Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fairness and rankings

In a sport where there's a great deal of upheaval, it is unreasonable to have any sort of official ranking last more than one 'season'. Skaters come and go quickly, and some teams rise very, very quickly. Thus, if a ranking scheme is to pass the basic test of fairness, it must only take into account recent score, and not the scores of skaters who are no longer skating with their teams.

A scheme in which bouts never expire is unfair to the skaters. If a skater commits a mistake, costing that skater's team the win, that loss will be forever be represented in their ranking. In such a scheme, there is no redemption.

A skater can put in hard work for an entire season, and have a great effect on her team's ranking if, and only if, that team has a very short bouting record. If the team has been playing for 3 or more years, that skater cannot have a major effect on her team's ranking for years.

A scheme in which bouts never expire is unfair to the teams. New teams can quickly climb the rankings, or can stay near the bottom of the table, but their position will stagnate. The longer a team has been in existence, the more momentum its ranking has. Thus, a team who did well early in its career need not defend that title strenuously, but can count on the weight of the early bouts.

Such a ranking scheme is entirely unhelpful.  It shows leagues that have had generally good careers but recent poor performance as good, whereas teams with years near the bottom but several wins in a row as poor teams.  When choosing opponents, leagues cannot rely on such a ranking. No one plays their opponent's all-time team, they play their opponent's current team. Thus, such a ranking is at best an interesting intellectual exercise.

Roller derby is a sport that prides itself on fairness. This drives the notion that referees cannot offer assistance, only penalties, and the notion that a strong team shouldn't go easy on a weak team. Fairness is at the heart of the game. Why then use a system which is so patently unfair to those it claims to serve?

The WFTDA have done away with rankings that run the risk of "since the invention of derby..."  As have the MRDA. While all-time rankings have a place, it is in newspapers as pundits debate the results of hypothetical bouts between the 2008 London Brawling and the 2013 Stockholm.  However, they at best allow for an unfair estimation of the current performance of skaters and leagues, and run the risk of misleading other skaters and derby fans.

No comments:

Post a Comment