When you’ve been fortunate enough to live a long and weird life – one where you look back and have no idea how you got here, how none of it was according to any plans made when young – instinct unknowingly takes over about what to do and when. Conscious thought and strategy don’t apply. Things just happen when they happen, because things just are what they are.
There was no blueprint for announcing women’s flat-track roller derby back when I called my first Toronto Roller Derby league bout at George Bell Arena at the start of summer 2007. People with microphones just showed up, and the night was on. The athletes on the track, the officials (skating and non-skating) in and around it, the crowds and the announcers: We were all getting our feet (and skates) wet, and we were kind of flying by the seats of our pants. We had drive; we had passion; we had a belief that the modern revival and refinement of this great sport would be something that would take off with people and stick with them.
And it has. The support and rabid enthusiasm from all of you continues to ensure that. Women’s flat-track roller derby is still growing exponentially, and it will never go away. Consider Toronto Roller Derby now a permanent part of our civic culture.
I am extremely proud of the guidance, confidence and support of everyone in getting to be a part of that great piece of history. It has been a great honour and a great love to be the trackside play-by-play announcer for this beautiful league, for these great athletes and volunteers, and for you, the fans that have made all of this happen.
We started with six teams. Then we boiled it down to an essential four, then five, then six and now seven. That couldn’t have happened – couldn’t be happening – without you.
Every announcer handles the job differently. I got impatient with sitting at a table, as I did in Season 1, and started walking around. It brought me closer to the fans. And I have no plan and no script. I don’t have routines or banter. I don’t believe in that stuff. Toronto Roller Derby is unpredictable. It’s fast. It’s tough. It’s blood and guts on Saturday nights, right down there on the oval. I’ve always felt my job is to stay on everything in real time: I’m just the conduit between the energy on the track and the energy in the stands, and my job is to just keep relaying that back and forth as it happens. My obligation has always been to the players and to the fans, and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth….
…and instinct keeps kicking in. Things in Toronto Roller Derby are getting bigger and bolder – and that’s the way it’s supposed to be for a league that has taken the initiative on such great community events as the Pride Toronto ToRD Clam Slam, the Quad City Chaos tournament, and last December’s first-ever World Cup of Roller Derby at The Bunker. And it wasn’t just the skaters who made that possible. All of you made that happen. Because all of you keep showing the love, keep getting involved, keep being integral to the blossoming of this sport.
As ToRD’s world expands, there will be more boutcasts, more television, more media. Things are starting to get huge here. Me? Instinct tells me that this is the time to pass the baton (or the microphone, I guess) and let the future take its grand course. I’m a face-to-face, feet-on-the-ground guy. What I’ve dug more than anything is being right in there – physically, visually, vocally, hearing you all the way through and working to pass your energy along and around – for the direct action. No matter how badly a week may have been going, kicking into it in that space between the play and the crowd has never failed to boost me.
In other words: You great people have been awesome and incredible. And I can’t thank you enough for that.
Toronto Roller Derby is on to a rapidly expanding, great future. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done in service to the sport, the league and its supporters through these crucial six years. I’ve valued your input (yes, at almost every bout someone would come up to me to talk about mushy sound; ever tried to mic an arena or a warehouse? It’s damned near impossible!), and as much fun as calling the action on the track has been, it’s been even more fun to have conversations with so many of you at halftimes and after bouts. Toronto Roller Derby fans are abundantly kind, above all.
I’ve held a lot of different jobs during my life, and I’ve never been fired or laid off. (At least, I think so. One job seems really up in the air to me.) I’ve always known when the crossroads are coming, when it’s time to wish well and let the future take hold. Now is that time.
Consider this: The six years with Toronto Roller Derby are the longest I’ve ever held any job.
I still have no favourite team. I never will. It’s not that my job is to be impartial (which it is), but it’s that I live for those unscripted moments: That moment when an individual player suddenly summons a confidence she didn’t know she had to just start knocking ‘em dead with incredible skating and blocks; those moments when a team that has been struggling to get it together suddenly gels and goes into overdrive; those moments when not a single player gives up, no matter what the score in the bout. Overall, that, to me, is the great success of women’s flat-track roller derby, and of Toronto Roller Derby.
Spee Dee Ramone of the Death Track Dolls – who I’ve known longer than any other ToRD member, except for her teammate Jubilee – sent me a text just before the start of the 2012 Battle for the Boot: “Knock ‘em dead, Cranky… and don’t cry.”
I hope I did the former last Saturday, and I haven’t done the latter – yet. It hasn’t sunk in. Six years of volunteering for the greatest athletes and volunteers and fans in Toronto just don’t shut off at the end of a bout.
I’m not sure when it will kick in. But when it does, most of all I’ll think about the joy everyone has brought me, about the worlds you’ve opened up for me, about the huge positive differences you’ve all made in my life.
What does the future hold? I don’t know. But it’ll be fun to find out, won’t it?
Keep showing the passion. Keep showing the support. Keep getting louder!
Love and full respect,
trackside play-by-play announcer 2007-2012
Toronto Roller Derby