What better way to spend a Saturday night than watching a bunch of girls in fishnets and roller skates beat the living FANSHOES out of each other? Last Saturday we were invited by the President of the ROC city roller derby (Muffy Stopheles) to check out the travel debut of the travel team, the Roc Stars.
Sitting in the “suicide seats”.
Since Roller derby is a pretty niche sport, I thought I’d give you all a little history lesson a la Wikipedia:
Roller derby has been around in one form or another since the 1880’s when the “derbies” were simple endurance races on roller skates. When many think of roller derby, they have vague associations with over-the-top, WWF-esq phase the sport went through in the 1970’s. While definitely still theatrical in nature (the girls have names like Queen Kicktoria, Torya Anewone, and Susan B. Agony and both matches I’ve been to have been MC’d and ref’d by a pretty quirky cast) the humor is very self aware and the actual game play is serious.
The players, especially the Roc Stars, displayed an extraordinarily amount of athleticism. Before the match began, their very well dressed coach conducted drills where the girls practiced complicated blocking moves and weaving in and out between players.
A little strategy meeting. Look at the coach’s serious threads!
In short, Roller derby is a good natured, but very much contact, sport.
The pivot of the Garden State trying to hip-check another defender.
So you’re probably wondering a little about how the game is actually played. This is my second time seeing derby, so I think I’ve got the jist of it now. Each team has five players on the rink at a time. The game is split up into roughly two minute long “Jams”. One player from each team is called the “Jammer” and they wear a fancy helmet cover with a star on it.
Roc Star Jammer, Toxin Dioxin.
The Jammers are the only players who can score points and they tend to be small, fast and very good at weaving in and out of players. Ahead of the two Jammers is a mass of blockers (the eight other players) which are collectively referred to as “the pack”. The leader of each team’s blockers is called the “pivot”. They wear a helmet cover with a stripe on it and all other blockers on the team need to stay behind their pivots. The pivots essentially set the pace.
Roc Star Jammer and Team Captain Roxy D. Sniper gets ready to break through the Garden State defense.
When the game starts, both Jammers are trying to dodge and muscle their way through the pack by avoiding enemy players and using friendly players as shields and momentum boosts. The first Jammer to get through the pack is called the “lead Jammer”. It’s very good to be the lead Jammer, because it means that at any point during Jam, they can choose to wave their hands and stop the Jam (for instance, they can do this if they see the other Jammer is about to score). After either Jammer first passes the pack, they start scoring points each time they pass a player on the enemy team. Sometimes the lead Jammer is just ahead of the other Jammer; in this case, they’ll pass a few players on the enemy team and then call the Jam over before the other Jammer can score. Other times, the lead Jammer will be so ahead of the other Jammer that they can lap the pack multiple times before the other team can score a single point.
The refs have specific hand signals — this one signals the current skater is the lead Jammer.
Fouls have a huge play in determining the outcome of the game. To prevent egregious harm to the players, the Jams are pretty heavily refereed and a lot of overly dangerous moves (grabbing enemy player limbs, head butting someone etc) will send players straight to the “penalty box”.
Saturday’s match was a double header and started with Rochester’s B-team (The B-Sides) battling it out against the Hellions of Troy. The match was very close. The Hellions started ahead at first, but the B-Sides quickly caught up and the rest of the match the two teams stayed neck and neck. At the end, the dust cleared and the B-Sides were victorious.
B-Side Jammer “moving” Hellions of Troy pivot out of the way.
The second match-up was the Roc Stars versus the New Jersey team, “Garden State”. “Garden State” started out winning a few lead Jams, but fell behind fairly early in the game and struggled to keep up. Their strategy was to play very defensively and they would occasionally make impressive jam scores when Roc Star Jammers would foul and be in the penalty box. Ultimately, though, the speed and aggressiveness of the Roc City Jammers (Asa Clubs and Toxin Dioxin to name a few) won out.
Go Roc Stars, go!
Some of the profits from the night’s games went to a local charity, the Animal Service League. The league was also running a drive for soap for another local charity, Sample Soap. All-in-all the derby was a great time. Next match is August 13th in the Dome Arena, check it outtt.
~guest article by Lyla, FANSHOES CTO.