Friday, May 15, 2009

A Derby Poem by Glenn Pape

(My friend Glenn Pape is an accomplished poet and a die-hard Break Neck Betties fan. He was kind enough to grant permission to post this piece that he has been working on which I really love, even though it celebrates, among other things, a victory by the Betties over the Heathers. Just a great poem.)

The Rose City Rollers of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association: A Fan’s Perspective

In all fairness, I can understand
how my weasely, slime-bag friend might think
this is nothing more than the misplaced lust
of a happily married, 57-year old man.

There are, after all, the fishnet stockings,
the glimpses of garter, the capering cleavage,
the kick-ass attitude, the “fuck me or fight me” gleam
in the six-foot pivot’s eye-blacked, beautiful eyes.

This isn’t lust, it’s passion.

I suppose I really should forgive
my fidgeting, tight-assed friend for what he’s never known:
the vast echo of this concrete coliseum,
the surging tide of drums, the explosive crowd,

the spotlights slashing through the stands,
the clowns, the rivals, the scoreboard, the banners,
the lurid shock of Sump Pump’s fractured jaw.
To him a Polish is only a hotdog, a beer is just a beer.

My pathetic, ignorant friend.

In his defense, I’d have to say
it must be easier for him outside these walls
where his car fits snugly in the space between the lines.
I can hardly blame him for his dreams of quiet asphalt.

He vaguely recalls a different derby, eyed from a safe distance,
when a season unfolded according to plan
and the teams all knew the outcome in advance.
Those black and white TVs are useless now.

Nothing is scripted here.

I suppose I could shrug off the stubborn beliefs
of my smug, obnoxious, whining friend when he says,
“It’s okay, but it’s only a game. It doesn’t mean a thing.”
He’s right, after all… it’s only a game.

But I can remember one summer afternoon, fifty years ago,
tightening the key, clamping my skates to my shoes,
flying forward on four frantic wheels as if something in my future –
this night, this sweet and raucous jam –

was longing for me to arrive.

Breakneck Betties 115,
Heartless Heathers 84.
It’s only derby.
That’s all it will ever be.

But think for a moment,
before you leave,
my poor, sad, empty friend:
no meaning at all and a fan’s mad love…

could there ever be a better bout than this?

© 2009 Glenn Pape


George said...

Excellent poem! (even though it was written by a Bettie supporter) I totally get the same crap from civilians (that’s what I call non-derby folks) all the time. “You only care about roller derby because you like to look at the girls in lingerie blah, blah, blah…” When I used to care what people thought of me, I used to get worked up and try to explain to them why derby is so great. But I’ve grown really tired of trying to educate people, so now I only associate with people who appreciate the derby world. I think that my feelings can be summed up in a short conversation that I had with and old girlfriend:

girlfriend: “If you fly to Austin for a roller derby bout, we’re through!”

me: “Okay. Can I still get a ride to the airport though?”

I schedule all of my vacation time around roller derby, I travel around the country to watch roller derby, I pretty much center my life around roller derby. I routinely lie to my own mother when she inquires as to why I didn’t answer my phone that past weekend. “I was out backpacking again, mom. I don’t get reception out there in the wilderness.” If my only objective was to see girls in lingerie, don’t you think that there would be much easier and more cost effective ways to achieve that goal? People are morons, I swear.

scrappy said...

girlfriend: “If you fly to Austin for a roller derby bout, we’re through!”

me: “Okay. Can I still get a ride to the airport though?”

.......this is the most classic, and CLASSY, thing you've ever said, George. and it is only one of the many reasons we love and appreciate you.

JeLLyPiG said...

Mr. Glenn Pape has done a great job summing up, some of the real fan experience. Especially dealing with the "civilians" misunderstanding. The simple truth of the line "This isn’t lust, it’s passion.", really echoes for me.

I bet he'll be pleased to hear that this weekend, our man George will joining him Brokedown Alley, rooting for those surly Betties.

George, you ARE the best!

the_mad_nader said...

Beautiful poem! I may not love the Betties, but I love fans...true fans...of roller derby, regardless of their team allegiance. If there's one thing I really respect about the Betties is that they DO have great, passionate fans. They're no Cadavers, but they love and support their team beautifully!

A question though for Mr. Pape: is his "friend" still a friend after being referred to as a "weasely, slime-bag", "tight-assed", "pathetic", "ignorant", "smug", "obnoxious", "whining", "sad" and "empty"?

gip said...

Although the weasely slime-bag exemplifies various charming aspects of many of my closest tight-assed friends, he is not really a direct reference to any one friend in particular. In fact, there may be some aspect of my own tamer self (the part of me that takes comfort in the quiet asphalt)in his character as well.

I have not lost my own friendship or anybody else's as a result of the poem... at least not yet. I'm glad you are enjoying it.

P.S. I may be a Betties fan, but that doesn't diminish the unbridled magnificence your team always brings to every bout. If the Heathers weren't there, why would I bother screaming for the Betties? Heathers por vida... Break their necks...