12.56pm. May 17, 2009. Somewhere along the 105W. Fact: DF loves him some derby. This will surprise no one. And yet that love has always been staunchly monogamous: DF has almost exclusively followed derby of the banked-track variety, and in particular derby practiced by his beloved LA Derby Dolls. And yet to paraphrase the Bard, “There is more derby in heaven and earth, DF, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.” Today, DF goes through the derby looking glass to explore the world beyond LADD of 2-D tracks and WFTDA teams from ‘round the Golden State.
1.17pm. Toyota Sports Center. El Segundo, CA. And so DF arrives at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, an hour or so past noon on Sunday. Toward the venue stream two groups. There are derby folks resplendent in tat and black, eager to see the final rounds of epic derby tourney The Big One. There are also helicopter parents toting athletic gear and over-reared children to the ice hockey venue adjacent. The derby folks seem largely unaware of the helicopter parents; the helicopter parents seem acutely aware (and scared) of the derby folks. The cultural contrast is stark and tremendously amusing.
1.32pm. “The Big One?” you ask. No, it’s not a forthcoming earthquake or hackneyed penis joke. Allow DF to expound: LA’s flat-track counterparts to the banked-track Derby Dolls are the flat-track Angel City Derby Girls (AC/DG), and they are the hostesses of a tournament that has drawn together talent from across the state to determine the flat track women’s roller derby champion of California for 2009. Pretty goddamned momentous, eh? This is actually the second of two days of derby, the first of which consisted of a veritable Bataan Death March of games starting at noon and ending late in the eve, ultimately setting up a pair of semifinal matches to frame the late-tourney action this fine Sunday afternoon.
1.35pm. DF shows up toward the end of the second semifinal, just as the Wildfires, the flat-track incarnation of the San Diego Derby Dolls finish off their opponent, Sacramento’s Sac City Rollers, by the hefty margin of 223-97. Up next in the final for SDDD’s Wildfires are none other than local skaters AC/DG’s Hollywood Scarlets, who dispatched LADD’s Flat Ri-ettes earlier in the day by the similarly indulgent tally of 219-59.
2.04pm. Interlude. In the momentito before Sac City and the LADD face off in the third-place game, DF leaves the venue in search of sustenance, and after much swear-punctuated automotive wandering among the warehouses and industrial wastelands of LAX-adjacent south LA, happens across downtown El Segundo. It’s little more than a few strip malls end on end, but somehow more charming for its diminutive stature. Delicious rotisserie chicken is no less succulent in the shadow of refineries and/or sewage treatment plants. Careful: do not leave your wallet here. It happens a lot, I’m told.
2.36pm. Back now at the Toyota Center for onset of the consolation bout. The atmospheric of AC/DG’s home venue is very very different from the Doll Factory. It’s a fully enclosed, but open-air facility that is by design (and, one supposes, most days actually serves as) a hockey venue. The derby girls come out for their jams from the plexiglass-fronted enclosures like hockey players skating out for shifts (though penalized skaters don’t use the penalty box, but rather just sit in a folding chair alongside the track, which seems like a major lost opportunity). Massive banners of LA Kings greats adorn the far wall. Luc Robitaille in particular seems entranced by the derby girls as they circumnavigate the flat track.
2.48pm. The LADD/Sac City game is off! DF, meet flat-track derby; flat-track derby, meet DF. First striking difference: Flat-track jams are two minutes long, which seems like a freaking eternity in comparison to banked-track’s one-minute jams. When jammers get into a quick lead, it seems they can lap the pack about a million times, scoring about a billion points (admittedly, my notes are shaky on this). The relatively short clock in banked track seems to serve a mercy-rule function, saving the asses of blocker packs that get disorganized or otherwise lose the thread. In flat track, the extra minute allows a jammer with the upper hand to really twist the knife. LADD does a bit more of the knife-twisting in the first half, but the bout sits in relative equipoise at halftime, 58-33.
3.25pm. Still becoming accustomed to the new setting, DF eyeballs the assembled crowd, and estimates that he is one of about 200 folks in attendance, max. Almost all seats are full but there just isn’t much more room to fit any more folks into the relatively cozy venue. The smaller scale of this event lends it a different brand of appeal: less grandiosity, more of a DIY aesthetic. Slightly related to latter point: there are porta-johns outside supplied by porta-pottie magnate Andy Gump, which leads DF to wonder why the hell this company hasn’t come up with the slogan “Take a dump in an Andy Gump”? And if you do that, now, Gump, I’ll sue your ass for trademark and copyright infringement.
3.57pm. Anyway: DF is so caught up thinking up catchy defecation-related slogans that he fails to catch the beginning of the second half, and by the time he arrives, LADD has stretched their lead on Sac City, and never really looks back. Krissy Krash is wearing goggles, which is not a fashion accoutrement, but a protective device that allows her to skate despite taking a skate to the eye in Saturday’s action. That’s one Tough Cookie who lives up to her name. The bout concludes with Razorslut getting an uncharacteristic jam in and acquitting herself well, racking two to take the final score to 145-79, good enough to earn LADD third place. Props are also due to Sac City, representing for NorCal. They also win DF’s “best name of the tourney” award for the gross yet ingenious moniker of skater “Rock Hell Belch”.
