Monday, September 30, 2013

I Used to Be a Super Hero: On the loss of derby by Crystal Cutt

This was submitted by Crystal Cutt from the Columbia Quad Squad about her experience in dealing with retirement from derby.  Not everyone experiences retirement in the same way; sometimes it's by our choice and sometimes we are driven out of the sport by circumstances beyond our control, including injury or the intrusion of real life.  Whatever reason people leave our sport, the decision is rarely an easy one, and this is just a small reminder to enjoy what time we do spend playing derby.
I used to be a superhero. 
Photo by Joshua R. Craig

Indestructible, focused, resilient, brave, and timeless. I was on a flight of self discovery; and came out successful. I found the freedom that I had been searching for, I found myself. I found it in derby. But it was a super fortunate discovery that didn't come without a price. I felt as if were carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. It was heavy, it was hard, but it was worth it to be a part of something greater, and to find that same greatness in me that I never knew existed. For once in my life, I was separated from everyone else. My life had meaning beyond the mediocre. I was a chosen one.

We all dream of flying our entire lives. What it would be like to feel the wind beneath us.  But in those dreams, we never think of falling. We never think we will stumble. We never think life will pull us from the clouds. But it can. And it will. I was blessed that I had my chance to soar, but then I took the inevitable fall. To be a superhero, you have to give more of yourself; more than a normal being is able to give. You have to push harder, you have to fly higher, you have to take hits, you have to be knocked down..repeatedly, and in the end, you have to get back up; regardless of your your own feelings. Is it worth it? Is it worth all of the extra time and energy to be what everyone else needs you to be? Is it worth neglecting yourself and your family for such a temporary glimpse of glory? Deep inside, we are only human. We need our time. We get tired inside. I said myself too many times, "I can't do this anymore. I need to breathe. I've lost myself. I've forgotten why I started this fight." And life took its course.

Crystal and her family, by Gray Taylor
Losing derby is like death. You never know how it's going to end, but you know that it will. Still, you are unable to imagine the demise. It could be family, it could be your age, it could be an injury, your inability to continue the struggle within your mind. And you not only lose yourself, you lose a family. You lose all that you worked toward for years. You think back to the hundreds of people who would cheer you on; and you wish that just one more time you could have that support again. But it doesn't come. You long to feel the pain, the bruises, the headaches, the body aches, the cruel criticism of your coach screaming in your face. You miss feeling something. You miss feeling alive.

Its the excruciating pain of once again living like everyone else. Not standing out. And once again,
Photo by Badjon.
not knowing who you are. Daily, the images I carry slowly slip away. I'm no longer known as Crystal Cutt. The ones who knew I played derby have forgotten and the ones who never knew will never know. I am the Clark Kent without a cape. My skates gathers dust, and so does my body. I find myself despising the world around me for holding me down, taking away my talent and stealing my dreams. It's like someone has cut off my right hand. Many times I feel hollow. And it's an irreparable void. I am left with only memories and regret. I wish I had made it to all the practices that I felt too tired to go to. I wish I would've pushed through those shinsplints. I wish I could have seen through the burn out. I wish I would have treated everyday like it was my last. But I took it for granted, because I truly felt that nothing in this word could pull me away from something I loved much. How could I have been so naive?

All I can say to the living that remain, is to cherish what you have right now, because it is a golden opportunity that you will reflect on for the rest of your life. Take in every sound, learn all that you can, push yourself beyond your greatest ability, and treat every moment like its your last time on wheels. You won't regret putting your life into this, but you' will definitely miss it when its gone. I know, because I was once was a superhero.

Crystal Taylor
AKA - Crystal Cutt #217 (CQS) Columbia Quad Squad

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I Learned in D1s in Asheville. Bean Bag Chairs Rule.


Sometimes jammers pull your panties down too
Ah D1 playoffs!  I am always excited to go to a tournament that's within driving distance, not to mention Asheville!  It's really one of the best cities to spend some time in, and no offense to the other locations, but Asheville is a really amazing place in and of itself.  You add in three days of derby, then you have a match made in heaven!

Lesson #1  Get thee a beanbag chair
I know that I didn't start this trend in derby, but dammit, I brought it to Asheville.  My beanbag chair brought all the derby to my lap....ok, not really, but it made sitting there for hours and hours and hours a lot more comfortable.  Plus, you know that unpolished concrete on the side of a mountain gets a little cold after a while. Also, I was able to rent it out for dinero when I wasn't using it, so, win win!  Also, have you ever carried a bean bag chair?  It really is like carrying a bag of air.

