Thursday, July 23, 2009

That's Not Cellulite - That's Jammer Fuel!

Going into my college days, I knew I wasn’t the sorority type, and when I actually got there my suspicions were confirmed – I am not a sorority girl. I did however joke that I was starting my own sorority: Pi Pi Pi, bake me a pie and you’re in! No one ever took me up on it, yet that didn’t stop me from packing on 65 pounds in 6 months…

There was a time in my derby career – a time that existed up until several months ago, quite frankly – that I knew I wasn’t a jammer. Often times at team meetings someone would get a count of all those available to jam. “Don’t look at me!” was always my answer. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, but those days are behind us (and I suppose I could give a shit about embarrassing myself now too!).

This past Saturday marked the 3rd bout in which I’ve jammed – all three times for my home team, Speed Regime (oddly enough, a team not know for its speed). The first time I jammed was in May, our inaugural home season bout. Scared as shit as I approached the line, I got lead jammer and my opponent got a major, sending her to the box and leaving me unopposed for a full minute.

It was both the longest minute of my life and the shortest. It was a blur. I thought I had scored a 20-point jam. My whole bench was screaming, the fans on the floor were on their feet, and loud bursts of cheers came from the stands each time I completed a pass. “FIVE MORE POINTS!” I remember hearing our announcer, Dirty Mary, yell above the cheers of the crowd. Jamming, I then determined, is highly addictive. Each burst of the screaming crowd made me want more, while all the anxiety associated with being a jammer no longer mattered – this was totally worth the risk. The audience wanted me keep giving them reasons to stand up and yell, and I wanted to keep giving it to them. I still do.

We didn’t win that game, but that jam created something that had never existed in Baltimore before – Cindy Lop-her fans. I always resented jammers, because in general they’re the only players in the ever-changing clusterfuck of a derby pack that stand out to novice fans, so it makes sense that they’re also the only players who really ever get personal recognition and fans at the local level. In actuality, good jammers are good because their blockers are good, but only experienced derby fans realize this.

After the game I went upstairs to get a beer, which I sat off to the side and drank while taking off my gear (and no, I couldn’t wait for the beer). For some reason, no one saw me sitting there. What happened next was something I’ll never forget. A group of 20-something guys who had congratulated me on a good game as I was coming off the track were up at the beer counter talking to Joy Collision, who was standing behind it. “Do you know Cindy Lop-her?” they asked. That’s what caught my attention. When you talk to Joy, you talk to her about HER being a derby prodigy – you don’t talk to her about someone else. You don’t talk to her about me.

Their conversation continues with them telling Joy how awesome I am and asking her about me.

“Yeah,” she said, “She’s really big and really strong – well, she’s not really that big anymore – she’s really STURDY and can take a hit, but she can also skate really fast!”

Hanging on her every word, the guys retold the story of my first ever jam to Joy Collision. I looked around, I pinched myself – it was a very surreal moment in general but even more so because you don’t often get to hear what people really have to say about you – both strangers and people you know. It was an amazing gift that I’ll never forget.

At the after party I was a rock star, and some couple even had their picture taken with me. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a little weird, but I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t completely and utterly love it.

That 20-point jam that night turned out to only be a 10-pointer. Oops. It may have only been 10 points on the scoreboard, but it felt like a fucking million.

Two months later, last Saturday, I “beat” my personal best – that 10-point jam – by scoring a 12-pointer against the Mobtown Mods. I don’t remember the crowd being nearly as loud, and I didn’t have any fans come up to me afterwards, but I did get some pretty heavy congratulations from several of the Mods while on the line in the next jam I was in.

Jamming’s okay. Although I may never do it for the All Stars, I’ll continue to do it for Speed Regime. The fans, the recognition, and the drug-induced haze I get from the screaming crowd are all nice, but the real reason I’m going to continue to do it is for me. Each time I jam I prove to myself that win or lose I have the power to stand up to my fears and take them head-on. I learn something each time I jam, and it doesn’t hurt that sometimes that something is that it’s okay to have a bit of a big ego every now and again. It’s fun.


Allie Gator said...

As much as it intimidates me, I also love jamming. Being primarily a blocker there is a strange rush/thrill you get when stepping up to the line and waiting for the 2 whistles. I'm glad I don't do it all the time (because I susually can't breath for about 2 jams after), but its always fun and makes me much more aware of what my jammers need while I'm playing in the pack.

Krystal said...

Okay... so this isn't entirely on-topic, but I'm hoping you'll indulge me with this. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now (LOOOOOVE the CFRB...), and I have to say that I am more in love with this sport now than ever before. THANK YOU for writing about things the way that you want to. It may sound simple, but it's so fucking refreshing.

I'm trying out for the Rat City Roller Girls next month, and can barely skate. I'm just hoping to gain some experience, learn all I can, and see you on the rink!