Published on December 17th, 2013 | by Andy Frye1
7 (Off-Skates) Things I Love About Derby
Every time practice ends and you take off your skates, it’s easy to think about what hurts, what you’ve missed that day, and what you sacrifice to play world’s greatest yet most difficult sport.
But derby is a pastime that tugs at your bootlaces as much as your heart strings. And some of its best parts have nothing to do with skates. Sometimes the small aspects of derby life may seem trivial, but they are not trivial and no less part of derby’s abundant experience. Here’s a few.
1. Food. When you play derby, you eat a lot. And that’s one of the best parts of the deal, especially in a society where talking heads who never exercise tell us that we shouldn’t eat this ‘n’ that and should strive for skinny. Every Wednesday, I look forward to eating a bigger lunch –or two lunches, really– just to make it through practice that night. As a bonus, the next day I redouble my eating efforts because last night’s practice is always hard. Food rules. Derby makes it even better.
2. Places. Many of the people I know have gotten to go to some exciting places this year just to play derby. ECDX, Spring Roll, and Champs all deliver the opportunity for great cross-country adventures, while other derbs fulfill coaching gigs in places like Germany and Australia. And although it’s not Paris, the Bros and I got to venture to Sioux City, Iowa, only a mile or two from South Dakota. South Dakota! I even bought an Iowa state magnet for my refrigerator. My fridge will get a lot of those I hope.
3. Pranks. Like with any intensely social scene, time spent together makes the funny people’s funny come out. I heard about one prank in which one team used 24-inch restaurant-grade Saran Wrap to trap their league rivals temporarily in a stairwell after practice one night. Everybody was totally safe. It’s just that dismantling cling wrap is just a real pain after pace lines. And on the road last year, a member of my league convinced a judgmental bar patron skeptical of derby’s legitimacy that we were in town to do the work of God, “jamming as Jesus would on the track.”
Pranks are life’s hidden gifts. The fact that derby attracts creative, hilarious people to its ranks sets the stage for pranks to happen. For this alone, I hope we have practice every single April Fool’s Day.
4. Social Media. I once thought Facebook was stupid and that Twitter was a waste of time. But adapting to what has become everyday life in 2013, I really dig the idea of knowing what derbs are doing. Whether it’s the fun at RollerCon, afterparty highlights, or a new exotic beer you’ve knocked down, keep checking in. The rest of us really do want to hear of your adventures.
5. Trash Talk. I’d find it hard to believe that trash talk exists only in men’s derby, since I know some pretty competitive women. As a ritual, the weeks before bouts against our downstate rival, the Capital City Hooligans, provide a steady stream of trash talk between the Hooligans and the Bruise Brothers. It’s all in good fun, of course. Trash talk is at the heart of sports fandom. It livens up March Madness basketball, and makes cross-town rivalries in every sport what they are. I expect no less of roller derby.
6. Wall Sits. OK, saying that I like wall sits is definitely a lie. But there’s something special about a game that forces you to train painfully hard and do things that you do wouldn’t do on your own. All the aches and pains of derby only serve to make us better appreciate all thing good things about the game we love.
7. Friendships and Camaraderie. I don’t mean to get soft on you, but admit it: Derby pervades the soul. This fall, I skated against a guy from a tiny town called Upper Black Eddy, PA, a place where I lived until I was 5. We talked about Pennsylvania life before a bout in which he shredded my team’s defense jam after jam, only to settle in with us over a beer at the afterparty.
My team captain, Princess A. Pauling, sums it up best: “I’ve made friends on the jam line, and then proceeded to hit my new friend as hard as I could, repeatedly. They return the favor, and I love it.”
Derby is like full-contact summer camp in the way that it crafts memories and friendships. In roller derby, you’ll never skate alone.