Roller derby, a sport with a long and interesting history, suffers the same fate of many female-based competitive sports in America: a relatively small number of fans and very little public exposure. Recently, I discovered firsthand that roller derby deserves much more attention and appreciation when my university hosted a game for local teams.
Roller derbies – which originally were simple races on roller skates, have existed for over one hundred years. Gradually, the sport evolved to be what it is today: an always fast-paced, sometimes violent game where one player of each team, the jammer, rushes to get ahead. The other players on the rink work to assist their own jammer and block the opponent’s jammer from advancing, because only jammers can score points. At some point, the game became a prevalently female sport and associated with feminist movements.
As exciting as the sport is to watch, it is actually the personality and creativity of the players that is most intriguing. Word play or jokes are often involved when developing a title for the team. For example, the two teams I watched were the Granite Skate Troopers and the Seabrook Meltdowns. New Hampshire is nicknamed the “Granite State” due to an enormous amount of exposed granite here and our state police are often called “Granite State Troopers,” hence the name “Granite Skate Troopers.” Seabrook is well-known for its (controversial) nuclear power plant, thus the sarcastic and hopefully never truthful title “Seabrook Meltdowns.”
But the creativity doesn’t stop with the naming of the teams, because each player has a unique alias, such as Atari JoyKick, Barbie Biturate, Wynonna Thudd, and Madame Scurrie. Other than a t-shirt, there is no real uniform. Each player buys the rest of her outfit within the constraint of the team’s colors, so each player is able to express herself through her clothing accessories, and makeup/facepaint. Before the game started, many of the Granite Skate Troopers were wearing aviator sunglasses and fake mustaches to look like a stereotypical cop!
Find your local team and read the schedule to see if a match ever happens in your area! There are teams all over the United States and the sport is gaining attention internationally too. Roller derby is extremely interesting and I find it very surprising that it is not more popular. The women who play roller derby are definitely impressive and the culture surrounding the sport is really special. Check it out!