Philadelphia Metropolis


Take Names & Kick Ass

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By Samantha Drake

My friend Jen has the kind of gumption I truly admire.  She recently decided


 to try out for

aPhiladelphia roller derby team despite not knowing how to skate.  So Jen put her mind to learning.  She didn't make the team the first time around but she's optimistic that one day she will wear a team jersey with her own uber-cool roller derby name on the back. 

Would I have the guts to do that?  Not in a million years, but it's fun to think about.  Jen's enthusiasm reawoke daydreams of athletic success in my bookwormish soul.  In school, I was usually the kid in the deep outfield, backfield, or far corners of the court with a long-suffering "I'd rather be reading" look on my face.  Sports, especially team sports, weren't enjoyable for me - I was always the weakest link not matter how hard I tried.  It wasn't so much bodily injury that I dreaded as certain humiliation from my basic lack of athletic skill.  All the good grades in the world weren't going to change that.

But a girl can dream.  I spent my youth imagining myself a gold medal-winning figure skater, game-saving soccer player, or world champion tennis player. 

As I listened to Jen talk about her experiences the roller derby seemed possible, even for a brief moment.  I reminded myself that I can already roller skate, bruise with stoicism, and throw around some trash talk if necessary.  I lined up a couple of roller derby names for myself before Jen was done talking.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I spent more time coming up with own my nom de roller derby than I did thinking about how I would survive once I was on the track.  The truth is unavoidable; the names are what really drew my attention to the sport. 

I love the power, cleverness, and wit of roller derby names - like Philadephia's Annie Christ, Roxy Elbowa, and Gloria Grindem.  Empowering, in-your-face monikers like that are the perfect alter egos for days when you just want to body check someone.  Not that I would have a clue how to go about doing that.

My own fantasy league quickly formed in my mind. Philly teams have incredible names like the Broad Street Butchers and the Heavy Metal Hookers.  That might be a tad too much for my team to carry off.  In my imagination, my literary-minded crew is called something like Women Who Think Too Much.  That name alone could scare the pants off most people, but it's obviously too long-winded.  The shorter and snappier Book Club Bitches fits better. 

The Book Club Bitches.  Taking names and kicking ... well, we have the taking names part of it down at least. 

There is no J.K. Howling, Jodious Picoult or Satanie Meyer on our roster.  None of them have survived nearly enough angst.  We go strictly old school and look to the tough girls of literature, the ones who got down and dirty with spinsterhood, poverty, and suicide in centuries past.  Bring on Pain Austen, Harlot Bronte, Scary Shelley, and Sylvia Wrath.  We embrace cross-dressing, outspoken feminists in Killa Cather and Gertrude Nein.  And immortalize fearless society skewers in Edith This Is Wharton.  Are we ready to rumble, Dorothy Snarker? 

But once the names are settled, my fantasy reluctantly but inevitably takes a practical turn.  The team gives its all on the track, but gets routinely massacred because - surprise - the Book Club Bitches are more book smart than street smart.  Any edge the team has lies in momentarily confusing opponents as they parse names like Mary Wollstonecoldkiller. 

And so, when it comes to dreams of derby glory, I must settle for cheering on Jen. 

I still can't help dwelling on the many awesome roller derby name possibilities out there.  Just bear with me for one more name.  How great would it be to call our team's water boy, or whatever the roller-equivalent is, Victor You Go Girl?


If school sports had required even a little creativity, I might have put more effort into them.



Samantha Drake is a freelance writer and editor in the Philadelphia area.  Her roller derby name, should she ever need it, is Brenda Scar.



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