I have never been a fan of sports. Call it a mix of being too busy reading and a series of high school miseries. So imagine my delight when I found a sport that I not only loved watching, but even (gasp!) understood. That sport is… roller derby! And here’s why you should start caring about your local roller derby league:
Where else can you watch a team of athletes with team names like The Montreal Sexpos or the CN Power, dressed in neon glittery spandex and tackling each other on roller skates? How about teams of zombie cabaret dancers or 80’s boy bands? Mix in the occasional drag queen announcer, cheerleaders dressed as ninjas carrying fake dismembered hands, more alternative lifestyle hair then you can shake a flat-iron at, and you have the campiest, most fun sporting event outside of the Out Games.
Don’t get fooled by the sport’s shiny lamé surface: the competition is fierce and the athletes hit hard. Watching a skater get tackled to the floor can be cringe inducing. The crowd gets riled up and the athletes display impressive technical skill and strategic thinking. A bout is fast-paced and adrenaline-pumping: the athletes break a sweat and can suffer serious injuries. You could bring your sports-enthusiast friends and they would have a great time.
Simple to learn
I’m not exaggerating when I say my sports experience is pretty much limited to this one time I accidently caught a football and managed to score a touch-down in gym class in high school. So the fact I picked up the jist of the rules in about 10 minutes is nothing short of extraordinary. And proof that anyone can figure out how the sport works. Of course, it helps to go with a knowledgeable friend like I did, or do a quick wiki search first, but I promise you that you won’t be left scratching your head the whole time. Sure there’s a bunch of complicated rules that nobody understands, but not having a rule book handy won’t take away from your experience.
If you haven’t been to a bout yet, prepared to be surprised. For the uninitiated, the prevailing image of roller derby is a bunch of angry post-punk riot grrrls skating around a tilted track. Or maybe you’ve only ever seen the movie Whip It and think it’s full of Ellen Paige types discovering themselves in a feel-good environment. There’s probably a combination of both elements going on in the roller derby community, I’m sure, but the athletes aren’t just there to beat the crap out of each other and it’s not Lilith Fair on wheels (although I’d pay to see that too). Canadian roller derby leagues are members of WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association), is played on a flat track, and is allows for more strategic bouts than the old fashioned tilted tracks. The crowd is not at all like a seething mosh pit, nor is it the least bit cliquey. Everyone is just there to have a good time and let others do the same. So go to a bout and leave your preconceptions behind.
In Montreal, tickets are only $15 at the door, or $12 for advance online purchases. That’s basically the price of a movie ticket, but for something way more awesome. You can buy snacks or beer at the bout, and buy some cool merch too. The WFTDA roller derby league is not-for-profit, and all the proceeds go back into the league to pay for things like travel expenses or space rentals.
WFTDA has leagues all across Canada, including Montreal (http://www.mtlrollerderby.com) , Toronto (http://torontorollerderby.com), Vancouver (http://www.terminalcityrollergirls.com/), and Kitchener (http://www.tricityrollergirls.com), not to mention dozens of leagues in the United States and even one in the UK. Check out each league’s website for the lowdown on the teams and players (pro tip: they’re all awesome). The Canadian roller derby season is short and generally runs from about May to September (some lucky cities get longer seasons), with bouts occurring roughly every two weeks. In fact, there are only a few more bouts left, so don’t wait! You’ll be kicking yourself if you miss them, trust me.
See you there.
2011 Season Bouts
Vancouver: August 13 & 28, September 10
Kitchener: July 23, August 13 & 27
Toronto: August 20
Montreal: July 23, August 6
More information about all of the WFTDA leagues can be found at http://www.wftda.com/
Feature Photo: Whip It (2009)
Photo 2: Support Local Roller Derby
Photo Credit 3: Montreal Roller Derby League