Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Case Against MVP Blocker Awards

Every once in a while, I get a message from another skater and I have to make it a blog topic.   MVP awards are a curious animal in derby; sometimes I wonder if they are worth keeping around, or do they cause more problems than they are worth?  I've received MVP awards, and often wondered why, and have not received an award when I felt I had a stellar game.  MVP awards often seem to be  given as a whim, instead of after sound decision making.  It's definitely food for thought.  Genea contacted me about her thoughts of MVP awards, and with her permission, I posted her letter to my blog.

The Case Against MVP Blocker Awards
by Genea Morfeld Swan   
Genea skates for the Charlotte Roller Girls

I love being recognized. I love when I lay a big hit and an opponent flies in to the stands and the crowd roars. Who doesn’t? But a GREAT blocker works with her teammates. We make impenetrable walls and recycle repeatedly. Like the legs of a giant centipede, we should march and think as one.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. You have the chaser, the gets-knocked-down-easily-goat, you have that fancy skater who has to do the tricky moves that don’t really help block the jammer or clear the line, the swoosh-out-and-lays-a-big-hit-but-then-can’t-recover-quickly-enough-player. The uninformed crowd loves these types. Those of us on her team are thinking: “WHAT are you doing?”

I recently attended a game where the MVP blocker award was mistakenly awarded to a player who had been ejected for insubordination. The team was flustered by having to choose someone directly after the game and, unfortunately, the selection of MVP was actually made by a player who was skating at the time of the ejection and didn’t see it happen. 

So what IS the thought process of the people making these haphazard and potential rash choices for MVP? 

Sometimes I think it’s a person’s boutfit that stood out. Or just one big play. Maybe that person was able to hold a jammer alone in the front in several consecutive jams, ending up out of play but always racing ahead alone anyway.

Do these things make for a good derby player? Are we unintentionally rewarding this behavior by giving an award to the blocker that ‘stood out’ during the game? What about those players who are talking to their teammates and keeping them together? What about the hard worker whose solid game play keeps her teammates on task and aware of each jammers location to move effectively as one and keeping the pack slow so the jammer can’t get an advantage?

And don’t get me started about the jammers with the fancy skating that don’t net the most points.

In summary, MVP awards are awesome for two people.... But I am not sure they are truly representative of game play that should be rewarded.

21 comments:

  1. I agree. I was at a game recently where the awards went to the two players who had fouled out on one team and two players with the most penalties on the other.. ...not what most want to reward. Maybe teams should award their own players and actually discuss reasons why or why not. I'm guessing most players don't know they shouldn't give awards to players that were ejected, or at least that's what i like to think!

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    1. I think we aren't very cognizant at the end of a bout. It's like "Hey, we've been hitting each other all night, now you want me to make a rational decision?"

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  2. We often get our bench, who has actually had the brain power to watch the game, to help assess for MVP stuff.

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  3. I received my first MVB award last month in what was coincidentally my first game as captain. While the pictures proved I did do more effective blocking things than I felt like I did, it still rankled me a bit and I can't help but worry that had I not been wearing the "C" I wouldn't have gotten the nod!

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    1. It definitely makes me wonder about perceptions.

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  4. Exactly the same for me. My first MVB was my first game wearing the C. I had a few good blocks, but not any more than anyone else on my team.

    My league (Stockholm Roller Derby) doesn't do the MV awards for home games. We give everyone on the opposing team a medal. Maybe we're hippies, but I really prefer to think of the game this way. We all were out there, working our asses off. We all won or lost together so we might as well be celebrated as one too.

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  5. Same with me- my first MVJ was wearing the the A, but I really thought that our jammer wearing the C should have gotten it. I hate to think that it came down to, "Oh, we know this player better, and she's super friendly, whereas the other is a stranger and brusque."

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  6. I was actually a little sick to my stomach when Q told me she was going to run this. I thought, "Am I ready for the derby backlash??" Interesting that there are no PRO posts yet...

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  7. We have our announcers decide the MVPs of the games. They are watching the play by play closely, they know who made exceptional plays during the bout and can assess the MVPs accurately.

    Granted, three of the four of them are also home team managers/coaches so they *know* derby inside and out. I don't know how well this would work with announcers that aren't as well informed on strategy, skills, etc.

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  8. My league have stopped awards at home bouts too, simply because we play as a team, win as a team or lose as a team.

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  9. Im pretty torn about this issue, because in a way, I feel that this award was ment for people who are not necessarily the "fastest" jammer or the most "brutal" blocker, but rather a skater who manages to holds the team together on track. Besides the obvious argument that really everyone should have that job, I find it more problematic, that MVP NEVER seems to go to the person who did the best job at just that.

