Sportsball: A non-traditional sport unites in spirit and solidarity

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Dark Slayer defeats Han Yolo at GRAWL's event at Geeksboro.

As Dark Slayer and Han Yolo battled in the evening’s first round, the crowd screamed, thrusting hands and huzzahs toward the stage. Slayer, dressed in knee-high stilettos and a skin-tight leather Darth Vader suit, had stalked to the stage as “The Imperial March” boomed in the background. Upon the emcee’s introduction, she had aptly air-choked him into silence. The crowd’s energy was paramount.

These weren’t “sports people.” At least not in the traditional sense.

At the Greensboro Arm Wrestling League’s Brawl IV: Battle of the Stars at Geeksboro in Greensboro on Feb. 4, many in the audience had arrived as characters from “Star Trek” or Star Wars — Vulcans or redshirts, an ewok, Chewbacca or Princess Leia.

GRAWL members had hung up a fabric, playoff-style bracket that spanned at least 12 square feet and displayed each contestant’s name on hefty strips of Velcro-ed poster board. But other than the final pairing, the bracket itself was a bit challenging to follow.

These weren’t “sports people.”

The next day Geeksboro would provide its annual “Football-Free Zone” on Super Bowl Sunday, where guests could enjoy board games, video games and free popcorn all night long. It has become a new tradition for those whose goal is to avoid the big game.

No, these weren’t traditional “sports people” at all. But that made all the difference.

The event, which began GRAWL’s second season, served as a benefit for the nonprofit My Sister Susan’s House, a transitional living facility for homeless young mothers. Even before the arm-wrestling began, they had raised more than $1,200 and continued to pull in donations throughout the night.

The contestants themselves brought a good amount of the competitive fundraising. Pint glasses, shot glasses, beads and more were moved with speed. One entourage sold what the emcee called “flashy-sticks.” (“Who doesn’t want a flashy-stick?!”) They resembled lightsabers in a multi-colored, seizure-inducing sort of way.

“It’s just women having fun, acting crazy and raising money for charity,” Geeksboro co-owner and GRAWL cofounder Rachel Scott said. “What’s not to love about that?”

Scores of enthusiasts showed up for the event, but the organizers were ready. GRAWL brought out a DJ and his turntables — spinning hits such as “Highway to Hell” and “Eye of the Tiger” — as well as the emcee, a very serious PA system and a projector that transposed the night’s action onto an enormous screen.

In front of the roaring crowd, Dark Slayer easily defeated Han Yolo (known by day as none other than Rachel Scott), but somehow Slayer wouldn’t claim a spot in the final.

In the second round, a tie, two wins and another tie led inexplicably to a dance-off, which resulted in a victory for her foe Boba Fetish.

A good sport and understandably exhausted, Dark Slayer left the stage.

“GRAWL Brawl V: We Could Be Heroes” goes down on May 6 at Geeksboro. Visit greensboroarmwrestling.org for details.

It was her first time competing, but when she originally heard about the event she knew immediately that she wanted to be involved.

Not surprisingly, the reason for her enthusiasm extended far beyond the arm-wrestle itself.

“We need this,” Slayer said in an interview, referring to the political climate and the oppression it carries. “It’s awesome, with everything going on, that we have these women. It feels good to have fun in light of everything.”

She wasn’t the only one searching for camaraderie and inspiration.

As she walked downstairs into the dressing area, a young woman came up to her.

“You are goals,” she exclaimed, indicating encouragement for her own future.

Later, despite not participating in the final matchup, Dark Slayer won the trophy for Best Dressed.

“The Empire would only be satisfied with everything,” she sighed. “But I’ll take what I got.”

Understandably, the Super Bowl was the biggest sporting event last weekend for most people in the Triad. As they do annually, a bunch of “sports people” gathered around their televisions, ate a billion chicken wings, enjoyed avocados from Mexico and watched some of the world’s best athletes complete.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that no one at Geeksboro on Feb. 4 watched the full Super Bowl the following day.

But it also wouldn’t be a stretch to say that for those who might not have ever discovered and reveled in community through sport, they found camaraderie that night.

And may that force be with them. Always.