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A look back and a look to the future

Roller derby is obviously a young sport and with that comes the need for dramatic change from year to year. You try one thing, try something else, see what works. There's really no way around it. So, as I have you here, I might as well take this opportunity to get on my soapbox, as small as it may be, to point to a couple issues that I would like to see changed or at least looked at for the years to come.

A major issue with regionals was the setup of the second round. The WFTDA used what they called "equitable seeding" for this round of the tournament, something I had never heard of. This, in theory, is supposed to give you closely matched games as the #1 seed played #6, the #2 seed played the winner of #7 and #10, the #3 seed played the winner of #8 and #9, and #4 played #5. Most single-elimination tournaments like this would use advantage seeding, so #1 would play the winner of #8 and #9, #2 would play the winner of #7 and #10, #3 would play #6, and #4 would play #5. Only two games are different but it would make a huge change in my opinion. In the two games I have a difference with (as played: #1 vs #6, #3 vs #8/#9) the average margin of victory for the higher seeded team was 123.6 with only one lower seeded team winning (Rocky Mountain, who was clearly seeded incorrectly, over Rose City) and only one other game under a 100 point margin. Sure, a #1 vs #8 game will probably be a blowout but is there really that big of a difference between watching a 123.6 point margin game and a 200 point margin game? Is that slightly closer margin worth it rather than being able to see a #3 vs #6 matchup which would more than likely be a very good game? It's unfair to the fans and it's unfair to the teams, especially the #6 seed whose only shot at nationals is to upset a #1. Since a #6 seed is much more likely to be a nationals-caliber team than a #8 seed (that's why they're seeded higher), shouldn't they get a shot at a #3 seed rather than a #1?

Another issue with regionals that should be looked at is the number of teams invited. No #9 or #10 seed made it past the second round and the only team that was even competitive in the second round was No Coast who lost 127-110 to Tampa Bay. Aren't regionals supposed to be deciding who goes to nationals? If this is the case, why include teams that have no chance of competing for those three spots. Really, though, what bothers me about the 10-team structure aren't that those lower ranked teams make it but that three teams get a bye. It's one thing to earn a bye like in the NFL playoffs, the teams getting byes won more games than the other teams in their conference. They earned a bye. The WFTDA votes teams into a bye which doesn't sit well with me. Those teams may not have earned that bye but are given the advantage of rest over the teams they will be playing. Knock the number of teams making regionals down to eight and you fix these problems and you make regionals something a team really has to go out and earn.

Which brings me to the regular season. There isn't one. The only requirement of making regionals is a team must play two WFTDA-sanctioned games. I don't like this at all. Here is a theoretical example of why this is wrong.

Let's say the entire Texecutioners team retires. Every single one. The voters would likely not vote them number 1 but would definitely put them somewhere between #2 to #5 in the South Central. I mean, it's Texas right? They have players on their local teams with chainsaws for arms. But, what if they really suck? What if they go out and play two very low ranked teams to qualify for regionals and win those games by around 100 points? There would be no reason to rank them lower but they really haven't proven themselves worthy of playing in regionals, have they? They would finish the season ranked high enough to go but that's completely based on the last season, not the season they're currently playing in.

Why use voters (who may have biases and more than likely haven't seen most of the teams they're voting on play) to determine anything when you can have a short regular season to qualify for regionals? What I propose is this: Each region is broken down into 5 divisions (assuming 10 teams would still be going to each regional) with 4 or 5 teams making up each division (preferably 4). Each team would be required to play a three game regular season (only one more than now). Each division would play a round-robin (each team in a 5-team division would only play 3 of the 4 other teams). The top two finishers, by record, in each division would qualify for regionals.

Divisions would be set up with two priorities: proximity and an even spread of team rank. Essentially, the WFTDA would want to have teams be close to each other for obvious reasons: less travel expense, ease of scheduling games, set up regional rivalries. The WFTDA would also want these divisions to not be top-heavy or bottom-heavy as you may end up leaving out a team that deserves to go to regionals or invite a team that doesn't. The goal would be to have a top-team, two middle ranked teams, and a low ranked team.

