In Defense of Dutchland’s Forfeit

You don't have to like their decision. But you should understand why they made it.

The biggest story at Nightmare on 95 wasn’t who won the East Region playoff tournament. Gotham was simply on another level from every other team in attendence, and that they took the gold medal was a surprise to nobody. Gotham’s victory was so obviously inevitable, I wrote this sentence six hours before they were scheduled to beat play Philly for the regional title.

That Gotham is so good says everything about their individual skill and teamwork. They are so good, in fact, one of their opponents saved themselves the trouble and didn’t even bother playing them.

That decision turned out to be one the biggest controversies in modern roller derby’s young history.

Citing strategic reasons, Lancaster, Pa.’s Dutchland Derby Rollers forfeited their quarterfinal game against Gotham Girls Roller Derby. The game was not played and was recorded as a default 100-0 Dutchland loss. To fill the scheduled two hours lost by this non-game, Gotham scrimmaged against Maine and Carolina in two 30-minute play-arounds.

Derby News Network spoke to Dutchland coach Merv the Perv for an explanation behind the team’s decision:

Dutchland chose to forfeit because they felt it was strategically better for their final placement in the tournament to not play a game that they were likely to lose to by a significant margin and to go into the consolation rounds with a fresher team.

Later, Merv commented on the DNN post to provide further explanation. “I made the decision that having a chance to moving up a rank or two was worth missing one blow out game,” he said. “Sports teams often pull starters from a game that has no meaning to them. It, too, is not a fan favorite, but they do it to protect there [sic] players.”

While the coach is saying he made the decision, there is no way this was a decision made lightly or without the consultation of the team. We can never know what was discussed internally at Dutchland, but I’ve seen a second-hand report that there was some “convincing” being done within the team. Ultimately, we can only speculate. Had a majority of the players wanted to play the game after weighing their options, would they have played the game? Probably. Maybe. Who knows? But in the end, the team decided not to.

And the shitstorm of criticism started immediately.

The most immediate backlash criticised Dutchland for such a “shameful” decision. Claims of them “chickening out” or “not wanting to win” poured in. “Anything can happen in derby,” said those thinking Dutchland should have played in case a miracle happened. “You should be lucky to play against Gotham, you could learn a lot from them even if they beat you,” said those that believe any game experience is better than no game experience, even if it’s a blowout.

It continued. Some commenters wondered why they even bothered showing up if they weren’t going to play all their games. One said Dutchland should be banned from the rest of the tournament altogether. Many people started throwing around heavier words like “unsporting” and “pathetic.” A scant few were understanding of Dutchland’s position, but even they were mostly coming from the negative side of the fence.

But I’m not one of those people. I support Dutchland’s position 100%, and I have zero ill will against their coach, their skaters, their team, or their organization.

Let’s be realistic here: Gotham was going to beat Dutchland in an unholy blowout. Wanting to see these two teams play each other is like wanting to see a high school football team play in an NFL game. If both teams gave it everything they had, not only would the pros obliterate the high schoolers, it wouldn’t be a pretty thing to watch or be all that fun to participate in for either team.

And I doubt the kiddies would really learn enough to justify the bruises, broken bones, and humiliating experience they would likely go through.

Homer Simpson got a valuable “lesson” from Fredrick Tatum that clearly served him well for his future boxing endeavors “down the road.” (Never mind the fact that he was almost killed.) Because as we all know, the better the competition you face, the better you get. With no exceptions. Ever.

This is what I don’t get about the criticism directed towards Dutchland. Gotham knew they were going to obliterate Dutchland. Everyone at the venue knew that Gotham was going to obliterate Dutchland. Everyone watching the coverage at home knew that Gotham was going to obliterate Dutchland. Everyone that filled out a bracket knew that Gotham was going to obliterate Dutchland…including those that are currently criticizing Dutchland.

Yet, because Dutchland was just as informed as everyone else, and knew that Gotham was going to obliterate Dutchland, that they decided to put their own interests ahead of those of everyone else and strategically forfeit all of a sudden makes them poor sports and justifies the ill will directed towards them?

Give me a break.

Just for a moment, forget about what you think of Dutchland’s decision. Take a step back from everything, put yourself in Dutchland’s skates, ignore all other outside factors, and THINK: As your inevitable Gotham beat-down is looming on the horizon, you have a decision to make about your well-being in the overall tournament weekend. Do you:

1) Choose to play against Gotham, despite not being fully recovered after just having finished playing a tough game against Maine just four hours ago. If you just go for it under the auspice that “anything can happen” and give it your all, the best you could hope for is maybe only losing by 250~300 points. After Gotham finishes running circles around you for two hours, you come out of it even more tired and banged up—with possible injuries*—leaving you in a less-than ideal position for tomorrow’s infinitely more fairly-matched game.

Or…

2) You choose to forfeit against Gotham and skip the game. Not needing to worry about being put through a blender for a few hours, you can mentally and physically relax for the rest of the day. With more time recover and focus on tomorrow’s game, this will give you what you believe is the best possible chance of getting a high as a final placing as possible in the final tournament rankings.

Obviously, Dutchland chose option two. In their opinion, it was the option where pros greatly outweighed the cons, and the lesser of two evils (or so they thought) that they believed would give them the best possible chance of finishing with the highest ranking possible.

In my opinion, they made the right decision.

*(In retrospect’s opinion, too: During the Carolina half of Gotham/Maine-Carolina scrimmages, the track began to degrade to the point of no longer being playable, which could have led to dangerous and unsafe playing conditions—conditions Dutchland (and Gotham) would have been playing in had the game not been forfeited. At least someone had the time to thank Dutchland for this accidental blessing on the tournament.)

I think Dutchland realized there was no value to play against Gotham at that day, at that time, during this tournament. What information Dutchland may have gleaned about how to improve themselves “down the road” via a Gotham pummelling may have not been worth the spending extra energy and effort needed to play the game at a high level (the only level where you learn something about yourself) and still be 100% effective for their more important (to Dutchland) consolation bracket game the next day.

In effect, they were trading a theoretical learning experience against a top WFTDA team—something they can schedule any other time of the year—for an opportunity to rest up for an important game that was certainly not theoretical: A once-in-a-year chance to jump up (at least) two ranking spots in the east region by beating a team that they had a much more realistic chance of beating.

If their game against Gotham was the only one they were scheduled to play that day, I’m sure Dutchland would have played it without hesitation. If Dutchland didn’t have to play two more games in the next two days, I’m also sure they would have played Gotham without thinking twice.

But if you’re going to give it your all for this one chance, this one opportunity…why would you waste any of your precious energy getting throttled by Gotham then and there, when you could just as well schedule a game against another top team down the road at a better time and place?

Like Dutchland’s coach said, the forfeit option was a strictly a strategical decision meant to put their team in the best position possible for their Saturday game in consolation bracket. Considering the stakes for Dutchland, I don’t see how anyone could honestly blame them for making that decision, in that situation, at that time.

But instead of people taking a step back and take the time processing all of this, they immediately blamed Dutchland for not putting “derby first” and “tarnishing” derby’s “reputation.” Those that still choose to blame Dutchland feel that their 255-124 loss to Montreal, the team they ultimately played on Saturday, was “proof” that their forfeit strategy “didn’t work,” and that Dutchland “deserved to lose.”

Give me another break.

First of all, Montreal has proven themselves to be a top team in the East for a few seasons now. Dutchland is still an up-and-comer. The brackets meant it was all but inevitable that they would be playing Montreal the next day, worst-case scenario, and they knew that it was going to be an uphill climb to stay with Les Skids—all the better reason to go into the game as fresh as possible. (If they wound up playing a weaker team at that spot in the brackets, even better.) That they ultimately fell to the Canadians isn’t surprising in the end, and they very well would done so anyway even if they did play Gotham.

To those that are criticizing Dutchland’s forfeit strategy for “not working,” I have this question for you: Are you therefore implying the “playing Gotham strategy” would have “worked,” and Dutchland would have beaten Montreal because of it? (Because that’s not what your bracket says.)

Second, as people at the venue and across the derbyverse realized what had happened, the backlash was immediately negative and constantly down-putting. Crowds booed at Dutchland and even went as far as making anti-Dutchland signs to display during the game.

In my opinion, that was the most shameful thing about this whole mess. I have never seen so much unjustified hatred directed towards a roller derby team. It seems that everyone forgot that roller derby is supposed to be “fun,” even when it’s being played in a serious manner at a competitive level.

