As I like to experience new things I had two friends of mine convincing me to come to the Roller Derby Bout, the home Bout of The Death Row Honeys. They are competing against The Roller Derby Metz Club, an international event! As I am a complete layman when it comes to Roller Derby, I went to see the Bout with almost no knowledge of the game. It is a game of rolling girls competing on an oval track, trying to overtake each other to score points.
This is my interpretation of the game and the Rules, Regulations and Customs I noticed. Maybe someone with real knowledge of the game can tell me if I saw it right and if I have forgotten some Rules, Regulations and Customs.
The pictures are made by me.
When I entered the Topsportcentrum in Rotterdam I had a few first impressions.
There was a large crowd, which tells me there are a lot of fans of Roller Derby already. After seeing this first Bout I think the sport deserves this kind of attention.
I also noticed a lot of the people were dressed up for the occasion, which fitted the title of the evening: ‘Cirque du Freak’. Girls dressed up like guys, people wearing wigs, funny hats, theatrical make-up and odd accessories. I don’t know if this behavior is custom to Roller Derby Bouts, but I liked it!
Next thing I noticed was a little shopping street of vendors with all kinds of Roller Derby gear, merchandise and clothes. This is a sign of a sport maturing.
After checking in I entered the hall, a normal sports hall for soccer, basketball and other regular sports, I saw the oval track was drawn on the floor. It consists of two ovals. The inner oval is the game track, the outer oval is for the officials.
The crowd was sitting on one side of the track. On the other side I saw a few chairs, two of which had a colored star. In the corner to the left was a table with a computer for score keeping.
In the center of the oval was a Flip-Over, facing the other side. This didn’t change during the game, so I am really curious what it was used for?
There were also two squares on the floor. Later I learned these squares were for photographers to get great action pictures without interrupting the game.
At the beginning of the program the teams were presented to the crowd. Every team has their own way of showing all players. First the Roller Derby Metz Girls came on track. They rolled as a tight pack along the track, waving their flag. All the girls were announced one by one and they stretched up to show themselves.
The Death Row Honeys came after that, also rolling as a tight pack and with their flag. With each announcing of a girl, she skated a little ahead to form a new pack, until all girls were in the new pack.
Before the game started both teams gave a demonstration of the basic rules, but not without checking the gear of all girls by the officials. All girls must wear a helmet, knee-, elbow- and wrist protection, and have all wheels screwed on tight. Safety first, the fun will be greater!
The demonstration was enlightening. The Jammers (with stars) try to pass the pack and score points. Only the first Jammer (Lead Jammer) can score points, until she gets send to the penalty chairs, or she ends the game by putting her hands on her hips several times, or the maximum time for a play is reached. One play is called a Jam.
The pack consists of four Blockers from each team. Their goal is to prevent the opposing Jammer to pass the pack. One of the Blockers is wearing a striped helmet. I haven’t found the role of that player yet.
Each Jam the teams can change their girls, so they have some recuperating time.
Once the Bout was on a roll I started to grasp the flow of the game and was able to cheer for the points scored. That gave me the opportunity to watch the officials as well.
Talking about the officials, I have never seen a game or sport of any kind with more officials than players on the track. With Roller Derby however this is the case. As I counted quickly I saw 19 officials, with only two teams of 5 girls competing on the track.
There are skating and non-skating officials (SO and NSO). I noticed six SO’s. During the game one SO was assigned to each Jammer. Their goal is to follow that Jammer like a magnet. When a Jammer is the Lead Jammer, the assigned official puts a hand in the air and points to the Jammer with the other hand, thus making a large L, I guess from Lead Jammer. The official of the other Jammer waves with the arms down and sideways, like you want to sweep of the crumbs of your cookie from your lap. When the Lead Jammer passes the pack, she scores points. One for each girl she passes. The official (with the big L) puts up the number of points scored with the fingers and starts turning the hand to indicate Points Scored. An official on the sideline takes over this hand turning, so the official on the computer can process the points.
All six SO’s can give penalties. The assigned officials to the Jammers and the other four to the Blockers. A penalty means you have to sit on a penalty chair for 2 minutes. The two chairs with the stars are reserved for the Jammers.
If a Jammer is on the penalty chair, the other Jammer can score points without the interference of the opposing Jammer. This is called a Power Jam.
When the Lead Jammer decides to end the Jam by putting her hands on her hips, the assigned official does the same. I guess they can join any folklore dance group in a Balkan country with these cool moves!
The NSO’s have different tasks, I wasn’t able to identify them all. There are the NSO’s at the score table, I already told about. Then there are a few NSO’s at the penalty chairs. Their task is to keep track of penalty times, so the girls don’t have to stay out of the Jam too long. There’s also a head NSO. I didn’t see it happen, but maybe he was using the Flip-Over. I’m still curious about that! He also handled the time-outs. When a team wants a time-out or the official need time to deliberate on situations on the track, he stands on the starting line waving his hands from fully stretched sideways to pointing to his shoulders, like he is guiding down a plane.
Next to the 12 officials 2 medical officials are present. As it is quite a rough sport, injuries can always occur. During the Bout this happened only once, with a visiting Metz girl. Luckily she was able to stand up again after some care from these officials. What surprised me was that after this girl fell, and indicated she couldn’t stand up, all SO’s rushed to her and formed a human wall between her and the crowd. The announcers also asked not to make pictures of this scene. I truly admire this kind of privacy rules in a game! Also all the players of both teams kneeled down during the caretaking like they were praying for a good ending. Nice gesture!
Like many sports the game is divided in two parts, with a half time break. Off course the half time break, which lasted half an hour, is for the players to get some rest and nourishment. For the viewers it is a moment to get some drinks and snacks too. The viewers can discuss the development of the game and predict the outcome. To entertain the viewers a group of Circus artist performed a bunch of really great tricks and acts. Nice to see the organization took the effort to give us this Half Time Show. It also added to the atmosphere of ‘Cirque du Freak’!
At the end of the game, which was won by The Roller Derby Metz Club at a close call, the viewers were allowed to come and stand at the edge of the oval. All players skated by at high speed and clapped everybody’s hand. First the winners with the home team in the circle and after that the home team skated by with the winners in the circle. The Metz girls decided to present their well-shaped butts instead of their hands!
After all this fun the girls of the match were chosen, one of each team chosen by the other team.
I had a lot of fun being at the first home Bout of The Rotterdam Death Row Honeys and their opponents The Roller Derby Metz Club. And I still haven’t mastered all of the game Rules, Regulations and Customs yet.
So I have two reasons to look forward to the next Bout!