Division 1 Power Five NCAA football or Roller Derby? The ladies on skates win out this night. I could have gone to the big time football game (I have season tickets) but decided, that as a leisure activity, I would be seduced by the siren song of my first roller derby.
This is family friendly. The venue is a nondescript warehouse building among many in an out of the way business park. The wafting aroma of old sweat socks permeates the interior. The entry way features a large team picture where all the women are tricked out as zombies. Inside, the "flat track" is outlined with yellow tape on a faded green concrete floor. Battered folding chairs provide "close to the rink" seating for those willing to plop down a few bucks to watch the home team, ladies of the Vice Squad, take on The Surly Gurlies, from up the road a hundred miles. The skaters are decked out in a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, and mouth guards. Each skater sports a team jersey, and most also wear long padded knee length pants. Serious business, folks.
The rules are simple. Two thirty minutes halves. Each team places five on the track. A jammer on each team tries to break through the defense set up by blockers on the other team. "Points are scored when the first jammer on a scoring pass (every pass a jammer makes through the pack after the initial pass) laps members of the opposing team." Simple, but not easy. The defenders on each team can get pretty knarly. Players range from double plus size to willowy and lean. You don't need an athlete's body to get in on this deal. Refs on skates try to maintain some semblance of order.
Lots of bumping and grunting with quite a few spills, but not the helmet beating smack downs you see in movie versions of the sport. The names of the ladies are as good as the action: Pariah Carey, BITCH-Please, Dewey Decimatrix, Cherry PopHer, Van D. Lyzher, Strawberry Hurt Cakes. You get the idea. In the back corner of the room is a well used bar where you can load up on Mickey's, Bud, nachos and pork rinds. Fits right in with the Star Wars' Cantina. I get a hot dog and coke, no excitement there. The football game I am missing is on the TV. Can't touch roller derby, buddy. I'm down with flop sweat and skates.
As the teams race or bump around the oval, the medical staff sitting next to me is preparing for any injuries. The EMTs are rolling bandages and chatting up the ladies in red T shirts which say, "Fresh Meat." At breaks in the action these women touch up/ repair the yellow tape that defines the track boundaries and frequently gets torn. A skater, PyRo Blaze, comes over to "Medical," a pained look on her face. A broken bone? bad floor burn? No, her skates need tightening. The EMT reaches into his black bag, pulls out a wrench and tightens a loose nut on the bottom of the skate. Another thankful patient. Meanwhile, my son, a true millennial, has one eye on the skaters and the other on his smart phone, some worldwide video game championship. Vivid reality vs. virtual vacuity.
At half time the score is Vice Squad 63, Surly Gurlies 127. The home team is getting walloped, but the fans are inoculated against depression. Being here is all that counts. During the break, the musical entertainment is provided by The Desert Crawlers, three raggedy guys who look like they just escaped from someone's garage. They blast out bad 80s metal music, and are cheered on by twelve year old girls who think they've hit the big time. Someone passes by me wearing a hat that says, "Make America Skate Again." I knew Trump had it wrong.
In the second half the announcing team, which looks like they just stepped out of Duck Dynasty, encourages the fans to give it up for the home team. The cheering apparently works, because the home team storms back with Mona Handful punching up that tote meter with killer skating and excellent jamming. But just when Vice Squad seems to be closing in, the Surly Gurlies release their secret Jammer. Luz Chaos is about five foot tall and ninety-five pounds. A ghost on skates. She passes though blockers as if invisible. Now you see her, now you don't. The final score is Vice Squad 130 Surly Gurlies 183. The ladies shake hands and will soon return to their day jobs in some office, school or retail outlet.
As we leave, I grab a roller derby bumper sticker and a flier promoting the next showdown: Furious Truckstop Waitresses vs. The Bandoleras. A full moon hangs over the warehouse. Life can be crazy good.