Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Didn't Come to Play (I Came to Ref)

I hate fun. It's true. Don't try to have it around me, and do not try and get me to have any.

Not when I'm reffing that is. Well, even that's not true. I actually enjoy reffing, it is fun for me. But I want to make a very important point: You can have fun without making fun. You can have fun, without being funny.

Here's my point: This isn't high school and we're not in the drama club (despite all evidence to the contrary). We're referees of a sport trying to drag itself into legitimacy, and a huge part of that hinges on referees being referees. There's so much history of this sport being illegitimate, of being a joke. I know, it's still Roller Derby, and that means you get to do whatever you want, freedom and power and blah blah blah. But so do fans, they can think whatever they want about the legitimacy of our sport, and they'll base it on what we do.

There's a lot of leeway we can exert on what makes a sport a sport and what makes it legitimate. A surprising amount. But one thing isn't arguable, it needs to be a competition. It needs to be a fair competition, judged on the merits laid out in the rules. Judged consistently and constantly and fairly. We'll shorthand that to "professionally".

And you are right, you can do all that and still act like a jack-ass, but who's going to know? There is an element to being professional that is outside how consistent, constant and fair you are, and it's how consistent, constant and fair you appear. If you are constantly adjusting your monocle, how can I reasonably believe you're watching the action all the time? How can I believe you've poured over the rules time and again when it looks like you spent more time on how you look than on how your hand signals look?

Now, that's not to say "Eliminate All Flair". Truth is there's some very bedazzled people out there that show up to do a job and clearly do it. People who, despite being very fancy, still exude the traits one wants to see in a referee in charge of a bout their team is participating in. I have to think though that this is because of the priorities they've placed, and the attention they focus on the game once it's at hand. That reffing came before the show. That reffing will always come before the show. That the sport, if it demanded they be less noticeable, would get it's way. These people are referees.

I mean yes, you are hilarious, of this there is ample evidence, but you could use that in so many, more appropriate, ways. Join an improv troupe, make some internet videos, make a robot out of soda cans, whatever.

Or maybe I'm just an old man.


  1. On one hand, I do agree that the game should always come first, and for some people, it clearly doesn't. But that's the case regardless of how much flair people bring to the track. There are always going to be people for whom the game and its rules are secondary. Some people get into reffing because it gives them people to yell at or hit on. Some people are into it for the sense of community, because they lack any other sense of identity or belonging, or because they think it gives them "cred." Some people simply get involved because they wouldn't otherwise see their significant others several nights a week. And a lot of them dress fairly conservatively. In most circumstances (i.e., outside tournaments), I don't think flair gets in the way, as long as it's within reason -- don't wear team colors, don't wear anything that's a safety hazard, and don't wear anything you're afraid will get ruined with a choice fall or two. And in most circumstances, it makes people think because it pushes them outside dominant sports paradigms. I love reffing, and I love it no matter what I'm wearing. But I wouldn't have even thought about it if it weren't for witnessing Justice's opening lap at Charm City's first intraleague championship. What drew me to the sport is that it had room for a little skinny dude in a costume ref dress whose name was an ironic take on an African American Supreme Court judge. If that were not the case, and the refs simply blended into the background, I think I would have been a lot more intimidated by the prospect of putting on stripes and a lot less likely to be conscious of that as an option. I have fun sometimes with my clothes and what-not. If that makes one person out there see reffing as something that can be fun, it's worth it.

    Getting off your lawn now, Mister Riot.

  2. Thank you Rev Riot. I just found your blog and have been reading your post. I really enjoy what you have to share and i will be sharing your blog with all my Refs. Every thing is well put. I have learned some new things reading your stuff in hopes to improve the way i handle and look at my job as ref.