Tag Archives: sports

Let’s Get Season 9 Started!

24 Feb

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Back in 2009, this Windy City Rollers fan got an e-mail saying that the league needed volunteer officials, offering free admission in exchange for helping out. At the time I was a very, very poor freelancer who couldn’t afford the ticket prices, but I was in love with roller derby and wanted a way to go to the games.

I’ve never really seen a game since then.

Just like many random choices one makes during one’s lifetime, the choice to become a roller derby official has been life-changing. To say that I’ve made a lot of interesting friends and been to places I never dreamed of going would be an understatement. I could joke and say Marion, IL, but my weekend in Marion was actually really fun–great officiating clinic, great hospitality, a pressed penny machine, and the opportunity to ride in the cockpit of a small plane.

Over the last season, I’ve had conversations with some officials about how to keep going and avoid burnout. It’s really easy to get sucked into a big derby vortex where your life is all derby, all the time. It can be a lot of travel and a lot of weekends in a warehouse/hangar/skating rink/arena/convention center. The time and money spent on that comes from your own personal account.

For years I’d thought about being involved with derby for the long haul. Decades. This past year was the first time I thought about quitting. I’d been spending way too many hours doing committee work to the detriment of my job. I’d had to deal with a lot of family things, which meant dropping out of tournaments and missing game opportunities. I was trying to balance being a high-level Non-Skating Official with trying to be more than a beginning Referee (I recently realized I’ve been skating for four years and have reffed a mere 17 games, compared to over 150 or so off-skates).

In short, I was tired. After Champs last year, I really wondered how I would come back for another season. A lot of great fellow officials retired from officiating. Maybe that would be the best option for me too.

Instead, I took time off.

A lot of time off.

Sure, I handled a couple of small obligations, but otherwise, I didn’t do any roller derby. I didn’t write the 13 evaluations I owed from Champs (to the extent that I missed a deadline and won’t be allowed to Crew Head or Tournament Head at Playoffs/Champs this year); didn’t read the new rules and casebook; didn’t go to any off-season scrimmages; didn’t go to any neighboring league events; didn’t apply to officiate at events/tournaments–even ones that have been on my list to do for a few years.

It went on like this for about three months.

When Boston’s season started up again, I reluctantly packed my bag and went to scrimmage. I wasn’t thrilled about going, but I wanted to see if I still enjoyed the activity itself…and guess what? I had a blast! Roller derby officiating is so much fun! Every week, I’ve enjoyed strapping on skates to work on my positioning and impact assessment. I’ve liked remembering the rituals I have for NSO positions. New rules? Bring ’em! It’s been really excited to see the league’s new skaters improve and learn strategy, and I’ve loved the challenges that officiating a highly-ranked travel team bring. It’s been really difficult for me to not blurt out, “This is so much fun!” in the middle of scrimmage (though I might have done that too). And I finally submitted those Champs evals.

This weekend is the home-opener, and I couldn’t be more excited about being an Inside Pack Ref for one game and managing the penalty box for another. I hope it’s a fun start to a season that’s likely going to be different than how I’ve managed my officiating in more recent years.

In a way, that might also be a good antidote to personal burnout. If there’s anything roller derby’s taught me, it’s that things don’t have to be status quo, so I’m looking forward to a ninth season that’s hopefully got some surprises in store and can help me set some new goals for this year and beyond.

 

Postcard from Pittsburgh

13 Apr

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Watch out, hockey fans! There’s a new goalie in town, and she’s so tough, she can block your pucks without needing a helmet!

I’m old enough to shudder at the thought of a hockey puck whizzing at my bare head, let alone be agile enough on hockey skates while wearing copious amounts of pads to stop a puck, so I think it’s safe to say that the National Hockey League needn’t fear my arrival on the scene.

I was in Steel City this weekend to officiate four roller derby bouts: Steel City vs. Boston (A and B teams) on Saturday, and Boston vs. Ohio (A and B teams) on Sunday. These were really great match ups, as Steel, Boston and Ohio are all pretty close to each other in the WFTDA rankings, which made for exciting games that were a lot of fun to officiate. I also got to work with some officiating buddies I don’t get to see often enough and meet some new, very promising officials, All in all, a good four games.

During some free time on Saturday morning, I got a glimpse of Pittsburgh’s sports mania. The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum takes up a big chunk of two floors of the Heinz History Center, and while it tackles Pittsburgh’s love of the Steelers (or “Stillers,” as yinz should pronounce them), the Penguins and the Pirates, it also showcases some more niche sports like boxing, rowing, swimming and marbles (Pittsburgh touts 26 National Marble Champs, plus 8 more from Allegheny County). There’s even space dedicated to a sport called balf–which, if roller derby is niche, this combo of baseball and golf is extremely niche–so niche that the U.S. Balf Association no longer seems to exist.

Outside along the Strip District, it was all pro sports, with multiple sports stores touting all the fan gear you could ever want. The piles of shirts, hats and tchotchkes spilled out onto the streets and dared you to walk down the sidewalks without getting caught up in the frenzy of Pittsburgh sports. Get your Terrible Towels, your athlete jerseys and every form of bedazzled sports shirt imaginable. Show your allegiance. Be a fan. It’s sports time, a good time, and you’re required to participate.

Warning: A New Fever May Be on the Loose

13 Feb

Last week I came across a rather subtle announcement: Birmingham, Alabama, will be hosting the World Games in 2021.

Stop the presses! World Games? Is this an international spectacle of sports that could be fever-inducing?

