I went to a roller derby match last night. Admittedly, I knew that going would inevitably create material for a new blog post but a friend of mine announced recently that she was in a 10-week training session to become a roller derby girl (if that’s what you call them). I was curious to find out if today’s roller derby was just like the 1970’s picture I had in my head of people in wild outfits, punching, pushing and shoving other people off the track.
This match took place in an old hangar. It was the Death Track Dolls vs. the Gore Gore Girls. I’m not sure what I expected but it was indeed an old hangar. I kept wondering who on earth goes to these matches. Well, obviously tonight, it was me but the fact that we had to wait in line to get in showed me that there is obviously some kind of fan base.
We stepped inside and took in the scene. The flat track was only marked by some taped down tubing and there was a small table set up in the middle. Not only were there stands set up all around the hangar but people had even brought their own lawn chairs and had set up on the floor. The really brave ones sat directly on the floor only a few feet from the track. My friend pointed out that area as the “suicide zone” because apparently some of the players actually fall into the crowd.
We found some seats within the safety of the stands, asking the kind gentleman with his nose, tongue, lip, both eyebrows and ears pierced if the seats were free. I sat down and tried to understand who these people were that came to these matches. While it was a bit of a mixed crowd, most people, decorated with numerous piercings and tattoos, were clearly friends of the players.
My observations were quickly interrupted with the announcer, nicknamed “Crankypants” announcing each referee. It was difficult to understand him through the distorted speaker system so I referred to my program. It became clear very quickly that everyone had a nickname – even the refs. The first ref out was “Sir Refsalot”, adorned in a kilt. The biggest cheers came for “The Krow” though, who came out wearing black wings and skated with wings spread around the track.
The announcer then began announcing the names…things like “Lunchbox” and “Dust Bunny” and “Dolly Parts ‘Em”. As the names were announced, these women came out and paraded around the track.
The Death Track Dolls were the first to be introduced, in their white tank tops. Each woman wore some kind of tights/stockings and many wore torn up fishnet stockings underneath bootie shorts or a short skirt. The women on this team even took time to do their makeup, adding things like fake blood coming out of their mouths and white and black make up to make them look dead. The theme of the Gore Gore Girls was clearly leopard skin, as they all came out wearing some sort of leopard skin leotard again matched with various stockings. We were then asked to stand for the national anthem. We all stood their in silence until a recording of O Canada came on about halfway through the first verse. A singer quickly joined in and while his voice was lovely, he made the grave mistake of stopping and listening to the recording his voice had previously drowned out. He, and the entire hangar of fans quickly realized he was not at all with the recording. He panicked, and tried to come in at the right time but came in with the wrong words! He stopped again and then got back on track just in time for the final line of the song.
The match got started soon after that and while it took me some time to understand what was going on, I again, referred to my booklet to help me. After reading the explanation of the game and the rules, I realized this roller derby was a little different than older versions. Apparently there was no punching or even elbowing allowed. ‘Phew!’
As the game continued, the announcer continued talking through the mic, informing people of what was going on. When he wasn’t doing that, he was trying to get the crowd excited and cheering loudly. His method however, in my opinion, left a lot to be desired. Sure he said all of the right things but as he demanded the audience cheer “louder! Louder! LOUDER!!”, his face only looked angrier. I mean, it was going purple with rage. I think in the end, the fans were intimidated into cheering louder.
After the first thirty minute period, it was announced that there would be a thirty minute break. I wondered if there was going to be some sort of 7th inning stretch. It was somewhere between watching one fan build a pyramid of beer cans on the floor and noticing the woman wearing a spiked, purple bra that covered only her one remaining breast that the dancers came out.
Two young girls came out dressed like some sort of angels. Perhaps it is because I’ve been spoiled by watching “So You Think You Can Dance” and seeing some really fabulous dancers but these ones just seemed to wave their arms and run back and forth. Perhaps it wasn’t even the dancing itself that I was disappointed with but the fact that it just seemed so out of place at this particular venue.
The second half started with much of the same action that the first half of the game held. It was fast paced and it seemed that when there was a fall, the key was to act as dramatically as possible, curling up in pain, or slapping the floor. After each dramatic episode however, the women got up and continued skating without any problems.
The game ended and the Gore Gore Girls got to do their victory lap around the track. While it was an interesting night, we didn’t stick around long after the game!