Editorials — December 22, 2014 11:09 — 1 Comment

The Monarch Drinks With Clobberin Mame


It’s a cold and rainy night in December. I just left work and I’m stuck in gridlock traffic in Belltown. It’s atypical of me to be going out on the town on a Wednesday night. Normally, I would be heading over to my yoga studio or on my way home to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book. But I make an exception from my regular routine to have drinks with Clobberin Mame from the Rat City Rollergirls.

Clobberin Mame is not an unfamiliar name to me. Beginning my own roller derby journey at the ripe age of 19 has allowed me to become well acquainted with the skaters in the area. Especially skaters like Mame. She has been with the Rat City Rollergirls since its birth over 10 years ago.

To be perfectly honest, I’m a little intimidated. My nerves quickly fade, though, when I think of the instantaneous comradery between roller girls. In my experience, roller girls tend to get along famously. They respect and listen to each other. There’s an unspoken code that the only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday. I begin to relax and feel a calm confidence.

I pull up to the tiny restaurant in North Lake Union. I brave the dreary weather to walk down a pathway towards the entrance of Westward on Northlake Way. I’m met with Christmas lights sweeping over the railing and an astonishing view of the city skyline. I enter into the bustling dining room and politely gesture to the hostess that I’m grabbing a seat at the bar. She smiles and brings over a menu. I immediately order a double IPA (hey, it’s hump day, right?) I scan over the menu full of fish, seafood and winter vegetables. When Mame comes in she greets me with a smile warmer than the wood-burning fireplace.

I invite her to sit down and encourage her to grab a drink. I tell her I ordered a Seven Seas Double IPA and offer her a sip. She willingly takes a drink but decides to get a Trickster Brown Porter. “I like all beer,” she says. “I’ll drink almost anything.” We are going to get along just fine! I have a series of questions burning in my mind as she sits down, but we both just got off work. Let’s take a breather. “How are you?” I ask, and with that simple question I learn much about my new companion:

Mame tells me about her day. “I work for a lumber yard. I consider myself a Jane of all trades,” she says with a bit of laughter. I also learn that she’s taking classes to become an auto mechanic teacher. That’s impressive, I’m thinking. We chat about work, the harsh weather, and the enticing looking items on the menu in front of us. We decide to share a few plates. “I love sharing!” she exclaims, and she has already won my heart. We order cauliflower soup, gravlax, and grilled octopus. As we dig in to our tasty snacks, I begin my inquisition about roller derby.

How remarkable, I say, it is that she’s been playing roller derby for over 10 years. “It will be 11 years in March,” she tells me. Now that’s a ton of derby! She’s seen the beginning of roller derby in Seattle, all the changes it’s gone through, and how it’s become one of the fastest growing sports in the world. In fact, just this past weekend the Roller Derby World Cup was held in Dallas. At the World Cup, teams from all over the globe, including England, Australia, Japan and Brazil, hit the flat track to battle for their country’s pride.

I ask what she thinks has changed the most over the years. She pauses to think and it seems difficult for her to pinpoint her answer. “The greatest thing about derby is that it’s constantly changing. The people, the strategy, even the rules.” She continues, “I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, but I enjoy the ever-changing aspect of it!” Mame proceeds to tell me how much she has changed over the years, and how derby has impacted her life, personally.

In my own experience with roller derby, it completely changed my life. As a young adult still trying to establish myself in the world, roller derby became my rock. It kept me grounded and held me accountable. Not only that, but I had at least 20 new best friends and they were all willing to coach me, teach me and give me advice about life and about derby. It also changed the way I viewed myself, my body and the continuously evolving role of women in society. Mame wholeheartedly agreed; she’s had a similar experience. “I’m definitely more comfortable in my own skin now,” she says. “That could also be attributed to simply growing up, but roller derby paved the way.” She tells me that she’s now coaching the girls in the junior roller derby and how inspiring it is to see their transformation as well. “They’re able to show their true colors and come into their own skin. I see them grow and learn to respect themselves. They gain an incredible amount of self-esteem and self-worth,” she says.

