I have to figure that most people’s bucket lists feature line items like:
– Watch the sun rise over a tropical island
– Walk the red carpet at a movie premiere
– Successfully prepare Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon
Since I scratched the whole boeuf thing off my list a few months ago, roller derby moved into spot No. 1. And thanks to Arizona Highways Television and Robin Sewell, I lived my dream as “Eleanor Bruisevelt” a few Fridays ago.
Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix is home to the Arizona Derby Dames, a banked-track roller-derby league founded by Suzy Homewrecker, Joan Threat, All the Way Mae and Prima Donna in 2005. It’s also the only roller derby venue in the world that can hold an audience of nearly 15,000 people. When the Dames skate next month, you need to be in the audience. Roller derby is a trip — literally, in my case.
My colleagues endured a few days of office shenanigans, as I “practiced” skating in my obnoxiously new white roller skates. Then, on Derby day, they joined me as I chatted with members of the Derby Dames’ various teams prior to the Battle of the Bank, a three-day tournament that pitted Arizona teams against those from as far away as Austin, Texas.
Amy Nash, a skater who goes by “Mizz Nashty,” explained the rules of roller derby, then outlined her training regimen, which didn’t consist of much, other than skating — a lot. “The objective is to live,” Nashty said. Sold.
But then she told me about how she’s torn the posterior cruciate ligament in her knee and suffered a concussion or two. Savanah Ortiz, a.k.a. “Frankie Fitz,” chimed in. She, too, has had torn ligaments and concussions, and she pointed out “Rowdy Roulette,” a slip of a woman who has two plates and 11 screws in her shattered ankle. “It’s really no different than football,” Nashty added.
After I laced up on my skates and pulled on my “Fresh Meat” shirt, Britton Zogg, a former Dame and current member of the Arizona Highways Television crew, taught me how to stop and how to fall. She told me to skate the banked track “high on the straightaway and low on the curve.” Britton had vintage, rainbow-hued skates, and I had a wicked case of skate envy.
I may owe my tailbone to Britton. When I finally had the chance to skate — as the Hot Shots were warming up — I was a little overconfident and took a turn too fast. I didn’t remember all of the skills Britton taught me, but I didn’t break any bones, either. And my ligaments and skull are still intact.
So, I’m going to consider my day as a Dame a success, and I’ll be following the league’s schedule closely. The Dames’ travel team skates in bouts around the state, and the Tucson Roller Derby league will travel to Phoenix for a bout on August 20.
“Live fast. Die pretty.” That’s what the Dames say, and I thank them for letting me spend a few hours as “Fresh Meat,” or “Fresh Boeuf,” if you will. Scratch that one off the list.
— Kelly Kramer
Arizona Highways Television’s roller derby episode will air this season on ABC15 in Phoenix, KYMA11 in Yuma and KGUN9 in Tucson.