One Year of DC: On mourning, community and the love of derby

One Year of DC: On mourning, community and the love of derby Photo Credit: Danforth Johnson.

It’s been a year, roller derby. A year of Derby Central. One year since a handful of people turned to each other and knew they weren’t done reporting for you in the middle of WFTDA tournaments.

Or, I guess what I should actually say is – it’s been a year and a few weeks. Because much like in 2014, tournament season is an intensely demanding beast that can drain the life out of even the most enthused of editors and writers with the need to keep step with the incredible quality of play in front of us in arenas across America, or on screens we view from our home towns.

So when that handful of us as editors stepped off into hitherto uncharted territory for us, we had nothing but a need to keep contributing to the derby community as best we could. We knew that some kind of reporting site was needed because of the giant vacuum that DNN left, and we knew that the work we’d already been doing, reporting on the sport we loved, was something we were profoundly driven to do.

So we plugged in to each other, and started chatting madly and making combined checklists and spreadsheets and investigating name options. While I, back at a family funeral in Sydney, stared down the realities of how much work was ahead of us (well, all of us did).

It’s hard to really quantify the kind of work involved in getting a site like DC up and running in only the week and a half between the 2014 Sacramento Playoffs and the Wednesday prior to the next, when previews needed to go out. I’m still not certain how we did it. I personally remember committing to waking up at 4am to connect at reasonable work hours for the others, and then keeping on working late into my own evenings, after everyone went to sleep, prepping them for the next day. And then doing the same again for two more playoff weeks and weekends.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

We were, in the majority, fortunate, because this wasn’t our first rodeo (although, as a foreigner to American traditions, an actual rodeo would in fact be my first rodeo). And I guess this is the location to circle back and talk about the Derby News Network a little.

Most specifically because I want to talk about grief and mourning.

Because the reality is that most of the founding editors of this site were deeply involved in the workings and reporting of DNN as it stood when the site finally signed off. And for that, and so many reasons – not least because of the ways that our own eyes for derby reporting have been irrevocably shaped by that site and its history – we have a very real space to share the community’s grief for its loss.

What I’m trying to say here, I think, is that we don’t have any sense that anyone feeling the loss of that site is in any way ignoring our work, or pitting us against it – in fact, we echo your mourning. We’re of the firm opinion that more diversity of opinion and reporting and representation in roller derby is good – at no point have we sought, or will we seek, to be exclusive in our coverage. We have in the last year offered our support for the work of many others, because of that view, and we plan to continue the same way.

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Graphic by Keary Ortiz.

Of course, we try to run our site as best we can, and that especially involves regularly committing to the mental health of our contributors, editors and profiled members of the community over and above the need to push out reporting – that’s been a really essential tenet for us, and one we work constantly to try to maintain. We’re recommitting to that now, even if sometimes we personally struggle to maintain the balance between this demanding unpaid job and our other life commitments (like paid employment, and our own skating/coaching).

In the meantime, we’ve had a year to start to accumulate things that we’re proud of, and as time has gone by, more and more, I’ve realised that it’s basically you, roller derby.

So, even though this piece is about Derby Central, it’s really about the community that has supported it – from the trust that contributors regularly put into us to curate, edit and publish their words, images and thoughts as best we can, to the ways in which organisations like the WFTDA have warmly encouraged our work – the list goes on and on.

But basically it boils down to one thing: We’re still infatuated with you, roller derby, and we just want to keep being there for you. We hope you feel even a little bit the same. Happy one year, everyone. Let’s aim for another.

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