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 love Roller Derby because so much of it is community driven with a do it yourself attitude. It’s a fun sport that seems to embrace independence rather than corporate puppetry.

  2. Sigh. We know. We know. PDX also has vegan food everywhere, public transportation that works, and more weirdoes than douchebags.
    I really, really hope we can get there sooner than later.

  3. Whoo hoo! Shout out to the Texas Rollergirls in Austin! To name a few: Hell Marys, Hotrod honeys, Honkytonk Heartbreakers, and Hustlers! Kick Ass, girls!

  4. Rose City’s all fine and good, but Assassination City has Roller Derby, art, and beer as well. And our after parties are at the best non-douchey, pet friendly dive bar in all of Dallas, Lee Harvey’s.
    And while I have to admit to being a Hell Marys fan down in Austin, how can you NOT love a team of girls who also do the schoolgirl thing called the Deadly Kennedys?

  5. I will have to check it out sometime since the Derby Dames are somewhat local to me (probably a 30-40 minute drive to their events). Glad you had a great time.

  6. I am the proud owner of a 3 year old living in the Chicago suburbs, and I totally empathize. Before our daughter was born, we saw concerts and toured museums. w00tstock was the closest thing to culture and adult socialization I’ve had in years, and I had to leave my husband home to do it.

  7. Love that you had this experience, and at the same time last night as I officially *joined* Rochester, NY’s Roc City Roller Derby as an official: just call me Col Lision! I found derby when I realized I needed to push myself & my boundaries out of every day stasis, and this does it. Derby has an incredible energy, vital & vibrant & sexy & strong, and I feel indefinably alive & just plain happy to be there. Glad you had a great time, & if you ever make it to NY you’ll have to be our guest @ Roc City!

  8. WHEATON!!!!! Try to make RollerCon in Vegas. Think they are doin year 2 of Star Wars vs Star Trek. Hoping to get to it this year, don’t know if I’ll be skating :( but WILL be at #SDCC!

  9. We have a fledgling roller derby team. They’re in their second year, and kicking butt. Luckily, it’s a ‘mostly’ family friendly event, and I can take my 4 year old. (He LOVES the derby girls..) But I totally understand. My life is consumed right now with trying to get in a good neighborhood, buy a house, and make sure my kid gets in a good school and has all the things that I had and more. I haven’t done anything on a social level without my husband and my kid in tow in years. I miss concerts; the ability to just dance and have fun without a care in the world is what kills me most.

  10. First of all, fantastic tracking shot! With a phone camera! I had to fav it on flickr.
    I don’t think the score is the point of Roller Derby at all, the fun and putting on a show for the audience is a lot more important.
    Glad you were having fun and found something new to do. :)

  11. I’m so glad you liked it! And for future reference derby games are called “bouts”. Now you can sound like a superfan the next time you go when you say “Oh yeah, I go to bouts all the time”.
    Like Kelly up there said, you should definitely come watch Portland’s league, Rose City Rollers. We’re #4 in the west right now!

  12. PDX loves you, Wil. I even have a tandem bicycle you guys can have. You totally need a bike(s) if you move here. And you need to be in close-in SE. We’re more weirder and funner. Also more vegan-er, though I am more carnivorous…-er…

  13. I have roller derby near me, and like you, I hadn’t bothered. Though last week I saw a bumper sticker on a car that read “There Are No Balls In Roller Derby” that cracked me up. That combined with this post, I think, must be fate!
    *resolves to check out Maine Roller Derby ASAP*
    Oh, and that sticker? It was right underneath one that read “Magento Was Right.” Awesome.

  14. Yay for derby girls!! I was actually at a bout here in Birmingham last night. Love, love, love it. I first learned of it here when my dance troupe was asked to do halftime. It has become one of my Favorite Things Ever.

  15. I went to my first derby match about a month ago. I couldn’t figure out which team was the locals and I was silently cheering for the wrong team until during half, I ran into the owner of my FLGS and he set me straight. I can’t wait to go see another one. I never saw so many girls wearing knee high stockings under the age of 45 in my life.
    Much better than the shows during the 70′s and 80′s!

  16. My 11 year old niece is a Seattle Derby Brat. She’s only been on skates for about 5 months and is already getting crazy good and having a great time doing something other than playing computer games. :D

  17. An acquaintance of mine who I work with is one of the AZ Derby Dames. I’ve been to a couple shows but not since they got a banked track put it. I was blown away the first show I went to.

  18. If you’re ever in Portland the weekend of a roller derby bout, I can get you VIP tickets. I’m married to an insider. :)
    PS- Timothy Hutton was at a PDX roller derby bout a month or two ago, so Leverage stars like you are obviously welcome.

