The Road to Rollergirl How I Stopped Being a Roller Wannabe and Started Being a Rollergirl

2Oct/112

A Day with the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls Part II: Once You Go Banked…

banked track fight

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!"

28Sep/114

Se Habla Roller Derby: My Stint as a Guest Skater with the Texas Rollergirls Rec-n-Rollerderby

Texas Rollergirls Rec-n-Rollerderby

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately, lots of derby and little time to write, but I managed to find a little bit of time off to cobble together a quick Austin recharge vacation.

Skates always in tow, I had the good fortune of joining the Texas Rollergirls Rec-n-Rollerderby as a guest skater. I pulled into the parking lot of Playland Skate Center the way I have a million times before, but this time, instead of 13-year-olds smoking cigarettes, there were improbably tall and strong-looking women in compression leggings jogging in the parking lot: Texas Rollergirls Texecutioners. I don't know if you've ever had that moment when you show up early for something that you're nervous about, and you sit in the parking lot agonizing. Even though I've been skating for a while now, and I passed my WFTDA minimum skills over six months ago, my mind was racing. It's all a variation of "what if they don't like me? what if I'm not good enough?" What if the girls I skate with have been taking it easy on me because I'm small (turns out, they're not), and I get my ass handed to me (turns out, I didn't)?

7Nov/100

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

The only thing more fickle than the gods of WFTDA standings is my bracket for Uproar on the Lakeshore. Because I'm not really a super sports-fan type, I pick my favorites using factors like scrappiness, underdogitude, whether or not they send me messages on Twitter, and whether or not they are the Texas Rollergirls. But I recognize that there is a difference between favorite and favored.

My prediction, based in part on the stunning way Gotham dominated the Hometown Throwdown, was an Oly-Gotham championship game with Gotham taking home the Hydra. Unfortunately, this meant that there would be a Gotham-Texas game in there. Damn.

This put me in the position of having my favorite team against my favored team. Tough situation. As I tweeted yesterday, I predicted a Gotham win, but secretly hoped for a Texas upset. Nothin' doin', and I definitely shed a little tear as the Texies got shut out 151-52. Okay, no sweat, right? I can cheer for Gotham for the rest of the tournament without a second thought (even though they were now up against Rocky, which has really grown on me after their upset win at Westerns--I love upsets as much as I hate blowouts).

Then came Gotham/Rocky. This game was painful to watch, not least of all because the feed kept crapping out on me (my computer hates me sometimes). After the 108-79 Gotham loss, I was all grumpy like "why the hell am I going to watch the rest of the tournament on Sunday if I've already seen both of these games, hmph!" After some human contact last night, I feel a little better about it.

Ultimately, the way I pick favorite is totally arbitrary, but that doesn't keep me from getting really attached for a hot minute.

How do you pick favorites when your team isn't playing? Do you go for the underdog? The favorite? The team with the most fun personality (New Skids!!)?

6Nov/101

Heartbreak is…

broken heart

Texas AND Gotham going down. Maybe now I'll root for Oly out of spite.

More tomorrow, I've been glued to DNN and Twitter most of the day so I'm heading out to hang out with corporeal humans.

2Nov/100

Cop out? Maybe.

This post is a placeholder for a locked post that I wrote for today that revealed more personal information than I am prepared to divulge just yet. Mostly I’m playing it close to the vest as to which league I’m trying out for, because I don’t want them to find out. I think that it’s one of those things that could go either way, like “aww, very cute! She wants to be a rollergirl”! Or “who the fuck does this bitch think she is? DESTROY!!” All in good time, my friends.

Here's the highlights reel:

  1. Of my friends, I am the one most likely to do something completely mortifying.
  2. Moments of glory come disguised as opportunities to completely mortify yourself.
  3. Cue inspiring sport movie moment of glory, slow-mo high five, roll credits.

In any event, we’ve established that I’m not trying out for Texas, so here’s the best video ever.

TEXAS TEXAS! KILL, KILL, KILL!!!

