I’ve crossed yet another item off my bucket list — that list of things I want to accomplish before I meet my maker.
With wife Sherry and grandkids Harrison and Marin in tow, I attended a roller derby competition, the Quad City Rollers vs. the Crash Test Dolls from Des Moines at the RiverCenter.
Admittedly this was not a major bucket list goal. It was easily accomplished and fairly inexpensive as entertainment goes. But a goal is a goal no matter how small, and it was nice to mark it complete and have fun doing so.
I happily discovered that today’s roller derby is not like the choreographed roller derbies I watched on television as a teen in the 1960s.
They took place on banked tracks surrounded by a railing into which — or over which — competitors regularly sailed at the hands of the opposition. If there was a purpose to the old way of doing roller derby aside from knocking an opponent down or getting into a scuffle, it was lost on me.
To my way of thinking, the old roller derbies were more like All-Star Wrestling on wheels than any sort of true competition.
It’s not like that now, at least for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which sanctions the Rollers’ events.
It’s a valid team sport — nearly a dozen dates, both home and away, are on the Rollers’ schedule — at which points are scored. And there are rules, like no pushing from behind.
But roller derby is still a rough game. According to the Rollers’ website (quadcityrollers.com), “it’s a full-contact sport, we train hard, we hit hard and we play hard!”
It’s also great fun to watch and, I’m guessing, to play.
Skaters for the Rollers go by monikers like Twofist Tallulah, Bootius Maximus, Destroyovsky, Cherry ChapsKick and Sweet Daisy D’Mise. A coach answers to Chicks Ahoy.
The Crash Test Dolls sport names like Z’ro Tolerance, Hot Whips Houlihan and Dinah Soar.
The roller derby girls come in all shapes and sizes. All have to be at least 18 to participate.
The night we attended, the Quad City Rollers wore black miniskirts and sleeveless jerseys, fishnet nylons and a variety of colorful knee-high socks.
They also wore the kind of skates — with four wheels for each foot – that I rented as a kid when I skated at two now-closed rinks, The Prom on Brady Street and the Roll-a-Rama at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.
For safety, the skaters wear kneepads, elbow pads, helmets and mouth guards.
A couple hundred spectators, including lots of families, showed up the night we attended. People sat in unreserved chairs surrounding the flat, oval track, which was marked by tape on the concrete floor.
I would have liked to have taken a place in the first row but thought better of it, since we had grandkids with us. They call row one the “suicide” section. If you sit there, out-of-control skaters are likely to end up in your lap.
The competition was a pleasant change of pace from the stick-and-ball sports. Before it started, the Rollers’ announcer graciously explained for newcomers the objectives of the various team positions and how the teams score points.
A bagpiper provided halftime entertainment, and the Rollers signed autographs and posed for pictures when it was all over.
I particularly like this line from their website: “We also give back to the community through public appearances, donations to fundraisers as well as through donating a portion of the proceeds from each bout ticket to a local charity.”
That helps put a positive face on roller derby.
Copyright 2012 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece submitted as a column to The North Scott Press.