Today was my first appointment with Sarah, my physical therapist. (Which reminds me, I’ll be writing up that post about working out when injured in the not-so-distant future.) As it turns out, when she’s not helping my back return to its normal, pain-free state, she’s lighting it up in a local roller derby league. What better reason could I have to feature roller derby as this week’s Active Option?
If Wikipedia is to be believed, roller derby has been around in some form or another since the 1930’s. During its evolution, the sport went the route of professional wrestling in the last half of the century (spoiler: the outcomes of the bouts were predetermined!), and began to fizzle. However, in recent years it’s making a huge comeback, returning to its genuinely competitive roots without giving up the theatricality. Women—who make up most of the sport’s participants—wear outfits that I will prudishly call “skimpy” and use alternate names that can be witty, suggestive, punny, and/or intimidating. (To give you an idea of what I mean, you might check out the roller derby name generator.)
At this point in time, most leagues follow the guidelines set by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. (In the interest of gender equality, there is a men’s association as well.) I haven’t entirely wrapped my head around all of the rules, but the basic idea is that the roller girls skate around a track. A predetermined player, designated the “jammer,” has the opportunity to score by lapping members of the other team. Meanwhile, the other team’s jammer is trying to do the same, and the remaining eight players on the track (four for each team) are doing their darndest to help their teammate. They do this by butt-checking opposing players and flinging teammates around obstacles, which means that they’re effectively playing offense and defense at the same time. (If your head is already swimming, you might check out this video explanation of roller derby basics.)
I tried to find a video that bottled the essence or roller derby the best (keeping in mind that I haven’t actually seen roller derby in person). CBS’s video was informative, but I’m guessing that derby girls would find it way too cutsey. So, I give you this one, courtesy of ESPN:
So, now it’s time for a gut check. Did you come out thinking that this one of the most bad-ass things you’ve ever seen? If not…no big deal. It’s definitely not for everyone. But if you DID…the Silicon Valley Roller Girls have a nice blog post about getting started in roller derby that deserves reading first. If you’re still hooked, I totally recommend looking into a roller derby league in your area. The WFTDA’s website provides a list of affiliated leagues to get you pointed in the right direction. (There are numerous non-affiliated leagues as well, so you might need to use your Google skills a bit.)
10/6/11 UPDATE: I talked with my PT-turned-roller derby girl, and she assures me that the fighting you’ll see in that ESPN video is virtually nonexistent in today’s derby, so don’t let that put you off. Also, she pointed me to a great derby-devoted website, Derby News Network. Enjoy!