Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hit it Hard

So tonight I am headed out to watch a roller derby bout. I'm really excited about it.

I've never been a huge sports fan. I think it stems from growing up in a household where women weren't supposed to play sports. Ballet, cheerleading, drum corps- all of those were totally fine. Anything rougher, well, that was more for the boys. I also grew up a delicate kid, I was sick a lot when I was a kid and my asthma kept me from doing anything terribly active. I mean, riding a bike down the street was a challenge. When I started doing ballet I got a little stronger, but it was still a challenge until well into my teen years.

Either way, I never really developed a taste for sports. We would go with 2.0's parents to watch the local college woman's team play basketball, but I always brought a book. What was the point? It wasn't until I was out of high school and with Beloved that I actually became a fan of any sport. True, in high school I followed hockey- but then so did all the guys I hung out with. It was natural I would develop a taste for it, I heard about it all the time. I started watching simply to be able to follow the conversations. Turns out, I like violent sports. I like watching college football (I'm sorry, most professional atheletes are total whiners. I broke my toe, I have to stop playing for the season. Seriously, give me a break. Play for love of the game.)

When I was about 21 I played on my first sports team. It was a co-ed softball team. I had a blast. Turns out I am a pretty fair catcher and I'm a good hitter, for a girl. The batting cages became (and still are) my favorite outlet on a stressful day. I began to follow college softball, fell in love with the Texas Longhorns, and my first actual fandom was born.

I still love to watch softball, and when I started hanging out with Rogue I developed a taste for women's basketball that shocked my mother. Turns out, now that I am older, I like to watch. Did anyone else know its actually a pretty heavy contact sport? It is in my area of the country anyway.

Meeting Oscelot, though, was what brought me to love my new favorite sport. When we started seeing her, she was playing Roller Derby. I'm not talking about the kind from the seventies with the raised track and the staged fights. I'm talking about flat-track, hard core, absolutely amazing girl on girl competition. Let me tell you, these girls are tough.

I didn't understand, at first, how tough you really have to be. These women practice at least three times a week. They skate indoors, scrimmage, do floor exercising, go for outdoor skating sessions. They work hard. And they don't play easy with eachother either. I remember the first time Oscelot came home with a cracked rib and a concussion from practice (practice!) and I was floored. Someone on her team cracked her rib. At practice. I asked her "Aren't you supposed to be on the same side?" They are, but it turns out that they don't go easy on eachother. How else are they supposed to learn?

Still, I thought, it can't be that mean. Right? No...I'm not kidding. My first time at a bout, I was floored. I'd never seen anything like it. Rollergirls are rockstars. There's no question about it. And the toughest ones? They're also the smallest. It blows my mind. Now, I won't say the blockers aren't tough- they are. But the jammers (that's the point scorers) they're small because they have to be fast. When you have a 170 all-muscle girl full body check you and you can still get up and skate so fast the spectators can feel a breeze? That's a hard-core chick.

A brief roller derby lesson. In case you have never seen it played:

Right, so that's the basic way the sport is played. ( A special thanks to Hammer City Roller Girls for the chart, I couldn't make one half so cool- and I would be shite at explaining without a diagram)

What the chart doesn't make clear, I think, is that you get one point for ever opposing player you pass after the first lap, if you're a jammer. You can score points whether you are the lead (first Jammer to make it around) jammer or not. If you pass all of the girls on a single lap without being blocked that's called a Grand Slam, and you get extra points for that.

The jam (play of the game where it starts at step one and moves through the last step) is 2 minutes long. Most of the time. If the lead jammer wants, they can call the jam. That means they stop and everyone starts back over at step one. This is generally done when you've got the points you can, or if the other team is whipping your ass. (there's other reasons, but that's the two most common.) If I remember right, a typical bout has two halves and each half is 45 minutes long. That's a lot of 2 minute jams. A lot of fast skating. A lot of girls kicking your butt all over the track.

It blows my mind. And its really fun to watch. I have to admit, I didn't follow as well my first time watching as I do now. I love it. And I love roller girls. They're amazing women. Tough. Friendly (for the most part) and man, do they know how to have a good time. What amazes me most, though, is some of them you'd never guess. They'er business owners, college students, nurses, waitresses. They do anything and everything. But get them in their shorts, fishnets and quads and man- they become the scariest, coolest people you'll ever meet.

Plus they have cool names. They all have signature names, and you have to register them, and its your persona. The Lifeguard, for example (yeah, she plays) is Lifer Death. There's one girl on the team called Poisonous Polly. Her number, A404, is the chemical compound of Arsenic. Scary, and cool. The numbers all mean something too. The roller girls in my town also have a JK Growling, a Shotgun Shell (she's so fast it hurts, and the sweetest person too!) Amber Lager, Miss Chetty Boop (get it, machete? It took me forever to get that one) all sorts of fun names and girls. Oh- one names Thugs and Kisses. That one cracks me up.

Sometimes I think I want to be a roller girl so bad. I've had a couple ask why I don't. I can skate well already. I've got a pair of quads like theirs. They were my birthday present this year. I got sick of renting crappy skates at the rink we go to every week. Honestly, I think it would be tons of fun. Then I think of all the practices, the working out all the frickin time, the injuries (oh gos- what if I broke something and couldn't work) and how I'd never be as fast and cool as some of the girls I so admire...and I think I would rather just park it on the sidelines, right in the suicide lane, and scream as loud as I can for my girls.

Either way, tonight is the first home bout I'll be able to attend this season, and I'm looking forward to it. As a bonus, they are doing a benefit for the recent tornado victims in our area. I love that about them, they are all sorts of all about the charities. I'm excited. I'll be sure to come back and tell you all about it. I've got my hopes high that our girls are going to tear it up this evening.

If you've got a roller derby team near you (and you'd be suprised how many there are!) go check it out and tell me I'm wrong.

Off to the Roller Gating party (yeah- tailgating with girlsin fishnets and skates- who needs football!?)


PS- also a special thanks to the Reno Roller Girls for the awesome pinup at the top.


  1. 1 thing, im pretty sure its 30 minute halfs......

  2. You're right. It is. I made a note of that last night at the bouts. I had asked Oscelot. My bad. I should find a more reliable information source. ;)