by Red Scribbler
I can't believe we spent Saturday afternoon watching roller derby, but there it is. The Jane (Boudy Cagh) and I headed down to the UIC Pavilion to see two matches in the Windy City Rollers League. Now the fact is that the most important decision is how to determine your roller derby name. NO ONE uses their street name inside the roller derby world. As Flash Hottie, a member of the Windy City Rollers Farm team, told me, your roller derby name is not just something you hide behind but that also reveals something about you. Sort of like an avatar on a discussion board?
Okay, I'll be Red Scribbler, your faithful scribe. Working diligently to describe modern roller derby. Most names are suggestive. They have double entendre value such as Anita Bier, After Bertha and Nina Millimeter.
Mention roller derby, at least to anyone over the age of 50 or so, and a memory of Rachel Welch (KC Bomber) in the Jerrold Freedman film “Kansas City Bomber” is sure to swim to the surface. The gritty film details the dying days of roller derby, when television sponsors supported what many say were staged bouts to small crowds of blue-collar fans in Rust Belt cities.
Someone must have loved the idea. The modern game has much of the fun of the old roller derby, but features serious athletes striving to create a better experience. The loud-suited announcers are still there led in the Pavilion by Bryant Mumble in a shimmering blue suit and alligator shoes. And, the girls, not women, girls are still there.
Do you want a roller girl to fall into your lap? Well, there are suicide seats, just around the end of the curve, where you can sit inches from the flat track. You are guaranteed to have at least several women come flying into these seats-- skates first. OUCH! Oh the glamor and ecstasy of blood and pain in the audience.
Because, these women, sorry, girls, are well protected. Helmets, knee, wrist and elbow guards and mouth pieces keep them in one piece. And, you, a member of the audience? You are protected by your Twizzler and a soft pretzel. Fortunately, I'm sure the medics, perhaps Grim Wrapper or Mama Vendetta, will give you an ice pack if you're foolish enough to get in the way of these girls.
Although the raised track and the rail of the old roller derby is gone, replaced with a flat track, there is still physical action out there. Remember how the blockers would hook arms across the track, forcing a scrum by the opposing jammer and her team to break it? GONE. But there are still flying butts, hips and elbows too. Remember how blockers would grab the member of the other team-- okay, even a hated member of her own team-- and whip them out of play? The last thing seen being a pair of roller skates hanging for a moment before crashing down into the crowd? GONE.
In the modern game the jammers are flying around at a pretty good speed, they are the girls who actually score points. There are rules but let's keep it simple, the jammers maneuver to be the lead skater and to lap other skaters. The pack moves relatively slowly, but that's where the action occurs. Violations of the rules lead to time in the sin bin. Jams take two minutes. Games are made of 30 minutes. Unlike the old roller derby, the rules are enforced.
So, the actual game is two minutes of action, quick break, two minutes of action. More or less.
Some of the girls are pretty good at blocking others. Some are pretty good at weaving through traffic. The four Chicago teams play about every four weeks, roughly, in a season that starts in January and ends in June with the Ivy King Cup championship. All-stars from the Chicago teams move on to national competition. Last year, the WCR All-Stars were ranked number two in the nation.
Being a hockey fan and a member of the post-50 club, I can remember the brawls in the old roller derby. In fact the film Kansas City Bomber is specifically about how an up and coming player replaces an older player in a very physical grudge match. (Here is the trailer for the film). That's not the reality out in the modern game. The players were congratulating each other, not during play, but before and after. There were hugs, there were hugs for the referees even. Everyone knows each other here. Mama Loka (*), the actual parent of League Coach Kola Loka, said it is all about rivalry and camaraderie at the same time.
“I'm very proud of her,” Mama Loka said of her daughter 32-year-old Kola Loka. She reeled off some stats including a national record for most points in a single jam by her daughter. “I was very surprised when she said she was joining the team. But she's always been an athlete.”
But if cheese sells minor league sports, then the game itself is cheese, with aspects of great camp and also great competition. Where momentum can shift suddenly and a big lead vanishes in exhaustion. It is a LOUD game, with constant PA babble, which ricochets around the Pavilion's concrete walls, joins a rock tune and leaves you wondering what the hell is being said.
Whatever made the old roller derby so popular, before disbelief in the facade began, it is still there. Read the reviews on Yelp! for some very poetic discussions of hot girls in fishnet stockings, some of which we captured on film for you, to see what I mean. This is hot. There is one more set of games in Chicago this season. June 20, 6 PM, UIC Pavilion; 525 S Racine.
Hells Belle Megan Formor in red becomes the victim of a classic "butt block" a move perfected by the Bells Captian. / By Boudica (JDR)
Manic Attackers Ruth Enasia breaks free of the Hell's Bells blockers to start her run to score./ By Boudica (JDR) The original picture caption had said this was Malice with Chains.
Train Wreck! / By Boudica (JDR)
Two Manic Manic Attack supporters./ By Boudica (JDR)
Sonya Mouthshut and Georgia on yer Behind of the Double Crossers round the curb. Not long after this was taken we almost "caught" Sonya as she flew by taking out a few chairs./ By Boudica (JDR) This caption had originally identified Sonya as Sargentina.
Even the Referees have their own personalities this is "Stegoscorus"/ By Boudica (JDR)