Rollier Than Thou

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I live in Utah County, otherwise known as Happy Valley, and when we first moved here seven years ago, I was aware of the stereotypes: clean streets, clean houses, clean faces, clean teeth. Squeaky, squeaky clean. Same, same, same. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it and I worried that our family of weirdos wouldn’t find a way to fit in. In my mind, it was going to be something like this:

And I’ll admit, it was an adjustment, and often there are moments when I wonder if residents are aware of life outside Utah County, like this photo and caption found in Utah Valley magazine (“Women of Color” – because some of them even have brown hair).

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On the other hand, just down the road, the Holi Festival at the Krishna Temple draws thousands of Happy Vallians, blocking up the freeway and my Facebook feed with their colorful, Happy faces.

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The truth is, the longer I’ve lived here and the more I’ve gotten to know my neighbors, I’ve come to realize that, at least in my neck of the woods, it’s a lot less like Duloc and a lot more like this:

Case in point: Saturday night, my husband and I attended what I consider to be the polar opposite of your typical Happy Valley event.

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I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but Utah Valley has a roller derby league – the Happy Valley Derby Darlins, and although I had seen them in parades, it never occurred to me to actually attend a match. I don’t go to any sporting events and I’m especially uncomfortable watching violent sports. I didn’t think I could watch women knocking each other around live and in person. But when my husband saw the match advertised and asked if I wanted to go, I jumped at the chance. After all, I’m supposed to be trying new things, right?

The teams practice and compete in an abandoned Food4Less and seating is limited, so we had to bring our own camping chairs. (Guests of Honor get to sit on old sofas.)

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We had low expectations when we read about the venue and seating on the website, but when we got there, we realized the event was actually quite well-organized. In the parking lot, there was a section partitioned off with food trucks, live musicians, tables and canopies for eating, and even sidewalk chalk for kids to keep busy. Did I mention the food trucks? Oh, my. If you ever run into the Savour truck, get the Slider Sampler. And the cauliflower tots. And the fresh peach turnover.

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And the girl who sang the national anthem was really good. Surprisingly good, given the venue.

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The league is made up of three regular teams (Sirens of Steel, Rollin’ Rebellion, Daughters of Anarchy), an intermediate team (the Bridal Veil Dolls), and an all-star team (the Molly Morbids). Each team member has her own derby name and they’re quite clever: Bloody2shoes, O Megative, Steel MagnoLeah, Demoraliza, to name a few. My husband felt very strongly that I come up with my own derby name, so I decided on K’Tastrophy (because it encapsulates what would happen if I ever attempted to compete in roller derby). There’s also a derby name generator, if you need help thinking of one, but it’s more generic. I think I’ll stick with mine.

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The whole atmosphere is pretty campy – the posters, the names, the fishnet stockings. But when the match started, all silliness went out the window and these women became serious athletes. The events aren’t scripted like professional wrestling, and even though the MC kept referring to it as a “show”, there was nothing fake about it. And sure, the uniforms go against Utah County’s unwritten dress code. (Who am I kidding? There’s nothing unwritten about it.) The shorts are short, but really, aside from the torn fishnets, how are their uniforms different from the BYU women’s volleyball team?

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I was kind of confused about the rules and scoring, but I don’t think I would be less confused at a football game, frankly. A few skaters (jammers) are designated to try to get past the crowd of other skaters. The defense lines up to block them, sometimes holding hands like a game of Red Rover, sometimes crowding together like a mosh pit. Hitting and kicking are not allowed, but apparently knocking other players with shoulders or hips is standard. The whole scene reminds me of walking down the hallway between classes at my son’s junior high school.

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There’s a lot going on at all times, and there were six officials skating alongside the players to keep track of it all. The first few times someone fell onto their knee or elbow, I cringed, but since they wear lots of protective gear, I didn’t see any serious injuries. At halftime, as they chatted with the crowd, I did notice a lot of bruises on their legs that weren’t there before. I asked my husband if he noticed and he said, “I wasn’t looking at their legs. It said on the website that one of the rules for spectators is: DON’T BE CREEPY.”

The match was between the undefeated Rollin’ Rebellion (in purple) and the Sirens of Steel (orange). I was impressed at the way a player could be skating along, looking straight ahead as if her attention was elsewhere, only to suddenly knock over someone coming from behind. I couldn’t figure out how she knew exactly when the other skater would try to pass her – was it a timing thing, or did she have eyes in the back of her helmet? It was also interesting to see that sometimes a player would shove her own teammate – it looked wrong until I realized she was knocking her teammate toward an opponent so that teammate could knock the opponent out of the way. It was like a human Newton’s cradle.

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The score was pretty close throughout the bout, each team taking turns in the lead, but it was all decided in the last ten minutes when the Sirens’ Milli Megahurtz suddenly started scoring all over the place. (Wouldn’t I make a good sports reporter?) She was the high scorer of the match, and most of that happened right at the end. She helped her team beat the undefeated Rollin’ Rebellion, and then I got to meet her. And she was super sweet and smiley — and completely Utah Valley!

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We had so much fun – both the food and entertainment made for a great night out. And maybe we’ll make it back for the home team tournament on September 20. And maybe some of our Happy Valley friends (each of you freaks in your own special way) should join us.

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One thought on “Rollier Than Thou

  1. Did you know Diane Hartford was a derby girl in SL for a few years? Her derby name was “Axta Grind.” It was fun to watch her but I couldn’t believe she was brave enough to get out there and do that!

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