Our 2011 KCRW Fan Poll Picks

Take a moment and vote in the KCRW 2011 Fan Poll. From experience, this poll won’t be open forever, so let them know your favorites, and they might even send you an unspecified goody for next season.

And now, a breakdown of the questions complete with my own answers… because I know you’re all foaming at the mouth to know what KC Carr thinks of this year’s Wolfpack.

Best Jammer 2011

Our pick:

Hall Balls

Yeah, what about it? She’ll put that finger in your face until you skate away with your tail between your legs. Actually, she won’t, and that’s one of the best things about Hall Balls as a competitor: she’ll dominate you utterly, but what you decide to do with that information is up to you. She is, at least on the track/in public view, one of the quietest, most unassuming ass-kickers on the roster, although my money’s on quite the opposite at the afterparty. I even remember some newbie asking me, at last season’s bout vs. Northwest Arkansas, who they should keep an eye on, and the first thing I said was, “Number 30, Hall Balls. She’s going to dominate, because that’s what she does.”

Best Blocker 2011

Our pick:


There’s the Irresistible Force, there’s the Immovable Object, and then there’s Eclipse. And she’s up against some pretty stiff competition in this category this year, particularly in the form of Evolution, whose overall athleticism really can’t be matched in this league. But there is no blocker like the defensive powerhouse from the Dreadnought Dorothys, and believe me, you don’t want to find out the hard way. Do what I do and cower behind a fan-made sign as she knocks the opposing skaters over like bowling pins, then cheer meekly as she goes by in the hopes that when (not if) her derby-rage triggers the gamma radiation coursing through her system, you won’t be caught in the crossfire. It’s worked for me so far.

Best Skater Name

Our pick:

Toto Basketcase

To make my brother laugh, I once made a list of the best and worst derby names I’d ever heard. And I don’t need to tell you that when they’re bad, they’re… bad. Head-shakingly bad, sometimes. But every now and again, you come across one that is so referentially clever that it takes a half-second to really get it all, and Toto Basketcase is one of those. The Dorothys’ team name, their uniforms, Toto, and the basket he’s carried in combine to form one of the most remarkable, creative derby names I’ve seen in my travels. These women sleep on their potential skate names for who knows how long, and sometimes, it really pays off.

Skater You’d Like to Have Land in your Lap

Our pick:

Extremely Frank

All right, look. I’m only human. And I told myself when I started KC Derby Digest last month that I would spend no time ruminating over the possibility of skaters in my lap. But Extremely Frank takes Looking Good on the Track to a new level, and since there’s a category for it, I don’t mind telling you so. The best part is that she’s also extremely versatile; I’ve seen her pivot, block, and jam over the past two seasons, and this year she also did quite a bit of bench coaching for the All-Star team with some pretty solid results. Extremely Frank is the best reason to sit during the bouts, because when you stand up, your lap disappears.

Skater You Consider the Crowd-Pleaser

Our pick:

Bella Fire

For some reason (possibly related to extraordinary talent and a million-dollar smile), Bella Fire has remained one of the (many) reasons the home crowd cheers the Wolfpack as loudly as it does. The Victory Vixens are a pretty formidable team on their own, but when you couple that with dynamic personalities and versatile talents like Bella, the results pretty much speak for themselves. Let’s hope this crowd-pleaser isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

So now…

We want to hear from you, derby fans. Once you’ve voted in the poll, come back and share your picks in the comments section. Am I nuts? Who’s the best jammer/blocker? Who would you like to have land in your lap?

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your First Derby Night (From a Fan’s Perspective)

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.

Ya think?

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).

Cat’s cute.

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?

2012 Dead Girl Derby

Dead Girl Derby announced their 2012 bout schedule this evening, and it is as follows; all dates are Sundays, and all bouts are held at River Roll Skate Center in Riverside, Missouri.

February 12
March 11
April 15
May 20
June 24
July 22
August 26

Do you know what this means, readers???

The May bout falls on my birthday. I get to spend my birthday with Dead Girl Derby. Can you think of a better present than that?

Well, I mean, ok…

3 Things I’d Love to See the Kansas City Roller Warriors Do (As Soon As Possible)

It should be obvious, even to a casual observer, that there are few things I love in life more than Kansas City Roller Derby, and it all started with the Kansas City Roller Warriors. My love affair with the flat track began in March 2010, and not only does it not subside during the so-called off-season, if anything, it only grows stronger as the miserable winter months give way to the early spring days that herald the return of derby season.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can’t be improved, though, and anyone on eight wheels will tell you the same thing. They’re always looking for ways to improve the fans’ derby experience, and with that in mind, here are three things that, if implemented relatively soon, would make them a very nearly perfect roller derby league. You can rebuff these and/or add your own in the comments section.

3. Make the merchandise available online.

Check out KCRW‘s merch page, and it tells you quite plainly, “Sorry, our merchandise is temporarily unavailable for purchase online.”

Which is the most interesting definition of the word “temporarily” that I’ve come across in quite some time, because that’s the same thing it said in November 2009 when I first discovered Kansas City roller derby.

I’ve offered this priceless feedback to KCRW before in online surveys and in person at the merch table, but even without me, there’s no way they don’t already know this is a problem. I’m sure it’s come up multiple times in committee, and who knows, they’ve probably tried rectifying it more than once as well. I’m not a web designer myself, but I know setting up this kind of e-commerce is relatively simple.

