But ROCK falls to Hard Knox
By Sunny Montgomery
Over Labor Day weekend, I attended the Rollergirls of Central Kentucky’s (ROCK) second to last bout of the season where they faced off against Knoxville’s Hard Knox Rollergirls (HKRG.) I arrived early, ordered a beer and wandered through the arena. I stopped and chatted with Jack King, devout follower and official photographer of ROCK. “I’m trying to find the perfect seat,” I told him. Jack raised his eyebrows. “Well that’s suicide seating, of course,” he said.
Suicide seating is the area around the edge of the track. Attendees are allowed to sit cross-legged there as long as they’re 18 years or older since skaters could easily skid off the track and into their lap. The straightaway is the safest place to sit on the track. The turn is more dangerous, Jack explained. That’s where the rollergirls would likely try to knock one another out of bounds. I was apprehensive. Nonetheless, I carried my notebook and beer to the track’s edge where I settled myself in the center of the turn. It was intimidating sitting so close to the action. I could have reached out and touched the referees’ legs. I asked Jack if he’d ever seen a fan actually injured in suicide seating.
“No,” he said, but once he’d witnessed two fans get into a fist fight after a rollergirl lost control and crashed into them. I glanced around the arena. It was an hour before the bout was to begin, but already the crowd was raucous. I wasn’t used to seeing so many away fans at ROCK’s home bouts. They waved banners on the sidelines and shouted over ROCK’s hype-man, Darstrosity, when he attempted to lead the crowd in cheers.
HKRG’s spirited fans were a true reflection of the team they supported. I watched the girls, dressed in green and black, as they lined up around the track and awaited introductions. They pumped their fists in the air and did pelvic thrusts on the sideline. One girl threw herself onto one knee and emphatically played air guitar. Another had her face ghoulishly decorated with black, white and green paint. She wore tight ripped jeans tucked into her tall striped socks. Her name was Goblynn. I’d been warned to keep my eye on her.
HKRG may be a slightly more experienced team. However, their vigorous athleticism is similar to ROCK’s. Bouts between teams that share similar styles of play, I’ve learned, is a sure-fire recipe for intense, exciting combat . Considering this, I glanced around the arena once more, hoping a familiar face in the stands might wave me over.
The bout began minutes past seven. ROCK’s Ragdoll Ruby became the first lead jammer, followed by Elle Slay who took the first lead: 17 to 13. And then, HKRG sent Goblynn in to jam.
Now, I make no secret of my bias. I always root for ROCK to win. But I have to admit that Knoxville’s rollergirls were thrilling to watch. The showboating! The fancy footwork! Goblynn truly was a terror. She was so nimble and so fast that she appeared to be wearing tennis shoes instead of roller-skates as she sprinted around the track.
Midway thought the first half, HKRG stepped up their game with scary precision and began to rack up the points.
Their strategy was to dismantle ROCK’s pack each time their jammer made a lap. For example, ROCK would set up a wall of four skaters to prevent HKRG’s jammer from passing through. In turn, Hard Knox’s blockers would split that wall into two two-girl walls. Then they would successfully split those pairs , allowing their jammer to easily maneuver through the pack. It was a graceful, well-choreographed performance.
At halftime the HKRG were up by 70 points. And ultimately, they won the bout: 250 to 46.
I wanted to be upset but I couldn’t. I had survived my first suicide seat unscathed.
ROCK’s final bout is Saturday, October 1 at Heritage Hall. Doors open at 6 PM. Bout begins at 7.