When I set this goal several weeks ago, I was thinking along the lines of going to a new museum, attending an opera or symphony that I hadn’t been to, watching a play, a dance recital, or visiting an art gallery with a traveling exhibit. But those wouldn’t really be entirely new experiences and I wanted to do something that was completely foreign to me. So instead, I decided to find out more about the culture (counter-culture?) of roller derby.
Apparently, it has been around for a long time (Wikipedia says the term “roller derby” dates at least as far back as 1922), though it’s been recently gaining popularity again in the last ten years or so.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect, so I watched Drew Barrymore’s 2009 movie, Whip It, to understand the sport a little better. Rather than try to explain the rules, here’s a clip that gives a great explanation: http://www.watchmojo.com/index.php?id=7654.
It really was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I met up with my friends Becky and Nikki at the Salt Palace convention center to watch the double header: The Salt City Shakers vs. The Lava City Roller Dolls (from Oregon) and The Sisters of No Mercy vs. The Death Dealers. The teams were made up of all sorts of women. Some were punk, some athletic, some burlesque. Some a mixture of all three. There were women with all sorts of body types competing together. All of them looked really tough. They had roller derby names like “Smack and DeckHer” and “Bonecrusher Barbie”. The crowd was equally diverse with all ages, economic backgrounds, and styles. Prime people watching.
While the matches were going on, Becky, Nikki, and I tried to think about what our roller derby names would be if we were to play. Nikki used her last name, Howell, to come up with “May Q. Howell”. Becky (whose last name is Huff) and I couldn’t think of much with our names except “Flush You Down the Potty Scottie” and “Huff and Puff and Blow Your Skates Down”. Both of which would be too long to put on a jersey. We came up with other names like DomiSkate and Shake and Break, but nothing that really topped Nikki’s.
The matches were fun and the girls were pretty tough. They took some hard hits and a few got injured. I was amazed that they could keep their balance so well with people shoving them at high speeds.
At the intermission between the two matches, I made my way to the bathroom. I saw two little girls posturing for position in front of the mirror, dressed like their favorite teams. They were laughing and body checking each other and I asked them if they were practicing to play the sport when they were older. After nodding yes to me, one girl shoved the other girl so she lost her balance into the paper towel dispenser. Yikes.
It was a fun night overall, and a good introduction into the world of roller derby. It was definitely exposure to a new culture for me. And while I can’t see myself out on a track in fishnets, a tutu and a “Shake and Break” jersey, I did have fun watching a new sport and meeting some really colorful people.