Believe it or not, Washington, DC has not one but four all-women’s roller derby teams to call our own. The Cherry Blossom Bombshells, DC Demoncats, Majority Whips, and Scare Force One together make up the DC Rollergirls, who play each other in this rowdy sport on roller skates. The best of each team comes together to make up the All-Star Team, which plays other cities and leagues in larger games.
Haven’t thought about roller derby since your local roller skating rink closed in 1993?* Neither had I, and neither had most of America, until roller derby made its comeback to its modern iteration around 2001. Today, the Women’s Flat-Track Derby Association functions as an official governing body for the sport, which multiple sources claim is the fastest-growing in America.
The DC Rollergirls—whose slogan is “with liberty and justice to brawl”—play monthly “bouts” in either the Dulles Sportsplex or the old DC Armory. Tickets are approximately $12/person, and beer and food are for sale at both complexes (I’m told you aren’t experiencing it properly unless you are drinking a PBR tallboy). Usually there are two games per bout, each lasting an hour divided into two halves.
Roller derby is played by teams of five players constantly skating counterclockwise around a flat track (old-fashioned derby was sometimes played on a slanted track). One designated player on each team—the jammer—attempts to pass members of the other team in order to score points. “Blockers” on the opposing team use various strategies to obstruct the other team’s jammer while assisting their own. Checking from the middle part of the body is allowed, while pushing, kicking, headbutting, etc., are not. But don’t worry; you’ll still see some pretty epic wipeouts.
Rollerderby these has become its own counterculture, featuring a combination of punk, sporty, sexy, and girl-power elements. The rollergirls all have hardcore aliases like “Helena Handbag,” “Chinese Cheker,” and—props to this local shoutout—“Marion Barrycuda.” And, the ladies wear great outfits that include helmet decorations, ripped fishnet tights, hot pants, and knee and elbow pads.
One of the things I liked best about my visit to the DC Rollergirls was realizing that all of the people associated with the derby—coaches, refs, photographers, mascots, etc., are volunteers. All of these folks just love derby so much that they’ll give up a Saturday afternoon to be there and make it shine. You too will enjoy your visit to see our city’s grittiest gals on skates—just be careful about sitting in the suicide seats!
To visit: monthly bouts most of the year at either the Dulles Sportsplex or the DC Armory (the former is not accessible by public transportation, the latter is accessible by the Stadium-Armory metro or many metrobuses). Check dcrollergirls.com for dates, times, ticket prices, and more info.
*Yeah, yeah, I did know that there was a 2009 movie about it featuring Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore.