"Human beings with all their faults and strengths constitute the mechanism of a social movement. They must make mistakes and learn from them, make more mistakes and learn anew. They must taste defeat as well as success, and discover how to live with each." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
The best place to start this story is the single weekend that created the scapegoat atmosphere that was to follow. That weekend was the weekend of myself and my former team's greatest disappointment, the 2010 Western regional tournament. For our first bout, we had to play a physical team in Bay Area (BAD), but they weren't a strategic threat going in as the footage showed consistently. They were a better team than most of the teams we had played over the course of the year, but not better to a degree where we had to worry about changing our style of play. If we executed (physically and mentally) appropriately, we would have handled BAD just fine.
However, the month leading up to this bout was filled with lazy, disinterested practices from a number of our top skaters and that's only when they decided to attend. None of the new things we worked on throughout the season were being used in scrimmages or bouts. It wasn't for a lack of forward thinking or new drills either; I tried to add more layers to our foundation/signature style of play, but it just didn't take. Our scrimmages and bouts throughout the year were more about just doing the same old thing on track against our league and other WFTDA leagues because it still worked well. It was more about not having a fear of losing their roster position to anyone new coming up. It was more about politics, stupid fucking home team drafts, and unresolved ugliness between various leaders on the travel team. It was more about putting energy into stupid fucking dance offs to win afterparties than personal skills and execution. It was more about the two former captains losing their team and doing very little to get them back.
We were just going through the motions. I personally had tried to lay off the team for 2010 as I pushed them very hard in 2009. But that backfired as the team had become arrogant and complacent about their ability and no longer put in the work needed to be what they were truly capable of being. I tried too late into the year to give the team a kick in the ass and I personally failed to motivate this group for our biggest bout of the year. That's something I get to own equally along with everyone else on that team. In hindsight, this is just what we had become heading into that weekend.
If one watches the footage of that BAD bout, the knowledgeable eye will see a number of stupid things we did. We didn't play very slow (our style) and BAD didn't do anything to make us abandon our signature style either. We subconsciously decided to play dumb derby on track and that's not something we've ever trained to play. In a bout characterized by us going for big hits and missing consistently along with not using the high level teamwork we had created (ie we were playing like individuals), we ended up losing on the last jam by four points. There was some nastiness at half time between former captain A (who will be referred to as Sukie from here on) and current captain B (who will be referred to as Jane going forward) and the team as well, which I would find out about weeks later. Our rear blockers rarely hustled after the jammer and on the rare occasions that they did, they would quickly get pushed out of play and then take their sweet ass time coming back to the pack. That's what would become the most vivid memory of Sukie's performance that weekend as she consistently did this and found herself on the bench in this bout as well as the Rat bout for it. BAD was in great shape and wanted the game badly; that is why they won. My team choked and often just gave it up faster than your favorite porn star trying to set a gangbang record. But even with all the bullshit, we lost by four points on the last jam to a team that played its ass off (they had the gold sweat stains to prove it).
After this loss, we had two games the next day against overmatched opponents. But we came out unmotivated and let both teams hang in a bout they had no business being in at any time. We eventually put our foot down, but not because we wanted it. No, it was because we executed our same style and we weren't challenged by either team to change the way we wanted to play. After three consecutive bouts of unmotivated play and a feeling of tension amongst the top players, I chose to change how I was around the team going into the last day against a familiar foe in Rat City if for no other reason to try to actively change our shitty attitude. I was intensely focused on winning against this team and was not in the mood to be on my best behavior any longer. I went to this tournament wanting to win and knowing we could and should have won if we had played better and this last bout was potentially that victory that could allow this team to salvage some of its mojo.
Right or wrong on this day, I didn't respond to one of our skaters (then and still a good friend of mine) when she tried to say hello before the bout. Sukie would later say this was the reason the team didn't want to play against Rat City and she also said that extended across the whole weekend (in her mind anyway). When I pointed out that I was well-behaved and controlled for the first three bouts, it was then my fault for taking her words as she said them. Funny what sort of character losing can reveal. I'd like to say that this incident before the Rat City bout was the beginning of the witch hunt that would follow, but frankly, I can't say that it was. Could've been the middle for all I know; I was left out of that loop for some reason.
Just to wrap up this chapter and that weekend, we started well against Rat (29-4 first jam), went to the box a bunch, and lost our second bout of the weekend on the last jam. We had lead on a power jam and victory, while probably undeserved, was in our grasp. But our best jammer picked up her fourth minor on her first scoring pass and went to the box. That was the end of it and we officially lost by 8 points. Most teams in the country would've been happy to come out of a tough region with a 2-2 record with both losses by single digits on the last jam with our best skaters on the track. But not us. We had a lot of egos that couldn't handle losing like that or how they personally performed. And because we had (and still have) so many detractors in our national "community" and so many expectations to live up to, we couldn't be okay with losing and learning from it. When we couldn't live up to those expectations, there had to be a reason...