  19. My husband and I are on staff for our local Roller Derby team (Flat track). It’s always been a blast at the bouts… even when we’re getting smooshed!

  20. Glad you went to see a bout! Thanks for being such a good sport when I brought the team over to harass you about seeing derby at ECCC. If you are ever in Seattle when we have a bout, Rat City would love to see you at the Key. So glad you and Anne had a great time!!

  21. Nearly every major city has Roller Derby now, with at least 34 LEAGUES in California alone. That doesn’t mean there are only 34 teams in California; leagues can have many teams competing, sometimes within their own league against each other! I’m proud to call myself a Derby Girl (Redding Roller Girls, Angry Beavers/Rollin’ Dead) and have found a sense of empowerment, friendship, and athleticism that I have never possessed before in my life. I was the geeky girl who was uncoordinated enough to get cut from most sports growing up, but man, could I skate! Finally found a use for it AND my solid build!! ;) Glad you enjoyed the game at the Doll Factory. And like @nerdrage42 said, you should check out RollerCon in Vegas, July 28-August 1, five days of solid Derby!!!!! <3 <3 ~NINgirl Roxit~

  22. Awesome that you got to see derby! The girlfriend and I bought season tickets for our local league, the Rat City Roller Girls. PDX might be trying to woo you, but Rat City plays at Key Arena. Just sayin’.
    (And if you come into Seattle during derby season, we would totally buy you a ticket for a bout.)

  23. Between your twittering (couldn’t bring myself to type tweeting, for some reason), your blog and RFB, you make me smile or laugh everyday. +5 ElevatingOthers.

  24. My wife and I have been trying to get out to the Dallas Derby Devils (flat track) for a while, and wouldn’t you know, there is a bout scheduled this coming Saturday. Tickets=booked. See you after the Awesome!

  25. This is my fifth season as the announcer for the Minnesota RollerGirls. Next time you’re in town again (for CONvergence, or another w00tstock, etc.), we’ll show you some awesome flat-track derby in the best venue in the sport, Roy Wilkins Auditorium!

  26. Right on Wil. This totally caught my eye because just a few days ago we found out that here on the prairies in Canada in a small city, we are getting a Roller Derby team soon. Awesome. Glad you and Anne had a blast.

  27. You just trumped any awesomeness cards I might have because sadly I still have never made it to Roller Derby. Well, I’ve made it there sans ticket twice but wasn’t able to buy one at the door because it’s clearly the awesomest thing around and everyone else already knew that and bought their tickets in advance. This fact causes me to cry myself to sleep. Every. Night.

  28. A friend of mine put me onto the Minnesota Rollergirls last season—I made it to nearly every bout and exposed friends and family to the sport for the first time. I saw a lot of lopsided matches, but I also saw some neck-and-neck contests and *amazing* come-from-behind wins. Stay with it, this is way more than one evening’s worth of entertainment!

  29. Moving from LA? Where are you going?
    I’ve always wanted to move to California. At least until I saw the statistics that people in the US work 56 days (assuming 8 hour days) more each year than us lazy Norwegians :)

  30. It’s so funny that you just posted this (funny to me, not you :-P) because my little sister JUST went to Roller Derby a couple of nights ago (in Ft. Lauderdale!) and was sending me pictures and video all night. She’s been a huge Roller Derby fan ever since Whip It was in production. I really need to check it out.

  31. Wil you have made me smile on a Monday. Welcome to the wonderful world of Roller Derby! Thanks for the love and be careful…it’s addicting

  32. RAT CITY ROLLER GIRLS!! You have more than Roller Derby, you have one of the most badass leagues in the country! Go check them out and show them some love! You won’t regret it!

  33. “Whip It” was actually filmed in the area where I live – and Detroit has quite the roller derby team. My friend is the photographer for the derby, and another friend of mine is trying to join. I keep getting invited to go all the time, and have had other plans… I guess I’ll have to get off my ass and go!
    BTW Wheaton, how strangely lucky you are to get the empty nest while you’re still in your 30s. I know it made your 20s a hell of a lot harder, but you get to enjoy stuff before you get old! I’m 31 and just now having a kid. Did all that in reverse. Played and enjoyed all sorts of everythings in my 20s and now time to settle down… life moves pretty fast.

  34. My SIL actually joined the local roller derby team. She has been working her butt off to get to the competition level; for now, she practices and watches the actual matches. I’ve been wanting to check out the matches because these girls are hard core! I also have “Blood on the Flat Track” in my Netflix queue. The sudden boom of roller derby — at least to someone who never really followed it — is amazing!

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