MRDA’s February Featured Skater of the Month: Magnum, p.i.m.p.

Mangnum, p.i.m.p. (left) with Magnum, p.i.m.p. (right). Edited by Steve Dixon.

MRDA’s February Featured Skater of the Month: Magnum, p.i.m.p.

Interview by Malcolm Sex


What is your derby name? What’s the history behind it?

Magnum, p.i.m.p. – It is a mash up of Magnum, p.i. and 50 Cent’s song “P.I.M.P.”  Everyone just calls me Magnum, though.

What number do you wear? Why did you choose it?

L7 – My derby name is on the arrogant side. I wanted to balance it out with L7, since it means you are a square.  I also really like ambigrams, and if you have the right font, L7 can be spun 180 degrees and look exactly the same.

What is your preferred position on the track?

Last year, I jammed the majority of the time but I really prefer blocking.  I like organizing my blockers and adjusting to the fast, changing dynamics of the pack.  Being at the giving end of a hit is better than being at the receiving end, as well.

There is a really funny part of the movie I’m Still Here with Joaquin Phoenix where he is trying to rap but is struggling and simply says to the audience, “This is hard.”  Just like rap, people who are good at jamming make it look easy, but it is still hard.  It’s an inside joke we say sometimes when we have a rough jam, simply… “This is hard.”

What’s your pre-derby athletic background?

I grew up playing any sport I could get my hands on.  Like many of us in derby, I grew up in the rollerblade generation.  They came out when I was in grade school.  My friends and I were on them constantly.  I played a lot of roller hockey and a year of ice hockey in high school, but my main sport was lacrosse.  I won two state championships playing lacrosse in high school then went on to captain/coach the club lacrosse team at the University of Dayton.  The mix between the skating skills of hockey and the body positioning and physicality of lacrosse really helped shape my skating and coaching techniques of today.

As I understand it, you are an original member of the GateKeepers.  How did you get involved in roller derby?  Give me a brief summary of your derby career: from the time you first discovered it to your current team and league position.

I first got involved in roller derby in 2006 when the Arch Rival Roller Girls were forming their team.  I started as a referee, became the Head Referee, and then moved into coaching their travel team.  In 2009, Bat Wing and I started the GateKeepers.  I have been President of the league and Coach of the travel team since the league’s inception.  From 2011-2012, I was Vice President of the Men’s Roller Derby Association.

I am easing my load for 2013, however.  I am more active in running my family’s business lately, so I stepped down from coaching ARRG, my Board position with MRDA, and being President of the GateKeepers.  I will continue to coach the ‘Keepers in 2013 along with being VP of the league.

Since the Gatekeepers’ win against the New York Shock Exchange at Spring Roll in 2011, we’re all aware that you play on the ‘Keepers’ A team.  Do you play for any other teams inside or outside of the league?

My local team is the Dogtown Red Rockets.  I have had a lot of fun playing with exhibition teams throughout the years, too.  I played for Team seXY (men’s), captained a bout with Team Hate Machine (coed), and played for Atom Wheels (my sponsor’s coed team).  Most recently, I joined Team Xtreme (coed) and am excited about the talent level assembled on that team.  Looking to the future, I am geeking out hard about playing in the Derby Ink Invitational; a banked-track tournament that will be on pay per view and have cash payouts.  I’m skating with the Derby Merc’s, and the names on this team are jaw dropping.
How would you describe your skating style?

I skate with high intensity and am physical.  I don’t like blockers to be comfortable when I am jamming, so I keep the pace fast and am physical so I can open up holes.

Other than being one of the Gatekeepers’ top jammers, what would you say are your greatest strengths as a skater?

I take pride in my awareness of what is going on at all times during a jam and recognizing the next best play as well as being able to skate through contact.

What is your proudest accomplishment in roller derby and why?

Having the GateKeepers ranked #1 in the first official MRDA rankings was a great accomplishment.  It took a lot of work and hard fought bouts to have the other leagues consider us the best team.

Up until recently, you worked for the MRDA.  What did you do? What do you believe MRDA will have to do to maintain its position on the cutting-edge of flat track roller derby?

I was Vice President of the Men’s Roller Derby Association.  I believe the MRDA needs to continue its strong growth pattern by helping developing leagues.  I also believe that the MRDA needs to take a more active role in regulating ringers and satellite players.  It is very concerning to me when MRDA teams build their roster like an exhibition team.

Magnum, p.i.m.p.
Magnum in action. Photo by Tom Klubens.

Which one of your teammates do you look up to most, and why?

I have endless respect for Percy Controll.  He did not have a strong skating or athletic background prior to derby but turned himself into a nationally elite player winning DNN’s blocker of the year in 2012.  He pours his heart and soul into the GateKeepers.  As captains of the travel team, we work great together, and with Percy as our current league President, I know we are in good hands moving forward.

MRDA has a history of great rivalries.  The GateKeepers are an important element in several just in the past two years.  What is your favorite MRDA rivalry, and why?

I love to play the New York Shock Exchange.  They develop their talent from within and have great teamwork.  We are truly tested every time we play them.  They are a solid bunch of guys, too.  There can’t be enough praise for a team with strong character.

