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Frisky Ed Note: This is our first guest post, yaaaay! Please let me know if you like this and want to see more along the same lines. Also, please make Discount Tina Fey feel welcome by saying lots of nice things in the comments. 

 

Scrimmage Survival Guide – Escaping the Spin Cycle

Your first scrimmage day. It’s exciting, or terrifying, or some heady combination of the two. If you’re not so lucky, you’re with a league that allows you to scrimmage when you kind of, sort of, once maybe did all the skills on their testing sheet. If you are really lucky, you’re with a league with a highly structured, multi-step training plan and have already mastered basic skating and contact skills.

Either way, or anywhere in between, when you stagger off the track at the end of the hour, you will feel like you were in a human washing machine, and wonder if and when this game will ever make any kind of sense.

The advice you get sometimes has a tinge of fairy dust. “It starts to make sense after exactly 6 scrimmages.” “It takes solid years. Just hit someone!“ At my second scrimmage I was leading the pack, my 39th was a disaster, and some skaters look lost well into their bouting days.

In your first scrimmages, try concentrating solely on the following things.  This will help the game start to make sense, one piece at a time.

roller derby chat

Photo: Garden State Rollergirls

Opposing jammer (OJ) location

An experienced player will play offense and defense almost simultaneously, switching back and forth based on her assessment of opposing/friendly jammer position, strength, pack speed, blocker ratios, and a million other factors.

The issue here is that the brainiest skaters turn into a dog chasing a squirrel pretty easily out there because, well, there are a LOT of squirrels on the track. A quick, strategic burst of offense can turn into a pretty pointless ten-second battle when the lizard brain takes over.

Meanwhile, oh, hey, the OJ finished her lap and came burning through your scattered blockers and your jammer STILL isn’t out. Those sorts of passes tend to spawn themselves, and pretty soon the whistle is blowing on a 0-19 jam, and you have 2 skaters in the box because disorder breeds penalties. Whoops.

Unless, of course, your voice cuts through the clutter three seconds into that blossoming clusterfluff. “OJ coming up.” And then 3 seconds later, more urgently, “OJ outside.” Your fellow blockers pull together for defense, the other team is forced onto offense, and your jammer makes it by their distracted, diluted defense, prompting the other jammer to call it at a score of 0-3. Was that a great jam for your team? No. Did you just create a positive 16-point differential in a single jam versus the worst case scenario? Yes. Yes, you did. You were vocal, communicated, and helped your teammates focus.

For those moments where you feel like you are trapped in a human washing machine and nothing makes sense, look for that opposing jammer. If she is being engaged by your teammates, get with them and help. Even taking up space on the track is helpful if it is the right place (i.e., a place the opposing jammer can use to escape).

If she is anywhere else (sneaking up the inside about to pass a blocker who has no idea she is there, at half a lap behind the pack and closing and no one is forming for defense, going to the box, in the box and standing), communicate (loudly) and then take action. You just gave your more experienced teammates information that can help them take that jammer out. Good job.

roller derby looking back

Photo: Jason Hullinger

Bridging

When gameplay is unfolding in a way that draws out and potentially splits the pack, the most valuable thing a rookie can do is be that first person in a bridge.

When does this happen? Most often in a power jam, but it can also happen if the other team has strong walls with excellent speed control. In the front of the pack, the person dropping to bridge should always be the person least involved with actively blocking the jammer. Odds are, if there is a rookie blocker out there, the jammer got by her first.

If this is you, be aware. Turn sideways, be dynamic, eyeball that 9 feet, and adjust your positioning as necessary and communicate with your teammates. Tell them when to drop the second bridge, or if the pack is coming up towards them and they suddenly have all the room in the world. When you have a steam train on your back pocket, turning around and thinking aren’t always options.

If that steam train happens to be on YOUR back pocket, first of all, nice job, you got her.  Second of all, dig in, control your speed, and listen to your teammates.

This also applies in the back of the pack. When an opposing jammer is hit out and there is an opportunity to draw her back, odds are it isn’t you who laid in the hit. However, even if you were behind her when she left the track, you are eligible to, again, be the first bridge. Skate back those nine feet behind the rest of the pack, communicate, and get ready to actively block with the rest of your team as soon as the jammer re-enters.

By giving your more experienced and skilled teammates the ability to actively block for more of the game, you are positively influencing the game in a significant way, even if you never lay a good hit or even actively block. The more you play, the more the game will start to make sense.

 


Discount Tina Fey is entering her 4th season of derby and trying to shake a bad case of Cranky Vet Syndrome. The most valuable piece of derby advice she has ever heard is: “If everything sucks and is very bad, just pretend you are a dinosaur for a little while.”

 

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Do That! Coaching

Many moons ago, in the mists of yesteryear, Maria Montoya and I skated together at Rose City. During her time there, she occasionally worked with skaters to help with their mental game. Even if you’re not looking for a coach, I think you’ll find that she’s thought through a lot of common problems in a helpful way – read and see.

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Frisky: Tell us a little about Do That! Coaching. What makes it different from other coaching companies that have been popping up in the last few years?

Maria: I wanted to create a service that helps skaters significantly improve their performance in a short period of time. It’s like a derby accelerator. I’m a firm believer in the performance formula to help people get better, faster.

Performance is a combination of skate skill + conditioning + mindset. I’ve seen skaters with awesome skate skills, but terrible conditioning, who get their asses handed to them. I’ve also seen skaters with awesome conditioning, but not great skate skill, who also fail to perform. I think the most painful failures in performance I have seen is when someone is awesome in their skates, and very well conditioned, but lacks the confidence or self worth to perform to their physical capability. I have yet to see other derby coaching businesses that have clearly articulated this performance formula, or create ongoing services to cater to all 3 needs. Other businesses usually serve 1 of these 3 faculties, but not all 3.

Also, I am not a believer in bootcamps. Other derby coaching businesses do a great job of providing drills and information on bootcamp weekends, but there is little follow up, long term accountability, or assurance that their bootcamp has significantly impacted the skaters skill for the long haul. Real change requires repetition and accountability. I believe I owe it to the people I serve to follow up, follow up, follow up.

Dust Devil 2014 Day 1 Arizona vs Pikes Peak © by Alethea Photography.

Mental fitness is one of the most popular topics I’ve ever had on the blog. Why do you think that is? What kind of answers are people looking for?

In short – skaters are looking for different ways to be better skaters. I see mental fitness consumers in 2 categories: People in transition, and people looking for a competitive edge.

People in transition are attracted to roller derby because it makes us feel powerful. We find strengths in ourselves we never knew we had. It is an undeniably emotional experience, no matter how hard of a badass you think you are. As people are discovering their power, they don’t know what to do with it, or how to manage thoughts that challenge this new-found awesomeness. In short, as people discover their inner badass, they go through some cognitive dissonance along the way – shedding their previous thoughts about themselves, and adopting a new self image. This is hard work, and there isn’t a guide for how to make this jump.

For those who already have a powerful self image – they are searching for ways to enhance their performance beyond the track. There is plenty of science that demonstrates the powers of visualization, goal setting, deliberate practice, setting intentions, etc. These are additional means for skaters to improve performance, especially when they are confident about their athletic ability.

Do you offer any services to people who aren’t in Arizona?

The long term plan is to scale Do That! to have an international presence. In the short term, I can offer the mental fitness coaching to people outside of AZ, assuming the client already has access to on skates and off skates training. Again, its the combination of skate skill + conditioning + mindset that makes Do That! different, so I’d want to ensure that remote clients are utilizing the formula.

Before scaling more nationally, I’ll be partnering with AZ leagues to make AZ the best state to train and watch roller derby. (Look out Oregon & New York!)

You offer filming and film analysis, which is pretty cool. What’s the biggest hurdle you see with people learning from their own film? What’s the biggest benefit that you tend to see?

When people watch their own film, they are already pre-disposed to reinforce their own decision making. They have a hard time seeing themselves objectively. That’s the benefit of having someone else evaluate your performance on film for you – I’m objective.

65% of us are visual learners. However, we scarcely have the opportunity to view our own performance. While we rely heavily on proprioception (aka how we feel in our own bodies) to tell us when we are low enough, stable enough, or wide enough – we can’t see it. When you can see it (visually), feel it (kinesthetically), hear it (auditorially), you can improve it faster.

