It is a real schlepp from Sonoma to Ukiah…….about 90 miles.
And yesterday was our hottest day of the year, a most unusual 105 degrees as recorded by my thermometer in the shade.
And there was so much great skating and Derby on live streaming that I spent too much time watching; I don’t know if it is because it is tournament play or whatever, but the games were all fabulous. And last night I wanted to watch the very much fun TXRD.
But I had promised and re-confirmed that I would come to Ukiah for the Coalition Collision Tournament; besides they are a Brown Paper Ticket customer, so I had 1. Jewish guilt, 2. Roller Derby guilt, and 3. Brown Paper Tickets guilt. And what would it be like in Ukiah in a non-airconditioned fairgrounds building?
So I froze some Brita water, put on a Rollercon (circa 2008) tee shirt and headed north, leaving at 6 PM for the 8 PM headline match for the day: Hellazone versus 707 (our area code).
When I got to the fairgrounds I saw the main attraction that night in front of the grandstand was auto racing, so I didn’t get too excited about the full parking lot…..just meant it was further for me to walk in the high temperature.
Ukiah is a city of about 15,000 in Mendocino county, one of the great areas in our state. The coast towns (Mendocino, Ft Bragg etc) have spectacular rock formations on the Pacific and must be visited in your lifetime. Ukiah is just to the south of the start of the big trees (what is left after the lumber barons), and not far from Humboldt county, where our biggest (and illegal) pay crop is grown.
Well, they had my credential at the door (so there!), and I walked in to a surprisingly cool building which normally served as the place where the Mendocino team trained. There were two teams warming up (I loved it; they were actually doing a pace and not just bobbing up and down – damn, there he goes again). There were several hundred in this compact arena and I was led by my gracious host(esses) to the announcer’s table, where I was about to do something I had not done much in the past forty years, play by play.
This was not my first trip to the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. When I ran the IRDL we sold games to fairs around the country, and this fair was great……we set up the banked track in front of the grandstands on the dirt racing surface with sheets of homesote under the track. not ideal, but the better-than 3000 fans loved the game, the skaters – not so much.
So at 8 PM sharp we began. And I announced traditional Roller Derby style, augmented by my lovely co-announcer. Didn’t scream into the mike (worst thing ever), called all the action that was going on on the track; called fans attention to the pack, what everyone was doing, great moves by the jammers, and whatever it is we used to do to keep the fans involved…..during lulls, a few Derby facts and history (everyone is always blown away when I mentioned the largest Roller Derby crowd in history, the 50,114 fans on September 15, 1972 at White Sox Park in Chicago, and why nobody in Roller Derby ever wore the number 1 on a uniform after 1937).
But the game made it easy for me. They flew from the line at the start and that is how the whole game went. The play of the men and women was indistinguishable; the players knew and practiced their roles, and it was a bit upsetting to me to see huge guys doing all they could to keep the smaller women jammers from going out, but I fell in love with 707 jammer 247 (no names here, it would be just too hard for me) who just kept getting knocked on her butt and bounced back time and time again, and then swooshed out and got her points.
The skill these players showed, getting in and out of the pack, the absolute absence of lag time, the fans on the edge of their seats (pumped on by an announcer telling them how great this game was,,,,,and it was). and full tilt jam after jam…these were skaters who had played in at least 3 games earlier in the day. I really couldn’t tell if it was because it was coed and that it might have created a different kind of energy, but I could have watched this style of game every night.
And don’t think it was close. 707 was trouncing Hellazona but unlike some games I have seen where team that is badly beaten just gives up (and that is in all the other sports too), Hellazona never stopped.
OK, one criticism: On the final jam, started with 8 seconds to go and with an over 200 point lead, the 707 jammer carried out a power jam for at least 20 points…….dammit, catch the pack, get your five and call it off!
One injury mishap; a Hellazona woman skater landed with a huge male skater on top and injured her ankle. She was going to get it x-rayed when she got back to Phoenix……and I did what every decent Commissioner would do: I took out my sharpie and autographed her ankle.
Afterwards I was able to talk to everyone and get some great photos…..quite a number of my “friends” were there, including one from the Santa Rosa County team who thanked my for my part in the Derby over 40 site (over 2400 members). And the referee with the wonderful flame ref’s shirt by Roll Models, which he can’t wear in a WFTDA sanctioned bout, and a tall smiling redhead who drenched in sweat, kept saying “I love Roller Derby”.
And all of you out there please know I do to.
Photo Oly Roller Girls in a warmup pace……by David Wood, Photographer…………color photo of coed Derby: D. E. sign photographer.