The Politics of Derby

Here I was, a newly minted Black n Bluegrass Rollergirl, along with a few others who passed in February, plus the ones that had passed back in October. In early April, Skinnie Minnie, who’s in charge of our uniforms and merchandise, came walking in with a huge box hefted over her shoulder. One by one, she began calling names and girls skated over to receive their uniform. When she got to mine, I was almost shaking in my skates. I rolled over and she tossed it over to me. I held it up and looked at it, seeing my name and number in print for the first time. If I could have, I would have put it on right then and there. But I was already geared up and we were about to start practice. With a sigh, I tossed it into my gear bag and rolled off to join the others on the track. The season was starting with our first home bout in April against Vette City, and we had work to do to get ready. But I tried that uniform on the second I got home and pranced about the house, dancing for my son. When we had our team photoshoot, a week or so later, with everyone in their uniforms, I can’t tell you how amazing I felt to really be a part of the league. My smile was 10 feet wide that day.

We also had a mandatory meeting in April, where our individual photos were taken for use in the programs. At that same meeting, each of the FNGs was given a mentor, who presented her mentee with a necklace consisting of a blue skate bearing. My new mentor was Hot T Molly, aka TANK, and I was honored to have her. Not only is she an incredible blocker, she’s also one of the executive directors of the team. With her helping me, I knew I could become a better skater. So now I was ready for the season. I had passed evaluations; I had my uniform, my mentor, and a new pair of skates put together by Coach T. I just had to keep practicing, practicing, and practicing.

Let me tell you right up front that I did not expect to make the team roster for the April home game. I knew I wasn’t nearly good enough to play yet. In late February, we had a B team scrimmage against the Cincinnati Rollergirls, which I did not play in. Five minutes into the scrimmage, another FNG, who had passed evaluations back in October, took a hit from a CRG player and crumpled. The jam was called off by the refs after she couldn’t get up off the track, and she had to be helped off by the EMTs. It was her first jam ever playing against another team, and it turns out she had broken her ankle. Once again, it was brought home to me that derby is a real, full contact sport. Girls get hurt and it’s one reason I get a annoyed when spectators don’t believe derby is real. If you are ever watching derby and someone gets hurt to the point the EMTs are needed, you’ll notice that every skater on both teams, the refs, and the NSOs will get down on one knee out of respect for the injured player. And they don’t get up until she leaves the track, whether it’s on her own, or by being carried off.

I was still nervous because of my knee injury, and even though I practiced hard and scrimmaged every week, I knew that I wasn’t ready after just two months, to play in a bout. But a lot of other people were more than ready. And herein lay the problem. There are currently almost 50 girls in our league. We have two teams, A and B, which play at each bout. You can only have 14 skaters on the roster for each team, plus two alternates. Do the math. At most you can have 32 skaters on the combined rosters for a bout, and 4 of those will likely not get to play. That leaves quite a few people who won’t be able to play at each bout. And this results sometimes in hurt feelings and anger. This is one reason why our captains and executive directors are such a great group. They work hard to keep the league going where it needs to go and they balance the wants and needs of almost 50 people. It means that sometimes you have to do NSO work, or help coordinate the bout, which is a huge task. It’s important in a big group like this to remember the league above everything else. It’s easy to get upset that you aren’t playing, but then you have to remember that there are 47 other girls that feel the same way you do. We all want to play, but we all have to pitch in off skates too.

Another thing to remember is that a lot of other leagues don’t work this way. Some leagues you have to fight for your spot on a team. If you aren’t good enough, you don’t get to play—ever. The girls on these leagues are constantly trying to one-up each other, stabbing each other in the back, and refusing to help their teammates become better players, all to earn a coveted spot on the roster. On those leagues, a crop of FNGs is something to be feared, because one of those girls could take your spot away from you. I want to get better, and I would hate it if my teammates refused to help me reach that goal. Every veteran member of BBRG has helped me at one time or another with skating, strategies, or bouting skills. And because they’ve taken the time to help me, I can’t resent them for making a roster when I didn’t. I also like to think about Run Amuck, who worked her butt off all last season to play for the first time in that final home bout. Run had worked like crazy during the off season too, getting better and better, and she made that April roster because of her efforts. I would say that Run is now one of our best B team players, and it was all because of her own hard work.

There’s no twist ending here. I wasn’t on that April roster, and I think it’s good, because I wasn’t ready. But I NSO’d both games and had a great time. We won both of those games, and I was super proud that I was part of the league, even if I didn’t play. I also didn’t make the roster for the first away game we played against South Carolina. But I went anyway, sat in suicide seating, and lost my voice screaming for my teams. We lost in South Carolina, both A and B, and although we were disappointed, it was incentive to do better next time. Any loss is disheartening, but you can always learn something from it. So, readers, imagine my complete surprise when I logged onto our forums and discovered I’d made the roster for the May home bout. My first bout as a Black n Bluegrass Rollergirl!

Next week: Baby’s First Bout