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The New Dark Ages

February 8, 2009

The Dark Ages. Déjà vu perhaps for some. Hard to say. But I get the sense that the people behind the curtain are absolutely flummoxed over what to actually do about the current economic situation. And that on top of torn loyalties. What’s an elected official to do?

Not being an elected official, I know what to do. I go to the roller derby. Folks, it just doesn’t get more local than that. You go down the local county expo hall, past the big tool sale, following the sound of a local rock band setting the mood. You pay your admission and you get marked with a magic marker and your ticket stub gets dropped in a big plastic bin for the raffle. You walk past the partitions into the hall and there it is in all of it’s glory.

Bleachers of metal and wood like the ones at high school football fields on one wall, metal folding chairs set up around the rest of the track. A couple of folding tables for officials in the middle of the oval skating area  – an area marked at its’ outer most by yellow caution tape fastened to the concrete floor with clear packing tape. This area at the end of each oval has the highest likelihood of seeing a derby gal or two take a tumble or a wipe out. Then two concentric ovals of what appear to be clear plastic tubes of red LED aisle lights marking the inner and outer boundaries of the actual skating arena. No banked turns, no rails.

The walls abound with hand made signs featuring some of the derby names of the home team – Mary Tyler Gore or Dee Dee Capitator or Pixie – implying more blood lust and violence than what actually occurs at what is a decidedly family oriented event.  And there are derby groupies of both sexes milling about the hall, friends chatting with the players, family and fellow workers from the day job holding up signs with derby and team names. Some of the older folks plug their ears to the rock music, kids jump and flail and whirl in front of the bandstand, ignoring the occasional off-key vocals or missed note or half-beat lag. These children will sleep well.

There are concession tables with t-shirts, baseball card-like offerings of your favorite derby girl and of course food and drink. Beer sells well and nobody really minds if you stack your cans just outside the yellow caution tape in the hope that a sliding derby gal will make a strike.

And the derby gals. My oh my. Mostly local girls dressed in tattoo revealing team colored outfits, some a bit more titillating than others, with hand drawn numbers of their own choosing on clothing and flesh. Of course, they all have requisite safety equipment – helmets, padding and mouth guards – for knocking into each other and of course the concrete floor.

The officials are generally a bit more sedate in their ad hoc black and white striped uniforms and also feature derby names. One of the female officials was sporting what appeared to be a black and white striped tutu.

After the national anthem was sung live by a local gal to a pretty full house, the announcer ran the teams through a quick demonstration of the sport for the uninitiated and then the live action commenced. Without banked turns, the speed is reduced somewhat as is the likelihood of serious injury. Through two thirty-minute halves, jammers jostle through the pack to pass and score, blockers block and skaters tumble. During half-time band played a bit, prizes were raffled off, the local team celebrated the birthday of one of their own and numerous waves passed through my section of the bleachers.

Despite a ferocious come from behind attempt, the local team lost. A good time was had by all, there were no injuries and not one incident in the crowd. In fact, I don’t recall seeing a single uniformed police officer or security officer the entire night. My sole disappointment in the entire evening was that the concession stand did not sell those big soft pretzels.

So the big boys carry on with the hand wringing while ignoring the obvious – big bubble equals big bust. Hundreds of years of written human history accessible to virtually every human on the planet yet we seem bound and determined to repeat our worst moments. Even in the dark ages, regular folks knew how to have a little fun and I’ll bet a chicken, some fresh veggies or some fresh baked goods will get me in the door when they start using dollar bills as tickets.

That’s what a citizen has to do.

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