Search

Some Nerd Girl

Some Like It Nerdy

Category

Barb

5 Reasons Roller Derby is (Surprisingly?) a Game for Nerds

There are a lot of sports out there, with different qualities that some find appealing, and others don’t. To be honest, I hated them all. When I was in the kid soccer league, I was the one sitting out in the field ripping daisies out of the ground and wondering what the snack would be at half time.

I had my priorities in order.
I had my priorities in order.

To this day, I haven’t made (or prevented) a single goal in soccer.  In High School I was part of the marching band. I went to every football game for four years… and I couldn’t tell you a single rule or strategy.

Do we want the blue or the green team to win??
Do we want the blue or the green team to win??

I managed to prevent one goal in a roller hockey game in high school, but was promptly intimidated into letting the Captain of the hockey team slip about 8 right past me. He decked a teammate right in front of me, and I was disinclined to be next. Sports? Sports are just not my thing.

Or so I thought.

One day, in college, a friend slammed into a seat in college, while simultaneously yanking up the leg of her jeans and revealing the gnarliest bruise and shouting “DUDE! I joined a ROLLER DERBY team!” Roller derby? Never heard of it before. But I did like to to skate… and that bruise looked pretty exciting.

What is this magical, mystical place?
What is this magical, mystical place?

It took me 8 years, 4 cities, and 2 near misses before I finally got a team of my own. Since then, I have learned a lot about sports, my own surprising athleticism, and above all, that roller derby is definitely for the nerds. Here’s 5 reasons why.

#1 – The Subculture

First, derby has a great subculture. Many teams are taking on more serious tones as the game struggles to be legitimized by the mainstream sports world, but even the most serious teams refuse to let go of some of the pageantry. Players are adorned in tattoos, stickered helmets, and a zydeco of brightly colored leggings.

Just another day at the office.
Just another day at the office.

Announcers may choose to wear more subdued attire, but the occasional viking helmet is to be expected. I’ve seen a male and female coach switch outfits at halftime- and that guy certainly knew how to work those heels! Not every team is going to feature glitter and tutus and torn up fishnets, and some reserve them for home-team games or scrimmages only…but you can usually tell a derby person by the stickers on their cars and their cultish love of cat-themed pants.

#2 – The Wordplay

Anyone even glancingly familiar with derby will tell you that the most satisfying part of derby is the kitschy names. From the beginning of the sport (in the 70s! Wow!) players have had great monikers like Luna Shovegood, Chewblocka, and my personal hero- Snot Rocket Science. A derby player recently got the chance to be a real-life hero and chase down a purse snatcher; unfortunately the thief heeded her threat, (“I can outrun you. Give it up.”) and robbed the world of the chance to see her live up to her namesake – Ima B.Choazz.

We also can't get enough memes.
We also can’t get enough memes.

Player names aren’t the only great opportunity for word play. Some of the strategies get special treatment too. Coaches get to yell out plays with insane names like Eat The Baby, Soul Crush, and Bush Push. It can be confusing for the audience, but it’s also very confusing for opposing players too, which is kind of the point.  Teams can be named pretty much however you like – the best team in the world, New York’s team, bears the amazing name of the Gotham Girls. My team, the Flood City Sirens, pays homage to our city’s penchant for devastating floods, as well as a nice tip of the hat to the Greek Sirens that lead men to their deaths. What can I say? We like the imagery.

#3 – The Gearheads

Oh man, the GEAR. So many fun things! Skates! Helmets! Wheels! A rainbow of colors, hardness; all manner of heights and sizes and widths. Equipment to fit every budget, every uniform, customization in nearly every way. Check on a derby group online and you’ll see a myriad of people asking “Which skate is best for X” or “Can anyone recommend good wheels for…” and for every time that question is asked, a dozen gearheads will come out to discuss the pros and cons, in elaborate and helpful detail.

They're just... so... pretty!
They’re just… so… pretty!

Some gearheads are even lucky enough to own their own skateshops and write blogs about gear; and the companies who make that gear are usually generous enough to share freebies so that they’ll be reviewed. Hey Rollerbones… let’s talk, shall we?

#4 – The Stats

If you’re a math nerd, Derby can be a breeding ground for great stats. Personal and game stats are calculated for nearly every game played, including how many points scored, by whom, how long people spend in the penalty box, etc. It’s an insanely useful tool for players and teams to be able to see on paper how well they’re playing the game.

