Q:Where did your derby name come from?
“Travis Sickle” comes from a play on Robert DeNiro’s character in Taxi Driver; he was “Travis Bickle” in that movie. I remember needing a derby name a week prior to volunteering at the beginning of the 2007 season and none of the names I previously thought of worked for me. So during one of the early practices, Stirfry asks me “What’s your derby name?” It literally took me 5 seconds to think of Travis Sickle. He laughed and said “Classic.”
Q: Explain for our fans what goes on “inside” the track during a bout?
Think of the center group of Non-Skating Officials as a communication hub between not only the teams and the officials, but sometimes between the action and the play-by-play from our announcers. Ideally, our function is to accurately report everything our skating and non-skating officials call in to us.
We have eyes and ears all over the field of play to assure nothing gets missed. Our four actions trackers are seated behind the announcers table tallying up offensive assists and defensive hits each player makes during the game. The scorekeepers (usually referees) are seated at the announce table keeping track of not only the amount of points scored per pass, but also skaters passed in the box. Lineup trackers are situated behind the penalty box writing down the five positions on the track per jam for each team, and in which pass they go to the box (if applicable).
At turns 2 and 4, you’ll find outside whiteboard persons relaying calls from our outside pack referees in to the center NSOs (non-skating officials) and referees. This is vital because you wouldn’t be picking up any outside calls without them due to the loudness of the arena and the storm you have to deal with inside.
This brings us to the center oval, where it all comes together. We have one penalty tracker per team, and they’re getting calls from everywhere: inside pack refs, outside whiteboard people, jam referees and the spotter/wrangler, which is what I do. I’m designated to run with the refs, scoop up nearly every penalty that comes our way and report back to the trackers. Since one of us can’t be everywhere at once, we have a system where one person will keep their ears open while I’m following the referees and keeping an eye on our outside whiteboard people.
That 5-foot monolith in the center is our inside whiteboard, which is really an up-to-the-second dry-erase board listing all of the major and minor penalties for each roster. I constructed this last year for the purpose of setting it apart from many leagues’ inside whiteboards. Each side is visible from either bench and the announce table, which helps captains see what skaters have penalty issues and also for our announcers to better communicate to the audience what happens for certain calls.
Q: What part of stats would you say is the hardest? Or the most under-appreciated?
It depends on experience level with any given facet of stats, but I would say penalty tracking can be very difficult, especially if you’re the only person doing it. The act of tracking a penalty itself isn’t much – it’s the frequency in which it’s done that makes the task as overwhelming as it is. Scrimmages spoil you on this aspect.
Underappreciated would be the lineup trackers – Lineups can be a useful tool in interleague play when you’re talking which head-to-head match-ups were most efficient defensively.
Q: Is it hard to stay focused and not get distracted by all of the action?
Oh, definitely. I’m not going to lie; the officiating team has to be vigilant even when the game seems out of reach, more so if the game’s got a razor-thin margin. Last year’s final was a perfect example of this – The Pin-Ups made up a 30-point swing in the score and the surrounding noise from all levels near the end of that game was shattering. Times like these are when the refs and the NSOs have to meet in the center and make a commitment to stay on point and pay attention, because a game like that cannot be sullied by missed calls or mistakes.
Q: Wanna give a shout out to your favorite skaters:
It’d have to be Schwo for putting up with 5 years of insults and Ref U G . . . because for me, a BRRG bout just doesn’t seem right unless I see U G.
Q: Tell fans one fun fact about Travis Sickle:
I have no tattoos. It’s not that I don’t want to get any; it’s just that I don’t have the four-digit dollar amount to get what I want from who I want.
Hey, follow-up question: What’s your opinion on the no-minor-penalties thing that will be tested at ECDX? I know you’re NSOing for one of those, but any predictions?
If I got back anything from the various discussions on this subject, I can understand why the fans and skaters would like for this to happen: less confusion for new fans of the sport, less OTOs, accelerated pace of game, clearer play-by-play, more careful skating (there’d also likely be more foul-outs), less shitstorm games with 100+ penalties (which are especially a pain in the ass when rankings are at stake – you can’t miss even a few), etc.
As an NSO who sometimes penalty-tracks, it’d pretty much take all the challenge out of the game for me. Some people would love to eliminate the inside whiteboard, which I’m obviously not supportive of (unless we were equipped with iPad apps that somehow projected the penalties real-time on the screen below the scoreboard). You still need that board for the bench and the officials.
If it brings more people in and heightens the excitement, so be it. I don’t know whether I’m going to be part of the beta testing at ECDX (they haven’t made shift schedules yet), but if I am, I’ll be sure to let everyone know how it went.
I L-O-V-E Travis and wish that Kent Smith’s teaser for a Travis action figure would come to fruition! I’d buy that for $1 !!!!