Flexi Wheeler. What can you say about Flexi that hasn't already been said by Popular Mechanics (page 101) in September of 1984? …1984? That's right. In an article entitled "Flexi-wheeler to anywhere" it was written, "This eight wheeled monster does tricks that would turn lesser vehicles into wrecks." They weren't really talking about the woman that embodies the name "Flexi Wheeler" on the flat track roller derby circuit 26 years later, but definitely could have been. The one thing that doesn't really parallel in that statement is "monster." Sometimes larger than life, always outspoken, and a force to be reckoned with on the track, you either love Flexi or you don't, but monster?
Everyone has their moments and Flexi is no exception, but over the course of the last few years I have gotten to know Ms. Wheeler as a member of the Hellions of Troy Roller Derby League and found her to have quite the heart. She was the first Hellion I met when Shannon, aka Sonic Euthanizer, joined the team. I didn't know what to make of this woman skating around in next to nothing. I felt pretty intimidated. Look at the size of her muscles and then take a look at me. She could tear a scrawny runner like me in half. That intimidation disappeared as soon as she came over half way through the practice and introduced herself. "Hey your girl's gonna be pretty good," she said to me as she grabbed some water and took off another layer of clothing. We made our introductions and chatted a bit about the Hellions before she went back out on the floor. What struck me was, when she spoke of the team and the women of which it was comprised, was the passion that could be read in her voice. Over two years later I still hear that passion. She has big aspirations for the team that she helped to start. She has faith in her teammates, talks highly of them, and is eager to share her love of derby. I have seen her wear many hats, or should I say helmets (she has quite a few,) as a team member. Sponsorship, public relations, recruitment, coaching, fierce competitor; she has done it all at one point or another. Flexi Wheeler bleeds pink and green.
Last weekend (10/16) saw the Hellions hold their first ever intraleague bout that saw half the team as vampires and the other as zombies in the spirit of Halloween. Sonic was a vampire and Flexi a zombie. Both sides played pretty aggressive with neither side going easy on the other because they are teammates. They played as hard as they would if they were up against any other leagues team. In the second half of the bout the zombies got a break in what was an otherwise even match-up when Flexi had an impressive 20 point power jam. Those 20 points were the exact margin of victory for the zombies. It was great bout to watch and to see how much the team has grown in both size and ability and think back to that frosty winter day that I attended that first practice.
Later that evening, when making our rounds at the after party and saying our goodbyes, Shannon and I were speaking with Sinful Pleasures, who bench coached for the vampires, and Flexi about the bout and Shannon's new league (we recently moved too far away for her to continue to commute to Hellions practices.) As always Flexi showed nothing but support and excitement for Shannon. She congratulated her on being selected as MVP for the vampire team and wished her luck. Over the course of that conversation I learned that Flexi has never been selected as a bout MVP. It was a fact that had me a bit surprised. I realized that night on the drive home, after reflecting on the number of girls she has coached, played with, and inspired both on and off the rink, that she is an MVP. She is an MVP of the Hellions of Troy and for the sport of roller derby.