Rock Bottom

Aug 162010

Didn’t make it to RollerCon? Neither did I; but TrAC/DC and a fast friend photographer scoured the Black & Blue Ball to give us the best and worst looking of this famous roller-vegas partay.

We narrowed it down to the three best & worst outfits, and voting will open tomorrow, August 17 and close Sunday August 21 at midnight. Winner and SUPER Loser receive free LDG shit, so don’t take voting lightly.

WARNING: Due to the graphic nature of the “Worst” photos (man ball silhouettes, hairy chests, vinyl onesies), we suggest you hold tight to your eyeballs. They might wanna run right out yo face.

Check back tomorrow and get to voting!

Aug 132010

“Why I love roller derby” writing contest finalist:

“How Roller Derby Ruined my Life, Saved my Soul, and Gave me Great Pecs” by Zarathrustya

There were tears in my vinegar.

At least there would have been if I could have even gotten the goddamn pickle jar open.

It was November 2008 and I was standing in my kitchen sobbing like a widow because I couldn’t open a jar of sweet baby gherkins.  In my defense, the frustration being directed at the jar was merely the culmination of a sports arena-sized well of emotion filled by my recently failed engagement of three years.  For the record (what girl doesn’t keep score?), it was my decision to end the relationship of nearly 4½ years, but only because it has spiraled and completely disintegrated over the last year into something completely volatile and unhealthy for both parties.  I can say with the utmost certainty, however, that the fault lay surprisingly enough not with either party but with roller derby.  Before your eyeroll completes its 360, allow me to elaborate as briefly yet entirely as I can.

Grievous mistakes were made on both sides, true, but the person who made the decision to end the relationship barely held semblance to the shy, nervous and reserved 17 year old I began the relationship as.  The recurring complaint I received from my fiancé during the year I began roller derby was that I was “never home anymore,” or that he never got to see me because I was always out with my teammates (read: newfound family).  We practiced two days a week and I sometimes went out with the team afterwards, but not to an ungodly hour as I was under constant pressure to come home.  Soon the tables turned, we developed opposite schedules and before long I felt as though I were sleeping next to a stranger.

It wasn’t until I was doing some recent self-examining that I came to fully realize what my ex truly meant.  I wasn’t the one who was never home any more; rather it was quiet little Mary K, the failed artist with a serious self image problem and no voice or direction of her own who was making fewer and fewer appearances.  She packed her shit and signed the lease over to her stronger, more assertive and self-assured counterpart, Zarathrustya.  Roller derby ruined my life, but it was no life worth living.  My first steps as Zara were as shaky as my first crossovers, but once I found my balance and my true self with the help of this empowering sport and my empowered teammates as my role models, I changed as a woman, into a woman.  One with my own voice, my own dreams, my own goals, and the means and confidence to achieve them.

Now I open all my own pickle jars.

Aug 122010

“Why I love roller derby” writing contest finalist:

“Why I Love Roller Derby” by Bev Eerie

Derby is the great equalizer. It obliterates the wedges our culture and media insist on driving between women, and unites them across the various differences they experience in their everyday lives.

While roller derby attracts everyone from housewives to PhDs, the deeper meaning is often glossed over. Pundits and columnists make careers from pitting women against each other–the antagonism between stay-at-home moms and professionally ambitious women is legendary, as is the gulf between mothers and the childless. They’d have you believe that women are each other’s natural enemy.

Then at a roller derby practice, you find a high-school educated mom socializing with a lawyer, pulling on skates side by side and laughing over the new skill they learned at last practice–or at least tried to learn. Both skaters ended up on her ass more times than she cared to count. And each of them is determined to master the damn skill this week.

Which leads us to the track. Roller derby doesn’t care what your degree is, how advanced your degree is, if you even have a degree. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a job, or if that job is white, blue, or pink collar. A woman’s off-track life is no indication of her personality and skills on wheels. Once skaters are geared up, all bets are off. There is no way to tell who raises three children at home full time and who dons a lab coat for a multinational pharmaceutical company. Skill is skill, and anyone can have it.

All skaters are sexy and tough, and there’s no need to sacrifice one for the other. Large or small, derby wants you. Everywhere else in our world, larger women are joked about and put down. During a bout, that woman will put YOU down. Flat on your ass. Size and weight are prized attributes, and this is not only during play, but also in photo ops and at events, which give each skater the opportunity to dress up as sexy as she wants to. Larger women aren’t shunted to the background or covered up. This is not to say that small women are reviled. If you do fit the cultural body ideal, you could be a killer jammer, or a deceptively adept blocker. Derby culture truly appreciates women of all shapes and sizes. It’s beautiful.

I hope derby takes over the world, because its values would turn this world on its head. It encourages all women to work together. Fighting and competition would have its place–on the track–while at the afterparty called real life, we would trade war stories, admire each other’s strengths, and appreciate our differences, knowing that derby is proof that we need all of us to complete a successful league. Derby, being the equalizer it is, becomes the solution to the puzzle that is female companionship. Nothing could kick more ass than that.