This nastiness demonstrated that behind the facade of a light-hearted, “for the skaters” approach to derby, there are some (that’s some) people that have a vitriolic undertone that only comes out when there’s something they don’t like, or something they think is not “fair” to everyone. 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.

(Never mind the fact that Dutchland had to deal with all of these bad vibes directed their way going into their game against Montreal. This had to be on their minds, and it had to affect their performance—and possibly their chances of winning—through no real fault of their own.)

But even these details are small potatoes to the real problem with the forfeit. Everyone quick to blame Dutchland is probably doing so because there is seemingly no one else to blame. They made the decision, so therefore the resulting consequences should be entirely their fault, right?

Thankfully, Dutchland coach Merv the Perv said the exactly correct thing that needed to be said about the situation in his comment on the DNN news story regarding his team’s decision:

“I was thinking, what would be best for this team, during this tournament,” he said. “I did not consider what ‘your’ feeling would be.

“I am a roller derby lover but above all, a Dutchland lover.”

All Dutchland did was put their own interests first. All they wanted to do is give themselves what they believed the best possible chance at giving themselves and their fans a better ranking coming out of the tournament than going into it. This is no different from what the other teams wanted for themselves and their fans: To put on an good overall performance at the tournament.

However, the unfortunate fact that Gotham was in the same bracket as them forced Dutchland to make a tough decision:

1) Play the Gotham game “for the good of derby” but diminish your chances of putting on an overachieving tournament showing overall, due to being physically and mentally drained after playing two tough games within the span of eight hours.

Or…

2) Forfeit the Gotham game to rest up for tomorrow’s game and serve your own goals of putting on a good overall tournament showing, even if that may anger a lot of people and make roller derby look bad.

No matter which option they picked, it was going to be unfair for someone: Unfair to Dutchland for needing to play a draining and meaningless game that went against their best interests; or unfair to Gotham, their fans, the WFTDA and their sponsors, and everyone who paid to see the game in person at the venue or streaming in high-def with their money.

No matter which option they chose, Dutchland was in a catch-22. It was either hurt themselves, or hurt roller derby.

Moments before Dutchland’s controversial decision.

But wait a minute… shouldn’t Dutchland’s best interests also be in roller derby’s best interests, no matter what? And shouldn’t a game forfeiture during a high-profile event, something that clearly puts egg on roller derby’s face, also be something Dutchland would never do unless they had no other choice? In this case, neither of those seemingly common-sense principles applied.

And you heard their coach: They love roller derby. They love themselves. I take it on their word that they love both a lot. That anyone questions either of those things is naive and childish. However, they still had to pick one over the other.

Here was a situation where, for the first time, they couldn’t have it both ways.

Dutchland eventually had to make a decision. Their decision to forfeit—which is not against the rules outlined by the WFTDA, by the way—is causing their team to get shit on by people who are completely oblivious to the real problem:

That Dutchland was put into a position where they needed to make this lose-lose decision in the first place.

If you’re going to blame someone over this mess, blame the current WFTDA regional structure. To make a long argument short, having Gotham and Dutchland in the same region is like having…well, like having a professional football team and a high school football team grouped in the same division. As their (second) blowout victory over Philly has shown, Gotham is light-years ahead of the teams directly behind competition within their region, and they have been for years. Gotham, many have commented, is about as close to a “professional” organization, top to bottom, as exists in amateur roller derby today.

But expecting the high schoolers to play against the pros—and criticizing them when they don’t—is as stupid as lambasting the deer for jumping away from the oncoming headlights.

There will always be arguments that the teams under Gotham in the East will eventually improve and someday challenge Gotham. But let’s be realistic again: While those high school kids are crafting their art and improving their game, Gotham will also improve in the same time period. And judging by Gotham’s victories over the east this year, Gotham is getting a lot better a lot faster than any of the teams behind them.

What’s the point of the Gotham pros wasting their time against the likes of high school teams like Philly (267-34; 248-97), Montreal (257-37), Steel City (271-34; 404-30), Boston (260-24) or Dutchland (1000-0, more like it), when everyone would much rather see them play Rocky Mountain, or Oly, Denver, or Windy City, or Kansas City on a regular basis, some of the few teams that have a realistic chance of actually putting on a competitive and complete game against them?

Another point to consider: Blowouts are common in sports, but it’s bad sportsmanship to keep the foot down and rack up points instead of just getting the game over with when the outcome is a foregone conclusion. When Gotham was just points away from scoring 400 on Steel City, it would have been sporting of them to call of their last jam when time expired—but they kept on going anyway to set a WFTDA record. Why isn’t Gotham being frowned upon for showing such poor sportsmanship? (Photo illustration)

I really hope that this incident will eventually help the WFTDA to reconsider their current one-size-(doesn’t-always)-fit all approach to regions. As top teams separate themselves from the rest of the WFTDA, there may soon come a point (and we may very well be on the verge of it now) where just lumping together the “best” regional teams into a single, straight-up grouping or tournament bracket will be counter-productive and produce more boring blowouts than more engaging and closely-matched contests.

If  they can re-structure things into regional divisions (not just regions), or a regional-national division hybrid of some kind and still allow a fair way for teams to self-place themselves or naturally move up/down into higher or lower divisions, that would ensure that all games are always close, competitive, and will have real value to teams looking to improve their game. And you can do this in a way where teams are still free to make their own schedules outside of their region/division. An up-and-coming team wanting to play against a top-ranked veteran can do so when it’s best for them—not when it’s forced upon them at an unideal time.

That’s the most important thing to take way from this whole episode, something a lot of people seem to have forgotten in their search for a scapegoat: There is no single model an individual or team needs to follow for them to better and improve themselves. If a team wants to take things at their own pace, let them. If a team wants to decline an ass-kicking by a a national top-3 team because they don’t feel they’re ready for them, playoffs or not, let them.

Yet, people are blackballing Dutchland as if they did something to bring shame to the game, or set the progress of roller derby back a few years.

Bullshit.

Who is anyone to question the motives of 14 girls who just want to play roller derby and better themselves they way they want to do it? Isn’t this game about being for the skaters? So why can’t that group of skaters decide what’s best for them, in their way?

If Dutchland aspires to someday take on the likes of Gotham, that’s great.

If they don’t, that’s great too.

If they want to improve, they’ll get there eventually. Like the high school football player to aspires to be in the NFL, they’ll get there. It just takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of heart…and a supportive environment.

As a great man once said, let them “work it out” on their own. In the end, only Dutchland knows what’s best for Dutchland.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

But if we’re going to pin the blame on “the game,” that leads to an important question:

Does roller derby know what’s best for roller derby?

  • Wendy

    1) Was it fair the the fans to not see every match that they paid for?
    2) Was it fair to the Gotham fans who took off work and paid for hotel rooms in order to be there on Friday to see Gotham play?
    3) Was it fair to Montreal and Boston that they had to play a team that was able to rest? (regardless of the final scores)
    4) Was it fair to Steel City and Philly that they had to face a Gotham team that was more rested than it should have been?
    5) Merv The Perv’s comments about teams pulling starters from meaningless games was bullshit. Teams in other sports do pull their starters but they still play the games.

    Dutchland knew going into the tournament that a win in the first round would put them up against Gotham later that day. If Dutchland did not want to play Gotham they should have declined the invitation to the tournament. Once they accepted the invitation, they had an obligation to play every game. Not doing so was the epitome of poor sportsmanship.

    Besides, Dutchland’s final ranking was meaningless anyway. Because of London’s incorrect seeding, Carolina ended up at the bottom of the loser’s bracket and finished 9th. Does anyone think that Dutchland is better than Carolina simply because they finished in a higher position?

    • 1) No. Nor was it fair that everyone who paid for the HD live stream didn’t really get the optimal and uninterrupted viewing experience that they paid for.
      2) No. Nor was it fair that the WFTDA didn’t have a rule requiring that all participating teams must play in all of their scheduled tournament games.
      3) No. But Dutchland didn’t do anything against the rules, either. If the rules are same for everyone, but one team can gain unfair advantage by exploiting them, what does that say about the rules?
      4) Is it fair that, judging by the scoreboard, Gotham is 13 times better that Steel City, and at least twice as good as Philly?
      5) But don’t sports fans go to games to see the best players play the game? I’d be pissed if I went to a football game and they pulled their starters after the first quarter or halftime. I’d also be pissed if I was forced to pay for a meaningless preseason game where they did just that. But all NFL teams require that fans who want season tickets to do that anyway. Why should anyone be forced to watch a boring game or a blowout that they’re forced to pay for?

