Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Derby Rant

First off, blogger keeps fucking with its photo uploader and now I can't do a damned thing with it. So this will be a boring, non-photo post. Fuck you, blogger. Fuck you very much.

Second, I've had to come to the realization that I am a derby relic. Already. It hasn't even been seven years since I first got started in this adventure, and I'm already on my way out. Some would say I've lasted a damned bit longer than most. Which is true, but I'm not solely talking about my actual time as a team skater that I'm talking about. It's also my attitude towards this so-called sport/lifestyle/mental illness.

I've yakked about derby attitudes in general on this-here blog before, so I guess today is Chapter Two in the continuing saga of Tara Armov Has A Big Fucking Mouth With An Attitude To Match. It started with listening to one of my new favorite podcasts, Derby Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. They focus on all leagues whether flat or banked track on the west coast, which is fantastic.

On a recent episode, "derby fashion" was discussed. But it wasn't really about "fashion" as much as it was about looking like a professional team out on the track. There was the skater viewpoint of: It's best to look as much like each other as possible so that it confuses the other team as to who the jammer is. Then there was the announcer/audience viewpoint of: It sure would be great to know who the hell is who...put yer names as well as yer numbers on your fucking uniforms because we don't know who the fuck you are if you don't. Somehow this conversation evolved into a comment made along the lines of, When you see a team that doesn't have wonderfully matching uniforms, don't you think that they won't play the game as well?




Back in the "good old days" of modern derby(not even ten years ago, btw), part of the goddam POINT of it was to not be like other sports.

To not be mainstream.

To not blend in.

Because we do that every damn day in our regular lives, for the most part. Roller derby was never really considered a mainstream sport, ever.

And to see how many people that have a spotlight in this adventure who wouldn't get it otherwise...whether it's announcers like Windy City's Val Capone to Denver's Dumptruck, or entrepreneurs like Wicked Skatewear's B-Train, or BAD Girls' Motley Cruz, Derby News Network's Hurt Reynolds and Justice Feelgood Marshall, or even Demolicious of our league as a league fucking boring would the sport be without all its colorful characters that don't need a damned thing manufactured about them like Old School boring-as-fuck derby?

Despite all this, there is a growing group who want the current modern/DIY derby to go mainstream and professional. To be covered in the local sports page. To be in the Olympics. To look and act completely and totally like professionals, whether the skaters are paid at this point or not.

Which takes away the attraction to this non-mainstream sport to begin with. At least for most of the current crop of involved skaters, of which there are...what, 10,000 or so worldwide?

Some people think derby names and fishnets are stupid for sports, but roller derby isn't like all other sports. Even though I've been involved in derby for so long, I still don't give a rat's ass about other sports. Sorryyyyyyyyyyy, but I don't.

I like that Tara Armov can skate around, be loud, hit skaters, and say a lot more than I can in my everyday life. Tara gets away with a shit ton of stuff AND she's liked for it. When I try even one fifth of what Tara does in real life, I get in trouble.Tara doesn't need validation from a weekly update in the LA Times sports section. Tara doesn't need validation from being in the Style section either. Whatever I get from derby, it does NOT come from the mainstream, so why try to pander to it?

It makes me appreciate the acidity of Hellarad so much more in the face of "We must make derby more palatable to the masses" mentality that's going on now.

And I'm going to be an asshole now...

A lot of people are all up in arms about the Oly Rollers. A league that started in 2006 with a bunch of former professional speed skaters and until this past Sunday had a 22 game winning streak in the WFTDA and were even National Champions last year. A lot of people hate them. Why? Because they act like a professional team in a still-amateur sport.

So what's the big deal? you may ask. Isn't that one of the goals of modern derby? To be professional?

Sure, for some. But that doesn't mean a team or league should be anti-social d-bags in the process.

They never hang out or are social or involved in the general derby community. Before a game I can understand that. But after a game? Fuck you, that type of snobbery is why I fucking hated jocks in school. School's out, kids. Time to act like adults. No one's gonna steal your winning essence if you go to an afterparty and and get to know other skaters from other leagues or even say hi right after a game that you fucking won, for fuck's sake. NO, I'M NOT KIDDING, YOU WON'T LOSE ANY OF YOUR MAD SKATING SKILLZ IF YOU GET TO KNOW OTHER SKATERS FROM OTHER LEAGUES.

