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Robust McManlyPants on Average Display » roller derby

roller derby


So, I forgot all about Sunday’s bouts until they were well under way.  The weather might have kept me home anyway, given it was cold and rainy and gross and I wouldn’t have much enjoyed getting there or back.  Still, the truth is I didn’t make it because I forgot.  How lame is that?  Very lame.

So… can someone fill me in on what happened?

OK, so I had no idea that anyone from CRG reads this. Welcome to my tiny corner of the interwebs!

At any rate, I have two or three big corrections to make to my last post and I don’t think just tucking a little update at the bottom really does them justice. And, so without further ado:

  • Tucson Roller Derby just beat Texas, not AZRD. I had them confused, which is entirely my error. They are two totally different teams.
  • CRG is ranked #7, not #8, and AZRD are ranked #4, not #3. Again, this is my error; the old rankings are #8 and #3, respectively. The rankings were apparently updated recently, and I didn’t know this. (The program for Sunday said rankings were about to be updated, but that they would be updated in January.)
  • Lucy Lastkiss’ fiancee was removed from the arena after intervening when AZRD’s Babe Ruthless threw a punch at Lucy Lastkiss. I didn’t see that happen, and so again, that’s my error for suggesting he was not.
  • It is also entirely possible that I am wrong about that having been Babe Ruthless. Punch or no, that is a fabulous name.

I used to bug a skater I know well that people who are reliably going to write about the bouts, afterwards, need some sort of eagle-eye vantage point so they can get a really good look. (Honestly, this wasn’t just me making a play for great seats. Well, OK, not entirely.)

Now? With all good humor, I confess that I prefer that the skaters in general not be able to identify me on sight.

(Kidding! 🙂 )

In all seriousness, many thanks to the skaters, skater SO and ref who took the time to read my write-up and send me very polite corrections and explanations.  (Also, thank you to Eva for the explanation of the acceptable and unacceptable uses of elbows.)

I have to say, when the Tent City Terrors were behind significantly at the end of the first period in their bout against the Carolina Rollergirls on Sunday night, I thought they were just toying with their prey. Carolina was having to sweat hard to keep up the pace against them.

When Carolina was still leading significantly at the end of the second period I was starting to be surprised. I’d figured AZRD would turn on the nitro and just go.

When Carolina squeaked out a 10 point win despite a substantial come-back by AZRD in the third period, I was ready to eat my hat. Nobody expected that. I didn’t expect that and I was watching it happen.

So, let me formally say that I was, as has been demonstrated, uniformly wrong with my prediction for Sunday’s bout. Let me get that right out of the way! I was completely wrong, and utterly glad to be proved so.

Now, that said… wow. What a dirty game. I have to say, I was pretty shocked by some of the stuff I saw pulled out there on the track. Whichever Arizona skater tried to mix it up with Lucy Lastkiss was, depending on whether you saw the precipitating event, either insane or just settling a score. Regardless of all that, however, I have to say it’s not very classy at all when a third party – skater’s boyfriend or no – leaps into the fray. I thought that – getting involved in a personal way with what was going on out on the track or between the skaters when one isn’t a skater one’s self – is what got people thrown out of the rink…

In other measures of how dirty it was: I think Carolina got a lucky break on more than one occasion in terms of fouls not being called against them. That is not to say, however, that Arizona was some poor, mistreated team who got robbed of the match. Carolina’s jammers were rarely able to overcome Arizona’s jammers, who were simply faster and, let’s be frank, meaner than Carolina’s, even faster than Roxy, but there were jams where CRG held the lead jammer position and heck, let’s just go ahead and say it: Arizona fight dirty and when they do they do it dirtier than any Carolina player I saw. In the same jam I saw Deez Nuts (1) grab a Carolina Rollergirl by the arm and fling her out of the track in the middle of a turn and then (2) put her hands on the helmet of another and shove her down and outside in the middle of the same turn on the way through. I don’t know the rules in and out, but that hardly seemed legal.

Let’s be even more frank: Mink Stole – whose masked persona becomes more understandable when you’ve seen how she treats her foes, as surely she makes enemies at every game – is very, very good at keeping an eye on where the refs are and who’s looking and, when the refs are not looking, beating the hell out of anyone she can get her hands on. Or, if other watchers are to be believed, simply turning one foot out to trip anyone who happens to be skating by at high speed.

