I knew that there is a real name vs. derby name controversy within roller derby, but--because I have not had to go through the naming process--it had never occurred to me that there might be something amiss with the way names are registered.
Auntie Social at "This is How I Roll" lays out the problem pretty straight up, questioning the authority of the Two Evils Name Registry and a system whereby people who have been skating under their name for years can get snaked out of their name by, say, a newbie ref in Australia.
On some level, I don't feel like I'm entitled to have an opinion on this -- I'm not even meat yet, I should just worry about one thing at a time. On the other hand, I'm not planning on being the Roller Wannabe forever, and the derby name that I have been thinking of as mine (which I won't share because I'm superstitious!) might require me to write some pretty pathetic entreaty emails even though it's clearly different by a hard consonant sound from the next-closest names.
I guess my answer comes back around to the real name vs. derby name controversy: what if people wanted to skate under their real name, but there already was a Sally Smith? What if there are two NBA players called Mike Jones? Professional players' identities are multimillion-dollar brands that they have every interest in protecting and controlling, but in the end there is nothing that they can do about their name. They have to differentiate themselves in other ways. This is life, and it's kind of a pain. When a friend of mine discovered that her stage name had been taken by a roller derby player in the same city, she was mad as hell, but had to suck it up and just prove that she was the better What's-her-Face. When we come up with our own names, avoiding duplicates seems fair, but the prohibitions against similar names and the "arbitrary rejection" clause seem to go a little far.
Additionally, the algorithm that they seem to be using to determine similarity seems to compare phoneme-by-phoneme or perhaps letter by letter, essentially ruling out names that are puns on the same phrase. For example "Scary Bradshaw" and "Carrie Bandsaw" would probably turn up "very high" similarity, allowing one skater to shut out the other (or, as seems to be the case pretty often, exercise a pocket veto and just not respond to email requests). If they're trying to prohibit riffs on the same pun, they should probably just say that. I suspect that the reason they don't is that it would be apparent how much it restricts skaters in their name choices.
To me, there's something about the way that the system is constructed that is a little disappointing. Of course, I recognize that derby is 100% volunteer run, and that the keepers of the keys do so on their own personal time. For this, we salute them! But it also seems that the name registry is running on a 6+ month time lag, which means that people can find out that their name is rejected after they've started bouting and buying uniforms. And names that are taken are taken forever, even if they're from a 12 person league out of Nowheresville or the player quits after 1 season.
I don't know what could make this rule better, but I feel like there should be some way of determining whether a player is high-profile enough to merit taking the name forever. If the primary concern is that it will be confusing to fans and announcers, it might make sense to say that anyone who has ever played in a regional championship has superior claim to a name. If the primary concern is that of intellectual property and wanting to be totally unique... well, it might be worth examining whether the level of protectiveness (and perhaps even treading into arbitrariness) of the current system is entirely warranted given that players have many other ways of creating unmistakeably individual skate personas, even if they're both plays on the same reference.
Every road has a beginning. This one started on June 21, 2002. I know this because it is memorialized in print.
It was probably about 4PM, too late for the lunch crowd, and too early for the early birds. I was sitting at the bar of the restaurant where I was a waitress, shooting the shit with the busboys and making fake Orange Juliuses out of Bluebell vanilla ice cream, Sprite, and Goodflow orange juice (it's damned fine, trust me on this). Even between semesters, I was in the habit of flipping through the Daily Texan from the stack of used newspapers left by customers. Usually I'd just do the crossword and read Creased Comics, maybe glance at the letters to the editor.
June 21, 2002 was different.
Mixed in there with all the AP wire pieces and editorials was an article, Rooooll Models by Stephen Palkot (PDF courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, text below), about something called "roller derby."
Even though I had never seen roller derby or RollerJam on TV, I think that I must have had some image in my head, some inkling of what roller derby was, because I immediately knew that this was totally rad. According to the article, some badass chick-types were practicing at Skate World, my childhood haunt, and they were going to be having an exhibition bout that weekend. The article got some of the details wrong (hint: "Patas de Fuego" means something very different from "Putas del Fuego" -- and look! it's my all time favorite skater! "Miss Conda" [Miss Conduct]!), but it got all the excitement spot-on. By the end, I felt like Ellie Dalton--she discovered roller derby by overhearing a conversation at a coffee shop. Afterwards, she strode over to the women talking and told them "I don't know what this is, but I want in." I was ready to put on my skates and knock some bitches down.