Lesson #2  Gotham Gotham Gotham
When Bonnie Thunders posts on Facebook that Gotham is switching to the "hive mind" she isn't just posting bullcrap.  Gotham has a hive mind.  They are almost telepathic on the track together and never get pulled out of their game by crappy hits, questionable ref calls and track conditions.  Want to up your game?  Be Gotham.  Be all business on the track.  Control your ego.  Work hard, and clean up your game.  The teams that did the best at playoffs last weekend were the ones that had the hive mind going on.  If your team is a talented group of individuals that doesn't play well together, you will fail on a higher level. 

Lesson #3 Jammers get hit in the face
Bonnie Thunders got hit in the face at least 15 times during Gotham's three games.  Did she complain?  Did she make an outraged appeal to the refs?  Nope.  She skated her ass off and got her points.  I know it sucks to get hit in the face; I'm six feet tall off of skates and I have had my nose broken twice.  It happens, and most of the time the blocker who hit you didn't do it on purpose. If it doesn't get called, skate on. 

Lesson #4  Fannage
Ok.  Fans, you guys came out in spades at the last playoffs.  Nashville had their cute little sequined hats, CQS had their "Holly Hunter's Butt Is SO Big" signs, and Oklahoma had...cowbells.  God, they had so many cowbells that I was surprised that every cow in the area didn't come a running.  The cowbells put Blue Oyster Cult to shame, and I'm pretty sure every Victory Dolls fan was right behind me.  I was never so happy that I packed my giant earphones so I could drown out the incessant tinkling of cowbells by listening to Death Metal. Finally, Minnesota, I love your fans.  They win the fandom award in my book.  They came out with body paint, Mexican wrestling masks, and a full state mascot.  Not only did they cheer their team on, they also had specific cheers for their team and the players.  Also, who didn't love "Minnesota, NICE NICE NICE!"  You have no soul if you didn't smile at that cheer.

I don't have a fever for more cowbell
Lesson #5  Sometimes you need to take a walk
After sitting for five hours, even in my awesome beanbag chair, I needed to get away from derby for a while.  Punk Blocker and Tsunami both saved my sanity a couple of times a day, by dragging me out into the sunlight and out into the streets where I could get food.  Yea for sanity checks!  When I came back, I felt refocused, and able to watch more derby.

Lesson #6  The photographers know a lot about derby
Speaking of awesome photographers (see above paragraph) you should really sit and chat with the derby photogs.  They have their own culture and customs, like the game they play taking pictures of each other when they aren't looking.  See?  Things are going on at derby that you didn't even know about!  Anyway, photographers really know a lot about the game we play, and how it's changed over the years.  They study derby the way we do, because they want to take that perfect shot, and they need to know when to be ready!  Seriously, sit down and talk with these ladies and gentlemen when you get the chance, it's totally eyeopening.

Lesson #7  There is such a thing as too much KT tape.
Honestly people, I saw so much KT tape this weekend, that I think I need to buy stock. Some skaters seemed to have every muscle group taped, and I'm pretty sure that if everything hurts that badly, you probably shouldn't be doing derby at this time.  Seriously, how long will it be before I see a skater covered in KT tape like a mummy?  Seems like an expensive habit, folks.

Lesson #8  Bench coaches can win or lose a game.
I saw a lot of amazing bench coaches this weekend, but I saw a lot of failure on a bench coach's part.  People sat for no reason, penalty heavy players were thrown out again and again, and they weren't being effective.  I have no proof behind this statement, but when I see an ineffective player put out while possibilities are sitting and not playing, I have to wonder if the bench coach is being strategic, or letting his or her personal feeling about players run the bench.  I've seen bench coaches do this again and again, and it never works out well for the team. 

Lesson #9  Fewer players are putting their names on their jerseys.
Do I need to explain why I both love and hate this?  I love the hive mind mentality of it, because good teams play for the name on the front, not the back.  That part is awesome!  I probably will just put my number on the next jersey I get for that very reason.  But...but! If I am not familiar with your roster, this makes me have to go and buy a damned program.  Grrrr.  It's still the right idea though. 

Lesson #10  DBC
I cannot say enough amazing things about Death By Chocolate from Houston. Not only is a she an amazing player, but as Holly Wanna Cracker described her, "She's full of light."  She stole my heart along with her team; they have their own hive mind thing going.  I was really lucky to sit down and talk with her after her last game of the weekend, so she was really open and honest during the interview.