And finally, let’s talk about Arizona’s penchant for staying on the track after being sent to the penalty box. I won’t say they were outright insubordinate, though. I’m sure it’s very hard from the middle of the pack to hear what’s being said. Over the loudspeakers. In a raised tone of voice. For the fourth time. And hey, if you just happen to get a couple of takeouts in the lap (or two) you squeeze out of your meandering path to the penalty box, well, who’s counting? Right?

This game was very different from what I expected. Arizona are crazy skilled, yes, but Carolina showed that they’re way more skilled than even I was willing to think and I’m a hometown fan. On the other hand, Carolina was way more willing to throw elbows and, let’s be honest, completely superfluous flying tackles while not even inbounds and for no real apparent reason (*cough*LucyLastkissWasKindOfAskingForThatPunch*cough*) than even I had been willing to think and Arizona? Oh my. That southwestern sun does bake a hot temper into those ladies.

There are all sorts of psychological factors to take into account when analyzing this bout and its outcome, of course: Arizona just beat #1 Texas in Austin, something never done before. Maybe they came into this thinking that, in comparison, CRG would be a cakewalk. Maybe they held back a bit too much in the first period while testing their opponents’ mettle. Maybe some CRG member read my last derby post and felt there was something to prove (if so, my response: point well and enthusiastically taken!).

On the other hand, maybe it’s been a long time since the last national meet and those rankings – which put Arizona at #3 and Carolina at #8, and which are about to be updated in early 2007 – are more overdue for that update than anyone realized… who knows?

All I can say is that I am deeply grateful that the next bout is a home game to benefit charity. There are a lot of skaters I’ve missed seeing on the track (where were Leadfoot and Violet Femme, anyway, and where’s Busty O’Lipp, CRG’s natural answer to Mink Stole, been all this time?) and I hope I finally get to see them this time – and I hope Carolina can play a nice, relaxing bout without having to make those EMT’s at track-side bust ass back and forth from Turn 2 to Turn 3 and back again (and again, and again) like they did on Sunday. Tsk.

But you know what? It was a hell of a fun bout to watch. It was probably the most fun interleague game to watch since they hosted (and upset) Minnesota (who just walloped Ohio 142-55 in November) at the Skate Ranch a year (or so) ago. It might have been the most nail-biting, seat-leaving match I’ve ever seen. It was amazing. It was dirty, but it was amazing. The tapes of that bout are going to be watched over and over again by both teams. If you weren’t there, you’d probably do well to try to buddy up to a roller girl and get your hands on the video. Other teams and other leagues should be asking for copies of those tapes to study. I mean… wow. That was all anyone could say outside, afterward: “Wow.” It was a damned fine game to watch, regardless of all else.

(Please see this follow-up for corrections to this post.)

Just a reminder to folks who might want to go:  the Carolina Rollergirls will face the Arizona Roller Derby on Sunday 10 December at Dorton Arena.  Tickets can, as always, be purchased online.

We went to the most recent game, of course, against the Rhode Island Riveters.  It was another big blow-out by Carolina when facing a travel team.  Rhode Island has some really good players and, I have to say, some remarkably good blocking.  They’re a team that has really strong fundamentals but not a lot in the way of flash.

Carolina, on the other hand, seems to have focused the travel team entirely on, well, flash.  Everyone is really fast and really nimble – it’s quite impressive to watch a Carolina blocker get passed on the outside by a Rhode Island jammer, then see that same Carolina blocker run in her skates on the inside to get ahead of the jammer again – but the biggest player on the travel team, as far as I could tell, is Teflon Donna.  Now, Donna and Violet Femme are constantly competing to be my favorite travel team skater (Leadfoot being another favorite and one whom I wish they’d put in the jammer position again), and they both can really bring it on offense and defense, and they were fairly easily able to outmaneuver the Rhode Island team in any given jam.

