Rethinking the blowout
Posted on May 14, 2012
If you’ve played derby for any amount of time, you’ve probably been on both sides of a blowout. The high turnover in derby and leagues appearing and sprouting B- and C-teams and developing at different paces sometimes makes it difficult to gauge which teams will be a good match for yours, especially when you’re booking seasons months in advance. I think this challenge might be accentuated for younger, unranked leagues like mine, which was founded in 2008 and is now a WFTDA Apprentice. You might even get handled by a team one season, then cream them the next. It happened to us in the middle of 2011 when a team that bested us by about 50 points at their home venue in late 2010 became putty in our hands during a 317-27 blowout when they visited us the following season. My boyfriend at the time said my team looked like we were “beating a bag of kittens.” Apparently there had been some significant restructuring of the teams on their league between the two matches, resulting in quite a different team than we had previously faced. We didn’t want to showboat too much, but we took the opportunity to try leg assists, waitress whips and “jammer babies,” and all of our blockers took turns with the star panty. But in the end most of us I think felt bad for the other team, for our fans, for ourselves.
In the majority of my experience, being on either side of a blowout feels pretty crappy. Our last bout — an opener for Indy’s men’s league, Race City Rebels — turned out to be a 200+ point loser for us. But a weird thing happened. I had one of the most fun bouting experiences in my life. You know that sinking feeling you get after the first couple of jams and the other team starts to run away with it? You look around your bench and see the grim faces of your teammates, knowing their expressions reflect the rictus of panic and growing despair that’s frozen on your own face. Maybe tempers start to flare. Your fans grow quiet. You come back to the bench, shaking your head and cursing whatever dumb thing you did or didn’t do in the previous jam. It just isn’t fun anymore.
I decided at our last bout I was not going to have that experience. I committed to having fun (and I actually play derby much better in a good mood). Every jam was an opportunity to do something to benefit my team, to get our fans amped up, to show the other team that we weren’t going to go down without a fight. Bad feelings on the bench become a distraction. Weirdly, it kind of worked. I scored a few points, terrorized the opposing jammers, amused the crowd (…I think…) and I got a lot of compliments on how well I played despite the abysmal score (243-42). Moving forward, I want to view every minute of derby, every jam, as an opportunity — regardless of the points on the board. Each minute poses an occasion to score some points, improve my game, learn something and, most importantly, have a good time doing it.