      Once they accepted the invitation, they had an obligation to play every game.

      An obligation to whom? And what rule requires that they fulfill that obligation?

      Besides, Dutchland’s final ranking was meaningless anyway.

      Meaningless to whom? If you ask one of Dutchland’s skaters, or one of Dutchland’s fans, are they going to tell you that their final ranking is meaningless? Are any of the bottom four teams going to tell you that their rankings are equally as meaningless?

      Does anyone think that Dutchland is better than Carolina simply because they finished in a higher position?

      Are you therefore implying that Dutchland is worse than Carolina, for the sole reason that they forfeited a game that they were going to lose anyway? Please explain your logic.

  • Jolene Jawbreaker

    Thank you for everything. You hit every single head on every single nail. We are so thankful to have your support.
    -Jolene Jawbreaker captain of the Dutchland All Stars

    • No thanks necessary. I just want to make sure everyone gets a fair shake. I moonlight as a journalist, and one of the first things they teach you about journalism-ing is to make sure you see things from both sides of the story, produce the facts, then let the facts speak for themselves.

      Even if your coach didn’t provide an explanation, I would have figured this out anyway. But the explanation he did provide was exactly what was needed to be said for the pieces to come together for me so quickly. So he deserves a lot of credit for finding the right words, and trying to take one for the team. You’re lucky to have someone like that.

  • daze xm

    Following the twitters for the final, I saw more than one person moaning about what a “blowout” the game was, how that’s not fun to watch, etc etc. If you think that was bad, twitterverse, imagine what the gotham/dutchland game would’ve looked like. Another instance of derby not being able to have it both ways. I stand with dutchland in their decision, and thank you, WindyMan, for spelling this out for everyone.

    • I can only spell it out. The ones that will understand are the ones that know how to read.

      So if you still hear people blaming Dutchland…

    • Blue Scream of Death

      My thoughts exactly. Once the Dutchland/Gotham score got to 200-2, who was going to still be sitting there watching anyway? People at home would be watching something else on TV until the next game, and people at the venue would be going to get food or shopping. It wouldn’t have been fair to the fans if they HAD played, because they would have been bored to death. I stopped paying attention to the Philly/Gotham game halfway through because it was boring.

  • Ali Shonak

    I won’t pretend that there might have been a Gotham upset, or that any team necessarily learns anything from a major beating, but I’ll be damned if the Bad News Bears taking on the New York Yankees wouldn’t be a kick-ass experience for the sport, the girls who look up to roller derby and are inspired by it, the skaters and….

    Damn. I knew I forgot someone. Let’s see. Empty pockets. Nothing on the news. No rink time. hmm

    Where do we get the money and publicity and press to pay our bills and keep skating?

    Nike Endorsement? Nope. Seven-figure salary? Nope. WFTDA stipend? Hmmm

    Who pays for this sh*t?

    OH YEAH. THE FANS!

    This has been said more eloquently elsewhere, but it’s not FOR THE SKATER, if that means that the skater can choose to drop in a game of Stratego instead of skating. It’s FOR THE SKATER who plays ROLLER DERBY to make THE FANS happy!

    It’s not even BY THE SKATER. Particularly here. Ask yourself: who is speaking on behalf of the league?

    I have no doubt these skaters have heart, soul, and athleticism born of hours of sweat, labor, and pain. And they’ve earned the right to play.

    And they can, legally, forfeit a game. But just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right:

    It was once legal for women to be unable to vote.

    Who am I to criticize this team? Just a C-team pariah who sat and watched helplessly as her league splintered and crashed because a few very important people forgot what this was really about.

    Ditat Derby!

    — Ali Shonak

    • This has been said more eloquently elsewhere, but it’s not FOR THE SKATER, if that means that the skater can choose to drop in a game of Stratego instead of skating. It’s FOR THE SKATER who plays ROLLER DERBY to make THE FANS happy!

      If a team or teams (skaters) choose to refuse to move off the line, and a jam start is delayed for periods of 15 seconds or more, or a minute or more, or even a full two minutes, that’s being done for the fans, and to make the fans happy? Because it seems that I’ve been hearing the fans chant things like “skate!” and “play roller derby!” and the ever-popular “boooo!” every time a team or teams uses that strategy.

      So why aren’t the skaters listening to the fans? Maybe because all they can’t hear them over a double-standard?

      But just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right: It was once legal for women to be unable to vote.

      Right. Two things righted that wrong: A change in attitude, and a change in the rules.

      By no coincidence, these are exactly the same two things that roller derby needs right about now.

    • Mr Is

      If it were an exhibition game, or a game that the leagues had organized on their own terms, sure. But real life isn’t a Disney movie, and if the Bad News Bears faced down the Yankees in the world series, they’d get obliterated. There was never going to be a heart warming slow motion montage with the kid from Rookie of the Year “floating” the last pitch over the plate, grinning at his mom and winning the game. That’s Hollywood. What would’ve happened, for realsies, is Dutchland would’ve had their asses unceremoniously handed to them on a platter, much like Gotham did to Steel City, with no hope of even a pity stomping. (Say, 200 points instead of 400.)

      Players would have been injured (as we saw during the scrimmages, the track turned out to be unsafe — imagine if that had happened during a game.), and the game would have sucked. Why? Because EVERYONE HATES A BLOWOUT. The players hate it. I’m pretty sure the refs hate it. But y’know who else hates it? Like, REALLY hates it? THE FANS. There’s no excitement in a thorough stomping, no sportsmanship, no joy. Watching the game over the feed, following along in the chatrooms, the worst part of the whole weekend was watching Gotham (and I’m not slamming Gotham, they’re phenomenal) trounce their competition.

      Dutchland got stuck between a rock and a hard place, as WM points out, shitty decision 1 or shitty decision 2. That a team like Dutchland (who are by no means bad, but are also not nearly at the level of Gotham – WM’s comparison of HS vs NFL is spot on) is an issue with the rankings system, not Dutchland’s integrity or their respect for this sport. Such a decision was inevitable under the current system, really, and the rate at which different teams are progressing, and something like this had to happen sooner or later.

      If THE FANS are going to piss and moan that they missed one bout over the course of the weekend, to the integrity of the sport, the skaters, and their respective leagues, perhaps that’s THE FANS problem, not Dutchland’s. Furthermore, if you can find me A FAN that paid for a physical ticket, OR the HD feed, or even just sat at the free feed FOR THE ENTIRETY OF THE WEEKEND and didn’t miss a SINGLE SOLITARY BOUT (thus getting their entire money’s worth, as your post would imply), please send them my way. I’d like to learn their specific method of bladder control.

  • Ali Shonak

    If you’re scared of getting hurt, don’t play.

    If you’re going to a tournament where you know who is playing and that there’s a decent chance you’re going to play them, showing up means you’re going to play.

    But I think my “Bad News Bears” analogy is a little misleading. The Dutchland Rollers are a professional derby team, not a bunch of hack weaklings. That they are statistically outmatched by another team doesn’t imply they are unable to play and play safely.

    The other bit about my analogy is, as you pointed out, the “Hollywood win.” Dutchland doesn’t have to win or place. They just have to show. And demonstrate an important principle of life. Even when you know you aren’t going to win, and that you’re going to get beat, bad, keep your damned head up and *play to win*

    Don’t bag it for the sake of achieving an artificial number like a “ranking,” whose determination is rather arbitrary, whose value is rather meaningless to so many, and whose achievement in the face of “playing it safe” pales in comparison to the lesson in endurance and struggle.

    I agree this requires a systematic change – but the way to change it isn’t to use a rule to sidestep it and achieve the system’s abstract notion of value.

    The way to change it is to jump in – take on the big team, treasure every single point, whip, lead, block (hey – there goes Suzy! Did I do that???) and THEN say

    “Hey- your system sucks, But we represented, bitches!”

    And as far as the fans go – my point clearly wasn’t that you do every single thing to please them – it’s that you give them a game. And I don’t care if Dutchland scored zero points, those fans would see those fourteen skaters fighting their hearts out – because derby’s like that – and DUTCHLAND is like that – and that would be worth watching.

    • Mr Is

      Item: “Professional”. Dutchland is not professional. Gotham is not professional. Until someone with more money than anyone currently interested in roller derby has sits down, writes a check, and contractually obligates these players to be on the track, no one in this sport is “professional.” As such, actions that occur with frequency at the amateur level will continue to occur in roller derby. And should. Because we are not pros. When that changes, we can have a different discussion.

