Category Archives: Personal

Support Pippi’s Pack

The great Pippi Strongblocking of the Shotgun Sheilas is well on her way to defeating breast cancer. The fight has gone well. We’ve spent so much time over the last several months getting nothing but good news — followed by no news, which is the same thing — that it would be easy to assume at this point that the fight is over. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

As of press time, we’re told that Pippi still has several rounds of post-op chemotherapy left to finish, and as physically taxing as that is, the financial burden is even scarier, in many ways. The Kansas City roller derby community has done an outstanding job of coming together and supporting Pippi during this incredibly trying time, and now, KC Derby Digest is asking for your help in finishing this fight for good and all.

Effective this morning, and throughout the month of October, we are renewing our declaration of war against breast cancer by asking for your donations to help Pippi face down the enormous expense involved with her treatment and eventual recovery. We’ve set up a fundraising campaign through GoFundMe, and we’re hoping to raise $2,000 in the next 30 days or so.

Click to see the GoFundMe donation page for Pippi’s Pack.

So don’t be shy. Anything and everything helps. You can attach your name to your donation, or you can donate anonymously. GoFundMe doesn’t have us under a deadline, so if you choose, you can donate a little now and a little later. You’ve certainly got options. The sooner we reach our goal, though, the sooner we can provide a bit of relief for someone who has made such an amazing difference in our lives and given so much to the roller derby community in Kansas City.

Breast cancer should’ve known better. You don’t mess with Kansas City roller derby and skate away unscathed, and that goes double for someone like Pippi Strongblocking. By the time this fight is over, breast cancer will be scared of us, not the other way around.

So thank you. Thank you for your generosity and for the good that you do. You really have no idea the difference you can make in someone’s life. If Pippi hasn’t taught us anything else, she’s certainly taught us that.

Dr. Awesomesauce

KC Derby Digest welcomes guest writer Anya Neezenbeg of Dead Girl Derby‘s Pink Ladies, the Lovely Lethals. Anya was a good friend and longtime associate of Joe Schulz, a.k.a. Dr. Awesomesauce, referee for Dead Girl Derby that the derby community lost to tragedy this past weekend.

All photos provided to KC Derby Digest by Anya Neezenbeg; photo credit indicated where necessary.

Photo by Dan Thomas.

There are so many things to say about Joe Schulz, Dr. Awesomesauce and Deerhead Joe. My heart hurts every time I think of him now. The first day I met him before he began playing derby, before DGD was even DGD, he was just a hard core punk rocker. He was scary to look at with his piercings and Mohawk, but on the inside, his heart was full of the sincerest love.

Joe was a one of a kind. I have never met anybody that could make me so angry and so happy all at the same time. We would fight like brother and sister, but there was still always a huge respect for one another. I respected his work ethic and his loyalty. We met before DGD was the DGD it is today, when there was a handful of girls and even fewer refs. We would butt heads on so many things because both of us had such strong opinions; it got worse when we started to work together full time [at Cronin’s]. No matter how much we fought, at the end of the day, we would find a balance. If we weren’t fighting, we would always tell each other that we loved each other. He was willing to do anything for anybody. He had the biggest heart and loved so hard.

He was also one of these smartest individuals I have ever known. When he stopped skating, it was extremely sad for him. He truly loved this sport. He loved how it empowered women and gave them such a strong voice. He very much wanted to come back to derby, but he had demons that got in the way of that.

Above all, Joe would never utter a bad word about anybody. He always said such positive things about everybody — even me, even when we were on bad terms. It saddens my heart that the girls this season weren’t able to experience Joe’s kindness and helpfulness at practices. I wish everybody could have known him like the vets knew him.

Like brother and sister, we had two families: we had our Cronies family and our derby family. Both sides of our families thought the world of Joe and loved him more than he will ever know.

His daughter, his blood family, and his two step-families are in a world of despair from his loss. I hope he is at peace and knows how truly missed he is.

I will never forget you, Joe. I love you.

— Anya Neezenbeg, Dead Girl Derby

Photo by Brandi Wilson.

The KCRW Spring 2012 Boot Camp

What does it take to get me out the door by 8:00 on a Saturday morning? Damn right — Kansas City roller derby.

Winnwood Skate Center is up north somewhere. I’d only been there once for the Bloody After-Valentine’s Day Bout in February, and since I would need to check in by 9:00, the drive from Blue Springs meant leaving the house no later than eight. I hate being late, I hate being rushed, and when it comes to derby, I don’t want to miss a gem.

So yeah, I’m not much of a morning person. And on this morning, I was lookin’ the part.

