She describes herself as “one of the top NSOs in the country, if not the world” and she’s not short of a few words to say about skaters. Meet TUSHITA CRONX, better known as Wearside Wallopers NSO Cron-ically Efficient…
OK, let’s get it out of the way right now, as I know you all want to ask – no, I don’t skate myself. I tried it once, outdoors at a league mate’s insistence. Long story short: Some passing kid got knocked into the canal, along with his parents and whatever was in that buggy thing they were pushing. I tried to sue Riedell for selling skates with faulty steering, but lost the case and had to sell one of my kidneys to some bloke in Grimsby to cover the legal fees. So judge me if you like, all you smug players and referees, with your wheels and your axles and whathaveyou, but I’m not putting on skates ever again and I’m *never* going to apologise for that. OK?
Anyway, back to me. My first time NSOing was about three years ago, when the Wallopers took on Doncaster Boudiccas in what was both teams’ first open door. I was CCing on this occasion, and whilst I’m sure a lot of people smirk about Cupcake Checkers, this is just as important as any other NSO role. In fact, probably more so. Checking the cupcakes that the other NSOs will be eating at half time isn’t just a matter of quality control – there’s stuff like special diets to consider too. For instance, at Wearside the cupcakes are made by captain Wheeliam Skatesbeer’s mother, who is a little eccentric and often includes small pieces of beef in the mix.
For most people that eat one, this simply comes as a bit of a surprise, but then obviously there are vegetarians and vegans – who can form as much as 83% of an average NSOing team – to consider. So we always ask Mrs Skatesbeer to replace the beef with prawns in some of the cupcakes. Unfortunately you can’t tell these cakes apart until you take a bite, hence the importance of having a good CC as part of your team of officials. Sadly, they forgot to tell me I was only supposed to take a small bite of each, and the things were so damn moreish that I ended up finishing the whole box and no-one else got any. I think this might be one reason why it was six months before I was asked to officiate another game, but was any of this my fault? I think not.
I got over the disappointment of my first game and committed myself at practice. Many skaters don’t even realise that NSOs train just as hard as players do. At Wearside we have two hours of starting and stopping stopwatches on Tuesday evenings, three hours of writing down numbers on Thursdays, and a dedicated CrossFit programme (focusing on the muscles required to perform timeout and official review hand signals) on alternate Sundays. I put in the hours and by the summer of 2014 I had risen up the ranks to the position of SICTWC. The Stands In Centre Track With Clipboard doesn’t actually do anything during a game, of course, and is merely there for referees to exchange puzzled looks with, but it’s still a very prestigious role.
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Skate
Whilst I certainly got more respect from the zebras and my fellow NSOs as a SICTWC, I can’t say the same was true of the players. For instance, at Gateshead Tournamental late last year, I was feeling on top of the world at half time. Myself and the head ref had exchanged over two dozen puzzled expressions over the course of the first half, and I had waved my pen about brilliantly during at least four official timeouts. However my mood changed when I spotted a Newcastle Roller Girls skater standing on the edge of the ref lane SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS for two young derby fans in NRG T-shirts.
As soon as she skated off to the locker room, I was straight over there, pen in hand – one of the benefits of NSOing is you’re always ready to sign things! – offering the two children my own autograph. I was pretty sure I was going to make their day, but the ungrateful runts blanked me. “Hello,” I said, waving a black Sharpie (so much better than a biro for giving someone an autograph they can cherish), “you two look like big roller derby autograph hunters. Cron-ically Efficient, yeah…” I spun round briefly so they could see the name on the back of my NSO shirt. The kids just stared at me. Awestruck no doubt. “Now you promise me you’re not going to sell this on eBay,” I said, wagging my fingers at them and giving a little laugh – although I was of course serious, and I’d be making sure to include their names (full names, including middle initial) rather than just a ‘best wishes’. Golden rule, that; personalise it so the grasping urchins can’t sell the thing on. “You got a bit of paper then,” I said, my mood rapidly darkening, “like the one you just GOT THAT SKATER TO SIGN?”
“That was our mum,” bleated the little girl.
“We’re leaving early to go to a birthday party,” said the boy, “and she was writing down the address for us to give to dad.”
“A likely story,” I laughed, “I know your sort. Just because someone’s on skates it’s all ‘oh wow, you’re so amazing, I want to be like you when I grow up, ooh please sign this, please!’ I work twice as hard as those cows.” I showed them my right thumb. “Look at that. Blisters! From using stopwatches in practice. That’s a real derby injury, that is. GIVE ME A PIECE OF PAPER TO SIGN!” I was getting pretty angry by now, so I wrenched the top off the Sharpie and started scrawling my name in three inch high letters on the girl’s face. In my rage I’d forgotten to ask their names, but I guess there was little chance of them selling their autographed faces anyway (eBay no longer allow it). Finishing with a big flourish and a couple of Xs, I turned to the boy. He began to run off through the crowd, so I gave chase, knocking people on crutches out of the way as I grabbed at chunks of his hair. “COME BACK YOU LITTLE SHIT, I’M GOING TO SIGN YOUR FACE!”
The girl, meanwhile, had started to cry, smudging my signature in the process. There’s bloody gratitude for you. Moments later I’m wrestled to the ground by leisure centre security and thrown out. An e-mail arrived from UKRDA the following day. Apparently someone (a skater, I bet) had complained and I was officially banned from NSOing any of their events for the next three weeks. Seriously, if that’s how the official national governing body treats NSOs, no wonder the players and refs give us – and me in particular – so little respect.
Have you experienced discrimination like Tushita while NSOing? Our Newsdesk wants to hear from you…