ToXic Materry'l and I were looking at the signatures she had to collect on a document Sunday after practice. She counted THIRTY-TWO active members that were present! She and I both looked at each other stunned.
It seemed like yesterday we were all fumbling to get the Inaugural Brawl, our first public scrimmage, produced.
I believe the Inaugural Brawl was November 2008. The Code Reds vs The Blackouts. Little City, at the time, had, maybe 5 or 6 full time skaters that had been training together for a year or so. They had invited their friends from Hard Knox, Blue Ridge, and all over to come fill out the scrimmage team rosters.
I had been asked to announce in August. I had tried to memorize the rules, but they were overwhelming and I had the certainty that I didn't know what I was doing. "Minos," then known as "Eo" had taken me to one Blue Ridge Rollergirls bout and I had watched several practices, but a week or so before, sensing my nervousness, Rock, Chick, and Noli offered to call in Hard Knox's announcers. Of course, they had only announced one bout before.
On bout day, everyone was tense. I arrived to find Rock Nasty pacing outside, occasionally stopping to answer questions and deal with problems. Chick Norris had that frantic cool that only she seems to be able to project when in the thick of it. In my trunk, I had a scoreboard, projector, and a laptop. I had also put together some graphics for the derby board scoreboard to make it look nice. However, setting up the scoreboard had taken all of my attention and I hadn't studied the rules or even come up with much more than the most basic outline of what I needed to say.
The rest of the set up is a blur in my memory. At one point, I seem to remember J.B. Otch threatening to hurt me if I messed up her name again. I remember that I was wearing a glove and a brace because not only had I recently broken two fingers, I had a cyst in my wrist that hurt like a bastard.
I remember, just before the bout, I was going down the schedule and had to announce a team captain's meeting. I called the captains to come up (I'm still not sure why.) When I looked up from my notes, there was a rollergirl with scary facepaint asking me where the meeting would be, in my head, "Dream Weaver" started to play! I had met my first derby crush, Hard Knox's Goblynn. Rock Nasty came up and took her to the meeting, and I just sat there smiling like a schoolboy. Derby was looking up.
The bout began. I remember that the Knoxville announcers (two improv comics that had worked together for years,) pretty much had their communication down to a science. Always nice and willing to answer my questions, they are really great guys, but years of teamwork meant that they already had a flow that obviously didn't include me.
For this bout we were sitting (the last time I would ever be able to sit and announce at a home bout.) I blew away the intros for one of the teams and one of the guys did the other. The first whistle blew and I was suddenly a spectator. For the next twenty horrifying minutes, I barely spoke into the mic. Keep in mind, back then, teams skated THREE twenty minute periods and I had just totally tanked on the first one. I'm sure part of it was that my co-announcers had such a tight schtick and hated to wait for me to find my voice, but mostly, it was me thinking "what the f**k is going on!? I can't even SEE this action!" I had gotten in over my head.
The second period began, and I made an effort to take initiative and force myself into every pause that my co-announcers made. Even if I talked about what they were wearing, I was determined to describe something! Then, it happened! It was the Moment. The Inspiration. The Turning Point.
It's stupid, but it's true. I remember seeing Noli Chuckya just FLATTEN a jammer. (I wish I could remember who.) It was such a beautiful hit and the force of the fall was so great, I, involuntarily, went "Ooooohhhhh! BIG HIT" into the mic. The crowd surged and cheered! Hey, wait a minute! Was that all it took?
The next time there was a big hit, I did it again, "Ooooohhhh!" Again the crowd cheered! I started to feel like I was getting a handle on it. I began to describe the events LEADING UP TO a big hit after the fact! I couldn't stay seated and would often leap up to my feet in excitement.
By the third twenty minute period, I always had something to say. I would jump in and clarify how it happend, and, with my trusty ref hand signal reference guide, (slowly) explain what the refs were signalling. (None of us announcers at the time had them memorized.)
By the time the bout ended, I felt like I had at least found a starting point. I couldn't have done it without the guys from Knoxville, and I'm grateful to them to this day. They forced me to raise my game and that's a lesson I've never forgotten.
