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.
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 126.96.36.199.2) 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.
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.