Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Embracing the Derby Story

Just the other day I happened upon a discussion on a derby-related Facebook board and, in the midst of the conversation, one of the commentators shared her distaste with the common perception and profile that the media offers up on derby, in her words, "mild-mannered person by day, fierce derby player at night" stories. Granted, it was far from the crux of the main point of the discussion thread but, for whatever reason, that little comment stuck out and made me wonder why that's such an issue.

Because, well, isn't that what most of us are?

Sure, there are a few really hardcore players out there, folks whose derby persona matches up with their real lives, rock stars, bikers, and the like. But, by and large, this is a sport that is made up of husbands and wives, moms and dads, lawyers and retail clerks. Students wait anxiously at the jam line while an accountant mans the pivot, commanding his or her blockers which consists of an independent business owner, an elementary teacher, and an HR professional.

Yet, when you look on the track, you don't see these "mild mannered" professionals. Rather, you're greeted with the energized looks of men and women who are passionate about their sport and their next breath is only for the next jam. They throw their bodies around with abandon, sacrificing themselves to get their jammer through the pack for just one more grand slam.

To me, that's a pretty great story.

I mean, how can it not be? To watch someone who's either looking for the next big thing or who has perhaps fallen into a rut who stumbles upon this most interesting of sports and then watch the evolution. Watch how they tentatively step foot into the rink, excited and intimidated by these counter-cultural superstars and then as they gingerly decide to give it a go. There's the tension of practice and desperation of getting it all down, the frustration after a crappy practice and the elation of nailing that elusive skill.

And then the story gets even better as this seeker steps into their new identity. And whether they decide to choose a "derby name" as so many do or stick with their God-given one, they do become a new person. So many are newly empowered, encouraged, fit, and ready to go. A whole platoon of friends and teammates now waits with them, sweating blood and tears together in the pursuit of derby glory.

It's almost religious in nature to watch how this sport manages to change a life.

And, for us to be frustrated at that being the story that the media seems to key in on so much seems to be a bit like biting the hand that feeds us.

Because I know that, for me, that story is a huge part of what drew me and continues to draw me to this sport. Call me whatever you like but I'm a guy rapidly approaching middle age who needs to be encouraged, empowered, to get in shape, and who needs an outlet to vent my frustrations. I need the thrill of the sport and the camaraderie of a team that is tight on the track as well as off.

And if that story is one that doesn't connect with you, you might want to try golf instead.

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