like anyone missed out – a scrimmage is still derby!

  4. Yeah, what I am appalled at is people’s reactions. You can dislike, you can criticize, you can be angry since they are passing up a chance that you wanted but you DO NOT have to act like a complete asshole about it and forcefully and publiclly speak and act abusively about your fellow skaters, no matter how much you disrepect their decision. You want to lay on the low blows ? Now THAT DOESN’T belong in the derby community. We have a legal, designated game to help you get your frustrations out. You don’t need to get nasty to do it.

  5. Everyone is missing the point here. It’s not that Dutchland forfeited. It’s that Dutchland had plenty of advance knowledge that they might play Gotham and did nothing during that time to make a real statement and start a real discussion before disrupting a major tournament.

    Let’s say when the brackets were announced, Dutchland says – hey! we could wind up playing Gotham. That’s so unbalanced! Let’s talk to WFTDA and Gotham. Hey WFTDA – we’re concerned. We’ve got the potential to play 3 or 4 more bouts this weekend and the Gotham bout is just going to shred us. How about we make a change here and now before this becomes ridiculous?

    Option 1: WFTDA says – sorry – we’re going to keep things the way they are. Dutchland broadcasts to everyone, well in advance, “This isn’t fair. We are going to forfeit to Gotham if we play them because to us the point of the tournament is to play balanced teams and do our best. It’s no offense to anyone.”

    Dutchland forfeits. Oh. No surprises. Everyone knew it would happen and they knew the principle involved. Dutchland looks 99% good. WFTDA now has to deal with this.

    Option 2: WFTDA says- hey! let’s ask the other member leagues if we can push Gotham into a more competitve bracket. There are still like four weeks left! This is doable! Everyone is happy!

    WFTDA looks good. Dutchland looks good.

    Reality: Dutchland forfeits a couple of hours before the game citing “strategy.”

    Everyone is outraged, people are inconvenienced. The Dutchland skaters are in a hostile situation and their minds and hearts are fried crispy.

    Bloggers rise up and start citing the principle! The courage!

    As a skater, I feel for those skaters as skaters. They’ve trained and busted their asses and now because of chaotically irresponsible communication and placement they’re screwed.

    Take care to clearly separate the principle from the execution here. You can blame the skaters – to some extent – but you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.

    What you really should hold accountable is the internal system – the management, the PR, and the manner in which they acted.

    This was so avoidable. This was so predictable. That is the tragedy.

    Now the skaters, who worked their asses off, are tainted with the stink when it never had to go down this way. The league looks like shit – and I’ve been a visiting skater there; they are some of the warmest most dedicated, hard-working set of skaters I’ve ever met.

    And now they’re on the defensive and emotionally-invested. And the derby world is split.

    Can’t a sister pick up a goddamn phone and call in to the dubya eff dee tee ay?

  6. @ Your Mom Goes To College:

    Very interesting point.
    Perhaps they didn’t foresee themselves making it to the next round? (just a hypothesis for lack of foresight)

    But you are right. When we look at these brackets to see Dutchland or Maine going up against Gotham,Jet or Tucson going up against Oly… we all see it coming.

  7. I’m stuck in a rock and a hard place. My wife and I picked V-Diva as a derby crush after watching her kick SOOO much ass at the USA Tryouts in Tampa. So yeah, unlike some we DID know who Dutchland was before playoffs( I still want to call them regionals, but thats ok it will always be ECE instead of Ecxd to me ).

    Were they going to get creamed? More than likely yes. However, we as a nation are a nation who roots for the underdogs. Its am American trait. We also as a nation HATE blow outs so take that as you will. I turn off watching bouts that end up being blow outs, but I still can’t help but feel some animosity about Dutchland’s decision to forfeit the bout for strategic purposes. The rules regarding forfeit are here:
    9.2.7 Declaring a Forfeit The Head Referee may call a forfeit for the following reasons: A team has five or fewer un-injured rostered skaters remaining due
    to expulsions. A team refuses to field skaters on the track to continue play. The Head Referee must call a forfeit for the following reasons: A team fails to show up to a WFTDA sanctioned bout or
    tournament. The Head Referee must make this decision in
    conjunction with WFTDA Game Committee Representatives. A team elects to forfeit rather than continue play.

    Dutchland is lucky that WFTDA allowed them to play following tournament games as says ‘forfeit rather than continue play.’ If the Games Committee Representatives wanted to view it under a strict interpretation they could have declared the forfeit for the remainder of the tournament.

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