I totally skipped the after party. I can't help it, I'm fundamentally, terribly shy. I would go on to only spend 10 minutes at the team's debut bout after party three months later.
After this scrimmage, I knew that I sucked at derby announcing and I wasn't going to get any better. I decided that, although I would stay for the first LCRG bout, as agreed, I would be quitting as soon as possible.
Then, I met a man named Joe.
I believed that in order to prove we were worthwhile, we also had to prove that we were perfect. I was asking derby to participate in the same fucked-up script I’d been acting out my entire life – the script that tells you you have to put on a nice outfit for company, that tells you that your kids and your lover and your parents and your dog and your fish are all more important than you are, and that it’s your job to keep them happy. I wanted my team to be all things to me at all times: family and lover, friend and mentor. I wanted them to redeem me, to prove that a woman really could be everything – and that she could look hot in her jersey while doing it.
But the thing is, we aren’t perfect. And the people who expect us to be are just assholes. We fight sometimes. We backstab and nitpick. We form cliques and break confidences. We mess up. But I hope — with every ounce of my scarred and fragile derby heart, I hope that we don’t turn away from each other in those moments. I hope that we don’t give up. Because the moment we give up on each other is the moment we give in to the worst of the myths about women. If we overthrow our derbies because they don’t fulfill our ideals, we’re setting them up for failure. Expecting women to be perfect – to be everything and never fall short – is not a feminist act. (For those of you unconcerned with the feminism, I’ll put it a different way: it is not a productive act.) In fact, it’s actively harmful. Because no one can fulfill your dreams for you. And if you ask them to, your disappointment is inevitable.
Wow, time can really get away from a fella when he's having fun!
Last weekend, April 9th, Little City hosted their 11th home bout and second double header with me as announcer! Bout setup was amazing, three years of experience really shows, especially with the track crew! ButchHer and his team put down the track in a record hour and a half! We are moving away from complex halftime entertainment such as bands to more simple, audience participation based things. This bout, with the title "DOUBLE DOG DARE YA," we had the Sullivan County Humane Society bring some pets for adoption and I invited kids to come pet them. (We found homes for half the pets!)
We did our own concessions serving hot dogs, candy and drinks, while on the other side of the entrance, K and Me made some amazing homemade tacos and salsa. It was probably the best food ever at a roller derby bout.
I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Gonzo come up to announce with me! Dr. Gonzo has announced for the Nashville All Stars for 6 years, never having missed a bout! He's one of my favorite play by announcers. Thanks to him, I felt that the announcing for this bout was above and beyond. If i do say so myself, the announcing was comparable to any WFTDA bout you will see. Our super sound guy, Radar, has FINALLY perfected his sound formula! He handed me a condenser mic that I am in love with. I didn't have to strain my voice at all and the crowd could hear everything! Announcing heaven! Thanks, Radar and Anita!
Wearing their new BLACK uniforms, Little City beat Star City pretty solidly in the first bout. Both teams played well, but Little City's intense training was apparent as they performed together as a single machine. They lost the second bout, but it was a great, close bout from whistle to whistle! If I had to point my finger at a single contributing factor to the lost, or, at least the 20 point advantage Nashville ended up with, I would say it was the penalties. Little City jammers kept going to the box giving up power jam after power jam.
The bout turnout was lower than normal, considering TORNADOS were striking not far away in Washington County, TN, many stayed home because of the weather. The wind and rain were INSANE! Looking out the doors, I saw the downpour raining horizonally often as the bout started! Folks kept coming to me saying there was a tornado warning, but other than announcing that it was a fact, I couldn't find anyone that knew where the Fairground shelter was! Luckily, it subsided after the first half.
This bout had some new merchandise! Namely, Big Daddy Voodoo t-shirts!! Yup, Yours Truly immortalized and emblazoned on the chests of rollergirls eveywhere! The shirts actually look pretty cool, although I do kind of feel a twinge of embarassment.
