Today I watched the Rebellion 2017 Roller Derby Tournament, a friend was playing for the winning team. We watched a game yesterday as well. Being in that environment felt different. I felt more at home among women with coloured hair and tattoos.
Mothers with families, fathers taking care of children while moms play derby. It was a great community feel, lots of people cheering for their friends and getting in on the excitement of the game.
This is not your average ‘women in sport’ experience. If you’re not familiar with Roller Derby it’s worth checking out. This isn’t a women’s league of a primarily men’s game. There are a few mixed teams but the vast majority of derby is women playing their hearts out. This is a full-contact sport. It’s one where having thunderous thighs and hefty hips is an advantage to block the jammer. And if you’re small and speedy, you’re likely to be a sought after jammer.
It’s also a reasonably complex game with lots going on, numerous officials to track various positions. As a spectator, there is a lot to pay attention to. I’m not going to go into detail here, I recommend watching Whip It or this video to learn about the game.
My point is that it’s a very different experience from most of the sport out there, that I find generally unappealing. I’ve watched womens’ Australian rules football, especially last year when the historic AFLW league was formed, and a little bit of netball and gridiron or what is called football in North America. I don’t mind it but it doesn’t excite me the way derby does.
It’s a place for rebels and misfits where I feel right at home. It’s appropriate to be as feminine or fat, sporty or freaky as you are or want to be. Fishnets, helmets and knee pads, heavy eye makeup, face paint or simple sporty gear, all common sights at a derby bout.
The other thing that struck me was that the post-game ritual is that everyone from both teams comes together as a single group for photos. The camaraderie and common achievement celebrated is really something. This is the kind of thing that gives me hope.
This post is day 14 of 45 posts for 45 years.