Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is Roller Derby Really A Sport?

This is a reply to a blog entry made by Arizona Derby Dames' co-founder Suzy Homewrecker about the legitimacy of today's roller derby as a sport. I thought I would share it here.

Was Roller Derby A Sport? Yes and No.
When I was growing up as a young kid in the mid-1970's, I remember watching the banked track roller derby on TV. When I was about 5 or 6, I thought that all skating was done on a banked track like the roller derby. Imagine the feeling when I visited my first roller rink in Kennesaw GA at the age of 7 to discover that the floor was flat. I figured at the time, OK, this makes it easier. When I was a kid, I remember the girls and guys skating in periods. I did not understand the scoring but I remember the arena announcer yelling "FHHIIIIVE TEEEE-BIIIRRRD POINTS!!". Yes, there was the drama of Georgia Hase, oops. that's MIZZ Georgia Hase but I did not think anything of it. My conclusion was that this is sport, like baseball, football and stock car racing. As I got older, I was introduced to the WWF. This was during the time of personalities like Classy Freddie Blassie, Rowdy Roddy Piper and King Kong Bundy (the latter I eventually met in person at a CES in Las Vegas). When I watched the moves these wrestlers were making and all of the in-between drama (which was significantly less than today's WWE), I came to the conclusion that this was fake and it was not a sport. Then I remembered all of that roller derby I used to watch and still occasionally saw at the time. I made the determination that derby was fake and the moves were choreographed for entertainment. The nail was put in derby's coffin when "Rollergames" aired with commentary by wanna-be conservative blowhard, the late Wally George. (Interesting enough, George used to advertise T-Bird roller derby on his show before Rollergames came around).

Is Today's Roller Derby A Sport? Yes and Yes!
After more years of growing up and rediscovering myself, I had pretty much forgotten about derby and regarded it as something of a bygone era until I saw a report in 2006 on KTLA out of Los Angeles (I get some LA stations on my dish here in PHX) about the L A Derby Dolls. It was the same style banked track but there was some distinct differences. First of all, the clean cut uniforms has been replaced with punk t-shirts, tattoos, fishnets and piercings. Did I also mention that the guys were gone? (I never liked watching the guys anyway, their style of play was not as fun as watching the girls.) My first reaction was "OMG, roller derby still exists? And they have improved on it!".

Not Only Is Derby A Sport, But The People In Derby Are Real.
Again, I did not think anything of it until my next door neighbor came over to borrow my computer, she does on occasion. Anyway, I decide to check out her Myspace site. In the profile, were a bunch of references to AZDD and Coffin Draggers. Turns out my next door neighbor was a former AZDD and Renegades skater. So, I checked out AZDD on my own. Recalling the KTLA report, I thought to myself, "OMG, they actually have that here? (in AZ)" Turns out that one of the places that sells tickets is a place that I have done business with for years and I personally knew the owner. I went down there to inquire about their connection with derby and it turns out that the owner is a popular skater. That was it. I'm hooked. I looked further into the league. I got refamiliarized with the sport's basics, rules, scoring, etc. I then looked further into the league and started participating in the AZDD Fan Forum and showed up at some events. I eventually became known as "Michi-chan Scrapper Fan" (The name Michi-chan has it's origins well outside of derby). The AZDD folks have been nothing but accommodating to me.

Even The Injuries Are Real.
I finally lost my rollervirginity on April 21, 2007 when my favorite team The School Yard Scrappers (why I attached myself to this speicific team is a totally different story) lost to the Bombshells 87-46 and I saw my newly made friend whom I immediately gained a lot of respect for in a short period of time, fall on her back in the second period of the bout and had to be carried out on a stretcher.

Take It From This Insider.
As a non-skater who has had an opprotunity to put her foot slightly on the inside of AZDD, I can tell you that AZDD (and AZRD) are real sport. The skating is real, the moves are real, the take downs are real and most importantly, the injuries are real. Now, there may be a time or two where something is pre-planned (such as Red Rocker giving me my first real taste of derby just before the June bout during the entrances.), but what you see from buzzer to buzzer is the real thing. If you want to experience true real derby, get to the venue early and get trackside (just remember to stay behind the buffer line and don't place kids in the very front) to get the best derby experience. In AZDD, we have signs on the floors that say "Watch for flying skaters." Just watch the highlight videos, you will see what I mean.

We'll see you at the bout!