One thing you will quickly discover is that there are few things on earth like your first bout night. The birth of your children will probably surpass this experience, but by that statement you understand how completely serious I am about this, the greatest sport in the world. There is nothing like it. Anywhere.
But you’ll need to be prepared, and there are a handful of things I wish I’d known prior to my first derby night (that occurred on Saturday, March 27, 2010, an event so burned into my memory that I remember the goddamn date). Following these five diamond-studded pieces of advice will ensure you make the most of your very first roller derby experience, and you will probably continue to employ these methods at future games in future seasons.
If you’re not local to Kansas City, a lot of this will still apply, just not the specifics, obviously.
5. Be smart about tickets.
The hell does that mean? Well, it depends on which league you’re seeing, but there is one important thing to remember: don’t use Ticketmaster.
I probably don’t need to explain why — by the time they’re done nickel-and-diming you with fees, fees, fees, they’ve nearly doubled the price of your ticket. So far, KCRW is the only Kansas City league that uses Ticketmaster, but even at that, you’ve still got options.
If you know any, you can contact your favorite derby girl for tickets; as I understand it, that’s the least expensive way to go. Here’s the thing, though: Municipal seats just a shade over 10,000 (including the “non-permanent” seating), and even though KCRW pulls in a pretty respectable crowd of a few thousand per game, they haven’t reached the point where they’re going to sell the place out (yet). And according to the web site, the box office opens two hours before doors on The Day Of. So get there when I do, buy your tickets at the window, and wait with me.
I’m a bit more tactful, promise.
With Dead Girl Derby, you can get tickets from the skaters, and you can also buy online with Brown Paper Tickets. They charge a fee or two, but nothing like Ticketmaster. I wouldn’t recommend buying tickets at the door, though, because they don’t let you until doors open, and well, that segues nicely into my next point…
4. Get there at least 30 minutes early.
Bare. ass. minimum.
And by that, I mean 30 minutes before the doors open, not 30 minutes before game time. Allow yourself extra time to park and walk to the venue, particularly if you’re not familiar with the area.
With KCRW, for instance, the doors open at six, so don’t even think about getting there past 5:30; seating is general admission, and if you get there much later than that, your seats will be crap. My secret? I get there at 5:00, and the place is empty. I’m always first in line.
Of course, you become That Guy, but whatever.
I didn’t do this at my first game, and we wound up standing in a line that snaked around the (rather large) foyer once or twice and finally ended somewhere near Cheshire, Connecticut where they have never even heard of roller derby. I understand they also don’t have rainbows or bacon, but I’ve never been there.
With Dead Girl Derby, the doors open at 5:30, but I’ve found that getting there at 5:00 doesn’t cut it; I get there at 4:30 because the line seems to form earlier. Also, the venue is much smaller, and as such, the good seats disappear more quickly.
And speaking of seating…
3. Sit in the crash zone.
The crash zone, the suicide seats, whatever your league calls them, that’s where you want to sit. Trust me on this. It’s always right next to the track, and everyone has to be over the age of 18 to sit there because you could potentially wind up with a derby girl in your lap. This could be the best reason to sit there.
Actually, the reason you want the crash zone is because, quite simply, that’s where the action is. This is another thing I failed to do at my first bout; we, for some damn reason, decided to sit up in the balcony seats where you can (admittedly) see every inch of the track. You’ve basically got an aerial view of the game the entire time.
But you’re so far removed from the action that you completely miss out on the electricity that comes naturally when you’re that up close and personal with a sport this intense. Why would you pass up a chance to literally feel the wind coming off the track as the skaters fly by, calling your name as their siren songs declare their undying love for you and only you? All right, I imagined that.
There may be actual seats in the crash zone, or you may be sitting on the floor. It matters not. If sitting on the floor hurts you the way it does me, bring one of those sporting event butt-pillows. But sitting anywhere other than the crash zone is a waste, in my opinion.
2. Be sure you have a little cash on you.
You may have to pay to park, and you’ll want souvenirs… t-shirts, buttons, stickers, and what not. Many times, they’ll be able to process plastic right there at the merch table, but you won’t know that until you get there (and it’s too late). Besides that, the lines for merch are kind of nebulous anyway, and you don’t want to spend too much time dallying while your card approves (or doesn’t).
Also, the concession stands at Municipal Auditorium seem to lose their ability to process plastic at random intervals, so if you get hungry and have no cash, you’d better hope you can snatch a stray toe stop before a derby girl notices. I know, gross. So bring some cash with you.
1. Don’t be shy.
As tough as the skaters look — and are — they’re not going to bite your head off if you ask for a picture. In fact, just the opposite. They appreciate the fans and our support for the league, and you will be positively shocked by how accommodating they are when it comes to tooly pseudo-paparazzi like me running around with a camera all night. Just be smart about it.
This probably isn’t the time.
Take all the pictures you want during the games — they won’t know the difference. You’ll see skaters rolling around before, after, and during games in which they’re not competing, and they’re pretty accessible. So if you’re inclined, let them know how much fun you’ve had, get a picture, and be on your way. They love hearing from the fans. Hell, sometimes they even stick around and sign autographs after the game.
Make it out to my Nana, she loves “the rollergames.”
Did I miss anything? What tips would you offer people coming to their first-ever derby night?