kick out the jams, motherfu-

@mickipedia at the roller derby

(Photo by me. Click to embiggen and get more info at Flickr.) 

Last night, Anne and I went to watch Roller Derby (which doesn't, by the rules of English grammar, need to be capitalized, but by the rules of capitalizing Things What Are Awesome does) live for the very first time. 

I used to watch it on TV when I was a kid, and grew out of it the same time I grew out of wrestling, for pretty much the same reasons, so each time my friend Burns, who is a referee at the Doll Factory, told me to come watch a derby, I always had something else to do.

About a week ago, Burns told us that he'd get us VIP tickets if we wanted to come out. He promised us that we'd have a good time. Anne and I have been looking for excuses to get out of goddamn fucking suburbia lately, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to see something our friend loves, experience something new, and get out of goddamn fucking suburbia all at once.

We fought through horrible are-you-fucking-kidding-me-it's-7pm-on-a-Saturday traffic (we can't move away from Los Angeles soon enough) and walked into the Doll Factory just before 7:30. I instantly fell in love with the scene: an incredibly diverse crowd of enthusiastic, interesting people mingled around The Doll Mall, a room off to one side of the main building where artists and vendors had all sorts of cool stuff for sale. Skaters from both teams cruised around, talking to fans and each other, and the vibe was overwhelmingly positive.

We found Burns, found our seats, paid way too much for two Newcastles (not the Dolls' fault, apparently, but come on, vendors: $7 for one can of beer is bullshit) and got ready for the derby to start. Checking Twitter, I learned that the people sitting next to me were friends of @Mickipedia, putting them one degree from me through a bunch of different friends, including Sean Bonner, who I've concluded is the nexus of awesome in Los Angeles.

(Fun fact: About two weeks ago, I taunted Paul F. Tompkins during his hilarious #verifypft efforts that I'd get reverified before he got verified. I didn't think it would actually happen, but I sat next to @trammell who works for Twitter, and he was able to speed up my process. I got reverified this morning. Your move, @PFTompkins.)

Just before 8, the derby started. The Dolls' fielded an all-star team called the After Shockers, while Arizona brought the Derby Dames. The match was a blowout – LA won by something like 80 points – but it didn't seem to bother either team, because it was obvious that everyone was having a hell of a good time. All the girls skated like they meant it, and I'm pretty sure most of them are feeling it today, because they beat the shit out of each other for every point.

Unlike the televised stuff I watched in the late 70s and early 80s, this was not scripted or planned or faked or stupid, and by the end of the first quarter, the only thing I regretted about coming to the derby was waiting so long. The entire experience was amazing, from beginning to end, and did I mention that the girls are incredibly sexy? Because holy shit, you guys.

Now that our kids are grown and becoming more independent, Anne and I finally have time for ourselves that we haven't had for over a decade. In the absence of being full-time parents, we're starting to miss all the art and culture that we used to experience before we moved out here for the schools. We both feel like we've been trapped in a Suburban world bounded by responsibility, yard work and the mall, and the only road out is so choked with traffic, taking it is an aggravating ordeal that's barely worth the effort … but I keep thinking about the quote from Ferris Bueller's Day Off about life moving by pretty fast, and I'm not quite ready to resign myself to missing it. Going to the Roller Derby last night, and being around all the non-suburbanized people there felt foreign and familiar and inspiring, all at once. It viscerally reminded me of all the things I've been missing, and I can't wait to go back.

Seriously, guys, if you live anywhere near roller derby, it's really worth making the effort to go and see it in person, at least once. Unless, as I said on Twitter last night, you hate things that are awesome.

75 thoughts on “kick out the jams, motherfu-”

  1. I’m really glad you guys had a great time. I knew you would; it’s Roller Derby. How could you not? (By the way, did I mention Elvis Costello came and had a blast at the bout on Sunday?)
    Awesome pic of Mickispeedia. I can’t believe you took that with your phone. I’m definitely ditching the iPhone as soon as my contract with f’ing AT&T is up.
    Also, it’s great to see so many seasoned and potential new derby fans above. There are now something like 500 awesome derby leagues worldwide, so there’s likely to be some Roller Derby near everyone. Of course, everyone is invited to come see my favorite league, the L.A. Derby Dolls. I’m Third Degree Burns!; find me at the bout and say hi.

  2. Love that you have found Roller Derby….and Thinking about Portland. I’m also an aspiring Derby girl looking for a Nerdy Wil Tribute Derby name. Should you want to name a future derby girl I’d totally take any ideas 😉

  3. So glad you enjoyed roller derby! I love it, too! I started going to bouts last year after seeing “Whip It”, and got hooked! Big fan of my girls, the Queens of Pain (representing Queens in New York Roller Derby as part of Gotham Girls Roller Derby.)
    I’m almost inspired to get better at skating and trying out sometime. Maybe I will! :)

  4. My name is Annie Malistick, Sticky for short. I skate with the Boston Derby Dames league, and my team is the Wicked Pissahs. We are part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (, the umbrella organization that ensures we play by the same rules, have correctly trained referees, run our leagues lawfully, and keeps official rankings of the leagues. Currently, the Boston Massacre (our travel all-star team) is ranked 3rd in the East.
    If you’re ever out in Boston again (*cough* PAXEast *cough*), you should check it out. I can honestly say that there’s probably not many other rollergirls that went to a FIRST robotics competition, PAXEast, and derby practice in the same day, but hey, it’s what I do. :)
    Hopefully you can come visit at some point!

