Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bait and Switch

Here's a rough drawing I did while in the latest round of Freelance Hell:

Probably won't end up using it for anything, but oh well. She has a nice butt.

Lately I've been pondering the direction of the new wave of roller derby. Especially since I don't want to start to contemplate the fuckedness that is my choice of day career. I'm skeered to death on that front.


On one of the rad sites I frequent, there's been a lot of discussion about mainstreaming the sport in various ways.

Which is ironic, since one of the greatest appeals of the new wave of derby(hell, just derby in general)is that it's not a mainstream sport. OK, I'm SO NOT SAD that the penalty wheel isn't used by most fact, I'm SO DAMN GLAD that my league never did it. It takes away from the pacing of the game, and ironically, it generally doesn't make the players look good.

It's interesting to see more and more leagues go from a very loose interpretation of the concept of a team uniform to seeing everyone not only in the same uniform, but just having numbers on the backs of their volleyball jerseys, without the names to go with it. This drove me nuts while watching the WFTDA Nationals over the interwebs, since me and many other people who tuned in don't know all of the players from all of the leagues skating. The sport isn't there yet, people. I'd like to be able to see both name and number so that I can identify and identify with the skaters.

Which brings me to my grandest of sadness: the decision by a small but growing amount of skaters to stop using "skate names".

I love my skate name. And even though everyone says that my skate name is really just little ol' me, I need the separation of Tara Armov from the rest of my brain. Tara's even more angry than I am, and I've had to admit to myself that by nature I'm an angry person. I have to be angry about something to function. Tara is a way to channel that rage into something somewhat constructive. And I think a lot of derby players need that separation, too.


Here's my theory...let's look at the average coverage of new wave derby. It's mostly comprised of, "calm, meek librarian by day, wild rollergirl by night". The ol' madonna/whore syndrome. Society still has issues about its wimmins being loud, brutal, and able to take care of their own business.

I think the skate names offer a "safe place" to let out the agression women otherwise aren't "allowed" to have. Well, the entire sport of new wave derby offers that, too. But the skate names add something...oh...I about it all. So does the not-quite-uniform uniforms.

And here's a secret about generally willing to work harder if they're having fun doing it, whether it's derby, day job, or whatever. TAKE NOTE OF THAT, all you companies out there that expect more work for less pay from your employees. You'd better at least make it fun, dammit.


Women can really tap into the fun aspects of this whole thing, and then can end up applying themselves to the sport when they get hooked on having their butts firm enough to set drinks on and endurance that'll compete with most men.

It's really a bait-and-switch. People hear about this derby stuff. They find out the skaters are women. And that the women have skate names that are usually puns and can be rather risque and wear non-typical uniforms. So these people come to games with a Playboy-influenced idea in their heads about what "roller derby" is like. Then the game starts, and by gawd, it's a REAL FUCKING GAME. These women are actually hitting the living bejeezus out of each other. And they're competing. With NO pillow-fights. And they're having FUN while doing it. OMFG. WHO KNEW?!?!?!?! Everyone's minds are BLOWN. Their minds have been tweaked just a tad...for the better.

And if it's a league that's able to add some production value with lights, good announcers, and a great's an EVENT. And people come away with a good impression of derby, and a good impression of the skaters, with a twist in its non-comformity of the usual sports on ESPN.

I think the current new wave derby is like early punk. It's shaking up perceptions of what playing a sport should be like. So to see those within derby wanting to go "mainstream", I think that takes away the very aspect of what makes derby the wonderful-horrible beast that it is. I never would've gotten involved in the sport if it were "mainstream".

Not that the sport would've suffered if my wondrous presence was absent, but it does make me wonder how many other amazing skaters wouldn't have gotten into it if everything about the sport was "mainstream"?

Well, all this thinking is making me tired, which isn't good since I have to go to practice and then drive to Bakersfield to do some announcing. Two things I wouldn't be doing if I wasn't involved in derby the way it is now. Wow, interesting to contemplate.

1 comment:

Little Kenny said...

There's a lot there to read and comment on. I agree with you. When it was first suggested we go and watch at the Y in NoHo I wasn't too sure about the whole deal. And after being there in the "just released from Hell" heat I might not have gone back. However, there was enough to it that I wanted to give it another chance. Best decision I ever made.

I love derby. With all its little quirks and idiosyncrasies. I definitely didn't know what to expect on that first day out. What I came away with after that first NoHo bout was "Holy shit those chicks are busting there asses out there in the sweltering sun skating on that frying pan of a concrete rink." I was impressed. I also wanted to see the banked track. The next game I saw was at the Doll House and it's without a doubt one of the best nights I ever had. I got my LADD flask and ended up, I think, determining that I was definitely a Fight Crew fan through and through. Four names stick out. Broadzilla. Tara Armov. Jihad. Judy Gloom. The one other that sticks out is Iron Mayven simply for the fact that she flew off the track and hung there for what seemed forever. Twisted. Unmoving. Scared the poop out of me. Next thing you know she's skating around again.

As for it going mainstream, meh. While I so want to see it succeed and grow, at the same time I want it to stay that small community of familiar faces and names. Definitely the names. There are so many fun, cool, funny, risque, you-name-it names. To lose those would be a travesty. Really it would. For those that are involved in the sport or a specific league it's not as a big a deal if names are not displayed. However, we never would have known what to call all y'all if your names hadn't been displayed on the jerseys. The programs helped, but still.

Nothing ever stays the same, but can't we put off major non fun changes for awhile at least. Making it mainstream and "pretty" is not my idea of fun.