Brendan Adam-Zwelling — with Maria Montoya at Dust Devil 2014.

Anything else we should know about Do That! Coaching?

We’re in the process of developing a proprietary app that will help auditory learners get better, faster. I can’t spill all the beans, but I’m pretty excited about the impact this app with have on skaters’ performance and positive self view.

In short – I just want more people to experience the transformative power of roller derby, enjoy it through longer skating careers, and come away feeling, thinking, and being stronger & more powerful. This is a company of service to the skater and the sport. I want to serve the skater through a unique formula, and I want to serve the sport by making it even more accessible to more people over time. It starts first in AZ, then the nation, then the world.

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Thanks Maria! Contact Maria and Do That! Coaching through the website to learn more.

Um, yes, I remember being told 59047252 time to get lower and thinking, You jerks! I am low! I’m just not as low as everyone else because I’m tall. Then you get the pictures back. Hahahahahaha.

Welcome once again to the Frisky Power Rankings, where I rank women’s flat track roller derby according to my whims/in-depth knowledge.

There have been so many retirements and movements and re-adjustments that I haven’t even been able to keep up with the scuttlebutt.

Rose City stays on top this month (yeaaaaaah!) due to a slew of retirement announcements out of Gotham. I’m sure there are lots and lots of very very very talented people to step up, but losing a core of skaters always leaves a question mark…of power. Especially when you’re talking about skaters of the caliber and experience of Suzy Hotrod (!), Fisti Cuffs, Mick Swagger. They can’t exactly be replaced.

1. Rose City Rollers. Lost their captains (Mercy and Penny Dreadful) but otherwise intact and hungry.
2. Gotham. As we said, they’ll have a lot of changes this year. They might even – gasp – lose a game this year. I’m calling it.
3. Bay Area Derby. Just thinking about them makes me a little scared. They’re gonna be so deadly and awesome this year.
4. London. Kami’s retirement is a big loss, I don’t think it’s  big enough to slow their rise.
5. Texas. This blog post broke my Rose City fan heart. I know, we can’t be greedy after getting two Team USA caliber transfers last year, but…can you imagine? Portland is a very fit city! We have lots of coffee shops and tacos! I’m at a coffee shop right now, and I saw a member of Sleater-Kinney here once! (Any lame people reading this: Portland is the worst and has no jobs. Just stay put.)
6. Denver. May have lost a couple more skaters, but they seem to adjust to that kind of thing very well.
7. Victoria. Damn they’re good! And only getting better with stiffer competition in the Southern Hemisphere.
8. Champagne. Oooh, bubbles. See also: fizzy water.
9. Philly. Extra points for changing their league name to Philly Roller Derby and dropping the “girls.” And starting a junior program.
10. Angel City. A calendar! I can see you’re going to play games! Into it!
11. Windy City. Big losses in Varla Vendetta and a transfer of Jackie Daniels to Texas.
12. The Big O. OMG I think I need to make this happen this year. Montreal! Victoria! Rose! BAD! Philly! Texas! Agggh!
13. Minnesota. They’ll be especially charged to head to champs this year, after being named the hosts, but hosting duties can take their toll as well. We’ll hope that as a larger league, they’ll be able to shoulder the burden.
14. Rocky Mountain. They’re playing Team United (TURD) this month! If it’s not on the internet, I will cry.
15. Sun State. I’ve never seen this Australian team play, but they’re really high in the WFTDA rankings, so POWER.
16. Jacksonville. *RECENT ACTION ALERT* Beat Ft. Myers by a lot of points.
17. Atlanta. Will be playing Jacksonville soon, yaaaay.
18. Charm. No news out of Baltimore. Ho hum.
19. Rat. Featured league of the month by WFTDA. Probably no All-Star action for a whiiiiile.
20. Montreal. Always going through changes, it seems, but always fabulous, and this year getting Mick Swagger as a coach.

Not listed: Websites with no 2015 schedules. Throw us a bone, here, leagues.

 

What do you think? What’s the scuttlebutt? Where are the bones I’ve been asking for?

 

 

 

It’s always seemed strange to me to attribute some kind of overall descriptor to a calendar year. Was 2014 Good or Bad? It had its high points and low points. I suppose it’s nice for all of us, as a culture and as communities, to take a small breath periodically to pause and take stock of the world around us before moving on to (usually) do the same old crap.