Team rankings are even more fascinating. There is a very interesting (and more than a little confounding) way that the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association ranks their teams. Wins are usually good things, but since the algorithm bases the ranking on points, a close win can have a similar effect to rankings as a huge loss. Websites like FlatTrackStats.com can even take the win history of two different teams and compare who will win and who will lose, even predicting how the point spread will come out. (We may only have a 6% chance of winning… but we have a 94% chance of having fun!)

There are even pretty, pretty charts and data graphics!
There are even pretty, pretty charts and data graphics!

#5 – A Culture of Strong Women   

The strength of the women in this sport is the most important part of all this madness. While higher level players and higher level teams may have their own trainers, the number of players who started out that way is basically zero. Skaters start out as “fresh meat” and have to build their skills from scratch. Every skater has to face their own inner demons and insecurities, and come out stronger.

Ever gym with your skates on? Yea, we're hardcore.
Ever gym with your skates on? Yea, we’re hardcore.

Every derby girl I met is a Buffy, a Princess Leia, a Hermione. Many of my teammates had never skated before, and watching them go through the journey of learning how to go backwards, of how to do lighting-fast stops and spins, it’s pretty amazing to watch.

Shit's about to go down.
Shit’s about to go down.

When I started derby, I couldn’t even run two miles in 20 minutes. I had never done a burpee or a squat. Now I go to the gym and lift heavy things, some heavier than my teammates. I found a strength in myself I never knew I had, and I am thrilled when I have the opportunity to help others find that strength too.  Out of all the cool and nerdy things about derby, the strength people can find in themselves is probably the most. Just like every superhero, every derby player has their own origination story.

Together we are unstoppable!
Together we are unstoppable!

There’s a lot of neat things about derby. Whether you like the glitz and glam, the ridiculous puns, or finding something inside that you didn’t know exist, there’s one thing I can say for sure – Roller Derby is where the cool kids, and the nerds, are one in the same!


Barb2Barbie O’Havoc has been considered a nerd since the first time she pissed someone off for having a weird opinion. Since then, she’s been spending her time indulging in the surprisingly expensive habits of reading trashy vampire novels and hitting people while playing roller derby. Both of her main hobbies have led to a love of terrible puns, much to everyone’s dismay.

Barbie O’ also loves coffee and local restaurants, and occasionally rambles about both on the Johnstown Food Blog.

Flood City Sirens photography courtesy of Neil Briggs Photography, and Fausey Photo.

Con Job

Photograph by Brian Malfant

‘Con Job’ is part of a multi-post series where the writers of Some Nerd Girl share their convention stories – whether they be good, bad, or ugly!

Monster Mania is a horror convention in New Jersey that introduced me in to the world of conventions – in a less than conventional way. My first con experience was as a model in an attempt to recruit extras for an independent zombie flick that never actually happened. Back in 2006, cosplay wasn’t quite the culture it is today, so seeing zombies wandering abut in 50s garb was a pretty unique treat. A startling number of people wanted pictures of being bitten.

Thanks, Walking Dead. Now it's NORMAL.
Thanks, Walking Dead. Now it’s NORMAL.

The next year, our friends were working on getting a production and prop replica business off the ground. While my friends were running around as Sexy Evil Ash and Zombie Wolverine and Spider-Man, I opted to keep to the booth running and sell the various replicas and curios we had brought with us. Pirate Aztec Gold, a bust of Leatherface, even a replica of the possessed phone from Nightmare on Elm Street were all yours for a price.

The Ghoul School had actually done a great job making these props – which were promptly sold and then autographed by people who had been in the movie. By Sunday, I was tired and Sexy Evil Ash (aka Peaches) was tired of running around. We’d hardly spent any time together that weekend, so when our “boss” announced he was going to take over the booth so we could actually enjoy the convention, we were delighted. We told him we were going to go over and check out the table with the guys from The Devil’s Rejects – Sid Haig and Bill Moseley. “Yea, well, go give ‘em backrubs and have fun,” he joked.

These guys.
These guys. Sid left, Bill right.

Peaches and I looked at each other, mulled over the thought, and, for some reason, concluded; “Yea, let’s totally do that!”

And so we did. First, we went to Bill Mosely. Because the guy who plays Otis Firefly is probably not terrifying at all, right? And he wasn’t. Actually, he was wearing a kimono-style silk robe.

How could we do this? We decided to go with Rule #1 of How To Do Things You Are Probably Not Allowed To Do – act legit. We grabbed a few of our friends’ flyers and headed towards the signing rooms. Admittedly, our execution was not perfect. It started with a hesitant and stumbled suggestion, complete with nervous head-scratching and foot shuffling. “We’re… uh… we’re with one of the vendors? We wanted to, y’know, offer the signers, a, uh… a back rub? To say thanks for coming.”

