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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Incident Pt. 1 [Fighting and Port City]

This is a tough blog for me to write. I knew someday I would have to. ...Because it is the most dramatic thing that has every happened to me in my skating “career”. It was bound to surface eventually. It is pertinent now, because of a little rumble that occurred earlier this month, on October 9th, at a Port City game.  In my opinion, everyone I know has grossly overreacted. But perhaps that is just because my experience has been vastly, outrageously different. The Port City fight, and the reaction to it, spurred me to finally write about my own “incident”. I thought I had something written about this already, but when I turned on my old computer I just had several documents filled with angry, lengthy rants about management.  I will use some excerpts from those, but unfortunately I will have to fill in the gaps.

You can’t really see what happens after the initial impact. The girls are pretty much engulfed instantaneously by fellow skaters and long constant whistles can be heard from the refs. Within seconds the fighting skaters are pulled apart and the announcer reassures the audience everything is okay. That’s it. Done. Over with. Big whoop. Rumor has it, the Undead Bettys who were scheduled to bout Port City later this season, cancelled the game upon hearing the news of this fight.

A line needs to be drawn here to differentiate this incident from what can be misconstrued as a dirty team. It is possible that some teams are accustomed to playing unfair and purposefully implement dirty tactics on the track. They, together as a team, make an effort to sabotage legitimate game play. And then there are fluke accidents where a couple girls’ egos and tempers get the best of them and shit breaks loose. And when that happens, you just need to regroup as a league, put a lid on the bullshit, and enforce the proper consequences to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

You see, I started skating with a league where fighting was encouraged and bad feelings and resentment amongst skaters was nurtured. Fights occurred midgame on a regular basis as announcers cheered and rallied the crowd. Particular skaters were known for starting scuffles on the track, and were never reprimanded for it. While no one was ever told outright to stage a fight or throw a punch on the track, the behavior was never discussed or dealt with once the skater served their time in the penalty box. I’m sorry but if an individual can be depended on to throw a punch at least once a bout that person needs to be dealt with off track, bar none. But it was overlooked because the audience liked it and it pumped up the crowd. So with that league, fighting was not just individualized isolated incidents, it actually was, the way the team was. It was veiled as just a bunch of moody women who were prone to bicker and fight, but the underlying truth was a rogue management exploiting the skaters and playing them off each other for the benefit of the rink owner’s pocket book.

[This type of behavior was never called!]

Now, that’s not how it went down at the Port City fight earlier this month. They put an end to it. No one can be heard over the loudspeaker inciting the crowd or encouraging the skaters. Everyone was mortified, even the audience. I’m coming to the defense of both Port City and Undead. For one, everyone is overreacting, this stuff happens, and they are dealing with the skaters in question in an appropriate manner. And second, fighting IS absolutely unacceptable, and skaters’ safety should without question always be put first. It is crucial to set an example of good ethics and create and air of camaraderie. If a team feels their safety is at risk they SHOULD pull the plug on a game. It’s unfortunate, and it’s not the end of the world for Port City, but perhaps it is acts like Undead’s cancellation that will help display an attitude of no-tolerance for this sort of behavior in our sport. I commend Undead for their decision, but I also have empathy for Port City because I understand these things happen and it’s no one’s fault. It doesn’t necessarily mean an entire team is prone to playing dirty; this was a fluke accident. But each team has to look out for their best interests and protect their players, and I understand that too.

It would help to have some background on my own experience and on the incident that ultimately led to me leaving the NorCal RollerGirls. Months after it happened, (years ago now) my dad wrote a play by play of the incident, to help with our legal documents actually. (Yes, we were considering pursuing legal action regarding this). The NorCal RollerGirls were in the habit of video taping EVERY SINGLE GAME, and they had video of this entire incident and were withholding it from us, (for fear of us taking legal action maybe?) We really just wanted to see exactly how much time elapsed between when I hit the ground and when my dad intervened on the track. Anyhow, we didn’t end up pressing charges, but the document still serves well for my records and is pretty helpful in describing what went down in a detailed and colorful manner. Honestly, I have no reason not to use the actual names of the people in question, so I’m going to.

To set you up a little bit- my league, the NorCalRollerGirls, had sent two travel teams they created especially for this game, to Reno to perform an exhibition bout for some interested skaters who were starting up a league. The bout was entirely made up of Chico skaters and refs, so it is important to understand that while I was in Reno I was technically skating “on my home turf” and with people and under circumstances I was familiar with. It should have been a friendly game. (Mind you, this is my dad’s version of events, I will summarize my version afterward). Here’s what happened:


Reno Roller Kingdom incident 11/24/06
Sequence of events
John Kallio, 12/3/06

[“Quoted” comments are paraphrases of intent; actual language by all was more harsh.]

Late in the roller match Lauren was skating as jammer on outside of the curve coming toward me.

The other jammer (Mo-town), came from the inside of the track moved out toward Lauren, made no attempt to legally block or impede Lauren; instead she locked Lauren’s head by hooking Lauren’s neck in the crook of her elbow, then pulled Lauren forward to the floor.