So it's no surprise that at WFTDA Western Regionals last weekend when Oly got their asses handed to them by Rocky Mountain, the derby crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of Rocky Mountain. Rocky Mountain not only had expressions on their faces so that they didn't look like derby robots, but their uniforms weren't absolutely perfectly uniform, and some of them wore face paint. THANK YOU for being interesting while having bad ass skating skills, ladies. You were THEE most fun to watch!

So with this rant I now realize more than ever that my skating time is definitely doomed. It is anyway just by the mere march of time, but heading full-force into the mainstream when it sucks the soul out of what attracted most of us into this madness just doesn't make sense to me. So as the entitled old woman that I'm quickly becoming, I'm going to bitch a lot.

Get used to it, people.


Agata Chokabitchski said...

YES, seriously. Why do people have the need to take everything that is awesome and strip all the awesomeness from it and it make no longer awesome? It's just like the Karate Kid remake. They took something awesome and stripped it down and made it boring and lame. Stop being like my high school art teacher. I don't want to be MADE to do something one way. You freaking art nazi.

pieces_o_hate said...

Tara Armov, you are truely rad! I couldn't have put this any better myself.
I feel the derby soul slowly getting sucked out by lame arse the second phasers!

I hear ya, I totally hear ya.

Pieces Of Hate
Auckland, NZ

Anonymous said...

OMG this is so true

Anonymous said...

Oh Tara - you'll come out the other side and end up loving every single iteration of this lump of craziness. Give it time, but don't sweat the bitterness. You definitely have to experience that too! :)

Love you and your blog!

La Muerta

B-Train said...

Dear Tara Armov.




Swede Hurt said...

like you

for some reason you cannot wear ballerina tutu's on banked track...

I like dressing up, dressing down, or just dressing.... I like being able to wear whatever I feel like, when i feel like it!

I don't want to feel like I have to wear fishnets, but I don't like to feel like I have to wear something boring... I wanna wake up and go to my bout feeling like I just can wear whatever my simple mind tells me...

Chynna Clugston said...

I love you!

Anonymous said...

You must conform to non-conformity!
What if a group of so-called conformists wants to start a league? Is it OK for them to dress and act similarly if they choose?

Anonymous said...

so so true, although not like it in the uk at the moment i can see it going that way, as for leagues that don't really join in there is one in london that has very little to do with any other leagues, their loss

Mic said...

I don't think it's fair to say people dislike Oly, they just find it hard to relate to them. They're like these monoliths removed, and none of us know them very well. They're a great team though! That being said, I agree that a big reason I've been such a huge RMRG fan this year is because they're so good and I know them... Plus they're such a dynamic team, even if it's a blowout they're fun to watch.

Very Anonymous Mike said...

I am in the middle on this one. While I do not want to see derby lose it edge and become whitewashed, I would also like it to be seen as a sport. It's a balance. As long as skating is the center, and accessories are used to enhance,the game should stay interesting. It's when skating becomes an aside for the antics where you run into problems.

If it's not a sport, then it's a fad, and fads fade away.

Very Anonymous Mike said...

I have the fortune of working with a variety of leagues both big and small. As nice as it is to see a league grow to the size where it can support four or five teams, I think there is something you lose in the process.

You become a little more like a corporation and a little less like you started out. There's a lightheartedness you get with the small leagues that you do not with the big productions.

Old Lady Mercy Less said...

I am so with you on this on many fronts, I hate seeing creativity and individualism taken away from the sport as time goes on, and I am also a crotchety aging derby relic. I will, however, defend Oly after having been a mother of two in this sport, and missing almost every afterparty for a game I played in to go home and be with my kids, because bout day meant I was away for 8 or more hours...

Most of Oly are Moms, and lots of them get right on a plane to get back to the 23 kids that belong to their charter of 20. Some of them were actually out at the afterpartieS at Besterns- plural - and I have photo evidence of it :) Real diversity means room for folks who don't party, too.

That said, I hope we never stop having fun being serious about the game we play on the track, but maintain a sense of humor about ourselves, because what we are doing is CRAZY. Our irreverent, self-referential humor is a big part of what drew me initially, and what keeps me involved in the sport. Beyond derby, being able to laugh at yourself and with your friends is an important life skill. May we forever have danceoffs and jokes on the jam line and during intros and OTOs!

RedDiabla said...

