Imagine that someone wrote a book about everyone you know. As it happens, someone has!
I had to get my mitts on the newest derby book to hit the merch booths the second I heard about it at Easterns this year. Bane-Ana, the itinerant mascot, men's derby player, and urban dictionary entry, has attempted to find the distilled essence of Derby-As-We-Know-It in his memoir Roller Derby: The Sensation That Caused a Book! Confessions of a Roller Derby Mascot. Roller derby, you might note, is the sensation that caused about a dozen books. What makes this one different, you wonder? The answer is Bane-Ana himself.
After taking a whirl on the banked track, I was excited to finally get to watch a bout up close and in person. After struggling to just keep myself upright for two hours with a year of skating under my belt, the idea of people actually freaking playing on the banked track was incomprehensible. I've heard a lot about banked track--that it's faster, it's less strategic, there's less hitting, there's no stopped-pack or reversing--but it's all hearsay. I thought back to a phone conversation I had with a friend after she had just seen her first banked track bout. I asked her how she liked it. "It was alright," she sighed deeply "I'd like it better if they just followed the rules!"
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)