When our Saturday evening suddenly became open (after Gallagher suffered a heart attack earlier in the week and cancelled his Oklahoma performance), we decided to go with Plan B and go see a Roller Derby bout for the first time instead.
Like most people, what little I knew about Roller Derby came from watching it on television back in the 1980s. Roller Derbies actually date back to the 1880. although back then they were simply roller skating competitions of speed and endurance. Roller Derby as we know it didn’t evolve until the 40s and 50s. At that time it was a legitimate, competitive sport. By the time I was watching it in Channel 34 back in the 1980s, Roller Derby had evolved into “sports entertainment,” the same classification as modern professional wrestling. There were good guys and bad guys, over the top personas, and predetermined winners.
Sometime around the year 2000, Roller Derby (the non-fake kind) experienced a rebirth. Contemporary Roller Derby is a conglomeration of both old and new styles. From what I gather the sport is prominently female-dominated, although there are male and children leagues out there, too. The women assume characters and derby names (we cheered for “Kitty VonKlobber,” “Sinful Lee” and “Lita-Lita Ho’Beata”) and sport tights and fishnet stockings and tattoos. Long gone are the predetermined outcomes and fake fist fights. Players are not allowed to use their hands, elbows, knees or feet offensively and can only initiate contact from the front. That’s not to say it’s a safe sport; I watched more than one girl go flying off the track after being hip-checked by an opponent.
A bout of Roller Derby consists of two 30 minute periods. These periods are broken up into “jams” that can last up to two minutes in length, or until they are cancelled by the lead “jammer” (the pre-determined player who can score points). Points are awarded by lapping players of the opposing team, so both teams simultaneously play offense and defense. If you are planning on attending a Roller Derby bout for the first time, I suggest you either (a) go with someone who understands the sport, or (b) spend five minutes on the Roller Derby Wikipedia entry learning the rules. Like any other sport, you will have a much more enjoyable time if you understand at least the basics of what’s going on.
Susan and I were both surprised how family-friendly the event was. We initially thought the entry fee was a little high ($15/adult), but kids admission was free, and the drinks and snacks were actually priced much lower than what we had anticipated, so it all kind of balanced out.
The only downside of the evening — and boy, it’s hard to complain about this without coming off like a jerk — was the halftime period, in which the OKC Roller Derby Association shaved people’s heads while collecting donations for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that raises money for kids with cancer. My problem wasn’t that they were taking donations for sick kids (seriously, who’s against that?), it was that the halftime break was over an hour long, and I was there with two kids, and there was literally nothing else to do other than sit around and watch people get their heads shaved for an hour.
Like I said I am all for raising money for sick kids, but halfway through the head-shaving I had a kid of my own that was fidgeting and another that was bored out of his mind. It was simply too long of a break to keep people’s attention. In the future I hope the organization can work out a system where they can continue to raise money while not taking such a long break in the middle of the bout.
Unfortunately due to the long intermission, the kids had lost interest and halfway through the second period we ended up splitting. Overall we had a really good time at the event and we are planning on returning next month (we’ll also be bringing iPods and/or Nintendo DSes to keep the kids entertained should we encounter another lengthy intermission). The event was much more kid-friendly that we had anticipated (one of Susan’s big concerns) and I would say the event was definitely suitable for all ages.
One last final tidbit; over the weekend I learned that Oklahoma City actually has two separate women’s leagues: Oklahoma City Roller Derby or OKCRD (the bout we attended), and the Oklahoma Victory Dolls Roller Derby or OKVD, a competing league. Both have home bouts on a roughly monthly basis, so we hope to attend one of each in the near future.
Both leagues are looking for local women with roller skating skills of any level to sign up.