Watch Megahurtz and her Brooklyn Bombshells teammates this Wednesday night, July 21, at 11:30pm on NYC life, Channel 25 (22 on Cablevision), in the 90-minute presentation of their July 10th bout vs. the Queens of Pain.
The production will be thereafter viewable via internet stream at www.ggrd-nyclife.com.
If you ask the Brooklyn Bombshells’ Megahurtz about the concept of winning, it becomes immediately evident that the Wyoming native would rather lose a finger than be on the losing end of anything competitive.
But then she laughs.
“I would have lost a lot of fingers by now.”
In her third season as a blocker for Gotham Girls Roller Derby (fourth overall, as she was a founding member of San Antonio’s Alamo City Rollergirls), she has seen her share of heartache, but despite Brooklyn’s 0-2 record thus far in 2010, she sees a light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t an oncoming F train.
“I would really like to see us all perform very well and do what I know we’re all capable of doing, which is win,” she said before their hard-fought bout against Queens on July 10th. “It’s time we won one.”
And though their most recent bout wasn’t the one to get the Bombshells back in the win column, Megahurtz believes that it’s just a matter of time before her squad is competing for the league title.
“I think we’ve come to realize our strengths and our weaknesses a lot more, so by knowing your teammates better, you’re able to react with an expectation of what’s going to happen in the game,” she said. “And now that we know each other better, we can play a few steps ahead based on what we’re expecting from our teammates.”
Winning also requires some tweaking elsewhere, as the team Megahurtz describes as “lovable underdogs” start baring their teeth and turn into derby’s pitbulls.
“I think that at times we’re our own worst enemy, because we’ve always been known as the lovable underdogs, and in a lot of ways we kind of bought into that image. The only thing holding us back this season is ourselves, and I think we’ve realized that and are really trying to adopt the winner’s mindset. We have the talent, we have the experience, we have a deep bench, and a lot of workhorses on our team who are very consistent and very reliable who can get the job done. So it just becomes a matter of believing in ourselves. We’re ready to play this game and not be known as the underdogs.”
If Megahurtz sounds like she’s been around the competitive block before, that would be an accurate assessment, especially considering that her formative years were spent playing center and power forward in 5A basketball leagues in her adopted hometown of Houston, Texas. For all of you east coasters, 5A basketball in Texas is the real deal, not pick-up games for fun and little plastic trophies. So Megahurtz learned early on about winning, losing, and teamwork, and it’s something she’s been able to bring to derby, where she is surrounded not only by fellow team sports veterans, but skaters who come from individual sports, and some who have never even played sports competitively before.
“[Teamwork] is something I bring up a lot in roller derby, because you have a lot of people who have never played a team sport before and theconcept is entirely new to them,” she admits. “They may have no sports experience, so the idea of strategy and that kind of thing is hard for them to grasp, or they may have done individual sports where they’re so used to focusing on their own performance that they forget to rely on teammates or they’re very hard on themselves. They’ll say if the team doesn’t do well, it’s all their fault, that kind of thing. But for the people who have played sports before, you win as a team and you lose as a team, and every person on the team brings different strengths. Coming together as a team is all about honing each person’s strengths and figuring out where to use those to the team’s advantage. Every person has a role on that team and could be called upon at any moment to step up and play a big part.”
That kind of attitude is usually the toughest to attain in team sports. In most sports, there’s only one ball to go around, so everyone stepping onto the field or court wants to be the quarterback, the running back, the leading scorer in basketball, or the cleanup hitter in baseball. There’s little glory attached to the offensive lineman, the sixth man off the bench, or the utility infielder, though all are essential to a team’s victory. Megahurtz has that selfless attitude though, where winning supersedes individual glory.
“The team dynamic is something I went through my ups and downs with at a pretty young age, and I was quite comfortable on the bench in my formative years, so I know what it’s like to be that kind of backup person that is not a star and is basically there as a practice player who didn’t get much playing time in games,” she said. “I know what that’s like and it pushes me and motivates me to work hard and be a contributor on my team now. But it also allows me to be humble and know that I have a role on my team even if it might not be what I want it to be. Sure, we’d all want to be stars and top scorers, but ultimately, I have a place on my team and I need to be there for them in that role.”
It’s not always easy though.
“I struggle with it,” she said. “When you put in as much time and work as you do into this sport, and I have four years into it now, you want to believe that the time and everything is worth it. And sometimes it’s hard; sometimes you feel like ‘why am I putting in all this time and I don’t feel like I’m where I should be.’ But you’re always your own worst critic. After the Bronx game (in May) I couldn’t watch the footage for about a month. I just could not bring myself to watch it because I felt like I failed in my performance in that game. I really felt like I had let my team down. And when I finally watched the footage, I didn’t do as badly as I thought I did.”
Against Queens she also delivered a quality performance in 14 jams (fourth most on the team), as she opened the gate to the tune of 37 points for her jammers. An admitted tough self-critic, Megahurtz says “I am very hard on myself, and I probably contribute more than I will allow myself to admit to at some times,” but it’s only because she takes her role on the track so seriously.
“I feel like I have a job to take care of my jammer, and if my jammer gets taken out, I’m feeling it because that was my responsibility. I have a duty to my jammer to help keep her from getting beaten up, but I also have a responsibility to my teammates and my jammer to not let that other jammer by me by any means necessary within the rules.”
Also, at 5-foot-9, she is hard to miss in the sea of blockers on the track, so it’s at these times that those days blocking out for rebounds in her hoops days come in handy.
“All my practice jerseys are ripped and hanging together by threads because jammers tend to grab on to me as an anchor to propel themselves through or to push me into somebody else or use my body as leverage,” she smiles. “So, if nothing else, I’m a physical presence that the jammers know they can look for in the pack and use me in some sort of way, and I always tell them that’s what I’m there for.”
And in derby, unlike other team sports, the unsung heroes often get the well-deserved praise lacking elsewhere. For proof of this, look no further than the post-bout reports, where Team MVPs are often those fighting it out in the trenches and not necessarily the ones scoring all the points. This means that at least among the skaters, the ones doing the best work in a bout will be recognized, and as the sport gets bigger, fans will begin to realize that it’s not just about scoring in modern derby. That’s good news for skaters like Megahurtz.
“You see players like Beyonsláy and Kandy Kakes, who are blockers, who do get a lot of recognition for both assisting their jammers and for preventing other jammers from getting their jobs done,” she said. “So if a blocker is effective in the pack and makes the big plays that spring her jammer free or keeps a jammer from springing free, then people will see that, particularly if you’re able to make a big take out or make a nice slice and dice to get where you need to be. People will see that what you did is not easy and will recognize that. It’s like in football when you have the players setting blocks for the quarterback or the running back. When you stop and look at the play, you’ll notice that those holes don’t open by themselves.”
That’s the beauty of the sport, but it’s even more than that for Megahurtz. How much more? It even goes beyond winning and losing.
“It’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s heartbreaking – it’s all of those things,” she said. “It makes me feel alive and it reminds me that life is hard, but what’s worth living if it’s not? And roller derby is that. It’s changed my life. Before derby I was just another cog in the machine, and now I’m part of this and it’s something special. It’s ours.”