Despite the eye-gouging frustrations of starting a league in 2006, I left the jester’s league with several comrades to start our own league, sans penalty wheel and dreams of Coca-Cola sponsorships. Cuz starting your own league was like, SO EASY. (Aside: you adorable young fawns have only a small idea of what it was like in 2006. And 2006 has NO IDEA what it was like in 2003. We used MySpace as the primary form of communication, people. I didn’t even have a cell phone until I sat on E-ville Roller Derby‘s board.)
“It” was worth it, however. Worth what, we had yet to experience. I still wasn’t totally sure why I was going to practice. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I had defaulted into training these people–people I didn’t know and probably never would have if not for derby. (And oh, bless them for opening my mind.) But every time I drove home from practice, yell-singing C’mon’s “This is yr Captain” or some other chest-splitting euphoric anthem–with my wife beside me and sun flares screaming through the windshield in moot protest before dark swallowed them–all I needed to know at that point was that it felt awesome. I’d never felt that in a sport before.
We looked like circus animals, decked out in bright colours, cringing maniacally as we struggled to interpret what wheels attached to our feet meant to our mortality. Dreaming, haphazardly with terrified grins, of screaming crowds and MERCH. We carefully selected outfits to look like we weren’t careful. The most crucial question however, was “What’s my name?” A downright existential question when you really consider it. And it’s the first thing a derby girl asks. That says a lot.
I am by no means qualified to describe why choosing a derby name is critical to one’s roller derby existence, but I have some personal opinions about it. Calling yourself something you’re not, or something you wish you were, or something that will entirely blow someone’s mind, is really empowering. It allows an out-of-body experience of sorts. I named myself Beretta Lynch. I like Loretta Lynn. She’s bad ass. She wrote songs about cheating and taking the pill and swinging back when Home Economics text books described how to make your home cozy for your husband, lest he have a bad day and you make it worse. I also like the sound of ‘Lynch’. The CH is really powerful. Like you’re withholding a spit, with a minor element of self control that would freak the shit out of someone if you lost it. Beretta sorta sounds like Loretta. And without guns, we’d have never ‘won’ the West. (I’m obviously not going to entertain a description of the nobility of guns. Suffice it to say, they changed the game. As did naming myself after one. And no, I do not own a single gun.)
After a year, our first game was against Calgary’s Hellion Rebellion. Two days before the bout, when all 600 tickets had sold out and we hadn’t accounted for the skaters or volunteers and the capacity was 700, our secretary unwittingly let it slip when she was buying the liquor license that it was a public bout.
“Lynchie, I fucked up,” she whimpered.
We had the wrong license. The actual license was some inordinate amount of money and required forms and approvals and fire marshals and cops and floor plans and emergency exits. I called in sick to work. We got it done.
I didn’t sleep for two nights. Visions of riots danced through my head. Visions of cops pushing us out the door. Visions of failing.
On the morning of the bout, I arrived at the hangar. There were no bleachers. I called the company on my new phone. They thought it was the following week. The world tilted.
“You’ll get them here within the hour,” I seethed. I’d never seethed to have someone do my bidding. It worked. Now the programs are missing. Cell phone. Fix it.
My newest, closest friends were making trophies and organizing security and pimping media and begging family members and spinning pure gold out of sweat. And making merch.
The air was thick with unbridled curiosity, amped anxiety and pure adrenaline. Hundreds of people waited outside, turned away or waiting to be snuck in the side door. The refs whistles were muted under thunderous, screaming soon-to-be fans. Crowds on the mezzanine above the players’ bench spilled beer on our heads. We’d created the Wild Rose Cup, a challenge cup and the first of its kind in Canada. It was also the first time that a fire marshall came to the hangar with intentions of shutting down the 200+ over capacity crowd but instead, stood on the sidelines and watched… as E-ville lost by 2 points in the final jam.
The final jam. The best bouts come down to that one. And then you clean up and go home.