Left For Deadwards: Captain of Tournament Hearts

Left For Deadwards: Captain of Tournament Hearts Photo credit Danforth Johnson

So many of you have enjoyed our playoffs tournament coverage over the span of the last weeks. And we’ve been so glad to have you here with us.

You might be looking forward to the upcoming Champs in Portland as much as we are.

Or have perhaps enjoyed the consistent and comprehensive coverage for tournament after tournament all year long, every year since Derby Central began.

You may not know this yet, but you have one person to thank for this.

And her name is Deadwards

Photo credit Preflash Gordon

Photo credit Preflash Gordon

Across the last few weeks especially, we’ve been beyond glad of the quietly organizing force behind the words and images that you have seen on your screens right here, catching every play and penalty.

It’s that persistence and tenacity that keeps this website showing up for you and your constant curiosity about the kinds of roller derby that happen across the world on a weekly basis (sometimes in every part of the world, all on the same weekend).

She’s not just the reliable and relentless companion to my editorial daydreams (or nightmares), she is the point person for our photographers. The person who tracks teams and players across years of play. She’s also a cat enthusiast, the person who so many people come to in her landscape for support, and check-ins about the correct location or stat for that game.

But she doesn’t just work almost tirelessly on this site, managing to squeeze that little bit of extra focus and care for editorial details into every day.

After we established the website and set up our commitment to an editor’s eyes on every single piece before we hit ‘publish’, at no point has she swerved from this commitment, even when it would have been so easy to have felt like things were good enough, to hit that button, to not question that stat or rephrase that sentence, to send out something almost ready. It’s been a minimum standard of care, and one that even exhaustion has not queried. She’s also totally committed to supporting the mental health of all of the other people who have joined the team in whatever capacity.

For me, personally, it is the way that Deadwards is almost endlessly fascinated and knowledgeable about realms of play even outside the more obvious D1 WFTDA teams that really inspires me. The star-quality of play that people see in the top teams in the world are delightful and their own kind of glamorous and inspiring, but they aren’t Deadwards’ prime motivation.

She is enthused and enraptured by the ways that derby teams grow and expand, and their possibilities. By the movements through rankings, and the commitments teams make to get there – you can see this intimately in the profiles she did of the teams new to Playoffs play this year.

It’s for these – and so many other reasons – that a profile on her and her work seemed like the only way to go. We owe her endless thanks. Thank you from the bottom of my frustrating and overflowing heart, Deadwards.

Read on.

– Danger

Note: Editorial constraints (aka Deadwards eyes are everywhere) have meant that we’ve been unable to collect even a fraction of the many voices who would want to contribute to this piece. Below are a couple more voices, but if you have an image, a memory or a story to share, please do!


Photo credit Danforth Johnson

Photo credit Danforth Johnson

From co-editor, Brooklyn Defiance:

Deadwards, one of Derby Central’s fearless leaders, is our master Tournament Editor.

Beyond the cat wrangling that defines how we at DC run things, the role of Tournament Editor is a huge undertaking. One that I am always grateful that Deadwards does so well.

From making arrangements with all of the photographers who share their talents with us to sourcing writers and scheduling (cat herding) us all, Deadwards is the reason Tournament season runs as smoothly as it does.

If you’ve read our Tournament Previews, you might have an idea of the amount of work that goes into those. It takes countless weekends and many awkward hours during the week to review key stats, revisit teams’ line-ups and compare strategies. And then, of course, comes the actual writing part.

I always look forward to editing her work – whether it’s a Preview or a Recap – Deadwards makes my job so much easier simply by being awesome at hers.

I joined DC during tournament season 2 years ago. I was up in the stands recapping a game for them when I got a text, telling me to join them at our very exclusive unmarked table.

I remember Deadwards in overalls. And I immediately liked her for it. Long Live Functional Pockets!

I’m sure we did introductions then, but all I really remember is turning old media roster sheets into a sign and scribbling Derby Central on it. Thanks to Deadwards, we now have fancy banners that live with her in the offseason.

She sent me a lapel pin that says “No time for anything,” to be fair, I think Deadwards deserves that pin more than I do. It’s on my coat, next to the Derby Central pin- the one with a cat!- I’m a dog person, but Deadwards made it. Because that’s what Deadwards does. She goes above and beyond, always. And finds a way to incorporate cats while doing it.


From Chelsea Fristoe, founding editor and regular contributor:

Just over three years ago, the Derby News Network put out a call for writers. Someone named Left 4 Deadwards and I were among the respondents, and were quickly put in charge of weekly “B-Roll” (get it?) articles where we would recap the Division 2 happenings of that week.

I don’t think either of us had much prior derby or sports writing experience, but we dove right in and began an internet friendship as we navigated through the waters of roller derby writing. We met in person shortly thereafter at Champs in 2013 in Milwaukee where we were very serious about our first real on-the-ground reporting.

I remember feeling super important and simultaneously like suuuch an imposter at that DNN table, but loved every second of it. It was significantly less intimidating having Deadwards by my side, and that weekend was the birth of our real-life friendship, and what would turn into years of hard work covering the ins and outs of roller derby.

Photo credit Danforth Johnson

Photo credit Danforth Johnson

Less than a year after we sat so very seriously at that table together, DNN closed its proverbial doors and Deadwards and I were part of the whirlwind creation of Derby Central. I’m not sure any of us really knew what we were getting into when we took that little project on, but I know we’re all damn proud of what we’ve created and what we’ve done over the past two years.

But I use “we” very loosely.  Not long after covering our inaugural tournament season as the Derby Central team, many of the founding members fell away for one reason or another. This left a very small group of writers and editors doing a very, very big job.

I have personally come and gone over the past two years, typically helping with playoffs here and there and taking a lot of feelings and making them into an article when the mood strikes.

Deadwards has not come and gone.

She has anchored Derby Central, and the dissemination of consistent, quality roller derby coverage it has come to stand for.

I knew this already, but until my league hosted D2 playoffs in Lansing this year, I hadn’t seen Deadwards in person since 2013. More significantly, I hadn’t seen the work she was doing firsthand.

While I was over here complaining about being tired from coordinating our one weekend of playoffs, Deadwards had driven a bajillion hours to come cover the tournament. I doubt even she knows how many tournaments she’s covered in person and remotely by this point, but I know what I observed in Lansing was not unique. This is what she’s built her life around.

Deadwards was at the venue by 8 every morning, and didn’t leave until after 10 pm every night.  She churned out write-up after write-up and existed only on all the black coffee in the state of Michigan and the occasional gummi bear from what I could tell.  She was a total badass. She is a total badass.

I don’t know that the derby community fully realizes what a small team is behind the majority of derby coverage, but I hope this article brings light to that, and brings more light to how big a part of that small team Deadwards is.

Without her, I am confident Derby Central wouldn’t be anything close to what it is today. And I am honored to call her a friend and DC teammate.

Deadwards and derby and I have all grown and changed and seen a lot since 2013, but one thing has not changed – Deadwards is still at that table, serious as can be, bringing beautiful, detailed coverage to the derby community.

The work she has done and continues to do has changed the face of this sport for the better, and forever.  While we picked up on a not-forgotten legacy left by DNN, Deadwards has created her own legacy within Derby Central. And for that, we all owe her the world’s biggest thank you.

Photo credit Danforth Johnson

Photo credit Danforth Johnson