Tonight I fell in love with a women's sport I'd never ever watched before. Seattle's Rat City Roller Girls comprise four teams of women who play at Key Arena next to the Space Needle. They're on roller skates with helmets, knee pads, tattoos and sometimes exaggerated eye makeup. They're fierce and strong and fast and they were terrific to watch in play.
Jeanne invited me to see two semi-final games because she loves the sport. Last August she spent three nights a week in a summer Rat Lab boot camp where she truly learned to skate and took some mean falls. One of those falls got her thigh. This is serious play. But she loved it and said it truly tested her outer limits. Not quite like the childhood ice skating lessons at The Galleria in Houston, though she called on those early skills.
We were just inside the door when Jeanne met two of her Rat Lab team members, one of whom works for Microsoft and said she'd made one of the teams. 
I felt a terrific sense of camaraderie and passion among the players. After each of the two games, the winning team gave Most Valuable Player commendations to their opponents. And when a player was injured - and there were three injuries in the first game - all the players slip to their knees until the injured team member is carted off the court. The whole game felt 'womanly', 'feminine', call it what you will. It was different than watching men play.
Houston's Comets kept coming to mind. I wish the Comets were still in business. Their basketball was terrific to watch, but sadly, sports is so much about making money. The Comets are no more. Rat City Rollers are all volunteers. That speaks to a fervant love of playing. It's got soul. 
The players are known by the names they give themselves and you have to love them. Players on the team Sockit Wenches include Death by Dollface, Belle Tolls, Sugar N. Creamer and Sawall Gabor.

They played against Grave Danger, a team with captains Carmen Getsome and Shorty Ounce. My favorite team member names were Mona Agony, Scarlett Leather, Ponyo Knees, Method of Madness, Sheeza Brickhouse and Shorty Ounce.
It didin't take long for me to pick a favorite in Nehi Nightmare. If she's five feet tall, that would be saying something. The other players drwarfed her, but she could furiously wedge her way through packs of skaters and leaf them all behind, scoring points each time she played 'jammer.' Jammer would be the teammember who wears a star cap over her helmet and is charged with breaking through the pack of opponents to race ahead of them around the track, only to work at plunging back through them again. And then again, if all goes well.
My photos of Nehi Nightmare are blurry. She's the tiny one surging from the left past those big women in blue. She did it over and over and over again. I sure do miss photographing with film at 3200 ASA. Those were the days when one could stop action in its tracks. (Does my little pocket sized Canon Sure Shot even have a 3200 ASA setting? I do not know.) Here's a photo of her from the team's website.

The evening's second game pitted the Throttle Rockets against the Derby Liberation Front and again, I had a favorite player.  Her name is Luna Negra of the Throttle Rockets and she could wend her way through that pack and then simply run - not skate, but run really fast before she skated again. Like Nehi Nightmare, Luna Negra did what she did well again and again. 

Again, I did not get a great photo of her in action, but I think you can see she's the one beginning to plow through that pack. She made it every time.
Jeanne says Luna Negra has a child in a neighboring school. And she tells me that a member of the Deerby Liberation Front is a parent where her kids are in school.  There are moms out there like Jeanne.  Heck, the program noted that moms were taking a season off because they were having a baby or they'd just returned to the team after having a baby. Check out a few bios of Rat City Roller Girls right here. You're gonna love what they have to say about themselves and about the sport.

I have to say, I'd never want to play this sport myself. I watched these women fight their way through human obstacles, fearless. I'd be skating in the opposite direction. The thing is, each of us has different skill sets and I'm following mine.  But, as for watching and appreciating these women? I can do that. They're great.
One fearless physical thing I did do this year was to say YES when my eldest daughter Caroline asked me to take a turn on the flying trapeze. Didn't master it, but I swung off that high platform three times. I was not steaming ahead into a massive group of helmeted women. I was simply swinging by myself from a high place and falling into a big net.

It sure would be nice to see the Comets play again.