Saturday, September 13, 2008

Queens Of The Roller Derby

I grew up watching roller derby on television. You have to be of a certain, ahem, age to appreciate how big it was. First televised in the late 1940's it exploded in the 1960's when the Bay City Bombers were televised live in San Francisco and the shows were syndicated and broadcast in another 120 cities. Luckily, Minneapolis was one of them.

I hadn't really thought that much about Roller Derby for years. It has pretty much faded into history, but for awhile it was the professional wrestling of its day. Scripted mayhem, long simmering feuds, full-out fist fights, thrilling come-from-behind victories with the Bay City Bombers usually prevailing, often over their arch-rivals the New York Chiefs. Ah, those were the days, my friends.

Babe Bomber Joanie Weston In Action

Much has changed since those halcyon days of yore. Although there has been a resurgence in Roller Derby, it is now a different animal altogether. First and foremost, the track is now flat and lightly padded, not banked and hard. This slows things down considerably. Secondly, the railings are gone. This would be like wrestling without the ropes. And that leads to the last difference, it is now largely amateur, not professional. Thinks amateur wrestling (no ropes) compared to professional wrestling. Amateur wrestling is, without a doubt, more authentic, but decidedly less entertaining.

Still, it is a lot of fun and you get plenty of bang for your buck. Thirty bucks for VIP tickets that put you, literally, inches from the action. You need quick reflexes to sit in this section. And the event was a sell-out with turn-away crowds at the door. Granted, it was in the basement of Hunter College on their basketball court, capacity 1,250. Still though...

Playing To A Packed House

Tonight's match was between the Manhattan Mayhem, in the orange, and the Brooklyn Bombshells, in the blue.

Go Blue

Trash Talking, Or Making Dinner Plans?

My Girls Cruising By

I liked the names the girls had selected for themselves.

Getting Creative

My favorite was probably Surly Temple.

Ah, but how does this thing work? Well, you have two teams and each can have a maximum of five skaters on the rink at one time. Each team has a pivot, who skates at the front of the pack and controls the speed. They also are the last line of defense against the opposing jammer and, in certain circumstances can become the jammer.

The jammer is the one who scores the points. They start 20 feet behind the rear of the pack at a dead start. The jammer has to skate through the entire pack one time and then lap the pack before she can begin to score points. She receives one point for each skater on the opposite team that she passes.

The blockers work with the pivot to help their jammer move through the pack and, at the same time, prevent the opposing jammer from doing so.

The jammer is identified by a cloth helmet cover with a star on each side. The pivot wears a striped helmet cover. A jammer can pass her helmet cover to her pivot if she gets stuck in the pack and the pivot then becomes the jammer.

Each match lasts 60 minutes, either three 20 minute periods or two 30 minute periods. Each period is made up of as many two minute jams as you can get in. Each team has just 30 seconds to line up for the next jam once a jam ends. A jam ends after two minutes or when the lead jammer calls it off.

The lead jammer is the first jammer to get through the pack. A referee will identify the lead jammer with one short whistle blast and by pointing to the jammer.

Simple, huh? Well it is entertaining and the action is certainly fast. There are more subtleties involving penalties, whether or not the lead jammer can pass their helmet cover to the pivot, and who knows what else. I basically had no clue as to what was going on though, and the scoring was always a mystery to me.

I do know that my beloved Brooklyn Bombshells got hammered, 146 to 91. I had the dubious pleasure of watching the Mayhem set two records, though. Team Captain Sweet Sherry Pie (got to love the names) scored a league record 20 points in one jam and Em Dash set a new team record by scoring 56 points in the match.

Halftime entertainment was also a blast of the past. Hula Hoops. Ah, the memories those bring back.

The 1960's Revisited

And, of course, you had the dance team.

Shake Your Booty

And cheerleaders, you got to have cheerleaders.

Not Exactly The Dallas Cheerleaders

All and all it was a fun night in a 1960's kind of way. I will have to say though, there were a lot of real fans in the stands. They seemed to know the players and obviously followed the teams. The crowd seemed to be split between Mayhem and Bombshells fans but it was kind of hard to tell which were which. There isn't much, if any, team specific sports gear available. Just generic Gotham Girls Roller Derby stuff. I see a real business opportunity here.

1 comment:

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