But on this particular weekend, the Kansas City Roller Warriors All-Stars were hosting a two-day boot camp at Winnwood, and after a brief e-mail exchange with the amazing Annie Maul, I had been cleared to sit in, take pictures, and stay well out of the way at all times. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

I walked in and immediately saw my three-year derby crush sitting at the un-crowded check-in table. Shit. I was not looking my best on this morning, I may have mentioned. Fortunately, she was further down the alphabet, and I stopped at the A-D station to let them know I’d arrived, as Ms. Maul had requested. After introducing myself to the ladies at my end of the table, and after receiving a good-natured chiding from my crush about the Dead Girl Derby t-shirt I was wearing, I ventured onto the floor to get my camera set up and poised for the atrocious lighting conditions at Winnwood.

Right off the bat, I saw skaters from Des Moines, Capital City, NW Arkansas, River Valley, Mid-Iowa, and Wichita. Then came CoMo, No Coast, Omaha, Green Country, the Oklahoma Victory Dolls, and several members of Kansas City’s own Dead Girl Derby league. I even saw a t-shirt that said Team Scotland, for what that’s worth. And this is when it really hit me (if it hadn’t already) — these ladies were coming from all over the country to learn from our Kansas City Roller Warriors All-Stars, and although I was in no way surprised, I couldn’t help but feel awfully proud of the league I’ve come to love so much over the last three seasons. The attendance alone at this boot camp was a testament to the respect Kansas City has earned throughout the WFTDA.

And most of these women weren’t exactly lightweights in the sport themselves. Take Temptress Storm of Green Country, certainly one of the most graceful, agile jammers in the South Central Region — but so serious about improving her game even still that she made the trip all the way from Tulsa to take a lesson from KCRW.

And that means twice the awesome.

And speaking of awesome, one of the first things I did was take a look around at which All-Stars I’d be spending the day with. Annie Maul was obviously one of the coordinators of the event; she took the mic first thing and went through some of the workshops the ladies would be participating in. The legendary Bruz Her would be teaching Cones & Hitting, Ruth Canal took us through Edges and Stops, Track Rat took Jammer Strategies, of course, and the lovely Shady O’Dread wore herself slick with four straight sessions of Plyometrics.

I didn’t know where to begin. It really didn’t matter, most likely, I wouldn’t be able to pair up the photos with most of the sessions anyway, so I did the best I could to get the best shots I could without getting in the way, and without putting the flash in any one group’s face for too long.

Also, I stayed away from Plyometrics. It looked entirely too much like an aerobics class, and the last thing most ladies want is some guy running around that scene with a camera.

The second rotation included sessions like Walls & Blocking with Trauma and Matron Malice; Wall Busting with Track Rat; Blocker Strategies with Annie Maul and Bruz Her; and Being a Good Teammate with Extremely Frank. (Special thanks to Annie Maul for the complete list of sessions I didn’t see fit to write down myself.)

At one point, Annie got on the mic and informed everyone of a minor snafu that had taken place earlier in the week: somehow, Winnwood Skate Center had double-booked the facility from 1:00 to 4:00 that afternoon, and that meant that everyone on wheels would have to vacate the premises for those three hours. We would then resume the camp from 4:00 to 6:00, and during this three-hour downtime, Bruz Her and Track Rat were hosting an afternoon barbecue at their house, which was only a short distance from Winnwood. It wasn’t immediately clear who, beyond the boot campers, was invited to the shindig, and I wasn’t about to invite myself, but I figured I could call it a day at 1:00 if I had to, because I’d already gotten dozens of pretty decent shots, even in the horrible lighting.

A few minutes later, I was making the rounds between sessions when Annie Maul rolled up.

Annie: “KC, are you coming to the barbecue?”

KC: “Um.. I don’t know, am I?”

Bruz Her: “Just say yes.”

KC: “Looks like I’m in.”

I nearly peed myself. You have to understand, I was thrilled enough to be spending the day with all these phenomenal skaters, but to be invited over to have lunch with roller derby royalty on top of it was more than I could have possibly hoped for this weekend. Once at the house, Rat fired up the grill and beer-lessly cooked up a plethora of burgers and hot dogs that Bella Fire took the liberty of distributing to all the hungry attendees (“Bella’s got the meat! Who wants the meat?!”). I believe Shady O’Dread brought the pasta salad [citation needed], and Extremely Frank regaled us with the tale of how she acquired approximately eighteen varieties of pickles whilst doing her portion of the barbecue shopping.

“And MATH tells us that you can never have too many pickles.”

