Apr 182011

I remember my first time and my first one:

I was down in my parent’s basement in Parkville, MO- hunkered down for the latest tornado duck and cover all-nighter. This was like, the fourth or fifth time that month that the sirens blared outside and the ticker tape scrolled across EVERY channel on tv. I was prepared for it though- there was a case of Boulevard beer chilling in the mini-fridge, a windowless room within staggering distance. The basement was partially furnished, so I twisted open a mirth silo, stretched out on the love seat, switched on the television and prepared for an evening of drunken channel-surfing. The only problem was that there was nothing on that I hadn’t already seen or that I had any interest in watching. Frustrated, I looked to the movie choices in my Mom and Pop’s collection and just before relegating myself to watching ‘Out of Africa’, I happened on a local television station that was airing a Kansas City Roller Warriors bout.  I put Meryl Streep back in her place and started watching. The sound quality was shite, the images dark and grainy. But there was something being transmitted through the cathode ray tubes that I could not pull myself away from. I mouthed out the words before trying it out on my tongue and then haltingly, slowly, out loud- “Roller. Derby.”

I sat, elbows on knees and knuckles under chin, intently watching and squinting and picking up on a name here, a game term there. I reached for my notebook to jot down some of these lessons and that’s when I saw her shucking and jiving through the static and around the pack- “Snot Rocket”.


by Joe Rollerfan


My first derby game and first derby crush smacked into me like a one two punch.

I heard the awe and excitement in the announcers’ voices when they spoke of her. I too, sat transfixed- stupefied that a human being could have such outstanding control and form and grace and athleticism- all while racing around a polished concrete oval track on eight wheels.

I wanted to jump into the television and be transported to where they were. I wanted to reconnect with my blue sneaker skates from childhood. I wanted to get off the couch, put down my beer and DO something. Yeah, I got inspired, as we all have – to start living Derby.

The program faded out, the grainy surreal canvas was replaced with a blaringly clear update of tornado sightings. I had a flash of hallucinatory doubt. Had I caught a glimpse of some new reality just then? Did the low pressure and Lunar Ale cause a momentary REM state? I kind of shook my head a little, attempting to clear my senses to clarify what I had just seen, felt.

Then I did do something. I got off the couch, turned off the Dummy box and I leaped to the top of the stairs, en route to the office as quick as a hip whip. Oblivious to the wind and rain and lightening, my only fear was that the internet would be down and foil my drive to discover more. Upon seeing it up and ready to go, though- I started my tipsy research towards derby (self) development using words like- roller derby, Kansas City, warriors, snot rocket- until I discovered a link that brought me to an old YouTube video, titled ‘Snot Rocket’s Monster Scoring Run- Jammit 2007’.

All the thousands of thoughts that typically race though my head at any given moment- day or night, stopped cold- fixated for two minutes, forty-eight seconds.  I probably watched that clip a good five or ten times before looking out the window to see the twister that would pick up my parents house and carry it into Oz.

No, I’m just joshing with you. But I did decide that I was going to catch the roller derby train.

Within a fortnight, I made arrangements to move back home to the east coast after a near three-year hiatus. I arranged to transfer within my company and when that was denied, I turned in my two week notice. I reunited with my best friend Sybil Action and began the slow journey towards becoming involved in a sport that at the time, I had seen for less than ten minutes (an hour, if you include all the times I replayed Ms. Rocket’s scoring run from Jammit 2007).


The sport of Roller Derby is addictive but more than that- it’s inspirational, it’s motivational and it’s charging in and changing the lives of awe-inspiring women and men every day throughout the entire world.


I’m going to talk some more about Snot Rocket my next go-around here at LDG!, because she has inspired me in leaps, bounds and Grand Slam passes. She has also agreed to provide her input on some saucy roller derby questions I have for her. I’m looking forward to interviewing my Roller Derby rock star and sharing the conversation with you. In the meantime though, I’m curious-

When was your first time? Who was your first one?



  5 Responses to “You’ll always remember your firsts”

  1. When I was still married, I caught a few episodes of Rollergirl with my husband. It seemed exotic, exciting, and infinitely attractive, and far, far beyond someone as small and insignificant as myself. But I had a secret wish that I could be someone like that.

    Fast forward a few years, and here I was, invited to go see the Pioneer Valley Roller Derby, a double header with both their men’s and women’s teams, in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood where both the Sav-Mor and the Save-a-Lot had bulletholes in the windows. The bout ended up being cut short due to condensation on the track, but later, my boyfriend and daughter and I caught another bout, and by then I was completely hooked. I remember he was taken by a little jammer called Chickadee Struction, but I was enthralled with the tiny but fearless Bloodbath & Beyond, and I wanted to be her. And by then, I had figured out that the only way to be “someone like that” was to reach out and take it, I started the seemingly impossible task of finding a team (no small task, since I was determined not to turn my young daughter into a derby widow, so it had to be somewhere she would be welcome.) But I was successful. And now here I am. Not quite doing what girls like Chickadee and Bloodbath do (what happens when you put an overweight girl who doesn’t know how to skate on wheels?) but I’ve made huge progress towards my goal. And I’m incredibly proud of myself.

  2. Enjoyed the article. While I can’t say that it inspired me to roller derby (at my age, I would be lucky to just be able to stand up), it did give me a great insight on what it takes – GUTS!! I admire anyone who puts their lives on the rink and the multiple crash-and-burn cycles you must endure! More power to all of you. Have fun but stay safe.

  3. I heard back in 2007 that there was a new team forming in my town. I had never seen the game played and knew almost nothing about it except that it involved skating, and I’d always been more comfortable on skates than in shoes. I showed up to watch a scrimmage and watched Emmylou Harrass take a hit that resulted in what can only be described as a horizontal double axle. It knocked out her mouthguard and banged up her face. She shook it off and got back in the sacrimmage, and I was awestruck and totally hooked. I blew through assessments in just a few weeks, in time to play in the inaugural bout, and I had STILL not seen the game played (except for scrimmages). Madness! Almost four years later I’ve been sidelined with a serious injury, and my derby future is uncertain at the very least, but I have enjoyed every minute of the ride, and treasure the memories I will carry with me. I began my derby career at 40, and I often joke that, if I had onlyknown I could get together with my friends and we could knock the crap out of each other, I would never have learned to knit. This is an exceptional sport with unique challenges that can absolutely consume an avid competitor. The women who play the game are tough and funny and fierce. It’s no wonder it sucks us right in from the get-go.

  4. I first got introduced to roller derby at a league fundraiser, which some friends of mine had invited me to. I’d never heard of it before, never seen it, had no clue what any of it was about. Anyway, there was a speech given, about the ethos and culture of roller derby, and I realised that this is what had been missing in my life for so long, this wonderful space where women can be strong, be themselves, warts and all, and at that point I was taken – never even having seen a bout.
    Well I rocked up to practice the next tuesday, and started my fresh meat initiation – boy what a shocker! I had no idea the body had that many muscles to abuse! Anyway, that’s when I met my first (and definitely strongest) derby crush, Damage Patch Doll. She is an absolute pleasure to watch on the track, and an amazing girl to meet. In all the practice time I’ve been there, I’ve never seen her lose a round of Queen of the track, and she is an amazing jammer. I only hope I’ll be as good someday – and I will be!

  5. Reservoir Dolls vs Vaudeville Vixens…changed my life completely. I think back to that night and derby seemed like that devastatingly beautiful, completely-out-of-your-league girl across the room. I wanted it so bad it hurt, but thought “never gonna happen”…and now I’m actually doing it! And I still look across the room just amazed that I get to be part of it.

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