I love derby; people are so completely and utterly passionate about every aspect of our sport. Derby people are so protective of our sport, and we are incredibly opinionated. We all know what's best for our sport, right? Exactly.
So, when I read about Blood and Thunder tweaking the rules for the World Cup competition, I made sure my safety harness was in place and got ready for a derby roller coaster of outrage, hope, gloating, and more outrage. Did I mention outrage? Am I the only one who giggled at the competing FB pages of "Save the Jammers" and "No Mercy in Derby"? I doubt it. People are fired up and I'm so excited that we have opened a serious dialogue in our sport about some of the things that might be making our game a lot less fun to play and watch.
First of all, I must say that I am in no way associated with Blood and Thunder. I am not involved in the World Cup as anything but a fan, and I wasn't even planning on watching the next one because I found that witnessing Team USA pummel the other countries into the ground repeatedly is less exciting than doing housework. Yes, Team New Zealand has the best intro ever, but for the most part, I really wasn't that interested in taking the time to watch the competition.
With the announcement of the possible rule tweaking, I suddenly am interested in watching the World Cup again. Why? Well, I want to see what will happen when you tweak the rules. We have high level players at the tops of their game working with these new rules, and everyone can watch. This isn't a typical Beta testing where only a lucky few will see, with unknown teams with unknown skill levels. This is the best of the world playing, and coping with new rules. Of course I'm going to watch. It's either going to be a train wreck or totally awesome, but it won't be boring.
Am I for the rule changes? Well, I'm not a giant fan of the mercy rule. I love cheering for the underdog, when they do finally score against a Goliath like Team USA. Who didn't love the one point Team Scotland scored on Team USA? I understand that other sports have a mercy rule, and we should probably get on board, but I'm still not for it. Let them play. Isn't that what all of the hoopla has been about in the first place, letting the players play?
Also, I look at the rule modifications that they proposed, and I start feeling bad for the refs and NSOs. First of all, substitutions during a bout might become really difficult to track. I guess those inside white boards are going need to be tweaked, or maybe derby will finally go all digital. I don't envy the penalty box in dealing with the proposed changes, and I especially don't envy the score keepers and jam refs. This whole rule change will keep people in the middle hopping around, that's for sure!
I think it's brilliant that the World Cup has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet to the derby world. "We are trying something new, and if you don't like it, suck it." It's their game, and they can tweak the rules if they want to. This kind of controversy makes people take stock of how they define derby, and there is nothing wrong with that.