Suzy Hotrod, from Gotham Girls Roller Derby, talks about how it feels to be representing the sport and her anticipation for the ESPN Launch Party.
“This revolution has summoned the inner athletes in women of all ages from all over the world to play a full contact sport in roller skates just for the love of it. That sounds almost too crazy to be true. It has changed our lives. We are fearless and dedicated to something that is our own.”
The super awesome Suzy Hotrod will be representing roller derby in this years’ ESPN Magazine “The Body Issue” in the “Bodies We Want” section. Who better to represent!? Can’t wait for this to come out.
An interesting link has been circulating around the derby world on this fine Thursday and it’s been provoking quite the discussion. On September 12th, Ginger Snap posted an op piece on DerbyLife.com denouncing the use of vulgar derby names for the sake of the progression of the sport and the desire to see derby taken seriously in the mainstream.
Some agree with Ginger, pointing out that some names referencing sexual violence towards women as a joke is harmful and disgusting, especially when male refs and male skaters have them. Others feel that picking whatever name you like is the spike in the punch; it’s one of the tangibles that gives roller derby it’s unique spirit, and censoring names for the sake of appealing to the mainstream would be a disappointing sell-out.
The double standard that this seems to inherently present is also a sticking point. Some comments left on the article suggest that a different vibe is put out by a male joining an originally female sport (at least in derby’s most recent and widely known incarnation) with a sexually pun-y name is disrespectful and degrading:
It’s okay for a female skater to name herself Fist Fucker or Fingaz Feltersnatch, but not for a male ref to name himself Buster Hymen?? Some say yes:
Others say no:
The main point of the article speaks to the forethought and preparedness of WFTDA participants for the possibility of roller derby going mainstream. Derby is arguably one of the world’s fastest growing sports, and as a result, the attention—and the tension—is mounting. It’s a veritable tightrope this sport has to walk that no other sport in the world has to: how does something driven by its grassroots, organic formation and existence reconcile its wish to be widely recognized as a “real” sport and to continually draw in the audience it so desires? Any league doing derby for derby’s sake is a club. Otherwise, the countless hours put into bout production, ref certification, fundraising, marketing and promotion, insurance, merchandising, ticket sales, et cetera, et cetera would be, well, silly. Derby for derby’s sake may prove to be an efficacious response to the skaters’ psyche that shouts, “WHY!? Why am I shelling out thousands of dollars to get hit on skates!?”, but WFTDA wouldn’t have 124 full member leagues and counting if there weren’t athletes making up these leagues who want to compete. It’s like being a musician; someone who so loves music that they wish to make the best music they can and make a living doing so, but doesn’t want to be Beyoncé.
Who wouldn’t want to quit their job and get paid to skate everyday? What ref wouldn’t love being reimbursed for every mile s/he’s driven? Wouldn’t it just be great to wake up, have all your bills paid, have all the gear you need, and spend your days training and getting into the best shape of your life? If ESPN knocked on your door tomorrow and said, “Here’s a check for all your living expenses, gear, and travel for the next two seasons. Except, Donkey Punch Face Fucker, your name isn’t acceptable for our network. Change your name, and we’ve got a deal,” what would you do?
Of course, this isn’t realistic. Though derby going mainstream is a real possibility, no one really knows what that would/could look like. It could mean that WFTDA sanctioned bouts could be broadcast on a television channel, huge international brands, like Nike (which dangled such a delicious looking carrot earlier this year) could be WFTDA-wide sponsors, and nationally ranked teams could be playing in packed arenas, but then again, two of the three of these are already happening.* It doesn’t necessarily mean that individual skaters will be paid to play and refs and NSO’s paid for performing their duties. It may not even mean individual leagues will be paid. It may just mean that leagues will not have to bare the entire financial responsibility for keeping the league afloat. Maybe larger venues will be provided or paid for with ease, maybe skaters will have paid gym memberships or travel accommodations met.
Or maybe it could be the beginning of the end for the little guys. Perhaps breaking into the mainstream would mean those leagues in the top spots already holding the attention of the derby world would be taken care of and the little guys in not-so-big cities with not-so-many wins wouldn’t be able to touch the juggernauts that are Gotham, Oly, Rocky Mountain, Philly, Windy City, Detroit, Texas, Minnesota. After all, who could keep up with 124 member leagues, some of which have teams in and of themselves. That’s without even considering the 65 apprentice leagues chomping at the bit. The NBA is made up of 30 teams, only one of which is outside of the US, the NFL contains 32 teams. Mainstream sports are contained and concise operations, just as American audiences demand. For derby to go mainstream, fat would have to be trimmed. Teams unable to draw the attention of big sponsors and large audiences wouldn’t stand a chance.
In the grander scheme of things, roller derby seems to be keeping roller derby out of the mainstream. It’s fierce determination to remain it’s inclusive, DIY, passion-driven self is what makes it the property of every single person involved. Something about it lends assurance that if the worst case scenario pans out, WFTDA allows itself to become a streamlined manufactured product of sponsors and contracts, some other governing body would emerge. Little leagues would keep on keepin’ on because derby for derby’s sake echoes inside too many brains for it not to.
Names like (the fictional…I hope) Donkey Punch Face Fucker aren’t single handedly keeping derby from breaking into the mainstream, and I don’t think Ginger Snap was making quite that broad of a statement. Gross names are gross names and it’s up to the discretion of the individual skater/ref and the individual league to decide what’s too gross, but isn’t that the beauty of roller derby? Knowing that somebody at the party is gonna spike the punch?
This essay is the opinion of Afro Disiac, member of the South Bend Roller Girls. It does not reflect the opinion or beliefs of the league or any other league members, only that of the individual.
*The two of three that are happening, at least in some form, are the national brand sponsors, like Chipotle, and the playing in arenas, like for some tournaments, regional playoffs, and nationals. For example, Windy City Rollers hold bouts at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Naptown Roller Girls bout at the Pepsi Coliseum on the Indiana State Fairgrounds. And though I’m unaware of any stadiums being packed to capacity, crowds are definitely filling seats.
Alright, so you timed yourself doing the 250 jumping jacks last week, right? Of course you did.
So, you know when you’re out somewhere, trying to look good, new outfit, fresh ‘do, trying to make an impression? You know when that moment comes when it’s prom night/wedding day/presentation time/graduation and your moment has come, the moment for you to step forward and receive applause, to bask in the golden spotlight of praise, admiration, recognition, approval and you #@$%in’ slip on the un-broken-in-ness that is your new super awesome pair of shoes and fall on your ass? How fast did you pop back up!? I mean seriously. It was like you were made of rubber and felt none of the sting that was your hip/elbow/wrist hitting the floor. You were just super embarrassed and hoped your ridiculously brash aunt/secretly envious friend wasn’t going to loudly/drunkenly remind everyone of what happened for the rest of the night.
Well, pretend it’s your night every night. Put on your gear (safety first) and do those 250 jumping jacks, and every 25th jack or so, fall and get back up before you get off your rhythm. You could also use a song. Put on a song that’s 5 minutes long and every 16th count, fall and try to be back up and jumping jacking (it’s right, don’t question me) without breaking your pace and/or rhythm.
Or use this post. Everytime you see a backslash (/), fall and hop back up before you read something witty. Now, THAT’S a challenge.
Seriously, just try it. Imagine you’re falling in front of your adoring audience. Hop back up that quickly and let that be the motivation for everytime you fall on the track.
Good luck. And as RuPaul would say, Don’t #@$% it up.