All bout roller derby

Bernardo Vigil

Roller derby should be every guy’s favorite sport. Tight pants, roller skates, and full contact –– oh and all of the competitors are female. Boasting two independent leagues in the metro area (St. Paul’s “Minnesota Roller Girls” that hold bouts at The Roy Wilkins and Minneapolis’s “North Star Roller Girls” who compete at The Minneapolis Convention Center), as well as a budding men’s league up north, Minnesota has one of the country’s most thriving roller derby scenes.

For those of you unfortunate enough to have not yet discovered this wonderful sport, roller derby competitions, or “bouts,” are broken up into two half hour periods that are further broken into a series of two-minute sessions of play called “jams” that run one after the other in quick succession. Skaters are broken up into two categories, “jammers” who score points, and “blockers” that simultaneously help their jammer score while trying to keep the other team’s jammer from doing so.

Blockers from both teams form one giant mass that skates around the rink called “the pack.” The pack must stay together at all times and jammers score points by successfully going through the pack, past the other team’s blockers. Blockers then can help clear the way for their jammer by shoving opposing blockers out of the way or can play defensively by not letting the other jammer pass. Either way, the players are always moving at full speed, and spills are not uncommon. Translation: this is why you have to be 18 to sit rink side.

Walking into a bout, spectators are immediately surrounded by an immeasurable energy, both from the fellow fans and the people running the event. In a fashion similar to football games, fans often come to bouts dressed to support their team of choice.

At the Minnesota Roller Girls’ Garda Belts vs. Atomic Bombshells “Femme Fatale” bout, full Irish garb in support of the Garda Belts and orange prison jumpsuits in support of the Bombshells filled the audience. At North Star bouts, spectators are encouraged to come in Halloween costumes all year long, making for an even better people-watching experience.

The people in the crowd aren’t the only ones who come dressed up. After a brief explanation of derby rules, teams burst out of the backstage sporting campy uniforms and stage names ripe with double entendres such as Double D. Fense, Hanna Belle Lector, and Alisin Chains. After further banter by the announcers, the “jam” begins.

Although a sport as physical and admittedly well organized as roller derby should be able to stand on its own, half of the event’s appeal lays in all the heart that goes into every other aspect of the event. Enthusiastic announcers, live half time entertainment, local hip-hop dance crews, and a janitor on wheels are just a few of the details that go into making every bout a spectacle. Spectators are even invited to come to the floor to dance during the half.

It’s also worth remembering that when you go to a Minnesota Roller Girls event, you are supporting a non-profit and a good cause. As all of the skaters are amateur, they don’t compete for money but for a love of the game; this means all of the proceeds go to keeping the league running as well as various local charities.

While the season for both of the leagues may be winding down, each league still has two more home bouts scheduled including their respective league championships (April 3rd for St. Paul’s league and April 10th for Minneapolis’s ). If you do end up attending, just don’t be surprised if you become one of the many sporting season tickets next year. Also, you can’t forget the cheer, “Faster! Faster! Kill! Kill! Kill!”