It makes me wonder if she had any idea what impact this sport would have on her when it came into her life in the spring of 2004. She voluntarily offers her own history of how she became involved at a very young age. “I used to watch roller derby on TV with my Great Uncle Jack. I would run around the house crashing into walls, pretending I was on skates. I was probably just 8 years old.” She continues, “My friend traveled to Texas and witnessed the rebirth of roller derby first hand. She came back to Seattle, determined to start a league here. When I first heard of the new venture I was immediately, like, sign me up! It was the missing link.”

Nearly 11 years later, she’s the co-captain of the Sockit Wenches. Thinking of my own derby career that didn’t last half as long, questions come to mind: “How do you keep doing it?” and “What makes you keep going?”

She tells me what a delicate balance it can be, and how it’s taken her almost the entire decade to make life and derby thrive. “I take a leave of absence after every season. I have to have my own time to enjoy myself too. I love the summers in Seattle and I don’t want to not be able to go swimming or skate outside. Everyone needs time to reconnect with their family and be themselves, but derby is very much a part of who I am. I can’t imagine my life without it.”

I begin to wonder what it would take to get Mame to quit, if anything. Roller derby is an extremely physical, full contact sport, and the injuries sustained are enough to deter anyone from persevering. After my first season, I broke my leg and my ankle at the same time and it left me pretty rattled. After 11 years I can only imagine the wear and tear Mame’s body has withstood. She tells me she’s never broken anything but has suffered a series of muscle tears, torn ligaments, concussions and bloody noses. This all sounds too familiar. We share stories (and photos) of years of bruises and broken bones. We both agree the pleasure we take in the game far outweighs the risk of injury. Mame still looks around for a piece of wood to knock on in hopes that she will never break a bone.

I’m getting excited for the derby season to start up again in January. I’m eager to hear if Mame has anything to share about the upcoming bouts, but first I want to get her take on the recent changes in the rules. In 2013 the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) changed a series of rules in hopes of creating a faster paced game and to keep skaters on the track. The rule changes include cutting down the amount of time skaters sit in the penalty box and completely eliminating minor penalties. Previously in the game, skaters would rack up minor penalties for small offenses and would go to the penalty box when they received their fourth minor. Having played with the new rules for nearly a year, Mame had nothing but positive things to say about the difference it’s made for the sport. “I love it!” she blurts out, before I can even finish the question. “When we began testing the new rule set, I thought it would be a shit show, but it’s truly made the game better.” I have to agree that the faster paced game has improved the sport for skaters and spectators alike.

“So what can we expect for Rat this season?” I ask.

“We’ve worked really hard as a league to get where we are today.” She says enthusiastically. “We have some really great long-term skaters, as well as some up and coming fresh meat. I feel really good about this season, probably better than I’ve ever felt before. I’m really confident in our coaches this year.”

We continue to swap stories and Mame tells me some of her favorite memories from the last 10 years. She begins to tear up as she shares some of her most precious moments. As she wipes her eyes with her sleeves, she may not realize that I’m tearing up as well. Hearing her intense passion and seeing her genuine happiness makes my chest swell. We both have to laugh over getting a little emotional.

After the meal and beers, we walk outside together to say goodbye. We embrace in a hug and she quickly pulls out her phone to flash Rat City’s recreational league’s schedule. She encourages me to drop by. “Come say hi and skate!” She says cheerfully. I assure her that I will.

As we depart I can’t help but feel that my full belly is not the only thing leaving satisfied. I’ve gotten everything I had hoped to get from this interview. We laughed, we teared up, we drank beer, we talked a lot of derby, and I feel as though I’ve made a new friend. Although my stomach and my heart are leaving full, I’ll always be hungry for more derby.


Brittany Pollard is the Executive Assistant at Tom Douglas Restaurants and hella feisty!

One Comment

  1. Alison Fordham says:

    What a beautifully written article , on how a sport can boost a womens self esteem, and have such a sisterhood . Mame is an incredible lady , staying true to herself ,and coaching more young women up the ladder, to find their transformations, both physically and mentally.

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