Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Derby: Fun with Friends or Sport? (BDG do Cry)

When I was a kid I played a lot of organized sports. My mom started me in basketball in kindergarten, and I continued playing basketball up through high school. I played soccer in elementary and middle school, softball in middle school, and tennis in high school. For all these sports – each team of every single one, I was there just to play. I rarely had a friend on my team, so it certainly was much more about playing that it was about being with my friends.

Derby is unique in that the action of starting a league really brought a lot of us close together, and we wound up becoming close friends. I assume this also happens with groups of fresh meat who start derby together. Since derby is more than a sport – since you have to spend time participating in committees and preparing for bouts and organizing fundraisers, you become de facto friends with the people you hang around often more than your spouse or children.

This makes for an interesting dynamic. By playing with these people, you are playing a sport, but you’re also doing it with some of your closest friends – it gets intertwined, and as I’ve just recently noticed, it’s very hard to separate the two when circumstances change.

You’ve heard me talk about our recent mass exodus of vets. I keep thinking that it’s just that not everyone is showing up for practices. So many people seem to be missing. But practice after practice, I have to remind myself that they are gone, and the women I’m looking at while we’re stretching are who we are now.

As if that change isn’t hard enough on me, last night our 2008 home teams were announced. And there were trades.

I must say that for some reason the trade of my derby wife and former team member, Flo Shizzle, has really hit me hard - I couldn't stay at practice last night, and I've been crying ever since. My eyes are swollen and people in my office must think I'm crazy for sitting here continuing to crying. I think it's hard in derby to draw the line between fun with friends and just a sport. Luckily, it has seemed to be a good 50/50 mix until now.

Personally, it's hard to lose a team member - someone who needs to retire, but I'm thinking it's even harder to lose someone to another team, or perhaps it's a combination and I'm just extremely overwhelmed by so much change all at once.

I suppose I should count myself lucky for having had 3 wonderful years where derby for me was both fun with friends and a sport. That’s not to say I won’t become friends with the freshies or my new team members – I know I will, and I already am, but it’s like going off to college or changing jobs – the social aspect is hard all over again, and I’m going to miss my friends.

Last year we suffered great skill disparities among our four home teams, and I must say that seeing the new roster, with new people in place and several traded vets, I’m actually really excited for the coming home season. I have no idea how things will shake out – who will win? This is just one example of something that had to be done to sustain our league, and I’m fully supportive of it, but that also doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t cry or be upset – it’s a personal reaction to a sport that is very personal to its players, and I think that - the personality of the sport - is another one of the great things about derby.

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