Rollin’ with the Rollergirls

authors note: This is one long article. It flows between news reporting and personal feature story many times. Hopefully I did the girls justice in my own way. The event I covered was at Fat City on Saturday night @ 8:00pm. I stopped in early to get the lay of the land and see what this hullabaloo was all about.

5:34pm
The girls are setting up an odd and oblong shaped creation that has the markings of an Indy car racing track. Except there are no cars. And no NASCAR fans. Plenty of girls in skirts, fishnets and helmets though. Not sure what that means at this point, but I’m trying to keep an open mind.

These aren’t your the regular skirt and short wearing girls however. These girls sashay and ooze bad mamma jamma attitude in everything they do. From laying down the yellow caution tape to setting up the chair their eyes pierce you from a thousand yards and make you wanna call out to your momma. They wear elbow pads and have names like “Penny Payne”, “Winona Fighter”, “Smashbox” and Hatchet Hound”. They are the Rocky Mountain Roller Girls and they ain’t ladies to be messed with.

I’ve been warned several times to keep an eye out as I wander around the rink with the sounds of tape stretching and smacking echoing off the floor. These girls move fast and skate even harder. If I’m in the wrong place they’ll let me know. My guide “Ho J Simpson” laughs and chuckles as she finishes the warning. I’m smiling through a cringe wondering why I took this assignment. I don’t wanna lose a limb tonight. I stay to the side and out of the way.

6:14pm
The ring is slowly taking shape. I’ve been placed in a corner near the team and been cornered with the now nearly everywhere yellow caution tape. I’m told I’m being placed in a special media area. I wonder if it’s more for my protection and less for my status as a “media person”.

6:55pm
The pressure cooker is starting to boil. Both teams are in the ring and practicing. They’re stretching, strapping down pads and doing the slow stare down at the puke green rink. Mouth guards are clenched in teeth. The referee is dressed in a zebra suit coat with an ornate looking cane. Note to self: This is definitely not a place to send my parents alone if they’re ever back in town.

7:08pm
The theme of the night was apparently supposed to be that of Prom night but for some reason the Rocky Mountain Girls either didn’t get the memo or decided instead to dress in their red skirts and black tops which is their uniform. It’s an odd sight. It would almost make an excellent teenage drama starring Lindsey Lohan or some kind of West Side Story sequel with all girls and a roller rink.

7:19pm
According to a referee I spoke with earlier in the evening the rough factor as early as two years ago was pretty intense. Fights were a regular occurrence at some games and since then much has changed. In some cases if a fight starts the players are out and gone. “It’s a legal way to get the aggression out” he said as we both laughed. If the evening so far was any indication I was going to see the idea girls gone wild in a totally new light.

7:24
The people are starting to walk in and they’re not people I’d expect to see at a roller derby event. Moms that would fit in with my mother’s friends and entire families with kids. The teams have left the field and the referees are now aimlessly patrolling the slick surface in preparation for the girls to hit the floor.

Wondering what draws people to these events I sit down in the crowd and start asking the question. Jana Mitchell of Denver comes for the sport. “Part of it is it’s a little hip.” She gives me a short lesson on how the game works and talks about her favorite Roller Girl on the Rocky Mountain squad. “She Who Must Not Be Named, she’s real scrappy. She’s a jammer and pretty good.” Mitchell says the sport of it is what keeps her supporting this league. “It’s more of a sport than the flash of the other league.” The other league she speaks of is the Roller Dolls which plays at the Denver Coliseum.

The games are not without their fights, even with the increased ruling. According to Mitchell last week there was a brawl with the LA team. “Denver was kicking their a**!” She laughs about it now and her pride in her team shows. Even better, the Rocky girls won the game.

7:49pm
Laurie Chocyznski is the mother of one of the Pikes Peak players. She tells Denver Metblogs that her daughter, “Sugar Rush” is a first grade teacher and she joins a unique group. One works in the city attorney’s office while others are married with children. “When you start to talk to the girls you find out just how many different girls there are!”

