by Kiki Sideris and Nirvani Williams
On Saturday November 3rd, the Strong Island Derby Revolution lost their final home game of the season to Southern Delaware Roller Derby, but put up a fight racking up points in their last jam. SoDel won with a final score of 190-143.
In the final bout of Saturday’s game, four players with interesting names like Semi Automedic, No Pucks Given, Betty Clockher and Wreck-It Rosie on the opposing team wrestled to block lead home team jammer Shockya Chakra, otherwise known as number 7UP, from scoring points for the Strong Island. Yet, Chakra broke through the pack and whipped around the track, scoring the final point.
Despite the team’s loss, Strong Island fans, who surrounded the packed rink in folding chairs, got up to ring their cowbells and laud the home team with high-fives. At the end of the game, in an act of solidarity, Southern Delaware players formed a tent with their hands while the Strong Island team could skate through it.
After all, it’s more than just a game, according to Strong Island player Natalie Piazza, or Nattzmanian Devil. It’s a culture.
“You build a family,” Piazza, number 33, said wearing a hot pink helmet with cheetah print tights. “You’re friends, you get to know each other. You’re touchin’ each other and hittin’ each other. You know, you hit your friends with a smile.”
But the game wasn’t always so friendly. Fights were more common in the “vintage” derby days, when the game was played on a concave, or “banked,” track. According to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the governing body of women’s flat track derby, a player can be expelled for fighting, and can even receive penalties for cursing at another player or referee.
“They really go at it,” Lauren Haile, a first-timer at the roller derby, said. “It’s really intense.”
Head Non-Skating Official (NSO) Rebecca Adams-Korn, or Raven Flawless, said that hitting is part of the game, but referees are there to prioritize safety. There are a minimum of nine referees on the track at all times, including two NSOs, to ensure that each bout runs smoothly.
“Instead of hitting with force, we want to see you hit with precision,” Korn explained after the game. “You’re still knocking the player out of bounds or getting them out of your way without giving them a concussion or hurting their spinal cord.”
Although the team is not-for-profit and not affiliated with the WFTDA, the same rules still apply. Each team fields a single point scoring skater, called a “jammer,” whose objective is to lap as many opposing skaters as they can. The teams have five blockers each to obstruct the opposing team’s jammer, who is designated with a star on her helmet from scoring points. There are two 30-minute halves in a bout and a series of jams– two minute plays–that take place in each bout.
The rules help establish a more friendly atmosphere, according to Piazza.
“To see such a community around a sport that I didn’t know existed a month ago was really inspiring to watch,” Conor Rooney, a Strong Island fan, said.