Opinions Lex Talionis

Published on September 19th, 2012 | by Alex Sassoon Coby


Lex Talionis

Roller Derby Isn’t Broken

Roller derby isn’t broken. Passive offence isn’t ruining the game. Gotham haven’t got cheat codes, and they’re not unbeatable.

Let’s take a moment to think about what we can agree on. Starts are definitely broken, but I dont want to get into that today. What else? I think it’s clear that a single jammer penalty can have too big an impact on the game. Passive offence isn’t the problem. It takes skill to execute properly against a good opponent, and requires lots of hard work from the jammer. The problem is how long it goes on for.

Ignoring the specific tactic for a moment, if your team has the only jammer on the track, your only aim is to help your jammer get as any points as possible. This means making passing easier for her, but it will also always mean bringing pack speed down as much as you can. This is a natural and unavoidable consequence of the rules as they stand.

This leads to the inevitable conclusion that jammer penalties are the problem, and they need to be fixed. No other sport penalises players in specialised positions like other players, or without allowing for changes as soon as their speciality is required. In hockey, outfield players can serve time for your goaltender; in football you can make an immediate substitution for your goalkeeper if they are sent off, or have an outfield player take the role on if you’re out of substitutions. In rugby, you can replace a sin binned front row player when you get to a scrummage; and the list goes on.

Roller derby just doesn’t work when you only have one jammer on the track, so let’s change the rules so that you almost always have two. It’s a fundamental change, certainly, but its one we need. We can’t allow penalties to go unpenalised but the current system is as unreasonable as it is untenable.

Teams are punished exponentially more for the same penalty when it’s committed by a jammer, which means the punishment rarely fits the crime, especially when you remember that jammers don’t get points for illegal passes either and so get punished twice regardless. Admittedly some of that issue goes away with no minors, but it will still be valid.

How do we fix this? Here are a few suggestions as a starting point. Could you allow star passes on the way to the box, thus penalising the player but not disproportionately penalising the team. Could a blocker serve the time for the jammer’s indiscretion? Could a penalised jammer start the next jam in the box as a blocker? Could we end jammer penalties after the opposition’s next scoring pass, rather thank on time?

There are issues with all of these, but none of them are completely unworkable, and maybe some might even work in combination. I don’t have a snout-to-tail solution for this particular problem, but together we must be able to figure something out.

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Alex Sassoon Coby

Content Director and Fugitive Vice President at Derby News Network
Alex Sassoon Coby -- aka Lex Talionis -- is the Content Director and Fugitive Vice President of Derby News Network. He writes, he coaches, he travels.

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Alex Sassoon Coby -- aka Lex Talionis -- is the Content Director and Fugitive Vice President of Derby News Network. He writes, he coaches, he travels.

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