Archive for September, 2010

I see a lot of Superman insignias everywhere I go – from people’s bags to shirts to getting them painted on the rear windows of their cars. Why the obsession with Superman? He always seemed so boring to me. Born with amazing abilities that no one can touch. Ho-hum. I never found him terribly relatable. Only when I was obsessed with Smallville did I get invested in what Superman was up to (and I blame that on the allure of Tom Welling). But then I came across Bill’s Superman monologue in Kill Bill Vol. 2, and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and I started to get it.

People who like Superman are the same people who value natural talent and ability. Have they had to train to get to that point? Yeah. But training just adds on to their already natural ability. They’ve got the talent and have discovered what they naturally excel at doing.

So those are the Superman fans. The Batman fans are a different breed – they value technology and smarts above everything else. Weren’t born with natural talent? No problem. They’ll engineer a solution. They put all their stock in not what they already can do, but what they believe they can figure out. They’re crafty, because they’ve had to be. No one gave them anything they didn’t earn.

Both of these types I find can be applied (among other things) to sports. I’ve met both of these types over and over already in derby. The natural talents who, as soon as they make the league, shoot to the top. They don’t understand why other people think it’s hard, and it all just seems to fit. The Supermans. Fans especially love the Supermans – they’re so glossy and amazing and stand out from the pack so easily. It’s hard not to idolize them.  Then there are those who immediately recognize that they aren’t the Supermans, but have the drive and ambition to get as far as fast as they can with their ingenuity. These Batmans are self aware and not plagued with doubt or uncertainty – they can sum up their pluses and minuses and figure out where to put them to their best use.

Where do I find myself in all of this? My own personal superhero role model? Well, the philosophy I’ve found fits best with my “style” in life is the House of HufflePuff in Harry Potter. Of course I always wanted and dreamed of being a Superman. But I’m not. And I’m too plagued with self-consciousness to be a Batman. I’m a HufflePuff – I work hard, I plug away, I slllooowwwwlllyyy and steadily improve. Supermans burn out, Batmans get bored. I keep going.

But I might need something a little more than just recognizing I’m a HufflePuff to keep me motivated and going in derby. Who’s the superhero who has overcome mediocrity and kept plugging away until they’ve succeeded and become amazing? That’s the one I can get behind. That’s the one who’s insignia I want on my car. Even though I work in comics, I’m sadly uneducated in the majority of current superheroes. Recommendations?

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That’s right, I almost forgot!

A year ago I made it into the league and officially became fresh meat. For a while, that was ALL that I wanted. I was all, “Hey, I never have to be better than this, I don’t have to improve at any given rate because I’m IN!!”

Yeah, right – that spirit didn’t last. It took my first assessment to bring out my competitve rage — WHY DOES EVERYONE ELSE RULE AT THIS AND I DON’T?? After that, it was all over. I just had to get better, I had to be on even footing with the others I’d tried out with, I had to get on a team! … 5 months later, after failing every assessment the first time but passing the second, I was drafted one week after my final assessment. Woo hoo!

So what have I learned over the past year? I started out in derby with a fierce desire to get in, get better, get crackin’. That was all I wanted, and I was convince my heart and my life had plenty of room for derby. I wanted all of its goodness, just for me. I approached each practice like my skills and potential were “on hold” so I wouldn’t get too discouraged. “So what if I suck at all of these drills?” I’d tell myself. I’d get better, so there was no use worrying about it in the meantime. SURVIVAL, that’s all I wanted. Survival, and not to look like a complete ass. As long as I’m not the worst, and I don’t let myself get too frustrated, I’m fine.

That motivation worked for a little while, then came scrimmage time. Until I was eligible to scrimmage, my freshie group and I spent scrimmage nights working on basics in a corner of the rink while the big girls got to duke it out in the main space. For 5 consecutive weeks, someone got seriously injured at each and every one of those scrimmage practices that we witnessed. Each injury guaranteed that that particular skater would be off the league and in recovery for a WHILE. So my fellow freshies and I watched, terrified, dreading the time our chance to scrimmage came about. When it finally did, it was a clusterfuck. Limbs flying everywhere. But I was shocked to discover that I lived, and didn’t break anything, and actually got back up after being knocked down. Crazy!

Bouting came next, and that’s where the real nerves set in. There was just something about ALL of those people watching, friends and family seeing,  … the public viewing of my skills that instantly turned my legs to jelly and my nerves to mush. I just let myself get beat on over and over, hoping that I’d at least walk away from the bout. It was always fun seeing the look of horror on my parents’ faces as I was knocked for a loop right in front of their seats.

After I had a couple bouts under my belt, my work situation changed and long hours were required. I was able to attend practice less and less. Friends of mine in the league stopped going or quit altogether. I had one more bout and then my season was over – I still had to attend practice and keep my skills up, but it was hard to get motivated. A new crop of fresh meat came in, all eager and shiny and new, and I faded into the background. Not an experienced vet, not a shiny new meatie. More commitments and work piled up, I found practices inconvenient and scrimmages discouraging, and I seriously wondered how long I should play at this derby thing when I could risk breaking my wrist (aka my livelihood) every time I got out on the track. I wasn’t that fast, I wasn’t that agile, I can’t block for shit, and the most I’ve ever been able to do is get in someone else’s way. My team barely sees each other, more people I love are leaving, should I keep doing this?

I didn’t have to mull it over for too long before I decided – yes. Of course, I should keep doing this. As terrifying and discouraging and frustrating and inconvenient and demanding as derby is, it’s worth it. You won’t know if you truly love something unless you put that much work into it. It’s never going to be easy, but it is going to be fun and challenging and the feeling you get when you realize you’ve gotten a little bit better is oh-so-encouraging. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing I really need to manage is my attitude – this is fun. I LOVE this. I love the people and the rules and the community and everything involved. All the negativity I see is only coming from myself.

So yeah – droning on here, but after a year I think I’m allowed to look back and analyze stuff. Yay derby. Our relationship is in its sophomore year. 🙂

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