So I’m sitting in the kitchen, going through one burger after another, watching a Westie/Jack Russell mix named Derby (that Frank referred to as “a Roomba with legs”) patrol the floors for remnants of buns, meat, or chips inadvertently dropped, and Frank asks me the $64,000 question: what was it that inspired you to start KC Derby Digest in the first place?

I’m never prepared for this question. As many times and I’ve been asked that, it’s nearly impossible to explain, even to those whose love of the sport exceeds my own. But I did my best: because it’s the greatest sport in the world, and the mainstream media all but completely ignores it outside of a twice-yearly “community” segment in which an anchor from Fox 4 laces up and pretends to skate a few flailing laps before taking a minor booty bump and falling directly on her ass. And for many reasons — not the least of which is that KCRW is really the only winning team Kansas City has — I figured there was no reason, in this age of self-publishing, that I couldn’t take what I’d learned and build a web site around the four (soon to be five) derby leagues this fine city has to offer. I saved up for some nice camera equipment, registered a domain, and here we are.

And “here we are” is right, because look at it: a few short months ago, I was running around the Show-Me Der-B-Q with a point-and-shoot I paid $200 for in 2007, and on this day, I wound up sitting in Bruz Her and Track Rat‘s living room watching bout footage from last year’s Continental Divide and Conquer with the First Ladies of Kansas City roller derby. It really, honestly, doesn’t get any better than that. As much as everyone seems to love KC Derby Digest, it’s done more for me than I could ever tell you.

Four o’clock rolled around, and we hit Winnwood again for the last two hours of boot camp sessions for the day: Quick Feet/Footwork with Ida Know Squat; Transitional Jamming with Track Rat; Goal Setting with Shady O’Dread; and Building Mental Toughness with Annie Maul. Afterwards, Bruz and Rat needed all of 20 seconds to convince me to join the group at Sidepockets for one (1) beer only, after which everyone’s across-the-board plan was to go home and collapse in a heap. Rat actually weaseled a second beer somehow, and many of us called it a night much earlier than we probably would have on a typical Saturday.

The next morning’s sessions consisted entirely of scrimmages. Two tracks were laid out on the sprawling Winnwood Skate Center floor, and the four teams faced off in a rotation similar to that of the previous day.

Some more successfully than others. Bam!

It was an absolutely phenomenal weekend, and I can’t thank the Kansas City Roller Warriors enough for allowing me the privilege of joining them. I’ve heard nothing but good things from the ladies who attended, and everyone was especially appreciative of Bruz Her and Track Rat for the enormous hospitality they showed the group on no more than a couple days’ notice. The barbecue they organized in practically no time was a wonderful gesture, and I personally couldn’t be more grateful for being included. It was fantastic to get that inside look at a boot camp run by one of the most formidable leagues in all of women’s flat track; I met some very friendly, talented, inspiring women, and I came away with a couple of new derby crushes I really didn’t need, so thanks for that too.

The full photo album from the KCRW 2012 Spring Boot Camp is available for your perusal in KC Derby Digest‘s Shutterfly album; just click on the Pictures & Videos tab near the top to find photos from this and many other derby-related events over the past three seasons.

Many, many thanks again to all the phenomenal ladies who organized this spring’s boot camp, and we certainly hope to join you at the next one.

Forever Fearleaders

One of the most common questions I get about roller derby from a fan’s perspective is: how do you decide who your “favorite” teams are? I understand cheering for the home team, but aren’t the house teams pretty much all home teams?

Well, yeah… but there’s more to it than that. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for my part, I just let the teams come to me. That’s literally all there is to it — I show up, watch some derby action, and my mind picks my favorites for me. Imagine what that was like at the Show-Me Der-B-Q when two of my favorite teams, Houston and Omaha, faced off on the last day. Minutes into it, I knew my heart was behind Omaha.

I remember perusing the KCRW site about three months before the 2010 season began. I’d never been to a bout before, I didn’t know any of the skaters, and at that point in time, I had no idea where my loyalties might lie. Based on the web site, the team photos, and unfathomably, the uniforms (which can have a remarkable effect on a fan’s psyche), I assumed intuitively that the Victory Vixens would be my favorites. Everything about them screamed, “We’re your team.”

And something about “standing at attention,” but anyway.

March 27, 2010 showed up, and I found that I loved the Vixens, all right… but before the first game was even over, my whole heart belonged to the Black Eye Susans. From an early stage, four little words altered the landscape of my derbytude and laid the foundation for my love of the greatest sport in the world, and those four words are BLACK EYE OR DIE.

