I know I’m late to jump on the bandwagon with this one (since that movie about roller derby starring Ellen Page called “Whip It” came out in 2009).
Well, I saw the movie way back when and thought it was cool, but then sort of forgot about roller derby for a while. Until Saturday night at the Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls’ home bout. When my mind was blown.
For the uninitiated, roller derby is played on roller skates (not blades). There are two opposing teams, each made up of a jammer (who has to race the opposing jammer to break through the opposing team’s pack and lap them in order to score points), the blockers (who try to block the jammers by forming human walls, making them fall down, running them out of bounds, etc), and a pivot (a player who sets the pace and is the final line of defense against the opposing jammer). All this racing and blocking and breaking through-ing happens as the teams skate around a track.
Each round of attempted scoring is called a jam. Jams start with the pack of blockers moving forward, the jammers waiting behind for their starting signal. Once the whistle is blown, the jammers try to break through the opposing blockers while being helped through by their own blockers (hence the blockers play offense and defense at the same time). The jammer who gets through first is dubbed the lead jammer. The jammers then lap around and around the pack of blockers, trying to get through again and again in order to score points for their team. One point = one opposing team member passed by the jammer. A jam can either be called by a lead jammer or by one of the refs if it surpasses two minutes in duration.
One aspect that surprised me is that the players rotate positions throughout the bout, so in addition to being a skilled and agile skater with an excellent center of gravity, you also have to be versatile.
In short, roller derby is awesome (in the legit sense of the word, meaning awe-inspiring, impressive or daunting), and it’s something I might try to get into in the distant future…
I’d better invest in some skates, start practicing and get going on brainstorming a badass roller derby name (ex: Kitty Gotclaws, Belle Tabitch, Bamzilla, Roc N Decker, Luz Cannon, etc.).
Oh, and for those who were wondering, Saturday night was a victory for the home team—172-162!