Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jammers and Pivots and Blockers, Oh My!

Picture this: You're perched on bleachers in a barny hall at the Expo Center with loud 80s music (think AC/DC's Back in Black) playing on the sound system. The hall is packed with crowds of Portland's finest, from hipsters to rock chicks to moms and dads with little kids to a decidedly arty set in costumes that look like they're at the BOO Ball. And they're all packed in like sardines around a very homemade track that is taped to a flat plastic surface, cheering like wildcats for their favorite teams that are battling it out on the home court, bashing and bruising each other at breakneck speed while dressed in scanty shorts and fishnet hose.

This, gentle readers, is Portland roller derby at its finest. My first inclination when Laurie brought up the idea of going to the season opener of the Rose City Rollers was to bow out quietly. But when I sucked up my reluctance and got there, I found myself getting drawn in by the earnestness and authentic enthusiasm of everyone from the skaters to the refs to the fans. Then there's the complex ballet of the competition, that is, if ballerinas tripped each other while flinging their corps members across the stage. (Hmmm...that might actually make ballet interesting!)

The four Portland teams, Heartless Heathers, High Rollers, Break Neck Betties and Guns & Rollers, were organized two years ago. Each skater sports a "skate name" like Vominatrix (photo, left), Rectifier, Cluster Fox and Megahurtz. These four teams feed into the all-star team, the Wheels of Justice, that skates against out-of-town teams like the Sin City Neander Dolls who will be coming in April for the first slapdown of the season here in Portland.

The whole thing has a real DIY feel to it with a surprisingly family-friendly air. And you can't beat the way the little girls (and sometimes their moms) look adoringly at their favorite skaters and ask for their autographs. It's very genuine and kind of heartwarming to see. Plus there's the pushing and shoving to take that edge off. As they so aptly put it, "P-town pride, bitches!"

Details: Rose City Rollers against the Sin City Neander Dolls, Sat., April 21. Portland Expo Center, Hall C, 2060 N. Marine Dr. Tickets available at the website.

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