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Roller derby

On Saturday, my friend Ruth (aka Barbarolla in the London Rollergirls) took me to see my first ever roller derby. We saw a bout between Manhattan Mayhem and the Queens of Pain. We were supporting QoP because Ruth idolises Suzy Hotrod, one of their jammers.

The basic structure of the game is as follows. About five people from each team skate around an oval track. Each team has one jammer. This person must try and pass members of the opposing team. For each pass, the team scores a point.

The game itself is fascinating. Much like rugby or football, it is dominated by manoeuvring a thing from one place to another. The fact that the thing is a person doesn’t seem particularly important. What is important, and what makes it completely different from those other sports, is that the whole field is important all the time. In football, generally speaking, different players get involved as the ball moves to different parts of the pitch. Which is to say: control is handed over. In roller derby, because everyone is going round all the time, and because everyone can move so fast, all the players are involved all the time. This means that the game is a quick succession of setups around choke points. A group of players get into a blocking formation, the opposing jammer comes in and tries to get past them, aided by blocks and shunts from her own team mates. It’s all delightfully tactical. And there is a wonderful contrast between the vicious barges and elegant weaving.