Cape Girardeau Roller Girls ready to bout for first time in front of home crowd
Friday, November 12, 2010
Near the wall of the Arena Building, away from the action, two girls exchange muscle remedies and debate the merits of Bio-freeze and Bengay. A few feet away, girls roll by, yelling garbled encouragement to one another while skating in a circle around the Arena floor.
The Cape Girardeau Roller Girls have been practicing for several months and will greet the community in the group's first intraleague bout, the Capetown Smack Down at 6 p.m. today in the Arena Building.
The league started practicing and learning more about Flat Track Derby in April. Since those introductory practices, the women have gained confidence on their skates, learned proper falling techniques, studied the rules and immersed themselves in derby.
The Capetown Smack Down will feature the Broadway Brawlers and the Mississippi Mavens in a bout, or game. It will have halftime and after-party music by The Haddonfields, a St. Louis-based band.
A bout includes two-minute jams where five girls from each team skate in a circle. Both groups have three blockers, a jammer and a pivot, who starts as a blocker, but can act as a jammer if given the job by the original jammer.
Both jammers start at the back of the group and try to make it through and free of the pack. Once the jammer makes a loop, she earns a point for her team every time she passes an opposing blocker. The lead jammer is the first out of the pack and has the option to end the bout early if she sees it's beneficial for her team. Leagues are regulated by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.
"When I first told my dad about this, he said it's a spectacle, not a sport," said Billie Lux, whose real name is Brandi Brashear. She disagrees.
"I've never had anything inspire me to buy running shoes and actually use them," she said. Brashear took up jogging to improve her endurance on skates.
Brashear, a player for the Mississippi Mavens, will face the Broadway Brawlers and Beth Finta. Finta, a 6-foot-4 blocker, goes by Glamazon Vegas during derby.
Brashear admitted she was nervous about the bout. A broken ankle sidelined her for eight weeks, but as of November practices she was back on her wheels.
Finta, who played in a scrimmage against an Illinois league in September, attempted to ease Brashear's nerves. She told her that once the whistle blows and the two-minute jam starts, you forget everything.
"Your jammer needs to get through and that's it," she said.
It's different from practices, she said, "because there's a crowd and you're dressed up."
The roller girls' dress has been a rough point for some people. The girls get creative with tights, shorts and deliberately ripped T-shirts. The clothes cling but cover, however some people think they're over the top. But each of the roller derby girls will tell you that while bold, the outfits are practical.
"Maybe after someone sees a bout, they'll realize why we dress the way we do," Finta said.
Brashear said the tight clothing prevents other skaters from grabbing excess fabric and pulling someone down or advancing the wrong player.
"At the end of the day, the outfits aren't worse than gymnastics or beach volleyball," Brashear said.
Part of the money from the bout, and subsequent events, will help with house-cleaning items like printing tickets, advertising and insurance. The rest will always benefit a community organization, said Brashear, who is also the league treasurer.
Old Town Cape will receive funds from the Capetown Smack Down. The group started with 700 tickets and are almost sold out, Brashear said. A limited number of tickets at the door will be $8. Children 5 and younger are free.
The girls said the league exists to give back -- to its players as well as the community -- and they are excited to show off what they've learned and educate the public about the sport.
"I hope they really realize that derby is a sport and it's not the 1970s 'Hey, Billie Lux, I'm gonna punch you in the face,'" Finta said.
Roller derby, the way it's played now, is family friendly. Brashear's eight nieces and nephews will be in the stands today.
Though flat track derby has calmed down from its banked predecessor of a few decades ago, the girls still skate inches away and have to bust through packs and block skaters. The sport is physical.
"There's very few contact sports for females," Brashear said.
Girls run on a small diamond with a soft ball. They play powder puff football.
Derby, the girls say, is "ours."
410 Kiwanis Drive
Cape Girardeau, MO