Word on the street, however, is that Arizona – ranked #3 nationally, whereas Carolina is #8 and Rhode Island is #11 – are all fast and nimble and big.  I hate to say it, but I am not going to be terribly surprised if Carolina gets walked all over on Sunday.  Nimble defenders do a great job of jumping around the track in really impressive ways but I’m not sure how much that will help if Arizona keeps them flat on their asses the whole time and everything I’ve read and the people I’ve talked to who keep an eye on derby all seem to agree that this is Arizona’s basic strategy:  a jammer or a blocker or a pivot who is sitting down is an easy point.  Period.  That’s logic it’s hard to argue against.

Suffice to say, it’s going to be a really interesting game to watch:  is Carolina’s defense sufficiently agile to gum up the works of Arizona’s offense?  And is Carolina’s offense fast enough to get past Arizona’s speedy and muscle-bound defense?

For that matter, will Carolina manage not to foul themselves right into the penalty box for most of the 2nd and 3rd periods?  Seriously, let me address the athletes directly for a moment:  I understand the desire to push yourselves and I understand that it’s a physical game, but show a little care on the track, please, just this once?  The last two bouts have been hella fun to watch but far too often Carolina has shorted themselves a player because someone got a little happy with the elbows.  Don’t make that mistake this time.  Do you really want to short yourselves a player for half the bout with sloppy fouls and then lose by a close margin?

And finally, my favorite non-derby moment of the last bout:  sitting with my arm around my boyfriend while Katastrophes explains the game in great detail to the guys behind us.  “You’re like John Madden!” one of them said.  Hell yes.  Derby remains the most honest cross-section of the Triangle you’re ever going to find at an arena sport and everyone is there to just have as good a time as possible.

Also, the “Ask Me! girls,” as one volunteer referred to them?  Brilliant.  That was some good, good thinking on the part of the Carolina Rollergirls organization.  As the sport grows – and it is growing by leaps and bounds – there are going to be a lot of attendees who don’t really understand what’s going on.  The “ask me! girls” are a great sign that the Rollergirls remember that new fans are just as important as those of us who were sitting on the floor of the Skate Ranch three years ago.

You can buy tickets at www.carolinarollergirls.com.  You know you want to go.  You know you do. 

Get tickets right now, while you’re thinking about it.  At the September bout, print-at-home tickets had zero line; the line for those of us who bought our tickets at the door wrapped halfway around Dorton Arena.

Saturday night I was fortunate enough to witness the start of a new era for the Carolina Rollergirls – the use of Dorton Arena to host the ever-growing matches and, most especially, the ever-growing crowds. With seating for 5,000 and half the stadium open to fans, the place sold out. 2,500 seats, people. Plus track-side seating. I don’t know how many people were there, but we were many, and we were loud. Take a look at the CRG main page, linked above – the montage of photos is from before the bout started. Take a gander at those stands, filled with screaming fans. This was intense, and easily the best roller derby I’ve seen yet.

First off, the important thing: Carolina whupped the Sin City Rollergirls 127-65. Yes, 127 to 65. The lop-sided score hides just how good the beskated ladies of Las Vegas are at the game, however. They are a team of serious, athletic and very physical players with some amazing teamwork. Oh yes, they’re rough, too. I mean, c’mon, their nickname for themselves is “the Neanderdolls.” Much like Minnesota, the Sin City team play hardball – as amply demonstrated by Trish the Dish, who could skate on one foot with both arms tied behind her back and probably bite someone’s ear off on her way by. Here’s the thing – word on the street is that Trish is super-awesome, and that’s good, because when she’s on the track she is scary. Come to think of it, that’s good, too. I’ll confess I yelled some unkind things from the stands, something I choose not to remember, but no matter what anyone thought of her style – including the refs, who tossed her in the penalty box for two minutes for insubordination after they ignored a couple of blatant fouls against her and she let them know about it in a very direct way – she was all anyone could talk about after the bout. Our gang’s traditional post-bout burrito klatch talked nothing but Trish the Dish. She was the topic on everyone’s mind – we all knew who wore #99. Girlfriend, you can’t buy a solid rep like that.