      Systematic change: The BEST way to inact systematic change is to BREAK THE SYSTEM. All the arguing about slow starts that people have had this weekend are about the exact same thing – the system is broken. Slow starts SUCK. We never would have known that this was an aspect of the game that was broken until we SAW IT IN ACTION. Ditto for this instance of rankings, and the forfeit that came with it. If Dutchland had played, then afterward said “Whew, we’re pooped. Can we change that?” NO ONE would take them, or the real issue at hand, seriously. They’d accuse Dutchland, or any other team, of being sissies, of not appreciating the “chance” to play an elite team, to learn, blah blah blah.

      Instead, Dutchland forfeited in a high-level tournament. Which STINKS. If you think Dutchland, or any of the players, woke up and went “Man, y’know what’s gonna be fun? And indicative of how much I/we love this sport? FORFEITING.” you’re wrong. But it’s drawing much needed attention to what is clearly a disparity in how rankings are set up, how tournament play is organized, and in how WFTDA derby is organized. No one would be having this discussion if Dutchland just got blown out in that seed. We’d be skipping on, status quo, thinking that all is right in the organization system, when it clearly isn’t.

      And to your final point, that it still would’ve been fun for the fans – No. No it wouldn’t’ve. As WM has pointed out here and in previous posts, there is NO JOY in watching a team get trounced. No one would have said, “Golly, Dutchland sure blew it missing that goat, good for them for trying!” or “Oh man, did you SEE how many times Bonnie Thunders lapped Skid Ho? She still hasn’t broken through! That’s some great derby, right there. All that heart.” Watching a team get annihilated IS NOT FUN. It isn’t a good game, it isn’t even good sportsmanship. Anyone who whines that they still wished that they’d seen it, thinks it still would have been fun, a learning experience, etc – that’s easy enough to say in the land of Wish It Had Been. In the land of reality, reactions would be much more akin to what I saw watching Gotham play Steel City. “Ouch.” “Blowouts stink.” “This is boring.” etc. Which are pretty standard reactions when I listen to people watching derby (or any sport – but especially derby, because there is SO MUCH OF IT right now, in or out of tournament play) that is clearly between teams of extremely varying ability.

      There are far larger questions lurking beneath this discussion — how more evenly matched teams can play each other with greater frequency, how WFTDA can be the governing body of both elite an non-elite derby, how do we decide who is which, etc (and I’m not prepared to discuss ANY of those, for the record. Slippery slope.) but my basic point remains intact: Dutchland made a decision in their own best interest, legally within the rules as they currently stand. It was a difficult decision to make. I’m proud of them for making it.

  • Guest

    I would not compare Dutchland nor any other “Non Gotham” team in the East Region to a High school team. Why even have a tournament, Gotham should just be given the title every year if it is as predetermined as you say it is.

    • Mr Is

      Honestly? With Gotham at their current level (FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE) and everyone else at theirs (damn good, still not Gotham), you may as well. No one following this sport (and I dare you to check the brackets) was under any impression other than Gotham would take 1E, all the other teams were battling for 2 and 3.

      This isn’t a slam on other derby teams. It’s simply a fact. Gotham is currently elite. Pick whatever reasons you want for it. Whatever is in the water that makes NY pizza dough so tasty, maybe. The other teams in the Eastern region simply aren’t on that level yet. Some are close. (CC, Philly, Montreal is an up and coming force.) Is it fair to keep pitting Gotham’s wrecking ball up against inferior teams in tournament play? I watched Easterns on edge for the 2-6 spots, yawning through Gotham bouts. But I am OH MY GOD excited to watch them play at nationals, against teams that will give them a run for their money. Rocky. Denver. Oly.

      The current system is functional, but I wouldn’t call it exciting, or fair. (To Gotham, who isn’t being challenged, or to the other teams, who keep getting annihilated.) Do I have a better idea in mind? Nope. I just know that at the current rate of skill/development among other leagues in the Eastern division (as it stands), all things being equal (as other teams improve at the current rate of improvement… so will Gotham), Gotham will continue to dominate. Maybe all we need is a tide change, for some experienced players to retire and for some new players on others teams to hit their stride. Even the Yankees have lost a few seasons, right?

  • betty clocker

    As a retired skater and founding member of the Dutchland Derby Rollers, I was quite saddened by this entire situation. I remember the days of fighting to find a place to skate, finding sponsors, finding places to host our board of directors’ meetings, and finding the support of our community (this is obviously an extremely condensed list). We fought hard for support… and one of our greatest supporters was Gotham. The derby love that we discovered from Gotham (and other established leagues) was overwhelming… it gave us the gusto to keep fighting for what we loved and in turn allowed us to support our own community. To know where we began, with only the love of our fellow skaters, and to see the utter hate directed toward the league from our very own derby community was (to say the least) extremely disappointing. Strong women standing up, giving all we have in support of our community is what roller derby is all about. I could go on forever about what derby stands for and the countless number of things derby has provided for women and communities around the world… but I know I don’t have to. I beg, please, for the derby community to step back, take a deep breath and remember what we are all about. We fight hard for “outsiders” to support us… we shouldn’t have to fight for support from ourselves. Stand strong, as all roller derby women do, be proud of our accomplishments, and do not bring each other down. It is the last thing we need.
    Derby love to all,
    Betty Clocker, one very proud founding member of the Dutchland Derby Rollers.

    • wftdaisbroken

      it was especially nice and super sportswomanly to hear certain black and red clad skaters telling montreal to kill dutchland.. and a certain bearded man who dresses like jimminy cricket on crack telling the girls in neon to break their ribs. way to stay classy roller derby. i have completely lost all respect for these individuals.

  • Jane

    On the spectator note, I kept saying all weekend – wow, each one of these bouts except TWO were decided in the first 20 minutes. I was only sitting there through each one b/c i was supporting my friends who were playing. Otherwise, I was like – um, i could have stopped watching after the first half. Really, a lot of them were boring. It was fun to cheer for the underdog and it was great to see Gotham strut a little bit of their stuff but there wasn’t enough competition. I had way more fun watching Nationals in Philly. It’s not that I don’t want to watch all these great women, but YES, the bouts were often not set up to be challenging in a way that made the play entertaining, i.e. teams in proximity of ability (granted, I know that is a hard thing to rectify when teams constantly change and REGIONALLY, there is only so much matching up you can do). Honestly, it doesn’t matter how good a team is, if the score is close which means the teams are “well matched”, the bout is worth watching.

  • myron

    I know! Why doesn’t EVERY team who has to play Gotham in a tournament forfeit their games! Why even bother! They’re only going to lose anyway.

    What utter horseshit. You don’t punish the elite team for being elite. What Gotham has achieved is not unique, is not impossible. It is the responsibility of every other squad, if they want to compete at a tournament and qualify for regionals, to aim to get to that level, or close to it, or pass it. If you’d rather splinter off into a lower tier where you can claim that you’ve won the B division, that’s your right. But complaining that someone else is so much better than you, and packing up your skates is an insult to Gotham, and insult to their fans and fans of the sport, and everyone who pours their hearts and souls into it – and an insult to the teams on the bubble in the East who would’ve sold a kidney to play Gotham at Nightmare on 95.

    The sport is at a crossroads right now, as we have a handful of elite teams that are far ahead of everyone else. The question is, do we peel them off into a smaller, elite – with a higher-cost travel schedule, since they’ll be spread across North America, not within potential driving distance – and let everyone else play in a less-competitive league so it’s not so hard on everyone? Is that what people really want? It takes a lot of work to get to be that good to make it to Championships. If you’re not prepared to do it, that’s your business. But don’t blame it on the game, don’t blame it on WFTDA, don’t blame it on Gotham, don’t blame it on how tournaments work – Dutchland gets the blame for this.

    • You don’t punish the elite team for being elite.

      So it’s okay to punish the non-elite team for not being elite?

      But complaining that someone else is so much better than you

      I’m sorry, I must have missed the comment made by Dutchland where they complained. Could you cite your source? Because I believe the facts I’ve come across show that Dutchland willfully acknowledged how much better Gotham was than they were. An acknowledgment or an understanding of a fact, is not a complaint.

      The sport is at a crossroads right now, as we have a handful of elite teams that are far ahead of everyone else. The question is, do we peel them off into a smaller, elite…and let everyone else play in a less-competitive league so it’s not so hard on everyone?

      You are 100% correct about derby reaching a crossroads. But you speak as if the only options are one way or the other way. This is a scenario where it actually can be had both ways.

