TALK ABOUT A quandary.
How exactly does a man write about a flat track roller derby event without sounding like a complete creep?
Can I mention the skin-tight shirts and shorts that appear to be painted on in some cases?
Is it uncouth to talk about names like “Gloria Sass” and “Kimbo Slice-a-Ho?”
Am I unqualified to talk about fishnet stockings, bedazzled eye makeup and the sport’s apparent preference for pigtails and jet black hair?
Does it make me an obnoxious pig that I thoroughly enjoy all of the above?
After about an hour of watching the Port Scandalous Derby Dolls first-ever home match at the Olympic Skate Center in Port Angeles on Saturday, I decided none of that mattered.
The individuality that defines the sport — and trust me, it is very much a sport — means roller derby is whatever you make of it.
“As a sport it breeds independent, strong, athletic women,” said announcer Lady Blah Blah (aka Amy O’Shaugnnessy) of the Bremerton-based team Death Rattle Rollers.
“I think there’s a lot of that out there for men, not so much for women, so they say, ‘Come as you are.
“‘You might be a big girl, you might be a skinny girl, you might have never played a sport in your life, but we accept you.’
“It’s like a little family. I think that’s the appeal that roller derby has to females.”
“As fans,” added Lady Blah Blah, “I think it’s just fun for all ages. Who doesn’t want to see football played out on wheels without a ball and girls in little cute uniforms?”
Amen, Lady Blah Blah. Amen.
There’s much to enjoy in the controlled chaos that comes with roller derby.
And the moment you stop worrying about whether or not you know what’s going on is exactly when you start to see it for what it is — a combination of grace and power akin to popular contact sports.
Much like its gridiron counterpart, for instance, there’s a use for all body types — be it the smaller, faster skaters or the bigger, bruising enforcers on wheels.
There are hellacious hits that send skaters sliding into the front row, and there are moments of skillful skating when “jammers” swoop in and around packs of “blockers” and turn corners foot over foot like a short-track speed skater.
And then, of course, there is the sport’s inimitable style; the clever nicknames, the retro striped socks and the intentionally overdone mascara.
“Any style or particular look that celebrates the female body is going to be immediately brought into roller derby,” Lady Blah Blah said.
“It depends on the kind of team you want to be.”
But, Lady Blah Blah added, “because you may accessorize or because you want to bling out your boy shorts or whatever, it doesn’t mean that you’re not playing a sport.
“It just means you enjoy that part of it.”
Like basketball players who throw on all manner of sweatbands, baseball players who load up on eye black and hockey players who grow grotesque mullets, roller derby girls do their own thing.
The way Port Scandalous captain Staci Botts (aka Kitty Kabooty) explains it, however, the draw is something else all together.
“The appeal is the camaraderie with my teammates, and the ability to be professional and responsible in my real life and come out here and get out all of the aggression,” said Botts, a 38-year-old human resources staffer at Westport Shipyard.
Botts is not alone in that regard.
Port Scandalous has women of all ages and walks of life, from 22-year-old barista/business owner “Maulin” Molly Jensen to 30-year-old forensic investigator Anita “Anighta Terror” Hicklin to 39-year-old saleswoman Angie “Diva DeRailHer” Wilhelm.
At any point in the match they might be flying around the rink dodging skaters in an attempt to score points or hip-checking an opponent into the rail.
Less than a year into the sport — Port Scandalous first began holding practices last May — the Derby Dolls are still relatively new to the sport.
Saturday’s bout against the Fort Lewis Bettie Brigade was just the second in the club’s brief history.
The Dolls lost 153-129, but that didn’t seem to matter too much to the packed house inside Olympic Skate Center.
A group of grade-school aged girls even approached Botts for a photo after the bout.
Soon, they may be derby girls themselves.
“Roller derby definitely fosters an individuality,” Botts said. “We are a team, but we’re all different.
“We have different strengths, and definitely the look plays into it.”
But, as I learned on Saturday, it’s only a small part.
Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com.