By: Adriana Rolston
She rolls by clad in blue star-spangled booty shorts. Or rainbow socks. Or an ass that reads “sass.” But don’t let the fierce outfits distract you. For a derby girl, hips serve as weapons. So what used to resemble a couple of girlfriends bumping into each other now ends with one flying to the hockey arena floor. But that’s the beauty of it. Rough and tumble, tits and tights; it’s not a sport for the faint hearted. When you watch the pack roll by you know these ladies won’t hesitate to take you out on the track, but will also help you up and take you out for a beer after the bout.
I’m at my very first bout, and it also happens to be the first time for the Rollergettes, who are playing their inaugural game against the ‘Frenemies’ at the George Bell Arena on May 15th.
A friend of mine is a Rollergettes jammer, Roadside Bombshell, so my allegiance is with the ladies who glide out wearing t-shirts tie dyed with striped hues: purple on top, white in middle and green on bottom. The ‘Frenemies’ are already black and blue (attired) when they roll out, with one player sporting eye-catching IRON MAN emblazoned short-shorts.
We’re sitting on hard blue seats in a hockey arena and tall panes of plastic separate us from the action of the bout as the first whistle blows and the pack of skaters spring into action. This is a flat track, so the parameters are marked by oval tape marks. A gaggle of refs skirting the centre and outer edges of the track, each with their own original outfits and derby names. My personal favourite is Bruise Berry Pie.
I have a basic grasp of the rules after watching “Whip It” thrice (impressive, I know), and reading the soon-to-be-released manual, “Down and Derby,” by roller champs Kasey Bomber and Axles of Evil. So of course I’m the smart ass in the stands explaining the rules to everyone. When the second whistle blows the two jammers, who stand poised behind the pack, launch after them. One jammer will eventually take the lead, and after overtaking the pack for the second time, will gain a point for every skater she passes.
But navigating the pack of tough mamma’s is tricky. Each team has four blockers and they tend to unite in deadly groups of two’s and to prevent the opposing team’s jammer from getting past them and scoring.
Watching a jammer try to overtake a thick pack of skaters is like watching a fish navigate a treacherous, boulder filled stream. Except the boulders smash into you and send you sprawling. Like when a pair of ‘Frenemies’ rammed into a jammer from both sides, making a ‘Roadside’ sandwich.
But jammers don’t duke it out alone. Fellow teammates work to remove obstacles and clear the path. Or they give the jammer a boost by reaching behind them, grasping onto her arm and flinging her forward; instant slingshot effect.
Roller derby is really a well orchestrated battle of the hips and shoulder blades. One moment after C-Section got bumped out of the track she rolled right back in to challenge her attacker a with a furious hip-swinging showdown. If they were in a pin-ball machine you would have heard a series of little ding, ding, ding’s every time that pair of hips careened into one another.
And then there’s the inevitably spectacular plummets. Everyone meets the floor at some point. As a less experienced team, skating in their debut bout, the Rollergettes tumbled more than their opponents, but they took the abuse and sprung right back into the fray. At one point Roadside took a particularly nasty drop onto her stomach and a ‘Frenemy’ narrowly sidestepped her head, as the audience groaned and gasped. But it’s to be expected in derby. Broken bones, bruises, sprains and fishnet burns are all part of the tussle.
There’s also a lot of support. Like near the end of the bout, almost 60 minutes into the game ‘Frenemy’ Heidi Hasselhoff took a hard fall and stayed down. The game stopped. Legs tucked at her side, she crawled off the track on her wrists, dragging her lower body across the floor as refs glided over. A minute later one of the medics on hand inspected her leg and she was pulled upright, supported on either side and rolled off the track on one erect, skate-clad foot. Everyone in the stands and on the track cheered and clapped for her as she left the rink, and the game resumed.
The bout may have ended with the Rollergettes losing 38 to 214 but they’re still learning the ropes, and put up a good fight. It was clear that the ‘Frenemies’ had strong defensive manoeuvres; they knew how to fill in those gaps so that no one was getting through, but they also have more experience. What struck me was the fact that despite how aggressive the sport is, the players still have fun with it.
At times, as a pack of ladies waited on the rink for a bout to begin they danced to Ke$ha tracks playing on the speakers. At half time three of the ‘Frenemies’ lay lined up on the track as team members jumped over them. And when the Rollergettes’ Knina Knuckles got a penalty she shrugged and lifted her skirt to reveal panties that read “Bite me.”
They may be amazon women but they can still have a good time on the track.