Monday, February 7, 2011

Game Time!

Well, what an exciting weekend I've had, filled with athletic, shiny bottomed, leggy girls in fishnets. Not too bad, not too bad at all.

I arrived to sign in for my volunteering as a Non-Skating Official, or NSO at the Hangar for 5 o'clock. Lot's of stuff was already going on and there were a fair number of volunteers already about. The track had already been laid and and the refs were in the back corner in the midst of their start up meeting.

I found someone at the door to sign up with who pointed me to the NSO area. I had to wait for a little bit but I didn't mind, there were lots of people about, and I got to have an awkward conversation with an awkward sort of fellow. Who doesn't love awkward conversations.

We had our NSO meeting in the back corner with the refs. There was a lot of information thrown at us by Penny Whistle the head referee. She assured us (when seeing the deer in head lights faces) that the freshmeat NSOs were not expected to fully understand all she was saying but needed to start taking it all in.

I don't know if ya'll know this, but there are like, a lot of rules in this game.  I have already been reading the manual so this wasn't my first introduction, but it was dense reading and I sure didn't remember as much as I had hoped. There were so many different types of penalties and I sat on the bleachers hoping I wouldn't have to track penalties. I didn't. Luckily I was paired with a nice girl I'll call  Sparky and given the job they called Lineups.

Lineups meant that Sparky and I were to track a team each, and write down (on our sheets which we were given with clipboards and pencils) for each jam, the numbers of each of the girls who held each position (that would be pivot, blockers and jammer). This didn't sound hard.

We were also to keep track of the opposing teams jammer and how many times she went around the track (there were little numbers to circle on the side of the sheet for this). Okay, a bit weird to have to watch the other teams gal, but okay, I can do this. Also we were to keep track of when players entered and exited for a penalty, and which lap of the opposing teams jammer it was when this occurred. Ummmm... yeah.

We were told to stand by the hangar door, by the benches, so we could see the girls backs as they stood waiting for the start of the jam. Sparky and I went to check out our allotted area as we had time to kill before the game started. Of coures I wanted to really understand what the heck we were doing so I read all of the small print at the bottom of our charts and tried to figure out exactly how it was were supposed to represent all of this information in all of the columns and boxes set out before me.

 I didn't want to look like a weenie. This is why I must fully understand everything. I went and asked the other refs questions, they were uber helpful, super approachable, very patiently explanatory. Seriously awesome vibe those guys had; professional, organised and friendly. So we figured our shit out and felt comfortable enough to relax until game time. We watched the junior girls rugby rehearse their demonstration of how the game is played, which was really cool and very well done. If they decide to some of those girls could grow up to be killer roller girls.

Then the players came out, first one team then the other, skating around the track to warm up. It seemed to me they were skating around for too long to just warm up, though it was neat watching them do their little drills and whatnot, snaking together and weaving in and out expertly.

Through all of this people had been streaming in. I sort of didn't notice having had eyes peeled to my sheets and then the track (trying to figure out how the hell I was supposed to see the bloody numbers on their backs! High definition colouring my ass.) and then when I looked about, Ta-da! Lots of people.

My derby girlfriend Trish, who has a broken collarbone (Ouch!) was there and it felt so nice to meet someone I knew! Hahaha.. I'm so easy to please. Also Trish pointed out to Sparky and I that we had our sheets reversed (as they were prelabeled with teams names) for the teams we were tracking. That was really helpful.

It  is such a neat feeling that you get at sporting events, that ready to be excited feeling tingling in the air; everyone is sizzling waiting for the opportunity to exude emotions, cheering or booing or shouting or clapping. A place where you are allowed to feel out loud. Emote! It's really great.

I smile a lot and look at people, just, you know, cause I do. People need more smiles in their lives. Anyway, in the world, a lot of times people don't smile back, they are confused to have a stranger smile at them and aren't sure what they are supposed to feel. At the roller derby game I got lots of smiles back. It was really neat. I loved the crowd that was there. Sparky said to me at one point during the game, "Isn't it like, you would just be friends with anyone here? They're all so cool looking? But not like, they think they're cool, just like, nice to know."

I couldn't have agreed more. And, I must say, to all of my girl loving girlfriends and boy loving boyfriends, attend the games! It was queer central. I loved that too. I think it was part of what gave it such an awesome vibe, a place where being you, whoever you are is just completely fine. I love it when there is no normal.

The games began with a great caller on the mic, and it was, well it was wild. I mean, for me and Sparky it was a little bit insane. Because when the game starts there is no stopping. We had to write all of this information for EACH jam, and the players switch between each jam never mind what has been going on with penalties and whatnot.

So each jam ends with skaters skating off after having been visible for less then two minutes while new skaters come on and stand ready for moments before the whistle blows for the next jam to begin and then skating commences again. And of course, you have to be able to SEE them, to actually read the numbers which is a whole other thing. So, the first half of the game there may, possibly, be some errors in our sheets.

The second half went much better, Sparky had given me a tip about what to look at first, helped me. We helped each other with noticing girls going in and out of the penalty box and it went much smoother.

The hardest part for Sparky and I was not getting excited and cheering for the game. GAWD! There were so many AMAZING plays where we were hiding behind our boards saying, holy shit! can you believe she got that! We weren't exactly poker faces but nary a cheer escaped our lips.

Did I mention how many hot girls were there? I think I did a queer callout above, but seriously, there were like, SO many hot girls there. Players and otherwise. I don't know if it was hot girl day or something, but wow.

The roller girls were just awesome. The easiest to notice are of course the showy ones, the jammers - the quarterbacks of derby. Those girls can move, and do, really fast. Of course they are massively helped along and controlled by what the blockers are doing holding back the other jammer and letting their own through faster. The coaches have plays written out on cards that they show their players as they're sitting on the bench waiting for their turn up.

There is a lot going on here my friends. A lot going on. I can't wait to learn more. I have to return to the manual now, having had this experience and try and learn some more about what the hell was going on with the refs and all their hand signals. I want to understand it all (see above about not being a weenie).

Coming Soon: Session Two : The Hurting


  1. That derby movie I just watched called the Pivot the QB of derby, and the jammers the wide receivers. One of the things I'm trying to figure out myself is pack management, and how to figure out when it makes sense to split the pack, and when it should go fast and when it should go slow.

  2. @Dave - interesting questions. I too want to learn more about the thinking part of the game too, right now I know I don't get the complexities. I will certainly keep you in the loop as I figure it out. If you have any insights let me know!

  3. I just started reading your blog because I just went to my first Roller Derby last night and I'm thinking of joining sometime in the coming years (Montreal league). I figured I'd start at the beginning of your blog because, well, that's where *I* would be if I joined. So cool reading about the progress a Derby Girl makes as she learns the ropes! I'll be commenting more here and there so get ready for some questions!