Not quite that simple.

If I had to guess, I would say the problem is not setting up the shopping cart on the web site. Much more likely, the problem is finding someone (or a team of someones) to monitor, fill, and ship the incoming orders year-round.

All I can tell you is… I would hate to think about how much money I would have spent by now on t-shirts (that I have to replace because I keep shrinking them), buttons (that I have to replace because they keep popping off my bag), and drink koozies (that I have to replace because I keep throwing them away with the can)… if only I could. The way it is now, I just have to hope I have the extra money laying around when the games roll around, and that kind of timing isn’t easy when you’ve got womens to keep happy. Yes, womens.

2. Do something with the sound system.

Before you get your hackles up, I realize there is next to nothing KCRW can do to change the sound system Municipal Auditorium comes equipped with. And I’ve seen derby in a number of other cities where the venues they used were sometimes nothing more than skating rinks, so I hesitate to light a torch and burn Municipal at the stake.

The problem is that the sound system in the arena we use is absolutely horrible. If you’re not sitting on one particular side (where there are no seats except in the balcony), you’re not going to understand a word the announcers say. It’s almost as though only half of the speakers are even on, and therefore only broadcasting in one direction; the (lousy) acoustics in the place then further distort sound that’s already bouncing off every available flat surface in the arena.

Imagine a bullet fired inside a room made of bulletproof walls… where the “bullet” represents “sound,” and the “walls” represent “your sanity.”

This means the announcers’ activity on the mic is incomprehensible from three of four walls in the place. It actually just amounts to a very loud, very constant background noise that sounds less like a sporting event and more like a humpback whale migration as heard through the drive-through speaker box at Del Taco… as heard through a cochlear implant.

And here to demonstrate…

The only way to deal with this annoyance would be to either find a different venue — which again, I would have serious reservations about — or, much more appealingly, simply limit the announcing to end-of-jam scoring/stat updates, instead of the usual (constant) play-by-play.

Or, if they could, get someone to turn on all the speakers.

1. Spread out the talent a little more evenly.

That almost sounds dirty.

But truthfully, as much as I will never, ever miss a KCRW game unless I’m offshore somewhere, it’s getting more and more difficult to deny that the house games are awfully predictable. Here’s how it goes:

  • The Dorothys will always win;
  • The Vixens will beat everyone but the Dorothys;
  • The Susans will only beat the Knockouts;
  • The Knockouts will always lose.

There’s only been one exception to this in the two years I’ve been a season ticket holder, and I wasn’t even there to see it; it was at the 2010 Rink of Fire, when the Knockouts squeaked out a last-second victory against my Susans. And even though I’m hardly an insider, I can’t help but think that the reason the games are so easy to predict is because most of the promising new recruits keep getting drafted to the same one or two teams.

Pictured: the Dreadnought Dorothys.

Understand, that’s not an insult. To anyone. But I have never seen the Dorothys lose a game; six straight years of house championships has to tell you something, and it can’t simply be that they train harder than everyone else. I just don’t buy that. Honestly, there’s plenty I don’t know here — the recruitment/drafting process(es), who gets priority, and so forth. I just know what I see on the track, and on the track, it’s a rare day that I can’t tell you in advance who’s going to win. That means there’s an imbalance somewhere.

But more importantly, it also means that the overall derby experience is less fun than it could be. I’m not sure I have the cardiac wherewithal to handle twelve nailbiting, down-to-the-last-jam bouts every single summer, but I could handle a few — and right now, we’re getting almost none. I will say that the Knockouts are showing a level of improvement that will very soon overtake the Black Eye Susans, if they’re not careful, in the above win/loss breakdown, so that’s at least something.

By that same token, though, the gaps between the other teams seem to be getting bigger all the time. The Dreadnought Dorothys are only getting better, particularly with the return of Hall Balls to full-time status this past season, as well as some very promising new faces (Flying Monkey, anyone?).

So tell me — how long would you be a season ticket holder if you knew the outcomes of all the games in advance?

The answer: FOREVER. No, I’m not kidding. Did you think I was kidding?


(Outdated team photo courtesy of kcrollerwarriors.com)

2011 Kansas City Step-Up Walk & Festival

Several of the Dead Girls are participating in the 2011 Kansas City Step-Up Walk & Festival to benefit Down Syndrome research next Saturday, October 29.

“The Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City (DSG) serves over 1100 families and partners with 22 hospitals, 45 school districts, and countless service providers in Kansas and Missouri. We invite you to Step Up and support our members and the work of the DSG by participating in one of the largest celebrations for Down Syndrome in the nation. Our 2010 walk was a smashing success thanks to 300 teams, 6,800 walkers, and 400 volunteers!

Each step you take and every dollar you raise will help the DSG continue to provide vital programs and services offering educational and social support to people with Down Syndrome, their families, and the professionals who serve them. Important work waits to be done to enhance research, education, and advocacy programs. Your support is critical in making these programs a reality.”

You can donate online here, or register to walk with Dead Girl Derby at this fantastic event. We’ll see you there!

All that's fit to digest from the world of Kansas City roller derby!