Recently I heard a report on NPR about the growing popularity of roller derby, and I’ve seen articles about the phenomenon, too. Seriously . . . roller derby?
Well, why not?
My roller derby days date back more than 40 years to Saturdays when UJ and I used to watch Channel 43, the UHF channel in the Cleveland market. Roller derby was one of those off-brand sport shows, like “Big Time Wrestling,” that you watched on UHF stations. They all featured simple plot lines and obvious good guys and bad guys. Roller derby, however, was a bit more intriguing for 12-year-old boys because it involved women. And what women they were! Tall, statuesque women made even taller by their roller skates, with elaborate bleached blonde hairstyles, helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, and tight-fitting uniforms. It was strangely alluring to see them whipped around the rickety ramped track by their teammates, ducking and diving as they tried to score points.
Of course, the rules of roller derby were unknowable, like the rules of cricket. They had something to do with jamming and jammers, and the goal seemed to be to get around the massive, elbow-throwing skater guarding the rear of the pack and then passing as many skaters as possible. Who cared, anyway? I just wanted to see the San Francisco Bay Area Bombers take on their opponents, all the while secretly hoping these titanic figures would plow into the abdomen-level railing and flip over during a crucial point in the match, or would be hip-checked by a savvy opponent and then fly off the high side of the track into oblivion — to be inevitably followed, of course, by helmets thrown down like gantlets and some kind of cat fight in the center of the track. For a 12-year-old kid, it was great entertainment!