Wuss on wheels

I try hard to brand myself as a tough lady, a woman of valor, a working mama who feeds backyard chickens in high–heeled boots.

But next to some women, it’s obvious I’m merely an amateur — a poseur, really — in the field of badassery.

Specifically, I am referring to the Savannah Derby Devils.

If you’ve been a spectator, you’re already making squealy dolphin sounds in anticipation of the 2012 season, the Devils’second in the 6000–seat Civic Center. If you’ve never been to a bout, please get ready to rock come May.

Basically, these free–wheeling females radiate so much awesomeness they sell back the extra voltage back to power the grid. The “Savannah” in their moniker means that this is their town, and they are just letting us live here. There used to be a street downtown named after them, but it had to be changed because nobody crosses the Derby Devils and survives.

It’s a known fact that the mere mention of the Derby Devils makes Chuck Norris curl up in the fetal position and whisper nursery rhymes to himself in order to stave off the bone–shaking terror.

As demagogic as they appear, the truth is that Derby Devils are not necessarily born, but made. Every year, these divine women of kinetic flow host Roller Girl Boot Camp, a one–week orientation and group lesson that introduces the sport of derby to wannabes and allows the team to troll for new talent, better known as “fresh meat.” This year’s camp starts on Sunday, Jan. 22 at Supergoose Sports and is open to women (and men) 18+ of all shapes and sizes, no experience or equipment necessary.

I’ve heard for years how Boot Camp is an incredible way to connect with interesting, cool women, and how attending doesn’t necessarily mean a commitment to try out for the team (though some campers go on to volunteer as scorekeepers, referees and “jeerleaders.”)

I believe it all. I think it sounds amazing. For everyone else. I prefer cheering from the stands with all my teeth, thankyouverymuch.

I go to great lengths every January to avoid Boot Camp recruitment by Fear Abby, the Devils’ longtime superstar scorer and current coach who I would have the terrifying pleasure of calling a friend if that’s what you call someone you like a lot who also scares the shit out of you. (Actually, Fear Abby does not have friends. She has acolytes with whom she deigns her oxygen to be shared.)

This time, Fear Abby brings along reinforcements: Hello Kidney, a fresh meat graduate of 2011 Boot Camp who tore up the floor last season as a B–team jammer (the scoring position in the sport of derby.) Together, they shred my carefully curated collection of Very Good Reasons Why I Cannot Attend Derby Boot Camp into a pile of toilet paper confetti.

Well, I really don’t have the time, I explain to this duo of destruction.

“Bitch, please.” Fear Abby favors Gene Simmons makeup circa 1978, making her seem like the world’s scariest kindergarten teacher. “It’s one afternoon and four evenings. You can TVR ‘Glee’. Sheesh.”

Oops, I sold my roller skates at a garage sale in 1988.

“Not a problem. Skates are included with admission, just like a roller rink,” responds Abby.

Uh, I have a lot of expensive orthodontia to protect.

“We provide mouthguards,” growls Hello Kidney. “And helmets, knee and elbow pads. And you have to wear them. Or else.”

I’ve got kids at home?

Abby snarls. “Half the Devils are mothers! Kidney here has three kittens under four years old and she’s still nursing! Next excuse?”

I confess it very, very quietly: I’m scared. Once, in college, this insane refrigerator–shaped girl slidetackled me during a dorm soccer game and made me cry. In short, I am a wuss.

They nod sympathetically.

“Yes, pain hurts,” agrees Abby.

“But in a good way, sometimes,” adds Kidney. “The best way to learn how to fall is to fall.”

For a few minutes they forget about me as they chat amiably about the various injuries they and others have incurred, such as pancake–sized bruises, nosebleeds, broken bones and something called “a giner shiner,” the effect of what happens when you get wracked in the crotch with a wheel.

I must have looked pale, because they reassured me that there’s no shoving or any other aggressive contact at Boot Camp, just basic skating drills and good times. If someone does require medical attention, Derby blocker Felony Melanie is a registered nurse.

(Oh yeah, Fear Abby also articulated that if you’re not comfortable saying or hearing the word “vagina” on an hourly basis, roller derby is definitely not for you. In that regard, I’ll fit right in.)

Fear Abby glares at me. “Any more cop-outs, girl?”

Er, none.

Is being too scared to roll with the Devils better or worse than being too scared not to?

Savannah Derby Devil Boot Camp runs Jan. 22–26. $35 includes skates, protective gear and afterparty. Info at savannahderby.com.