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Published on July 15th, 2011 | by bane-ana


Mascot Etiquette: Yes, It Is More Involved Than Just Shaking PomPoms

“So I heard that you only mascot as a banana if you’ve taken LSD. Is that true?” the derby fan asked.

Well, no. Oddly, that question has been posed to me more than once. I do not know where the rumor started, but my guess is that it began because of my day job as a historical researcher—and, hey, we all know how badass historians are!

Call it divine intervention, call it mere coincidence, but after the aforementioned question was posed to me for the umpteenth time at Carolina Rollergirls’ Wicked Wheels of the East Tournament (2009), I excused myself to the loo and opened the latest issue of Five on Five right to Coach Pauly’s “Know your Roll” article. Toilet water stirred, so did thoughts. What, I wondered, was the derby mascot’s role?

Outside the stall doors, the Carolina Rollergirls were doing a splendid job representing the Lollipop Guild; indeed, with munchkins, witches, and flying monkeys as all-purpose tourney mascots, the Wicked Wheels of the East Eastern Regionals proved the perfect place to pontificate plenty of poignant possibilities. The sheer terror I would have felt encountering a munchkinized Princess America (CRG), had I taken LSD, brings me to my first point: Mascoting and sobriety.

DON’T DRINK BEFORE THE BOUT. I enjoy a good drink myself (and, yes, you can buy me a shot of Knob Creek at RollerCon), but drinking before a bout is a mascot faux-pas for two reasons: First, and most important to consider, is the safety of the skaters, refs, and NSOs. Senses must be on full alert during bout play. Let’s face it, we drink to shed inhibitions (and, if you’re me, dance better), and hickory can throw off a mascot’s timing when an outside pack ref comes rolling around the track. Delivery and timing are key; rollergirls and refs should never have to worry about where a mascot is or what s/he is doing. Quite the opposite, we mascots must always know where the skaters are at ALL times. They have their bearings; we need to know ours. The second reason is much simpler—gourmet microbrews in strange cities are infinitely more satisfying with your team after victory on the track.

RESPECT THE REFS. Refs have a difficult job; to show my respect, I always seek out the Head Ref before every bout to let her or him know that I will always watch out for the zebras. Once the bout is in play, there is the question of ref/mascot interaction. This is easy: there is none. Do not call out to refs; and certainly do not “boo” a ref decision no matter how much you think you know the rules better than s/he does. You don’t. Refs train hard to do arguably the toughest job in roller derby—keep dozens of skaters in line. To do my job, while simultaneously considering theirs, I count how many outside pack refs there are. Before every track run, I mentally place each ref where s/he stands, and allow a ten foot (five to account for minor movements, five to factor in human error on my part) radius around them. Once you know where they are you know how to avoid them. Work with the refs; stay out of their way.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. Neck/backrubs before a bout, if requested by the skaters, should be bestowed. Last minute bottles of water, band aids, or locating a person fall on your shoulders as well. I keep handy small things like band aids, medical tape, Dr. Scholl’s corn cushions, and a few dollars for quick runs to the refreshment stand in case someone needs a bottle of water before/during the bout. I also make sure to know where bags of ice can be located in a pinch in case of injury. Be there for whatever is needed whenever it is needed. Overall, try to make the bout less worrisome for the girls. My own little input to the larger bout effort dawned on me back at Mad Rollin’ Dolls’ Derby in Dairyland Tournament (2008). At halftime, I noticed the messy condition of Charm City’s bench area. While the girls and coaches talked strategy, I busily cleaned up. I moved skater bags to the other bench, discarded refuse, and replenished every skater’s water, placing fresh bottles under every seat. I’ve done it every bout since. It gives the ladies one less thing to have to worry about. Let them concentrate on skating, not cleaning. After all, isn’t watching them skate what we all showed up for?

SHUT UP! As with calling out to the refs, do not yell at the skaters during game play. Yes! I, too, feel the irresistible impulse to scream “Call off the jam!” or “Inside!” sometimes, but calling plays is the bench coach’s job, not yours. Moreover, too many voices on the sidelines can lead to confusion for your jammer. When I see other mascots do this, I can’t help but think, “Congratulations, you are now officially a hindrance to your team!” This leads me to my next point …

RESPECT THE SPORT. If there’s one thing that irks me, it’s when a mascot does a track run while a jam is in play. The audience didn’t come to see you; they came for roller derby. You wouldn’t like it if during a sweet jam by your team’s most lithe skater a person in an oversized costume got in your way either. Furthermore, you put the skaters at risk by potentially getting in their way if they get knocked out of bounds. Track runs should only occur between jams and during timeouts.

FUN SHIT! Props are a great way to keep a crowd entertained during an official timeout. I’m learning how to juggle (with no small thanks to Rat City announcer, Randy Pan, who helps me keep my chops up in various American cities), and also employ small magic tricks to fans as they wait for the whistle to sound the bout back into play. Props are great when used between mascots as well. I rather enjoyed getting pureed by both Texas Rollergirls mascot Ozzy Zion’s chainsaw and Rose City’s “Lumber Jill” (Sister Piston)’s axe at the 2008 WFTDA Nationals, Northwest Knockdown; the crowd seemed to like it too. But it’s also important to not use anything that could put a skater at risk. Things like confetti and water guns have their place—trackside is not one of them. A skater or a ref could slip and fall on confetti shards or a slippery spot of water on the track.

IN SUMMA: These are the things I have picked up along the way. The list is not meant to represent the totality of what we, as mascots, are supposed to do. But for now, remember the essentials!: Stay sober, stay out of the way of refs (especially watch the outside pack refs!), respect the sport, do not call out to the skaters or refs (or anyone, really), do not interfere with the jams, be available for extracurricular activities, tidy up the bench area during halftime, and remember to keep morale up especially in the face of a heavy defeat. Arrive to every bout with a conscientious concern for the skaters, bench coaches, refs, and NSOs. If you cannot do this, please do us all a favor – stay home. Finally, remember that (cheering aside) you are there to support your team any way you can—Teamwork makes the Dream work!

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