This past Saturday I was in Fort Wayne for the first-ever men's flat-track tournament, part of an all-day contest featuring five women's teams, six men's teams, and two junior teams. Our team, the Race City Rebels, didn’t win (in fact, we came in dead-last), but it was my first public bout (not counting the 15-minute intraleague Rookie Rumble demo) and in spite of my nervousness I had a great time. The event was like a big convention for players and fans, making me really want to go to the actual Roller Con.
Saturday morning Jero and I got up very early in spite of little sleep and skipped our breakfast plans, just grabbing fruit and snacks on the go. Bench coach LMB cautioned me that she was going to put me in a “very light” rotation that day, which was just fine with me. We started with two round-robin games to establish our initial position in the tournament, and in the first game I didn’t skate at all – LMB was going to put me in, but we had a player in the box so I got pulled.
I was fine with not skating in the first bout – I was nervous, and it was cool just to be on the sidelines observing how things worked up close. I’d geared and warmed up with the rest of my team, and even practiced sliding into the penalty box, since I’d never been – something that turned out to be good preparation for later. ;) In the second bout I skated once, and it was over before I knew it, but hey – I skated in public against another team, and didn’t humiliate myself, so yay me.
Unfortunately my team was in the bottom two ranks out of six, and we’d injured or lost a lot of players. We have a short roster anyway, so we feared there would be no way we could skate in an hour-long bout with not even enough players to field two full squads. We asked to play just a 30-minute bout next, and prepared to forfeit if not. None of us wanted to have to just give up due to lack of players, but staring down the barrel of a sudden super-heavy rotation, I was secretly almost relieved at the idea.
I’d considered buying new wheels to replace the crappy ones I’d had with me (I’d left my new ones at home), but I abandoned that idea once it looked like we weren’t going to play again that day. I left the prep area and went with Jero to watch the junior roller derby teams play. I resigned myself to the tiny baby-step I’d taken to becoming a real derby player, and relaxed to watch other teams play for the rest of the day. I sat next to Jero and enjoyed just being a spectator.
Twenty minutes before our team had been scheduled to play, Anya suddenly appeared at my side and said, “Suit up. You’re playing.” The awesome Twin City Terrors, who had come to Spring Roll to skate, dammit, asked what our problem was, and when we told them we didn’t have enough skaters, they generously lent us two of theirs. With no time to stress about it, I quickly got my gear back on and warmed up. We were back in business!
I had a great time playing against the Twin City Terrors. I’m not used to playing with and against players I don’t know from practice, and so it was a great chance to see firsthand other styles of play. The players that joined us were super-nice, and the rest of our opponents were fun to play against – they hit hard, skated well, and were good sports even as they beat us. They all skated better than I, but I didn’t feel completely shut down, so it was still fun to do my best and help where I could.
I got two jammer take-outs – derby glory! One of them was illegal, however, and I got my first trip to the penalty box. Jero got lots of pictures, and my braid got mocked by the announcers on nationally-streamed live boutcast. Not exactly fame from my mad derby skills, but it’s a start. I took one more trip to the box, but otherwise skated quite a bit. I quickly got into scrimmage headspace, and just told LMB to send me in again every chance I got. It was great.
I got positive feedback from Rebels coach Dexter – he said he could see what I was trying to do out there, and that sometimes I was even able to do it. Even though I wasn’t able to execute everything I tried, he said that would come with time as I increased by basic skate speed and skill, and that he anticipated that once I’d gotten more experience on the track, that Bignplenty and I will be amazing together as the two large guys on our team (especially against the teams of giants we’ve been facing).
After the bout I spent the rest of the tournament with Jero and some of my teammates watching other teams play and cheering on Jero’s old league, the Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls. We got snacks and watched the 'Ref Jam' as well as the final championship games for both the men’s and women’s teams. Both bouts were splendid to watch. The men’s tournament was determined by one point in the last jam, and we’re going to play the nominal second-place winner soon which should be interesting.
After the game day was over we joined our league at a massive after-party. Jero and I hung out with her BHRG teammates as long as we could, and then after they left we waded into the main area to watch people jam skate and get crazy in a huge crowd of drunken derby revelers. It was a great mix of male and female skaters as well as our fans, and Jero and I had a splendid time. By the time we went to bed, we only got about three hours of sleep, but exhausted or no, it was worth it. Spring Roll rocked.