When I asked her how she got into derby and how long she's been playing. She said "I got into derby in 2005 because my friend told me that I might be interested in it.  I told her 'Derby?  That's some crazy white people shit' but I came to practice and watched.  I probably watched for at least one month before I joined in.  I hadn't had any real skating experience, just skating with my family twice a month when I was a kid."

I asked her if she had to take any time off due to major injuries (don't we all) and DBC answered "In
2006 I broke my tib fib and had the works done to it, plate and screws, and I was back skating in 3.5 months.  Later I had to have my plate taken out because my doctor told me it was just a matter of time before the plate caused another break.  After I got the screws and plate out, I did a lot of exercises to strengthen the ankle.  Now it actually feels stronger than the other one."

"I 'retired' in 2009 and was just working with our rec league when Rollercon brought me back into derby. Someone had broken into my car and stolen my skates.  Sin City Skates and Quadzilla got m3 a whole new set of gear and Antiks.  I went to Rollercon in 2011, and they named a track after me.  The new skates and Rollercon and seeing everyone just made me want to come back to competitive derby, and that's what I did in 2012.  There is nothing in the world like derby, all of us need to appreciate what we are a part of."

Finally, I asked her what her favorite game from the weekend was. "That Minnesota Gotham game was amazing! I don't really cheer for teams anymore, I just cheer for players."

See why I loved talking to her?  She has had one of the most popular (unfortunately) injuries in derby, and has come back from it.  She took a break from derby, and came back to it; she's an amazing player, and completely full of light as Holly said. I hope I continue to love this sport as much as she does. 

That really does wrap up my completely full and utterly overwhelming weekend at Asheville.  Another side effect I noticed at practice the Tuesday after I got back, I was totally excited to try some of the moves I observed at the play offs.  Seeing live derby at that level can really inspire you to up your training.  I know it has mine.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Watch Derby to Learn Stuff and Junk

I'm heading to Asheville this weekend with my silly bean bag chair.  We're going to park ourselves, as close as possible to the action, and then I'm going to be watching all of the high powered derby ever!  Unfortunately for me, I tend to watch actively, so this is going to be an exhausting weekend even if I'm not skating!

I notice a lot of people don't sit down to watch derby in a way to learn from it, which is ok sometimes.  There's nothing wrong with cheering for the team you love and not giving a rat's ass about strategy or the philosophy of the team you're cheering for!  But, when you have a situation where you can watch multiple bouts of derby and watch the same teams multiple times, as a derby player, you really should take advantage of the opportunity before you.  Also, TAKE NOTES!  If you watch enough derby, your brain turns into derby soup.  Take notes with each game!

1.  Watch the warm ups.  You can tell a lot about a team's philosophy and what they've been really working on by how they run their warm ups.  After watching Texas this weekend, I knew that they really focus on their clean and small stops; true to their warm ups, the Texas blockers were amazing to watch as they absolutely shut down jammer after jammer.

You can also tell a lot about the player by how she warms up.  Some people need their own space and music, some are just focused on their inner game, and some are smiling and chattering with another player, maybe even doing some silly booty blocking.  People's personalities are really on display during a warm up.

If I see a warm up that I particularly like or think is effective, I totally steal it.  Yoink!  Mine now!  It's so much easier to take a drill after you've seen people do it successfully.  It's too easy to read about a drill and totally screw it up, so I consider watching teams my demo for how to run certain drills, especially if I see a team warming up with a drill I just read and wanted to try on

2.  Think about the overall strategy of the team.  I tend to watch one team at a time, which is hard to do when you want to watch all the awesome ever!  I will pick the team I want to follow at a tournament and watch how they choose their rosters, implement their strategy and see who their successful jammers are.  Do they like the front or the back?  Who did they leave off of their roster?  Did they roster that particular skater in the next game?  Who were their hot jammers?  All of these variables can change from game to game, so following a team through multiple games can be very enlightening.  You can also pose these questions to yourself for fun.

a.  If you were captain who would you have placed on the roster for this game?  (Sometimes making an investment in a tournament program can be very helpful for this situation)
b.  Who is their most effective jammer?  Why?
c.  Is their strategy successful against the team they're playing?  Why or why not?
d.  If you could talk to their coach, what advice would you give?
e.  What is the weakness and strength of the team you're watching?  (You're not allowed to say 'their strength is Gotham,' that's cheating.)
f.  Ask yourself what you would have to improve on or change in your skating style to skate with that team.  Sometimes it's going to be nothing.  Sometimes it's going to seem like your list could go on until 2014 Champs!

