Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jamming is _________ .

I’m beginning to think that I may actually be pretty well-suited for jamming, at least for my home team. Last night I jammed five times for my home team; in the first four jams I got lead jammer and won those jams, and in jam number five I got sent to the box, resulting in a jammerless jam, for cutting in front of an out-of-play player, something that won’t be illegal in a derby millisecond when WFTDA 4.0 comes out. Yes!

I was slightly worried about my performance in anticipation of practice last night. I’ve been suffering what I’ll call “old knee” for about three weeks, the nagging slight pain resulting from an injury I had nearly 4 years ago that I should have had surgery to repair but didn’t. In addition to that, two weeks ago at All Star practice I got nailed in the back of my ribcage, just under my shoulder blade, by Quadzilla’s rock-hard ass. It knocked the wind out of me and was the first time I’ve ever had the wind knocked out of me from behind while still upright (insert crass joke here).

To add insult to injury, getting knocked around at the following week’s scrimmage practice made for a really sore ribcage (and kidneys) when I woke up the next day. That night at endurance practice, a week following the Quadzilla incident, I got nailed in that exact same spot by another tall person’s bony ass, again knocking the wind out of me. In a significant amount of pain and frustrated with all these little nagging injuries, I opted out of the next blocking drill and just skated fast laps around the outside. I jumped in the next drill, partnering up with Dolly, Holly, and Joy, without knowing what it was – it was the 4-person blocking-out rotation… with some of the hardest hitters in the nation. Trying not to be a pussy, I held my own, taking hits from Joy on that injured side. I lasted maybe 8 hits, and then the ninth got me just right and sent me out of the drill, immediately into a sob-fest in the women’s bathroom.

After about 5 minutes of uncontrollable sobbing, partly because of my bruised ribs and partly because of my bruised ego, I went back out (still crying like a baby) and packed up my stuff. I was done. Apparently big derby girls do cry – sometimes.

Feeling like a loser for not being able to stick it out, my good mood from the night before completely vanished. My wife, Flo, noticed my sobbing self packing up my shit and came over. “I know,” she said, “you’re frustrated. I would be too.” It sounds strange, but I couldn’t articulate frustration then or really ever before then either. I’m always so concerned about giving the right answer when a coach or captain asks how I’m doing – one that indicates I’m in pain and it’s bad enough to make me stop for the night but this doesn’t mean you should consider un-rostering me for the upcoming game. How I actually feel, frustrated, never even enters my mind, but it’s a completely accurate assessment.

So, after a frustrating two weeks and no practice since I left the rink sobbing last Thursday, I was slightly apprehensive about scrimmaging last night. On the way there I kept telling myself that I should have made the prior two nights’ practices, that I cannot expect to be on top of my game tonight, because it’s almost been a full week since I skated.

Reminding my captain that I wanted to jam, I solidified my intentions – at least for one more night. How would things go? All I could do was try. My feet weren’t a quick as they have been, and my mind wasn’t as sharp, but I pulled it together enough to get lead jammer four times, with jam scores ranging from 8 to 12 points in each of the four jams. The nerves left after team scrimmage and I was ready to just have fun with the All Star scrimmage, when I take the line in my first jam of the night with them (as a blocker) and our stats/penalty guy announces across the rink, “Cindy Lop-her – lead jammer tonight”. Still not used to being a jammer, I was instantly confused because I was lined up to play front inside and although I heard what he said, I thought he meant lead blocker. I got it before the whistle blew, made a comment that “You don’t ever see that, now do you?!” and “Well, get ready, cause you’re gonna be seeing it all season”, still not fully understanding what he meant by his comment. It wasn’t until I was getting ready for bed last night that it hit me that he might have been telling me that during regular team scrimmage I was the lead jammer for the night. Me? Lead jammer?!

“What is lead jammer,” I thought. Is it by cumulative points, average points per jam, percentage of jams you get lead jammer status??? What??? Thinking back on it, it still could have just been a random comment, like “look at you – you actually jammed tonight”, but I’m kind of thinking it probably wasn’t. How weird is that?!

I couldn’t sleep last night. It was like that first month you’re involved in roller derby where when you lie down to go to bed at night you don’t actually think, but you have racing thoughts about derby, replaying each move you made that night in your head – over, and over, and over again. Last time I looked at the clock it was 4:30am. I got up an hour later, giddy beyond belief, and have actually managed to keep this jammer high going even at my currently high-stress job, which I arrived to an hour early.

Wow. Jamming is so much fun. I love it because it’s always a new and slightly different challenge. For me, it’s like that time I was addicted to Tetris, and jamming is kind of like playing Tetris too – when you’re on level 89, everything is going way too fast, and you’re not quite sure you can navigate the 4-squared “stick” into the section that desperately needs the 4-squared stick so you can keep winning. I’m starting to learn what I need to do physically to be a good jammer, while I’m also gaining a bit of jammer strategy too.

I’ll actually be jamming quite regularly in the upcoming May home bout, since several long-time jammers won’t be able to make it. You know what this means? I need to get my ass in gear and start running more – faster and longer. I want to not only be prepared for the endurance part of jamming, but I also want to be over prepared, so jamming seems easier than it would if I didn’t step up my cardio in the next month.

Man, this is like a dream. I never thought I’d have what it takes to be a jammer – not at my size. Maybe the fantasy I have while running about jamming will actually come true. If somehow, someway, everyone is granted one wish in their lifetime to come true and this was mine, I could be totally cool with that.


Melissa said...

I LOVED this post for so many reasons! You are breaking the barriers that we, as bigger girls, put on ourselves. However, you are making it happen! I have also had the wind knocked out of me by Joy, which was 2 years ago and I can't imagine how it must suck even WORSE now, and it took all of my ability not to cry. It's so good to cry, and I'm glad you let yourself have your moments. You are lucky to have Flo as your head coach and derby wife because she is SO non-judgemental and so inspiring. Man you make me miss derby, and I wasn't even good at it :)

Anonymous said...

You have a better mindset than I ever did. I think you will make a fantastic jammer and I can't wait to see you kick some ass.

Allie Gator said...

I really enjoy all of your posts. Mostly because I can relate so closely to them. I started jamming this year for my home team and it has been a great experience. I don't always get lead jammer, but I have fun and it makes me a better blocker when I'm in the pack.

DayGlo Divine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DayGlo Divine said...

I love seeing you jam -- even when I'm the mean ol' ref who sends you to the box for something that fortunately is no longer illegal.