My husband has grown accustomed to getting an email, chat or phone call from me that begins with “Can we go to…?” The blank has been filled by “Asian Festival at the Botanical Gardens”, “modern dance at the Ferst Center”, and “Balfour Beatty Family Day”, just to name a few. The last one was Atlanta Roller Derby. I can’t remember how I found it, but I thought it sounded cool, Derek agreed to go, and we set out on the adventure.
The first attempt to go failed, because I didn’t realize the matches sold out a month in advance. Even though Derek’s work schedule is difficult to predict, I decided to just go for the tickets and take a “date” if he wasn’t in town. Fortunately, we were able to discover roller derby together.
Our only experience with roller derby was watching the episode of “Rock of Love” where the potential date had to skate around the court with electronic babies in strollers while the roller girls tried to keep them from reaching the finish line. Not a single baby made it with no injuries–one of the chicks actually pulled an arm off of one of the dolls! I couldn’t stop watching it, so the idea of physically going to see a match intrigued me. I’m pretty sure the biggest draw for Derek was the venue–the Atlanta Yaarab Shrine Temple. He just couldn’t imagine what went on in there, which led to a mix of excitement and anxiety when we arrived.
With no clue what to expect, we easily found parking in the massive lot in the back of the temple. Entering through the arches into the courtyard, we found pre-match games of bean bag toss (or some similar carnival-type game), merchandise tables and the all-important “check your id so you can drink” table. We went to get arm bands, but found that the arm band just gave you the permission to drink what you brought with you. In our case, this was nothing. Fortunately, we had arrived early enough to leave, go to the grocery store for a six pack, and make it back with time to spare. It just didn’t seem right to watch the roller derby without a drink in your hand.
There were still a few seats left closer to the bottom of the bleachers, so we grabbed a spot and started to check out the program. The Apocalypstix were matched against the Toxic Shocks, with player names like Belle of the Brawl and Amelia Scareheart. I think my favorite was Queen Looseyateefa. In case you don’t know, the object of the teams is to get their Jammer past as many of the opposing team’s players as possible (each passing earns a point). This is obviously a simplified version of the rules, but you get the idea.
Fashion plays a big part in this sport. The common themes between the uniforms were team colors and iron-on names and numbers, but otherwise the girls seemed to be wearing cool homemade uniforms comprised of everything from striped stocking to hotpants and ripped shirts. It’s definitely about originality. The mascots were interesting too–looking a lot more like drag queens than the typical cartoon character you would see at a basketball or football game.
A lot of the match was somewhat tame, but occasionally we got a taste of what we really came for — violence. The fun for us became trying to see if we could spot the offense that landed the player in the penalty box. We weren’t very good at it–I don’t think I spotted a single one. It was also impossible not to wince and groan as the girls slid across the ground after tripping or being tripped, especially when several fell at once.
All in all, we enjoyed the match. We ended up only staying for the first one, because we were hungry and the guy who normally sold food had apparently had an accident the day of the event. I thought about getting a t-shirt, but the winning team was the Toxic Shocks, and I just didn’t think I could wear a shirt that referred to a female disease. I just couldn’t do it. So, we just took away our wonderful memories of the experience.