4.03pm. Subculture v. suburban culture, part II: An enormous black curtain separates the derby venue from the concrete staircase that hockey parents and their equipment-laden children use to access the main rink (presumably so that the kids will not be terrified by the sight of derby girls and their fans). And yet every so often some of the more curious children manage to ditch their parents, and you can see them peeking through the black curtain to watch the derby. Yes, kids, it’s true: we’re having much more fun in here.
4.19pm. And now the piece de resistance: AC/DG’s Hollywood Scarlets v. SDDD’s Wildfires to see who’s the baddest of them all. The first half begins and initial signs point to AC/DG. Estro Jen, Punk in the Trunk, and Selacidal share jamming duties, leading the Scarlets to a quick 47-4 lead. The early hitting is particularly intense. AC/DG’s Va Va Va Gina and Dutchess von Damn get in some particularly palate-shattering blocks, which are more than amply countered by SDDD’s Isabelle Ringer and Anna Nuthathang. Not unrelated, each of these four ladies all spend quite a bit of time in the penalty box during the first half. The refs’ whistles may well wear out by the end of the half at this pace, and it seems that fewer of the calls favor SDDD. This may do some work to explain AC/DG’s substantial lead, but toward the end of the half, the Wildfires get it together a bit more, and veteran jammers Bonnie D. Stroir and Kung Pow! Tina find their vintage form and shave the Scarlets’ lead a tad to a no-longer-insurmountable-seeming 74-53.
4.45pm. As DF takes a halftime break from furious note-taking, he is dragooned by a wizened derby sage, much against his will, to guest-drunkblog the final half of the championship game. Despite DF’s initial protests (and concerns that his attempts at blogging would produce only inebriated incoherence), this experience turns out to be hella fun, and those interested can read the liveblog of the final exciting moments here, as DF offers non-sequiturs, attempts updates, and spars good-naturedly with co-drunkblogger Tara Armov.
4.53pm. And just how did those final moments unfold? Awesomely, thanks for asking. To wit, SDDD’s resurgence toward the end of the first half did much to energize their fans, and at the onset of the second stanza, AC/DG has a big lead, but the Wildfires have the momentum. SDDD’s lissome and athletic Kiki Diazz takes center stage early on, racking two monster jams that eventually help her team to retake a dramatic 88-86 lead. Now the penalty worm has turned a little bit, and it seems that AC/DG’s skaters are spending more time in the box (observational skills limited at this point due to live-drunkblogging duties, but at the very least DF recalls Cherrylicious and Holly Caust spending time in the sin bin, though of course it’s hard not to notice those two). Not unrelated, what follows is the jam of the tournament: multiple fouls on AC/DG’s blockers give Kung Pow! Tina room to maneuver, and she takes full advantage, at one point wiping out Hard Cora on her way to a 23-point jam and a shocking 111-86 lead for her team.
5.09pm. The roof feels like it may come off the cozy venue. SDDD’s fans roar their approval of KPT’s feat, but the AC/DG contingent is equally full-throated, chanting to lift their team. Estro Jen responds in kind with a 15-point jam, cutting the Wildfire lead to a mere ten. But Kiki Diazz counters yet again, taking advantage of a power jam to stretch the SDDD lead, and when the smoke clears, the Wildfires have taken a commanding 139-102 lead over the Hollywood Scarlets with only a few minutes left to play. The SDDD blockers then take control, administering the lead wisely and preventing any AC/DG jammers–including even the excellent and apparently indefatigable Estro–from breaking out, and as time expires, the crowd explodes in raucous celebration of the San Diego Wildfires’ dramatic and unexpected comeback victory by a score of 151-113. SDDD are flat-track champeens of Cali, with AC/DG a valiant runner-up, as LADD takes the bronze medal.
5.16pm. A strange calm-after-the-storm mood prevails as DF walks to his car though the cool spring afternoon. Ocean breezes waft toward the venue, mixed with the acrid tincture of smoke from nearby refineries. Terrified parents hustle their kids back to tan minivans past sweaty derby girls. And there you have it, friends: DF’s first foray past the friendly confines of the Doll Factory into the wide world of 2-D, WFTDA-style derby. There sure is a lot of derby out there. Could there be such a thing as too much roller derby? Not bloody likely. To paraphrase the Bard again, “If derby be the food of love, skate on, give me excess of it”. Now I got to wrap this up and go look for my goddamned wallet. Where the hell could I have left it? Anyway: later, skaters.
Corrections, objections, death threats, and professions of undying love are all welcome at df at losanjealous dot com. And in the very likely event that you want more of DF, you can follow his merrie antix on myspace as well as Twitter.
Note: additional action pix possibly to be added later from one of the many fine derby photogs who covered the event (processing time for photos is particularly protracted because of hi-volume of bouts).