You must conform to non-conformity!
What if a group of so-called conformists wants to start a league? Is it OK for them to dress and act similarly if they choose

Why would so-called conformists be attracted to nonconformity only to try to make it more conformist? That makes NO SENSE to me.

Mercy: on the Oly front. I know a bunch of them have kids and stuff, but there are ways to get to know other skaters in other leagues without chugging 20 beers at the afterparty. You're proof of that, yourself! I was giving the most obvious reason for the Oly backlash...I don't think it would happen the way it has if they were more open to outside contact...I hear they have internet access up there as well as indoor plumbing! ;)

I'm just disappointed that the prevailing viewpoint of all this wackiness we do is that for it to be taken "seriously"(I don't know what the goal is to be taken seriously...sponsors? TV coverage? Sports page recaps?), then the fun stuff needs to be toned down. Skating itself is serious, but we still need to have fun while doing it.

Jewcy said...

I could not agree more. Thanks for writing this. I continued to volunteer in my league long after I retired from skating, and I was sad about the direction I saw things going in.

Also, our team includes a shit-ton of moms...I'm sure most of them do. I see them struggle with balancing derby and family - this is not unique to Oly.

To the male poster(s): Ilm not sure that you can understand the importance of women having a place to totally and completely express themselves...uniformity kills this.

!ewcy, RCR

Ninamree said...

As usual... you're right & I love it.

Carrie said...

I just found your blog, but I have heard your name far and wide.

I am a newbie, but couldn't agree with you more. While we have nice, shiny new matching uniforms- our league allows us to be individuals. I see more and more teams trying to promote themselves as professional and wanting the things that go along with it.

Women like me (over 30, mother of two, larger than a brick house ;)) could never dream of becoming part of any other sport and be as widely accepted. That's what has drawn me to derby more than any other reason. Yes, it may take me a year to pass assessments due to lack of natural ability and endurance, but I am accepted just as I am. I just don't see that happening if teams become "professional". Girls like me will never be given a chance.

Being a mother of two young ones (my oldest is 6) I don't get to go to as many practices, events or after parties. Sometimes it limits the quality of my relationships on the league. And I totally see your point about being approachable to other derby girls. Getting to know each other and being "friends" outside the bout is what it was founded on.

Are we trying to bash each others brains in when on the track? Hell yes, but that doesn't mean I can't like you later :)

Anonymous said...

It is definitely going that way, particularly as leagues attempt to control the behaviour of skaters from other leagues and also the face of roller derby (Facebook has a lot to answer for).

dolly said...

I gotta say, I don't really care much about whats going on on this blog, I'm only here because Day Glo Divine posted this on her Facebook page and I was curious. I've also been playing derby for about 7 years, and I remember sewing my first uniform, a fucking jumpsuit, out of STRETCH WOOL pinstripe fabric, and it being one of the most shining accomplishments of my life. I still fit in it too, thank you very much.

That said, we can all get political about our derby from our derby soap boxes in front of an audience of dozens.... but I really draw the line at making fun of the Oly Rollers. Those girls fucking RULE, and they are the nicest, most down to Earth group of rollergirls I've ever met.

Maybe they don't hang out at after parties because everyone in the WFTDA makes fun of them on a daily basis, treats them like shit and is blaming them for the "demise" of our sport. Ever think of that? Maybe to them, we aren't the nicest group of girls to hang out with.

Now, you can love them or hate them, but after watching them play you can't deny the fact that you can't wait to get back to practice to work hard. And isn't that what its really all about, us inspiring each other to try to be better? We're all in this mess together, after all.

This whole jock v punk thing is getting really old, and I don't think its the jocks here that are the bullies.

Everyone hates me,
Dolly Rocket

RedDiabla said...

Oh Dolly, you can shake your cane at me all you want. I'm still gonna have my opinion and occasionally say what I want here. :)

We can go back and forth about why Oly may or may not be dooshenozzles. We can talk about how some other leagues are also getting dooshnozzle reputations. We can talk about the nicest leagues in the universe, too. I don't think that changes the fact that the sport IS changing. Maybe for the better? Maybe not? I dunno anymore. It's too soon to tell, really.

But you can say how much you love shit brown and Oly all you want, though. I won't bother to be offended. Because that's one of the fun things about DIY derby. You SHOULD be able to say things that may not necessarily be popular or nice.