WRDN Game of the Month: August 2011

Before we get into my pick for the most interesting bout of the month, let’s play a quick little game.

The game is simple. I’ll list the results of in-region games during the second quarter rankings period for two teams from the same WFTDA region. It’ll be your job to pick which of the teams would be the most deserving of going to the regional WFTDA tournament later this year.

I won’t tell you the names of these teams until after you pick one or the other (and you can only pick one). You’ll only have the points differentials and the regional rankings of the teams they played against at the time of the game to work with.

Ready? Here we go.

Team 1:

  • 251 point loss over #2 ranked team
  • 199 point loss over #7 ranked team
  • 42 point win over #10 ranked team
  • 18 point win over #10 ranked team
  • 8 point loss over #12 ranked team
  • 53 point win over #14 ranked team
  • 228 point win over #18 ranked team

Team 2:

  • 92 point loss over #3 ranked team
  • 80 point loss over #5 ranked team
  • 40 point loss over #6 ranked team

Team 1 went 4-3, with two wins over the #10 ranked team, but also has some big losses over teams ranked high in the region. Team 2 went 0-3 against tough competition, but has no other results with which they are directly involved to help with triangulation.

Based on these performance statistics alone, which one of these two teams is more deserving of a spot at WFTDA Regionals? Is this a tough call, or a no-brainer to you? Either way, I’m going to put you on the spot for an answer. Team 1, or Team 2?

Got it? Write it down if you do, I don’t want any cheating or changing your mind before the answers are revealed. Drumroll, please…

If you picked Team 1, you are correct!

If you picked Team 2, you’re a member of the WFTDA!

Team 1, the D.C. Rollergirls, will not be getting an invite to Eastern Regionals this year. Despite a winning record against teams near them in the rankings, including two recent wins over the #10 ranked team in their region, D.C. was ranked 11th by the WFTDA voting members for Q2 2011 rankings period.

Team 2, the London Rollergirls, will be getting an invite to Eastern Regionals this year. London entered the East Region rankings at #10, and all they had to do to get there was play three games against stiff competition, all at home across the pond. And oh-by-the-way, they lost all three games by healthy margins.

Something fishy is going on here.

I was going to put a picture of the U.S. and U.K. flags here, but this photo appears to be more appropriate, and humorous.

Granted, London is a team way off the map when it comes to nearby teams to play against. It’s not as if they can easily schedule games against equal opponents. So to get the most bang for their pound sterling, and to get their required two WFTDA sanctioned games in during the critical Q2 rankings period, they held a three-country four-team round robin weekend of games during the month of April.

London managed to get #3 Charm City, #5 Steel City, and #6 Montreal (their regional rankings at the time) to put up some serious bucks and/or loonies to transport themselves across the Atlantic for history: The first international weekend of real roller derby. And there was much rejoicing.

After all the pomp, circumstance, and derby, Charm, Steel, and Les Skids spent some more money flying back from the U.K., all with wins over London to hang their helmets on. They also left Team London with the same amount of WFTDA sanctioned wins that they started with: Nil.

Yes, yes, all three of the teams that London faced are quite good, and one of those losses (40 points down to Steel City) was very respectable. But those were the only three games they played all year. It’s difficult to gauge the performance of a new team, in any sport, with so little data to work with.

Meanwhile, the #11 D.C. Rollergirls beat #10 Providence (their ranking at the time they played) not once, but twice. Sure, D.C. dropped a close game against #12 Suburbia, but we can say close loss cancels out the close win over Providence, still leaving a comfortable win over the former #10 team as leftovers. If you directly beat a playoff-positioned team twice, shouldn’t you automatically go to the playoffs?

I say yes. Though in fairness to London, there’s a wrinkle in this calculation: Maine Roller Derby, ranked #9 in the east (and going to the playoffs) has common opponents with London within the Q2 rankings period.

Maine lost to Montreal by 79 and Steel City by 80, ultimately going 4-3 during Q2. However, two of those wins were blowouts over bad lowly ranked teams in the East. Maine also beat D.C. at the end of March (during the Q1 rankings period) by the score of 163-82, so there’s also that to factor in (though technically it shouldn’t for the Q2 rankings).

London Lost to Montreal by 80 and Steel City by 40, so based on points differential alone, you could argue London is slightly better than a Maine team that had beat D.C. earlier in the year—but not within the Q2 rankings period—so therefore you have no choice but to rank London above D.C. But! Shouldn’t London, then, be ranked above Maine based on their common head-to-head opposition?

To say London is a team good enough to definitely be the #9 team, or the #10 team, or the #11 team is fuzzy math at best. They could be anywhere in there. They could be #9 because their total point spreads against common opponents was better than that of Maine. They could be #10 because of the strength of losses compared to D.C. against the regional 2-7 seeds. They could be #11 because of their lack of games and lack of wins.

You can make an argument for any of those spots, and against any of those spots. There’s just not enough information to pin down an accurate ranking for London, which is an unfortunate side effect of a two-game per-quarter minimum for the purposes of rankings votes.

But here’s how I see it: London could be #9. London could be #10. London could be #11. D.C. could be #11. But D.C. should be #10 due to the most direct evidence available: D.C. did enough to definitely prove they can hang with the bottom of the top ten in the east, because they beat the #10 team in the east, on the track. Twice. (That bears repeating.)

There’s a difference between inferred results and direct results. In my opinion, direct results should always trump results found by triangulation or speculation. If we can agree that Maine deserves to occupy the number #9 slot, that leaves D.C. and London to pick for the playoffs. London’s results, while good, simply cannot tell the whole story due to lack of information. But D.C.’s results, while mixed, tell enough of a story to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I still want to be fair to London, though. Their relatively good showing against three of the region’s top teams and D.C.’s two wins over the #10 team could have held equal weight in the eyes of the voting WFTDA leagues. What it it was too close to call? What if it was really a coin flip between D.C. and London for the last playoff spot?

If it was, I have serious doubts that it was a fair coin.

Here’s my ultimate beef. If you were the WFTDA hivemind, would you rather invite another bottom-feeder team to the Eastern regional, only to see them get blown out in the first round; or would you invite a trendy new team from a world away, and make a big deal about it in the press? To the armchair observer, that decision is a no-brainer.

Of course, there’s no conspiracy brewing in the WFTDA. (Or is there?) London was probably deserving of their invite, because of their brief showing earlier this year. But does that mean D.C. wasn’t deserving of an invite, in spite of their good showing this year? It’s a slippery slope.

Squeezing 11 into 10 is always going to end in tears for the odd one out. The NCAA goes through a similar process when it comes time to select the 64 65 68 teams that get a dance ticket to March Madness. Team #69 always feels like they got the short end of stick. Regardless, someone is going to get that last spot.

So if I’m a WFTDA league in the east region deciding on which team to pencil into the #10 spot at the ballot box, who am I going to choose? All other things being equal, I can’t help but shake the feeling that some (certainly not all) leagues may have thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if we got to see London at regionals?”

If even one league thought that to sway their opinion, and their vote, I’d like to call them out, Bill O’Reilly style: Why do you hate America?

There’s no way any of us could know if one or a few or all or none of the leagues voted for London over D.C. for this reason. It’s only wild sports-fan speculation on my part. But I wouldn’t be writing this blogpost if I didn’t have my doubts anyway, now would I?

Still, there’s a way for this “controversy” to be easily resolved. I believe that results on the track are worth ten times more than that maybes and what-ifs. This month, London has a hell of an opportunity to get a result and shut me up…

WRDN Game of the Month

(3) Rocky Mountain at (24) London

The defending WFTDA champions (and banked track champions of Southern California) will be spending a lot of money to ferry derby superstar DeRanged and the rest of the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls crew to Britannia to take on the London Rollergirls, in what is suddenly shaping up to be a very, very interesting game.

On the surface, the game is going to be another historic one for the modern derby movement. This will be the first time a derby team not from the “nearby” east region will be getting a British stamp on their passports. It’ll also be the first time a reigning WFTDA champion will be making an official, sanctioned appearance in another country, our 51st state not withstanding.

But the way I see it, this will be London’s big chance to prove that they deserve to go to the WFTDA playoffs on their skill and talent alone, and not just because maybe they were voted the most popular girls in their class.

