A few weeks ago I took trip back in time and across the Hudson River to watch one of the great sports innovations of the 1970’s. That’s right ladies and gentlemen; I went to a roller derby match. Contrary to popular belief roller derby has not been relegated to the compost heap of failed sports fads like American Gladiators (which I would still watch if it was on) and the XFL. The sport is alive and well and living in New Jersey at the Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Center where one can go see the girls of the Jersey City Bridge and Pummel Roller Derby Team kick some tail.
To be absolutely accurate roller derby is not actually a sport but a form of sports entertainment but don’t tell that to Bridge and Pummel, a team which sports some lovely ladies who not only look good in spandex but can also rearrange your face for denigrating their sport. The rules are pretty simple. A roller derby match is composed of three twenty minute periods which are in turn composed of two minute sessions of play, called jams. During a jam teams attempt to score points by having their designated scorers, called jammers, earn points through lapping other contestants on the track. The other skaters are composed of two packs of defensemen whose job it is to assist their own jammer’s progress through the pack and to block the other team’s jammer. That’s when the fun really begins; in the process of stopping the other team’s jammer the defense can employ hip and body checks.
With a track full of women moving at high speed, the possibilities for mayhem are endless. Jammers thread their way dexterously through the hostile packs of beefy defensewomen, earning the accolades of the adoring fans that line the sides of the track (fans who are often inadvertently involved in the action when a skater careens out of control-sit trackside at your own risk indeed!). Expert Jammers like Bridge and Pummel’s “Von Fury” make it look easy as they clear giant knots of skaters in a single clip but mere mortals are often less fortunate , getting clipped by an errant hip and somersaulting to the ground, often taking out a skater or two in their wake.
My friends and I arrived during the middle of the second period. We all had to sign an extremely ominous waiver that we would not sue in the case of bodily injury incurred by this full contact sport before they would let us inside. Crowds of rowdy fans of all ages cheered each good hit or deft maneuver executed by their team. We sat Indian-style near the back stretch of the track just as a jam was getting underway. The big pack of defensemen, big girls with body armor on their heads, elbows and knees, jostled restlessly, awaiting the referee’s whistle. The jammers lined up in back, jawing good naturedly at one another. The jammer from the Northern Nightmares, a voluptuous yet athletic beauty, flashed her ample breasts Bridge and Pummel’s jammer, eliciting a riot of laughter from her opponent and the crowd. I knew right away that I liked this sport.
The match itself was no contest as the Bridge and Pummel Team consistently dominated the scoring and physical play. The home crowd was appreciative of Bridge and Pummel’s effort, standing and clapping synchronously as the exhausted ladies skated off the final seconds of the last jam.
Roller Derby is an experience that everyone should enjoy at least once in their life. The effect of women in spandex on skates knocking one another to the ground can not be overstated or underestimated. The fun doesn’t stop during intermissions as talented groups of skaters in costume make their way around the track doing tricks or skating in long human chains. Throw in a disco ball, black lights and the music of the 1970’s for ambience and you have yourself a great way to spend a Friday night so grab some nachos and a soda and grab a seat trackside. Just remember to duck when a tangled pile of 180 pound women on skates hurtle your way!