3.  Finally, you should watch all of the skaters and find someone you want to emulate.  Yes, everyone loves Bonnie Thunders; you can also pick and learn things from skaters you haven't seen before.  Try to pick a goal that you can work towards when you are at practice.  You don't even have to mention it to anyone formally, but make sure you're keeping that goal in your head as you work on drills and scrimmage.
And maybe you can talk to her in real life!  Photo by Punk Blocker!

The greatest thing about the play-offs is that you can watch the games again in the archives!  Watching games multiple times can really help you isolate strategy, especially if you got caught up in the game when you were watching it live!

Monday, September 16, 2013

How Much Ego Is Too Much Ego?

Ego is a funny thing in derby; if you don't have enough, you aren't confident.  If you have too much, you're a giant asshole.   It's a fine line to tiptoe across, that's for sure.  Half of roller derby is skill, but the other half is the confidence to put that skill into practice at the right time.  There are a lot of confident people in derby, but I think there may be a lot of egomaniacs too.  Egomaniacs can really disrupt the team dynamic; too many teams have to bear the burden of dealing with an egomaniac who seems to use derby as her personal stage.  It's hard to tell the difference sometimes, between a naturally confident person and an egomaniac, so here is a general guide that may help.

ME ME ME ME ME!!!!!!!!
Hints you might be dealing with an egomaniac in your league.

1.  They can't take a small joke at their expense.  She won't be able to kid around about her position or skill as a jammer or blocker.  They also can't deal with anyone besting them on the track, even if it is a fluke or a one time situation.  Obviously the ref wasn't watching carefully enough!

2.  Egomaniacs always are ready to talk about all of their accomplishments, without acknowledging that they were made because of the team's help.  They may be an incredibly amazing jammers, but they didn't score all those points without their blockers.  The idea of a team effort is so foreign to them that they wouldn't even consider it. 

3.  Egomaniacs feel that they will save the day, win the game, or make the play of the day. They're the only ones who can, don't you know? If someone else "saves the day" or gets mvp, it will seriously put a cramp in their enjoyment of the sport.  "Something just isn't right! I'm the best, not her!"

4.  Egomaniacs don't listen when other people are being praised.  It's just not that important to them.  If someone else is being praised, they don't want to know, and don't care.

5.  If they have to apologize for something, they will say it in a way that justifies their crappy behavior.  "I'm sorry I hit you in the face when you were jamming, but I was feeling so frustrated because you kept back blocking me and the refs weren't calling it."  Gee, thanks for your apology.

6.  They feel like they're above doing league work, like laying down the track, or off skates warm ups.  Clearly, they're too good for that sort of thing. 

7.  Egomaniacs constantly talk about themselves.  CONSTANTLY.  They will look for people to talk about how amazing they are, like little, tiny mirrors. You're only interesting if you're reflecting their greatness.

8.  Egomaniacs are never wrong.  Nothing they do is wrong, and they make no mistakes.  Even if they are proven wrong, they are RIGHT IN THEORY.

So, what if you have an egomaniac on your team, and you have to deal with her?  How do you cope?

1.  You can ignore the egomaniacal behavior.  This doesn't always work, and it's not always possible, but sometimes you have to do it in order to not end up strangling the egomaniac in the locker room with her derby socks.  I like to think of it as extinction.  Egomaniacs crave attention, and if you don't feed them, you're not adding to their growing hunger.  This is frustrating because fans, other players and announcers will probably feed their ego puh-lenty.

2.  Be assertive but not aggressive with the egomaniac.  Don't let them push you or bully you into doing things or making decisions you wouldn't normally make.  Stand your ground with an egomaniac, and even though they may not act any better, they might acknowledge that they can't just force you to do things their way.

Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of ways to deal with egomaniacs, short of just not being around them.  If it helps, try to remember that egomaniacs usually come from a background where they got little to no recognition in their daily lives.  They just want love and attention and recognition, but they don't understand the normal way to get those things, and so they come on strong and in a ridiculous fashion.  This doesn't make their behavior acceptable by any means, but it might help you feel a little less frustrated when dealing with the possible egomaniac in your league.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Excuses Excuses, Are You Flaking Out?

Derby is an all consuming hobby-sport.  Period.  For most of us, derby doesn't pay the bills; we pay to play, and until that changes, most people try to fit derby into their busy lives the best way they can.  And yes, real life does interfere occasionally.  A good example of this is I was signed up to volunteer this Saturday at the D1 tournament in Richmond, but a family situation got in the way and I had to cancel on my obligation.  Am I bummed out?  Yes, but at least I was able to give some advanced notice to the volunteer coordinator.  I still feel bad though. 

