My Roller Derby Report
Sunday, April 24, 2011
When I was a boy growing up on the High Plains of Colorado, entertainment options for us were few and far between. For starters, we had one TV channel, which signed off with the Star Spangled Banner every night at midnight.
Luckily, one show in that channel's programming schedule was roller derby. My brother and I wouldn't miss it. To this day I have no idea which city the girls played in, but I do know that there was plenty of action on that rink: women pushing and shoving, some of them flying over the rail that tried to contain the action. Boys always love watching girls fight, and this was even better: these were grown-up women fighting.
Well, evidently, that version of roller derby was a little like professional wrestling: the violence and drama were choreographed and acted and ramped up for a television audience. I know this because I finally got the chance to see a real roller derby match last night.
The sport has made a comeback in recent years, and a facebook friend of mine (thanks, Teresa) who plays on a Colorado team talked me into going. I gathered up my wife, friends and daughter who was visiting from college for Easter weekend, and we walked over to the Nashville Municipal Auditorium to watch Music City take on Kansas City.
1. Roller Derby tickets cost $8! It's good, cheap family entertainment.
2. Key word is family: These women weren't violent in the least. Not one girl fight. Honestly, I was a little disappointed. I wanted some hair-pulling or body slams or something.
3. Roller Derby concessions serves the biggest beers I've ever seen. 'Can't remember the official ounce-count, but one friend noted that one can of Bud was equal to 2.5 regular-size cans.
4. Know the rules of the game. If you don't understand them, it merely looks like a bunch of girls skating around in a circle. The woman with the star on her helmet is the jammer, and it's this jammer's job to out-lap the members of the opposite team. Each time she does this she makes a point for her team. Meanwhile, her other four team members try to clear the way for her while the opposing team, of course, tries to stop her. What this means is that offensive and defensive plays are going on at the same time. This sport requires ACTIVE watching. Lots going on.
5. The whole thing is wonderfully low-budget and has a homespun feel to it. The clock and scoring was shown via laptop on a projector screen. The cheerleaders: a rag-tag collection of women and men with tattoos, piercings and hair dyed all sorts of colors. They used meager pom-pons that looked like ones bought for a child at a football game.
6. Each woman has her nickname on the back of her jersey. There was Killah B. Killed and (appropriate for Nashville) Meanie Pearl. If there was an MVP of last night's action it was a black woman from Kansas named Black Ice. (we managed to get her autograph.)
7. In so many sports we are kept far away from the athletes, but not in roller derby. You have the option of sitting in what's called Suicide Seating, which is floor-seating around the edge of the track, inches from the action. (And I mean ON the floor, no chairs.)
8. Most impressive was the ending. (Incidentally, Nashville got their clocks cleaned). The women of opposing teams greeted each other with smiles and hand slaps and congratulations, and then they rolled around the rink, hands out, slapping high-fives to everyone in the Suicide Seating section.
So ... Nashville ... looking for someone to play a mascot for y'all? I'm available and interested.