Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012

Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012
Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas at Luche Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, March 2012

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dashing, Smashing, & Crashing With The South Side Derby Dames

       The High City Derby Divas (in pink) & the South Side Derby Dames (in green) after the match

Years ago, in one of my many past lives, I dated a woman (TT) whose grandmother was a Roller Derby Queen in the 1940's & '50's. 

Now, when I first met TT's grandmother all I could think was there was no way this little ol' lady asking me if I wanted something to drink was a Roller Derby Queen - it wasn't until we went into the Den and I saw her collection of memorabilia and photographs from her hayday that I could envision her as a jammin' slammin' roller skating wonder woman.

                           The South Side Derby Dames and High City Derby Divas in action

Until a few days ago, she was the lone Roller Derby participant I had ever met. Thursday night while out and about I chanced upon a number of Roller Derby athletes relaxing after practice in the bar up the street from my house.

           The SSDD Blockers attempt to keep the HCDD Jammer Wakiki Warrior from breaking free

No, they were not wearing roller skates in the bar, but they were wearing the uniforms of a Roller Derby team - black shorts with fishnets or tights, and bright kelly green shirts and/or hoodies with numbers and nicknames printed on the back.

Initially I approached them thinking it would be cool to get a picture with a group of Roller Derby players, but then one of them, ("Slej Hammer") told me I should come out to their next league match, which was Saturday, May 2nd, and there I could get a picture with the whole team if I wanted. 

                           HCDD Jammer Wakiki Warrior gets past the SSDD Blockers

I instantly thought that would be a grand thing to do, and she gave me a handout that had all the info as to match time and location - it was scheduled for 7:00 in the evening, which was perfect as I got off work at 6:00, and it was at the Rocky Mountain Roller Hockey & Sports complex less than 5 miles from my house. And there would be beer.

                       SSDD Jammer Zoom Bayou fights to get past the HCDD Blockers

So Saturday night after work I raced home, changed out of the monkey suit, picked up my buddy BB, and we headed out for the Schaefer Sports Complex right off of Hampden - the RMH building is a privately owned arena, purpose built for Roller & Ice Hockey league play for children and adults, and it is located just north of the baseball fields at 3603 Independence Street in Lakewood.

The admission was $10.00 for adults (kids under 12 are free). There were quite a few people in the building for the match and BB and I quickly found a place to sit in the stands. The match got underway just as we took our seats.

                  Surrounded by his team, SSDD Coach Sum Sing Wong discusses strategy

After a few minutes of watching from the stands I noticed that it was possible to walk around the walls of the rink to get better vantage points of the competition, and even get on the rink fairly close to the taped out oval that the Roller Derby was being contested on. So of course I grabbed my camera and made my way to the heart of the action.

          The blockers for both teams ready to either help or hinder the Jammers lined up behind them

If you have never gotten up close and personal to a Roller Derby, I highly recommend you re-evaluate your priorities. 

While it is not non-stop action like a hockey game, it certainly has fewer interruptions than say, football or basketball. With the exception of the Jammers, who are the scorers for each team (the players with the stars on their helmets), all the players on the rink play both offense and defense, as the blockers for each team try to assist their own Jammer in getting past the opposing team, and prevent the oppositions Jammer from getting past them.
              The South Side Derby Dames bench patiently waits for their opportunity to join the fray

I know that only because BB had gotten to know a couple of Roller Derby enthusiasts seated next to him in the stands, and when I got back from my initial picture taking expedition, he filled me in on what they had shared with him. 

Also, when you come into the arena, the ticket seller hands you a little program and the first page of the program is devoted to explaining how the matches are played

            High City Derby Diva Blockers build a wall to prevent the SSDD's Jammer from scoring

The Roller Derby we were at is known as Flat Track Roller Derby (as opposed to Banked Track) and it is a fairly simple game. There are 5 players on each team, 3 Blockers, 1 Jammer, and 1 Pivot. 

Oh yeah, the Pivot. The Pivot is the player with the stripe on her helmet, and she has the distinction of being able to switch with the Jammer to become a scorer. However, for the most part the Pivot works with the Blockers to either aide their Jammer, or interfere with the opposing Jammer.

                                            Flamin' Skates - the laces say "Bitches Get Stitches"

The matches are divided into two 30 minute periods, and each 30 minute period is comprised of multiple 2 minute Jams - once a Jammer from either team has gotten past her opposing Blockers, she can score a point for every opposing player she laps for up to two minutes. However, she also has the option to end the Jam early by tapping her hips with both hands (though it's not so much tapping as a it is a quick Karate chop motion).

That's where strategy comes into play. A Jammer needs to stay aware of the other teams Jammer.  If she is able to score say, ten points before the opposition Jammer gets past her blockers, then she is smart to tap out and end play before that other Jammer can score more than five points, building and keeping a lead.

    The only thing in my experience that I can compare this to is a Rugby scrum, but with less gouging

Only the first Jammer to break through the blockers can stop play by tapping her hips BTW - the second Jammer does not have that option, so being the first Jammer through is crucial.

                                   Wakiki Warrior, the Jammer for the HCDD, goes down

Like all contact sports, there all a lot of penalties for improper play and/or illegal hits. However, it was beyond me which hits and holds were legal and which were not. Every penalty call seemed to be arbitrary. Some of the calls resulted in a what appeared to be a reset of the Jam, and some required the offending player to sit in a penalty box for awhile.

                     The SSDD bench listens to the encouraging words of an assistant coach

I did figure out that if a Jammer is forced out of the oval (represented by green tape on the rink's surface), then that Jammer has to circle back around to whatever blocker she was behind before she was out of bounds in order to re-enter the game.

       All the spectators gather on the rink after the match to congratulate both teams for a good match

Once I understood the basics of how a Derby was played, it made for a fairly interesting and exciting time. The women on each team appeared to range in age from the low twenties into the mid thirties, with a few possibly close to forty, and each and everyone of them seemed to be having a grand ol' time. 

They all played their hearts out, too - no slackers on either team.

                                           Low fives exchanged between fans and players

From what I could gather via the schedule printed in the little program, teams play once a month throughout the Summer and into the Fall. It's not hard to imagine that the once-a-month schedule is due to a necessary healing period for all the bumps and bruises suffered by all the players.

                             Finally, the picture I wanted to get at the bar.

If you're interested in attending a Roller Derby Match and you happen to be in Lakewood Colorado, check out the South Side Derby Dames website for their schedule - www. southsidederbydames.com - believe you me, there are a lot worse things you can spend ten bucks and an hour and a half on.


  1. We are SO happy you had a good time! Hope to see you and your friends at our next bout!

    -South Side

  2. I was thrilled to be there, and will make plans to see you Dames again - thanks for a great night of roller derby!