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Roller Derby Takes Bozeman by Storm
Roller Derby. When I heard I was invited to a roller derby event at the fairgrounds in Bozeman, I didn’t really have any idea what to expect. Besides roller skates. And chicks. And beer. And really, with those three combinations, how can you go wrong?
As I talked to my elders, I started to hear more about what Roller Derby was all about. “I remember watching roller derby on TV!” Wait, what? It is an official sport? More power to them! So in the 60s and 70s roller derby was huge, and then it seemed to disappear for some reason. And now, as it happened with bell bottoms, crochet shirts and giant sunglasses, roller derby is making a comeback.
We headed to the fairgrounds a bit early and were surprised about how packed the pavilion was becoming. We grabbed seats in the bleachers, grabbed a Bozone (because you can’t have Derby without a beer, right?) and waited.
Slowly the pavilion started to fill. I heard that the line outside stretched for miles and miles and people eagerly fought for seats (or fought to keep the seats free for their friends).
The bleachers were quickly filled, but there were plenty of “Suicide Seats”. What are those you ask? Right on the edge of the roller derby ring, where there is no barrier between you and the fierce roller derby girlz! You have to be 18 years old or older to be able to sit there, making you realize just how dangerous they could be. You can bet that a few of those people did get nose bleeds during the bouts!
Soon, the girlz came out to warm up. The Gallatin Roller Girlz were dressed in mostly black and green, and some with fun ribbons in their hair and a lot of tutus! I didn’t realize tutus were part of the derby uniform, but I liked it. Some girls even went all out with war make up, ready to intimidate the visiting team. They also all had fabulous fun names such as Rollen’ Rogue and Sass Afrass Bash. Never had I seen a sport that seemed so fun!
If you have never been to a Roller Derby match or have never seen one before (as was my case), do not worry. The announcer is well aware that this sport is just making a comeback and makes sure to explain the game. The program you get when you come in even clearly explains the game, the signals the umpires make (who were dressed up too by the way), and how scoring works.
It’s a bit hard to explain without visuals, but I will give it a shot. Each bout has two types of girls. The majority of the girls are blockers, which make up the pack. Then you have two jammers, one from each team. It is the job of the jammers to go through the pack and lap them. It is the job of the pack to protect their team member, let her through, while simultaneously try to knock over or block the jammer from the other team. That’s the fun part. The knocking over. So basically Roller Derby is girls on skates knocking each other over!
We all got the basics of the game fairly quickly, and boy (or girl, I should say) is it fun. A good jammer will get through the pack quickly. And a good block would knock that jammer on her rear end. And the whole stadium goes “oooooooooooo” and “ahhhhhhhh” and then cheers when our jammer gets through.
I have simplified it, but it is so easy to get into the game and it is so much fun to see girls knock each other around. And they are not being gentle.
The scoring is a bit more complex. The first time a jammer goes through the pack, they do not get any points. But the first one is the lead jammer, she can then call off the jam at any time. The jammers get a point for each girl on the opposite team they pass in the pack.
So the game can quickly change. But the Gallatin Roller Girlz stayed ahead most of the time. Billings started to catch up enough just to make us become a little nervous, but the Gallatin Roller Girlz made sure it didn’t last long.
Catching the Roller Girlz play again is definitely a must. They travel all over Montana for their bouts, and the next home game in Bozeman, Montana is August 25th. You can bet that it will be packed, and it is a must see if you are in town. They will be playing the Jackson Hole Juggernauts and it is sure to be a fun game!
Remember to come early if you are not keen on sitting in the “nose bleed” seats.
If you are interested in finding out more about roller derby, or are looking to knock some girls over yourself (and you are a chick), then you are in luck. Gallatin Roller Girlz are always looking for “fresh meat”, as they say. They currently have one team that is bout ready, and are hoping to expand so there are a few more traveling teams. And remember, if they expand that means more home games for us to see!
Don’t let the contact scare you. “Fresh Meat” and beginners are taught how to play contact free. Only after skills test and a written test will girls be allowed to play derby as a contact sport.
So if you are interested in learning to skate better, or want to see if you have what it takes to be a jammer or blocker, you can go to one of their practices on Mondays or Thursdays. Check out their website at www.grgderby.com and head to a practice to find out more information.
Hilary St Jonn is a blogger and Internet Marketer and can be found blogging about life in Bozeman & Montana on Bozemaniac.com. She also enjoys helping Bozeman business get noticed on the web with her company Endless Range Marketing.