There are two circles of life where you can introduce or refer to yourself any way you’d like and you’ll still be known by a moniker that’s more than likely nonsensical in most circles of life; Bloggers and the Roller Derby. Being the former, today I am talking about the latter.
As, I would hope, most of you Clevelanders know, Saturday marked the opening of the 2010 season of the Burning River Roller Girls.
I think my first experience with Roller Derby was when I lived in Columbus, home of the Ohio Roller Girls, and they skated confidently by during a Gallery Hop in the Short North. To be honest I don’t remember what I thought. I do know that it wasn’t some sort of epiphany. I wasn’t amazed that there were such things as Roller Derby out there. I am fairly sure I was aware of it, though I can not for the life of me remember how or why. Though, I never went. I didn’t see a bout until last year when K, J, and I went to every one of them. This year I wised up and bought season tickets.
Now, I suppose the question would be why. Otherwise what the point in blogging about it? Well, for one… it’s girls kicking ass. And I’ve never been one to shy away from girls kicking ass. And I have seven seasons of Buffy and five seasons of Alias to prove it. I gravitate towards things where girls fight. Actually, I’m not entirely sure what that says about me.
The first episode of Buffy that I saw was in season three (don’t worry I found someone who had taped the previous two seasons so I caught up rather quick). The title character was being hunted down in some sort of game, along with the bitchy popular brunette. It was Homecoming and they had both campaigned for Queen. I digress. Of course, I knew right of that they’d get out of the situation with the use of hand to hand combat and probably some heavy artillery (though there was a spatula used at one point…). And, yes, that appealed to me.
Roller Derby is, perhaps, the sort of real life aggression relieving version of that. My question is who wouldn’t want to watch a bunch of girls with awesome made up names knocking each other around… on roller skates (everything is better on roller skates, like… porn stars, or snakes, or… Starlight Express).
Also, there are very few sports that celebrate women as much as men. Yeah, there’s women’s basket ball and women’s soccer, and a bunch of other sports that have ‘women’s’ stuck in before them. But still, it’s sort of undeniable that it’s the female cheerleaders for the men’s sports that seem to get all the attention. Roller Derby is a women’s sport. Okay, sure, so Roller Girls tend to wear outfits as skimpy as cheerleaders, if not skimpier. But they are skimpy clothes served with a generous helping of badassery, and you can’t help but get the impression that the point is not to show off their bodies. There are all sorts of body shapes on the flat track. Skinny, voluptuous, muscular. The thing is, it honestly doesn’t matter if your fishnets are flattering, so long as you are wearing them with attitude.
Perhaps I should take a moment to actually speak about the logistics of the whole thing. Oh, I’m not going to get into the rules and what not because I am sure you can Google that just as well as the next person and I don’t want to take up precious blog space. The Burning River Roller Girls are divided into four teams; the Hard Knockers, Rolling Pinups, Hellbombers, and Cleveland Steamers. There’s really no rhyme or reason to why I prefer the teams I prefer, but I will say that I tend to root for the underdogs. The Hellbombers always win, undefeated I think. On Saturday’s bout they played the Cleveland Steamers and we were someone sitting smack in the middle of Hellbomber territory (that is to say their fans… I don’t think they have annexed off part of the arena). But I am not sure my cry of “Damn you Hellbombers!” was appreciated. Especially not by the prepubescent Hellbombers shirt wearing kid sitting in front of me. Really, I have no ill will against the team. It’s just that they are always so far ahead that it makes it a little… not boring per se, but something close. I swear the only time people cheered overly loud was when the Cleveland Steamers finally made lead jammer.
And the Roller Girls are doing well! The first few seasons took place at United Skates in Willoughby. When that got too cramped they moved to the Euclid Sports Plant. Now they’re finally esconsed at the Wolstein Center, which… let’s face it is a real venue, and have a couple thousand fans. Not bad for four years. I mean, okay, I sort of miss the Sports Plant. It was weird. You had to drive through dumpster wasteland to get there. The bathrooms were always broken, and you sat on folding chairs. But, everyone felt like they were at least a little bit part of the action. The Wolstein Center is… much less intimate, but better venue and better accessibility can’t really be anything other than better, can it?
I could never skate; I have a very low tolerance for pain. I am the first to admit this. I think the first time someone elbowed me in the face as I tried to fly past them I’d lay on the floor staring at the ceiling for about fifty minutes. Plus, knowing me, I’d probably break my ankle within five minutes of attempting to skate after about fifteen years. No, I could never be a roller girl. My best friend doesn’t entirely share my view here. Even though her husband and I continually try to make our point by punching her in the arm and sitting back to be amused by her wincing and freaking out for ten minutes, she is entirely sure that she’d be good at it. I’m not convinced. Still, of course that doesn’t prevent us from coming up with what our names would be. I thought I’d go with something like Petra Fye or Smackie O. She said she’d probably stick with Kitten Kaboom, but Abby Synthe is still on the back burner.
But, there is much more to being a Roller Girl than a fierce outfit and a cool name; and those are the things I couldn’t do. No, I’ll never be a roller girl; I’ll just be in the stands, with my tee shirt, cheering them on.