Friday, August 14, 2009

Roll With It

Picture by Crystal Ryan (AKA Mid Iowa Roller cTAL faTAL) I really enjoy this photo.

So the other week I decided to check out the local roller derby team in person. The Mid Iowa Rollers. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew a little bit about roller derby from back in the day when RollerGames was on TV (no gators here though), and a little more from (much more recently) from the A&E show Roller Girls. I was excited but I tried not to get my hopes up too high because I was worried that it was going to suck.

It did not suck. It wasn't the best thing that I had ever seen but it was a very entertaining evening. I would definitely recommend attending their next game (actually I learned they are call 'Bouts').

We arrived a little late due to previous engagements running longer than planned, we arrived midway through the first period (it is similar to hockey in that it has 3 periods). Unfortunately, this meant that we missed the introductions and the explanation of the rules. I remembered enough to explain the gist to my friend but even then it was a little confusing in the beginning. Ten people skating and pushing and pulling their way around the track with seemingly weird and nonsensical points beings scored. By the end of the second period, I was able to follow the action pretty accurately and by the end of the game I understood it all except for some of the penalties.

Here is what I understand:
  • 3 Periods of 20 minutes each.

  • Each period consists of multiple Jams.

  • A Jam is basically like a play in football, its when all the action takes place - a Jam lasts 2 minutes or until it is called off by the lead Jammer.

  • Each team consists of four Blockers (the Pack) and one Jammer.

  • Jammer is identified with a star on her helmet.

  • One blocker for each team is a Pivot - identified by the striped helmet cover.

  • Pivots are at the front of the pack and set the pace of the pack while also acting as blockers.

  • Blockers try to block the Jammer from the other team while assisting their own Jammer through the Pack.

  • Jammers start each Jam 20 feet behind the Pack of Blockers.

  • Jammers must make their way through the Pack (get past all the opposing team's Blockers).

  • The first Jammer to make it past the Pack legitamately (no penalties) becomes Lead Jammer - they now have the ability to stop the Jam before the two minute mark (if they want).

  • Jammers now sprint around the track and can score by lapping the opposing teams blockers (passing them a second time).

  • Jammers can call off the Jam early for many reasons like - they fall and the other team is going to score more points, to keep the other team from scoring, they are tired, they don't think they will get around the track again (save energy).

All and all, it is a quick and highly entertaining game.

Here is a nice graphic that I borrowed from the San Diego Union Tribune, that illustrates some of the scoring rules.

I made it to the bout about midway through the first period. It did not look good. The Mid Iowa Rollers were losing bad (like 21 to 56). cTAL faTAL and Anna D. Killa Amazon however started a string of amazing jams. cTAL was fast and nimble and able to weave through the pack much faster and cleaner than the opposing teams jammer. I am pretty sure she scored a couple grand slams while the opposing team scored next to nothing. cTAL would squeeze through the smallest spaces between blockers and several times looked like she was off-balance and barely on one wheel, but she always made some amazing saves and never lost her footing, continually speeding along the track. Killa Amazon looks about 10 feet tall on skates (I'm sure it's only about 6'6" but she towers over the competition). Her natural stride length quickly outpaced the other jammer and the blockers alike. She looked like a gazelle when she skated - in a good way, naturally long, thin, graceful legs.

The rest of the Mid Iowa Jammers held their own and the team started making ground. However, ICT Roller Girls seemed to have a commanding lead that MIR couldn't overcome. Mid Iowa didn't give up and the crowd was really getting into it. Finally, with very little time left in the third and final period...maybe a minute and a half, the Mid Iowa Rollers were able to grab the lead by a few points. It was an incredible effort by all involved...they just had to hold on for one last jam. This is exactly what you want in any sporting match - a long fought close game that comes down to the final seconds. The Mid Iowa Rollers were able to fend off ICT Rollergirls for that last jam to win the bout. A great finish to a well played bout.

Here is some video from the bout that I attended (not taken by me, I don't own a video camera). It doesn't really capture the fun though.

A few things that could be improved.

  • Standard Numbers - I liked that everyone had nicknames and such but I found the non-standard numbers on the jerseys hard to follow. They have numbers like 24/7, 26.2, Infinity+1 (the infinity is a sideways 8), and #FU. Yes they are funny but I found that it made it seem a little amateurish.

  • Intermissions - Better entertainment during the intermissions. Just playing music or trying to get the crowd to do the Time Warp quickly led to boredom and restlessness.

  • Maybe a little more interaction between the skaters and the crowd. They might have had more of this during the introductions at the beginning of the game but I missed I can't say for sure till I make it on time.

I would suggest everyone show up at the next bout - Aug 22 at Bucs arena. Obviously you can't use Rock Gone Wild as an excuse...and you know you don't really want to go see Kelly Clarkson, so go see some weird/cool chicks roller derbying. I think you will have a good time. I'm definitely going again. General Admission tickets are $10 (these are the seats outside the hockey glass in Bucs arena). Floor tickets are $15 (basically On-Ice folding chairs). I've only sat in GA but I think you can actually see the action and understand what is happening a little bit better from the slightly elevated position, but you don't have the advantage of maybe having an out of control roller girl falling in your lap.

Hope to see you there.


Cameron Ted said...

so is it real? or is it WWE? the ones I remember from TV growing up were a lot more WWE than real.....

Michael said...

Real...but not brutal. It is an actual sports bout. We saw several painful falls, one knee that looked close to an ACL tear, and many of what looked like would develop into good sized bruises. But it wasn't about the violence, like RollerGames was. No acting here.