Aug 112010

“Why I love roller derby” writing contest finalist:

“Frightening Giants” by 9lb Hammer

Why do I love roller derby? Because my legs are stacked like a professional wrestler’s, and I can do fifty pushups at once. Because I am barely five feet tall, yet my presence frightens giants. Because I am allowed to—even supposed to!—thrust my shoulder into girls’ chests and knock them over.

Because before roller derby, I had never been part of a team.

Before skating, I spent my lonely life studying, playing with my three cats, and wondering if there were any surprises left. All my friends read the same books, talked about the same theorists, and drank the same bottles of wine. Every morning, I woke up, put on some mascara, and taught the same composition classes over and over. In the afternoons, I would let the din of the Game Show Network background my reading of Victorian literature and trashy magazines. At night, I would scour the internet for indie music shows and balk at the mileage.

I would curl up on my futon and wonder if God existed. I would get bored and cut my own hair (a bad, bad idea). I wondered if I would make close friends (or find a cute boyfriend) in this college town of sorority skirts and Ray-bans.

Before derby, I lived life for myself, and I lived life for nothing.

When I started skating, I didn’t befriend my teammates immediately. I didn’t go out after practice, and I didn’t facebook tag pictures of my volcanic leg bruises. I tried to keep my distance. This roller derby thing was just something to fill up two hours on a Monday and Wednesday night.

And then everything changed.

At the request of my future derby wife, I started going out with the team, especially if pizza was involved. When I played my first scrimmage in mental-rentals, I kept up with the pack. I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. When I accidentally tripped our team’s jammer, she forgave me immediately.

My teammates told tales of motherhood, drug abuse, and broken families. When my chin bounced off the floor one practice, a teammate told me that it was okay to cry, as long as it wasn’t from a hit. I got to know and to love girls I would have never met off skates.

Before derby, I could not have told anyone that my doctor tested me for kidney disease, and the test came back positive. I would have never told anyone that having diabetes for twenty-three years has led to a daily Prozac habit.

But after getting comfortable, I had a team to confide in. I had girls who drove me to the emergency room when my bladder stopped working. I met people who loved me for the mess that I was; I met people who believed in me.

I love derby because now I accept what I have always been: a short girl with a proclivity for literature comprehension, high blood sugars, and the Game Show Network.

I love derby because now that short girl has legs as strong as wolverines.

I love derby because our team has a hair studio sponsorship that prevents me from making bad late-night style decisions.

I love derby because now I know that God exists, and she is definitely wearing a pair of pink Riedell roller skates.

I love derby because skating has taught me how to frighten the giants that once frightened me.

Aug 102010

“Why I love roller derby” writing contest finalist:

“The Power of Quads” by Rettig to Rumble

It’s been three years since I stopped actively competing for the Rat City Rollergirls, the league I helped form.  I never really got the skating part completely out of my system, so it’s not totally surprising that I was recently recruited back to the sport to skate for the Oly Rollers with minimal arm twisting.  While the common reasons women enjoy this sport are likely applicable to me, it’s what this sport gives to others that really makes me love it.

Thinking back to a game I played in 2006 with Rat City, I clearly remember the highlight of my night happening off the track. Just after halftime, my leaguemate Dirty Little Secret and I were asked by a derby volunteer who also worked as a physical therapist if we would take a photograph with a patient of hers. She explained that this young woman was a quadriplegic who had gone through painstaking arrangements to drive roughly 250 miles north from Bend, Oregon to Seattle, Washington with her father just to see a “real live roller derby bout.”  We were told that more than anything she wanted to meet a real rollergirl.  We knew it didn’t matter which rollergirl she met, and, as it turns out, Dirty and I were to be the lucky ones.

We eagerly said yes and quickly skated over to her. She was young, in her mid twenties or so, and was genuinely thrilled to be meeting us. I could tell she was having a wonderful time.  The audience around her happily made way for us to maneuver her wheelchair and position ourselves so that we could pose in the foreground of the bout going on behind us. She was positively beaming as her father proudly snapped a few pictures.  We spent some time talking with her about the game and thanking her for her support.  Then Dirty and I went back to skate the remainder of our game feeling like superheroes.

During the second half of the game I imagined that I was the woman I had just met and that I had miraculously regained the ability to control and maneuver my body after whatever terrible accident had befallen her put her in a wheelchair for life. I didn’t take one step, not one single stride, for granted.  Every booty block I planted and every hip check I gave was harder than the prior one. I was a superhero not for myself, but for her.  Even though my team ultimately lost that game, sharing a few moments of mutual bonding over the sport of roller derby with that woman was, to me, greater than any win could ever be.

In real life I’m just a regular old gal who works a day job and has problems like anyone else.  But to the woman I met that night, I as a roller derby skater represented so much more: strength, courage, and perseverance. The impact of roller derby is felt beyond its skaters, and, in some very lucky cases, through them.  That’s why I love roller derby. And that’s why I can’t give it up.