2014. I hope you liked it, because you don’t get to do it over again. The good news? If you hated it, it’s not coming back.

My highlights of the year? Quitting my office job and starting out on a freelance career. If you have a desire to do this, with enough savings to keep you afloat for six months to a year, and a wide social support system, I recommend this highly. I traded drudgery and security for uncertainty and freedom. That is a good swap for the soul and for life. Of course, you have to be willing to promote yourself if you want to strike out on your own. (BTW, I’m looking for new projects now! Mostly web content and blogging, but I’m flexy. Let’s chat.) (Also, buy my book, Roller Derby for Beginners.)

As a Portland sports fan, I couldn’t ask for much more from 2014. Am I supposed to choose between the Gotham vs. Rose game and the Damian Lillard shot? Do not make me choose. Rose City didn’t win the game, and I went away heartbroken, but couldn’t be more proud to have tried on that second place medal at the airport a few days later. It felt really, really good. It felt even better with the travel team being so vocal about appreciating people like me. Wreckers and alumni. Just-okay skaters who love and look up to that team. We appreciate it.

What a goddamn game that was.

 

2014 wasn’t all leisurely mornings sipping coffee while working on my laptop, or sunny summer days at the park rolling a ball around with my gorgeous baby. There was also a string of car repairs, putting stress on our savings account at our least-lucrative time of year. My best friend from childhood passed away a few weeks ago. We weren’t friends as adults, but there’s something visceral about losing someone who was so much a part of the way your life was shaped. She was a week away from turning 34. A new year isn’t a guarantee. I try to remember that I have to do cool stuff while I can.

With that being said:

May your 2015 be filled with joy.

May your skates fly fast, and your falls be gentle.

May you have the strength to be as ferocious as a wolverine, and as gentle as a manatee, as the situation requires.

May you finally bring out that outfit that you’ve been to shy to wear, for you will truly Rock It.

MANATEE sighting in Portland!

MANATEE sighting in Portland! 2014 has this going for it.

 

Thanks for reading, everyone! You’re the best!

 

 

 

Welcome once again to the Frisky Power Rankings, where I rank women’s flat track roller derby according to my whims/in-depth knowledge.

Once again, we’re just doing top 12, as there haven’t been many (if any) (should I look) (nah, too lazy) sanctioned games.

(Okay, I felt bad and looked it up. There was the European Tournament but not any top-tier action that we’d be concerned about here on the FPR.)

NEWS FLASH. There’s a new team on top of the Frisky Power Rankings, for the first time ever since the inaugural list in March 2013. If you want mathematical rankings based on who’s beaten whom recently, the internet has you covered. My list is based largely on feelings of who has momentum at any given point.

I couldn’t be more pleased to know that they belong there.

 

  1. Rose City Rollers. Who’s first in the hearts and minds of WFTDA fans right now, despite getting silver medals?
  2. Gotham. Still pretty good, but beatable. Definitely beatable. In theory.
  3. Bay Area Derby. The one loss to Rose Champs is their first loss since…Gotham in 2013 Champs.
  4. London. Played up to their number one seed
  5. Denver. A narrow loss to BAD is still a pretty good showing.
  6. Texas. Mathematically, they did better than expected at Champs, but we all knew that would happen, right?
  7. Victoria. Excellent first showing at the big show! Sorry about the travel bill!
  8. Philly. Gave Denver a good game there.
  9. Windy City. Met an unmovable force in a determined Rose City team.
  10. Angel City. First-round loss to Texas? It’s happened to worse teams, ladies.
  11. Minnesota. The Southern Hemisphere beat out The North this time.
  12. Rocky Mountain. Someone has to go out in the first round, but Rocky didn’t go down easily.

Honorable mentions:

  • Taylor Swift dressed as a pegacorn
  • Presents
  • PIE with ICE CREAM
  • Loren Mutch, because are you kidding me right now

So you didn’t win the Hydra, WOJ. Shake it off.

 

 

Hey, you! Yes, probably you! You have something to share about roller derby, don’t you? Your experiences make you unique, but other people can relate to them, right? Hey, probably. (I’m talking to you too,, officials, wannabes, and fans.)