      In Europe, specifically England, they have a double-pronged system for football (soccer) that lets the elite play the elite, the mid-packers play the mid-packers, and the elite play the mid-packers.

      The first prong is the English football league system. Actually, it’s not really a prong, but more of the handle from which all the prongs branch off of. English soccer is divided into 23 “levels,” and on each of these levels there are any and all kinds of soccer leagues ranging from the amateur to the professional.

      So there could be one league with three divisions at level 8, 9, and 10 of the ladder (step 1 being the Premier League at the top). The players in these leagues are certainly good and much better than the average footballer. But compared to those at the top of the ladder, they are not that good at all. Still, you’ll get teams that start to excel in the lower divisions, and start overpowering the competition on their level.

      It’s not fair for the bad teams that they have to keep playing the good team, and it’s not fair to the good team that they have to keep playing the bad teams, because then you start being counter-productive. So if the good team wants better competition, they can move up to the next level and get it. And it also works in reverse: If the bad team can’t stay competitive with the good teams, they get knocked down a level where they can have more fair competition and have a chance to re-promote themselves to try again.

      But there’s still a fair opportunity for the bad team to play the good team, even if they’re not in the same division. That’s where the FA Cup comes in. This is a all-in knock out tournament where the top 11 levels can try to win it. So now those teams at levels 8, 9, and 10 are in the same competition as those at level 1 (the Premier League), level 2 (the championship), level 3 (league one), level 4 (league two) and so forth. Something in the neighborhood of 600 teams apply for entry into this tournament, which is about as one-size-fits-all as it gets.

      Though it goes without saying that the lower level leagues have zero chance to win it all, that’s not the point of the competition. The idea is for lower leagues to gain exposure should they do well, which can help gain revenue for their club. They do that by facing increasingly harder competition. So the tadpoles start playing the minnows, then the minnows start playing the salmon, then the salmon start playing the grizzly bears, then the grizzly bears start playing the hunters in the orange vests with the 12-gauge shotguns.

      So theoretically, it’s possible for a tadpole to get through all of that, beat all of the other teams in the land, and win the FA Cup. But it’s not going to happen. So the best they can hope for is to poke the minnows (or maybe even the salmon) in the eye. Because why would the hunters waste their ammo on anything else but the bears? Shooting fish in a barrel is easy, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to do it unless they have to.

      Anyway, you can have a hybrid or parallel-track system in roller derby where teams can play for something meaningful within their division and have an opportunity to move up to a tougher division when they are ready for it (not when someone tells them to)….but still allow the bravest minnows the opportunity to try and choke the hunter to death by swimming down his throat.

      …with a higher-cost travel schedule, since they’ll be spread across North America, not within potential driving distance…

      I’m not oblivious to the ramifications a “national” division would have. But you shouldn’t be ignorant of the benefits, either.

      If people knew a game would feature the top teams of a league, they would knew there would be little or no chance of a blowout. (Blowouts are boring to people with no interest in the game. Deal with it.) So knowing the game would be competitive they’d probably be more likely to go see it–and pay money to see it. If the teams playing are really good, you’d get more people to see it, and/or people paying more to see it.

      Suddenly–oh hey!–there’s all this extra money to help fund national travel! Teams are kind of already doing this on the local level, and (relatively) smaller teams like Detroit or Cincinnati didn’t seem to have a problem flying across the country to play Oly, Rat, and Rose over the course of one weekend.

      But really, to say that the top WFTDA teams would be burdened by having to travel cross-country once or twice a year isn’t a strong argument when the WFTDA themselves placed this same burden on the top teams of the East region by (temporarily) putting London in the same “region” as teams in a country as far away from the east coast as the east coast is from the west coast. If Charm, Steel, and Montreal could afford to go to the UK for a weekend, they’d be able to afford flying coach to the PacNW at least once a year much more easily.

      Not to suggest that teams should do this. The WFTDA will decide what’s best for their leagues. But to immediately dismiss the possibility is silly, even if it probably wouldn’t be realized until years and years down the road, if at all.

    • I agree with Myron here. The argument made in this article is specious at best. Yes, we all knew that it would be a Gotham blowout. Yes, we all knew that Gotham would win the title. But if we go by this logic, then why bother playing? Every team should have just forfeited their bout against Gotham and conceded the title to them. But that didn’t happen. All the other teams showed up and played.

      Yes, WFTDA probably needs to figure out a way to re-align their divisions so that the talent disparity is not so pronounced, but right now, derby isn’t set up that way. So, until that happens, play the games as planned or decline the invitation to the tournament. It’s not like they couldn’t figure out the brackets and realize that there was a good chance (50-50) that they would end up playing Gotham. Dutchland isn’t the first team to go up against an opponent that far out-classed them at Regionals — in fact, those sorts of bouts happen routinely. But you haven’t seen any of those other teams bow out. To continue one of the analogies posted above — maybe don’t play your best players to keep them from getting hurt, but still play the game.

      Then there are also the issues of the obligation to the fans and people who payed money to watch the bout that the forfeit is a slap in the face to.

      I’m sorry to the Dutchland girls, but no excuse is going to change my feeling that this was a poor decision that will mar their organization with a much larger and long-lasting black eye than any single blow-out bout will …

  • The East’s stable of leagues is a pretty well-understood group. As soon as Dutchland got the invite they knew they were going to be playing Gotham. And that Gotham was not a team they could hope to beat. I agree with you so far.

    The unsporting choice they made was in coming to the tournament at all, with the intention of forfeiting that game. Doing that deprived Maine of a chance to play Gotham, as I’m sure they would have loved to do. Or Dominion, who I hear was the league next down and would have come to the playoffs if any team had bowed out. THOSE are the people Dutchland should be apologizing to. Those are the people who didn’t get a fair deal because Dutchland decided (probably before even leaving Lancaster) that they were not worth Gotham’s time.

    Bringing up the track situation is a straw man. Whatever team played would have had to deal with that. I wasn’t there so I don’t know how bad it was or if they could have limped it through the rest of the day. But I know that my track schedule for Uproar included enough time to tear down the whole floor and start over every night/morning. I didn’t have to do that, and it would have been hell, but it was in the schedule, and we were prepared to do it. Track issues are something we all have to deal with. Lauding Dutchland for inadvertently helping Charm’s track crew out of a tight spot is ludicrous.

    • As soon as Dutchland got the invite they knew they were going to be playing Gotham.

      Actually, as soon as Dutchland got the invite, they knew they were playing Maine in the opening round. There was never a guarantee that they were going to win that game and then move on to play Gotham (unless you have some inside info that I don’t), so that means they could have in fact played Boston (or Charm) in their second game instead. Because in derby, you know, “anything can happen.”

      The unsporting choice they made was in coming to the tournament at all, with the intention of forfeiting that game.

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Where’s your evidence that Dutchland was planning to do this, for weeks on end? Because these United States of America allow for the accused to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. And based on the evidence of there being “convincing” going on within Dutchland in the hours between their Maine game and their Gotham forfeit, that means “their intention to forfeit” was not planned from the start.

      Why else would have people needed to do some convincing? Was there a minority who wanted to forfeit trying to convince the majority to not play? Was there a minority who wanted to play trying to convince the majority not to forfeit? Was there a majority trying to reach a unanimous decision trying to convince the minority to join them either way?

      Would that have happened had the entirety of Dutchland had pre-planned to forfeit against Gotham before they even played Maine? Or maybe someone brought it up after they were tired and banged up after the Maine game and thought, “hey, the rules allow this as an option…”

      Not enough evidence to convict. Unless you know something concrete about Dutchland’s intentions that I don’t.

    • DC was the next league down. They were co-hosting the event, so you KNOW they wanted in.

    • Lee: I know they wanted in, too. In fact, I even wrote a post stating their case for inclusion. They had a good one. But you can’t fit 11 into 10. Still, I don’t see how Dutchland’s decision to skip a blowout instead of play a blowout automatically justifies Dutchland dropping three rankings spots and asking DC to come instead.

      Speaking of that, when the Q1 2012 rankings come out and Dutchland isn’t where they’re supposed to be based strictly on their on-track results and performance, that’s going to say a hell of a lot more about the voting members of the WFTDA than it will about Dutchland.