Of course, the score tells the ultimate story: while Sin City was good at bogging jammers down coming through the pack, Carolina put together some of the most physical blocking I’ve seen in any bout. Mad-At-You might as well have strapped a saddle to Trish at one point, riding her all the way through Turn 3, into Turn 4 and right out into the crowd while the Carolina jammer sailed past. Roxy Rockett took turns on both defense and offense, surprising everyone by not scoring lead jammer a few times but surprising no one by immediately passing the jammer as soon as she was free of the brick wall the Sin City girls are so good at putting up. The star jammers of the night were Princess America, whose locomotive run and single-minded focus on scoring points stood the Carolina Rollergirls in good stead, Violet Femme – who was in top form, just speed and agility on the track – and finally Eris Discordia who, I swear to the gods, must surely be wearing fake skates to move the way she did on the track.

Here’s the gods’ honest truth: I don’t know how she does it, but she is the master of the fake-out. I have no idea where her center of gravity is, but she can dodge like she’s going to go right and then go left instead without appearing to even consider her own balance. It’s like she’s a running back who’s jogging on foot, not a jammer who’s in skates and moving at twice the speed. Here’s a tip, though, Eris: keep the elbows out of the face of the opposing pivot. Getting away with it doesn’t make it look any nicer and Trish the Dish didn’t look like someone I’d go out of my way to piss off.

And speaking of pissed, if you want tickets to the next bout you might go ahead and buy them now or you’ll be pissed at yourself for missing out. Even with the move to Dorton, all things derby are best done ahead of time: buying a ticket, getting in line, hitting the gents’/ladies’, lining up for a soda and, most of all, buying a beer. You know it’s a big crowd when it manages to drink Dorton dry. I do not lie, gentle reader, when I tell you that the roller derby crowd managed to drain Dorton of its last drop of brew by the beginning of the third period. Might I remind you that Dorton used to be home to a hockey team? This is not some church lobby unused to the ravages of a thirsty crowd.

Next bout at Dorton: November 19, vs. Providence Roller Derby, ranked 11 in the nation. Don your red and black if you’re going to cheer for the right team…

Now, surely if you have read this far you are wondering what the hell the title of this post is supposed to be about. Here’s the thing: I mentioned to apostropher that I’d just been to a derby bout and he pointed me to a post at Twisty about derby. One of the many quotable quotes:

Take, for example, that, despite the Rollergirls’ impressive skaterly talents, the “sport” is only nominally about skating. You have already guessed what it’s actually about, but I’ll tell you anyway: sex. That’s right, sex, only not real sex, such as the kind we could all be having if Hugh Hefner hadn’t ruined it for everybody, but phony sex as defined by the horndog ideology of the pornocracy.

Also, this:

The Texas Rollergirls are packaged as raunchy lumps of lower-class hetero feminine fun for an audience whose expectations adhere to a pre-programmed narrative affirming one of patriarchy’s most beloved bogus dichotomies, the bogus virgin-whore dichotomy (at the virgin end of the spectrum, proto-porn figures include Barbie, Wonder Woman, and Miss America). No matter how much fun the skaters are having—and it looks like they’re having quite lot of it—the fact remains that anytime a bunch of women change their names to “Lucille Brawl” or “Apoca Lippz,” squeeze into purple hot pants and set about grabbing each other in front of a crowd that’s paid $12 a head to see the sex class on wheels, patriarchy takes over. It dictates that women can’t own this experience, since according to patriarchal code, women on a stage are by their very nature commodities to be consumed in a purely sexual context by male voyeurs. Hence the glamorshots of the skaters on the website, the Playboyesque biographies, the plaid-skirt-and-white-cotton-underwear capitulation to juvenile male fantasy. Whoever these women are in real life, and regardless of their stature as genuine athletes, for the purposes of roller derby fan consumption, they are all of a type: loose-moraled proto-whores.

The pornocracy? I’m sorry, but I’m not finding that one in my Funk & Wagnall’s. Check the comments, as apostropher suggested to me, for the real action. See, these people watched movies about derby made in the ’70s, so now they’re experts. I’m so glad none of them had to be bothered with experiencing any portion of it first-hand in order to form their opinion! Now, pardon while I rework a comment I’ve already left on another blog into a post of my own.

