I never watched a roller derby growing up. In fact, they weren't even on the periphery of my horizon until about 5 years ago and I cannot recall when or where or how I first heard of it. But the idea of a bunch of women getting down with their bad-ass-roller-skating-shoving-racing selves naturally appealed to my gentle Downton Abbey viewing/baroque music listening/Jane Austen reading sensibilities. The thought lingered: I need to go watch a roller derby.
You know how life rolls--dentist appointments, Boy Scout meetings, church night, karate classes, book club meeting--we keep that schedule so full anymore that there's barely a free night for spontaneous TV viewing or attending random civic events. That all changes this year. I'm navigating the time/space continuum more thoughtfully, leaving room in my schedule to DO MORE STUFF. Stuff I've never done before, like going to see a roller derby.
I know the local derby women practice at a sports complex about 10 minutes away from my house. I've seen them there--larger than life in their tattered tights and punked out hair. While skimming the newspaper last week, I read that the Fox Cityz Foxz (roller derby folks seem inordinately fond of invented spelling--part of the whole "rebel" thing they've got going) had their season opener at that location Saturday night. A night wide open on my calendar.
My last-minute query to girlfriends either ignored or denied, I was left with two choices: attend alone or bring my sons. And why hadn't I thought to bring my boys to a women's sporting event? I hung my feminist head in shame. Of course they would come along--Mr. G had perked up when I mentioned slushies and popcorn.
Whenever you're out of your element--as I was at the roller derby--your senses are heightened. I knew one person there--the guy who runs the sports complex--he's a baseball guy who goes way back with Mr. D. He greeted me right away but from that point on, my boys and I were on our own.
The woman ahead of us handed me an extra ticket, so I wound up paying for only one person's admission--a fortuitous beginning. We held out our hands for the skull-and-crossbones stamp and passed through the gates.
It was a mixed crowd. The biker crowd showed up, leather and patches declaring their various alliances. The hipster crowd was out in force. There were families, old people, young people, men, women, granola-crunching types, beer-swilling types. One woman sat on the sidelines in her wheelchair, a sign taped on the back proclaiming "I raised a Socio SMASH"--the proud mother of a skater, no doubt.
We passed a series of booths--a silent auction, a bake sale, even a kid's corner with coloring pages. Take away the skulls & leather, crazy hair, tattoo parlor sponsorships and Planned Parenthood booth and I could have been walking through any church picnic or community festival. (Although those church ladies do rock some crazy hair...)
We perched on the bleachers and took in the scene. Four teams would compete, the skaters rolled around the rink and the sidelines in ripped tights and inked arms. There were cheerleaders, referees and team managers. My learning curve was steep--I had to figure out that each "bout" lasts 40 minutes, a "grand slam" is worth 4 points, the bigger skaters are usually "blockers" and the faster skaters are generally "jammers." It was a lot to take in. I wished I was there with someone experienced, I had so many questions.
The event kicked off with a horrible electric guitar rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Then the first bout got under way. The gregarious announcer kept talking while the women raced around the track, knocking/shoving/falling/sliding past us. The stand-out skaters became evident: Tootsie Rollher, Derrieress, Killer Doom Kitty, and Socio Smash. Fun fact: roller derby names are registered, so only ONE skater in the entire world of roller derbies has her very own unique name.
The scoring was confusing, for the longest time the score was a patriotic 17-76. In the second half I had a better sense of who to watch and began to ascertain the skill and technique required to score. It seemed crucial that a jammer stay low while moving through the blockers and the blockers definitely have a tough job, blocking out their opponent's jammer while facilitating the path for their own.
At the game's end, people rose from their seats and I watched them line up along the circumference of the track. The tradition appeared to be for both teams to skate around the track and high-five all of the supporters, friends and family from both teams. Hands down the coolest finish to any sporting event I've ever seen.
The boys and I left after one bout, though I'd have liked to stay for the second. A smart mom knows her boys' limit for estrogen-loaded fun.
What did I gain from this experience?
1. I found something truly entertaining and fun--I will go watch another match. In fact, their next home bout is on my birthday...
2. Next time I go, I'm bringing other grown ups.
3. I rediscovered my long-ago-buried rebel self at this event. While I have no plans to get inked anytime soon, I'm inspired to sharpen my edge. I used to be a girl who wore long underwear as leggings beneath a skirt and leather jacket. Where did she go? It's time to find what's left of her.
4. For my karate form I've decided to use a piece by The Donnas. Because chick-power rules.