This Sport is On a Roll
- David Ginisi
Are you a sports fan? Are you hooked on football, basketball, and baseball? How about Roller Derby? Forget (for a while) the great professional teams that make New England fans so proud, year after year. Football and basketball seasons are over, and baseball will be going on and on, through spring, summer, and fall.
This year, why not try a new addiction: a female sport that features plenty of action – including full-body contact and lots of bone-jarring spills?
See them in Action:
You can see all that action, and more, at the Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg, where the Bay State Brawlers take to the arena for their 2019 season of Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) play. The Brawlers, now in their eighth year of competition, is central Massachusetts’ premiere nonprofit women’s roller derby league.
Roller derby became a “hot” sport in the 1970’s, then quieted down for decades before its current revival in 2001 in Austin, Texas. But if you’ve been around long enough to remember the televised sport of the 70’s, give the games a second look. Forget the baked track, rough and tumble (and arguably, “scripted”) play of that era.
In a Jam:
Today’s derby games, or “bouts”, are played on a flat track – and while there’s plenty of blocking going on during the two minute jams, there are also plenty of rules (and time in the penalty box for those who forget them).
The Bay State Brawlers field two teams: The Punishers and the Brawlin’ Broads. Your admission — $10 for adults, $5 for kids – for a packed evening of derby excitement includes two games, so you’ll get to see both teams in action. The Brawlers have three home games this season: on May 4th, June 1st, and July 27th. All games start at 5 pm. For more details see the Calendar section of this guide, or visit baystatebrawlers.com.
So who are these athletes – the women willing to battle it out on wheels with minimal protective gear? Meghan Beaulieu (aka Maulie Walnuts) says her teammates range from 18 to 60 years old and come from all walks of life: students, moms, business professionals, and teachers. But they share a love of the game, and enjoy being part of the community of women.
Some of them, the 2019 League president says, had never skated before coming out to learn about roller derby – but have turned into solid athletes. So what’s a roller derby event like?
There’s the games, of course; two teams of five skaters – many of them sporting lively aliases – take to the track in a series of “jams”, in which the designated jammer (easily recognized by the large star on her helmet) tries to score points by lapping, or skating past members of the opposing team. The trick, of course, is to get past the other team’s blockers who have no intention of letting that happen!
During that brief jam, skaters will use all (legal) means – including hitting opposing players with their shoulders and hips, pushing and pulling on their own teammates, and doing a slingshot-like maneuver (called a whip) to speed their jammer through the pack.
You’ll Get Hooked:
With the two one-hour games on the track, there’s plenty of heart-pounding action, but the fun doesn’t end there. These are family-friendly events – with an enticing concession stand, team merchandise for sale, even raffles in the stands or on the civic center floor. When the games are over, and you’re all pumped up about the sport, you can plan to stop by the Roll On America in Lancaster to learn more or give it a try. The Brawlers offer classes, running twice a week, for eight weeks, on Wednesdays from 8-10 pm and Sundays from 5:30-7:30 pm. No experience? No problem! The Brawlers will teach you everything – from skating basics, to stopping and hitting to properly falling. Hey, it’s a sport. You have to be ready to take a tumble!