27 May 2012

What Ever Happened To Class?

The roller derby revolution was born of what is politely known as "alternative lifestyles." Tattoos and wild hair, loud music and late nights... derby girls are typically not the nine-to-five type, and we love them for that. Breaking from social norms does have its limits, though. No matter how edgy you are, this is still a team sport, and everyone's paying to participate. That means that respect and support are critical to the success of the team.

We've had the misfortune of seeing some teams that clearly put winning above sportsmanship, and aside from being disappointing in an abstract way, those teams aren't much fun to watch, either. Their skating tends to be rough, their tactics limited, and their fans rabid. Skilled opponents will wipe the floor with them and never play them again, while fresher teams will come away limping and disheartened.

The saddest part of this phenomenon is that some people will go to these teams' bouts and think that this is the way derby is played. It discredits the sport and turns off people who could otherwise be devoted fans. It sets a bad example for the next generation of skaters, encouraging them to be more interested in leaving bruises than playing a clean game.

Fortunately, these bad teams tend not to last very long. Their classier neighbors realize they're not worth playing, and eventually the bad teams run out of opponents and fizzle into nothingness. This limits the damage, but it can sometimes take a year or two for word to get around that a particular team isn't worth the liability, and that's a lot of bruises and broken bones.

Still, we're heartened that there are so many classy teams out there. We love seeing fans cheer for both the home team and the visitors, we love clean games, and we love seeing the skaters hugging and happy at the post-bout celebrations. It's like that moment at the World Cup when Scotland got their single point against USA, and the entire building erupted with cheers -- that's the way we like our roller derby. Stay classy, ladies.