(h/t Queen of the Rink)

8Sep/101

Roller Review: Hell on Wheels

When I thought up the idea of the Roller Reviews, this was the review that I had in mind. In fact, full disclosure, it was watching this movie that inspired me to follow through on my roller derby dreams. Hell on Wheels is the definitive story of the DIY all-women roller derby revolution. No question.

Hell on Wheels: The True Tale of All-Girl Roller Derby, Texas Style

Texas *is* the reason.

When this movie came out, I was a little surprised. Not surprised that there was a movie about roller derby, but surprised that it hadn't come out already. The film was in production what felt like forever, and I could have sworn it was debuted at SXSW as early as 2005. Whatever time it took CrashCam Films to put the film together, it was worth the wait. A friend of mine described it beautifully: it was like a story about raw capitalism purified by a workers' revolt.

Indeed it was. I don't think that Bob Ray could have ever known what he was sitting on when he started filming. From the very beginning, everyone knew that an all-girl roller derby would be a sort of "hell yeah" fun time sensation - definitely the kind of stuff Austinites eat up like migas. But in the early days at Jackalope and Casino el Camino, with "Devil Dan" Policarpo dreaming of flaming bears on unicycles, there's no way that they could have foretold what this would have become. But that's not even the start of it!

With the exception of maybe Grizzly Man, this is by far the documentary with the most edge-of-your-seat suspense and drama that I have ever seen. Grizzly Man only wins because nobody gets eaten by a bear in Hell on Wheels, although they were filming during the untimely passing of Amber "Amberdiva" Stinson, and THREE totally gross-out tibia-fibula breaks (aka rubber foot hanging off the leg). What makes this documentary truly remarkable, though, is that it catches the most intimate moments of the Icarus-like rise and fall of the She-E-Os.

I am sure that you can paint a really unflattering picture of even Mother Theresa if you edit your film just so. My honest opinion is that even if he wanted to, Ray couldn't have hidden the ego and power hunger that fueled the early days of Austin roller derby. You just can't make this stuff up! This was a very brave film to make. Starting when it did, prior to the first exhibition bout, there was absolutely no way of knowing whether this would be just a bunch of chicks rolling around in uncertain circles and people getting drunk, or whether it would be a real documentary-worthy event. But by the grace of god and Texas women, Bob Ray ends up with a riveting story of ambition, betrayal, and greed. Most importantly for my purposes, this movie documents beyond the shadow of a doubt that many of the foremothers of the roller derby could. not. skate. And they nevertheless went on to be awesome athletes, which gives me hope and constant inspiration.

I have a lot of skate heroines, but in this film I think I identify most with Amy "Electra Blu" Sherman. Apart from her git-er-done work ethic on developing the flat track we know today from old banked-track diagrams, something about her sense of justice really speaks to me. You can see a look of "wtf" incredulity on her face as Anya "Hot Lips Dolly" Jack nurses what appears to be a huge margarita and slurs about how they are the "She-C-Os" and everyone is going to make lots of money. I've seen that "crazy bitch" glint in someone's eyes, and I've been the one cutting my eyes away in vicarious embarrassment for the person I'm talking to. You can see Electra trying hard not to look at the camera in a Jim Halpert-like wacky take, and I was just like "oh I feel you sister." She and Laurie "The Wrench" Rourke really shine as the ones who rallied the skaters to take control over the business of roller derby. The bad blood has since subsided, but the sport never looked back.

In fact, it was precisely because the original incarnation was so poorly run and so susceptible to strong-willed spotlight hounds (first Devil Dan, then She-E-Os) that the derby we know today is so successful. Irony of ironies, the suit TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls brought in advised them to do what the skaters who would become the Texas Rollergirls had demanded: make the league by the skaters, for the skaters.

I don't want to go into too much detail because the movie is so great and has so many suspenseful moments that you just need to see it for yourself. Rating: Eight wheels. Plus a grand slam. This movie is one of my favorites. Not just favorite roller derby movie or favorite documentary - favorite movie, period.

In fact, I just discovered that Bob Ray's Down & Dirty Austin Film Tour will be passing through town on my birthday, so I know what I'm doing to celebrate. And apparently the DVD has some really awesome special features, so if you want to know what to get me for my birthday...