Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bringing The Movie To Life: Derby Dreams - Part 1

One of the many reasons I love watching movies is to get out of my own world and experience something new. The great thing is that if you’re not really feeling this new adventure it’ll be over soon. Sometimes a movie really strikes a chord and inspires you to make the characters' experience your own. Since I was a kid I've dreamed of visiting Jurassic Park and saving the world "Will Smith in Independence Day" style, but, odds are, neither will happen anytime soon.

Luckily, one of the most recent films I’m itching to bring to life is actually feasible. I read Shauna Cross' Derby Girl and couldn't stop thinking about roller derby. My sudden interest didn't really surprise me. I've always strived to be different. When I was little, while most of my friends took gymnastics and dance classes, I was fighting with the boys in a karate dojo. When it came to a musical instrument just playing the saxophone wasn’t enough; I had to play the bari sax. Well, my attraction to eccentricities continues and now I’m onto a new hobby; roller derby.

Other than what I’d read in the book and saw in Whip It, I knew little about the sport. What’s the best way to educate yourself on a topic? Google it, of course. So I did and came across local league. I decided the best course of action would be to check out an actual bout before going cash first into the venture. (Skates are expensive!)

I dragged my boyfriend to the league’s next bout to see the action firsthand. I was surprised by a number of things. First off, I had to buy the tickets in advance. Secondly, there was a good reason to buy them beforehand; the match was completely sold out. Third, the fans are just as loyal as with any other more mainstream sport. The bleachers were packed and everyone was thrilled to see their favorite derby girl shredding it on the track. Now, onto more serious matters. While my boyfriend was checking out the event for sheer entertainment, I was sizing up my competition. Could I really do this?

The stereotypical idea of a roller derby skater is a big woman, covered in tattoos and wearing questionable outfits. I’m rather small, have a tiny tattoo that nobody ever sees on my foot and almost always strut the streets in jeans and a plain white Hanes v-neck t-shirt. The ladies on the court were certainly bigger than I was, but far from the caricatures I was picturing. On the tattoo front, yes most had them, but some didn't have any tats at all. When it came to attire, a number of the girls spiced up their uniforms with a heavy dose of eye make up and colorful leggings, but there were a number that kept it simple and aligned nicely with my conservative dress code.

At that point, I realized that the only thing that might be an issue is size. I'm 5'4" which isn't that short, but I'm kind of on the thin side. Would I be able to block girls that are likely ten times more powerful? Let's push the negative aside for the time being; the bout was amazing! Not only do these girls participate in an actual sport, but they get a gym full of people cheering for them. As an experienced high school varsity athlete, I'm well aware of the fact that nothing feels better than to have loads of people you don't even know rooting for you. And for any of those who doubt it, yes, it is certainly dangerous. A number of the girls hit the floor pretty hard. Still, without hesitation, they popped back up and jumped back on the track.

The thing about roller derby that really hit home for me was that the girls looked like they were having a blast. I played soccer, basketball, softball and lacrosse in high school and loved every minute of it. Leaving my teams behind for college was extremely difficult but a sorority wound up being a perfect substitute. Now I’m almost two years out of college and craving a team sport and, more importantly, something to be a part of and passionate about. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right and to the best of my ability...

Keep an eye out for the next installment of my quest to become a derby girl! (Bring your elbow pads!)
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