Chocynski has a nickname herself. “Sugar Momma!” she exclaims and then to further her motherly pride whips off her coat to reveal a shirt with her daughters code name emblazoned across the back. “Sugar was speed skating at the same time and place when Apollo Ohno was training.” For her part Sugar laughs and waves her mom’s praise off. Tonight she’s dressed in pink and blue looking almost too cute for whatever skating insanity is about to take place. One has to wonder if there were more girls involved in Roller Derby if we would have tougher girls with stronger self esteem both in themselves and their bodies.

8:02pm
The game rules are being reviewed as we’re shown what you can do and what you can’t do. The crowd nervously waits for the real action to begin. A few girls kneel near my table as the Pikes Peak girls are introduced. The crowd reacts tepidly. Then the Rocky girls take the ice. And the audience roars. In their uniforms the girls are an impressive army of black and red, helmets and all. And the shovel in the hands of Drew BuryWhores. These girls just keep on suprisin’.

The national anthem plays to complete and honoring silence as the girls bounce their wheels in unison. A moment of unity before the skull crackin’ begins.

rollergirl3.jpg
The girls line up in preparation for the run.

Sugar Rush shows her true colors and slaps us with her title of speed skater with several scores that leave the Rocky Girls scrambling. Quickly they respond in kind as the battle royal violence steps a notch up when girls go flying as the points hit the boards. Sugar Rush returns to school the roller girls as several players are thrown into the cool off box. The announcers table comes under siege twice during the bout as the physical aspect of this game becomes very apparent.

rollergirl4.jpg
Sugar Rush speaking with her coach from the Pikes Peak Derby Dames.

A break is called and the girls move off into their areas to quietly plot the next movement of mayhem. This game is played much like a Indy 500 car race. You have a gaggle of girls (called The Pack) and behind them two “jammers”. The gaggle tries to either prevent the enemy player from getting through or helping their jammer smash through “the pack”. It can turn physical when the girls push their team through or try and prevent the other side from getting through.

Points are given when the “jammer” laps the group. It’s confusing to watch for the first few minutes but the brain quickly picks up on all the movement and I found myself cheering right along with the throngs.

http://denver.metblogs.com/archives/images/2007/08/rollergirl5-thumb.jpg
The girls rolling around the ring at top speed as the one of many referees’ looks on

The smallest jam is played with many girls in penalty but the scrambling is back on as the players push back on the green top. “Smashbox” comes in from the penalty box and exacts her revenge in a fast pickup score that sends the Pikes Peak girls reeling and feeling the cold payback.

rollergirl1.jpg
Smashbox at full speed

One of the Rock Mountain girls goes down in a gaggle of girls and the screams for medic go out across the arena. We are shocked in silence as if ice cold water had fallen from the ceiling above. Early indications are that a leg is broken and 9-11 is called immediately. The audience is in shock and the teams are quietly watching with grim faces.

The girls’ screams of pain are hard to ignore with each louder than the last as the pain begins to escalate through the shock. There is nothing that can be done until the ambulance crew arrives. The music is turned up to cover the sounds of the cries as the announce crew goes silent for the first time tonight. There no more jokes. No more puns. The Fat City workers arrive and the audience remains watching and praying.

The Pikes Peak girls quietly move to the audience in an attempt to distract or entertain but it doesn’t do the intended effect. The fire and rescue arrive with rolling stretcher as the music drones on in the background. There is a call for team captains. The audience must watch as the IV’s come out with more ambulance teams arriving. The announcers had given us a ten minute time until return to activity a few minutes previous.

rollergirl6.jpg
The fire and police have arrived and work quickly to give Redd relief from the pain.

It becomes apparent there will be little chance of that tonight.

Chants of “Redd” begin as the player is identified. Rodeo Redd is one of the veterans of the group and known as a solid player. Rocky girls start as the Pike Peak Dames join in solidarity. She is ushered out to cheers, applause and shouts of encouragement. The announcers continue on with the show battling against a wave of sadness that is slowly fading away as we all quietly admit that the show indeed must continue. The raffle goes on as the next quarter is prepared for with the teams taking to the floor to do several laps.

