It’s rare, sure, but even jaded old me can be surprised by something.
For example, a roller derby league that only formed in January busting ass week after week and now, after eight months, is ready to bout. I have been visiting this league, NEMO ViQueens (so named for being mostly from the Northeastern area of Missouri), for months.
My first visit was on Valentine’s Day. I drove up later than I’d planned and the ladies were taking a water break. They swarmed over to the wall as their coach, Ken, introduced me to them and were so excited! Why? They are genuinely happy to meet new people. I was thinking back at this moment to the first time I ever showed up to a derby practice, ever. Only the Head Ref said anything to me, and that’s how weeks on weeks of my early derby career was. I suppose, now, I’m better established in the derby community, but it was an exciting moment.
There wasn’t much time left in practice, but I scootled around and did some drills. It was smiley happy derby. The semester collapsed on me, though, and the most I could do was an appearance here or there, but the ladies kept in touch on Facebook and I worked like a ninja on their website.
I got together my NSO clinic again and ran it for a more than captive audience, as these ladies, skaters and officials alike, are information sponges.
Afterwards, I set all the non-skating participants up, and we had a scrimmage practice so they could use their new skills and I could wander between them, making sure they all had it down. It was a really great (OPTIMAL) set up for an NSO clinic.
Every practice is like a… it’s like the snowglobe scene from Labyrinth. It’s beautiful, everyone is having fun doing the derby dance in their derby costumes, and every assist is like finding David Bowie… minus the waking up in a weird trash pile, having found Hoggle had fed you poisoned fruit…
I’m not the best at analogies.
It’s beautiful, though. The structure is nice, the practices are awesome, several people from around the state have popped in for guest practices, including Gatekeepers’ fancy, fancy Batwing.
In July, the ViQueens teamed up with the Macomb Bombshells and put on a mixer, with clinics by Shane Darby (skaters; Gatekeepers), Cowboy (refs; Mid-Iowa Rollers), and yours truly (NSOs; CoMo/Damaged Goods/NEMO). After the clinics, there were three 20 minute scrimmages so the refs, NSOs, and skaters could get their derby on. It was awesome!
Three ViQueens (Blunt Force Mama, Ender’s Pain, and Past Prime) even participated as foster skaters for the CoMo Derby Dames in a B bout against SRG’s Battle Broads. This is what we call “strides!”
I was even compelled to visit my ViQueen buddies the day of my wrist surgery, but sad that it was pointless to sign an Ace Bandage… but also happy to not have a cast (and today is the day that I will go back to practice, being healed up enough to not have a freaking crab claw).
And now, in August, the ViQueens will be tackling DRDC for their first official bout. Ultimately, I’m not as surprised as I could be about this. These ladies have been hitting the rink full force, attending practices regularly, keeping their attitudes positive, watching their penalties, working on endurance, and, best of all, building a derby family.
This is what I always imagined derby could be in my head. While I love all the bells and whistles of the big productions and I have been blessed to have been invited to referee, NSO, and announce some really spectacular events, and I am more than fortunate to have CoMo at my side and so many loving leagues surrounding me, this is something special and new and beautiful. It makes my heart feel like an actual heart.
I’m thrilled to be even the tiniest part of it.
While I will happily officiate my lovely CoMo Derby Dames, wander with Damaged Goods, announce whatever needs to be announced, I will also skate as a ViQueen.