Bill Moseley shrugged and said “Cool, let’s do it.”

My approximate reaction.
My approximate reaction.

At first there was a totally panicked, wide-eyed moment of amazement. Did that just happen? Did he, this totally famous and terrifying monster, agree to a back rub? In a silk robe? In a second, Peaches was behind the table and going to town on his shoulders. There were a few attempts at chitchat, and the occasional person came up for an autograph and Peaches would duck out of the way. After a few minutes, Peaches announced she was done and that we appreciated meeting him. He held out a $20 bill and offered it to her. Blushing, she said she couldn’t accept it, we were doing it for free!

But she’d love if he gave her a signature, if that was ok?

Bill promptly picked up his sharpie, signed the $20, and handed it to her.

Did that really just happen??
Did that really just happen??

After that, we fled to the smoking area outside. Giddily puffing and smoking away the nervousness, we recapped the whole thing, looked at the pictures I had snapped, and completely geeked out. Once the nerves went away, we paused.

Could… could we do it again?

If one person was totally cool with it… would the others be as well?

Turns out, celebrities *love* back rubs. While waiting in line to talk to Sid Haig, I stared at an adjacent table. There, beside a very polite and bored assistant, was the one person I’d wanted to meet all week. Could I do this? I sidled up beside the assistant and slipped her a flyer. “We’re with the Ghoul School Production table. We’re offering back rubs to the signers? I didn’t want to interrupt…” I trailed off, looking at the line of eager folks waiting for autographs. The assistant assured me that she’d pass the flyer along.

A moment later I heard the most amazing, smoky, intrigued voice of Jason Mewes say, “Really? Where is she?”

This glorious bastard!
This glorious bastard!

In a flash, I was looking at Jay Mothaf*cking Mewes, explaining the free awesomeness we were providing. A moment later, I was touching one of my gods, and he liked it. By this point, Peaches was attacking the massive stature of Sid Haig, who was practically asleep at her touch, and we were gleefully snapping pictures of each other whenever we had to step aside so a fan could get a picture. Finally, I knew I had to be the best-best friend a gal could have, and help out my homie.

So I say, “Listen, Jay, I give good back rubs. But Peaches over there? She’s an artist.” Jason happily agreed to have her come show him her skills. By the time she was done, he was basically a puddle on the floor.

What was really interesting was the way different celebrities reacted. Many offered us free autographed pictures – even a few whom we had offered back rubs to but declined. Some acted as if us offering back rubs was the very height of rudeness. I even gave a back rub to a production manager, who had been feeling a little left out at the attention of the celebrity whom he had accompanied. It was a story for the ages – two college kids pretending to know what the hell they were doing when really it was all almost a total scam and a way to meet celebrities without having to wait in line.

What I considered our level of cleverness at the time.
What I considered our level of cleverness at the time.

The absolute best result of our mostly-unauthorized solicitations, however, was the one day at a comic convention 2 years later.

Peaches was wandering about, again in her Sexy Evil Ash costume, when out of nowhere a voice cries out, gravelly but urgent, “PEACHES!” Confused, she looked around for the originator of the ruckus. And there he was, was Jason Mewes, frantically waving at her. “I NEED A BACK RUB!”


Barb2Barbie O’Havoc has been considered a nerd since the first time she pissed someone off for having a weird opinion. Since then, she’s been spending her time indulging in the surprisingly expensive habits of reading trashy vampire novels and hitting people while playing roller derby. Both of her main hobbies have led to a love of terrible puns, much to everyone’s dismay.

Barbie O’ also loves coffee and local restaurants, and occasionally rambles about both on the Johnstown Food Blog.

Vampires – Love ’em or Leave ’em?

We here at Some Nerd Girl like to tackle the real problems of the day… like vampires – love ’em or leave ’em?

The world is losing its monsters, and it may not be a bad thing. The vampires that I grew up with- brooding, sexual, and tormented; they are truly a thing of the past. The modern era has no room for them. These days, the vampires we see may be tortured, but they’re tortured by petty pursuits and many are borne of their own machinations. “Vampire Politics” is a term seen in every new book these days. But why did vampires become boring? At the very base of the folklore, vampires have always served as cautionary tales. Folklorists have some pretty solid theories that vampirism is based on rabies breakouts. Unusual sightings of bats, a transition period before death, hypersexuality, and of course rabies is transmitted by being bitten. The tale of vampires told people the signs of a very dangerous disease. (Here’s a source if you’re on of those ‘fact checkers’: http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/18/4201878/sick-idea-how-rabies-spawned-vampires-and-zombies)

I am pretty sure Bella would not let THIS bite her.
I am pretty sure Bella would not let THIS bite her.

Even Stoker’s Dracula is a cautionary tale warning of the danger of foreigners. While that side of the story is maybe a little politically incorrect, if you consider the social and economic factors of the time the book was written, it makes sense. The fact that technology helps fight the danger is actually pretty neat. Mina’s typewriter and the use of a phonograph may not be cutting edge today, but the technology of the time was used to counter the darkest forces of evil. Let’s consider that for a moment, the fact that technology and logic beat out superstition and mythical creatures. We’ll come back to it later.

Hipsters may have the edge if Dracula ever makes a comeback.
Hipsters may have the edge if Dracula ever makes a comeback.

The most important part of the “old school” vampire stories, of course, is the temptation. The trade-off. What would you give for immortality? Would you flee from your friends and family as they try to introduce you to the pointy side of a stake? You’re a blood-hungry monster, after all. How will you stay sane for a millennia while seeing those around you wither and die; except for the ones you kill yourself? Would you trade in bacon for blood? Could you forsake the sun and a life in the light, for immortality in the dark? Even if you did, would it be worth it? Vampirism has always been a deal with the devil, and the devil always got his due.

Is now a bad time to mention humans are called the long pig..?
Is now a bad time to mention humans are called the long pig..?

In modern media, there are no cautionary tales to scare us in the night. We know all about bloodborne diseases, and sun allergies, and even the fact that skin shrinks in certain earths, making nails and hair look longer. In modern works, technology helps vampires. Who cares about sunlight when the only thing it will do is make you sparkle?! Even if you are one of those “bursts into flames when the sun rises” kind of vampires, well, these days you just need a witch to make you a fancy ring. Or get yourself some broad-spectrum 100spf. Why lurk in the dark worrying over the life you’re taking to feed on, when instead you could open up bottle of Bacon-flavored TrueBlood™?

Supposedly
Supposedly

Even the society of the undead has changed. With little exception, vampires have been outcasts and lone wolves. Dracula may have had a harem, but they’re barely mentioned and barely used. Lestat, the devil, tries endlessly to create bonds with other vampires, only to be spurned and betrayed again and again. Even when Rice’s vampires do manage to get along, eventually someone realizes what a terrible idea it is and sets the whole business up in flames. Even the maker of vampires in Rice’s books spends a lot of time setting them on fire.

“Not _again!_” he seemed to say….

On the other side of the fang, modern vampires own night clubs, they work as covens, they boss each other around and swear fealty to each other. Some get married, some work in gas stations. The vampires of today have integrated. Modernity, it seems, has finally made us the DietVampire.

Although... I'm pretty sure you have to diet to get a body like that.
Although… I’m pretty sure you have to diet to get a body like that.

All the eternity, but none of the torment or loneliness. Gone is the struggle to survive and not hate yourself. The modernization of vampires has been a massive tradeoff. These DietVampires really don’t have struggles very different from the ones that normal folk have. They own businesses, they call in to radio shows, they have creepy half-vampire children. All the hardship of olden days has been replaced with modern convenience, and authors have recognized that. To try to give us something to care about and make vampires scarier, the writers have turned to something different – politics and chess games. Usually there’s some sort of “let’s turn humans into livestock” angle to it, of course.

Modern vampires could learn from Supernatural's Leviathan, who are genuinely creepy.
Modern vampires could learn from Supernatural’s Leviathan, who are genuinely creepy.

There isn’t anything tantalizing to the plot lines of modern vampire stories, because even if they’re after our blood, they’re really not after our way of life. They’re not asking us to make a choice. While being livestock that may be scary to society, it isn’t very scary to a single reader. What makes vampires scary to people aren’t plans and games, it’s the temptation that they offer; the temptation to make that deal with the devil… unfortunately for horror fans, now the deal with the devil comes with 0% financing.

The verdict? You decide! Leave your thoughts in the comments!


Barb2Barbie O’Havoc has been considered a nerd since the first time she pissed someone off for having a weird opinion. Since then, she’s been spending her time indulging in the surprisingly expensive habits of reading trashy vampire novels and hitting people while playing roller derby. Both of her main hobbies have led to a love of terrible puns, much to everyone’s dismay.

Barbie O’ also loves coffee and local restaurants, and occasionally rambles about both on the Johnstown Food Blog.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