Flat track roller derby needs to have one starting whistle, not two. All the players, blockers and jammers, should start on the first whistle. Having two different starting whistles is unnecessary, confuses fans, and creates pointless complications.

There’s maybe nothing so unpopular in flat-track derby at the moment than the shenanigans that happen between the pack start whistle and the jammer start whistle–the horrible waiting room of roller derby. “Have a seat, fill out these forms, we’ll sort out our penalty situation, and call you later… Thank you… The Pack will see you now.”

The pack start whistle blows and—POW!—nothing happens. At best some blockers start shuffling their feet like a Flashdance maniac, or take a knee like they’re all gonna  propose en masse to the Inside Pack Ref (which is mostly illegal except in Utah). Jammers on the line shrug and look at the booing crowd, like, “Hey, it’s not my fault.”

All of this, mind you, before any actual roller derby happens. What everyone really wants is to watch and play roller derby. Most fans and even many players have no idea what to think about all the new twists and fuckery that happen everyday in the waiting room of roller derby. It’s not derby. It’s not strategy. It’s a loophole, and it’s a boring, mostly pointless, and litigious dead zone. We don’t need it.

I’m pleading with WFTDA reps everywhere: Please, DON’T ADD MORE RULES!

I’ve been around the track once or twice, so I can tell you with a fair amount confidence that more rules are probably looming on the horizon. I don’t know this for certain, but I know that whenever the derby peanut gallery starts belly-achin’ about “loopholes” like this, the rule set gets harder and harder to staple. How many jobs have already been lost to printing that massive document at work? The economy is bad enough. I’m pleading with WFTDA reps everywhere: Please, DON’T ADD MORE RULES!

I’m a big proponent of less is more. Look, it’s like this. The boat you’re in is taking on water and sinking. The last thing you want to do is put another hole in the boat to let the water out. If people are finding loopholes in your rule set, don’t add more rules.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pining for the days when all track cuts were minors. All I’m saying is that there are some rules which create complications that just aren’t necessary. Adding more rules creates more (but different) loopholes. What we’re talking about here is easy-peasy simple. One whistle to rule them all!

One whistle and you don’t end up with all this, start, then wait, then really start for real this time. “Ready. Set. Wait! No, for real. Ready. Set. Gorilla… Ha-ha… just kidding.” Start the fucking jam already!

Someone riddle me this: Why did we change the jam start for flat track derby in the first place? In bank track derby, everyone starts on one whistle; and the jammers are lined up only ten feet behind the blockers. It works just fine.

Look, I’m a coach. I love, love, love coming up with new stuff to do to kill a penalty or maximize our opponent’s penalty. I’m a huge proponent of innovation. (Dirty little secret: Quad loves the slow game.) I’d miss some of those shenanigans, but not for long.

Let’s do the right thing, get rid of that unnecessary second whistle. It will make all our lives easier, it will clear up a whole lot of loopholes without writing a dozen more rules, and it will make the sport more fun to watch and play.

Photo by Preflash Gordon

Image courtesy of Preflash Gordon