Unfortunately, it seems that some people don't know what is a legitimate excuse for not making it to a derby event you signed up to do, and being a complete flake and just backing out of commitments.   Yes, derby has its share of flakes, and I'm going to guess that each and every one of us has flaked on doing something derby related, such as practice, playing in an away game, staffing a derby event, or doing your league work.
Listen to the unicorn. Picture by Ava Gore
So how do you know if you're flaking out?  Each case is different, but here is a  guide to whether or not you're flaking out, or you actually have a legit excuse.  Add up all of your flake points and see where you fall on the scale.

1. You promised to be playing at a game or an invitational or attending a training, and when the day arrives you're just too overwrought to go. (Worth ten flake points each time you've done it) THIS IS NOT OK!  I understand that real life is busy, and you really honestly thought you'd get your laundry done before that weekend, or balance your checkbook, or get your house cleaned, but you didn't.  Let's face it, you had an inkling that you probably weren't going to be able to get all of that real life crap done; have you ever gotten all of that done in a derby free weekend?  Probably honest.  It's ok if you occasionally get overwhelmed and ditch an event.  Once every two years is human, but any more than that, and you're crossing over into flake territory.  Ok, maybe once a year...but no more than that!  If you find yourself in this situation more than once in a while, you need to reevaluate how much free time you have to dedicate to extra derby stuff.  

2.  You were headed to practice, but traffic was bad so you just went home.  (Worth five flake points each time you've done it)  Hey, I hear you.  Traffic can really mess up your plans, and if the road is going to be closed for hours and hours, yes you might as well go home. My drive to our practice space is pretty congested with rush hour traffic.  It can take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the morons on the road that day, but I've never gotten so disgusted that I just turned around to go home.   

3.  You have a bout day job, but you can't do it at that time because....(Worth fifty flake points every time you've done it) If you answered anything other than "my job wouldn't let me take that time off" or "my family member was in the hospital" or "my babysitter fell through" then you had a flaky moment.  I've heard people say things like "It's just too early" or "I had a hair appointment then" or "I just can't do a job before I skate in a game!  It's just not conducive to my concentration."  Really?  Flakety flake flakerino!  Remember, this is a team sport and everyone needs to do his or her job.  It ain't all about you!

4.  After learning of all of the obligations of the travel team, you commit and make the roster, but then you decide to bail on an away game. (Worth 100 flake points each time you've done it) You are definitely falling in the flake category if you pull this on your own league, without a real life situation coming up.  I understand that money gets tight for travel, but if you promised to meet all of your travel obligations for your league, you should plan on saving the money to go.  Now, you don't give yourself flake points if your financial situation has changed between the time you signed up and the time of the game.  Did you lose your job?  Did your car die?  Is a family member in the hospital and you have to help care for them?  All of those reasons are legit.  No flake points are earned.  You can't go because you don't want to?  You can't go because you need to work extra to pay off that bitchin' pair of shoes you bought?  You can't go because you went on a last minute trip to Vegas and now you have no extra cash?  You my friend have earned those 100 flake points, and your team deserves a hug for having to have dealt with your flakage.   

Now add up your score.  If you have 100 points or more, you are a derby flake, pure and simple.  Maybe you see derby as a fun hobby or leisure pursuit, and that's all fine and dandy, until you join a team and make a commitment to other people.

If you have 90 points or less, you are in danger of becoming a flake.  Seriously reconsider the urge to flake out on your next commitment!  Flaking might not be in your core nature, but you are cultivating it as a permanent habit, so stop now!

If you have less than 50 points, you're doing all right.  Flakage happens, just keep flaking out to a minimum.

If you have less than twenty points, you are derby obsessed.  Maybe you need some flake time.  I kid, I kid, a little.

I understand that real life interferes in derby; that's normal and healthy!  I also understand that sometimes you need a break from derby drama and derby obligations, and that's normal and healthy too.  Sometimes we over book ourselves with derby activities, and then we feel overwhelmed; learn your limits.  Maybe pass up that invitational that would take you out of town yet again in the same month you had two travel games.  Maybe take a day off from practice to clear your head (just let your captains and coaches know what's going on) and come back to derby with a tighter focus! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Should You Invest in More Protective Gear?