I was about 20 feet to the right of the action standing just outside the caution tape track boundary.  I reacted by looking toward the referees shouting about the illegal headlock and takedown, shouting for them to get Mo-town off my daughter.

The refs seemed to ignore the incident, and they continued to follow the pack of blockers around the track.

Mo-town retained the headlock on the floor and with closed fist punched Lauren several times while Lauren screamed repeatedly, “Get her off me!”

After looking back to the referees one last time who were not reacting or blowing whistles, I ran to Lauren’s aid, went to my knees and attempted to push Mo-town off Lauren toward the center of the track.  That action did not work, so I tried to pull her toward me.

At that time the referees arrived to separate me from the skaters, and I lost sight of what was happening on the track.

I was berating the ref about their inaction and telling them I wanted to see if Lauren was injured.

Suddenly I was struck in the chest and shoulder by a very large spectator who grabbed the front of my sweatshirt, lifted me off my feet and shoved me backwards carrying thirty feet or more, knocked me to the floor on my back and straddled over me still holding my shirt. We were all the way to a band performance stage; my head was nearly under its scaffolding.

The man yells “That’s my wife you’re shoving and that means you deal with me.”
I’m yelling, “That’s my daughter your wife is choking and pounding, and I’m not going to let that happen.”

Someone got the man off me.  I got up and looked for Lauren.  I could not see her.  I scanned for my wife Cheryl and our party that included my son Nathan, My other daughter, Heather and her two children. I could not locate any of them and took a few steps toward the track to look for them.

A referee (Shaggy or Hollywood?) confronted me, and told me to leave the building.

I said “I will gladly leave the building as soon as I can see if Lauren is all right and find my wife and family.”

The referee yelled “Get out now!”  I tried to step around the referee saying, “Just let me find my people.”

Someone I did not see came up behind me, put me into a full nelson, nearly lifted me off my feet, causing great and immediate shoulder and neck pain. He said, “You’re going out NOW.” He began to pull me toward a side exit to the parking lot. My assailant did not identify himself to me.  I hoped he was security and not the irate husband.

I was in pain and was yelling, “I give up.  Don’t break my shoulder.  I’m not a threat.  I’ll leave peacefully.  “You’re going to pull my shoulder out of joint.”

As he dragged me to the exit, he said. “I’m not letting go until you are out of here.”

At the door someone I couldn’t see said, “Let him go now, don’t throw him out.”  I was released out the door.

I stretched and tried to assess any bodily damage and recover some balance. By the time I turned to look back at the door, three large men were standing there, Mike Seko, (owner and manager of NorCal Rollergirls) a black man who later identified himself as the night manager of Reno’s Roller Kingdom, and I think he might have said he was one of the owners. The second man was in a striped SECURITY shirt and third man was in street clothes.  All three were much larger men than I.  I assumed one of them had ejected me, but none of the three would identify who it was. 

The SECURITY man (who would not give his name) said it was not him but claimed that the man was a member of the security team.  My son Nathan who had also been removed by a referee, said the claim was “bullshit” because the security team were in identifiable clothing and the assailant was not.  The security man then said, “He doesn’t work for us.  He was a friend who was just helping out.” The reference was to the man who “Nelsoned” me out of the building.

I notice that the husband of Mo-Town had come out of the building and was talking to the others.  I asked why he hadn’t been restrained and ejected from the building.  The security man said,  “He immediately quit fighting and was not a threat.  You were.” 

I said, “I wasn’t fighting, I tried to stop a fight, then I just wanted to find my daughter and family.  I was the ‘threat’ because I’m 5’7” 175 lbs. And he’s 6’7”, 275.”  (ie: I am more easily removed). I later found out the husband is a former pro football player;  I don’t think my size estimate an exaggeration.

With the situation relatively calm by this time, I spoke a short time with “Mike” the rink manager, to express my concerns about safety conditions of the setup with audience in such close proximity to the action, lacking of padding at some places on the track perimeter, exploitation of the girls monetarily and in the rink announcer inciting the crown to cheer for overly- aggressive and dangerous play.   I protested the undue use of force to restrain me and eject me from the rink.  He listened, but of course, disagreed with me.  Other than Mike, none of the people I encountered would give their names and the security people refused to tell me who they worked for.

Lauren, still in skating gear, came out the front door upset and tearful.  She had located my wife and other family members.  The scene settled down, the match had ended (Lauren had been expelled from the match---“for fighting back”).  We left to return to our hotel (The Sands) where we called the police to file a report on the incident, regarding a possible battery offense or, at least, undue force used against me.

Officer Plaich, badge #10174, Reno Police Dept., advises that it was likely that if I filed a criminal report on the initial attacker,  Mo-town’s husband, he would likely file a counter claim of battery upon me because I had go onto the track to assault his wife.

Officer Plaich also commented that any complaint I might have about safety issues or actions of security and rink personnel should be directed at the rink or those individuals. He then gave me a form with information and contacts for lodging a formal complaint, instructed that we had a year and one day to do so.  The officer left.

