Sunday, April 15, 2012

On a Roll

Spring has arrived and so have the season-openers for an iconic American-born sport. No, not baseball. Women’s roller derby.

The original mixed-gender big league roller derby teams, despite enthusiastic and loyal audiences, folded more than 30 years ago. For a variety of reasons the teams simply stopped making money. (See Wheel Appeal for more on the history of the sport: The revival of roller derby in the 21st century as an all-female sport, however, has been swift and dramatic. There now are hundreds of leagues in the US and hundreds more around the world.

So far, there has not been a major recentralization of derby. For now, organizationally, derby is pleasantly anarchic with new leagues (and new teams within leagues) springing up in odd places every year. They most commonly skate in fairly small venues with ad hoc bout schedules. (There are national associations and an all star Team USA, it should be noted, who won the world championship last December in Toronto.)

The nearest roller derby venue to my door is in Morristown. The home rink for the Jerzey Derby Brigade league is there, and the two established teams of the Brigade, the Corporal Punishers and the Major Pains, originally were scheduled to open the season last night with a bout against each other. More about that in a moment.

The Jerzey Derby Brigade no longer is alone in Morristown. The new league in town, New Jersey Roller Derby held a fundraiser Friday night at The Famished Frog sidebar. I attended. The lottery ticket I obtained from Desiree Rinker, aka Rink E Dink, was off by one digit, so I didn’t win the Wii, but I did catch up with a friend at the bar and chatted with a couple of the skaters. The new league is the brainchild of Kristy Maloney (aka Pixie Bust) formerly one of the Corporal Punishers’  strongest (and photogenic) skaters. I asked Pixie why she started the NJRD. Aside from the desire to do something on her own, she said she was hoping to create an especially feisty league. “Derby is supposed to be intense,” she said. She added that the 19 members include neophytes (“fresh meat” is the preferred term) as well as experienced skaters. The first formal bout will be April 21 against the Jersey Shore Roller Girls Beat Down. I’ve seen the Beat Down girls skate before; they will be very tough competition for the new NJRD. We’ll see if intensity is enough to prevail against them.

Meanwhile, back at the Jerzey Derby Brigade, last night’s intra-league bout was modified from the initial plan of a face-off of the two formal teams. Instead, skaters from the league were divided into two divisions sporting seasonally appropriate Easter-egg shades of Purple and Green. The two were well matched (see lineup below), and the score, accordingly, remained close until well past halftime. Heinz Catchup, Ginger-Ail, and Voldeloxx stood out for the Greens, and Baked Beanz, Maggie Kyllanfall, and ASSault Shaker for the Purples. Even a small edge can build up a lead over on hour of playing time, however; Maggie and Assault largely accounted for extra power on the Purple side. The final scoreboard read 133-81, advantage Purple. Other skaters on each team (Dorothy Punker and Raven Rage among others) also displayed energy and competence. The Brigade looks to be in shape for upcoming interleague bouts.

Kids from the Peter Smith School of Irish Dance provided the half-time show. The performance was a little unexpected for the venue, but then the side events at derby bouts often are. The kids certainly had learned their steps.

Anyone who hasn’t seen a local derby team skate (there is likely to be one near you) is advised to try it. You may find it addictive, as I have, but at least it’s an addiction that comes without a hangover.

 Jerzey Derby Brigade

NJRD (Pixie on Left)

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