From what I’ve been able to tell, the World Games seems to be the cast-offs of the Olympics. They’re held every four years, in the year after the Olympics, so summer sports and no competition from the granddaddy of international sports showcases, although the two organizations do cooperate. From what it seems, most of the sports on the World Games programs are being tested for their viability to be included in the Olympic program, so it seems like not just an elite global competition for a more obscure sport, but also an Olympic training ground.

The other big difference from the Olympics is that at the time a city bids, its plan may not call for any new structures to be built solely for these games. They have to either currently exist or be in the works for a non-World Games purpose. That’s particularly interesting, since there are so many issues surrounding construction for the purpose of the Olympics. Even temporary structures cost a fortune. This “use what you’ve got” scenario appeals to the DIYer in me.

But let’s get back to the sports, because this is the key. Let’s look at the sport program for Wroclaw 2017. If you’re sad that tug of war was removed from the Olympic program, you can find it here, along with:

  • billiards
  • bowling
  • fin swimming
  • fistball
  • floorball
  • korfball
  • orienteering
  • sport climbing
  • air sports (parachuting, glider aerobatics, etc.)
  • beach handball
  • canoe polo
  • ultimate frisbee (or “flying disc”)
  • squash
  • water skiing
  • sumo
  • and more!

A few Olympic sports do find their way in–archery, gymnastics, powerlifting–but for the most part, the program consists of obscure sports that need some attention. As someone who’s involved in the obscure sport of roller derby, I know just how much a global stage can help bring much needed exposure, which leads to more participation, which leads to more sponsorship dollars, etc. Obscure sports show just how many interests people have and how much they’re willing to participate in an activity.

ESPN would have you believe that the only sports that really should be shown on TV are football, baseball, hockey, and golf–with about a million hours of recaps and commentary (because that’s likely much cheaper to produce. Sometimes soccer. And CrossFit Games (though it probably helps that a major sporting goods manufacturer is the money behind it). And the X Games, to show some edginess. NBC’s cable network does show some different stuff–they’ve had skiing and biathlon, cycling, etc. But there are so many more sports that deserve to be discussed regularly. We shouldn’t dust them off every four years. Give them a shot and see how they can change ordinary people’s lives.

The Boy and I have discussed going to Rio for the 2016 Games, but honestly, I kind of want to go to Poland in 2017 to catch this fever instead.

Olympics? How About Oldlympics?

14 Feb

Who says you have to be young to be a competitive Olympian? The Sochi Games have produced at least three medalists who are in their 40s, which says to me that your peak athletic years don’t have to be behind you if you’re over 25. As I get older, this thread of hope becomes even more important to me.

I haven’t looked at all of the medallists to gauge their ages, but let’s look at the men’s luge: The silver medallist is 42 and the bronze medallist is 40. Wow!

Oh, I know what you’re thinking: All these guys have to do is lie on their back and slide down a mountain. Any old person can do that. OK. I present Exhibit B: Ole Einar Bjorndalen, Norwegian biathlete, who won gold in the Men’s 10km sprint at age 40. This gold medal was his twelfth overall, tying the record for most medals in the Winter Olympics. Let me remind you that the guy is 40. Biathlon’s not easy either–you cross-country ski as fast as you can, then you have to get your blood pressure down as quickly as possible to be able to hold a rifle straight and hit a small target that’s about 50 meters away. It’s tough. I know. I do summer biathlon (running and shooting). I am no Bjorndalen…..unless he ever decides to start sponsoring the penalty loop, since I tend to spend a lot of time running around that, making up for missed shots.

The fact that these guys in their 40s can still be competitive gives me hope that if I work hard, I too can achieve a better level of fitness, lose those last 10 lbs, still achieve personal best times.

I just saw a piece on American snowboarder Kelly Clark, who at 30, is kind of surprised she’s competitive. She talked about having to work much harder to keep up with the 13-year-olds. If she’s not in the gym six days a week, she can’t hang.

Interesting, and when I hear a woman several years younger than me say that, it’s a little depressing. Then again, I’m not trying to twist and spin my body into a million directions and then stick a landing in a halfpipe. I’m just trying to be the fittest Jill I can be so I can do things like jump rope, run 5Ks and referee roller derby for a long time. It’s nice to have role models who show me it can be done.

Making Good

9 Jul

This year’s Stanley Cup finals led to a bit of a conundrum for me: Do I root for my old home team, the Blackhawks, or do I go with the new home team, the Bruins? That question was quickly answered when a couple of friends back in Chicago wanted to place a friendly wager on the series and I couldn’t resist. Did I feel guilty for betting against Chicago? Absolutely. And I’m certainly paying for my guilt now. 

For a while I thought I’d really win–it was an unbelievable series, and Boston had the whole “Boston Stronger” rally cry behind them. Game 3 was an especially good sign, when the B’s just walked all over the Hawks with a commanding 2-0 win. It seemed like the tide was turning and that Boston could pull it out. Long story short, they couldn’t, and now it’s time to settle up a couple of debts. 

I owe my college roommate a massage and then some sort of bonus gift for getting the number of games right. This could be wine or dinner or something of that nature. I’ll have to get creative here.

The other wager also involves a little creativity: I’m doing a “best of Boston” basket for an old work buddy I haven’t seen in a while (he was wagering Lou Malnati’s pizzas. I could not not take him up on that one). But what should I put in it? Dunkie’s K-cups, Marshmallow Fluff, NECCO wafers, and Cape Cod potato chips all seem to be no brainers. What other Massachusetts culinary delights can I include?

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