I’m not big on spectator sports in a general way. Truth is, unless one is a New York team (in which case the topic is sure to have come up in local small talk), I probably won’t be able to tell you who is playing in either the World Series or the Superbowl until I hear radio and TV ads just prior to the broadcast. Yes, I’m that clueless.
There is an exception, as some readers may know: women’s roller derby. (For a brief description of the sport’s origins and a video explaining the terms and rules, see an earlier post Wheel Appeal: http://richardbellush.blogspot.com/2011/04/wheel-appeal.html .) Make no mistake, it is a real sport, not theater; the hits and scoring are legitimate. Yet, though not theater, it is in many ways theatrical, which is part of the attraction; the skaters are not afraid to embrace high camp, on-track personas, and aggressive anti-elitism. Nor are the skaters afraid of bruises, which none can escape in this contact sport. While competing hard, they seem to be having fun in a way that few players of other sports are. I know they’re fun to watch – and yes, of course, that they are not 275-pound men in football gear is also part of the appeal.
The local team playing closest to my door is the Corporal Punishers of the Jerzey Derby Brigade (see http://www.jerzeyderby.com/ ), and last night’s bout in Morristown, NJ, vs. the Black River Rollers from Watertown, NY, was beyond ordinary. The Punishers built a commanding lead in the first few jams which they never relinquished. Heinz Catchup, Miss USAhole, Assault Shaker, and Maggie Kyllanfall one after the other racked up grand slams (5 point scores possible only by lapping the other jammer) as did Pixie Bust. That makes it sound easy. It wasn’t. Not one of those points was uncontested, and Watertown’s defense, tough from the start, stiffened throughout the bout. In fact, there were more and harder hits and knockdowns than I’ve seen in any other match. Mea Slapaho and Bitchin N’ Rollin from Watertown deserve special mention for aggression (that’s a compliment in this context). Morristown’s Bruta Lee went down (and out) very hard, stopping play for some minutes, but she not only got up but soon returned to the track. Morristown’s defense also was strong, earning blocker and team captain Doom Hilda MVP. The final score of 227-38 is impressive, but misleading; the teams were not mismatched and the numbers easily could have been very different – especially if the penalty box (rarely empty) had been occupied somewhat differently at key moments.
This may not be a sport for everyone, either as a participant or a spectator, but I’ll take it over anything on ESPN any day. If you haven’t tried it, do. There’s almost sure to be a team nearby.