The more I play, watch and read about derby, the more I think we as skaters might want to consider getting more than the minimum protective gear.  Everyone has to wear mouth guards, helmets, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads.  Those are a given, but what else do you think the evolution of our sport demands?

First of all, I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads my blog on any kind of regular basis knows that I am a gigantic fan of shin guards.  I'm not sure if there is a more painful "minor" injury in our sport than getting kicked in the shins by another skater.  If you haven't been kicked in the shins in derby, you are lucky, and also, GET READY, it's coming.  Close packs and sprints to catch the jammer cause all sorts of kickbacks from skaters.  I've been wearing shin guards since my rookie year, after getting nailed by a vet when I was jamming, and I haven't regretted it since.  My shins are about the only part of my body that hasn't been permanently scarred by derby.  I know, you might get a few "You must suck at skating to have to wear those" looks from people, but who cares?  You're the one who has to live in your body for the rest of your life.  In fact, that's going to be an ongoing refrain for every bit of protective gear in this blog post.  You're not a wimp if you want to protect your body.

The second suggestion I have, and I can't believe this is considered to be "extra" protective gear by most people, but to get yourself a good pair of knee gaskets.  Some women on my team skate without them, and by "some" read "young".  The older I get, the more I notice my knees, and that was happening before derby; gaskets are a good idea no matter how old or young you are.  They also help keep the derby funk from infecting your knee pads. Knee pads are a pain to replace, and washing them can be awkward.  Gaskets help keep your sweat off of the knee pads, along with keeping your knee supported and even more padded.  Let's face it, knee pads slip all of the time; even the fancy custom ones can, so having a gasket to help keep your knees from being smashed on the floor is a good idea.

When I asked my protective gear question on Facebook, the number 2 suggestion was "protective padded shorts."  I'm not surprised; derby has changed.  What used to be a "rookie" injury has now become common place due to backward blocking, running backwards, and direction of game play being the norm.  When I was rehabbing my back injury, I sported a pair of these shorts.  They're comfortable, and they will protect your tailbone from most impact, but they are hot and the padding that protects your hip area doesn't go low enough, but they are a light weight option.  If you're really serious about butt, hip and tailbone protection, get you some Hillbilly Impact shorts, gurrrrrl.

Finally, I'm going to mention hockey helmets again.  The more derby goes on,  the more people I see wearing hockey helmets, which makes me smile. People are starting to take their brain safety seriously, and that is nothing but a good thing for our sport.  If you do choose to buy a hockey helmet,  you might think about adding a face shield to protect your schnozz.  During D1s and D2s, I started a running tally of how many times jammers were holding their faces from high blocks.  It was easily ten times for each game, and that's a lot of face hits.  Have you ever broken your nose in derby?  I have.  It is a very shocking and sobering injury, and it's one I hope nobody ever experiences!  If you have a hockey helmet, you can add a face shield to stop the face hits.  Right now, only one player in my league has a face shield, but a lot of us have hockey helmets. I think we might see more of them in the future, especially since most high blocks are missed by the refs.

Don't let someone ever talk you out of wearing the protective gear you feel is necessary.  Sometimes older skaters scoff at newer ideas in derby, including protective gear that might lend itself to this ever evolving game we play. I listen the to scoffing and then do my own research.  You should do the same.

Friday, September 6, 2013

I Judge You By Your Derby Name

Yes yes, everyone knows about the debate about derby names; are they good for the sport?  Should we dump them?  Blah blah blahbety blah blah.  That debate isn't going anywhere, but I still have an opinion about derby names.  I instantly make a judgement about you from your name.  Oh don't give me that face. You chose that name to represent you, nobody forced you to take it, so I'm allowed to have an opinion about it, even if it isn't the correct one in your particular case.  These are all just generalities, so calm the eff down and have some fun with me.  I'm putting on my Judgey McJudgerson!

Girl name+ Tough thing= old Skool
This kind of name could also be referred to as the Marilyn Manson method of naming yourself.  His whole band took the names of famous models or actresses and the last name of serial killers to come up with their monikers.  Marilyn Monroe + Charles Manson, and you have a hell of a stage name.  A lot of original derby players used a similar method.  Suzy Hotrod, Bonnie Thunders, and Daisy Rage are just a few of these old skool naming conventions.  They are plain but tough names, and usually that means the skaters who have them have a ton of experience and damned good at skating.  Watch out for the Old Skool named skater!
Trudy Struction at her finest! Photo by Joshua R. Craig

Punny Names
Ah derby skaters, some of you are seriously clever people!  Great examples of punny names are Celia Fate, Trudy Struction, Shenita Stretcher, Cody Pendant and any name with "Anita" at the beginning of it.  If you have a punny name, it means you're good with words, probably funny, and you put thought into decisions.  I have a punny name too, but I was named by others, so it doesn't really apply.  I wish I was clever!  Some of you have such clever names, I have to sit and sound them out when I'm reading a program.  I feel like I'm reading vanity plates on a road trip.  Some I get right away, and some take me a while, and boy do I feel stupid when I figure them out!

