Road Trip – WFTDA Championships

It’s been two weeks, and my head is still spinning. On November 10th, Sam Heinous, Hot Piece of Astronaut, and I piled into Sam’s minivan with Bobbie Bash-eh, Slam-I-Am, Hello Kidney, and Margaret Kill-Again for a 12-hour drive to Denver and the WFTDA Championships. I went into the trip with a parent’s reservations – could I take 12 hours in the car with 4 teenage girls? Three days is a long time to be stuck in a stadium – would the kids behave, or would they be bored by too much roller derby?

The drive up was long, but it was enlivened by Astro in the back with the girls, helping them with homework, throwing math problems back and forth (both Astro and I are engineers), and mild shenanigans at our infrequent rest stops. Music of course played a part; we looked up videos on smartphones as we drove – and when the moon came up, we spent an hour trying to figure out why it shrank as it rose. (Turns out it doesn’t- who knew?) We made it to Denver and our hotel in the late evening, and grabbed dinner before collapsing for the night.

Friday morning we had brakets for the tourney printed, then headed straight for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, since the Championships didn’t start until 2pm. We saw animatronic dinosaurs, had our picture taken with T-Rex, and met a lady with a large Narwhale horn, which she let us hold. Astro confessed later that he couldn’t keep a straight face during her presentation; I don’t know if I would have been able to either, after watching this video.

Google Maps took us on a scenic drive through the country on our way to the 1stBank Event Center; the first bout was just getting started when we found seats on Turn 1. I don’t think anyone’s bracket was intact by the end of the first day; Charm City (Astro’s home-away-from-home) lost to Minnesota, and Kansas City surprised us all with a win over Rose. My favorite moment on the track was during halftime of the Rocky Mtn-Nashville game, when skaters from both teams were chatting companionably while doing laps, with a 60-point spread on the scoreboard over their heads. That’s not the kind of sportsmanship you see in any other sport; I was proud to have brought our kids up to see it.

Between bouts, the kids shopped at the vendors set up around the concourse, met and chatted with skaters from around the country in the halls, and completely knocked my socks off with their attitudes and behavior. Many of the adult skaters were impressed that these kids, with pink hair and crazy clothing, were also obviously a team, and accomplished skaters as well. They got compliments on their derby names, and were pretty floored by the attitude of the skaters who were there to compete in Championships. Suzy Hotrod, Bonnie Thunders, Belle Starr, and the rest of the competitors were wandering the halls, or kicking back with friends, and all of them were outgoing and gracious when the kids started conversations with them.

We headed back to the hotel late on Friday; on Saturday, we woke up and did it again. With bouts all day, we got to the stadium early and found seats behind the jammer line on Turn 4. The morning was marred by a tangle in communications between the event center staff and the Denver Rollerdolls, the event hosts, which resulted in section 107 (where we were sitting) being reclassified from general admission to VIP seating halfway through the Gotham-Rocky Mtn bout. We got it resolved with help from the event manager, who generously gave us VIP wristbands for our trouble. After that, the kids and Astro spent some time sitting trackside, while Sam and I coddled our backs with the stadium seats in 107. I’m too old to sit on the cold hard concrete these days. The bouts ran late again on Saturday; after a late dinner, we collapsed.

Sunday, the tournament got off to a late start. Since none of the skating rinks (roller or ice) in Denver had morning hours on Sunday, we went bowling instead. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Astro had experience bowling, and promptly schooled the rest of us, even after we decided to use the bumpers on the lane. We headed over to the stadium in plenty of time to see the bout between Texas and Kansas City, followed by the Gotham-Oly championship game. After three days of derby, we took the evening off, and relaxed in the hotel for a few hours before turning in.

The drive back was uneventful; the kids slept (Astro kept them up late on Sunday), did homework, and listened to music. Astro threatened us all with a 10-hour loop of the narwhale song; we threatened to make him ride back on the roof. We pulled into Las Cruces late on Monday, tired, but with a lot of new ideas, new strategies, and new excitement for the world of roller derby.

Minor Threat was the only junior league to bring multiple skaters to Championships. We saw two or three other junior skaters, but never two from the same league. I hope that next year other leagues bring kids out; the experience was a revelation for our skaters, both on the track and behind the scenes. They saw some of the best skaters in the world on the track, and learned that they’re human beings off the track, who are more than willing to share experiences, tips, and the camaraderie of being derby players, regardless of anything else. We weren’t planning to take a trip to Atlanta for Championships in 2012, but our skaters are already saving their pennies.

–Sirius Hertz

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