Wow. What a week. Derby season officially started for the Brawlin’ Betties as we bouted against the Santa Cruz Derby Girls’ Harbor Hellcats last Saturday night. Aptly titled, “The Battle of the Saints,” the bout drama started building the week before with many threats being exchanged between us and, no, not the Hellcats, but the weather Gods at large.
Our normally mild and sunny seaside town had been experiencing a flurry of freezing temperatures, rain, hail and even tornado warnings the week leading up to the bout. Saturday was predicted to be no different. Operating at an entirely outside venue, this can be a problem. However, so many things had been set in motion (programs printed with Saturday’s date, rental chairs ordered, venue paid for, presale tickets completely sold out, visiting team travel reservations secured, just naming a few) that unnecessarily canceling an event is way more than a headache and a half.
So balls to supposed tornado-force wind, the decision was made to forge ahead and hope for the best. Pacts were made, prayers were waged, no-rain dances ensued and, perhaps most importantly, our very own Derby Pope (and if you don’t know Derby Pope, I suggest you go to Facebook and request a Friend Add toot sweet) was consulted on the matter.
Our Bench Coach, Danger Kitty, was granted audience with Derby Pope two days prior to bout time and tendered one question, “Your Eminence, what would God want in return for clear skies on Saturday afternoon?”
To which our Holiness replied, “The Derby Pope accepts cash and booze bribes. If your wish is granted God was happy.”
Still, the storm continued, dumping buckets of rain and hail. And even late into Friday night, as we gathered for a team-building and carb-loading potluck at P.S. I Shove You’s house, the street gutters turned to rushing river beds. Getting out of the car and hopping to the sidewalk, in and of itself, made one appreciate all the skating leaps and hops rehearsed at many o’ practices.
One cheese dip was lost as it slipped into the rushing gutter and sailed away into darkness. Though, lo’ and behold the cheese was recovered by light of a cell phone under a truck tire a half block away. Maybe God saw this devotion, or maybe Derby Pope was sufficiently gifted. No one really knows. Whatever happened, we all awoke Saturday morning to clear and sunny skies, providing enough time to dry the rink and develop a cocky attitude about our fortune. Facebook boasting started almost as soon as the sunrise.
However, by mid afternoon, enormous thunderheads formed over the mountains and chilling winds began to blow through town. Stories of snow in various parts of city and nearby urban areas started filtering in. Clearly, we were not off the hook. Already lipsticked and fishnetted by this point, we ignored the threat and let it be said a little denial runs A LONG way. Fans poured through the gates and took their seats.
Officials convened, merchandise was sold and beer flowed as looming clouds seemed to be barely wafting southward of us, leveling an errant rain drop here and there. Unwavering, our very own Booty Ninja flawlessly belted out the Star Spangled Banner, bringing tears to eyes. As the first jam started, snowing clouds were visible just a neighborhood away and as the first jam ended enough raindrops were falling that an official time out was called.
Our valiant announcer, Deuce Bagalow, expertly kept the crowd entertained with humorous derby banter, all-the-while promising the squall would pass – almost using the same method of Saturday Night Live’s Subliminal Message Man (if you’re too young and don’t understand, go ask your parents). For about 15 minutes, Deuce peppered her speech with “this squall will pass,” between words, in the middle of sentences, under her breath until the crowd wasn’t even consciously aware of it being said, and until, it did indeed pass. I will never knock mantras and positive affirmations again.
Around the rink, coaches pushed hunched over derby girls who, in turn, were mopping dry towels over the wet mess. Others jumped up with brooms and swept all rain remnants away. Girls raced onto the track, the jam whistle blew and we were back in business.
Before moving on to the after party, I noticed a photo frenzy taking place in one of the back corners of the rink. It struck me as unusual, as most of the post-bout photo fanfare takes place mid-rink. Upon investigation, I came across the raison d’être. Apparently actor Matt Damon was in the house. According to rink gossip (and judging by the black and blue T-shirt he was sporting), Matt has family connections to the Hellcats. However, and to the delight of our ladies, he humbly requested an autograph from our Head Coach, Dita, and our Team Captain, Viva Violence!
My guess? As in the words of Derby Pope, God was happy.
For more amazing photos of last Saturday’s bout, Battle of the Saints, visit Kenji Jacklio Fukudome’s online photo album of the event at: www.moshimoshikenji.com