Anita Hill At The Roller Derby
Anita Hill may not have been the most accomplished athlete of her generation, but there surely were not many others who hit eight home runs in a single high school softball game. Anita did just that at Stella Maris Academy in Tulsa, and in fact was perfectly prepared to keep on going. However, the headmistress of the school, Sister Mary Catherine, in a gesture of sublime sportsmanship and Christian compassion for the team's hapless junior college opponents, told Anita that if she hit a ninth one out of the park, the Church would excommunicate her on the spot.
Anita never forgot Sister Mary Catherine's threat.
SEN. LEAHY: How often did you discuss it with her?
MS. HILL: Maybe once or twice. Not -- we did not discuss it very often. I can't say exactly how many times.
SEN. LEAHY: What was the nature of your discussion with her?
MS. HILL: Well, I was upset about the behavior. And that's what I was expressing to her, as a friend, that it was upsetting and that I wanted it to stop, and maybe even asked for advice or something to help me out of the situation.
SEN. LEAHY: And did she offer advice?
MS. HILL: I don't recall her offering any advice. I'm not sure exactly what she said. I think she offered more comfort, because she knew I was upset.
SEN. LEAHY: And did you discuss it with somebody else?
MS. HILL: Yes, I have discussed it with other people.
SEN. LEAHY: At that time?
MS. HILL: Yes, at that time.
These days, the shy former law professor drives to the scruffy Grand Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles at least twice a month. There Anita dons the red, white and blue togs of the San Francisco Bombers, slaps on some skates and assumes the persona of Madam Avenger - the wildcat on wheels Los Angeles Aztecs fans love to hate.
Careening around the track at up to thirty miles per hour, Anita is all arms, legs and elbows as she does her darndest to keep opponents from scoring.
Even when she's sidelined with an injury -- as she was a couple of weeks ago when the Bombers skated against the Aztecs -- Anita makes her presence known.
She prowled the pit at the center of the track, shouting encouragement to her teammates as they whizzed by at breakneck speeds. She got in shouting matches with the referees when a call went against the Bombers. And -- despite wearing a knee-to-ankle leg brace -- Anita jumped on Aztec Gwen "Skinny Minnie" Miller, pummeling Miller with a helmet before referees pulled her off.
The crowd - as roller derby crowds are wont to do - went into a frenzy of screaming at the spectacle of two women tussling on the track. When a Bomber teammate declared Anita the winner of the fight by holding up her arm in boxing style, the L.A. fans booed and gave a "thumbs down."
Anita smiled and blew kisses to the crowd, oblivious to their hisses. After winning the game, her teammates took her out to dinner.
SEN. LEAHY: Where did you go for dinner that time?
MS. HILL: I do not recall the restaurant, the name of the restaurant.
SEN. LEAHY: Was it nearby?
MS. HILL: It was nearby work.
SEN. LEAHY: Do you remember the type of restaurant?
MS. HILL: (Sighs) No, I don't. It wasn't anything that was memorable to me, the type of food that we had.
Skating in the roller derby had long been Anita's ambition. When she saw her first match in Tulsa at the age of fourteen, Anita was hooked. The skaters were nice. The announcer asked her to sit in front with him.
The following year, Anita pleaded with her parents to let her sign up for roller derby school. But Mr. and Mrs. Hill, intent on a legal career for their daughter, steadfastly refused. Shaken, Anita turned to softball as an outlet for her athletic abilities. Her relieved parents were delighted that Anita had put away her dreams of roller derby glory for the more ladylike atmosphere of the baseball diamond.
But then came the afternoon when Sister Mary Catherine refused to let her hit that ninth homer.
SEN. LEAHY: You said in your statement that at one point you were hospitalized for five days and did -- and am I correct in understanding your statement you felt it was related to this?
MS. HILL: Yes, I do believe that it was related to the stress that I felt because of this.
SEN. LEAHY: Had you ever had a similar hospitalization?
MS. HILL: I had never had a similar hospitalization.
SEN. LEAHY: Now when you think back on this -- you described how you felt at the time -- how do you feel about it today?
MS. HILL: Well, I'm a little farther removed from it in time and -- but even today I still feel hurt and maybe today I feel more angry and disgusted. I don't feel quite as threatened by the situation. I'm removed from it.
Anita skates pivot, a position that allows her to be a sprinting jammer in one sixty-second jam and a blocker the next.
In one memorable game, Anita got into such a vigorous quarrel with a referee that two of the teeth flew out of her mouth, barely missing the ref's ear.
"I don't mind you yelling," the startled official said, "but don't be sending your teeth out to bite me."
MS. HILL: I would have never even dreamed this up. I
just can't imagine.
SEN. BIDEN: Is it reasonable to state -- say -- that it
was your hope and expectation that it would not come to
MS. HILL: It was exactly what I was trying to -- really, very difficult -- I mean, very -- I made great effort to make sure that it did not come to this, and I was meticulous.
To this day what riles Anita the most are those at Stella Maris Academy who claim that she made up the story of the eight home runs and Sister Mary Catherine threatening Anita's excommunication if she continued her hitting streak.
SEN. HEFLIN: Well, the issue of fantasy has arisen. You are -- have a degree in psychology from the University of -- Oklahoma State University.
MS. HILL: Yes.
SEN. HEFLIN: And you studied in your psychology studies when you were in school and what you may have followed up with, the question of fantasies. Have you ever studied that from a psychology basis?
MS. HILL: To some extent, yes.
SEN. HEFLIN: What do you -- what are the traits of fantasy that you studied, as you remember?
MS. HILL: As I remember, it would have -- it would require some other indication of loss of touch with reality other than one instance. There is no indication that I'm an individual who is not in touch with reality on a regular basis that would be subject to fantasy.
Although she approaches roller derby as a consummate professional, spending untold hours practicing and perfecting the meticulous combinations of strides and body moves for each phase of the game, some of her former classmates at Stella Maris Academy still wonder why Anita passed up a respectable future to become the gum-chewing, power-skating, hip-bumping golden girl of roller derby.
Was it merely because Anita possessed a body that seemed designed to bounce an opponent on her derriere? Or that she could easily hold her own in the hair-pulling, face-slapping, roll-around brawls that became one of roller derby's most crowd-pleasing attractions?
Or was it instead a willful, childish, spiteful response to an incident long ago which led Anita to give up a promising career for the rollicking but rather disreputable world of roller derby?
SEN. BIDEN: That's the problem.
MS. HILL: And it's really baffling me. I'm really
confused by it. But it's meaningless to me. So, but
would you --
SEN. THURMOND: (Inaudible) -- or not?
MS. HILL: Excuse me, sir, just a moment, please, just a moment.
SEN. THURMOND: I think whichever she prefers.
When a reporter asks her about her transformation into the Avenger, Anita replies, "When I put my uniform on, I just convince myself it's somebody else. I know how Superman feels when he puts his Superman outfit on. I love the crowd, I love the fans, whether they are nice or mean to me. When they don't like me, I can usually win them over. "
MS. HILL: The desire was never to get to this point. The desire -- and I thought that I could do things and if I were cautious enough, that I could control it so that it would not get to this point. But I was mistaken.
SEN. BIDEN: I thank you very much.
Copyright © 2000 Richard Grayson