For the first half I did not understand the rules of Roller Derby. Granted they were printed on the back of the program just past the page where the Richmond Wrecking Belles had their profile pictures along with stage names like Astronaughty or Velteen Savage; a collection of puns reserved for a cappella groups and porn stars. In a way, not knowing the rules was almost better because it left more of an artistic impression that a fretting about the the consequences, like listening to a band do a new song with familiar rifts but different lyrics.
There is a similarity to auto racing in that the girls circle a track. But if in auto racing you wait for the crashes in between long stretches of laps, in roller derby you wait for someone to break through all of the crashes and skate free. This sport is a traffic jam of elbows and asses and while the tournament was being played at the edge of the San Francisco Marina the players were far different than the blond latte drinkers of the 94123. I have no idea whether all of the tattoos were to cover the bruises or extend them. There is a toughness to the sport, but somehow if it were played by men it would almost be too big. You need a flow to make it work, a grace of progress, and for the most part men just don’t dance as well.
I did finally read the rules for the second half and basically there are five players on a team - a pivot, three blockers, and a jammer (who starts way in the back). Points are scored when a jammer passes people, and as the game progressed you started to recognize them not just by the stars on the helmet but they were the smallest players on the court. The good ones were the ones who possessed not only straight ahead speed but also the ability to cut sideways around the opposition. They were like elves dashing through the forrest. And even though the grace of them was impressive, the player who drew the most of my attention was a blocker named Demanda Riot. She wore white face paint which in a spa would have been called a hydrating mask, in rock it would be called Kiss, and in roller derby it was shear terror. I did manage to see a picture of her afterwards and from the neck up, she actually looked quite similar to the girl I currently am dating. This greatly confused me. How could something that gorgeous be that tough?
From the neck down she is a machine, a mobile wall of rage. I almost wonder what her day job is - somehow I see her in accounts payable beating up on delinquent vendors or perhaps a nanny to some very well behaved children. I hope some of her co workers were in the extremely enthusiastic audience, and just perhaps they will be a little hesitant about sending a nasty email. I, personally, am worried that she is related to the girl I am dating - a family member (some of which I am meeting today for the first time). She might come up to me and say “L tells me you need to clean up your apartment” as she cracks her knuckles and makes me an offer I can’t refuse.
I am going to bring Beatles Rock band with me to Point Richmond where my girlfriend’s mother lives in the thought that singing soothes the wildest of beasts just in case. I do hope I do my best as I wander through a tight knit irish family scrum and that my lateral humor of small asides gets me going forward scoring points as opposed to pushed out into the bleachers. There comes a time when you must go into an unfamiliar pack and hope the best. Even if you aren’t exactly sure what the rules are.