by Joel Smart (Sports Editor)
They warn me that I’ve sat in the most dangerous corner. I’ve brought my own lawn chair and I am preparing to watch a bout between two local, all-female roller derby teams, the Anarchy Angels and the Doomsday Bunnies.
Cement flooring in this grungy, industrial warehouse at the Abbotsford Ag-Rec Center, it’s perfect. Even a half hour before the first jam the people have flooded in to circle the taped off race track. What a diverse group of spectators, ranging from children to seniors. Women of different shapes and sizes slide around wearing stockings (fishnet and otherwise), uniforms and roller skates. A man who calls himself ‘The Reverend’ picks up a microphone and addresses the boisterous crowd.
Not including the bushel-full of children running around and having a great time, or the numerous volunteers who helped to make the show possible, there were 254 paid spectators in attendance. After a brief explanation and demonstration of how the game works, Derby 101, the match begins. The teams huddle, the music begins. It is Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. After a team-uniting roar, the teams line up along the track. On the signal, they all take off around the loop.
Each match has two periods, each made up of numerous, short jams. Two players of opposing teams, called jammers, line up wearing star helmet covers. In front of them are eight players, four from each team. In order to score, the jammers must race through the pack of eight, all the way around the loop and then attempt to pass players from the opposing team. For each member they pass, they gain a point. The jammer in the lead can call off the jam at any point, usually done after all four points are earned.
It immediately reminds me of the Drew Barrymore directed Whip It, that starred Ellen Page. Though it takes a while to understand the scoring, it only takes a second to understand why people show up to watch. These women do not hold back for a second, and the inevitable crashes begin early on and they continue for the entire duration of the event.
In this outing, the Angels easily outmatch the Bunnies, taking an early lead and finish the match with a 119-63 win. The highlight was watching a jam between Angel’s star player Yo Mama, number 23, face off against Bunnies’ star Terra N Half, number 31. Yo Mama took an early lead, but fell midway through the match. Terra N Half almost came back, but Yo Mama was able to get back up and score the point. This was a common theme with number 23, who looked a league above the rest as she easily slipped through the seams to victory. Though the match was never close, it didn’t keep either team from competing and putting on a good show for the crowd.
After the match I spoke with Karie Best who plays for a third local Roller Derby team, Kiss Me Deadly. She plays number 66, and goes by the moniker Cherry Poppin’ Karie, exemplifying the awesomeness of the names used in Roller Derby.
She explained to me how a co-worker encouraged her to try it out when she was working at Cascade Aerospace as an aircraft painter. “I told him he was crazy and thought it was him saying that because I’m a bigger girl and I could crush the girls. He made me promise to go to the very first try out and that was it… I was hooked,” she said. “I love the feeling when I’m out on the track. After a bout, I’m sad it’s over and forget all about the tired limbs and bruises because adrenaline is still pumping and you’re feeling awesome.”
Best advised budding Roller Derby players to find the dedication to improve their skating. “I was lousy skater when I started but if you want it bad enough, you can and will do it. You also can’t be a complainer. You do the skill building drills to become a better skater, not to be a derby girl. Leave your attitude at home or on the track.”
For those who might be interested in watching, though, Best urged those at UFV to give Roller Derby a chance. “University students should come and check it out cause there really hasn’t been much to do in the Valley until now. This is a really entertaining sport and its fun for all ages.”
The next bout is Sunday April 18 at the Ag-Rec Center on Haida Drive in Abbotsford from 3-5 pm. The big event, though, will be April 24 which has all of the local teams battling it out, as well as a team from Saskatoon. Starting at 6:30 pm, that double-header will be available only to those aged 19 and over, taking place at MSA Arena on Emerson Road. For more information on tickets, or how to get involved, check out reignvalleyvixens.com.