Fifth season concludes
By Sunny Montgomery
On the last Saturday in September, the Rollergirls of Central Kentucky (ROCK) concluded their fifth season when they faced off against the Red River Sirens (RRS) of Clarksville, Tennessee. I attended ROCK’s final home bout with my mother and my grandmother—or Mimi, as I call her—who was visiting from Philadelphia.
My mother and Mimi arrived just in time for announcer Bill Widener to introduce ROCK’s junior roller derby team, The Pebbles. One by one, he called their names.
The Amazons of the future, ladies and gentleman!”
As Widener continued, the miniature rollergirls, complete with face-paint and fake tattoos across their biceps, made their way around the track, high-fiving the fans lining the edges.
Graves blows and a ROCK trap
After introductions, Michael Graves, lead singer of the Misfits and performer at Lexington’s annual Scarefest, stopped by to blow the starting whistle. The first jam began. Mimi closed her program and folded her hands politely in her lap.
ROCK’s initial strategy was to control the speed of the pack. The trick is to “trap” an opposing skater by using two or more players to gang up on her, thus forcing her to slow down or possibly even to stop. At the same time, the jammer works to push the opposing blockers far enough away from the slow-moving pack. Once blockers become a certain distance away from the rest of the pack, one of two things happen: the blockers must either stop blocking and allow the jammer through or face out-of-play penalties. Jam after jam, ROCK executed the trap effectively, took lead jammer and quickly took the lead: 88 to 64.
“And that is the end of the first half,” called co-announcer Mike Trusty.
“First half?!” Mimi groaned, turning to face me. She eyed me as I scribbled notes and asked, “Is that going to go in the article?”
“Just writing it down,” I smiled.
A deeper understanding of the derby
I gave mom and Mimi permission to leave during halftime, but they were determined to stick it out. Mimi was determined to understand the roller derby. Suddenly, she had hundreds of questions.
She wanted to know about ROCK’s hype-man, Darstrosity, the cost of the roller skates, what it meant when a referee pointed to one of the jammers and made a sweeping motion with his hands.
“I’m not sure,” I confessed.
“Well write that down, why don’t you.” I did and later learned that a referee makes a sweeping gesture at the jammer to indicate that jammer is not lead. To indicate the lead jammer, a referee points one finger at the skater and points another finger in the air.
Sirens re-group, as does Mimi
During the second half, ROCK’s initial strategy became less effective when RRS learned to combat ROCK’s “controlled-plays.”
With ROCK no longer controlling the speed of the pack, RRS had an easier time taking lead jammer. During one particular jam, ROCK’s jammer was sent to the penalty box, which allowed the girls from Clarksville to rack up major points. All of a sudden, the Sirens had taken the lead: 118 to 90.
But, as Widener often reminds the audience, it is always anybody’s game at the roller derby.
With nine seconds left in the bout, things were looking bleak. In the roller derby, each jam can last up to two minutes unless it is called off first by the lead jammer. It was critical for ROCK to take lead jammer and roll off a ton of points in the remaining minutes. Otherwise, the Sirens could call off the jam and end the bout.
The score was 129 to 155 with the Sirens in the lead.
When the final jam began, ROCK’s Sugar Shock shot forward. The crowd hollered at the top of their lungs. And then, moments before the referee could declare her lead jammer, she was sent to the penalty box. Seconds later, RRS’s jammer joined her in the box. By the time Sugar Shock was released and sprinted onto the track, whooshing past her opponents, and then doing it again for a grand slam, the arena was on its feet.
I glanced at Mimi but she wasn’t paying attention to the skaters. She was too busy watching the outside penalty tracker on the sidelines, who was putting on a show of his own, flipping his score board over his head, twirling it on the tip of his finger, then throwing it up in the air and catching it like a baton. Mimi thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen.
I turned my attention back to the track for the final tense seconds. ROCK fought hard but, alas, not hard enough. Red River Sirens won the bout 159 to 134.
“What did you think,” I asked Mimi. She removed a Kleenex from her purse and dabbed at her eyes.
“Well, he was a show in himself, wasn’t he?!” she exclaimed.
So there you have it, the exciting conclusion of ROCK’s fifth season. And further proof that there really is something for everyone at the roller derby.