    • Rebeca

      Dominion was not next in line.
      Winning the tournament was not our goal. That would have been nearly impossible. As seen by the extreme beatings that Gotham handed everyone else that they played. So why go to the tournament? Why bother if we were just going to forfeit and take that chance away from another league that would’ve given random body parts to play Gotham? If you understand how the rankings work and how the tournament is structured it makes a lot more sense. Dutchland came in as #8 in the east. We played #10 and won. (yay! One more game than we won last year!!!!). Our next scheduled game was Gotham at 4 the same day. Ok. So here we are. We know we are going to lose. But that doesn’t mean we are outofthe tournament!! After we (inevitably) lose to Gotham, we still have a chance to finish as high as 5th place. So you see, that game had absolutely nothing to offer us but a loss. Sure we lost to Montreal and Boston, both very talented teams, but we had a much better chance of beating either of those teams (Boston only won by about 40 at ece and we lost to Montreal this year by only 100 instead of the 250 they. beat us by last year at regionals) than we had of beating gotham. No one was scared to play, infact, I am pretty sure that we all would have been very excited to play gotham if we did not decide to focus our energy on our more attainable goals. As for a learning experience, we learned plenty from all three of our bouts this weekend and we will put that knowledge to good use. Who knows, maybe next year we will be ready to deliver that Cinderella story. Or at least start ourselves higher up in the rankings so we don’t have to play Gotham in the second round. We will be fighting for it!!

      Milk Ma

    • Rebeca

      Oops sorry-
      That was supposed to say

      Milk Maiden
      Dutchland Derby Rollers

    • “There was never a guarantee that they were going to win that game and then move on to play Gotham (unless you have some inside info that I don’t), so that means they could have in fact played Boston (or Charm) in their second game instead. Because in derby, you know, ‘anything can happen.’

      As I said, the East’s top leagues have not really changed that much recently, and the brackets are always the same. Gotham or Philly; any 7-8-9-10 seeded team was going to face one of those two juggernauts in their second bout. For purposes of this argument, from the standpoint of any of the bottom four, they are the same: Unbeatable powerhouses.

      By choosing to forfeit their second bout–whenever they decided to do it (and I have no evidence as to when that decision was made. Nor do you, Windyman. You were not there any more than I was)–but play the first bout, they put their own desires above those of the team they did face in their first bout. Which is their right. And the desires of the 11th-ranked team, whoever they were. And the desires of Gotham.

      Milk Maiden says:
      “Ok. So here we are. We know we are going to lose. But that doesn’t mean we are out of the tournament!! After we (inevitably) lose to Gotham, we still have a chance to finish as high as 5th place. So you see, that game had absolutely nothing to offer us but a loss.”
      But then why not play? Is derby nothing but wins and losses? Not about actually playing the game? By choosing to look at it in those terms, you are denying the actual point of the whole endeavor: To play roller derby.

      Everyone else was there to play roller derby. Yes, they all wanted to win the tournament or at least get in the top 3 and go to the championships or anyway place as high as they could. But at the root of it, they were all there to play roller derby.

  • I’m in support of Dutchland 100 percent. The WFTDA might actually take notice and work to solve the problem now because of their bravery. It had to be a hard decision. I have never thought those types of games were good for the sport. They broke no rules and no bones, and a big issue is now in the spotlight. I don’t know if they meant to start a revolution, but I hope it works.

  • Shenita Stretcher

    In response to the comment:
    What’s the point of the Gotham pros wasting their time against the likes of high school teams like Philly (267-34; 248-97), Montreal (257-37), Steel City (271-34; 404-30), Boston (260-24) or Dutchland (1000-0, more like it), when everyone would much rather see them play Rocky Mountain, or Oly, Denver, or Windy City, or Kansas City on a regular basis, some of the few teams that have a realistic chance of actually putting on a competitive and complete game against them?

    I would like to add:
    Philly is not a “high school team” especially when you compare them to Rocky, Oly, Denver, windy or Kansas city. Philly has beaten three of those teams(Denver, Windy(more than once) and Kansas(more than once) and has had very close match ups amongst Oly and Rocky.

    You proved yourself wrong in this statement above.You can ABSOLUTELY learn from a beating!
    Check out the first score of Philly/Gotham in ECDX 2011. You said it above- 267-34
    A loss by 233 points
    Next look at this past weekends champ bout, You also said it above- 248-97
    A loss by 151 points

    That looks like improvement to me! Even the littlest improvement shows off Philly’s hard work and WILLINGNESS to learn!

    The proof is in your own words.
    Philly learned a lot from the Gotham loss at ECDX and look at our progress in a couple months. They only taught us to be stronger against them and other leagues.

    • Shenita, I’ll admit it was a bit harsh to lump you in the same group as everyone else that Gotham blew out, even though they blew you out (twice) all the same. You girls definitely have a better team than everyone underneath you, and obviously your recent history with Charm City puts you at around the same level as them.

      But here’s the thing, the way I see it. Yeah, you only lost to Gotham by 155 this time around. But DNN’s recap pointed out that “nearly 30 percent of Philly’s point total” was scored during the last jam while Gotham was being un-Gotham like and started to get penalties left and right. So I’m not really impressed that four Philly blockers overwhelmed two Gotham blockers during (sports term) garbage time, making the final score appear a lot closer than it really was.

      Even being generous, it wasn’t even close. This isn’t a knock on you or your team (Philly). I love you girls—when you’re not making me slam my head against a wall repeatedly due to your jam start tactics. (But that’s for another post on another day.) But if you’re going to use derby math to prove your case, here’s some to prove mine.

      In June, Philly beat DC, the (now) #11 team in the east by 251.
      This year, on (adjusted in-my-opinion) average, Gotham is better than Philly by 200 points.

      Basically, the gap between #2 Philly and and the regional teams in the #7-11 ranking zone is the same as the gap between #1 Gotham and #2 Philly. So do you blame me for thinking that this year, at this time, at this tournament, Gotham had no chance of being taken down by you, or Charm, or Dutchland, or anyone? Because however you regard Carolina or Maine or DC, as far as them putting up a closely matched game against you, it could be the same way that Gotham has been thinking about you lately, for whatever that’s worth.

      And not to continue to harp on about this, but if you’re saying that a gain of a decent amount of points constitutes and improvement, and you feel that it is, that’s great. But I also remember the one and only time you beat Gotham this time two years ago. I’m sure you remember being near the bottom of that pile of skaters at the end of the game as much as I remember watching it happen.

      That means two years ago, you and Gotham were on the level. Now, you’re 200 points behind them. Did you get worse since then? Because if you’re saying you’ve also improved since you upset them, what does that say about how much more and more quickly Gotham has improved in the same time period? And I don’t seem to remember Charm City nipping at your heels back then, either.

      But really, the one thing I saw during the regional final that made me cement my opinion, points be damned, was that during one jam two Gotham blockers were holding back the advances of four Philly blockers AND the jammer for a good lap and a half or two laps. They were down 2-against-5, and they still showed their effectiveness in neutralizing your entire team for longer than seemingly is humanly possible. That was without question the most impressive and incredible thing I saw all weekend. That short sequence tells me loads more about Gotham’s abilities than scoring 30 points in a Sunday afternoon skate against a vaporized pack tells me about yours.

      You’re still a top-ten(ish) team on the national scale, though. That’s something you should be hella proud of. But until you can beat Gotham, or Rocky, or Oly, then you’re still going to be on derby’s “second tier,” or at least you will be in my opinion. If that bothers you, I won’t apologize. But there’s no better way to shut me up than to go out there and whup some ass on the track.

      And there’s no better time or place then Denver in November to do it!

    • who won Wicked Wheels Of The East (2009 eastern regionals), Shenita?

  • Tyler

    I’m pretty sure I’ve read this somewhere before and I think it applies here. A lot of valid points here for both sides. Until the WFTDA figures out what to do about this, SHUT UP AND SKATE.

  • Shenita Stretcher

    I do understand Dutchland’s decision. I get it but there is so much to learn by playing these teams. That is all I wanted to prove.

  • Pony GIrl

    Was Gotham going to beat Dutchland? Most assuredly.
    Was it a good strategy to avoid the game altogether? Probably.

    Do I think it was a crappy decision? Unquestionably, and here is why – tournaments are expensive as hell to run. Having to pay for staffing (not all venue staff are volunteers), a lot of venues charge by the hour, and there are other costs that DC and Baltimore most likely incurred during the time Dutchland chose not to play.

    Yes, WFTDA needs to restructure, yes it sucks to have to get your ass handed to you by a better team, but Dutchland knew that was a possibility coming in.

    Suburbia hosted Eastern regionals last year and had this situation come up then, I would have been furious. We had to staff the venue at union scale by the hour, plus pay for the space for the time.