The girls line up a few moments later for what is sure to be a softer run. A few moments later and several spills after its apparent these girls play hard and fight harder. The Rocky girls make a play as the underdog and start racking up the points in hopes of closing the giant gap carved between them and Pikes Peak.

You can start to see the girls getting tired as they push themselves to points beyond what they should be allowed. You feel for them but you also know they get a thrill from the madness and wouldn’t have it any other way. The Rocky girls begin to climb back from the brink and come within points of the Peak ladies and actually lead going into the last minutes of the game. A once football field length of points has now been reduced to 4th down and inches for both teams.

rollergirl2.jpg
Smashbox puts on the adrenaline and pushes past Sugar Rush for the first time in the game.

With thirty seconds left in the game the score comes down to four points with Pikes Peak taking the lead. The game ends with the score standing at 95 Rocky Mountain Roller Girls and 98 Pikes Peak Derby Dames. A exhilarating and pulse pounding game from the start it became a question of speed and brute force. Both teams exhibited the intensity needed to win a game and presented solid evidence that girls roller derby is one of the best up and coming sports out there.

Now, if only Drew BuryWhores would put away her shovel so I could leave I’d be a lot happier.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Roller girls for letting me invade and to the Pikes Peak Derby Dames for giving me one helluva show.

Check ’em out on the web here.

12 Comments so far

  1. Ho J. Simpson (unregistered) on August 5th, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

    Great blog, you are always welcome at our bouts!

    Ho J Simpson


  2. Aaron DeLay (unregistered) on August 5th, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

    Thanks kindly! I’ll be working on the video portion and hopefully get that up by the middle/end of the week.

    For the rest of you if you haven’t already: Get to seeing these girls at least once if not more. Great times had by all.


  3. J (unregistered) on August 5th, 2007 @ 10:22 pm

    yep, what a rally by rmrg! A great game even though they came up short. Hats off to Pike’s Peak and get well soon Redd.

    Next game Sept 8th at Bladium. Mark your calenders!


  4. Coach Sum Sing Wong (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 8:29 am

    Excellent work, Aaron! Thank you and don’t be a stranger. Our next home bout is September 8th and we’d love to see you there!


  5. Drew BuryWhores (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 8:59 am

    Nice blog! Hope you can make it next time. Don’t worry…I’ve put my shovel away until the next time I need to bury whores.


  6. Aaron DeLay (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 9:12 am

    Coach,

    I’ll do my best. I’ve been told the Bladium is the best place eva!..:)

    Drew,

    Whew! :)


  7. Sin Smitty (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 10:17 am

    What a nice recap! Thanks so much for attending the bout.

    love
    Smitty
    #Hard 8


  8. Aaron DeLay (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 10:20 am

    Smitty,

    Thanks! ‘Twas a pleasure!


  9. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

    I’m… just getting over knowing that there’s something called “Fat City” in the middle of Denver.

    That’s what I grew up calling a little slice of Metairie off Causeway north of Vets. It feels really, really weird to apply that name to something not in the New Orleans Metro Area.

    Once I get over that I’ll happily goggle at the rest of the post. At the very least I’ve got Jim Croce’s immortal song stuck in my head. Roller Girls! Yay! But still… Fat City. In Denver. Huh. I’m sort of velcro’d to that bit of cognitive dissonance at the moment.


  10. Aaron DeLay (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

    Heh. I forget about Croce’s song!

    From the chorus:

    The night (you know) that I fell in love with a Roller Derby Queen
    (Round ‘n’ round, oh round ‘n’ round)
    The meanest hunk o’ woman
    That anybody ever seen
    Down in the arena

    I’ve got it on my Ipod interestingly enough…

    As for Fat City I think it used to be called Fun City or something. It’s still a crazy awesome place..:)


  11. Winona Fighter (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    Great Recap! We’d love to have you back to see us anytime:)


  12. Aaron DeLay (unregistered) on August 7th, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

    Winona,

    Thanks for the kind words. I’ll try and make it September 5th to see you guys kick arse and take names…:)



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