We want to hear from you.

No, I haven’t blogged since the Rose City/Gotham game. What is there to say about that game? A LOT. THERE IS A LOT TO SAY. And I would have loved to say it to you, but my heart was a bit broken over the whole thing, and life was busy, and there you have it. That’s not an excuse, but it is a good time to remind you:

I want your guest posts. I want them so bad, I will pay you for them in Real American Dollars.

If you like to write, and you have thoughts and feelings that you think other people would be interested in, pitch frisky.sour at gmail and we’ll talk about it, okay?

Strategy and tips for beginners are of particular interest, but I want to know what you’re excited/mad/passionate about right now.

I’ll see you back here for December Power Rankings if not sooner.

Yeah! Keep being awesome!

 

Welcome once again to the Frisky Power Rankings, where I rank women’s flat track roller derby according to my whims/in-depth knowledge.

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OMG.

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It’s actually happening.

What do you do when you get nervous? I get very quiet and type a lot of periods to try to demonstrate that feeling to the internet.

 

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For this extra-special set of Power Rankings before WFTDA champs, we’re just doing the top 12. Because. They’re my power rankings. Deal with it.

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Is this what I think the games will play out? Not necessarily. It’s a gauge of their power. What they do with any given 60 minutes, who knows? “What’s why they play the games.”

  1. Gotham. Always #1 in power until someone proves otherwise.
  2. Bay Area Derby. Un-de-feat-ed! *clap clap clap-clap-clap* So far this year! *clap clap clap-clap-clap*
  3. Rose City. As a fan, I’m just gonna say: I believe.
  4. London. They were looking pretty locked in at playoffs. Can they keep it up? They also added Kid Block. She is good at skating.
  5. Texas. Yes, they lost to Windy at playoffs, but Texas always brings it at champs.
  6. Windy City. If they can keep up the momentum, who knows?
  7. Victoria. Don’t choke on your musk sticks if there’s a completely international game this year.
  8. Denver. Only this low because everyone else is so awesome. No one’s going to take this team lightly.
  9. Minnesota. It’s supposed to freeze in Nashville this weekend. DOES THIS MEAN WINTER IS COMING?
  10. Angel City. Hard to tell, but flashes of brilliance.
  11. Philly. Shenita Stretcher is back. Does that give them the firepower to match up against Denver?
  12. Rocky Mountain. I have a wide screen, and I can’t read this roster. Am I old? I might be old.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • Disc Jockey Agent Meow. Especially in regard to boombox parties.
  • Baby Sour in a skeleton costume
  • Halloween candy

 

What do you think? Please spill in the comments. Also, tell me what you do when you get nervous.

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!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Baby Sour isn’t a baby anymore, you guys. He’s 14 months old, walking, and firmly into toddler territory. Babies don’t walk over with a book in hand and yell at you to read it while they turn the pages.

Yes, he walks now. Time to take him skating, right? Suuuure!

I usually work in the morning (as a freelance writer, call me), but Mr. Sour had to work this week. Off to Preschool Skate we went.

Bubby feet

Not pictured: roller skate shirt

 

I know. No skates. He wore his Fisher Price skates over his shoes while the bigger kids got their lesson, and he even let me drag him for a couple of feet before he started crying. He even took a couple of steps with his hands held! Not bad for only knowing how to walk for a few weeks.

Then I got to eat a cookie because they serve cookies for the kids and Baby Sour is too young. Sweet.

I started skating when I was 25. Sure, I’d been to the rink once or twice a year as a kid, but I had to re-learn every time I went. No, I was not good at skating. It took me forever to learn when I started derby. You can play derby even if you’ve never skated before – it’ll just take you longer to pick it up.

 

When did you start skating? 14 months? 14 years? 41? Still going strong?

 

 

BioSkin calf sleeves and my good-looking pedicure

BioSkin calf sleeves and my good-looking pedicure

A few weeks ago, I to my first Wreckers (Rose City recreational program) scrimmage. I’ve been to Wreckers practice, and I’ve been to open black and white scrimmages. The difference is that at open scrimmages, there are usually 20 or more skaters on each side. You get to skate probably five or six times in an hour.

