The other day, I started thinking about derby and my place in it, what it means, how it has changed my life, and what a crazy, insane subculture it is.
Above all else, it is a sport. Those who don't understand it often ask questions like, "So, you beat people up on skates?" "It's fake like wrestling, right?" and, a favorite among the derby community, "Where's the ball?"
There are rules. Say whaaat? There is actually a 60-page rule book. (Interested in some light reading? Roller Derby Rules.)
As soon as you decide to make the leap into derby, it is impossible not to completely immerse yourself in derby culture. What is derby culture? It is difficult to define. It could be different for each skater, but I will attempt to do my best to describe what it is for me, and most of the members of my league, The Monterey Bay Derby Dames.
Derby isn't just going to practice, scrimmage, and playing in bouts. It is committee meetings and league meetings. It is derby weekends--traveling to see other leagues play. It is traveling to watch your travel team play other leagues, or play in tournaments. Everything else is put on hold because next to playing derby, watching derby is the absolute next best thing you could be doing with your time. And traveling for derby affords the best bonding opportunities for league-mates and teammates. (Sometimes, you have multiple teams within a league and there are some skaters you rarely have the opportunity to spend time with). It means that even though you skate between 4 and 8 hours a week for practice, you still choose to spend your free time at open skate at the rink, or skating outside on the rec trail.
Derby is crowding around someone's computer screen to watch live derby on Derby News Network.
Derby is spending your extra money on wheels, Derby Skinz, gear, and daydreaming about being able to afford Antiks.
Derby is RollerCon. A week of derby awesomeness in the stifling heat of Las Vegas. Over 2,000 derby people skating, swimming, partying every night, and receiving lots of confused looks from the hotel guests who are just there for vacation and know nothing about derby. Who are these weird people in ripped tights with numbers sharpied on their arms?
Most importantly, derby is having instant camaraderie with anyone else who plays derby. The best example of this happened just yesterday. The travel team for my league was in a tournament. Brain, woke up to find her car had been stolen. To add insult to injury, her skate bag had been in the car. She had no skates, no gear, and had a game to play at 10:30 that morning. The derby community pulled together unlike anything I'd heard of before. One of our sister leagues (one located very close to ours) had the first game of the day. They came off the track and leant gear to Brain so that she could still play in the tournament. Later, after hearing her tale of woe, 187, one of the skate pad companies, donated all new pads to Brain. Another vendor, Square Cat Skates, hooked her up with a brand new helmet. Everyone pulled together to help make the best of a shitty situation.
Derby is family.