The thing is, maybe that’s what it’s like in Texas. I’ve never seen them skate, though they have a reputation for being even more physically intimidating and much tougher than other leagues, but for all I know they really just skate around in little plaid skirts and wave their asses at anyone who happens to be standing around with their hand in their pants. So, I don’t know. What I do know is that skaters here in NC tend to view what they are doing as a very serious sport first and, if they consider a political message or subtext or theme, they think of derby as a sort of warning shot fired across the bow of any sexists who might be around. There are definitely skaters who see what they are doing as the utterly legal and in many additional ways similarly smarter equivalent of extremely violent protest in favor of sex and gender equality.

Now, I’m neither so gay nor so blind as to pretend that there is no element of sexual play or expression in derby. However, it’s at the initiative of the skaters themselves. No one requires it of them, and they do not all engage in it. Each skater sets her own standard of behavior, and it is 100% the skaters who set the tone of the bout and the crowd follows along – not the other way around.

Twisty throws in the $12/head thing, leaving it open to infer that skaters get paid to play, and a commenter comes along and states that explicitly. However, they play derby as volunteers. They train every day, they scrimmage, they practice, they volunteer, they sell tickets, they advertise, they do fundraisers, they do every bit of the work and no one is getting paid to do so. They do it because they love the game. Do some of them love it because they are, for some fans, the focus of sexual attention as well as sports enthusiasm? Maybe so – I don’t know, because I’ve never played the sport. And even if they are, isn’t it okay for a self-respecting and respected woman to acknowledge her sexuality?

If it’s not okay for a physically and psychologically powerful and empowered woman to express her physicality and her mental prowess in an arena – metaphorical and physical – which is set up and controlled by that same woman and her teammates, in a sport run by and for women, then when is it?

If it’s not okay for there to be expression of sexuality by a woman who is in total control of how much or how little she decides to make her participation an example of sexual play, when is it?

If a woman facing and overcoming her own limitations and working for years to increase her own skills and abilities and being respected and admired for it is misogyny, then what isn’t?

If it’s not okay for women of all sizes and shapes to step onto the rink and earn the respect of their peers and their fans, where and when and how should they work to achieve that level of respect?

Twisty makes it sound like it’s Miss America on fast-forward, that there is no substance whatsoever to the game. I would be interested to see Twisty tell that to a rollergirl who’s spent the last couple of years sweating day in and day out to hone her skills, learn the strategies, learn the tactics, the management skills, the skills required to be managed, run the committees, do the heavy lifting – well, anyway, I’d be interested to see Twisty say that to a rollergirl’s face. I’m willing to bet the response would be something along the lines of, “Oh yeah? Strap on the skates and let’s go.”

Even if I leave aside the simple falsehood of Twisty’s characterization of derby – I have never seen a fake or preordained fight in a bout, have never seen a faked injury, have seen enough friends on crutches and canes and limping for weeks to feel confident that this sport is for real and the scare-quotes around “sport” are just snobbish bullshit – it’s still patently condescending to the women involved. To go to two bouts and then announce that the Texas Rollergirls “are packaged as raunchy lumps of lower-class hetero feminine fun” doesn’t just denote a complete lack of understanding or empathy, it indicates total condescension. Who’s telling whom what role they’re allowed to fill, anyway? Who’s defining women’s role in sports in this situation? Who’s using the virgin-whore dichotomy to pigeonhole everyone involved, to paint with a too-wide brush? Believe me, I’m thrilled that Twisty is around to point out the patriarchy where it looms, but sitting there on the interwebs and patting them on the head and telling that that even if it’s fun they have no idea how it hurts them is, itself, offensive.

And, in the end, Twisty does a lot of telling us what’s wrong with derby, but what alternative is offered? If this isn’t empowering, what is? If this isn’t a real sport, what is? What’s real sex? What’s real equality? If it needs to be torn down, what shall we build in its place?

I’m not sure what life under the pornocracy looks like (though I’m sure the music sucks – ha ha) but I’d be surprised if it’s derby. Twisty suggests that it’s a bunch of trailer-park GAP models getting dolled up to be ogled by rednecks for money. As I’ve said, no one gets paid to skate and the women are of diverse body styles, intentions and presentations. So what about the crowd? Yes, there are rednecks there – it’s NC, you’d be hard-pressed finding someplace without a couple of them – but there are also parents & grandparents of skaters, children of skaters, husbands of skaters, wives of skaters, bikers, goths, thugs, chavs, yuppies, Bible-beaters, drag monarchs and sports writers. [/jameswatt] It’s not a bunch of drooling misogynists with one hand down their collective pants. If it were, I’d be awfully surprised by the participation of my skater friends who see what they’re doing as making a public and very fun statement of empowerment. And, yes, there’s a lot of class and educational diversity among skaters – some never finished high school, some have Master’s degrees – but none of them are dumb (the game requires too much of both strategy and tactics, too quick a mind, for any good player to qualify as “dumb”) and any element that makes them “raunchy” or “lower-class” is either purely ironic or entirely in the eye of the beholder.