Back home in Ca., the next day, 11/25, I called Roller Kingdom and spoke to day session manager, “Jan”, told her who I was; she took my number and said she’d have Brad Armstrong, the rink owner call.

Brad Armstrong called the afternoon of 11/26.  He told me the man who had ejected me with the Nelson headlock was.  When I asked him for a full name and to repeat the workplace, Mr. Armstrong said he wasn’t sure about the workplace and thought the man’s name was Chris.  I asked, “So he had no authority to grab me?”  Mr. Armstrong said “Chris” was just trying to help.

He said Mike Seko, owner of the NorCal Rollergirls, and he had discussed the matter and roller leagues in general the day before as Mr. Seko had be snowbound in Reno an additional day.

He said all the uniformed SECURITY people worked for him, but none were involved with me.

He also said he was the third man at the door when I had been ejected, the one who had told “Chris” to let me go.  I think he said he was wearing a dark jacket, but I did not remember him ever identifying himself or speaking to me at the time.

On the phone Mr. Armstrong was concerned with any implication I might make to connect his rink with the incident.  I told him that it was his rink and spoke of my general concerns with the way league operations are handled and safety issues at the rinks.  I did say regarding the incident on Saturday night, I was interested in obtaining video we know to exist to clarify the actions of all involved including my own.  I told him I was interested in time lapses between sequences to evaluate the reactions of referees and security personnel.  I told him I’d be x-rayed if still ailing in a few days.  I told him I was not considering legal action at that time, but I needed to see the videos to clarify all that happened.  Mr. Armstrong continued to assert his belief that his rink and personnel were not at fault in any way.

Mr. Armstrong made a number of references to the fact that his rink was not connected to Mike Seko, nor the Norcal Rollergirls, nor the rink announcer, nor the referees, all of whom he said were employees of Mike Seko and his rink Golden Skate in Chico, Ca.

I let Mr. Armstrong believe that neither he nor his rink were at fault, but I was keeping all options open and would seek legal counsel to see what could be done to obtain video documentation of the incident and the names of principals involved.

I know there was a house camera set up on a platform directly across from the incident.  There was a commercial tv cameraman filming parts of the match.  There are relatives of the skaters who also have home video that may be relevant. I am interested in seeing if a copy of the tape can be obtained.


Ya dad, me too. To this date, the only visual documentation I have of the incident is this one sole picture.

 [This was right before she flipped me over and got on top of me]

The only things I think I need to fill in… I had lapped Mo-Town twice when she hooked me and took me down. My recollection is exactly as my dad described it: she took me down in a headlock, got on top of me, and started punching me in the face. I remember yelling “Get her the fuck off me!” at least 10 times, and enough time passed for me to look back at the refs several times and notice that they were in fact following the pack of blockers around the track still. (Hey dummies, both jammers are on the floor). I broke my finger trying pathetically to punch her back, (in her helmet) and was just trying to push her chest and core away from me. Thank god my dad came to my rescue. All I remember was him reaching out of the sky and swooping in and grabbing her off me like the actual hand of god. It was dramatic.

What happened next was chaos. My dad was enveloped into the crowd as Mo-Town’s husband accosted him, and I was fighting with refs who were trying to expel me to the penalty box. Here, and only here, I will admit fault. I did this, but I was completely justified and I stick to that. Sometimes when shit hits the fan, nothing matters anymore and you just have to stand up for yourself. You see, I had spent months complaining to my league about the constant fighting, (and this particular skater’s tendency to fight in fact) and I felt I was being singled out and had been allowed to get beat up on the track for too long because I was a defector, that the refs had intentionally not blown the whistle, and that they thought I was getting what I deserved. So I went to the penalty box alright. And I threw the folding chair that was in it. The story has been translated that I threw the chair AT somebody, but rest assured, I made darn sure no one was in my line of fire before deploying. That was it. I was ejected from the game, (‘officially’, but like I was going to return to THAT bullshit anyway) and I went outside to find my family. Later I learned my brother had gotten roughed up by security too and my mom had a bottle of water thrown on her by a spectator as she tried to reach my dad. My two nieces however dealt with the situation differently. One was crying, and the other stomped around the parking lot defiantly messing up every pile of leaves and then declaring, “My work here is done”.

Anyhow- what happened leading up to this event, and what subsequently happened after are a whole other blog. This was just the play by play of the actual events, and it’s long enough. Background on why I was a defector and exactly why the refs may have thought “I was getting what I deserved” is still all very pertinent information.  Just give Port City a break. It wasn’t that bad.

1 comment:

  1. wow. i'm sure there's been a lot of turnover by this time, but my first bout (back in 2007) was against port city. they actually started a couple of fights and had a lot of deliberate tripping. before the third period started (back before 2 30's, ha), their coach was overheard telling the team, "we're obviously not going to win, so play as dirty as you can."

    i'm bouting them in a little over a week. we'll see if things HAVE changed, we have a zero tolerance policy...