Sunday, February 22, 2009

There's Roller Derby and then There's Roller Derby

When it looked like the Seattle Sonics would be the leaving the northwest for the filthy lucre of Oklahoma City it was suggested on various websites and in chatrooms that one ideal tenant for the Key Arena would be the Rat City Rollergirls, the city's all-female Roller Derby league. This year, those skating affecianados get their wish - the league will be skating all of its bouts (as they're currently called) at Key.
I attended the Roller Derby tournament at Key Arena a couple of years ago, featuring teams from all over the country, as part of the Bumbershoot Festival. It was a good way to spend the day but when it comes to Roller Derby I'm a traditionalist. Some would say a conservative.
To me, Roller Derby will always be the game I watched on TV as a child - the San Francisco Bay Area Bombers led by Charlie O'Connell and Joan Weston. The women would skate the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th periods and the men would skate the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th. The Bombers would take on teams like the Northwest Cardinals, Northeast Braves, New York Chiefs, Midwest Pioneers and Southern Jolters at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco. In later years, the Chiefs and Pioneers would start playing home games and I saw the Chiefs several times at the Providence Civic Center.
Of course, there was a certain degree of showmanship and the dirty little secret was that the star pivot skaters like O'Connell, Bill Groll and Ronnie Robinson (son of Sugar Ray) knew how to control the game and keep the score close.
The current game features leagues all over the country that skate under basically the same rules. The game's are ``on the level'' which means that team's can theoretically beat their opponents, 120-1. The new league gets its' share of criticism as well. The women wear low-cut tops, shorts, and fishnet stockings. The Westons and Ann Calvello's of my childhood have been replaced by skaters using names like Atilla the Nun and Lucille Brawl.
When I attended the ``bouts'' at Key Arena the guy sitting in front of me turned and asked, ``what are the rules of this game besides cheering when a girl on the visiting team gets knocked on her ass''? At times I wasn't sure myself of some of these new-fangled Roller Derby rules.
However, I did find a YouTube clip explaining the rules in Bay Bomber-style Roller Derby. It's not the greatest clip in the world, but it shows the final period of the 1968 championship game between the Bombers (with O'Connell and Cliff Butler) and the Northwest Cardinals (led by Ken Monte and ``Wild Man'' Bobby Seever) at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wither Nickelsville

I reently attended a meeting for Nickelsville to discuss the future of Seattle's homeless encampment. Residents have to leave their current home, the University Congrational United Church by March 5, and currently have nowhere else to go. This is the Nickelodeons second home in the U District.
There were about 75 people in attendance and one thing was made the clear, Nickeleville isn't about to disband. According to Peggy Hotes, one of the on-stage speakers, a permanent site REMAINS the number one goal of the Nickelsville residents.
That was also the feeling of just about everyone who spoke from the floor. People in the hall did vote for finding a temporary home as the next thing to do but philosophically they want Nickelsville to find a permanent home.
I said there were plenty of places for Nickelsville. There were 39 proposed sites for the jail, and 34 of those were in South or Southwest Seattle which is where the city wants to dump such a facility. The Nickelodeons are a little more open-minded; they're considering the entire city, and are still looking into sites not owned by the city.
I think my comments from the floor made one of the Nickelsville leaders nostalgic. ``The first site we had (at Marginal Way and Highland) was being considered for a prison spot. That was a great spot for Nickelsville.'' Well I remember that Thursday night, two days after Nickelsville opened, when people came from all over, building a kitchen, a sign-in house, and putting up pink tents. And then the next morning, the city came and destroyed it.
There was also one guy in the audience who said Nickelsville should change its name because it was too political and scared away support from some housing groups. The response from the rest of the gathering was a resounding no. My friend Margaret, who's an outsider (she cooked one time for Nickelsville), was the hero of the day. She gave a passionate speech about why Nickelsville should keep its name and stay in Seattle. I think she said something about corrupt politicians as well. She received the loudest applause of the afternoon.
As for Nickelsville's namesake, supposedly there's a poll in existance that shows former City Council president Peter Steinbrueck ahead of Nickels in the mayoral race. What an irony it would be: Nickelsville, which they said would never last, lasting longer than Mayor Nickels.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Modern Man

This week George Carlin was posthumously presented the Mark Twain humor award at the JFK Center. Carlin found out about the award a week before he died saying, ``Twain's people contacted his people.'' George Carlin would have been a great journalist. He was a keen observer of people and loved and respected language. The above was shown as George's ``acceptance'' speech.