For years I have harbored a secret desire to do something that both thrills & terrifies me to the core. And today I am finally telling the world.
I want to be a Roller Girl.
You may not be familiar with Flat Track Roller Derby. To be honest, I’m a newbie myself. But when I first heard about it, several years ago in Philadelphia, I was blown away. Roller Derby is simply the coolest, most empowering sport for women EVER. I wanted to try out for the Philly Roller Girls then and there, but.. But… I didn’t know enough about it. I’d never even been to a game! At the time, my kids were small, and to top it off – I have Meniere’s Disease. B/c of Meniere’s I can’t do all sorts of things. Eat salt, Fly, listen to an iPod, have dental work, the list goes on. Can you imagine what ROLLER DERBY COULD DO TO ME??!! In short: I was afraid. Very afraid. Of getting hurt, of getting vertigo, of putting myself OUT THERE. And so *Roller Girl* got shelved. Until last week. When I read the Philly Liberty Belles were coming to town. Saturday night, instead of sitting on the couch watching a movie, I took Maddie to the Portland Expo for our very first Roller Derby.
If you are new to this sport, like me, then you may have questions. Important questions. Like The Rules. I’ll be honest. I don’t know them. But having watched one bout, here’s what I’ve learned. The bout (or game) is divided into two 30-minute periods, separated by a 20-minute intermission. The basic gist – and forgive me if I am wrong – 5 skaters from each team are on a circuit track. Eight women (4 from each team) form a big heap up front.
The remaining 2 girls (one from each team) start behind on a different line. They are the Jammers. They score points.
The whistle blows. The pack takes off skating and the jammers follow. The women up front try to block the opposing team’s jammer from breaking through the pack. The jammers each try to break past the pack to get out in front. The best jammers act as both offense (trying to get out in front), as well as defense (simultaneously blocking their opponent jammer). Whichever jammer gets in front of the pack first is pointed out as LEAD JAMMER by a whistle toot and a pointing referee. That lead jammer now skates round the track to score points. The rest of her team tries to keep the other jammer back.
Players can get penalties for doing bad stuff. I am not sure exactly what. But it seemed to involve pain. Or maybe just poking.. It’s hard to tell.
When a player is bad they get sent to the penalty box for a period of time.
Those three people on the stage (behind the penalty box) were the MCs. They were great. Providing running commentary and helpful tidbits of information all bout long. I particularly liked the way they kept encouraging the crowd to root for both teams and give lots of love to all the players. No nasty bloodlust here! Also fun was the interaction between MCs and the “Beer Garden” crowd. HOW’S EVERYONE IN THE BEER GARDEN? they would ask — to a ROARING response. I LOVE ROLLER DERBY!
Unlike many other sports (I am talking to YOU, golf) Roller Derby is ACTION PACKED and incredibly entertaining to watch. The bout literally flew by!
One thing that struck me about the sport is how incredibly supportive all of the women are toward each other – opponents included. Before and after the game, the teams lined up to slap hands.
And at the end of the bout, the teams huddled to select an MVP from the opposing team.
Each MVP was announced and then given the opportunity to speak to the crowd; both heaped praise on the opposing team. It was lovely. A sport that not only empowers women to be strong and fierce, but celebrates each others talents – WELL. Count me in.
After the bout we stayed to meet many of the Liberty Belles. Maddie had them sign her program.
Everyone was super nice, and more than one player encouraged me to try out. When I asked BUT Won’t I get the crap kicked out of me?? I was told Of COURSE! EVERYONE DOES.
HOW CAN I RESIST?!
Even the refs look GREAT!
WANNA KNOW MORE?? ME TOO.
Wikipedia’s entry on Roller Derby.