Going up against a powerhouse that is Rocky Mountain will be a big test. But Rocky has been just that lately, recently losing to Oly (not that surprising) and Charm City (very surprising). If London wants to put on their best showing yet, doing it when the champs are on the backpedal is as good of a time as any.

Will London win this game? In all likelihood, no. But I can’t be 100% confident in that prediction since there’s so little information on London to base it off of. Although, triangulation helps: Charm beat both Rocky (by 18) and London (by 92) within the last few months. So you’d expect Rocky to win this one by such a margin between them.

But will Rocky be the better team for this one game after having to cross seven time zones, essentially playing when they would normally be having lunch? I’m not going to go as far as saying this game will be a tossup. It’s just that in this game, literally anything may happen. There are too many unknowns to juggle.

For the sake of “confirming” their spot in the Eastern regionals, if London can hang with Rocky Mountain, that would go a long way in backing up their earlier results against Montreal, Steel City, and Charm City. If London loses by a respectable amount–let’s say less than 100 points–I’ll give them their dues and welcome them to Easterns with full respect for their play on the track.

But if London gets buzzbombed by a large margin–let’s say 150 points or more–it would be hard to look at a loss of this magnitude coupled with their previous results and definitely say they belong in the playoffs over a D.C. Rollergirls team that has similarly mixed–but more direct–results to make their case.

Again, this is side-effect of the WFTDA rankings system. If D.C. and London had played one more game, we’d have an extra piece of information to make the pick between them more cut-and-dried. Personally, I would have put D.C. at #10 based on their results, and put London at #11 based on their strong debut with the proviso that they’d be playoff bound if they had another strong result, or better yet, a win.

However, I wouldn’t have put London directly into the playoffs without that extra game confirm if their initial results were true to their skill level, or outliers based on the circumstances of their first three games. In any event, we’re now going to get that extra game to confirm London’s worth, albeit after they were already voted into the playoffs.

Was that vote of confidence premature? We’ll find out as the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls play the London Rollergirls on Saturday, August 12 at Earl’s Court in London, England. Game time is 7:30 p.m. local, 2:30 p.m. EST, and 12:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Rollergirl time. DNN converage has not yet been confirmed, but should be expected.

6 responses to this post.

  1. I’m with you completely on your analysis on London and DC but I’d throw Suburbia in there. While DC has performed better for the most part against common opponents, I don’t believe they’ve done enough to overcome their head to head loss to Suburbia.

    DC +53 away
    Suburbia +32 away

    DC -81 home
    Suburbia -57 home

    DC -28 home
    Suburbia -150 away

    Long Island
    DC +228 away
    Suburbia +227 home

    Head to Head:
    Suburbia +8 home

    That’s not to say that DC isn’t the better team but I think WFTDA needs to rethink their voting strategy or at least explain it to their voters. It feels to me like WFTDA voters are treating their votes as if they’re working on the DNN Power Rankings or something similar. The problem is that the only reason they’re voting is because a more structured regular season hasn’t been put into place. They shouldn’t be voting on who they think is better or who they want to see in the playoffs. They should be voting purely in a results based way, just like standings are purely results based. Head to head should not be overruled without clear evidence that that specific game wasn’t a representative of either team. If that is in fact what they should be doing, there’s no way in hell London should be #10 and there’s no way DC should be ahead of Suburbia.

    Even if voters think there’s enough evidence that London should be #10, they shouldn’t be aloud in the playoffs without a win. I think there’s a few factors that came into play: 1. DNN has had them in their top 25 for a long time now. How could DNN be wrong? 2. What I mentioned about voters trying to think too much and try too hard. 3. It would be soooooo cool to see a European team in regionals. 4. There isn’t a clear cut #10 so screw it, let’s just put the sexy team in there.


    • The problem is that the only reason they’re voting is because a more structured regular season hasn’t been put into place. They shouldn’t be voting on who they think is better or who they want to see in the playoffs. They should be voting purely in a results based way, just like standings are purely results based. Head to head should not be overruled without clear evidence that that specific game wasn’t a representative of either team.

      Agree, which is why I opened this post in the way that I did. If you were looking at it strictly from a numbers point-of-view, the answer is a murky one, at best. I went with D.C. to be the #10 team based on my evidence, but like all the teams in the #9-12 range, it was effectively a tossup for one spot. It just happened to go to the prettiest girl in the room this time.

