Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Funny Little Thing Called Derby

We were smoking cigarettes and killing time outside George Bell Arena, about to face the leopard print-clad and faux blood-smeared defending champions, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls. Apart from the usual mixture of butterflies and impatience that I tend to feel before each bout, it struck me how curiously calm I was. Gone was the panic of last season, when everything was new and I was wearing skates from 1972. After two years of practice, politics, and pre-game nausea, had I become jaded? Was this inexplicable calm a case of ennui or the mark of experience?

It’s hard to retain the sort of giddy of excitement I felt as a new skater. When you’re just starting out, it’s all about meeting new people, learning new skills, and being part of something big and seriously cool. Whenever I’m stuck at a party and there‘s an uncomfortable lull in conversation, I bring up derby. Everyone is interested, and everyone loves derby. Men want to know if it's fake (it's not), and women want to kick ass and sign up. It’s an instant conversation starter that allows me to seamlessly slip out of my shy-girl-that-couldn’t-think-of-anything-to-say reality and into my fearless rollergirl persona.

Perhaps my fear of being derby-weary is more burnout than apathy. After a disappointing first bout, it looked like the Betties might have fallen victim to a kind of sophomore slump. The result of a sleepy off season turned out to be a team that was just not gelling. It was a tough lesson, but we came back and improved in a way that surprised even ourselves. The results of the first bout and the last, both against the Gories, could not have been more different: we got a cataclysmic smackdown in the first, and we had them running scared in the last. At one point, we were just eight points behind and they were looking tired. We thought we might win. Even now, just thinking about it, I feel simultaneously excited, determined, and frustrated. It’s that mixed-up hungry feeling one gets when they want to win, and they want to win bad. Anyone who feels passionate about something knows that feeling well.

The Betties have worked hard all summer. Getting from point A to B in four months, from being pure chaos on the track to becoming an organized Bettie Blue derby machine, took hard work and sacrifice. The mysterious calm most of us felt before our final face-off with the Gore-Gores was not indifference, but the result of knowing that we had done all we could do to prepare for this final showdown. We were ready.

With the 2008 season now over, and what the Betties have decided will be a rigorous off season in the near future, I look forward to seeing the dozens of Fresh Meat come out to practice, clamouring to be a part of our league. Their fresh-faced enthusiasm and spotless attendance records serve as a potent reminder of how lucky we are to already be part of this funny little thing called derby.

No comments: