I remember once laughing out loud at the name “Dead Girl Derby” when my friend Jerry commented, “That doesn’t sound like much fun to watch.”
And admittedly, I was a bit cautious approaching the league in the beginning, almost skeptical, in a way. I discovered Dead Girl Derby the same way I found the Kansas City Roller Warriors — online. That’s really where the similarities end, but the fact remains, this side of two years ago, my surfing habits managed to lead me to one of my favorite things in the world, and indeed, the greatest sport ever invented. Do read on.
In the case of KCRW, I forget the exact sequence of events, but I do remember getting wind of Kansas City roller derby and Googling it; the rest is history. That was at the tail end of 2009, and the next season wouldn’t even begin until the following March, but I got online and bought season tickets immediately, without attending a single game. Some people think that’s nuts, like buying a movie you’ve never seen, but I already knew what I was getting.
I voraciously ate up my first season, even tripping up to Omaha to see an away game (the second game I ever attended, in fact); I only missed one game all year, and that was because I was on a cruise ship to Alaska. Shortly after the season ended, I stumbled across someone on Facebook (maybe even KCRW) who had “liked” an organization called Dead Girl Derby, which was based in Riverside and was apparently some kind of an upstart league I wasn’t familiar with. A quick tootle around their rather sparse web site didn’t tell me a whole lot except that they weren’t affiliated with KCRW, that they operated out of an organization called the Old School Derby Association (OSDA), and that they had taken special care to wait until KCRW‘s 2011 schedule had been posted before announcing their own. That told me something right there.
Once I’d made sure there were no conflicting dates (turns out the Dead Girls played on Sunday nights), I decided to give it a go. And as excited as I was at the prospect of getting twice the derby in the same season, I ruled out the possibility of season tickets sight unseen. In all fairness, KCRW seemed relatively established, playing all their games at Municipal Auditorium downtown (and Hale Arena in past seasons). By contrast, the Dead Girls held their bouts at a skating rink up north somewhere, about 30 miles from where I lived. At the time, Dead Girl Derby didn’t even have photos of their bouts on the web site, so all things considered, I was understandably skeptical about committing to an entire season without at least seeing what I was getting first.
The first game of the season was nuts. The crowd numbered nearly 600 fans (packed inside a skating rink, don’t forget) and garnered a news report on the local NBC affiliate — not bad for a league beginning only their second season.
That was news to me too: the Dead Girls’ debut season was already behind them and I hadn’t heard peep one about it. All I did know, as I was standing in a line that stretched to the back of the building, was that I needed to arrive about thirty minutes earlier for future bouts, because there’s nothing I hate worse than standing in line while all the good seats inside are being snapped up.
VIP seating is extra.
We’ll get to that in a minute. First, my only complaint.
In my opinion — and I know not everyone will share this sentiment — the rink at which the Dead Girls held their games was an absolute dump. It’s probably no worse than any other skating rink I’ve been to, but in those cases, I was actually skating, not trying to find a comfortable (or even clean) place to sit for three hours or so. I won’t name the venue or link to their web site, but suffice it to say that I eat before the games, not during, and I bring my own hand sanitizer.
Also, and this is the most unfortunate part, there really is no good place to sit. The crash zone is on the hard, filthy skating rink floor; there are actual seats on both ends of the track, but that limits visibility, and your only other options are the benches outside that little concrete wall that surrounds the rink itself. The set-up is just altogether bad, but then again, it is a skating rink. My fondest wish for Dead Girl Derby‘s third season is that they find a better venue. They certainly deserve it.
[ Insert rumor here. ] Yes, I’ve heard things.
Having said all that, let me be clear: I will never, as long as I can avoid it, miss another Dead Girl Derby game. I will have season tickets from now on, period.
I was immediately impressed with their skating ability. I had no idea what to expect, and yes, there have been the inevitable comparisons between them and KCRW, but that really isn’t the point. The games themselves are very competitive (even more so than the KCRW house games, actually), and in fact, they only got more competitive as the season went on. The sportsmanship the skaters display is incredible, and their willingness to accommodate fans by posing for pictures and being altogether awesome in person impressed me as well.
And wait till I tell you the story of how I began the season hating the Fearleaders… and then ended the season cheering them on against my favorite team. Believe me, no one was more surprised than I was.
Last I heard, Dead Girl Derby‘s 2012 season will begin sometime in February. We haven’t confirmed that and the schedule isn’t posted, so forget you heard it from me, because we try not to traffic in rumors. And here’s hoping for a new venue for the Dead Girls in 2012 that is much more suitable for derby, much cleaner, much larger, and much closer to civilization than Riverside.