      I also agree with you about the voting process needing to be more transparent, not just to the voters, but also to the public. When putting today’s posts together, I noticed this little bit about rankings policies on the WFTDA website:

      The weighted votes are averaged to create a relative in-region score, which assigns the rank.

      Okay, but how are they weighted? I’m assuming WFTDA leagues with more tenure have more voting power than newer leagues. But there’s no information about this, besides that blurb on their website. Just having more clarity on something like that would be good to know so the derby community can play the Guess-The-Rankings home game.


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  3. Posted by Sir SkateAlot on 5 August 2011 at 4:57 am

    I’m looking forward to see how London will perform at the regionals. So far we don’t have a more structured regular season and we have to do with a more subjective ranking process. In the case of London those responsible for the ranking have to make a judgement based upon very little games. You can’t blame London for that. Here in Europe they have no competition. Coming over to the states for some games or inviting some US teams to Great-Brittain is extremely expensive. Those girls are not only practicing like hell, besides that they are fundraising as much as they can to be able to afford those games financially.

    Based on those few games no one can deny they have to be ranked around 10th in the Eastern region. It’s not that they are only worth 20th place. You can disagree on the exact place and there you have to deal with the subjectivity of the ranking process. Good thing WFTDA gave them the possibility to prove themselves. Those chances are rare and extremely expensive. And I think they will grab the opportunity. Everyone involved in European Roller Derby is hoping for that.

    I don’t think it’s fair to state that the bout against Rocky Mountains is the one where they have to prove they are worthy of playing in the regionals. The difference between the numbers 1-3 in the world and the number 9-10-11 in a region is huge. Suppose the game ends in a blowout this says nothing about their ranking in their region. If Suburbia or DC had to play against Rocky Mountains a big score difference is just as likely as it could be for the London bout. DNN calls it rightfully an educational bout.

    Apart from that I agree that it’s the bout of the month. We in Europe are really looking forward to it, and ill be there cheering my heart out for the Roller Girls.

    But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And the pudding will only be served in September in Baltimore. DNN will be popular in Europe that weekend.

    Sir SkateAlot,
    One Love Roller Dolls,


  4. Posted by Rachel Johnston on 21 September 2011 at 11:43 am

    any updated comments on this article now that London has showed the derby world what they’re made of? I too was confused by the invitation over DC and Suburbia, but was pleased to see that london proved their worth by coming in at 10th and leaving at 5th. epic!


    • At the time I wrote this, I was responding to the “controversy” surrounding London’s inclusion due to the fact that they were being put into the playoffs after having played so few games. WFTDA rules state that teams need to play 2 games per quarter to be considered for ranking purposes, but you rarely see teams good enough to make the playoffs play fewer than five or six games nowadays, with the minimum threshold reserved for smaller or newer leagues just getting started.

      But I think WFTDA got hit with another unforeseen circumstance, when a team good enough for the playoffs had played the near-minimum amount of games. I mentioned this in my east region preview, but since it seemed to everyone that London was “good enough” based on their strength of losses, but they didn’t know “how good” based on the lack of further information, they just voted them in as the #10 seed since they had no other way of doing it.

      This is why I’m actually not surprised at all that London did well. That people were calling their game against Carolina an “upset” is laughable. You just needed to look at Carolina’s easy schedule to realize that they weren’t as good as their record indicated. London got screwed by Philly in the quarters (for reasons I will explain in a future post), and ultimately beat Boston and Montreal to take 5th. If anything, London’s game against Montreal was more of a true upset, considering how much they lost to them just a few months ago.

      The only reasons why any upsets happened in the east is because the voting leagues guessed wrong, only to have those incorrect seedings corrected during the course of the tournament through play on the track. After the fact, Carolina got dropped by a few places as they should have owning to their weak-ass schedule, and London showed that the voters were way off in their votes…but that’s to be expected when you only have three games to work with.

      This is also why you really can’t call any games between the west 3-6 seeds “upsets” because they’re so close together and evenly matched, they might as well have the same seed number. While a team like Denver is better than Rat City on paper, when it’s all said and done the differences are negligible enough to just go ahead and call it what it really is: A toss-up. (Or a pick ’em, if you’re into that sort of thing on the side.)


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