But roller derby giveth, and roller derby taketh away. The very next paragraph broke my heart as it explained that skaters had to be over 21. Derby dreams would have to wait.
There is a lot about the sport that ended up differently than originally planned. The fake fights and hair-pulling went the way of the 1970s rigged bouts. Spank Alley was turned into a line of audience members, and eventually retired when the penalty mistress tragically passed away. But you can definitely see the glimmer of the real, serious, athletic sport to come. I'm sure that you can also see the makings of a roller wannabe--I had no idea it would take 8 years, but I knew my turn would come.
Rooooll Models by Stephen Palkot, Daily Texan Staff (transcribed by yours truly, as-is)
I'm grounded, so you might see me hanging around online a bit more than usual. Funny story... I've mentioned before about how endearing and hilarious it is to see people's before-and-after practice tweets. They go from "woo! derby practice!" to "oww! derby practice!" Truly testament to how addictive the sport is.
Yeah, well mine looked like (paraphrasing): "YAY, I get to watch the local team practice!" "Fuck, I'm in the ER."
I have already had a couple of truly stupid injuries so far, but this one takes the cake. Long story short, I fell into a pace line and was kicked in the head by people traveling full tilt boogie.
There was more to it, including a poor set-up of the line, a novice skater trying to avoid someone who was in the way, and me trying to grab her out of the way of the freight train, but the important part here was the part where I turn around just in time to see a bunch of people headed my way, and then stars.
Here's where it really gets fun. I hear skates clacking on my helmet and think "oh fuck, head injury." As I very carefully try to get myself up, I hear yelling. It's the coaches yelling what the hell were you doing, you're supposed to stay on your line, and my favorite if you can't stay on your line, we're making the beginner track smaller.
Somehow, I manage to fire back that [fucking] obviously I hadn't intended to crash, and definitely would have avoided it if I could. My crew comes up to help me up, as I'm VERY disoriented at this point and am tasting blood. I hear the whistle blowing and more screaming -- the coaches re-started the pace line as the other girl and I are getting helped off the track (she has an unassessed ankle injury), and they're mad at US for being in the way.
We get off the track and my mates are pulling my gear off, asking me what day it is, where are we, how many fingers, etc. We check my helmet, and it's intact (Triple 8 Brainsaver, I <3 You). I'm nauseous and looking for a place to vomit but I can't get up. They're going through my purse to grab my phone, getting ice packs and wet towels for me and the other girl. More yelling: what are you quitting? this is going to happen if you're going to be a derby skater! What if this happened in a bout? Would you just stop playing?!
I don't know about you guys, but during every bout I've been to, whenever there has been a crash where skaters are on the floor and don't get up, play does stop and everybody takes a knee like it's Friday Night Lights until the EMTs can come and assess the damage. And for fuck's sake, they don't start playing again until the injured people are off the track. The coaches don't bother to come over and see if I'm okay.
My crew insists, over my protest, on taking me to the hospital. I'm feeling a little better on the way there except for an occasional splitting pain that makes me feel like I'm going to die. We're laughing and joking, and when we get to the hospital, the doctor is this young handsome guy who seems very amused by our antics.
He checks me out and makes me do all these little field sobriety test tasks, and tells me that I'm okay and it's probably a minor concussion. I opt not to get the CAT scan, but he says that he has to keep me for at least an hour (actually, he takes pity because he's supposed to keep me for three, but it's clear that I don't want to be there). When a nurse comes up to me in about 15 minutes with a Motrin and discharge information, I ask her "so, I'm done?" She says yes, and we literally run (well, some of us limp and stagger) out of there, leaving a button with our gang's logo on it for the good doctor. If it were legible, I'd scan my discharge form: in the instructions, it says "No sports contact or roller skating." I'm grounded for a week. Thanks, doc.
I guess the takeaway here is that if you absolutely MUST get hurt, be sure to do so surrounded by a posse of people who care about you. And this posse might not be who you expect it to be. Like, your coaches might be total douchebags and not even bother to check on you...