    I don’t know the cost structure for this year’s tournament, but I think it was bad form on Dutchland’s part to agree to tournament and let the hosts incur costs on their behalf if they weren’t going to play.

    That is just bad form. Even if they were going to lose badly, even if it was a better decision strategically.

    Also, Even knowing it was going to be a loss, I was looking forward to watching V. Diva go up against the Gotham defense – she is amazing… hell despite it being a blow out, I loved watching the Gotham – Philly game and seeing how much heart those ladies had.

    Pony Girl
    Suburbia Roller Derby

  • My Two Cents

    Dutchland did what Dutchland believed was the best for Dutchland. And according to the rules, that is entirely allowed…

    …but how can Dutchland bemoan the flak they are getting for making a decision that was best for Dutchland but the worst for the fans and other teams? Dutchland is asking for respect and understanding, when no respect was given to those people who bought tickets or to those players who were set to play against them.

    I don’t doubt for a moment that the Dutchland skaters and management could be wonderful, hard-working, passionate people – and I mean that sincerely.

    Its just when Dutchland made a decision to think solely of their own team (which they admit to doing in this case), well… that’s selfish. Entirely within Dutchland’s right but still selfish.

    This is one sole act, but it was done on one of the biggest stages in the derby world. It shouldn’t define Dutchland as an organization, but as this is the thing that Dutchland is now known for most, I can’t help imagining this is going to follow the team around for some time – which is unfair, especially to the skaters who wanted to play (if there were any – I don’t know) and to the skaters who will take on the orange and brown going forward – who had nothing to do with this event.

    Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean its what you should do. Dutchland was entirely in their right to forfeit, but it is entirely within the rights of fans and skaters to think that it was done in very poor form.

    I would hope going forward that Dutchland nor any other team uses this tactic as it has ripple effects beyond just one team’s locker room.

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  • Fever

    Thoughtful and well written (I even had to quote you). http://livederbygirls.com/2011/09/19/dutchland-im-not-mad-at-you/

    The only disgrace in this whole “event” is the reaction from the derby community. Get over it, this was not a personal attack.

  • K

    I don’t think Dutchland has bemoaned anything. I thing they did what they did, made their statement(s) and moved on. Period. Windy Man condensed it all into a clear concise nutshell. Both good and bad. Everything else is just somebody’s opinion. All of which have been given over and over and over again. Suddenly everybody knows more about roller derby than the people who started it. There is room in the rules for some revisions . I’m sure all other sports went through similar incidents throughout the years. Either WFTDA will get it together and grow bigger or they won’t and the sport will implode into itself. Dutchland has survived six years by hard work, good business strategy, and keeping their shit together. Other teams from small towns have fallen apart because they didn’t do the same. But so many people never heard of them before. Because they don’t come from a major city? Have more noticeable uniforms? Aren’t flamboyant enough? Aren’t rude? Don’t skate dirty? Have always shown good sportmanship (until Friday in some peoples opinions)? Their coach doesn’t tell them to break their opponents ribs (you know who you are)? Boo their fellow skaters (you know who you are)? And even though they aren’t guilty of all the above everyone is now going to hate them and call them poor sports? Have at it! They are so much bigger than that. At least people have heard of them now.

  • Liane

    I would like to know how Dutchland explained their strategy to the family, friends and fans who donated their hard-earned money to get them to Baltimore. Was it something like “Yeah, we know you paid to get us here, but we thought we would rather not play”? I’m sure their supporters love Dutchland all the same. It’s just a shame they paid for their team to go and watch others play instead.

    The bout would have been an absolute blow-out. No question. But, as it has been said before, they could have learned so much from it. Did anyone see the RMRG vs. London bout? It was not entirely pretty, but ask anyone from London and they will tell you, as another up and coming league, that it was a valuable experience.
    How many times has Gotham beaten down Dutchland’s door, wanting a bout? How many times will it happen in the future? I bet the numbers will be exactly the same: zero. So, nothing has been, nor will be, learned from direct play with Gotham.

    Which brings up another issue: who exactly WILL be pounding on Dutchland’s door for a WFTDA sanctioned bout next year? I am interested to see how that works out for them.

    And lastly, WindyMan, our dear host for this round…Having watched your interaction on SecSE over the weekend, why am I not surprised you would make a long-winded argument for this really lame decision?
    I’m not saying you are completely without merit. I simply think that you enjoy playing the devil’s advocate.

    • K

      And there you have it Liane. They have already been told by quite a few girls that they won’t be shunned (thats’s funny if you live in Amish country) by their leagues.

  • DWC

    P.S. When Gotham beat Steel City by 400 points… that last jam, Hurricane Heather of Steel City was the lead jammer and didn’t call off the jam. She could have (should have), but she didn’t. So, Gotham scored over 400 points. I thought it was stupid of her and I don’t understand why she let it happen, other than not realizing where Gotham’s jammer was…

    • thanks for pointed THAT bout out, DWC. If it was SO good for Dutchland to forfeit, why shouldn’t Steel City have said to everybody “we can’t beat Gotham, we’ll rest too for the third place bout to go to Nationals”?

  • K

    What makes you think anyone “donated” anything to get the team to Baltimore? First off, it’s 90 minutes from Baltimore. Secondly, they are not children. They are grown women with jobs. For craps sake, it’s just gets more and more bizarre.

    • Liane

      So, all the players unequivocally paid their own way? None of them had any help or received any money from anyone to assist them with any of their expenses, which would include hotel stays, food, etc?

      They do not do any fundraising?

      Wow, Dutchland is the first league I have ever heard of that doesn’t take any money from anyone.

      Being on the fundraising committee for my league, I would love to know how they do it.

    • K

      Why don’t you go to their website http://dutchlandrollers.com/ and read all about that? And isn’t that just a hypothetical question? Is that any business of yours or anybody elses? What team do you skate for Liane?

    • I’m beginning to wonder if money is the real driver behind all of this negativity.

      Because that wouldn’t be anything new about money.

    • K

      I think that has a whole lot to do with it Windy. Too many comments like “who is going to reimburse Gotham, the fans, Charm and DC. Etc. And honestly I can see their point. But, I think the key word in all of this is “professional”. If the skaters ever get paid to skate, there may be an answer to that question. Buthttp://dutchlandrollers.com/ they don’t. Therefore, the answer to that question is “no one”. I guess that is the price you pay (no pun intended) for following an amateur sport.

  • Shenita Stretcher

    Windyman, In response to this comment:
    “do you blame me for thinking that this year, at this time, at this tournament, Gotham had no chance of being taken down by you, or Charm, or Dutchland, or anyone?”

    I do not blame you at ALL for your opinion. I think I may agree at some level. The point I was trying to make was improvement can be made by playing/losing to a “1st tier” level team. Watching the game from our bench I saw the improvement. We know what we needed to fix after playing them at ECDX. We worked on those particular things and I saw that improvement on the track.

    There were also many jammer box trips, a good majority made by yours truly, that turned into huge jams for Gotham. I think this was our huge downfall against Gotham, among others. That last jam was not the only good jam or us. We are already are learning from our mistakes and we are excited to see those results on the track in Denver. Did you see us after that last jam? We weren’t defeated! It has only begun! Ok, Goldy had an amazing last jam and it was her birthday, we freaked out! We would have been proud with or without that huge power jam because we saw our improvement in the other jams.

    I don’t think Gotham is out of reach at all. They are INCREDIBLE, but to quote them, “If we(Gotham) are the beast of the east, Philly is a MONSTER. Yeah, we didn’t win but it felt like we won. We each saw our teammates use what we have learned since playing them at ECDX.

    The only thing I disagree with you on is that improvement CAN’T be made. Yeah, you can watch Bonnie, Suzy, Psycho, Deranged, Sassy, or Tannible do their thing from the stands or a live feed. It is not the same as having them juke or wiggle their way through or smash you to the ground.

    I don’t blame Dutchland and I really do think they are a group of fine athletes. Though I don’t necessarily agree with the decision, I will not BANISH them. I have known many of those ladies for a long time.

    Oh yeah, one more thing! You talk about Philly’s starts. Though we started the knees down out of play, Gotham invented the all down above the jammer line.

    I think you wrote a great article and I appreciate your opinion and agree with you on many things. ANYTHING can happen at ANY time.

