Most people will see Suzy Hotrod naked before they see her play roller derby.
She is on newsstands now, photographed in midair, pulling her skates high to her chest. People in her sport know how hard it is to do that, and usually attempt it only when wearing a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and one of those necklaces that automatically calls 911.
Full disclosure: I play roller derby, and sent Hotrod's name to my editor. I can't be impartial about derby, and getting one of the premier athletes in my sport into ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue was the hard part. Convincing Suzy to do it was easy, because she wants derby to be up there with tennis, track and field, soccer -- the real sports.
Do I have to elbow you in the nose to get you to take roller derby seriously?
A lot of people still think of roller derby like they do pro wrestling. It's a pantomime of a contest, with fixed outcomes and fake elbows. I've watched old footage of skaters in Madison Square Garden. The movie "Whip It" didn't do a lot to dispel the notion that we're all cheap-shotting each other when the refs aren't looking.
But we play by rules. No, really. We are athletes. Although when I look at Suzy and her teammates on the Gotham Girls, it's clear that some of us are doing a better job of actualizing that concept.
Suzy Hotrod is a legend. She's been turned into a cartoon superhero more than once, and she's in a roller derby video game. If you play roller derby you probably have a crush on her. So does your girlfriend. Watching her play is like seeing the future of our sport when we have a pro league and attendant luxuries like health insurance.
The fact that Suzy and teammates like Bonnie Thunders, Ginger Snap and Fisti Cuffs are able to do it without hot and cold tubs, trainers, massage therapists and DWI scandals is all the more impressive.
If anyone paid them while they were in college, it wasn't to play roller derby. The Women's Flat Track Derby Association (say "Woof-ta") is a do-it-yourself league. We move the chairs for bouts, rent or own track space and tape bout posters to telephone poles.
Now we have Suzy Hotrod in ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue. She looks glorious in there, but wait until you see her move.