Like 100% of the human population, I have preferences.
I’ve been called a snob about some of these; I’m rather elitist when it comes to my music choices, picky about the food I eat, and judgmental about politics.
But nowhere are my rooting interests more clear than sports. While there are some whole leagues which I root against (read: the NHL and NFL,) generally, my preferences get more specific. In baseball, I root for the Red Sox first, the Mariners second, and whoever is playing the Yankees third, but I have some sort of opinion about virtually every team in the Majors. It’s funny, really: While I only really root for two teams, I could probably look at a day’s worth of match-ups and tell you which team I would prefer to see win in each of them without hesitation. Based on this, I could probably even create a whole hierarchy of my baseball rooting interests, but even I think that would be ridiculous.
Especially considering this post really isn’t about baseball.
Next week, Seattle’s own Rat City Rollergirls are having their first bout(s) of the season; just like last year, this event will benefit charities. The league’s four teams—zombie-themed Grave Danger, automotive-themed Sockit Wenches, guerrilla-themed Derby Liberation Front (DLF), and space-themed Throttle Rockets—each pick a charity and then compete in a mini-tournament, where the higher-placing teams’ charities will receive more money.
I first attended a Rat City Rollergirls bout in the summer of 2008, after some friends and I had discussed going for a while. It was a bit more challenging to get tickets those days—the bouts took place in a hangar in Magnuson Park, which meant limited capacity, little-to-no food options, port-a-potties out back for restrooms, and the risk of stifling heat. Still, I had fun at that first bout, most of which I spent worrying about figuring out what was going on and not who was winning.
But the next bout I went to, I realized I should probably decide who to cheer for. Traditionally, my rooting interests have been familial (my dad was a Red Sox fan) or geographic (hence the Mariners), but in a league where all the teams were local, I had to be slightly more arbitrary. At first, team colors and themes seemed like the way to decide, and that certainly played a role in my overall rankings, but what ultimately made up my mind was the look on one of the skaters’ faces. I noticed that a jammer for the Sockit Wenches, Wile E. Peyote, cracked an enormous grin every time she passed through the pack. Clearly, she was having fun out there, and somehow, that little gesture won me over to her team’s side.
The next season, Rat City moved into KeyArena, the former home of the Seattle Supersonics; the first bout, attendance tripled the old hangar’s capacity, exceeding everyone’s expectations. (Arena officials, not expecting such a huge turnout, opened only one concession stand, which led to lines so long that they announced that, just this once, fans could bring in outside food.) I went to several bouts that season, and last season, I bought season tickets for the first time.
Over the years, I unintentionally ranked all the teams in my mind. It looks like this:
1. Sockit Wenches
2. Throttle Rockets
4. Grave Danger
Last year, much to my enjoyment, the Sockit Wenches defeated Grave Danger in the championship, which I attended with my Grave Danger-leaning friends. This year, I’m hoping for a repeat, but the bouts that count don’t start until next month.
Which brings me back to next weekend, and the little conundrum I have: In that charity tournament, DLF will be playing for the benefit of 826 Seattle, the charity where I’ve been volunteering for more than four years now. Regardless of how they place, 826 will get at least some money; perhaps more importantly, 826 is going to have an outreach table at the bout where they can hopefully attract some more donations and/or volunteers. (In fact, I found out that DFL was representing 826 when I was asked if I wanted to work at this table. I declined since I already had tickets.)
It would be easy to shrug and say that the difference between DLF winning and losing is only a couple hundred dollars at worst, and that’s what I would do in other situations. If the Red Sox and Yankees played in a situation where 826 would get $1 million for a Yankees victory, I’d still root for the Sox (although I’d certainly accept a Yankee victory more than normal.) But then, that’s an interest that’s been ingrained in me since birth; I barely remember my father, but I remember him telling me to never root for the God-damned Yankees.
My derby allegiance is far more arbitrary. (And, important but not necessarily relevant: Next weekend’s bouts will not count in the standings.)
Next week, I’ll be rooting for DLF for a change; I’m sure the other charities are worthy, but I know 826 is. I don’t know what that money will be used for, but I know there are lots of things for which it could be used: Pencils, snacks for after-school tutoring, updating the computers, paying for a class that can’t afford a school bus to come to a field trip, and so on. That’s what’s most important—who wins next Saturday won’t make any difference in the long term, but their donations could help change a kid’s life forever.
Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to say I saw both.