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For a roller derby bout, “Night of the Living Derby Girl” left less teeth on the rink than expected.
The tie-breaking battle between the Daisy Nukes and Shrap Nellies, presented by Boulder County Bombers Roller Derby, had a slow start Saturday night. However, it wouldn’t stay slow for too long.
The line for tickets stretched out the front doors of St. Vrain Memorial Building, prompting a delayed start. After making it past derby girls taking tickets and entering the gym, the first apparent sense was smell. The air was filled with the scent of sweat that only comes from heavy cardio workouts, the kind the Nukes and Nellies were going to have. The chatter of the audience filled the packed bleachers, and the voice of The Reverend Jimmy James, the stage name of the announcer, came over the speakers.
His voice was so garbled, however, that the only two quotes recognizable all night were two derby girls’ names: “Sauce” and “Jenitellya.” Despite the inability of the crowd to understand him, James trudged through introducing the referees, team members and the National Anthem’s performer. Although it was nearly impossible to understand the young saxophonist’s name, it was clear he was a derby girl’s relative when a member of the Nukes skated up to give him a hug after the applause.
In keeping with the long, indistinguishable build-up, there was hardly any action in the first half. The pop culture depiction of roller derbies, including the 2009 movie “Whip It,” gives the impression that derby girls are ruthless and hardcore from the second the first whistle blows. In reality, they reserve that energy for when they will really need it: the second half. Members of both the Nukes and the Nellies used gentle checks during the first half.
The audience used this lull in action to figure out what was happening on the court, as it was apparent that most of them were new to the sport. Over several minutes, the audience pieced together the general guidelines from the program, other audience members from plays going on on the court.
First, a group of four blockers from each team, totaling eight, move forward. When the last blocker crosses a pivot line, the scoring players, called Jammers, take off from the starting line. The Jammers work their way through the mass of both teammates and rivals in order to be the Lead Jammer. Meanwhile, this huddled mass tries to get their team’s Jammer through while blocking or checking the opposing Jammer. After a Jammer breaks through the pack the first time, they lap the opposing blockers to gain points
By the time most of the audience understood the basic rules, the Nukes and Nellies picked up speed. Both teams played well, but Jammer, Kid Vicious, of the Nellies dominated the first half. Every round she played, Kid Vicious was the first through the blockers and scored at least one point. Jammer, Feist E. One, of the Nukes, was a contender against Kid Vicious, but her statistics weren’t nearly as impressive.
Although the Nellies were leading, Feist E. One got her chance to redeem the Nukes when Kid Vicious got a 60-second penalty. When a Jammer gets a penalty, the opposing Jammer merely has to get through the other blockers, an easy way to regain points. Between the uninterrupted lapping of Nellie blockers and the rest of the Nukes’ accumulated points, the Nukes pulled ahead just before the half, 93-46.
The action missing from the first half came just in time for the second. Body checks, previously gentle to save energy, became more rough. More and more players were put on the bench throughout the second half. Although there was never any blood spilt or teeth knocked out, the action mounted as the time ticked down. Even with the the visible tiredness of most blockers and Jammers, the tensions continued to rise until the very last minute.
There were several instances where Jammers were placed in the penalty box, leaving the opposing team practically open to score points. However, none were as important to winning the bout as the final penalty, with just minutes left in the game.
Both the Nukes and Nellies were down two blockers when referees called a penalty on the Nukes’ Jammer. The Nellies were already ahead. The sixty-second penalty gave the Nellies the needed padding for their lead to secure the bout at the buzz of the timer, 180-169.
The Nukes were granted one more jam after the clock ran out. Although they gained seven points before their Jammer, Double DeckHer, was forcefully shoulder-checked in the stomach, the final jam and bout ended with the Nellies winning 184-176.
Though the “Night of the Living Derby Girl” bout was less violent than roller derby’s portrayal in the media would make it seem, it was blood-pumping and exciting nonetheless. What is more impressive than the derby girls’ maneuvering in and through a huddled mass is their ability to skate around in a circle for an hour.
Contact CU Independent Entertainment Editor Avalon Jacka at Avalon.email@example.com.