Popular Culture Name Parodies
These are risky, because how popular are the people you parody going to be during your derby career?  Grim Carrey, Grace Killy, Pelvis Costello and Billie Brawliday are few of the successful ones, because the stars they're parodying have staying power. Derby skaters with parodied names are clever and very very aware of popular culture.  They also want a little bit of the shared glory, so they might wear outrageous boutfits or step up to jam a lot.

Literary Reference Names
Skaters with literary references are beyond clever, they're intelligent and bibliophiles. Tart of Darkness, Something Wicked, Goldie Bloxx,  H.P. Lovecrash, and Hanna Belle Lector are just to name a few.  Skaters with literary names make me feel smart when I can figure out just what they're referring to.  Yea!  I also approach skaters with literary names a bit cautiously....have they been reading The Art of War?
And why isn't that a derby name?

The Ridiculously Sublime Names
Skaters with the ridiculous names, names that shouldn't be names, but are AWESOME in their unnameness are like finding two fortunes in one fortune cookie, and they both are fantastically positive!  I rejoice in the ridiculously sublime names!  Some of my favorites, Shark Week, Robot Unicorn Attack, Whippety Pow, Bork Bork Bork and Lady Quebeaum are all just fantastic names.  You skaters have a shiny aura around you when you're on the track. Such imagination!  Such pizazz!  Such testicular fortitude!   I wish I could be that bold!

Alcohol Based Names
If you have an alcohol based name, I think you like to drink.  Am I wrong?  It also follows that if you have a marijuana reference in your name, you like marijuana.  That's obvious, yes?  Yes.  Moving on.

Offensive Names
You picked an offensive name, so am I too far off in saying that you want to offend people?  If your name has a racial slur, or a cleverly hidden C-word in it, you probably wanted to cause a stir, get in people's faces, and congratulations, you have.  I judge thee offensive!  I always think it's funny when someone has an obnoxious name, and they get offended when someone calls them out on it.  "How dare you judge me!"  Honey, I dare because you signed up for it with that name.  And no, I'm not going to call anyone out in particular, but go and check out Two Evils when you get bored at work and just count how many crude names there are.  It might make a good drinking game for the paragraph above.

Judgey McJudgerson signing off!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Do you know your rights?

Photo by

I asked a question on FB about derby injuries and work.  The responses were varied, but a derby legal brain spoke up and wrote this amazing blog to help the rest of us figure out what we can do when we are injured and may have to miss work.  Everyone needs to know her rights.  Please read.

 Derby Injuries and Employment Law
By Sensa Doom, a/k/a Kris Finlon (attorney at James McElroy & Diehl, P.A.)

I’ve been a Charlotte Roller Girl for close to a year now, but my alter ego still practices law, including a lot of employment law.  So I read with interest the questions of how work and derby intersect.  What happens if you get hurt on the track, and it affects your job?  What can you do?  Obviously, I can’t provide you with legal advice here – employment cases are very fact-specific, and if an issue arises you should definitely contact an attorney who can analyze your specific situation.  Also, you may be a member of a union, subject to a collective bargaining agreement, or living in a state with specific laws that might govern some of these issues.  And if your employer has a specific policy prohibiting you from engaging in dangerous activities outside of work, that’s going to affect your rights.  But hopefully this general overview will help you understand how to advocate for yourself, or when to find help if necessary.

So let’s say you got hurt.  Maybe you broke a bone, or got a concussion.  You might need surgery, or physical therapy, or just a battery of tests and doctors’ appointments to find out what’s wrong.  Maybe you can’t stand all day, or pick up heavy things, or sit for long hours, or type, or otherwise perform the duties that you usually do.  What do you need to know?

Medical leave. 
If you have sufficient sick leave or other paid time off to cover any absence or medical appointments you need for your injury, leave may not be a problem for you.  However, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may, depending upon the size of the employer and some other factors, provide additional protections to eligible employees, including up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the requirement that employment benefits be continued during the leave, and the guarantee that the employee will be permitted to return to her job (or its equivalent) at the end of the leave.  You should consult with your employer’s human resources department, or an outside attorney if necessary, to determine whether you are eligible for FMLA leave, and whether it fits your situation.

