Derby Things I Will Miss When They’re Gone: Part 5
Derby is changing every day, inching along a continuum that leads from burlesque to mainstream sporting endeavour. It’s where the sport seems to be pulling itself due to (and in spite of) a great deal of debate, so I’m fine with the march toward legitimacy. I will however, mourn the passing of some of the following reminders of the game’s past. They are things that still exist in roller derby, but are under fire, in flux or otherwise doomed to be ground under the wheels of history.
Chapter 5: The Party
So you had a bout! It was a close game, everyone is super-stoked and the announcer has told the crowd where to join you at a local watering hole for The Big Afterparty. Your fans will get to see their favourite players, chat about the game and dance the night away. Harmless fun, right?
You know what else your fans might do?
They might see your star player break a finger in a pile-up caused by drunken pyramid formation.
They might overhear one of your fresh meat in a screaming tirade directed at a table of chagrined-looking referees.
They might see
your announcer some guy making a fool of himself trying to tell Kamikaze Kitten how cool she is, because she DOES NOT KNOW how cool she is and needs to know. So cool. *
You get the picture. They might witness (or participate in) a variety of alcohol, fatigue and nudity-related events which will serve to take a bit of the shine off the athlete/spectator dynamic. One thing they might not see, behind closed doors, is the manager of the party venue deciding that there’s not a lot of money to be made from derby events, because the fans are already liquored from the arena, and the skaters are starving and more interested in cheap pad thai than cocktails. The exceptions to this are more likely to cause the situations described above.
But Slim, you say, what about the unique close relationship derby has with its fans? How could we possibly give that up? I can tell you that I have very close personal relationships with both Metal music and hockey. They mean the world to me, and I think it shines out of every pore of my being. And yet, somehow, the last time I got an autograph from Doug Gilmour or Rob Zombie, both of them neglected to mention exactly where I could join them for a few pints.
The fact that I do not have easy access to these stars does nothing to hurt my enthusiasm for their products and activities. It may even help. And I am certain they are still out there partying after a gig, but they surely do not need me there to peek behind the curtain and feed any sort of burgeoning stalker tendencies. Hands up, skaters: has a creep approached you after a bout at the party venue? Yeah.
Derby’s got a ton of fan-interactivity going for it. Let’s keep the cool, uplifting parts and not the sloppy-ass ones. Keep suicide seats and high-five lines (just not for me. I have to be impartial. Also: germs). Keep autograph sessions and wheel tosses and t-shirt cannons. In fact, keep the afterparty. Use it to celebrate your teammates, your opponents, your volunteers and the spirit of the game. Have it somewhere where the regulars don’t know you, because that way if they do see some shenanigans they might come check out a bout.
But as for the fans, leave them with a little mystery intact to whet the appetite. We need them to know that, heck yes, derby’s a party, to see and experience at trackside. Because what they see at your bout is what they will come to expect, and if they see Jamz the Great and Powerful off her face and vomiting in an alley, maybe they will come to expect that as part of their derby experience too.
My Unwanted Advice: You Gotta Keep ’em Separated.
Any kudos, h8red or other commentary would be welcome in the comments section.
*Examples entirely fictional as near as I can recall.