Upon my move to Nashville, I made a conscious decision to be more pro-active in getting out into the community and doing things to meet new people. I’ve been visiting churches, which you would expect this good Christian boy to do, but I’ve also been trying to go out to places like used record stores to try and meet people.
I did a Google search for things to do in Nashville tonight and one of those items was the Nashville Rollergirls. I’ve never seen roller derby in person; only a few times on TV. I knew nothing about the sport other than A) the competitors skate fast like hockey; B) they slam into each other like hockey players and C) they have women playing. A+B+C usually would equal something that gets my attention, so I bought a ticket.
For those who want a nice one word summary of the evening:
Probably not the word you were expecting me to type.
I’m not saying during the match the ladies of the Nashville Rollergirls were nice. No way. They went head to head and there was plenty of action. You would describe the action as exciting, energized, violent to an extent.
However, nice ruled the day.
Being a total newbie, I had a lot of questions about the sport. I didn’t run into a single person who wasn’t helpful.
I’m serious. The Rollergirls themselves, the referees, the volunteer staff…even the fans. Several of them were pro-active enough to come over to me and ask if I had questions about things and they went out of their way to make me feel welcome.
The night had two different matches. The first was the Rollergirls “B” team (new team members, learning the sport) against a team from Florida.
I liked when I was watching from almost the very start because of the obvious athleticism these women need to play this sport. You may run into them outside of the arena at the grocery store and not realize they could throughly whip your buttocks. The speed, the flexibility, the strength…it was far beyond what I expected to see.
I didn’t understand much during that first match other than they were getting penalized…a lot. I didn’t know what the penalties were because it seemed like in one case a player was sent off for illegal use of your buttocks. (The “head jammer” was going by this one “blocker” and she threw her butt out to knock the jammer out of bounds. I was later told that a skate made contact below the knee and that’s what was illegal.)
I was surprised by several players who had significantly different skills than their opponents. One who called herself “Sinister Minister” (all the women use pun-inspired nicknames) showed a real skill and slicing through the pack and seemed to have a “5th gear” that she could kick in a split second notice and launch past a group of blockers.
Another who’s nickname was “The Truth” (as in “The Truth is out there” or “The Truth will set you free”) wasn’t as fast as some of the other skaters but had a real skill at bouncing off blocks and getting past people before they realized she had blown by them.
And I loved #88…nicknamed Deathlopod. (A play on cephalopod…or an octopus…eight arms. Get it?)
The second match of the night, which featured the “All Stars”, was a much cleaner match overall in terms of penalties and speed. I was surprised to see how this match took the sport to an entirely different level than the first match. While some of the players were in both bouts, it was clear these athletes are on a higher level.
And I enjoyed every single second of the match.
There were little things that the competitors did which caught my eye. You had ladies like Incredible Hull and Ka-Blamazon whose attitude on the rink showed you didn’t enter their space without being made to pay for it. Then you had almost the opposite of that…players like Sugar High who were always moving back and forth on the track making sure no one went past without taking a shot.
But it wasn’t the competition that was the best part of the night.
I was more impressed by the competitors, the officials and the fans. In many ways, it reminded me of when I go to dirt track racing in rural areas. Everyone’s there for the love of the sport, they are glad that others are their to see and take part. It’s not about being famous, it’s about having fun and making sure everyone around you is having fun.
I know this will sound crazy but there was almost like a family atmosphere in the place. The people involved genuinely seemed to care about each other. Everyone was…nice.
I discovered that Rollergirls are actually a non-profit group and that they use volunteers to help put on their events. I felt so comfortable and felt so welcomed by those involved, I plan to offer to volunteer. (If they’ll have me back!)
I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun doing something completely new.