LabRat started skating a good couple-some months ahead of me; my original plan was to be essentially the team mechanic, then wound up a non-skating official, and from there progressed into off-skates trainer, who would of course need to know how to skate in order to come up with the most effective workouts to keep the team safe, and from there naturally into my current incarnation as a zebra. I’ve only been on wheels for around 3/4 of a year at this point.
Suffice to say I am not (yet) the slickest ninja on the track, but I am improving at a steady pace. I’ve gone from barely being able to stand up without severe danger to my tailbone to… well, to last night’s practice.
Bampf! is by any objective measure one of the top three skaters, skills-wise, on the team. Who takes the top honors depends on the phase of the moon and the alignment of the stars, but her name comes from Nightcrawler and the signature onomatopoeia he makes as he teleports around. Bampf! similarly appears to teleport, hence… right, you get the jist. She’s also maybe 100lbs soaking wet, so it’s not like there’s a lot of mass to get up to speed when she opts to floor it.
Anyway. Last night, derby girls being addicts they are, decided on ONE LAST JAM! to end the practice. And since it was the last one, let’s do it going around the track the wrong way, or as they termed it, Australian Style. We had just enough skaters to keep an even number of blockers and a jammer per team, except one skater had already started gearing down in the process of addressing a problem with a skate.
There was a brief period of “Aww, c’mon!” and “Ok, who’s gonna jam for blue?” and so forth. No solution was presenting itself, so in the spirit of shits n’ giggles, I handed my whistle to one of the other refs and asked for the jammer panty.
Some of you are at this point thinking “Well there’s your first mistake.” Patience, Grasshopper.
So Bampf! and I lined up as jammers. We made sure everybody was on the same page that, no, he’s not a ref anymore, yes you can hit him, yes he’s going to try to score. I did not have high expectations, but I figured for a last what-the-hell jam, it should at least be fun.
The jam timer/pack ref called the 5 second warning, and looking forward through the pack, not only were the blue blockers lined up to do their job optimally and shut Bampf! down, but the green team seemed to be suffering a bit of confusion at the notion of a ref jamming and were way over with the blue team on the track. The whistle blew, and I swear it looked like the whole damn interstate was wide open in front of me and marked off specifically for my use.
One of my problems as a ref has been acceleration, when the pack suddenly decides that they need to be moving about 90mph after crawling along at a near-stop for a half lap. As it turns out, the same technique of “Oh shit they’re going to ditch me” acceleration I had been practicing at length for a couple weeks is remarkably similar to the “GO GO GO GO” plan jammers tend to employ. Nobody even touched me as I shot through what couldn’t even be called a hole so much as a gaping chasm, and two blasts off the jammer whistle were the sweetest sound I’d heard all night.
I got a decent lead out before my brain kicked over and said “Hey, just ’cause you’re lead, um, she’s still coming around y’know.”
Poured the gas back on right as Bampf! came out of the pack, and took an inertia-pushed line through the curve, which happily put me smack in her way and shoved her out.
I’d like to say that all the time studying the rules and watching for what goes wrong with skaters made me all sorts of ninja-awesome, but there may have been a few elbows that could have been called. On the flip side of the coin, her being used to skating against girls, who have a naturally lower center of balance, Bampf! was throwing more than a few low blocks trying to get around.
This is where it stopped being a jam and turned into a Roman chariot race. Wheels grew spikes, horses were turned carnivorous, the opposing charioteer was whipped… but through it my ass stayed a problem for her the whole way.
At this point, my team had better situational awareness than I did, the red flag being firmly waved in “CHASE! WIN! RACE! GET HER!” mode. “CALL OFF THE JAM!” penetrated my consciousness.
Now, I’ve been reffing long enough that I can recognize the distinctive “hands repeatedly on hips” signal to end the jam any time I see it, even if I’m half asleep.
Damndest thing, I could not for the life of me remember how to actually perform the signal for about a good 30 feet of skating.
So that’s how my Sunday went from average to awesome as I got lead jammer over one of the best jammers in the league, and started contemplating starting a men’s league. How was your weekend?