    • Rebeca

      I actually agree with you, Shenita, that we could have learned a lot from playing Gotham. I learn something every time I put my skates on. I definitely learned a lot from playing Maine, Montreal, and Boston. We also totally learned a lot from scrimmaging Philly the weekend before regionals, especially about starts. It just wasn’t what this weekend was about for us. It was about finishing as well as we possibly thought we had a chance to do. And jeez o pete, people are making it sound like we didn’t play at all. I can promise you, three bouts in one weekend against three very tough (at least to us) teams is still a lot.
      Maiden
      DDR

  • Ophelia Melons

    This is a really great article about a really frustrating incident. I especially like that you ask your readers to put themselves in Dutchland’s skates.

    However, as a reader who HAS been in Dutchland’s skates, I have all the more reason to condemn their decision and feel totally comfortable having a new subject to heckle about this weekend at Western Regionals.

    I skate for the #11 WFTDA team in the west (Emerald City), undoubtedly the toughest WFTDA region, as the top 6 western teams are also in the top 8 DNN power rankings. We recently were given a non-sanctioned bout against Oly, who as you know are the #1 team in the world. Did we have a chance in hell of winning? Nope. But did we have an opportunity to challenge ourselves, learn directly from the experts and celebrate the small victories? Hell yes we did. Going in with the right attitude is everything. We love derby and will do anything to play the game we love at the highest possible level. And you know what? Every point we scored was the most difficult and rewarding point we have ever earned. Every block, ride out and wall was a small victory. We learned that any good 3-wall can stop even the best jammers in the world and, damn it, even an average blocker like myself can TAKE OUT Atomatrix if you’re in the right place at the right time. Our heads were held high, we had a great time and our team morale has never been more positive. We felt like winners. We came out of our game energized and smiling, despite a 268-30 final score. And we’ll forever be a better team for having played this game.

    Two more points:

    As a #11 team, having just missed out on the regional invite, how pissed are the DC Rollergirls about all this?

    I would also like to note that more injuries occur when you’re playing a LESS experienced team. If any injuries were likely, I’d fear more for Gotham than Dutchland.

    In conclusion, hate the haters, but Dutchland brought this completely on themselves. And you’ll be able to find me at Western Regionals holding up the “DON’T LOSE AS BAD AS DUTCHLAND” sign.

    • Ophelia, your situation gives me the perfect chance to get some personal insight into this mess from the skater perspective. Since I’ve never been in a tournament situation, and (unless you skated for a top WFTDA team before Emerald started playing last year) neither have you, let me ask you two questions:

      1) In June, you played Terminal City at home and beat them by 88 points, a similar margin of victory by Dutchland over Maine. You came into your Oly game a month removed from your last serious game against another opponent. From a “gas in the tank” perspective, can you recall how well and fit you and your team was in the hour or two after beating Terminal? And if there was no other way to avoid it, could you have gone into the Oly game just four hours later with that level of diminished fitness and still think the same way you did coming into Oly with a month “off?”

      2) Same question, but on the other side. If you went into that Oly game at less-than-100%, how “fresh” would you and your team have been going into another game (say, against Rat City) the next evening? What if that game would have moved you up a ranking spot or two (and into the playoffs) if you won it? Do you think you would have been as fresh and ready to go in that situation? Would you have traded a “learning experience” that you can get at anytime, for a once-in-a-year shot to bump yourself up there and then?

      I’m not trying to prove a point or to discredit anyone with these questions. I’m just curious to know what a skater would think when presented with a similar situation, because I don’t yet know what these feelings are like myself. I just want to get another opinion on the situation.

  • Ophelia Melons

    You asked for skaters to put themselves in this situation, well this is as close as it gets for this reader. Most skaters would KILL to have played in that game and participated fully in the letter and spirit of that tournament.

    My main point is that a game of that magnitude is extremely exhilarating. After having that Oly game under my belt, I felt like I could take on anyone and still made it interesting. The answers to both your questions come down to endurance, mental preparation and heart.

    Dutchland’s decision didn’t keep them fresh, it set them up for a public, emotional disaster. They’d have played a better mental game Saturday if they had the support of the crowd. Fan’s support the teams with heart. And heckle the shit out of teams who phone it in.

    • H

      Your situation had some comparable elements, but it wasn’t the same. Yours was unsanctioned and not part of tournament play. And if one of the three things “it comes down to” is endurance, you definitely had more recovery time before and after. Dutchland never said they don’t believe in playing against tough teams.

      Perhaps an inability to phone it in against Gotham on Friday…and knowing your own limits…is not a bad thing. I think I saw plenty of heart and mental toughness when those skaters took the track to face a booing crowd after getting trash talked all over the internet.

      I think you should reconsider the sign.

  • I was in the “WTF did Dutchland do that for, who remembers #5?” Camp, espcially after losing the games the “rested up” for. After talking to some of my skaters they were like, “Hellz Yeah I’d give my right arm to play Gotham”. But after reading your article on the subject I’m going to say you made me a believer or at least and “understander”. Like Slow starts and stop-derby it’s not the players per say, (its WFTDA) and the situations that allows, heck almost mandates things like this happening.

  • Misfit
    • Yes, it does. I don’t know if that article is supposed to be an argument in support of or against the position Dutchland found themselves in, but there are certainly parallels to the situation. I made one observation via a comment on DNN, but in light of what’s been going on at the Rugby World Cup, I’ve learned something extremely interesting, and decidedly relevant to Dutchland.

      There is no question that the talent disparity between the top of rugby and the middle (let alone the bottom) of rugby is virtually identical to that of WFTDA roller derby. However, with that disparity comes conflicting interests.

      Dutchland, as I explained, was only going to get four hours of rest between beating Maine and playing Gotham. That’s not a very fair amount of time to recover from a hard game. Neither is less than three hours, but that’s all the time Jet City got to “rest” between beating Tucson and playing Oly on the first day of the west region playoffs.

      I don’t care if a team (like Jet) is okay with playing two games in six hours. That’s fucking ridiculous. The fact is that these teams were essentially forced to play with short rest, all for the sake of scheduling the best games between the best teams at the best time: In the evening, where more people were free to pay money to see the games being played. In effect, the minnows of the derby world were being unfairly scheduled so that everyone else can get to the games that matter more, when in fact all games should matter equally to all involved parties.

      Dutchland didn’t want to play along, refusing to willingly put themselves into an unfair position. So they forfeited against Gotham.

      The situation is no different during the Rugby World Cup. The top teams get more days off between games (up to a week sometimes), just so they can be put on TV at more optimal times. Meanwhile, the little guys like the USA get three of four days off between matches. Still a fair amount when you go from game to game, but considering how draining one game of rugby is, playing four matches over a period of two weeks starts to add up.

      But here’s the thing that people making the rugby comparison to derby and the Dutchland incident don’t realize: The USA effectively “strategically forfeited” their game against Australia in the Rugby World Cup.

      Fourteen of the 15 starters for didn’t even dress for the game. The team that the USA sent out to play against Australia were the second team and a bunch of reserves to fill in the gaps. The USA knew that playing Australia, at that time, in that tournament, when they only get one chance in four years to put on a good overall tournament showing, was not the best idea. So they just dressed up some random Yanks and sent them out to slaughter, in lieu of officially forfeiting, which they were certainly not allowed to do per the rules.

      Their main starting lineup basically got a week to rest up before their last game, against Italy, a game the USA knew that they wanted to give their all. Because if they had beat Italy, they would have automatically qualified for the 2015 world cup. Though it didn’t happen (Italy won, 27-10), if you’re going to try and give yourself the best chance at winning, why the fuck would you ruin that chance by giving it your all in a meaningless and draining game that you were destined to lose?

      This will be my last word on the Dutchland incident. This exact same situation occurred in the second-most watched sporting event on the planet. It’s a problem with the state of the sport, not a problem with an individual team. Once an organization starts putting their interests first and at the expense of other people, that’s just not right. Whether it’s making the rugby minnows play undesirable schedules at the expense of giving more coverage to the big fish, or making the up-and-coming derby teams play games on virtually no rest just to put better games into tournament prime time, that’s a sign that the system needs to change, so no organization, or team, or player get blackballed just because other people think it’s in their selfish interests.

      As the Rat/Rocky game at Westerns demonstrated, there’s a whole hell of a lot of stuff broken with roller derby right now. Anyone who still insists on blaming Dutchland for what happened are so bloody ignorant of the real problems facing roller derby, they will be of no help in trying to do the right things to fix them. So I say, get those fuckers out of here. The people that want roller derby to grow for the right reasons will work out the kinks, improve the situation from top to bottom, and see that this game continues growing in the way it needs to, at the pace it needs to.

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