Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Evolutionary War

Photos courtesy of Ryan Hayes

In case you missed it, there was recently a fairly significant event in the world of flat-track roller derby.  Over 40 years after England energized the American music scene via the rock & roll British Invasion, the Texas Rollergirls returned the favor to England's sports scene with a bang.   They conducted their well-known derby bootcamp for a whopping 175 skaters in London, teaching skills and raising the game of a slew of skaters who then of course were able to take those new skills back to teach to their home leagues.  On this same trip, TXRG's intraleague team the Hustlers played the London Rollergirls in what turned out to be a competitive game for much of the bout before the experience of Texas allowed them to pull away.  (see Ryan Hayes's photoblog about it at for a more detailed account.)

What really gets the wheels in my head turning is that only 7 years into the life of women's flat track roller derby, it was financially justifiable for a group of people to fly across thousands of miles of land and ocean to teach a bunch of people how to skate and fall down, then play one game with them.  From its solitary existence in one southern American town in 2003, the game has absolutely exploded to 15 countries on three continents, and regular visits to Derby Helper from additional countries lead me to believe that more are on the way.  (C'mon Japan, let's DO this!)  The growth rate of women's roller derby has already managed to kill one of my planned projects to make a Google map of every league in the world, since it grew to where there are now too many leagues to show on one map at one time.  The nice thing about this is that it proves my theory that deep down inside, no matter what their cultural heritage may be, girls are all looking for an excuse to clobber each other.

So the question in my mind is this:  Can women's roller derby continue to evolve and grow to the size that the WFTDA launches full-fledged continental divisions?  Will Derby News Network someday soon be broadcasting the Asian championship game right after the Australian championship and right before the European championship?  Will the day ever come when (I'm drooling just thinking about this) the two top teams from each continent meet in a genuine, full-fledged 8 team WFTDA World Championship tournament?    Start saving your tips and get your passport updated folks because if the current rate of growth is any indicator, I honestly think that the day will come.  And trust me, the after-party for THAT will be an international incident of legendary proportions!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Wild West Showdown: WFTDA 2010 Season Opener!!

(Editor's Note: Today's post comes from occasional contributor and expert opinion-haver, Lucky Bruiser.  As always, her opinions do not represent those of the set of people who don't want to get punched by Rose City inhabitants.  Enjoy!)

Sorry for the delay. I just woke up in Detroit covered in Flat Track Revolution screenprints on my face, stickers that say YOU ARE HECKA SAD on my ass & I'm coated in a thin film of Budweiser & pine needles. I'm one Lucky chump who got to hop in on a ride to the Wild West Showdown last week in the lovely Bremerton, Washington, and catch a couple of the 24 bouts in 3 days hosted by the Slaughter County Roller Girls. Just call me Le HardCore BoozyYay and buy me a Jameson with a ginger back.

When La Femme Nikilla put the call out that she was going pioneer road trip style to the Wild West Showdown, Sweet Thunder and I packed up our oxen and rations and joined her wagon to Washington. After a 13 hour drive, replete with gas-station face washing, and a sad dead speaker, we finally made it to Bremerton. Or Silverdale or whatever bum-pluck town we were in. We took a quick nap in a packed hotel room, slathered on the black & gold and headed to the Kitsap Fairgrounds.

Bay Area Golden Girls gearing up to wash away Pacific. Photo by Elle Lectrick

We missed the Friday bouts because we were on our trek right after work [pay me, Derby Helper], but got to the venue in time on Saturday to catch Bay Area trouncing Pacific. First of all. Why is the beer situation at all national level games so pathetic? We couldn't leave the weak ass "beer garden" with our adult beverages. Luckily, I brought some tallboys from home that I used to refresh my "smoothie" in the stands, suckahs!! Everyone in the stands kept whispering “Tsunami,” and every time B.A.D. caught a point, the pity went in waves through the stands. [It’d be a bad joke if anything actually happened.] Bay Area is like a solid wall of water in the front of the pack, then Hurricanes Demanda & Liza are busy wiping out the island jammers in the back. Ivy Profane, 500mg, makes her debut as a Bay Area jammer, & her first national level jam is a power jam. Needless to say, B.A.D. took Pacific with over 200 points to spare. The exact same bout was happening on the other track, only it was the Rocky Mountain girls destroying Bellingham.

There was so much roller derby, but I was pretty much bored senseless by watching Atomatrix careen through Philly’s pack, or being put back into an acid flashback by Pikes Peak’s uniforms again [I swear, their strategy is to blind their opponents]. So, I meandered over to the scrimmage hall, where the Sharks were skating against the Vagine Regime. Personally, I was a fan of the skater panties with fins on them, until I saw their bench coach’s raincoat, then I felt nauseated, again. Hardcore Mercy from Pacific was skating for the Regime, and possibly kicking more ass now than she realized her life was not going to be washed away in a biblical flood while she was in Washington skating around in circles.
Then there was the like, Tweens vs. Preschoolers bout, which made me feel ashamed of myself for even pretending like I know how to rollerskate. I am genuinely afraid of these kids. The Lil' Rosebuds play a more viciously strategic game than I can even comprehend, and for that, I am worried. In around half a decade, these junior muffins will be in regular WFTDA, training for five years at an incredible level, and literally skating circles around all these old, fat, drunk girls on the track today. Be afraid. These Children of the RollerCorn are here for your spot.

