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Published on February 27th, 2012 | by Pelvis Costello


New Derby Widows: What Kind of Sports Spouse Are You?

The roller derby season has started. New blood runs through the veins of many teams, and there are countless blogs, articles, and Facebook status updates telling “fresh meat” useful tidbits about how to take hits, feedback, and adjust to the sudden shakeup that their lives have undergone in order to wear sweat-wicking shorts and skates for hours at a time.

Not many other people are talking to your spouses. In the old days, that was fine. The community was smaller. Women were making their leagues; their partners (both men and women) respectfully gave the space to their skating ladies and were reminded that this thing was for their partners.

Until someone needed to man the locker room to stop random dudes from “only peeping” or to wear a duck costume. Then, it was time to spring into action. And while every widow hears the call, how they answer it is very different.

This is not a call to arms for you to help your lady or gentleman. No. This is taking away the fun house mirror and talking about the types of widows there are, determining which one you want to be and sticking to it. While no cookie cutter template fits everyone (thank God), I am too lazy to write funny things for all of you. I’ve also left off spouses who are skaters, refs, or announcers because that dynamic deserves its own article.

You don’t want to overshadow anything, to the point that you’ve become a shadow. You’re in the stands, cheering your partner on, and that’s it. You know one or two skaters on the league, but you’re there to cheer on your partner, get drunk, and stay out of pretty much everything else. You’ve got a team t-shirt with a funny lil’ married name on the back like “Mrs. Maimya” or “The Defenestrator’s Alibi.”

Pros: You are removed from league drama. “Sally Cartwrong’s” hatred of “Frau Unabrow” over what she may have said at Regionals is no more important to you than Oprah Winfrey’s shower habits. You can sit back and enjoy games without knowing any tidbits about skater behavior that makes you pray for a light to fall from the ceiling and crush the unworthy jerk who causes the league so much aggravation.

Cons: You better have something going on outside of derby, buddy. Outside of practice, cross-training fad workout, or public event, bouts are the only time you see your boo. Now’s the time to take up a new hobby like skateboarding, writing, or drinking. Because, until she retires, the only time your partner will be around during the season is if injury sidelines him/her. Then you’ll need a hobby to get out of the house.

No, skaters can’t put on a bout without volunteers. They’d like to think they can, but humans are funny things. There are skaters who pay their financial tithes, go to practice, hang out with people they don’t like, and just want to skate. Those are the folks who make volunteers necessary. Who is called upon to do these jobs? You. Maybe you have super sweet skills, like AV knowledge, or you’re just scary enough that no one wants to nudge past you to walk across the track with a beer. Maybe you just like to help. Well, congratulations, bud. You’re Atlas.

Pros: You get to know more people. Skaters and officials tend to recognize you when you’re out and about. Friends are made, and you’re a part of the community.

Cons: You get to know more people. The jobs can sometimes be thankless, some people may even yell at you. Volunteer work is close to slave labor at times, and though a “thank you” can go a long way, they don’t often come. But you’re tough. You can take it. Until you don’t.

These exist. The spouses who don’t come around, who have lost their romantic squeezeboxes to the flat track the way so many people have lost a loved one to the military or video games. If this is you, you are reading this because your partner forwarded this to you, or you Googled some sort of “I hate roller derby” algorithm. You are likely damn busy in your life, and the games no longer hold any fun for you or never did. Perhaps you have become the sole parent in your household or have to watch the diabetic cat on bout day. Regardless, you support your partner from afar like an absent Obi-Wan. You often see the prodigal object of your obsession in stolen moments. It’s bittersweet.

Pros: If you’re a cantankerous loner, shy, or you really took your spouse’s cries of “this is for me” to heart, you get tons of free time that you do not have to feel guilty about. Work on your novel. Clean the stove. Learn Spanish. Build a model of Joe Biden’s head. You’ve got time.

Cons: You’re not with your lady or gentleman. That can be lonely. Sometimes, it can be trouble. If you don’t appear the least bit interested in what’s going on, you might be headed for the end of the relationship. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but separation can breed contempt.

In your partner’s derby career, you may find yourself in all three of these positions at one time or another. Maybe they are mashed together, like conjoined triplets. Derby’s challenges aren’t only physical, but emotional. If you can weather the assault the sport has on a relationship, then it can survive almost anything. Even your partner’s retirement.

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Pelvis Costello

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