October 25, 2013
Show me that Smile Again
It didn't start out this way. I thought it would get me out of the house, get me active, and help me meet people. Which, well, mission accomplished. I joined the league and had 50 new close friends. I don't know when things changed, but they have. Somewhere along the line, I became totally infatuated with derby. The more I learned about it, the more ingrained in the culture I became. I talked about the merits of different wheels and pads, which bearings to buy, and different styles and brands of boots. I have talked about strategy; from eating the baby to passive offense. I have watched hours of playoffs and have yelled at the T.V. to "Back bridge!!" and let the defense know there is a "Jammer standing!!" more times than I can count.
No, this is not an announcement of retirement, but I can say, that like with any relationship, the new-ness has worn off and I am left with the reality of derby. A reality that is always challenging. Our "season" is pretty much year round. While other sports play from September to January, we practice for 10 1/2 months together. Taking December off and a a few weeks in the summer. It's a marathon, not a sprint. I practice with my team a minimum of 6 hours a week and am expected (but have trouble with) training on my own outside of practice, to eat right, to be at my peak of performance for MORE THAN 1O MONTHS OF THE YEAR. I do not get paid for this, rather, I pay to do it. I give my time, my money, my body, and my heart to this sport and my league.
I wonder how far we are from those derby dreams. No, no. I don't mean me jumping the apex. (I am not going to use the word "impossible" for that, because you never know.... but it's awesome knowing that someone has that much faith in me!) I mean from being a major sport in the world. What will that look like? What do we need to sacrifice in order to mainstream? Are the 2020 Olympics something that we want to pursue? Are the small people like me going to be left behind? I love the fact that I, personally, have had a hand in building this league. I love that so many others do too. It was here long before me, and god willing, will be long after me. I love that part of WFTDA's member league requirements are that all leagues are at least 80% operated by skaters. What does that look like as the outside world comes in? What does it look like as we let them in?
As the sport grows, as our athleticism increases, as we surrender to the mainstream more and more, I remember the things that attracted me to it. Beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, and ages wearing fishnets and sparkle booty shorts with PRIDE, having ridiculous names like "Suzy MuffinCrusher" and "iOna Switchblade", and being an unabashadly powerful force of womanhood. The epitome of confidence. That is what they are to me still. That is what I am to me now. If I lay down my derby name and short-shorts at the altar of my future (as yet non-existent) daughter's Olympic dreams, what am I telling her about the sport I helped to shape and build?
I came to derby because it was offbeat, because it was non-tradtitional. If we lose the things that make us non-tradtional in order to get to what someone else thinks is "the next level" are we willing to also lose the good things they bring us? If the culture of derby was like soccer, volleyball, or basketball I can't say that I would still be here now, nor might I have signed up those 2 years ago. Here's to the last year FoCo Girls Gone Derby, and the next. I love you all.
Final thought: with derby being featured in the 2018 Gay Games and own known commitment to LBGTQ rights and equality, how could we knowingly send our athletes to places like Russia for the Olympics? Discuss.