Sport and Strategy

Re: “Game Changer: Slow packs? Backward skating? A new style of roller derby from the west has traditionally dominant teams—like the Windy City Rollers All-Stars—scrambling to catch up” by Ling Ma, October 21

Rocky Mountain Rollergirls would have loved the chance to address the characterization of Fight Club’s play style prior to publication. We were pretty surprised to read that the slow play was considered our style.

The style described was actually started in Albuquerque and was then picked up and finely tuned by the Denver Roller Dolls, whose surgical pack control to exploit power jams or to give a strong jammer a point advantage in the 2009 tournaments truly drew attention to the slow style. Teams simply did not know what to do about it, which allowed DRD to run away with the scores. For better or for worse, DRD won and won and won in 2009. DRD and RMRG share a city, but are different leagues.

DRD’s play in 2009 forced the country’s top teams to both learn it and learn how to counter it within the rule set. In 2010, those teams added it to the known strategies. The sheer skating talent and strategy that it takes is amazing. Packs began to speed up again.

RMRG can and does play at any speed, within the rules, and to the benefit of the team. It is nothing short of incredible to have a team like Fight Club that is so well trained and in tune with one another that they play at top speeds or a crawl as a cohesive and bruising unit. The wonderful thing about derby is the evolution of strategy and watching an ever more talented set of skaters who can play these amazing bouts.

I doubt anyone would characterize the RMRG-Oly bout at western regionals this year as slow play.

It may be called “western style,” but it isn’t RMRG style. But RMRG won’t dispense with a strategy that can be employed as needed.

Can’t wait to see what 2011 brings.

Thanks for your consideration. —PJ “Dangerous Leigh A’zon” Shields

It should be expected that any sport will evolve over time, based on a number of factors including the athletes’ skills, their strategies, and the ruling body’s tweaking of the rules. It may be difficult to strike the perfect balance between what is best for the sport at its purest, what keeps athletes coming back, and what keeps fans coming back, but it needs to be managed.

I recognize the slow derby strategy as a legitimate strategy. But I also recognize it as one that bores me as a fan. The exciting parts of the game for me is when the likes of Beth or Julia navigate their way through the pack and break free to take lead jammer status. The strategies and techniques used by blockers to keep a jammer from breaking through the pack are also exciting to watch. In two years of being a fan I can’t recall seeing any fighting. I rarely see any gratuitous hitting, and when I do its lack of grace immediately looks out of place in contrast to the skillful plays that dominate a bout.

I also enjoy the kitschy elements of the event—the derby names, the colorful characters announcing the bouts, the interaction with the fan base, and the cross-promotional support given to halftime acts. But those are secondary to watching the skillful and sometimes artful action on the track, and not enough to keep me coming back (and paying $7 for a beer).

If the fans’ view isn’t considered as important as the the skaters’ place in the sport, then there is no need to market the bouts, or attract sponsors, or sell tickets—and thus, no ability to stage the bouts at a venue such as the UIC Pavilion. Which may be okay to some skaters. Call it a club, and keep skating in rat-infested practice spaces.

The NBA has a 24-second clock as a result of teams’ strategies of slowing the game down, and not shooting. Fifty-five years later, the game still thrives with that rule change. Derby doesn’t need to be completely cerebal any more than it needs to be strictly physical. Find that balance. —bdeviller

Newsroom NIMBYs

Re: “It Didn’t Start With Sam: The story of the Tribune Company’s decline is more nuanced than what you read in the New York Times” by Michael Miner, October 21

Stories about media companies seem to always focus on the newsrooms and ignore the fact that journalists are just SOME of the many people who work in the company. . . .

To the Chicago Tribune reporters who write off the antics as nothing more than what may have gone on in earlier days, does that mean if they heard about these things being done by senior management at another powerful Chicago-based company (Sears, Aon, United, etc, etc) they wouldn’t report on it? What if Rich Daley or one of his lieutenants were caught boffing one of the underlings on the balcony or offering a few bucks to see a barmaid’s boobs? That’d be OK, right? —NotBen Homel

Content Without Connection

Re: “Plagued by Pitchfork: Tom Krell of blogosphere sensation How to Dress Well on his sudden, annoying popularity” by Miles Raymer, October 21

Contrary to what he appears to think, I think Krell’s background is extremely relevant to the music that he makes. There’s a lot of R&B jacking in “indie” music these days. People content to have no actual connection to the culture, but who also have no problem with brutally critiquing it while cribbing whatever elements they see fit.

To say that something is “devoid of content in any shape, way, or form” is not only insanely pretentious, but it’s patently absurd. But this is also the dude who ruthlessly shouts out Lil B on Twitter while typing in Ebonics? Where do you get the sense of entitlement to think you can pull off something like that? Oh wait, I think I remember.

I think there should be a lot more thoughtful criticism of shit like this. But then again, given that the only people in a position to give that criticism and have it matter are the ones letting the shit ride in the first place . . . Not that this is politics or anything. Actually, it totally is.

Paul Mooney’s “everybody wanna be a nigga but don’t nobody wanna be a nigga” is still one of the realest things I’ve ever heard. And it gets played out again and again. —Emaan