The after party was good. I think that Numan's is the best after party location for my tastes. We had the lounge above the bar and it was karaoke night. I don't know how long it's been since I had been able to have a CONVERSATION with visiting derby people at a Little City after party. I mean, I like dancing, but I would rather talk derby. It was perfect.
The after party moved to Second Level at 11pm and I felt like it kind of lost something. We were back into the crazy dancing/partying/drinking that usually characterize an after party. I went outside and talked to several Nashville folks: Hildabeast, Lady Pain, and her boyfriend Alex are good peoples as is Dr. Gonzo.
I'm beyond proud of Little City, we have worked for years now to become a professionally run league. From top to bottom, the management team works as just that, a team. We are still streamling, and have just formed as an LLC, so now the REAL work can begin!
I said last year that 2011 is Little City's year. I stand by that.
I'm not the same person I was three years ago. Three years ago, I was obsessed with making new films and getting recognized for the talent my friends could put into them. I spent all of my free time looking for excuses to move forward with projects that would only occasionally take off because in order to do them right I had to rely on so many people who were not as obsessive as I was about telling a story in motion pictures. It was frustrating, but I'm not the kind to give up. I loved it and I had a talent for it, but the work and finageling and the dependency on people that didn't share my passion was chipping away at my very soul. Frustration was causing me to be miserable more than satisfied.
Now, I have all but given up filmmaking. That is hard to admit.
Since I started announcing roller derby, not only do I feel like I am involved in a worthwhile organization that is as focused on improving the local community as I am, I have found that I have a bit of a talent for announcing. I thoroughly enjoy the job and want to do it the best I possibly can. People have been very kind and complementary to me, so I feel a motivation to pursue derby announcing and see how far I can take it. I have started announcing for other leagues, emceeing events in Asheville as well as Johnson City, and I've managed to weasel my way on stage with local Ska sensations Demon Waffle. I'm finding more success in derby than I ever did in making films!
Recently, I had to admit that I no longer have the time or resources to professionally process the team videos. It eats away at me that I failed, but that's the only way to look at it. Amateur videographers from the team have started doing the videos and I'm advising, but even that hurts my heart. I'm a professional video maker, and a perfectionist. Letting go of what has been my job and passion for almost 20 years was hard. But, you know what? It was RIGHT.
As a pro, I'm not capable of doing anything half way. To protect my reputation, I have to do a pro job on any video I do. With all of the league and announcing work, in addition to my stressful day job, it's just not possible to put in the quality that it deserves. Therefore, it's for the best that I step back from it and apply myself to projects that I CAN accomplish.
First in line is a re-branding of my website. I have used the name Techno Bohemia for my production logo for 15 years. It was the first domain that I ever bought! I'm going to have to point it to a different blog devoted to production stuff and my "civilian" life. THIS site is going to become bigdaddyvoodoo.com!
I'm going to re-tool it into not only a blog, but a podcast and a resource for announcers to benefit from what I have learned over the last three years free of charge.
But first, I'm starting a podcast!!
"The Engagement Zone" with Big Daddy Voodoo
The current name of the podcast was suggested by referee L8ter Sk8ter! It has that sportscenter sound as well as a direct relation to derby. I've picked up a domain name for cheap, so I will use it for a while.
Travelling all over with derby, I'm meeting some amazing people with great stories that contribute to the overall culture of regional roller derby. I intend to sit down with some of these folks and talk local derby in a short, interesting format. Best of all, to keep it simple, I'm going to record and edit the whole thing on my iPhone and iPad! The entire thing will be as easy as talking into my phone. It will be audio only to begin with, but maybe I'll occasionally venture into video. My goal is to get other announcers doing the same thing and sending me their interviews to create an archive that will bring together the Appalachian region and introduce folks to the personalities behind the derby action!
It's going to be busy as I launch this little project, but once it's set up, it's just a matter of maintaining!
It's at this point that I have to admit that Lou Botomy was talking about doing this years ago, but technology has just made it convenient. I'm hoping we can work together on this and extend our range!