Monday, July 2, 2012

Well, it's aBOUT time!

June 30th, 2012, 4 pm:  Our first home bout of the season.  In fact, our first home bout… EVER.  A remarkably high profile, epic event for the High Altitude Roller Derby League.  Nerves were skyrocketing weeks before our debut, and whether you were skating in the bout or not, you could sometimes cut the tension in the air with a dull, bloodied knife.

This would be the big bang or the big chill, depending on how the entire town will perceive us during and after the bout.  Flagstaff may be a growing city, but it’s definitely still a community, and word travels fast of events and people and things that happen here.  Everybody knows somebody who knows someone else in this town, and that pretty much connects everybody to everyone.  

And with 50-some-odd derby girls, plus refs and NSOs and VIPs and sponsors and photographers and merchants – all of them deeply involved in our up-and-coming league in one way or another, not to mention the girls’ own families, spouses, significant others, friends, peers, and co-workers who have had to put up with our incessant derby talk and insane practice schedules and sprains and bruises and broken hearts and sometimes even broken bones, well, that’s a lot of local pressure to finally live up to all the BLOOD, SWEAT, and TEARS that are the basic chemical makeup of a derby girl. 
THAT's what I'm talking about.

No, not the band...
Then, of course, there’s the opposing team from Dirty Verde Roller Derby and their guest skaters from the Havasu Hit Girls, whom those of us who have had the privilege of getting to know cannot help but instantly adore, and the camaraderie between the leagues that roller derby is so famous for becomes unmistakable.

So there’s pressure all around – to do well as a team, to keep our sportsmanship squeaky clean, and for each and every skater to live up to her highest potential, and let it all hang out on bout day.  Sooner than we could say “Our girls hit H.A.R.D.,” the day was here, and our venue, the Sport Stop at the Flagstaff Athletic Club, was open for preparation.  Volunteers started filing in to set up for tickets, merchandising, rink rope & tape, team and penalty box seating, the sections for DJs, announcers, and scorekeepers, and a million folding chairs for the audience.  Everything came together, and at 3:30 pm, the front doors opened. 

What commenced was probably the most energized, electrifying, thrilling sports event that Flagstaff has seen in a long time.  The teams battled it out real horrorshow as the scores projected onto the wall duked it out.  First HARD was in the lead, then DVRD caught up and surpassed, then HARD snatched the score back in their favor, and it went on like this for the entire bout.  ALL of our jammers were amazing – particularly our very own Lusty Reigns, who gathered 25 points in one jam, and Gogo Liz who burned up the track like wildfire.  I witnessed hits and blocks and pileups like I’ve never seen before, and the audience caught on quick to the rules of the game.  When a home team jammer took the lead, the roar was deafening.  Our blockers kept the opposing jammers from running away with the score by playing some AMAZING defense, while at the same time creating perfect opportunities for our jammers to breeze through.  Team captain Wendy O. Killems kept the team inspired, positive, and focused, and bench coach Pantychryst was downright psychic in her decisions about who to put where, and who should jam next.  "Well-oiled machine" to describe our team that day is an understatement of epic proportion.

I couldn’t help but step back a few times and take it all in, and each and every time I looked around, I never failed to get all blubbery.  This was IT!  This was our debut, and they LOVE US!  And we were killing it out there!

During the 2nd half of the bout, the audience was out of control with excitement, and when Gogo Liz took the jammer line and blasted off through the pack, the chant of the day was “Go-GO!  Go-GO!  Go-GO!”  I managed to glimpse Gogo’s expression while this was happening – this is the kind of moment an athlete lives for; it’s what you fantasize about before falling asleep at night, dream about in your wildest dreams, and hope to one day experience.  And here it was for Gogo – her moment in history (one of many, I predict), and I’ve never seen her smile quite like that before.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, Gogo’s usual smile can light up a room, but THIS smile left fairy dust trailing behind her around the entire rink.  She simply sparkled.

By the end of the bout, the final score was 120 HARD, 154 DVRD – and anyone who knows a typical roller derby bout will say that that is pretty darn close, especially considering that it’s possible to earn 25 points or more in one 2-minute jam.  EVERYONE was ecstatic – both teams, the audience, the announcers, the sponsors, the vendors… you couldn’t find one person in the entire venue who wasn’t grinning from ear to ear, having just experienced the craziest fun in the last hour and a half that this town may have ever seen.  Both teams slammed together in a huge cluster of big, tight bear hugs, every single girl just beside herself with joy.  This is what all the hard work is for – THIS very moment, when you realize you have come to LIFE; you’re more AWAKE than you’ve ever felt, and you crumple into each other’s arms in ecstasy, revelation, and exhaustion. 

So yeah, I would say that we put on a good show.  The social networking sites completely exploded with good vibes, positive reactions, and people even asking about season tickets – something we haven’t even had a chance to think about yet.  We have arrived, and the town ate us up like cotton candy.  I can’t wait to see where we go from here.  And as for me, personally, as a skater who opted out of this bout, I will be looking forward to the time when I feel ready to join the ranks.  I’m already fantasizing about the trail of fairy dust I’ll be leaving behind when the audience chants my name.  That may be a while from now, but that’s my new goal; why not aim high?  I am truly inspired to be an athlete now – like never before in my life.  Thank you for this, girls, from the bottom of my heart.  I love you ALL!

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