I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to start this blog post. Or this series rather. Would I need to go back and explain reffing? Derby? My goals and the past year? Should I just jump straight in and talk about the trip? I wasn’t sure. I’m still not entirely sure. I wanted some sort of outline so that all these Ref 50 posts look similar, but I realized the first one was going to have to be in multiple parts so it would look a little different the next time I wrote one up.
First things first; if you don’t know about Roller Derby or it’s officiating, please go look it up. I’ll talk a bit about it but won’t do big details other than to compare and contrast my own personal experiences where I end up reffing. I’m using reffing, but I mean officiating, because sometimes it may not work out to officiate on skates. So if you’re confused you can ask questions in the comments or just simply Google.
Next: What is Ref 50? Many of you who’ve been following along know I lost my mother very suddenly (only not really suddenly if you understand diabetes and kidney failure) and it rocked my world a little. Okay, it rocked my world a little in the same way a 9.0 earthquake knocks the world a little. I changed. Rapidly and not for the best. I did some stuff I would have sneered at doing two years ago. I became a liar. Covering my grief with lies about being “okay” and I turned to some activities that made me hurt in the moment and hurting in the moment was feeling and feeling was something I couldn’t do after she died. It all sort of crashed down around me about a month ago and during the process I started setting more tangible and healthy goals for myself. One of these is to officiate a derby game in every one of our fifty nifty United States (and if any of you are now singing the song we are insta-bffs). I know it will take time and money and energy, but shouldn’t all good goals be slightly challenging? If I wanted an easy goal it would have been “Eat Doritos and play WoW for 14 hours straight”. <—Achievement Unlocked 9/10/2016.
So there’s the goal. Officiate in 50 states. I hope to do this in two years. Might seem like a lot to fit in, it may become clear halfway or more through that I need a stretch goal. I worry about Hawaii and Alaska and to be quite honest the New England States my be super clustered together but I can only ref so many games in a day.
This brings me to Ref 50: Arizona. I wondered if I should start with New Mexico, my home state. It seems logical. I have plenty of games coming up locally I could count. But this particular game had significance. I agreed to go to Flagstaff, Arizona and ref a Mock Sanctioned Bout (maybe I need to have an appendix post on the homepage….) for High Altitude Roller Derby. I agreed to ref this game on the eve of the first anniversary of my Mother’s passing. I wasn’t sure it was wise. I got a lot of support from my husband, despite the fact that I’ve nearly destroyed our family life this past year, and we piled into the car and set off for Flagstaff. (Oh, did I mention that he was recently diagnosed with cancer and has his own shit to deal with? When you go looking for a partner, look for one that will support you even when it is hard for them, and then for Cthulu’s sake take care of them).
I was a nervous freaking ref, I mean wreck. I was about to work with a crew that I had never worked with before. I was going to an unknown venue in a city I had only barely passed through once on our way to NM. We arrived at the venue with about an hour til game time. Walking into any derby venue I always assess two things: Skating surface and bathroom locations. Both seemed adequate (no porta potties, woot!) We were inside a school gym (why don’t more teams partner with their local school district, I wonder?). The floor was a nice slick wood (hooray for my 97s, I really need new wheels….) and the officials had a little corner by the bathrooms to have their staff meetings. I met my Head Ref, a nice young man who put me at ease, and all my fellow Zeebs (refs) and the heart of the officiating crew, the Head NSO. Luckily I was joined in Flagstaff by two very dear NSO friends out of Albuquerque as well. We had our own little mini New Mexico crew-within-a-crew. It’s nice to see familiar faces when you travel for the derbs.
The game went really well. I always judge a game’s success on two factors; did anyone get hurt (no) and were both teams treated equally (yes). Regarding that equality, it’s so hard to explain what happens to my personal feelings when a game starts. People will ask me after “Did you see that thing that so and so did?” and I always feel this stunned and dumb look on my face before I reply, genuinely, with “oh, were they playing?” I may know people on both teams, in fact I had reffed both of them recently in New Mexico, but as soon as the whistle blows I literally can only see colors and numbers. I couldn’t tell you if someone I know is on the track if I tried. So no one got hurt. I feel confident the game was called fairly. Most importantly I did the thing. Whenever I do the thing and don’t freak out I’m pretty fucking happy with myself.
I have to compliment both teams on being amazing sportswomen. It was an incredibly close game (if pictures don’t lie, I don’t check scores during or after and have to refer back to pictures to tell me the outcomes) and tensions definitely mounted in those last few moments. The officials did a great job, especially our HNSO. She rocked and I hope to get to work with her and the others I met again really soon.
This feels pretty long for a post. So I’m going to stop there for now. There’s more to the Ref 50: AZ story, though. Did you think I would drag my family all the way to Arizona just to sit in a loud, sweaty, stinky middle school gym and watch me twirl around on skates (you’d be within your rights to think that)? We did more than just derbs in Arizona. After all it is the Grand Canyon state. So, tune in tomorrow and I’ll post a bit more about Ref 50 and our adventures in the Canyon. And look forward to more Ref 50 Posts in the coming months. There will be a lot of the Southwest getting covered initially (go local!). But I hope to branch into some of the more easterly and midwesterly states soon. Let’s end on a high note: one of the best parts about reffing? Always being on the winning team.