Disability.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against an employee who has a condition which substantially limits a major life activity.  Recent changes to the ADA say that even a temporary impairment may be a substantial limitation, and may therefore qualify as a disability.  If you qualify as “disabled” under the ADA, you may be protected from discrimination, retaliation, and harassment because of your disability.  You may also be entitled to ask your employer for a reasonable accommodation of your disability, so long as the accommodation doesn’t impose an undue burden on your employer and will enable you to perform the essential functions of your job.  If you need an accommodation, you should obtain the necessary documentation from your health care provider, then talk to your employer’s human resources department, or an outside attorney if necessary, to see what measures can be taken.

Workers' compensation.  Workers' compensation laws can provide for medical coverage and some partial salary payments in the event an employee is injured on the job.  Assuming none of us are paid to play derby, how does this help you?  Well, it may not help if you get injured playing derby.  But if you have a pre-existing derby injury that is exacerbated by your job, then you may be eligible for benefits for the re-injury you suffered while working.  If you think you may be eligible for workers’ compensation, you should talk with a workers’ compensation attorney, to see whether you can pursue a claim.

Discrimination claims.
  There were some comments in response to Q’s Facebook post about discrimination.  Let me talk about that for a moment.  As a woman who’s been engaged in full-contact sports for most of my professional career, I've noticed that my injuries tend to get treated a little differently from the similar injuries of my (usually male) counterparts, and even from the injuries incurred by female counterparts who acquired them in more conventional ways.  You may have noticed the same thing.  However, that differential treatment may not rise to the level of actionable discrimination.  For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination “because of” gender.  If my employer is more accommodating to a male attorney who broke his arm playing rugby than it is to me after I broke my arm playing roller derby, then yes, that might make me think there is some discrimination going on.  However, if my employer was very accommodating to a female coworker who broke her wrist falling down the stairs, then maybe I’m not being discriminated against because I’m female – maybe it’s just because I play derby.  That’s different.  The inquiry will be very fact-specific, and a claim for gender-based discrimination may be an uphill battle.  That's not to say that your situation might not actually rise to the level of actionable discrimination, but it's definitely something you should discuss with a lawyer.

Should I tell my employer the truth about how I got hurt?
  If you’re not applying for worker’s compensation, your employer does not have specific policies against dangerous activities, and there are no other reasons in play requiring you to provide information, you probably don’t need to volunteer how you got hurt.  If you are volunteering information, however, as a general rule, you should tell the truth about how you were injured.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, while it may not be legal for your boss to fire you just because you got hurt, that doesn’t mean he or she can’t fire you for lying.  So if you’re dishonest, you might just be giving your employer an excuse to fire you.  Also, if you do wind up pursuing a claim relating to your injury, lying to your employer means that there are conflicting stories out there, which will hurt your credibility, and probably also will give your attorney migraines (I speak from personal experience on this one).  Additionally, if you are applying for some kind of benefit, you may well be certifying to the truth of the information on your application.  In any case, you should be very leery about fabricating the cause of your injuries.

Absenteeism.  A word of warning: the odds are good that, assuming you’re in the United States, you live in an at-will employment state.  That means that you can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all, so long as you aren’t actually fired for an illegal reason.  And for our purposes here, this means that, if you miss excessive amounts of work due to injuries – particularly if you aren’t eligible for (or haven’t invoked your rights to) the legal protections discussed above – your employer may be within its rights to decide that you are just too much trouble to keep.  Assuming you want to keep your job, you need to make sure that you understand exactly what your employer’s expectations are, and figure out what you can do to meet them.  It also means that, if you’re injured, for heaven’s sake take care of yourself.  Don’t start pushing your injured body too early (whether on the track or off of it) and risk another injury and yet more time out of work.  It’s bad for you, it’s bad for your team, and it’s probably bad for your employment. 

Your specific situation may have variables at play that can’t be predicted in a general overview.  The bottom line is that issues relating to your particular employment are very case-specific, and your options are going to depend on a lot of different variables, ranging from the state you live in and your employer’s personnel policies to the nature of your duties and your record as an employee.  Hopefully, you won’t get injured – but if you do, and if it affects your job in some way, you should consult with an employment attorney who can advise you based on the specifics of your personal situation.