Girls are tough. They feed their young and maintain a pretty nest. They wipe noses, tears, and butts. They fight stains, pork rind cravings, and monsters in the closet. They make sure everyone leaves the house wearing clothes and on time. Or close, anyway. They work long hours to provide, then get home with still enough energy to make a casserole that hits all the food groups. Yes—cheese is a food group. They comfort their friends and fix their bosses’ screw ups. And, in the case of these ladies, on the weekend, they put on their skates, strap on their helmets, and face a different battle. Yeah, baby. Roller derby.
Dressed in orange, green, and black shirts and assorted varieties of torn stockings and tight shorts, these sixteen ladies roared onto the wood like a pack of lionesses. For an hour and twenty minutes, they donned new identities—like Frida KillAho, Problem Child, and Revenga d’Nerd—to challenge opponents from Charlotte like Double Deck Her and Katch Her in the Rye. The music that echoed across Funky’s during warmups was all girl power: Beyonce’s “Run the World,” “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, and Brandy’s favorite, “You Give Love a Bad Name.” When it came on, she told me how she and her nanny used to play a game in the car called “I Hum, You Guess.” Inevitably one of them always hummed that Bon Jovi song. And… the other guessed it. It was their thing.
We had the four kids with us, and they were having their own private dance party on the carpeted area behind our chairs. So, inspired by tough women, nostalgic music, content kids, and lively spectators, we cracked open a couple of PBRs. We live a good life. Before the bout started, we all stood for the national anthem, and of course, just as soon as the place fell silent, I blurted loudly, “Where the heck is the flag?!” I apologize to anyone who was within earshot of that. Which was pretty much everyone.
Then the bout started. It was at this moment that I realized I knew NOTHING about this sport. I really should have done some research ahead of time. Here’s how it worked, according to my observation: The ladies on both teams skated in a circle. One of them tried to break through the others. Some people fell down. The refs pointed at people. Then the scoreboard changed. The End.
Thankfully, the Rocktown Rollers provide a program with a page called “What the Heck’s Going On?” After reading it I determined I was mostly right, except the two ladies who try to pass the others are called “jammers,” and they have stars on their helmets. They compete to see who can pass the pack the most times in two minutes. That’s how they score points.
Now that that’s all cleared up…
I also learned from the program that the Rocktown Rollers donate five percent of ticket sales to the Reading Roadshow all season long, and fifteen percent of ticket sales for home bouts to Friendship Industries. And then, I saw it: an announcement for Rocktown Rollers Fresh Meat Tryouts. I have to say, I did some serious skating in middle school, and now that I’m nearly forty, participating in a contact sport would be quite gratifying. I consider myself to be more of a lover than a fighter, yes, but I think I’ve got enough gumption and pent-up pain that I could do it. So I’ve officially added it to my lifelong dream list, along with being a back-up singer and seeing Pink Floyd in concert (dang it!).
Despite my having an Austin Powers moment trying to park at that place (and I drive a hybrid, people. It’s about as big as a soybean.), Brandy and I had a blast watching those ladies put aside their responsibilities and worries for a couple of hours, locking arms against a threat like gals are wont to do.
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