Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Roller Derby: Missoula, MT

I am not sure why this always happens to me.  I think I am a nice person.  But apparently the people I know generally consider me an aggressive amazon bully.  Last summer, while attending the Logger Days Lumberjack/jill events in Darby, MT, my friend asked me if I was going to sign up to participate next year.  Even though to her knowledge I had never operated a chain saw or swung an ax in my life.  She clearly had no problem imagining I could do those things based on nothing other than her general knowledge of me.  And now, Roller Derby.  I posted a picture on Facebook the day we went and my MOTHER commented, "When will you be on a team" followed by my cousin posting, "I could see you out there". 

I have mixed feelings about all of this and I told David that I am not sure can or should take these comments as a compliment.  He says I totally should.  I can't judge by him though because every woman in his 5 (from the Friends episode) either beat up or violently killed someone in a movie.  He says he wouldn't want me to be a "girly girl".  But having people think you are going to beat them down in the parking lot just for looking in your direction only comes in handy when you are traveling to strange places alone at night.  Which I do a lot so...

I had never been to a roller derby match before and didn't watch it on TV as a kid like both David and our friend Steven said they had done.  So this means I have basically no expectation for the match but as it turns out, I did have some ideas and had stereotyped the players before we even got there.  The ladies were smaller than I expected (there were exceptions but as a group).  And I mean both shorter and lighter.  I would guess that only one woman on the home team and none of the women on the visiting team were as tall as me, though granted, I am tall for a woman at 5'10".  I think every one of  them weighed less than me.  They appear, from the distance I am at, to be generally younger than I thought they would be.  And there were fewer tattoos and wild hair and piercings and outfits than I expected.  And before you do it, David already called me out on my judgy behavior. 

The match hasn't even begun, they are still warming up, when the first injury occurs.
It is bad enough to warrant getting out the stretcher.  It isn't bad enough for them to transport her to the hospital in the ambulance parked behind us.  Someone came and picked her up.  I am not sure why the ambulance is from a volunteer fire department of another town rather than one from the City of Missoula or one of the two local hospitals.
We were given a program with the ladies derby names and we get a kick out of reading them and talking about the ones we like the best.  Like Knuckle Slambitch.  At one point during the match they called over the intercom for "Fireman Joe" and when he didn't respond after a few minutes they tried again, this time paging "Mr. Slambitch".  David makes it clear he will root for the home team (Hellgate Rollergirls) while Steven decides on the time-honored method of rooting for the team with the best looking girls.  Seems reasonable.
I am not sure if his "better looking" method will work.  One of my preconceived notions is completely not true.  This is no T&A show.  The girls all wear yoga or spandex type pants and a basic tank top.  Nothing revealing at all.  The girl with the red arrow (which I added people, it isn't magically following her around) is a "jammer" and she is the only one on the team that can score points (as I understood it).  There is one jammer on each team, you can tell who they are by the star on their helmet.  The "lead jammer" is the only one who can "call it" and end a "jam".
After the first several "jams" David and I are still completely confused about the rules.  The score is something like 11-4 and we have no idea how that happened.  The rules are outlined in the program but we didn't find that to be all that helpful.  There are young ladies running around with signs that say "ask a rollergirl" and you can ask them questions about the rules or anything you don't understand.  We eavesdrop when other people near us ask and between that and trying to watch one thing at a time, I start to get the idea. 
There is no way to follow all of the action, there is too much going on.  There is so much to watch that there are a LOT of referees (who also have derby names, my favorite was Jeferee).  There is one referee for each jammer and a bunch of others that watch the other players for penalties and things like going out of bounds.  I try, most of the time, to focus on the jammer for Hellgate. 
The penalty box - sponsored by Planned Parenthood.  Every time someone is sent there they bring this up..."Pipsqueak is going to the Planned Parenthood penalty box for a forearm foul".  Anyone can go to the penalty box - jammers and blockers alike.  Those people in the gray shirts behind the penalty box are other "officials" though I am not sure what most of them do.
This official takes her job very seriously.  She is very precise with her movements and she appears to be the timekeeper.  She starts each jam and notifies everyone when there is a timeout (as she is doing here).  If she ever needs another job, I think she would be an outstanding aircraft marshal.  Not the ones with the guns on the plane, the one with the batons that directs the pilot when he parks the plane at the gate.
Each match has 2 halves with a 20 minute halftime.  At halftime we are entertained by a group doing bicycle polo.  The best player out there was a girl wearing shorts and cowboy boots.  All-in-all we found this to be boring and simply proof that if you put a bunch of college kids together, they will find something to do.  This group practices in a parking garage at the University of Montana a couple of times a week.  All are welcome.
A little jam action for you.
This event takes place in an open-air covered building on the fairgrounds.  The seats, other than the VIP couch to the left there, are wooden bleachers.  By the time the match started, the bleachers are filled and it is standing room only. 
The home team won in an exciting down-to-the-last-second move.  After the match the spectators line the rink to congratulate both teams as they skate around and high-five everyone.
Despite the uncomfortable seats, David and I will probably go back.  The season is short with only 4 home games, 2 away games and 3 tournaments (none local).  Tickets were $10 at the door and we enjoyed a nice dinner before so, a good date night all around.

Years ago when I worked at a bank one of the gentlemen that worked there was truly afraid of me.  He would return to his cubicle if he saw me approaching.  I never said so much as boo to this man.  When I asked my friend about it he said, "it's probably because your walk is intimidating".  When this man broke his nose at softball practice I was there but I was behind the backstop waiting to bat and he was in center field.  That didn't stop my boss from asking him if it was me that broke his nose.

They say you should embrace who you are but is who you are dictated by what other people see you as?  I spent a lot of time at the skating rink as a kid and always liked it.  Maybe it is time to embrace the inner bruiser everyone else sees in me.  I wonder when Rollergirl tryouts are?

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