I’ve heard people say they like to play derby angry. I definitely do not subscribe to this view. Negative feelings create distractions and sloppy play, in my experience. It’s rare anywhere in life that anger gets channeled to create productive, positive outcomes. That said, I do have a propensity toward periodic righteous indignation, especially when I view myself as the victim of a penalty. The more egregious the penalty, the more righteous my indignation. Like last night, I got elbowed in the face during a scrimmage. I immediately turned to the offender as I wheeled into the infield and frantically called the jam and asked: “What the f%$k?” A rhetorical question, of course, delivered in a tone one might describe as “acidic.” The poor perp sputtered an apology, saying a blocker pushed him into me and he couldn’t control himself. My teammate later confirmed his version of the story, saying she’d knocked him into me.

Photo courtesy of Damage Control / Me, getting worked up at a bout. Initially, I was messing with the other jammer, who was not lead but was ahead of me. This turned into righteous indignation when my jammer ref failed to see me calling the jam as she entered the pack. The choice words I subsequently hurled at him could have gotten me ejected.

Fortunately for me, my indignant behavior burns bright and brief. Almost as soon as I overcome the visceral reaction to having been hit in the face or the throat or tripped or back-blocked or whatever, I apologize to whomever I’ve peppered with rhetorical inquiries such as “What the f&*k? or “What the hell?” But I still wish I didn’t do that at all. Sometimes I think it’s a psychological coping mechanism I use primarily when scrimmaging with the Rebels, to deal with how tough it gets out there. But it’s still no excuse and I’m calling myself out about it. I need to practice like I want to play.

The fact is that none of us is perfect. I try to play a clean game, but I know I commit penalties, either inadvertently or by making dumb mistakes. During a certain practice over the winter I recall committing a multi-player block against Upchuck Norris like four or five times in a single jam because, in my fervor to block him, I repeatedly failed to detach my hand from my teammate’s jersey. I’d prefer that people treat my faults and inadequacies and errors with compassion, and I know I should do the same. I remember during a home bout last season getting sheriff blocked hard in the throat, which, if you’ve ever been hit in the throat, you know that’s not a pleasant experience. I was so mad I was still calling the blocker a bitch when I got back to the bench. So fired up was I that it took me a few minutes to recognize that she was waving me down from the penalty box, apologizing and explaining that while she was attempting to sheriff block me, she wasn’t aiming for my throat. Well, of course she wasn’t. Red face.

I just really don’t want to be one of those players who’s constantly reffing in the pack. That’s obnoxious. I don’t need to intimidate newer skaters by calling out their fouls and seeming to be pissed about it, and it’s only going to make my opponents in a bout think I’m a whiner. Derby is hard, it’s dynamic, it’s rough. We need to play on the edge to learn and to push ourselves and to be good. Sometimes mistakes will be made. It’s just part of the game.  My goal is to keep a cool head, to take things in stride. I know that will benefit my game much more than pointing out other people’s faults.