If you were forced to play for another team in MRDA, but you could choose any one, what team would you play for and why?

Great question!  That’s a hard one.  I would have to say the Magic City Misfits.  I have known a lot of those guys for a while now and like playing with and against them.  They have some players that are extremely dynamic skaters and fun to watch.

Looking forward to the 2013 season, do you expect any relatively unknown teams to take MRDA by storm and drastically improve on last year’s performance?

They are hardly unknown now after their 2012 MRDA Championship tournament performance, but the Mass Maelstrom are opening a lot of eyes.  They remind me a lot of the GateKeepers.  I also think the Race City Rebels are positioned to have a strong showing in 2013 as well.

Who was it that thought up the GateKeepers’ beard thing? How can I get one of those awesome beardanas?

Somehow we ended up with a bunch of dudes who dig beards.  We have an award at the end of the year for the best beard, and when someone is growing a strong one, it gets commented on.  We feel each beard has its own aura, and sometimes a beard will go bad, and you’ll need to start fresh… like if you have a run of bad luck, we’ll say the beard has turned.  We do the beardanas for special events like Spring Roll.  I am sure we can get you one.

What is your best memory of the 2012 MRDA season?

Hosting the MRDA Championships was amazing!  Playing in the Championship bout in front of our home fans was something I’ll always cherish.  The energy was off the charts. The venue was packed, and playing for a Championship is why we train so hard.  Weekends like that truly make all the work and sacrifice worth it.

I don’t want to pour salt in a wound, but given the fact that it’s been months since Championships, how do you feel about the final bout?

Looking at the final bout is all about perspective.  In the grand scheme of things, it was the second best thing that could have happened.  We made it to the Championship bout, were leading the majority of the game, but caught some tough breaks at the end to lose by one.  It was a great game… everyone enjoyed it.  Our team is as hungry as ever to win it this year.  In 2011, we finished 4th, learned some lessons, came back, and finish 2nd in 2012.  We learned even more in 2012, so 2013 is looking good.  Plus, we appreciate being an elite team.  It would be very short sighted to be bitter about losing when, as a team, we are in such a fortunate spot.

Does the fact you came so close to winning make you prepare or motivate you differently for the 2013 season?

We know we can play with any team.  It really puts the focus on us to continue to develop and improve as a team.  Considering how close the game was, it is all about who can work harder and smarter until the next year.  That’s why the ringer issue is such a problem, it takes the focus off of internal development, and the team’s improvement comes from an outside source.

Have you taken a step back or a break from derby at any point since Championships?

I take a month off of skating every year after championships.  It is a great time to heal and take care of personal projects that have been neglected.  This is also a great time to get in better shape because practice doesn’t get in the way of going to the gym.

What should we expect to see from Magnum, p.i.m.p. and the GateKeepers in 2013?

People should expect to see a team that works hard and plays well together.  We have some great new talent coming up from within the organization that should make an impact on the 2013 season.  We had very little turnover from last year and our charter is deep.  2013 should be a good year for St. Louis men’s derby.

You have a reputation as one of the great leaders in men’s derby.  Do you have any advice to give those trying to lead newer MRDA teams up in the rankings?

Newer team leaders need to focus on developing the talent in their league.  Invest in their skaters as much as they invest in themselves.  Take pride in a teammate beating you at practice.  Encourage players on a different local team than you.  If you see something that will make a leaguemate better, tell them to their face the second the jam is over.  Encourage selfless play and skaters without egos.  When you have a team full of skaters that care more about the name of the front of the jersey than the name on the back, you can go anywhere.  We were in a tight game a while back and had some people in the box and asked DXL to sit out a jam. With a smile on his face, he said, “I’ll win this one from the bench. No problem.”  Great attitudes like this breed greatness in teams.
As the founder of a league, do you have any special advice to someone trying to start a league in their town?

It is more work than you can image but even more rewarding.  Roller derby, as a sport, rewards hard work.  Great players are made through long hours and dedication: leagues are no different.  Get a name, a logo, and spread the word!  Get skaters, a practice time, and don’t look back.  And above all else, set the example of what you want your league to be.  Be welcoming, encouraging, positive, excited and determined.

What kind of skate setup do you wear? Is there any specific gear that you want to plug?

I am sponsored by Atom Wheels and couldn’t be luckier.  Their wheels are the best in the industry.  I skate on Juke Alloys.  I love the push and responsiveness of alloys.  Nylon hubs are too soft: responsiveness is lost, and they are more work.  I have been on Luigino’s boots and plates for about a month now and starting to get a real feel for them.  I have never had a boot that enveloped my whole foot like this before.  Atom is a great company, and Julie Glass really cares about the people she involves in her team.  I am very fortunate to be with Atom.

Finally, is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you want to talk about?

I’m very lucky to have the support of my wife Downtown Dallis in the sport of roller derby.  She bench coaches our travel team and my local team.  She is a demon on the track and a sweetheart in life.  Having someone supportive of the time and energy it takes to play derby should not be taken for granted.  I’m a lucky guy, indeed.