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Published on October 14th, 2011 | by Justice Feelgood Marshall


Jackie Daniels

So let me tell you a story about last weekend.

I’m at the North Central playoffs in Indianapolis as a bench coach for Windy City. It’s the second half of a semifinal game and we are losing to the host league Naptown, which we have been doing for a significant part of the game. Losing was not the plan. The plan was winning. But Naptown is seriously bringing it and a fired-up crowd is going ultra insane with every point they put up.

We start the second half with a 20-0 run over four jams and I’m feeling pretty good that we are coming out of the break strong; we’re within two points at 68-66. Then Naptown gets a 19-0 in the fifth jam of the half and pretty much all that comeback is gone. Not cool dude.

So now we have to do it again. We’ve got about 20 minutes left to save this game. Zoe goes out and puts up 5-0, then Varla does the same. Jackie Daniels goes out to jam the next one and it’s totally going our way; Yvette, Bork, Sarge and Hoosier are all over the Naptown jammer. Jackie gets lead and a full 5 points on her first lap. Scoreboard updates to Naptown 87, Windy City 81. Our blockers continue to work the Naptown jammer; she is still stuck in the pack and in danger of getting lapped again. Jackie is ripping up the track now, coming for a second scoring pass; she knows she can get the lead back if this jam keeps going well.

Except it stops going well, because as she enters the pack at pretty close to her top speed, she tries to go around a nearly stopped Sarge to the right, just as Sarge moves to the right. Sarge is what the military would classify as a hard target. Physics happen and Jackie goes from like 60 to 0 in an instant, hitting the floor on her back super hard. Everybody in the room goes “OOOOH” at the same time. As any derby player knows, the collisions you don’t expect — the ones you’re not braced for — are the ones that fuck you up.

So Jackie’s on the ground. Doesn’t move for a couple seconds but it feels like ten. Her jam ref is standing over her and looks like he’s about to call the jam on injury. Sarge is also obviously concerned. I’m sure Jackie’s got to be relatively seriously hurt, because otherwise she’d call it off, right?

But no. Jackie slowly rolls over, slowly gets up, and keeps fucking going. Amazingly. She is really interested in that scoring pass. She’s slower than she was before and obviously in some pain, but she’s also Jackie. She gets the 4 points and calls it off at 9-0.

When Jackie gets back to the bench, our lineup manager Angel Dustt and I immediately check to see if she’s ok. She’s gasping and holding her chest and can hardly talk; she sits down heavily in the back row of seats and unbuckles her chin strap.

Angel says something to her right then, something along the lines of “Nice jam” or “Are you trying to kill yourself?” I do remember exactly what Jackie says back to her in between ragged breaths: “I wanna win. I wanna win.”

I’m trying to come up with the right adjective to describe to you exactly *how* she said it, because it is hard to accurately convey how affecting those words were to me, at that moment. She didn’t say it very loudly or emphatically — partially because she wasn’t exactly breathing correctly — but with this quiet intensity and passion that left no doubt of how badly she wanted it and how pain and fatigue were basically irrelevant considerations.

I have a great deal of respect for anybody willing to put themselves out there and play derby, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt respect for pure competitive spirit in my life as strongly as I did at that moment. Quite a few times in the past couple of days I have gotten literally choked up thinking about it. I don’t really do “choked up.” This was a considerable exception.

‘Course that’s not really the end of the story; we were still behind 87-85, but Beth Amp got 2-0 to tie it next and it was a new game again. Later in the game Hoosier Mama saved the day as our only blocker out on the floor during a powerjam for Naptown, managing to keep their jammer dead slow, out of bounds or on the floor for most of it.

Jackie herself got the lead back late with a huge 19-0 in the last five minutes, and jammed the last two frames as well. That second half was full of serious heroics up and down our roster. But when I think of this tournament and that game, I know I am always going to remember that image of Jackie Daniels on the bench, barely able to breathe, eyes on the next jam, saying “I wanna win. I wanna win.” and ready to go right back out there again.

That, my friends, is a motherfucking roller derby player.

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