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  10. I definitely agree with Genea on this--the MVP is not necessarily always a true measure of points scored, effective teamwork, or even skating skill.
    However, I think it's very much like derby names in that they are not necessary for gameplay, but adds to the spectacle of the game. It's fun for fans just as much as it is for skaters. I think as long as skaters don't get too caught up in it as a measure of how they played, it's a step towards interleague camaraderie after a tough duke-out on the track.
    Just my take on it, though.

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  11. I know people view these awards as a huge honor and they are. But when I travel with my team I feel that it is the person with the biggest hits, that get remembered.
    I think it would be really interesting to let each team decide which of their own players deserve mvb and mvj for that game. I mean the opposing team is not going to know if you played well beyond your normal tenacity, they don't notice if you are the glue keeping the wall together; or think of choosing you because they only remember goating you(yet you gave the their jammer a challenge as well as letting you teammates know where the their jammer is and when to bridge.
    This something I feel is worth bringing up as a discussion with your league and see what everyone thinks about it. Because as was said we are a team.

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  12. Okay, I am totally going to buck the trend here. I like MVP awards. I, personally, have never been chosen for one. I like that we give little tokens of our esteem to opponents who have struck our fancy in one or another in a bout whether they truly are the most amazing derby skater we played that night or they just made enough of an impression on us to remember their number. The teams evaluate and interact with each other in a positive way before hitting the after party. I do not know anyone who has gone home thinking they should have won the tiny shot glass with team letters etched in it but is now resentful of the teammate who was chosen. It is a small, fun aspect to derby and I enjoy the few traditions that are not being weeded out in our strides toward “legitimacy”.

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    1. MVP awards are legitimate, in the way we seem to be defining it - roller derby certainly isn't the only sport that give them!

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  13. So you give MVB and MVJ awards? We always just do MVP and they 99% of the time to go jammers. I have joked I want to start jamming just so I can get one... and more photos.

    I have also seen teams give it to the WORST player on purpose to be a jerk. boo on them.

    As for Juniors, my team has fun making the awards for the other team and really enjoys giving them out and they think a lot about it. And I have seen junior girls get them and it totally gets them to the next level as self esteem goes. AND I see rad junior girls who don't jam and never get them. I might actually suggest we start doing both MVJ and MVB awards.

    Thanks,,, Betty Ford Galaxy

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    1. Jammers Are Considered The Rock Stars. sigh.

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  14. <announcer thus irrelevant; I'm just here for noise:

    Firstly, the MVJ and MVB makes much more sense than MVP. Double-threat, personally, is the derby equivalent of MVP as far as the spectator is concerned. Frankly, if I skated, I'd probably still hold that opinion but alas, I'm better on the mic.

    Secondly, we may be getting a little nitpicky but with the whole Captain=MVP (or Jammer=MVP); this is a good way to take stock of the character of that person. If I knew I was given an award simply because I was more conspicuous than others (and the award wasn't named 'Most Visible') then I'd find myself remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to choose my own Most Valuable and personally present it to that person at that time.

    Thirdly, I think awards are hokey as fuck. But that's me. My wife just got an MVJ (she's usually a blocker) and it absolutely made her night...

    Bring on the RUCKUS!
    <3ob

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  15. I'm relatively new, and the two players on my team that I work hardest to emulate NEVER get the MVP award. They're not loud, they're not flashy, they're not huge crowd-pleasers, but they do their job, and they do it WELL. I actually saw one of them keep an entire four-wall behind her last night when her only help was a tiny newbie who was scrimmaging for the first time. The other team may not realize how screwed they are when these ladies line up, but they're total badasses, and getting an MVP is way less important to them than doing their jobs.

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  16. I agree and disagree - yeah, we always hope it goes to the person who truly deserves it and it TOTALLY BLOWS when you can tell it was some hasty decision based on popularity...but I think I have a different opinion in regards to what makes a player "valuable." Athleticism is one aspect of course, but players who get the crowd pumped and put asses in the seats, who push the envelope, who makes other skaters think or sweat...I think these skaters deserve recognition. OF COURSE they should also be effective, but the person whose overall performance AND presence stand out most after all is said and done, popularity aside, ARE most valuable.

    Also...the image with this entry kind've confuses me. We're talking about how the best blockers stick firm with their wall, don't take the chance on big hits they might not be able to recover from quickly enough...this looks exactly like one of those big hits, and it's STELLAR, and look at her go!

    Full disclosure, haven't ever gotten MVP, so I'm not sure what qualifies me to make such claims. This is just one lady's opinion.

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