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Saturday, January 31, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 24.0° F  
MADLAND: A group blog about life in Madison, Wisconsin
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Madland: My adventures in announcing for the Mad Rollin' Dolls
A report from the booth at the 2013-14 season opener
I just started talking, hoping it wouldn't be horrible.
Credit:Pete Hnilicka

When I opened a Facebook message asking if I'd like to be a guest play-by-play announcer for Mad Rollin' Dolls, I immediately and enthusiastically replied "Yes!"

I then spent the next week wondering why I said yes.

Local comedian Pushy Muldowney is a veteran of the Dolls' roller derby league, where she played under the nom de skate "Octopushy." Pushy had the idea of adding rotating local comedians in the announcer's booth for this year's bouts. Through the virtue of scheduling and luck, I ended up getting to be the guest comedian announcer for the 10th season opener last Saturday at the Coliseum.

I was terrified. I've attended Mad Rollin' Dolls bouts going back to the second season, and I have fond memories of drinking giant cans of PBR while sitting on the floor at Fast Forward, but I've never had a grasp of roller derby rules beyond the basics. The jammers, the people with the star on their heads, need to pass the blockers to vie for lead jammer and eventually to score points -- I get that part. When it comes to penalties and procedures for official review, though, no idea.

At least my roller derby knowledge was better than my knowledge of most sports. My basketball commentary would have consisted entirely of, "And that one guy got the ball into the hole. Someone blew a whistle for some reason."

Luckily, Pushy had set up a nice mix of commentators to make up for any individual gaps. Fundamental Pete (of WSUM and AssJammery fame) was the only one who could figure out how to read the little monitor giving out player's stats. Dreamboat Fannie used her experience of playing in the league to help relay what it is like to be there on the track. And Pushy had done the play-by-play before, so she knew how to get the crowd going.

For the first few minutes, I wondered what I was going to contribute. Then I remembered that I'm really good at being loud. So I just started talking, hoping it wouldn't be horrible.

To my surprise, I wasn't (that) horrible! I think I made up words a few times, and I definitely got the ref's hand signals wrong, but as long as I talked with energy and confidence, no one seemed to care.

I was also aided by all the amazing players. Of course, they were the attraction, and the teams gave us two amazing bouts. No one goes to roller derby for the commentary; the announcers are there for seasoning. I tried to be like salt, adding in a pinch of myself every so often for flavor, but refraining from talking too much so as not to leave a bad taste in people's mouths.

By halfway through the first bout, the four of us settled into a groove. We rotated duties: One person focused on play-by-play, one person focused on reading and checking off sponsor messages, and one person focused on reading the shout-outs made by the people in the audience. The fourth person took a break. The event from start-to-finish ends up being about four hours long, and that's a lot of talking.

I ended up having lots of fun. I'm glad I did it. I appreciated getting a look behind the scenes at the Mad Rollin' Dolls, as I got to talk with some of the people who do all the jobs required to keep the show going. It's a massive team effort, and the amount of coordination is simply astounding. It was neat to get to be a part of that for a night.

I've already signed up to be a guest announcer again in February, so now I can start getting scared for that bout.

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