A man walks into a bar

A man walked into a half empty karaoke bar sometime after midnight. Or, it can be assumed that he walked in, because no one saw him enter. Everyone’s eyes were fixated on the spectacle happening at the front of the room. Strangers and friends, all intent on having a good time, were singing karaoke to one another and dancing to the Latin music that served to fill the spaces in between each song.

At some point he must have put his name into the proverbial hat. The DJ called him up to the front where he took his turn at the microphone. Rather than stand, he has a seat behind the drum set that hasn’t been silent for hours, as various folks try their hand at the bongos, or would steal the tambourine for a while.

He was dressed in a bright white tuxedo shirt tucked neatly into his jeans, sleeves rolled up, with white running shoes, and a tan line where a wedding ring would normally sit. He sang a song about love and jealousy to no one in particular.

Just as he snuck into the bar, he disappeared before last call.

I didn't get the mystery man's picture, so here's a picture of the trusty DJ, his work being supervised by Michael Jackson.
I didn’t get the mystery man’s picture, so here’s a pic of the trusty DJ, his work being supervised by Michael Jackson.

We just couldn’t….we just didn’t…

I’ve been trying to write something for 5 days. Every day since last Saturday I’ve sat down and tried to write about the house league team that my partner (mAndre the Magnificent) and I coach, the ‘Quakes, and how they placed 2nd in the Capital City Derby Dolls 2015 league championships, and how fucking proud I am of them.

Cupquakes.  #2 in the league, #1 in my heart.
Cupquakes. #2 in the league, #1 in my heart.

It was a tough game full of ups and downs. We were ahead by a significant margin at halftime, but we lost most of it during the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half. I should have known it would happen. The opposing team was coached by someone who hates to be outdone, who thrives on a comeback. The poster child for a second half team leader. Could we have done a better job preparing the team for the onslaught they were going to face in the 2nd half? Could I have done a better job rallying them in the locker room during halftime? Rather than applaud their efforts and encourage their continued performance, what could we, as coaches, have done to prepare them for what was to come?

Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Can’t change it now.

I haven’t been able to finish a cohesive post because my thoughts are so dis-jointed. We lost. But we played a strong game. Individuals gave it their all. Sometimes the team fell apart. Experienced players set fantastic examples. New skaters stepped up their game. And it just wasn’t quite enough to pull out a win. We were the underdog, and the fan favourite. We played our game to the very end. The win was within striking distance in the last jam, but we just couldn’t….we just didn’t….we lost.

I’ve known some of these skaters for a really long time. I’ve seen them learn to skate. I’ve seen them fall down. I’ve sat with them when they couldn’t get up. I’ve screamed and yelled at (and hugged) almost all of them. I’ve watched their friends drop out of derby, while they stuck with it. I’ve seen their skills develop, their track awareness develop, and their confidence and leadership skills skyrocket, and I get to see it all months before they do.

It breaks my heart when someone quits. Derby is a unique environment. We teach adults something entirely new and terrifying. It takes a lot of energy to encourage someone off the floor over and over and over again. It takes all the coffee in the world to do it with a smile on your face week after week. And it feels like a personal rejection when someone just stops coming around.

Those who stay, who make it through Fresh Meat and through busy school semesters or wonky work schedules, December blues and October tattoos, well, we all get a little attached. I love these people, I respect their abilities, and I want to do the best that I can, as a coach, for them. And derby stereotypes occasionally hold true. Sometimes I love them AND don’t know their real names.

I screamed myself hoarse on Saturday night. It’s been 5 days and my voice hasn’t come back yet. Maybe my thoughts are muddled because of some impending illness lurking at the back of my throat. What would Dr. Bust’er say?

Make 2 hot toddies in non-spill travel mugs and take them to bed with you.

I should really take my own advice.

But sick or not, I have to move along. The other team that mAndre and I coach, the Dollinquents, are halfway through their competitive season. We’re on the road this weekend, and I’ve been thoroughly distracted with trying to plan lines for the upcoming game. Like a derby matchmaker, I’m trying to figure out who’s got chemistry, and who just can’t find their stride together. Who’s still healthy and uninjured? Who’s nursing an injury (or 2). Who’s been playing really well, and who is having trouble keeping their head in the game? I’ll pack my pages of notes, my whistle, and a thermos of hot toddies. Because even hoarse, practically voiceless, I want to be there for the team.