View from the lame "beer garden." Photo by Elle Lectrick

Went back to the main rink to watch Bay Area play against Rose City, who are a bunch of purple (*edited, for the children's sake*). Oh, your team is winning? That’s cool, you still smell bad and your zine sucks. Plus, B.A.D. was tired from trouncing Pacific, and missing some track favorites due to like, life and stuff, because the Golden Girls are not Robots of Justice. Plus, it still takes like, four Rose City blockers & their jammer too to pinch off Demanda. One of the things I’ll give propers to Rose City on is their ability to spread across the track, like oozing feces, and gum up the works. So, Rose City took this game with the biggest upset in B.A.D.’s history. After this game, I went back to the scrimmage hall to learn from the children.

Miss Moxxxie with gift. Val Capone is so salty, look at her face consumed with jealousy. Photo by Elle Lectrick

Though sleepy and a little delirious, I mustered together my strengths & beers and gold vest to head over to the Hellarad #5 release party. When we first arrived, the bar was full of hooptie rednecks and a coupla Duke City girls. We decided to grab some dinner first and come back. By the time we came back, the bar had been taken over. I swear I saw Axle Adams swinging from a Bud Light sign while Val Capone slugged whiskey shots out of a martini glass. Miss Moxxxie & Motley Cruz were holding court something solid, and someone brought 'em a stupid awesome yellow sign that I seriously hope made its way back to the Bay Area.

Duke City girls really into Christmas in March. Santa on Skates!! Photo by Elle Lectrick

I passed out in a van in the tennis court of some hotel, cuddling with Dorothy Dread for strictly warmth, I swear. Exhausted still from the drive, I slept as she drove to the venue, and spent a good half hour in the parking lot of the venue trying to rub the sleep out of my eyes. I love me a mobile hotel room.
I took this one. This is where we slept. Yeah, it's awesome, don't be jealous.

The first bout I caught of the day was Arizona vs. Lava City, which was actually stupid awesome. Though both teams play sort of mid-level, they geared through with so much tenacity throughout the bout, I was inspired. Arizona kept a steady lead on Lava City, but the scoring never stopped on either end. At the second to last jam, Arizona’s jammer, Gratutious Violet, was sent to the naughty box and Joyride, well, went on a a Joyride. Goodie Two Skates, Lava’s bench-coach-on-skates called a time out, forcing one last jam, in which Screaming Meanie whizzed 13 points out. Sitting right at the 1st corner where the last jam ended, it was a tight one, and Arizona squeaked by with a single point over the Lava City girls. A game won by a hip - awesome.

I only got to watch half of Rat City v. Philly, but it was close and exciting, and as usual, I recommend going through DNN’s boutcasts for the play-by-play. I will just say I am sick to death of that nasty “skate backwards and hit someone” move. Stupid. Boring. Mean. Since I am Bay Area fresh meat, I had to turn my vest inside out to its gold side at the half and go over to the other track to make stupid faces at the Rocky Mountain Roller Girls. Chantilly Mace gets pinballed around the track, and finally makes it through on the inside, but She Who Cannot Be Named sucks her back into the pack. Another major blowout for B.A.D., but in this game, Ivy Profane really showed her chops as a jammer against a team that plays at a pace described by a leaguemate as "Stupid Fast." Also, I think this is the first time in my life I’ve seen Belle RIGHT Hooks go to the box. B.A.D. plays this one hard, but it is apparent that their roster has holes from Taxi & Sassy's injuries, and the M.I.A. Jane Hammer & Burly Bot.

We had to take the 13 hour trek back in time for work on Monday morning, so unfortunately, our caravan left right after this bout. Luckily, Dread’s GPS charger also charged my tiny speaker, so we had tunes for the ride home and did not have to eat each other alive.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Stop In The Name of Shove

In the few short months of our existence, the staff here at Derby Helper has been earning a reputation. (Kinda like your mom did, except that in our case it's a good thing.) When people have an urge to find answers to unusual roller derby questions, they send them to us because they know that we can satisfy that urge (like we do for your mom). Today's unusual roller derby question comes to us from from the beautiful nation of Belgium (like your mom did, if she's Belgian):

Subject: toe stops

Dear Derby Helper,

We're currently founding a new league in the City of Antwerp, Belgium. We haven't got experienced derby players amongst us - so we study everything ourselves.

We do have a question about toe stops. Some of the derby girls play with them, some without them. One of the ex-coaches told us that is was dangerous to play with them but we don't know why.

What is your perspective about toe stops?

Thank you so much,
(name withheld)
One Love Roller Dolls

Hi Lolli and thanks for bringing it to our attention that there are people in the world playing roller derby without toe stops. This seems like it would make roller derby better in exactly the same way that removing first gear and the front brake shoes off of a car would make auto racing better. In other words, it doesn't. When you're a jammer standing at the line, the best way to accelerate quickly is to push off on your toe stops and actually run a couple of steps on them before switching to a skating motion. As far as stopping goes, there are plenty of ways to stop without the use of toe stops (t-stops, hitting someone, falling on your butt) but none of those have the stylistic flare of the swooping backwards turn followed by digging your stops in. You DO want to be stylistic, don't you? Thought so.

The only way I could see toe stops being dangerous is if they aren't screwed in far enough, causing you to trip on them. And even then, you're only really in "danger" of looking silly in front of onlookers since you'll be wearing a full set of pads and can't really get hurt unless you happen to trip really close to the edge of the cliff you're skating on, which reminds me, WHY ARE YOU SKATING ON A CLIFF?!?! But seriously, do a Google image search for roller derby and see how many player pictures you can find with no toe stops. I'm going to guess zero other than maybe your team members. Every player I've ever seen on every team I have refereed for used toe stops. So leave 'em in and learn to love 'em.