On Super Bowl Weekend most people spent their time making bets on how long Christina Aguilera would sing the last note of the National Anthem, assembling bean dip, and preparing for some football. But I spent my Saturday night watching a different kind of sport entirely. I went to the Kansas City Roller Warriors Roller Derby.
I’d never been exposed to roller derby before, besides an episode of CSI: New York and the movie “Whip It” so I didn’t really know what to expect. When a friend of mine told me he had an extra ticket, I just thought, “Why not?” and decided to tag along. And I am so glad I did because it was a blast.
The game is fairly simple to grasp. There are 10 women on the track at a time. Two are Jammers – one on each team, and are designated by a star on their helmet. Three members from each team are Blockers and the remaining player is called the Pivot. The Pivots from each team keep the pace that the pack goes around the track. The Jammers try to move through the pack and the Blockers try to stop the other team’s Jammer, while helping their own.
Points are gained when the Jammer passes members of the opposite team. When a Jammer makes it through the pack, they get points for every player they passed. The round, or “Jam” is called when the Lead Jammer from either team hits their waist and moves their arms out a bunch of times to basically proclaim their team’s awesomeness.
If you didn’t get lost in that explanation, I’m proud. I may have made it seem more difficult than it actually is, but if I can understand it – anyone can.
Roller Derby has a reputation for being extremely rough, so I expected some very violent sport. But as I watched, the players would get pushed down, but no one got hurt badly, and everyone got up when they fell. I didn’t think it was all that rough, until I saw “Strawberry Cutthroat” up close. She had scratches all over her arms. I think the entire point of this sport is that is everything is not as it seems. There are a variety of players with various body types and the sport embraces anyone with an affinity for skating (not me), the will to have some fun, and a high pain tolerance.
That isn’t to say the sport doesn’t take skill. The Jammers have to push through the crowd fast, and they have to organize plays and blocks to prevent the other team’s Jammer from pushing through and gaining points. They have to work together, while at the same time holding their own. I don’t know if I would ever do it, because of the fact that I really cannot skate well, but I think the point of the sport is that it gives you the feeling that you could do it if you wanted to. It is empowering and so fun.
The players wear fairly revealing outfits, like super-short shorts, tight tops, and tights, but each outfit is unique. The players on each team all wear the same shirt and colors, but some wear ripped fishnets others striped stockings, some wear black skirts, others silver sequined shorts. It adds an extra layer of entertainment to an already entertaining sport.
Another aspect of each player’s individuality is her nickname. From Hypersmacktivity and Dominant Jean, to Diva de los Meurtos, each name is at the same time tough, cute, and witty. I’ve spent a while attempting to come up with my own Roller Derby nickname and the best I can come up with is Lady Voldemort. I need to think for a while longer.
A while into the game, my friend wondered aloud why there was a need for such skimpy costumes. I believe it is because it is empowering to see woman who have the confidence to show their bodies, and who take pride in themselves and the abilities they possess. I witnessed a few preteens shyly approach one of the Jammers and ask for her autograph and a picture with her. I think it’s amazing that younger girls have found role models in such strong and independent women.
I truly believe that anyone can appreciate this sport. From the preteens who idolize the strong woman as mentors, to men who just watch for the skimpy outfits, to me – someone who usually dislikes watching conventional sporting events. If you like being entertained, Roller Derby is for you.