And really, that’s the core of it, isn’t it? Twisty went to one bout and apparently loved it. She went to another and all of a sudden it was all Hugh Hefner’s fault (side note: why give that sad old lech so much power over sex? if you don’t like the way he defined it, define it yourself) and “inane.” Now, given what I’ve seen of CRG, and given what I’ve heard about Texas’ sustained mastery of the sport, I’d lay one dollar down on the side of the table that says it was not that the game was different from one bout to another. The only interpretation I can come up with is that Twisty went looking for a reason to hate it and this is what came of it. At any rate, given that the skaters I know are intelligent, articulate people – how many athletes do you know who go out to dinner after a game and wind up discussing art films? – I don’t see many of them marketing themselves as “low-class” or “raunchy” without a tongue firmly tucked inside their cheek. If ironic raunch doesn’t undermine the patriarchy, what does? If ironic play doesn’t subvert the dominant paradigm, what does? That there’s a skater with the name “Barbie” is so self-evidently ironic, so obviously, on its face, an effort to make fun of the idea that a woman has to have lethally constrained physical dimensions and an idiotic smile on her face, that I cannot help but assume Twisty has chosen to ignore the irony and the play and focus on whatever Twisty wants it to be.

Nice way to live up to the pseudonym, there.

If Twisty is choosing to ignore the realities that make it harder to turn derby into one big patriarchic fuck-fest, how is derby supposed to defend itself? Arguing with someone who ignores inconvenient facts is impossible; trust me, I’ve had the misfortune to talk to conservatives and other nutjobs from time to time and it is just impossible to get through their reality filters. So, out the window goes rational debate; out the window goes a sensible and honest interpretation of derby; out the window goes respect for skaters who’ve given years of their lives to becoming better and better at this sport and want nothing but respect for their work.

So why am I bothering to defend them, and why does it get my knickers in such a knot to see them attacked at random by someone who clearly does not or will not take into account the realities of self-awareness and self-expression and personal initiative involved in all the cultural codes on display at a derby match? In part it’s because I suspect Twisty and I would agree about a lot of things and so I find it vaguely unsettling to find her in possession of an opinion which so plainly does not reflect reality. Mostly, however, it’s because I know women to whom this is the most important thing that’s ever happened. I’ve watched a little girl ask a player for her autograph and beam when she got it, like meeting a rock star. I’ve seen friends who had no intention of joining the team strap on their skates for the first time in ten or twenty years because just being around women who are working that hard and being that honored for it is inspiring.

Yes, there are mountains of inequality in the world. We could devote every day of the rest of our lives to eradicating inequality and live a million years and we’d never see the end of sexism or hate or fear because that’s just how it is. That there are terrible things in the world does not necessitate that derby be ranked among them. That there are injustices in the world is not remedied by undermining the efforts and the self-respect and the community some women achieve in a sport that some people don’t enjoy.

Derby builds confidence and respect and authority and cultural capital for every woman involved in it. Tearing that down does nothing to assault the patriarchy. It only tears down the women who play the game, and the men and women with genuine respect for those who do.

Oh, interesting note: there is an entry for “pornocracy” in Wikipedia. It describes a time in the 10th century CE when the Catholic Church was viewed as being under the control of a number of powerful women who were pulling the strings of the popes. I don’t guess it really qualifies as ironic, but I certainly find it interesting that Twisty would use as a pejorative against derby – a sport played and controlled by women, with no one’s satisfaction required except their own – a term originally coined to mock women who were feared for wielding real power, on their own terms, shaping and directing an institution so frequently used through history to hurt women rather than to help them.

But what the hell do I know, anyway? I’m a gay guy. I’m not about to lay odds on whether that makes me A-OK or simply patriarchy^2.