  5. I have tried Roller Derby with a friend back in college. She asked me to join with her, and I am the, “Trying anything one time” attitude. *Positive experiences only TY* I learned how to Rollerblade, not roller skate, and they are completely different. I couldn’t stop, balance, or even go fast. The only thing I could do is use my body correctly to push people down, which was inherited through Martial Arts training. So, needlessly to say I didn’t stick with it because the training was too agressive paced for me. My friend stayed with it and I am proud of her. *Tip* You don’t want to mess with Derby chicks!!

  6. My boyfriend and I discovered a mutal admiration for Roller Derby by watching the Nashville Rollergirls last year. Neither of if had been interested in any sport until our first derby. We’ve been to several of their bouts now and enjoy it every single time. It almost seems like it’s a sport that attracts geeky people not really into sports. It’s Win! I’m glad that you and Anne had a good time.

  7. I have been wanting to check out a roller derby match for a while now. It is one of those things that the friends and I are always talking about doing, but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Between your glowing endorsement and the fervor stirred up by Whip It, I’ll definitely have to check when the local OC roller derby league is playing.

  8. I actually tried out for the Derby Dames in Phoenix! I sadly didn’t make it (an incident with a dislocated shoulder. trying out again next time!!) but they are an awesome league!! this is their first year on the banked track! I’m so stoked you liked it! Every new fan is awesome!!

  9. Another derby girl here. We’re a small, new, UK based league (and I can tell you, RD is growing exponentially here) hoping to get WFTDA status pretty soon. In the meantime, I try to convert everyone I know. It’s more than a sport – it’s a way of life!
    P.S. one of the names I am registering (we derby girls have on-track personas) is ‘Scar Trek’ 😉

  10. Awww, too bad we didn’t know you were there!! Stupid Puppyhead vends at most of the LA Derby Bouts and It would have been nice to say hello again!! maybe Comic con… I’m glad you enjoyed it, Derby really is a positive thing for women and girls..

  11. You’d have loved it. I just went to our local Derby teams fund raiser Zombie Prom. I even made the costume for the Team’s coach (She and hubby went as Betty and Fido). They where crowned Zombie Prom King and Queen. :-)

  12. hah great pic for a cel phone, wil!
    I used to try to get that motion+frozen effect with 35mm SLR’s and flash…god it was hard.

  13. Welcome to roller derby!!! :) I’ve been a non-skating official for the past 2 years (Gravity Kills, named for my skating style, hence why I’m a NON-skating official. :) ) My sister’s a derby girl (Stabbity Ann, #187), my husband is a referee (REFLMAO), my brother’s a ref in training (Dick Move), and my mom is the league videographer/unofficial ‘league mom’ (DerbyMom). Derby’s done amazing things for my family. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since early college, my kid brother has gone from near-shut-in to avid attendee and up-and-coming referee, my hubby’s in great shape and well known as a well-informed and fair ref, my mom’s learning tons of new tech to be a better video editor, and my sister has more confidence and strength than I’ve ever seen in her before. (She can also launch me a solid foot with a ‘love tap’ from her hip.)
    I hope you do check out more derby… keep an eye out when you travel, if you get the time. There are a lot of leagues out there, and we’d love to have you! :)

  14. Check out, nothin! Please accept Michela’s invitation (above) to Battle on the Bank this weekend in San Diego, and DNN will happily give you the full behind-the-scenes pretend-media coverage treatment.
    Poorly kept secret: derby people are geeks. Some closet geeks, lots of fully out geeks, and some still in denial but sure to emerge eventually. While it may not be obvious on the surface, these are totally your people. Come to San Diego! I swear to god you will not stop smiling the entire time.

  15. Question, Wil: Have you seen the movie “Whip It”? It’s actually about Roller Derby (capitalized for awesomeness), and I found it quite enjoyable. =)

  16. Thank you so much for posting this! As both a fan and someone who plays, it warms my heart to see someone who’s not already a part of the derby community give it a chance and come away from it with nothing but positive things to say. I see a lot of posts by people who write contemporary derby off as “neanderthal” or “trashy” or “fake; WWE on wheels,” which is just plain ignorant. If they took the time to learn more about it, they would realize how brazenly wrong they are.
    Also, I’m in total agreement with HurtReynolds and FrogDiva! Most derby people are geeks in some way, shape or form! :)

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