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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

February 8, 2013 at 2:00 PM

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Becoming Slamburger Patty

Patricia Gray, aka Slamburger Patty, skates for the Rat City Rollergirls and wrote a Take 2 post about why she loves the sport of roller derby. The next Rat City Rollergirls bout is Saturday at KeyArena at 5:30 p.m.

Potential fresh meat

The sun blinded me as I looked for the Rat's Nest. I had raced from work on a warm fall day in 2009, fought 5 o'clock traffic and frantically searched for the home of the Rat City Rollergirls.

I was late but it wasn't going to stop me.

I entered the warehouse that contained little more than a shiny blue track and the whizzing sounds of dozens of women rolling in a synchronized pace line. This was my first practice with Seattle's Potential FreshMeat League, the training grounds for Seattle roller derby.

I came in with basic skating skills from rolling over cracked sidewalks and gliding around dingy roller rinks in childhood, I anxiously strapped on an old pair of skates and my new protective gear and jumped into the action. As I raced on the track I told myself: "Go for it! Don't hold back." — this was my chance to set the tone.

I was scared out of my mind about what I was about to do — weaving my way tightly between skaters moving quickly in the pace line — yet I was more frightened of letting this new-found dream slip through my fingers.

What had brought me to this dank warehouse ready to be knocked eight wheels up to the ground?

Twenty-some years of trying various sports and losing interest, fond memories of wrestling with my three sisters and a pair of skates that I'd lugged around the world and back.

In 2007 — skates, aggression, yearning and all — I found myself sitting on the cold concrete floor of an airplane hanger at Magnuson Park. Girls in tights with thematic flair rolled by with confidence, grace and fire in their eyes. Defying standards and doing so physically, yet gracefully was where my heart found its match on the roller derby track.

There was no turning back.

Making the cut

After six months of training day and night, Rat City announced tryouts. I showed up with aggression and doubt laced tightly in my skates.

I passed the basic skills portion of tryouts, feeling good about myself. Yet, just before team interviews Sara Problem, a veteran skater from Rat City, walked over and told me, "I'm, sorry, but we're going to ask you to leave now."

My eyes welled up, my heart sank in just two short hours on a Saturday morning my dreams were dashed. As quickly as this thought blushed across my face, Sara leaned in and said, "Patty, keep skating."

She didn't need to tell me twice. I was on a mission and could not be stopped.

I went home and signed up for a weekend-long roller derby bootcamps around Washington State. Just two months later, I found my team in Tacoma, 32 miles from home. I was the newest member of the Marauding Mollys, a team on Tacoma's Dockyard Derby Dames. I would now be known by my roller derby name "Slamburger Patty."

For 2 1/2 years, I drove to Tacoma to practice four nights a week and competed in weekend bouts and community events. By my last season with the Mollys, we had gone from the bottom of the ship to celebrating our first Dockyard championship. My heart swelled with roller derby love, but I knew I needed to skate closer to home and get back to my original dream.

Realizing my dream

This time around I wasn't the new girl on the track, I was eligible to be a transfer skater. I had 30 days to skate alongside the teams, before they would decide if I was Rat City material.

I hoped for the best, but feared the worst — how would I handle the rejection of my dream again? I had dedicated every waking hour outside of my 40+hour job, apart from my newlywed husband and our fixer of a home, for the love of competing in this sport.

Would my sacrifice produce success?

I clutched my phone tightly as I awaited the call. On Nov. 7, 2012, co-captains Rumble Fish and Full Nelson rang to invite me to become the newest member of Rat City's Derby Liberation Front. I thanked them profusely to the point of being awkward. They had no idea how long I had waited for this news.

Looking back over the last three months of training with my new team, I thought making it on Rat City was the battle. I was wrong.

Now I'm faced all over again with the fiercest competition to train harder and be better on my new team.

New drills and techniques take me back to that same fear I had as a new skater — this time I'm spinning around backwards in front of my opponent, hoping to take her down with a shoulder jab to the sternum.

While we work hard to build camaraderie and teamwork on the track, my own team is my toughest competition. Each team is comprised of 20 players, but come bout day only 14 of us will skate at KeyArena.

Playing roller derby keeps me on my toe stops and bursting forward — on and off the track. When I'm faced with a high-stakes presentation at work or a fierce conversation in my personal life , I often find myself asking...

"What would Slamburger do?"

If you’d like to write a Take 2 post, email Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com


Most Popular Comments
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just a question why not inline skates? haven't seen this live but seems to be great... MORE
So nice to see roller derby in the sports section, where it belongs. We're all pulling... MORE
I only wish I could witness the spectacle of dreams Slamming into reality! Way to go... MORE

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