Man alive! What a bout!

Tonight the Carolina Rollergirls played the Minnesota Rollergirls in Carolina’s second inter-league bout. In November, Carolina travelled to Minneapolis for their very first inter-league; this time, the Minnesota girls came down here for a taste of Southern hospitality. What’d they get instead? Beat, that’s what.

The thing is, the November bout saw Carolina take a loss. That was a downer, but the players I talked to said it was a real eye-opener and extremely… well, educational. See, the Carolina games between the local teams (the Debutante Brawlers and the Trauma Queens) are always about skill and finesse and athleticism. Sure, they’re rough – the Rollergirls are no wilting flowers, afraid to mix it up – but they’re athletes, not thugs.

I think it’s important that I state, clearly and unequivocally, that they are not afraid to get rough. I say this because I know some of them and they could totally kick my ass and I’d like for that not to happen. Perhaps that, in itself, is ample demonstration that they are no wimps.

Minnesota? They’re rough. It might be amusing to sit back and think of Carolina as a bunch of Southern belles with brass knuckles but Minnesota really takes the cake. No complicated metaphors for them, no sir. They fight. They throw their opponents around just for fun. I mean that quite literally. They get in there and try to draw some serious blood.

I have to say, they lived up to that reputation tonight. They were some tough customers. They’d check a Carolina Rollergirl the second the whistle blew to start a jam, just because. But even though Carolina got called on most of the fouls – I have never seen a jam where literally half of a team was in the penalty box, much less multiple times in the same game – and even though they had to contend with Midwesterners trying to beat the ever-living shit out of them, Carolina finessed and fought and powered their way to a ten-point victory over the course of 40 very intense minutes. An added bonus is that they held the lead for the vast majority of that time.

I have never screamed so much or so loud at a Carolina Rollergirls bout. I stripped my throat and left most of my voice at the rink. The place was packed, sold out long in advance of the bout, and the crowd went crazy for most of the time.

That’s actually, I think, my favorite thing about this bout: that we were all cheering for the same team. The Rollergirls I know personally are Debutante Brawlers. I never get a chance to cheer for the Trauma Queens. Tonight, though, I got a chance to cheer for the Trauma Queens who are just damned good and, unhappily for those of us pulling for the Debs, wearing black and blue rather than pink and white. Watching Violet Femme lap the Minnesota jammer and tear through the pack at supersonic speed, racking up 13 points (more? I don’t remember) in one jam? That was hella fun. It was awfully nice to get to cheer at the end of that.

I have a lot of friends who are really into sports. Me, not so much. I used to watch football, in the ’80s, but eventually I just fell out of love with it (and fell out of love with watching the Browns blow the AFC championship year after year). Eventually I wondered why I cared so much when there was something better on another channel. Eventually, it was that simple for me: it was just TV, just something as remote and impersonal as an episode of The Rockford Files. This is different, though. Nobody’s on the track because of their million-dollar contract. Nobody’s there to score an endorsement. I’ve said this before, I know, but it’s an accessible sport in a way enjoyed by no other sport I can think of. When the Rollergirls are on the track there are people three feet away – no, really* – who are screaming their lungs out for them. It’s raw and emotional and real in a way that watching the Super Bowl just isn’t. If you at all like sports, you should be going to Rollergirls games. That’s the bottom line.


* Three feet is the minimum distance required between the front row of floor seating and the outside boundary of the track. If you sit there – and I always try to do so – they give you a special warning that you could get hit. A lot of people get hit. It rules.

Lots of things to update on. First off, GARMONBOZIA is going to be playing again. Woohoo! They’ll be at Reservoir (formerly Go!) in Carrboro on Thursday 17 November at 10pm. You know you want to see them.

You know it.

Also, apostropher posted a link to his Frappr map. I’d never heard of Frappr, so I went and added myself to his but then made one of my own. Add yourself, if you feel like it. It just seems like a neat toy.

