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It’s hard hitting. It’s edgy. It features women in tights, shorts, tank tops, helmets and roller skates. It’s roller derby, an American-invented sport dating back to the 1920s. Imagine a hockey game, but without ice. Abandon ordinary names in favor of pseudonyms like, Reaping Beauty, Autumn-Atic Shotgun, and Peek a Boom. Their nicknames are often supremely clever or delightfully vulgar. They are subversive, ridiculous, salacious and are, as a whole, excellent, perhaps the most enjoyable collections of puns available anywhere. Derby is roller-skating on steroids. It’s rowdy, raucous and sometimes punctuated with fights between players. Although it’s a violent sport it’s a great way to relieve stress. It’s cheaper than therapy and way more fun.

Classic roller derby never disappeared. There was a sudden explosion in roller derby’s popularity has centered on new, women-only leagues. Women’s derby has re-emerged across the nation and even here in Pennsylvania. The York City Derby Dames are ready for their first season. The Dames, whose lineup includes girls from all different professions seem to really enjoy the rough and tumble sport of roller derby, they attract fans from all over the region. At a York derby event, you’re likely to see women of all shapes, colors, and backgroundsand that is part of their charm. Aside from their playfully punned derby names, the Dames eschew stagecraft and take the sport seriously. Jamie Lynn Moore built

the York squad from the ground up taking inspiration from other leagues. Basically, it’s a start-up company based around something nobody has really ever seen staffed entirely by volunteers. It’s like starting your own country. Derby is the most impressive display of amateur athleticism one can witness. There isn’t enough presence or place for women in physical sports, in derby they get to showcase their strength, agility, and speed. It requires durability and stamina. They build their endurance using drills such as starting and stopping, dodging obstacles and players, and learning to fall without injury. You learn to keep skating even when you’ve been knocked around. Players protect themselves first with proper skating techniques.

They fall deliberately during practice to rehearse how to fall correctly and recover quickly, reducing chances of becoming a hazard to other skaters. A bout can look like a no-holdsbarred-free-for-all. There’s loud music, fast-paced scoring and plenty of violent collisions. Roller derby is a five-on-five game played in a skating rink. Each team has four blockers and a specially designated player called the jammer. The eight blockers line up in a tight formation, while the two jammers line up about twenty feet behind. The teams skate around in units called jams, which can last up to two minutes; a bout is composed of however many jams can fit into two thirty minute periods. Each team fields a jammer who wears a star upon her

helmet, and four blockers, one of whom, the “pivot,” wears a helmet with a stripe. The star-headed jammers are the only skaters capable of scoring points, which they do by passing members of the other team. With derby being a contact sport, every time a jammer enters a pack of blockers it’s a physical confrontation with skaters jostling for position. As they race around an elliptical track the clickclack of their skate’s echoes across the wooden floor, and when the skaters often collide the audience is instantly entranced. Even without all the many nuances of the rules, the very notion of constantly playing both offense and defense while whirling about in a veritable maelstrom of illintentioned women ready to bang bodies and willing to bleed for a few extra points is enough to send The Ink Well Magazine


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