It should be obvious, even to a casual observer, that there are few things I love in life more than Kansas City Roller Derby, and it all started with the Kansas City Roller Warriors. My love affair with the flat track began in March 2010, and not only does it not subside during the so-called off-season, if anything, it only grows stronger as the miserable winter months give way to the early spring days that herald the return of derby season.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can’t be improved, though, and anyone on eight wheels will tell you the same thing. They’re always looking for ways to improve the fans’ derby experience, and with that in mind, here are three things that, if implemented relatively soon, would make them a very nearly perfect roller derby league. You can rebuff these and/or add your own in the comments section.
3. Make the merchandise available online.
Check out KCRW‘s merch page, and it tells you quite plainly, “Sorry, our merchandise is temporarily unavailable for purchase online.”
Which is the most interesting definition of the word “temporarily” that I’ve come across in quite some time, because that’s the same thing it said in November 2009 when I first discovered Kansas City roller derby.
I’ve offered this priceless feedback to KCRW before in online surveys and in person at the merch table, but even without me, there’s no way they don’t already know this is a problem. I’m sure it’s come up multiple times in committee, and who knows, they’ve probably tried rectifying it more than once as well. I’m not a web designer myself, but I know setting up this kind of e-commerce is relatively simple.
Not quite that simple.
If I had to guess, I would say the problem is not setting up the shopping cart on the web site. Much more likely, the problem is finding someone (or a team of someones) to monitor, fill, and ship the incoming orders year-round.
All I can tell you is… I would hate to think about how much money I would have spent by now on t-shirts (that I have to replace because I keep shrinking them), buttons (that I have to replace because they keep popping off my bag), and drink koozies (that I have to replace because I keep throwing them away with the can)… if only I could. The way it is now, I just have to hope I have the extra money laying around when the games roll around, and that kind of timing isn’t easy when you’ve got womens to keep happy. Yes, womens.
2. Do something with the sound system.
Before you get your hackles up, I realize there is next to nothing KCRW can do to change the sound system Municipal Auditorium comes equipped with. And I’ve seen derby in a number of other cities where the venues they used were sometimes nothing more than skating rinks, so I hesitate to light a torch and burn Municipal at the stake.
The problem is that the sound system in the arena we use is absolutely horrible. If you’re not sitting on one particular side (where there are no seats except in the balcony), you’re not going to understand a word the announcers say. It’s almost as though only half of the speakers are even on, and therefore only broadcasting in one direction; the (lousy) acoustics in the place then further distort sound that’s already bouncing off every available flat surface in the arena.
Imagine a bullet fired inside a room made of bulletproof walls… where the “bullet” represents “sound,” and the “walls” represent “your sanity.”
This means the announcers’ activity on the mic is incomprehensible from three of four walls in the place. It actually just amounts to a very loud, very constant background noise that sounds less like a sporting event and more like a humpback whale migration as heard through the drive-through speaker box at Del Taco… as heard through a cochlear implant.
And here to demonstrate…
The only way to deal with this annoyance would be to either find a different venue — which again, I would have serious reservations about — or, much more appealingly, simply limit the announcing to end-of-jam scoring/stat updates, instead of the usual (constant) play-by-play.
Or, if they could, get someone to turn on all the speakers.
1. Spread out the talent a little more evenly.
That almost sounds dirty.
But truthfully, as much as I will never, ever miss a KCRW game unless I’m offshore somewhere, it’s getting more and more difficult to deny that the house games are awfully predictable. Here’s how it goes:
- The Dorothys will always win;
- The Vixens will beat everyone but the Dorothys;
- The Susans will only beat the Knockouts;
- The Knockouts will always lose.
There’s only been one exception to this in the two years I’ve been a season ticket holder, and I wasn’t even there to see it; it was at the 2010 Rink of Fire, when the Knockouts squeaked out a last-second victory against my Susans. And even though I’m hardly an insider, I can’t help but think that the reason the games are so easy to predict is because most of the promising new recruits keep getting drafted to the same one or two teams.
Pictured: the Dreadnought Dorothys.
Understand, that’s not an insult. To anyone. But I have never seen the Dorothys lose a game; six straight years of house championships has to tell you something, and it can’t simply be that they train harder than everyone else. I just don’t buy that. Honestly, there’s plenty I don’t know here — the recruitment/drafting process(es), who gets priority, and so forth. I just know what I see on the track, and on the track, it’s a rare day that I can’t tell you in advance who’s going to win. That means there’s an imbalance somewhere.
But more importantly, it also means that the overall derby experience is less fun than it could be. I’m not sure I have the cardiac wherewithal to handle twelve nailbiting, down-to-the-last-jam bouts every single summer, but I could handle a few — and right now, we’re getting almost none. I will say that the Knockouts are showing a level of improvement that will very soon overtake the Black Eye Susans, if they’re not careful, in the above win/loss breakdown, so that’s at least something.
By that same token, though, the gaps between the other teams seem to be getting bigger all the time. The Dreadnought Dorothys are only getting better, particularly with the return of Hall Balls to full-time status this past season, as well as some very promising new faces (Flying Monkey, anyone?).
So tell me — how long would you be a season ticket holder if you knew the outcomes of all the games in advance?
The answer: FOREVER. No, I’m not kidding. Did you think I was kidding?
(Outdated team photo courtesy of kcrollerwarriors.com)