Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why Discretion is Necessary in Derby

In broad, general terms, most other competitive sports, specifically those with contact, maintain a base-line equality at all times by calling for a stop to play immediately when a penalty occurs. As we know though, in roller derby, play continues until two minutes have expired or something else has caused the jam to end, but only in extreme cases is that something else a penalty. By stopping play, penalizing a team or player and then re-starting play, the referees and the rules of the game maintain that base-line equality, so that rarely is a penalty by one player caused by another player's prior penalty. Why this is is clear, because following the initial penalty play is called off, allowing the offended player to recover however they want, without concern about also maintaining their position, motion or advantage, all of those concerns are put on hold as play stops. In roller derby however this very scenario, of one penalty causing a second illegal action, happens plenty. 

Consider the following scenario:
Player A back-blocking Player B hard enough to cause B to fall forward should result in a major to Player A. It can also easily result in Player B back-blocking Player C. 
In most other contact sports, the original penalty would've stopped play. Play being stopped Player B can stop worrying about penalties, position or advantage and can safely take a knee or make a controlled fall, perhaps even use her hands to steady both herself and Player C together. In derby though, play continues. Now there are two possibilities. One, a referee without discretion must disregard any circumstances and call things exactly as the rules state, which means player B could get a back-blocking penalty, possibly a major. Option two is a referee who considers the circumstances, sees that it was C's teammate A who caused B to back-block her and makes the call on A, the initial penalty, only, since it was not B's intent or fault that she back-blocked C, it was A's fault. It is these sort of dynamic and shifting situations and circumstances that demand the presence of, and proper application of, discretion in roller derby refereeing. Any referee who argues that they need not ever apply discretion, any skater that shudders at the idea of discretion, anybody who thinks that a memorization of the rules is enough for a referee  should consider this point.

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