The divisions would last for two years and then be redistributed after that. This way each team would get two home games in one season and one home game in the other. The teams scheduled to play each other could set up the game to be played at any time between January and June.

Ties aren't probable but are definitely possible. This is where other WFTDA sanctioned games come into play. Each team starts with 0 points. If you beat a team that finishes 3-0 in their division, you get +3, 2-1 = +2, 1-2 +1, and 0-3 +0. If you lose to a team that finishes 3-0 in their division, you get -0, 2-1 = -1, 1-2 = -2, and 0-3 = -3. This also helps determine seeding. Seeding in regionals would be decided by record first and then points. A team does not have to play any non-division games but it's obviously in their best interest so they can get tiebreaker points and a higher seed.

There you a go, a beautiful regular season where every game matters and teams earn their way to regionals and earn their seeds. Imagine how intense those games between two 1-1 teams at the end of the season would be to determine who qualifies for regionals. Mmm. I love it.

One last thing before I go. I have to say first that the stop play, strollerskating, whatever you want to call it used by Denver does not bother me. However, I do have to point out what I think have been incorrect calls  by the refs throughout the tournament and regular season. What I'm looking at is clockwise skating by a blocker after knocking a jammer out of bounds thus either forcing a track cut or forcing the jammer to skate clockwise to come inbounds behind the blocker.

From the WFTDA rulebook:
5.1.1 Blocking is any movement on the track designed to knock the opponent down or out of
bounds or to impede the opponent’s speed or movement through the pack.
 6.6 Skaters must not skate in the opposite direction of the pack (clockwise) when executing a block.
6.9.5 A skater may not initiate contact with an opponent who is completely outside the track
From my reading of the rules, a block does not need contact to be considered a block. So, any movement that is meant to impede an opponent's speed is considered a block. Clearly, a blocker moving clockwise after knocking a jammer out of bounds is meant to impede their opponent's speed. If I'm reading the rules correctly, that would be considered a block, thus making it illegal to move clockwise in that instance. Notice, the rulebook does not state that it is illegal to block an out of bounds skater, but rather that it is illegal to make contact with an out of bounds skater. That is an important distinction as it allows a blocker to stop or move forward very slowly after knocking a jammer out of bounds but not clockwise as a skater cannot move clockwise while engaged in a block.

There were a few teams that used this strategy throughout the tournament and regular season, not just Denver. I believe it has been called incorrectly all season and needs to be corrected.

If you notice any holes or have any comments about this wide-ranging post, feel free to make a comment.


  1. Only seven Texecutioners are retiring. *~[:-{0>

    Anyways, any recommendation of deciding who a team can play is going to run into a few speed bumps. Leagues often (and often must) book their bouting schedules many months in advance. Some do it less far in advance, but they tend to get the scraps that are left behind. In other words, whoever was willing to come to their area or pay them to come out "at the last minute" and hopefully wouldn't be too much of a mismatch.

    This stuff can be VERY HARD to arrange later on when all your preferrable opponents are booked up. That gets you bouts like OKVD vs TXRG.

    Rankings come out once per quarter. What you're suggesting would make all bout scheduling kind of last minute, wouldn't it?

    I haven't really had any problems with a league "banking their ranking" since Rat City used to do that. And it really didn't pay off for them back then, nor have they continued doing it. IMO you've created a solution in search of a problem that needs solving.

    WFTDA hasn't and doesn't put any limits on who any member league can play. So long as they make the flat track % quota, which is effectively a de-facto "don't buy a banked track" rule.

    If WFTDA does as Hurt suggests and sets up divisons, I could see that perhaps putting some kind of upper and lower bounds on how high or low ranked a team someone could play. Anything that forces teams to play certain opponents whether they want to or not is not going to get the voter support it would need to get approved.

    By the way, they need to play two sanctioned bouts within their region, not just two sanctioned bouts. Montreal didn't qualify for Eastern Regionals because one of the three sanctioned bouts they'd played to that point was against a team from another region. Two sanctioned bouts got them ranked, but didn't qualify them for tournament play. I'm sure they'll remedy that next season.

