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Roller Derby? But Why?

Thursday, May 09, 2013
I couldn't tell  you exactly when I became aware of roller derby. Sure, I'd heard of those old sport in the 1970's. I had a coworker at my last job who was a member of the team, but she didn't push it on people and I think it was a while before I heard about it. We saw Whip It on video and thought it was cute, but although it's possible that movie was the proximate cause it surely wasn't the ultimate one. The fact is that I was looking for something new to do with my time. I had also drifted away from watching basketball, and was intrigued at the idea of getting Dr. Brazen Hussy to go to a sporting event with me. I figured - hey, it's a women's sport - totally different from the others. There aren't any balls (in either sense)! And it's small, local stuff, rather than some big expensive corporate-owned activity played by juvenile seven-foot-tall millionaires.

So we started going to derby events at the local team. It was tremendous fun, and I immediately became a fan of the sport. It wasn't quite like anything I'd ever seen before. Constant motion, athletes expected to play offense and defense at the same time, and yes, I'll admit it, tough sweaty girls beating the crap out of each other. Plus there was booze. What wasn't to like?

Like I suspect a lot of male derby fans, I teased my not very athletic wife about getting involved with derby. I don't think I made too big a deal of it at first. When we moved to our new town, we immediately went looking for another derby team. It took a while to learn that there were two. The first team was clearly newer and less experienced than our old home team. Then while working out at the gym we noticed a bunch of very capable-looking derby girls practicing at the skating rink - people we didn't recognize! We began attending their home games (most of them, I think) and quickly became screaming gin-soaked fans sitting in suicide seating. I loved every minute of it, not least of it because BH was just as into it as I was. And I started pushing her a little harder to get involved, not just because I thought it would be neat but because I was sure she would enjoy it.

It was near the tail end of that season - maybe the last game- that BH finally emailed the team asking how to get involved. Not as a skater, but as a referee. I was thrilled of course. I was looking forward to several years of watching my wife send skaters to the penalty box while I continued to sit on the sidelines and cheer. It was going to be her thing, and I would have mine - writing, politics, whatever. Plus I'd go work out while she was at practice, because very conveniently they happened in the same place.

A perfectly reasonable plan that wound up being perfectly wrong. Next time: How Roller Derby Ate My Life.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:10 PM

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Why My Blog Has Gotten Very Quiet

Monday, May 06, 2013
Years ago in New York City, a much younger Arbitrista (then under a different pseudonym) started a blog. The principal purpose of this blog was to give me an outlet to vent about contemporary politics, and to have a venue for sketching out some of my own (often esoteric) thoughts on American political life. At the time I was deeply involved in local politics and kept a close eye on national trends, and I needed someplace to get it all out.

Time passed. The party controlling the White House has changed, and the congressional majority has changed twice. I'm still frustrated by national politics, although it's streaked with more than a little fatalism. I finished my dissertation, switched fields, and watched political science's presence in higher-quality media grow considerably. I wrote a first draft of a novel, took up the piano, and moved twice. I worked in local campaigns and learned a lot about politics and myself. And in all that time I've tried with varying success to keep this blog going.

I'm much less engaged in politics than I was a decade ago. I still care every bit as much, but my horizons have steadily lowered from national events to local ones, and now I find myself being very, very picky about what campaigns I choose to involve myself in. There are a few reasons, I think. I'm approaching 40 years old and just don't enjoy knocking on doors as much, nor am I all that effective at it any longer (middle aged white men at the door is usually bad news). I've also become quite weary with the stereotypical, wrongheaded approach of most politicos to campaigning: an allergy to substance, an emphasis on personal characteristics, a fear of taking a stand on anything. It's hard to watch good candidates get led astray by bad advice, but they seem very vulnerable to it. The other main set of reasons is that my job has a very strong policy element to it, which means that it's riskier than ever for me to vent in public about political affairs. Freedom of speech is sadly restricted to those with the resources to make it feasible.

So I've drawn back from politics and worked hard to develop some of those interests I'd let moulder most of my life while I pursued my political dreams. I've always loved music, and have finally started taking piano lessons. I've always loved writing, and have tried my best to learn that craft as well. I've put more emphasis on my professional career, since I'm now involved in things that I think are inherently meaningful.

But to be perfectly honest, more than anything else what's changed in my life is that it's been eaten by roller derby. It's a weird story with a lot of twists and turns that I'll try to lay out as best I can in a future post. The short version is that I think on balance it's a good thing, but it also means that if it continues this blog is probably going to be a lot more scattered, more personal, and have a lot more to do with girls on skates hitting each other.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:09 PM

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