It’s baaaaack! After a long hiatus, Fresh Meat Friday returns with a slightly different spin on it. Instead of coming from the mind of a derby girl, who has actually lived these stories, this time I’ll be the one laying down the details. Which technically means this won’t be considered a Fresh Meat File by definition. But in a sense I’m still a noob to the sport, just in a fan capacity and not a participant. Being a dude plays a fairly large role in that part. So let’s get right to it, shall we? Yes. We shall. Thank you for being so agree-able.
I have been waiting to write this post for almost as long as I’ve had this blog. As a small child, I remember the wonderment that roller derby brought to my mind. Then, just a couple of years ago, it was brought back to my attention. I started noticing several articles and advertisements in the local newspaper regarding an upstart roller derby squad – the Cornfed Derby Dames. Since then, I have kept an eye out for anything regarding the quad-wheeled demons of skating rinks across the country. Drew Barrymore released “Whip It.” Larry the Cable Guy featured the sport on his History show, “Only In America.” I also found out that it was featured in one of my favorite shows, “Psych.” And that’s when I found out that one of my friends had been starting her career in the sport. So I reached out to her about guest writing on this blog and sharing her tales. From there, Fresh Meat Fridays was born, and you know the rest of the story. If not, then you should read up on the rest of the mini-series.
Last week I found out that the fresh new upstart quad-squad featuring the guest-writer that we all know and love would be in competition with another local team, the Circle City Derby Girls, relatively close to my home. For all of my interest and infatuation with the sport, I had never been fortunate enough to actually attend a bout, and I couldn’t wait to experience the thrill first hand!
I have done a decent amount of research on the sport over the span of the last few months, so going in I THOUGHT I had a serviceable knowledge of the rules and scoring system. Turns out, nope! I knew about the blockers and jammers. I knew that the goal was for the jammers to skate through the pack as fast as possible and be the first one to break through, earning “lead jammer” status. I knew that there were a few different ways to try to block the other team’s skaters. I knew that the lead jammer could “call off the jam” at any point to prevent the other team from getting points. Turns out, that’s pretty much all I knew. I didn’t know that there wasn’t always a lead jammer. I didn’t know that the second jammer could still possibly score points. I didn’t know there was a penalty box, or how penalties were assessed or even what they were. And I was completely clueless when it came to the scoring system itself. Given all of that, I still knew enough to keep up with the action and knew when to cheer and when not to.
Walking into the venue, I expected to see a dark, dank skating rink. Even though I had been to the facility before, it’s just what I had imagined and I couldn’t help but be surprised when we walked up to the track. The outline of the track was taped to the floor with a much bigger than anticipated crowd wrapped around 3/4 of it.
Along one side of the boards (that were left up from the hockey season and were not used for roller derby) was a fairly sizeable grandstand which was full of crazed fans consisting mainly of friends and family of the skaters. At both ends of the track were people packed into an area known as the “suicide seats.” The designated area is ten feet from the track , and puts the spectators in the front row of the action…right in harms way! It’s not unusual to end up with a skater in your lap after a vicious check from the track, and that only adds to the charm of the sport.
Roller derby is a very fan-friendly sport, and encourages participation in any form. There were signs held up sparsely throughout the crowd noting undying devotion to certain teams and specific skaters. The thing that garnered much of my attention though, aside from the blistering action on the track, was the attire of the skaters and crowd alike. The fans showed up decked out in alternative clothing. As much as you expect to see people walking around on Sunday afternoons with football jerseys on, you see something very similar at a roller derby bout. The styles emulate the scene and the athletes. Skaters use their derby persona to unleash their “wild side.” I saw a skater with huge black circles painted around her eyes. Another one had a comically small mustache and goatee drawn on. Everything about this sport screams entertaining.
And then there are the names. Oh my, there are the names! Hands down a favorite part of roller derby is listening to the announcer belt out the alter egos in a booming voice. The Circle City Derby Girls feature skaters such as Strawberry Smackquiri, Salacious T, Polly Dent, and Maul of America. Not to be outdone the Cornfed Derby Dames have their fair share of equally awesome identities, such as Alotta Pushie, Debbie Darko, Betty Fhite, Elizabeth TailHer, Frida Brawlo, and of course, SGT O’Harms. While I was trying to place names with faces, I quickly caught on that Cornfed’s OCDiva was blazing fast! This girl made every other skater on the track look like they were standing still. It seemed like when she was the jammer, she wound up getting the lead the vast majority of the time. You know, when she wasn’t in the penalty box. There were several minutes that passed by when it seemed that OCDiva remained sitting in the box by her lonesome to feel shame, and I had no idea why.
While she was being held in detention, Circle City began pulling away. The Cornfed Derby Dames were in dire skates (get it?), down by 30 points with 8 minutes left on the clock. And that’s when magic happened. SGT O’Harms didn’t make the active roster for the bout, but she served as an alternate, which meant that she sat trackside, front row in the suicide seats, and served as a spotter of sorts, instructing the jammer on whether or not to call off the jam. While she was serving her team the only way she could for this particular bout, OCDiva came roaring out of the penalty box and dominated everyone on the track with her speed. One jam at a time, the Dames started racking up points, staging a very unlikely comeback. Down by only 4 points with less than 30 seconds to go, it all came down to the final jam. The crowd was on the edge of their seats. Excitement overflowed from the arena. The whistle was blown and the jammers exploded off the line, weaving through the pack, and taking punishment from every direction in the form of hip checks. When the smoke cleared, Circle City came out of the pack first, gaining lead jammer, and finishing the Dames off with 5 final points.
My wife and I were encouraged to stick around for the second bout of the double-header, and we did for the first half, but then we ultimately decided it was time to further feed our need for more roller derby. My wife and I both agreed that we needed to stop by Blockbuster on the way home (we actually found one that hasn’t closed up shop yet!), and rent “Whip It.” Through the cinematic presentation of the sport we learned a little more about the basic rules, but a lot was sacrificed for the “entertainment” factor. All in all, a very educational and entertaining evening! I would highly recommend attending any and all roller derby bouts that you can fit in your schedule. These ladies work their butts off between training, organizing, practicing, and entertaining, and deserve all the attention they come across.
For my lazy readers, here are the links again:
Thank you, that is all.