Friday, June 11, 2010

The Night We Went to the Derby

If you know me and this space, when you read about the "Night We Went to the Derby," you're probably thinking we went to the Kentucky Derby or some other type of horse race, or perhaps we strolled the local shopping mall.  Not this time.  This time we went to the Derby where, in the immortal words of my three year old "the girls go to kill each other!!"  I admit that that was a sentence that was uttered out of my mouth to engender some excitement - but who cares?  JMR and crew was going to see the Boston Derby Dames.

It all started on a fateful afternoon in April.  Desperate to look for some weekend entertainment for C, G and DLG, I came across a flyer for the Boston Derby Dames.  I remember Roller Derby from when I was growing up (and frankly Roller Derby brings all of us back to a more innocent time, when the Fonz was cool and Pinky Tuscadero was the bomb), and remembered fondly a couple of times that I watched Roller Derby when I was younger.  So we decided to check out the "bout."

With names like the Nutcrackers, the Cosmonaughties and the Wicked Pissahs, I asked around to see if perhaps this was not the kind of show I should be taking three impressionable children to.  When convinced that the show was at worst a "rated PG" type event, I decided to roll with it.  I just hope that Anna WrecksYa and Ivanna Shankabitch are not in the first bout.  Those names might be kind of hard to explain since they will understand some of the other play on words that these ladies travel with.

4pm. April 2010.  We arrive at Shriners Auditorium early so we can get good seats.  As we're walking slowly toward the front entrance, I notice dozens of people milling around the parking lot, cooking food on grills, drinking beer out of the standard red plastic cups and playing muscle music as loudly as possible.  Is this where Pats fans go during the offseason?  I then notice a line out the door comprising fans waiting to get in.  Strange, I think to myself.  We park ourselves in line under the door where we see the letter in our last name is.  I suppose this is organized almost like the Pinewood Derby - sitting in alphabetical order.  Soon I realize that we're in a will call line.  

"Where do I buy tickets?" I ask the two biker chicks standing in front of me.  They look at each other and smile.  One of them spits some sort liquid out of her mouth and laughs at us.

"This bout was sold out weeks ago!" She gruffly answers.

"You're kidding?!" I say incredulously.  "Really?"

"Really."  She snorts.  "If you wait around, you can probably scalp some tickets toward the start of the bout."  That, I find utterly ridiculous.  I'm not going to teach my kids that you can get what you want by paying more than face value to purchase tickets illegally - well at least for Roller Derby.  The Sox or the Pats are a different story.  

Disappointed, we return home.  But the JMR clan will not be denied our fun, so the next month we purchase our tickets online well before.  The kids are warily looking at me as we get in the car for the one hour drive to Wilmington.  When my 8 year old asks to hold the tickets, I tell him that we have to get them when we get there.  He looks sort of pissed when he chimes "That's what you said last month, Dad!"  I ask him if he wants to see the credit card statement proving that I actually bought them this time, with only a slight hint of sarcasm.

4pm. May 2010. Wilmington, MA.  This time we confidentally stand in line where the first letter of our first name is to get our tickets.  After a couple of minutes, we're inside.  Just in time to see the first bout, the Wicked Pissahs versus the Cosmonaughties.  I'm not sure if these teams are both based in Boston; I assume that they are.  This is the "warm up" bout before the Boston Massacre take on the best team - Olympia - for the main bout.

The rules are little too complex to explain in this space.  If you're interested, check out the full rules here.  There are a lot of referees, a lot of skating around in circles and a lot of points scored.  But suffice it to say that each team has a skater that needs to get by all of the other skaters in order to earn points within a 2 minute timeframe.  That and you can't really hit each other to block people, you can just get in their way.  Incidentally, that rule will later come back to haunt us.  I try to explain some of the rules to the kids.  My 6 year old doesn't really give much consideration to the rules when he blurts out "When are the girls going to kill each other??"  Some people look around with me to try to find the perpetrator of such an ignorant statement.  My 8 year old is horrified.

Luckily, the lights go down and a buzz starts growing from the crowd.  We're all getting excited, not knowing what's going to happen.   Finally, after a ten minute introduction about the rules, the teams are introduced and play begins.  Led by co-captains Hayley Contagious and Splitter Noggin (my 8 year old's favorite name), we decide to root for team blue (I call them that instead of the "Cosmonaughties" to avoid the inevitable questions.) 

Unfortunately, while I am enjoying myself watching the bout and figuring out the nuances of scoring, the kids start getting restless.  The girls aren't killing each other enough, I learn.  We decide to leave just as the bout turns really exciting (the Wicked Pissahs eek out a five point victory, I find out later).  I try to talk them into staying, but once one of them utters "McDonalds" it's all downhill from there.  So we end up leaving, but not before the kids try some Kickass Cupcakes and we take a couple of photos.  Despite them claiming to be bored, the Roller Derby is all we talk about as we drive home.  Maybe they had a better time than I thought?

You know, whether they had a good time (which I think they did) or they were bored, they will always be able to say to their friends that they went to see Roller Derby when they were kids.  Just like learning the piano, you don't appreciate experiences like that until you're older.  Maybe they will go with me next Saturday?

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you had a good time! Like the rest of modern roller derby leagues, BDD is a skater owned and operated business, and we run it on a volunteer basis. We love to hear that people had fun!

    I'm going to try to answer some of your questions.

    The Wicked Pissahs (Pissahs), Cosmonaughties (Cosmos), and Nutcrackers (Nuts) are home teams and only play each other. The B-Party is a b team that plays b teams and/or home teams from other leagues. The Boston Massacre is our all-star team and we play allstar teams from other leagues (aka interleague) home, away, and at regional and national tournaments.

    The tailgaters are our dedicated family members and "derby widows" aka the significant others of skaters.

    You can totally hit as frequently and as hard as you want (!!) within the limitations you linked to. Positional blocking can be strategically more beneficial than contact blocking, so you'll see a mix.

    Derby is maybe one of the only sports that requires playing offense and defense simultaneously. Imagine basketball with two balls and the teams have to defend their basket while attempting to score too.

    We don't get a lot of feedback about our games *not* being family friendly. While we don't play under our government names (though that's something many skaters are starting to do), many fans comment that our crowd and sport is more family friendly than what can often be seen at many professional sporting events. We don't fight or play dirty; our fans aren't wasted and unruly. We offer lots of crowd interaction, fun half times, a tee shirt cannon, etc. Many skaters with off color names have shortened them on their uniforms. For example, mine says Anna rather than Anna Wrecksya. Ivanna Shankabitch's just says Shank.

    I hope you'll come next week! We do sell out, but haven't yet for this game but I wouldn't wait too long. Tickets can be found here: