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Published on May 23rd, 2012 | by Uncle Jesse McNasty


Derby Is A Gift

Everybody in roller derby shares something. And I mean EVERYBODY. Skaters, refs, NSOs, announcers… everybody. We all share that something that brought us to the sport we all love. I have never been to a bout and known of a volunteer that didn’t love derby. And that means something. Derby is a gift. One we all share.

I have two beautiful and amazing kids, and they are as different from each other as they can be. I have a 10 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. And their imaginations are as different as they are. I gave them a gift one day, one that they could both share. It was a simple toy: a slinky.

They both loved it. They both came up with such imaginative ways to play with the slinky, and put a lot of miles on it. They each had their own way of how they viewed the slinky, and how it could fit into how they played with the rest of their toys.

But my kids share a room, much the same way all of the skaters in derby share Facebook and other types of social media. My kids would see each other playing with the slinky, and didn’t think that it was the right way to play with it. It didn’t match their way. And they would fight about it. They would fight over the slinky, yelling at each other and saying mean things to one another. Calling each other names, over a slinky. A gift.

No matter how they played with the slinky on their own, the slinky came out alright. It would always spring back into shape, ready to go for the next round. But when they fought over it, and when they yelled and disagreed over how it was to be played with, the slinky got damaged. It would sit at odd angles when left alone, it never quite went back to its original shape.

Eventually, they got tired of it, because it just wasn’t the same slinky anymore. If they’d just learned to play together, to accept each other’s styles as simply different and not wrong, they could have enjoyed that slinky for a great deal longer. But they didn’t, and the gift now sits in a toy box, broken and unused.

Every time I lace up my skates and push off to go practice, or scrimmage, or play in a bout, I feel a rush. The very same child-like awe comes over me that I get to do something as badass as play roller derby. I’m a bartender, and whenever any of my regulars ask me when my next bout is, I have to spend the next hour or so explaining roller derby to the curious, and it is an energetic and enthusiastic conversation on both sides.

But what I don’t explain is the story of my kids and their slinky. All people want to know about is about our sport, our successes and the challenges we face on the track. The hard fought bouts and the camaraderie that follows. I tell them about how derby is a family, how 80% of my friends on Facebook are skaters, and I have a hard time telling who is who because their derby names aren’t what shows, and that’s how we know each other. That’s a problem unique to our family.

I tell people stories of amazing ability and struggle. I tell my Nascar regulars how our wheels are every bit as important as the wheels on a car. I tell my football regulars about how we block with our bodies while on skates, and the limitations we have to work with. I tell soccer and basketball fans how position is very important to our game. I tell them these things because I want them to love derby like I do.

But I don’t tell them the story about my kids and their slinky.

People don’t want to hear about my two kids bickering over a toy, and then breaking it. All they want to hear about is that I got my kids a gift, and that they loved it.

One of these days, for all of us, we will stop skating. Personally, I want that day to come, if it has to at all, when I am old and no longer able. But one day, it will be over. And for the rest of my life, I will know that this was the best part of it. I don’t want to stop playing with my slinky because its broken. I don’t want to fight over it, saying that my way of playing with it is better than yours. It is simply different. I want my slinky to be the same one my kids play with.

Please, don’t break our slinky.

Uncle Jesse McNasty

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