Prelude: In the first two decades following WW2, American television stations scratched for programming to fill airtime. Only the networks could afford to produce their own shows of more than the simplest kind, and only enough of these to fill evening primetime. Fortunately, they quickly found an easily exploitable resource. In those days long before home video tapes or DVDs, the movie studios had vaults full of old movies that they regarded as virtually worthless. Only the rare gem among them ever could draw theatergoers if re-released. All the others, in the executives’ opinion, merely took up space. The studios therefore sold the rights to air these films to the TV stations for a song; they continued to sell the rights to films (even those just a couple years out of theaters) cheaply right into the 1960s. The independent TV stations in consequence aired old movies from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s at any time of the day or night, and even the networks aired them in their late-night time slots. Accordingly, when I was in grammar school in the early 1960s, I watched far more of what now are considered “classic movies” than kids of the same age would tolerate today – they were what was on.
What on earth has all this got to do with last night’s roller derby bout? Well, one film I watched and enjoyed as a kid was the 1950 sports flick The Fireball about (you guessed it) roller derby. (I haven’t seen it in its entirety since I was 10, so I can’t vouch for it being any good to an adult eye, but clips from it are posted below.) It was how I became conscious of the sport, and I’ve been a fan ever since. As mentioned in the last racap, I like the current incarnation of derby – homegrown all-women’s teams – better than the older one. Though the skaters skate for their own enjoyment – that is, in fact, the appeal – here nonetheless is a word of thanks to the Corporal Punishers, the Hellrazors, and all the other grassroots teams for bringing the sport back to life.
In their bouts last year against the New Jersey Hellrazors (Kendall Park), the two teams of the Jerzey Derby Brigade (the Major Pains and the Corporal Punishers, both of Morristown) fought see-saw battles down to the wire, with the Hellrazors squeaking out victories in the last seconds with tie-breaking final jams. A very different sort of match unfolded last night on the Corporal Punishers’ home rink in
Both teams have developed an aggressive blocking strategy, which made for an exceptionally bruising bout, even by the rough standards of derby. This was as expected. The Hellrazors’ edge this year came from an uptick in the effectiveness of their jammers. In the first jam Jen-O-Go-Go picked up 4 points for the Hellrazors. It was an omen. In the third jam, jammers traded places in the penalty box 4 times, showing how rough-and-tumble the skating was. Jammers for both teams most often had to ram their way through opposing blockers, when they got through at all, and none escaped knock-downs. Still, Maggy Kyllanfall for the Punishers showed her usual skill at finding or making a way through the pack and then employing her speed in the open. Voldeloxx and Farmageddon also exploited or created opportunities. Jen-o-Go-Go, Mental Block, and Thiza Glory did the same for the Hellrazors; then the petite but powerful A-Bomb solidified the Hellrazor lead with a spectacular 7 pass series of Grand Slams (5 points per pass). 20 minutes into the bout the Hellrazors led 98-24. The Corporal Punishers redoubled their efforts, and by the half-time whistle had closed the gap to 24 points, with a score of 119-97, thereby returning the bout to competitive territory.
In the second half, the blocking, if anything, toughened, with special mention to Old Skool, Ozzie Clobberpot, and Swiss Mischief for the Hellrazors, and Doom Hilda and Raven Rage for the Punishers. The Hellrazors re-expanded their lead, again making good use of power jams (when the opposing jammer is in the penalty box). Doom Hilda and Voldeloxx skated spirited jams in the last minutes of the bout, but Hellrazor lead by that point was commanding. The final score was Hellrazors 245/Corporal Punishers 142. MVPs were Maggy Kyllanfall for the Punishers and Ozzie Clobberpot for the Hellrazors.
As always, it was an entertaining bout, and I’m looking forward to the rematch, as, I’m sure, are the Punishers.
…and if you’re looking for a more recent film to play the role of The Fireball to a present-day 10-year-old, try Drew Barrymore’s Whip It (2009). It’s recent enough for modern kids to tolerate, and (I have seen this with an adult’s eye) you’ll probably like it too.
Even Marilyn Monroe was a derby fan. Clips with Marilyn from The Fireball (1950):