  2. Thanks for the added information.

    Obviously, I don't have my sites on next year for any changes to be made. The division make-up wouldn't need up to the minute rankings to construct. Divisions should be put together with a priority on proximity first then just a general sense of equality. There doesn't need to be some mathematical formula to make them as even as possible. Even if you tried to do that, the divisions could be completely different a month later. The idea is just to avoid top-heavy and bottom-heavy divisions.

    Setting up these divisions could be done for 2011 as early as mid-2010 giving teams 6 months to a year to set up these matchups. That is plenty of time. Also, remember, that this still allows for as many other games as a team wants to play including spontaneous matchups.

    I know that my theoretical wasn't exactly likely to happen but even if it's not done intentionally, it still happens. A team losing a few key players and then going out and playing a weak schedule isn't exactly unlikely.

    I'm not necesarily creating a solution to that problem but more of stepping outside of what roller derby is and thinking about where it should be in 5 or 10 years. A major step, in my opinion, to making roller derby more of a major sport and more of a legitimate sport (if that's where the WFTDA wants to go) is making a standard regular season. It just makes so much more sense than this "play whoever you want" style of season we have now. It does nothing to create important big games beyond top 10 matchups. Hell, Kansas City hosted Duke City, both teams were ranked in the Top 20, what would be a HUGE game in any other sport, and I didn't hear anyone talk about it. Same goes for a number of other games.

    This would make almost every game important and especially division games. You could see huge games between, let's say Nashville and Tampa Bay for the final regionals spot. A game no one would really pay attention to now would suddenly become a huge game because it decides who is going to the post season.

    Sure, teams are forced to play certain teams, but it's only three games and they have the freedom to set up what day they're played. Every team would still have the ability to play as many other games as they would like. It's not taking anything away from anyone, it's just adding a regular season component.

  3. Thanks Derby tron! I like your take on things!!

    ying O'Fire

  4. "(Rocky Mountain, who was clearly seeded incorrectly, over Rose City)"

    I would like to see the seeding changed as well, but RMRG is not a good example of why. Rocky Mountain was seeded correctly based on their results through the end of June. They took three skaters from a rival CO league a little over a month out from the regionals tournament. Seeding can't account for that kind of situation arising. Additionally, RMRG didn't play any interleague bouts in the mean time and no one had any idea how good they would actually be.

    Divisions won't work as long as leagues have to subsidize their own travel. That is the reality of our economy, at least for those of us out in the West. It's a realistic goal for the East because they are so much closer to each other generally speaking. But for those of us in CO, we don't have any close options to speak of.

    And lastly, your take on clockwise skating and blocking a jammer out of bounds isn't correct. As soon as the jammer in your scenario is out of bounds, they are not in play and blocking rules no longer apply to them. The jammer must come in behind the blocker that put them out of bounds in order to not receive the cutting call, whether it be minor or major. I know where you're going with what you said and it's well thought out. But out of bounds is out of play and the jammer is up a creek at that point.

  5. @Angus Con

    Sure, Rocky Mountain had good reason to be seeded lower than they should've but those excuses are all the more reason to change the system. It's just too hard to rank the teams accurately when players are added or someone gets injured. One jammer can completely change a team.

    Divisions a realistic goal out West as well. Sure, maybe a few teams will have to travel pretty far but even in Colorado, I don't think travel is an issue. All of Colorado could be one division. It's a pretty even spread from top to bottom and there are five teams. Then, you could have Duke City, Arizona, Tucson, Sin City, and Salt City. Washington can be a division. Then, all of Oregon and Sac City. Then, Bay Area, Pacific, Central Coast, Angel City. If teams aren't willing to travel then they can't play for regionals which is pretty much how it is now anyway.

    Excluding Hawaii, who may be able to convince a team or two to come play them, since, you know, it's Hawaii, or they could come to the mainland and play all their games in one weekend. The farthest drive a team would have would be Tucson to Salt Lake City at 15 hours which is definitely doable in a day and there's really very few over 10 hours.