Finally, went to see the 2nd Carolina Rollergirls bout on Sunday. It was pretty goddamn awesome. You may remember that last time I said it was like watching a sport, not a game, that suddenly it was a very different, much faster, much more polished performance? Sunday they were a little hectic but it was even faster. I don’t really endorse a continual upwards spiral – I don’t mind if a game takes two hours as long as it’s good – but damn, they were giving it 110%, on both teams, and really, really into it. A couple of friends were out for the first time, and loved it. Todd from Monkeytime nearly got run over by a skater. If you’re in the Triangle and you’ve never been to a bout, the 3rd bout of the season is coming up in December.

My friends and the Rollergirls’ friends and I are not the only people starting to take notice, either. WB22 was there to cover it (though their report was utter shite) and UNC-TV is broadcasting a hopefully more substantive piece tonight at 7:30 on North Carolina Now. And there was a “sideline reporter” there from some other local media outlet, though I don’t think they identified which one. After the WB22 piece, I told The Boyf that it’s all too easy for me to imagine some WB22 producer cocking his hat upon hearing about the Rollergirls and going, Tits on wheels! Get a camera out there! Happily, NC Now can be relied upon to offer a lengthier look at things. I expect their story will be a lot more interesting and more substantive. I expect WB22’s take was that this is some sort of flash-in-the-pan fad, but I’m here to tell you that despite years of having professional and semi-professional sports teams in this area, the last time I paid to go to a sporting event it was a Raleigh Icecaps game at Dorton Arena. Despite liking Arena Football as a kid, I never once went to a game of the… uh, what were they, anyway? The Cobras? Something like that. And hell, I barely noticed when the Hurricanes went after the Stanley Cup.

In contrast, I’ve been to almost every Rollergirls bout, and I can’t imagine missing one at this point. It’s a big deal, with inter-league bouts and a national championship and the women I know who are out there on the boards day in and day out have been at this for years preparing and training and competing. This is no fad. This is definitely highly organized, and yet it retains its ability to appeal to the community in a personal way. I know some of the women out on the rink. I know some of the women who are thinking about trying out for the team. It remains accessible in a way no other local sport can claim, and yet it’s more exciting than any other local sport I’ve ever watched. Sunday was a sell-out crowd, and I’m ordering my tickets for the next bout this week because I somehow doubt that there are going to be tickets available at the door next time.

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Sunday night was the 1st bout of the 2nd season of Carolina Rollergirls. The Debutante Brawlers won a very, very heated
game vs. the Trauma Queens. I was going to take my camera &
tripod, but bailed on them at the last minute in favor of simply
enjoying the spectacle. There were some new elements this season
(a demonstration of the rules at the beginning, and the Wheel of
Misfortune between halves). If you’ve never been to a Carolina
Rollergirls bout, you really do need to go and see it for yourself.

The big differences this season are that things seem to go so much more
smoothly, both on and off the rink. Scoring is faster, the
announcing is speedier and the game… well, the game is like a
different game altogether. Now, I want to preface what I’m about
to say by making it clear that the women of Carolina Rollergirls were very good
at what they do last season. Truly, every game I’ve seen has been
exciting and fun and way the hell better than any other game of
anything I’ve witnessed first-hand.

That said, if you call last season good, then Sunday was simply phenomenal.
All anyone could talk about after was how much more intense it was on
Sunday than any game last season – perhaps more intense than the
championship bout. As I said to The Boyf, last year was best
described as watching the teams play a game. On Sunday, we
watched them play a sport. There were examples of
coordination and cooperation, offense and defense that just blew the
doors off what I’d seen before. Busty O’Lipp getting up in a
jammer’s face to keep them back, Julie Jawbreaker knocking people clear
out of the rink, Zella Lugosi whipping around the track on what I later
learned was only her 2nd time jamming, ever, and it was simply a whole different game. Both teams
are good, and both teams sport really amazing players. The lead
was never wide, and it flipped back and forth between the two teams for
most of the match.

Part of the difference, I think, is that I’ve seen enough to have a
better grasp of how to watch the game. I simply better understand
what’s going on most of the time. I can’t calculate the score on
my own, but I have a much easier time understanding who’s winning and
why. My own increased vocabulary for the game, though, is just a
tiny fraction of a fraction of what makes the difference. What
makes the difference is that all the returning players are even better
than they were before and the new players are sweating hard, as
well. It’s just a different experience altogether. Like I
said, they were good last season. This season, they’re better.

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