Monday, January 28, 2013

Notes From the Sidelines: Derby Dad Travels to Miami!

I almost didn’t get to go.

Tossing my stuff back into the car after having kissed Coupon Clip-Her goodbye, a snafu with the van rentals for the Bradentucky Bombers’ trip to play the Miami Vice City Rollers had left this erstwhile writing upstart without a seat.

Until Gigi RaMoan popped out of one the vans shouting, “We’ve got room!”

And so it was I was once again in the mix, Miami-bound.

In some ways, as the trip progressed, our van whipping down the crowded Florida highways and byways, I felt like I’d taken a step back in time to youth group trips and the like as conversations rolled through the seats. Sure, there was talk of derby (more on that in just a moment) but there was plenty of good-natured banter rolling back and forth. Or, as we like to call it, girl talk.

Let’s be honest, with only two guys in the van, myself and Luda-Kris Speed who was along to bench coach, we were seriously outnumbered by estrogen as random topics flew. Among the more memorable were tales of peecicles down the sides of vans and funnels, talks of martial arts and kinetic energy, and the shoulda-coulda talk of the derby name, The Green Va-Giant.

Yes, it was interesting.

But it was also pretty cool. Sure, I was still more or less my introverted self, hanging close to my wife throughout but it did give me the chance to get to know some of these folks that I’ve said hey to along the way but never really got to talk to. Our row-buddy in the van, Abby Slambach, was a particular treat to get to know with her quiet, dry wit and wickedly laid back attitude. She’s good people.

Yet, the drive was more than “girl talk” and such; it was also a learning time for me as they used the drive time as a chance to discuss strategy and training. And for newbie me, it was a great opportunity to soak up lots of derby thought. Of course, I can’t share what was discussed here (the season is young!) but let’s suffice it to say that I really did walk away a little more derby smart than before.

And finally, four or so hours later, we unrolled ourselves from our vans and arrived at the venue in Miami. A slow-mo late lunch/early dinner followed and then the ladies were gearing up and I was sharpening my pencils. (Not really; I kinda hate pencils but it just sounded so much better than “getting my notebook and pens together!) And, as the sun began to set low on the horizon, we entered the outdoor arena and the Bombers geared up to take on the Vice City Rollers.

I’ll say this, Miami knows how to put on a quality event. The music was pumping, the stands and suicide zones slowly filled, and the night was absolutely perfect for roller derby. A cool breeze swept across the rink as the girls warmed up, lots of camaraderie between these two squads early on. But when the equipment checks were done and the jammers lined up on the line, it was on.

And overall, it was a good bout. Frankly, it should have probably been a little closer than the score ended, with some questionable calls at points (at least from this writer’s vantage point) alongside with some subtle teamwork issues along Bradentucky’s lines, with “A” and “B” squads mixing a bit more than usual causing a few hiccups. But, win, lose, or draw, both teams seemed to have fun and Miami was stoked to get their first victory, the fans energized and the night rolling well.

Of course, the excitement after was hard-pressed to top the excitement of the “did I just see that?” burlesque halftime show. Billed as more or less PG-13, the show was running fine until the performer suffered a Janet Jackson moment and we were all subjected to more than our fair share of areola. Thankfully, the performer was quickly alerted to her exposure quickly by Bradentucky’s awestruck bench and no kids seemed the worse for wear.

A quick stop by the after party, with lots of loud cheering and amiable hugs and high-fives was followed by another long trip in the vans. Notable memories of that were the overwhelming smell of sweaty women (they say guys smell, and we do, but the ladies can hold their own any day!), mosquito swatting at the rest stop in Alligator Alley, and folks with far more energy than is right at two in the morning.

All in all, it was a good trip. Sure, I would’ve loved to have been alongside the Hit Men as they were up in South Carolina playing their own bout (they lost a hard fought one) but I’m not there and have a really long way to go. In the meantime, however, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to travel alongside these fine women and to be able to share in this great sport of roller derby.

Now I’ve gotta get those bout recaps written…

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