With Dead Girl Derby, I thought it would work in much the same way, and for a while it did.

Until it didn’t.

I immediately latched on to the Royal Pains. For one thing, my alma mater’s colors are purple and white, so we’re off to a good start. Throw in strong leaders, skaters, and personalities like Dir-T Diana, Azz Catch-em, Dixie Danger, and top-scoring Poison Evie, and you’ve got America’s all-American midwestern team of all-Americans, America. (I don’t even know what that means.)

Meanwhile, as surely as my favorites reveal themselves over the course of the season, so do the villains — and this league’s villain team was, without question, the Fearleaders. I’ve no idea why; it’s not like any of them were rude, cocky, or showed poor sportsmanship. In fact, they hadn’t done anything. They didn’t even have anything in common with KCRW‘s dyed-in-the-wool villains, the Dreadnought Dorothys; at least the Dorothys’ villainy was justified by their iron-clad un-defeat-ability. By contrast, it seemed that the only team the Fearleaders could beat for the first half of the season was themselves.

But that was how I liked it, and the Fearleaders maintained their villain status in my mind for the better part of the season. I delighted in their consecutive losses, and much like the Kansas Jayhawks, I felt the irresistible urge to cheer for anyone who was playing against them. This included the Lovely Lethals, who pulled out a last-second win in game three that marked the very last time I ever Thought Pink. I was not necessarily a Lethals fan, but I couldn’t have been happier to see the Fearleaders go home winless yet again, particularly after such a nailbiting ending. Those are the worst.

So what the hell happened? Didn’t I say in a previous post that I wound up on their side? What the hell happened?

Well… they beat my favorite team. Wait, what?

I went into game five knowing there was no way the winless Fearleaders were going to beat my Azz-catching team of All-Americans. Regardless of the fight they’d put up against the powerful Lethals, an entire season (thus far) of coming up short would have to take its toll. And beyond that, I was pretty confident about the Pains’ ability to take them down, since they’d done it already.

But that’s not how it went. To their credit, the Fearleaders brought it to the track and left it on the track — and by the time it was over, they’d scored their first win of the season against Their Highnesses, the Purple Passion, the one team in Dead Girl Derby I’d give my left skate for, the Royal Pains. I was incredulous. Throw in the Deadly Sirens‘ first-ever loss at the hands of the Lethals that same night, and I went home less than enthused with roller derby for the first time ever. That’s because I’m a bad sport, you see.

Pictured: the opposite of me.

One of the good things about being “just” a fan is that strictly speaking, you’re not under any real obligation to show good sportsmanship. It’s a bit hypocritical, since sportsmanship is something I value so highly in a derby league, but since I’m a paying customer, I’ll cheer for (and against) anyone I want. And I wasn’t about to lose any sleep over the Fearleaders‘ win, but I was certainly in no mood to congratulate them on accomplishing what I’d considered impossible only three hours earlier.

The next morning, though, it was all I could think about. Twelve hours prior, I’d watched two dedicated, hard-hitting teams slugging it out on the track, but only one was really fighting for its dignity in the face of an entire season of losses; you can’t really overstate that part. Once they’d pulled out the win, all four teams were out on the track, hugging and butt-slapping (ok, I made that up) and congratulating the Fearleaders on their very first-ever hard-earned win. The level of camaraderie and straight-up friendship on display that night showed me, the Most Important Fan Ever, exactly what this league was made of: integrity, grit, guts, and massive… massive ladyballs. It takes a great deal of character to congratulate the underdog who just beat you 30 seconds earlier; the Dead Girls are certainly made of finer stuff than I.

As proud as I was of the Royal Pains for their extraordinary show of character, I was finally realizing that the Fearleaders, with their endless tenacity, dedication, and competitive spirit, were setting up shop in my heart whether I liked it or not. If the entire league could stand up in front of everyone and congratulate them on getting over that hump, then there’s no reason that shouldn’t be good enough for me. The Fearleaders didn’t lose another goddamn game all year, and I’ve been right behind them, cheering them on every inch of the way ever since — even at the Zombie Apocalypse, when they faced off (once again) against the Royal Pains, this time for third place. It was the first time Their Highnesses didn’t have me in their corner.

If you had told me six months ago that I’d be cheering for the Fearleaders against the Royal Pains before the season was over, I’d have said you were smokin’ banana peels. All things being equal, though, you may never see me at another Dead Girl Derby game wearing anything but the black and grey.

How I Met Dead Girl Derby

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.

Not this.

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.

Wait, second?

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.