At Wreckers scrimmage, there were eight people on each side. You get to skate five or six times in a row if you’re so inclined.

It was taxing.

I think I mentioned two or three times that geez, maybe I should work out.

Two days later, my glutes and quads were still bothering me when I get up and down. With a one-year-old child, I get up and down a LOT.

BioSkin sent me, your faithful blogger, a pair of these calf sleeves to try out. (Full disclosure: they sent them to me for free, and if you buy anything via the link on this page (over there —>) I get a small percentage of it. I like money. Money buys snacks. I ain’t getting rich off of you, and I only want your money if it’s spent happily and you get something awesome in return, my sweet internet friends.)

They’re compression sleeves, but for your legs. Leg sleeves. Did they make my calves less sore? Hard to say. Some people say these sleeves help with muscle soreness and shin splints. I can say this:

  1. I didn’t have my usual spate of cuts, scrapes, and small bruises on my shins.
  2. I was comfortable. It was a nice fall day, and I wasn’t too hot or cold.
  3. My calves did not seem much more sore than they usually do? It’s hard to gauge.
  4. I think…I’ll keep wearing them. I have generally tired and sore muscles and calves just from carrying around a 23-pound child all the time, and any extra support I can get is great.

 

Do you wear any kind of supportive gear? Knee gaskets, shoulder sleeves? What do you love? Let us know. The people’s parts are sore, and we have questions.

DSC_0470

Me in white jamming, possibly after cutting the track. Photo by Audrey Kim.

 

 

Yaaay, the four playoffs are over, and champs are coming! In just three weeks, twelve of the WFTDA’s top teams will compete for the Hydra, and it’s gonna be awesome.

The little bracket conversation I’ve seen over the last few days goes something like this:

  1. All of these matchups look great and fun
  2. Yay for international teams
  3. If anyone can beat Gotham, they’re probably coming out of that BAD/Rose side of the bracket, so yay for those brackets

What if we still had regional tournaments instead of s-curve playoff seedings based on rank?

What would the matchups look like?

Of the 12 Division 1 teams playing at Champs, there are:

6 from the former West region
3 from the former East region
2 from the former North Central region
1 from the former South Central region

These top 12 teams are also the top 12 on both Flat Track Stats and June 2014 WFTDA rankings.

But what would the “Top 12″ going to Championships look like with the old seeding system by region? Using Monday’s Flat Track Stats rankings, I took the top three from each former region.

EAST
Gotham Girls Roller Derby (#1 FTS, WFTDA 1)
London Rollergirls (#5 FTS, WFTDA 3)
Philly Roller Girls (#10 FTS, WFTDA 12)

WEST
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls (#2 FTS, WFTDA 2)
Rose City Rollers (#3 FTS, WFTDA 4)
Denver Roller Dolls (#4 FTS, WFTDA 9)

SOUTH CENTRAL
Texas Rollergirls 895.2 (#6 FTS, WFTDA 6)
Jacksonville Roller Girls (#13 FTS, WFTDA 14)
Atlanta Rollergirls (#14 FTS, WFTDA 13)

NORTH CENTRAL
Windy City Rollers (#9 FTS, WFTDA 11)
Minnesota RollerGirls (#11 FTS, WFTDA 8)
Detroit Derby Girls (#21 FTS, WFTDA 44)

Victoria (#8 FTS, WFTDA 5), Angel City (#7 FTS, WFTDA 7) and Rocky Mountain (#12 FTS, WFTDA 10) would be left out in the cold, with men on the internet saying,  if you wanted to go to Champs, you should have won your games, stop complaining! (I’m still a little bitter about this. Come on, men of the internet.) Detroit WILL be at Nashville, playing for the Division 2 title.

 

I think we can all pretty much agree that the twelve teams fighting for the Hydra are qualified to be there and make for compelling roller derby games. But most of us would also agree that we’d love to watch our teams play at a tournament closer to home, and it’s a bit sad to see the empty venues for the regional tournaments.

Is this a good tradeoff?

Let us know what you think in the comments, won’t you? (Male opinions mostly welcome.)

no justice for you

Photo of Besterns 2012 by Nocklebeast. Looks a bit different in the stands now.

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