Rollin With the Betties

by Quinn Welsch

Horizon Reporter

The Bellingham Roller Betties kicked off their fifth season of roller derby at Whatcom Community College’s Pavilion on Feb 11, with a display of feminism, fun, and fishnets.

The Roller Betties’ league consists of three teams: FLASH (Formidable League of Amazing Super Heroes), The Cog Blockers, and Tough Love.

Wearing face paint and red glittering capes, FLASH warms up before their bout, racing around the track on skates. A member of the Cog Blockers stands on the sidelines and watches the women. Her derby name is N. Joy Paine. Her number, 17, is marked in black ink along her bare arms. To her, derby is galvanizing.

“We’re using ourselves as self propelled rockets to fly at each other,” she said. “You have to be mean and aggressive.”

The feeling is mutual for Debbie Adriance, the mother of FLASH’s rookie, Rampaige. “I’ve been watching her play breakneck sports all her life,” Adriance said. “She’s got health insurance.”

The first bout starts and the Pavilion erupts. The gym is packed with fans waving flags and banners.

The bout puts FLASH against Public Frenemy, a team from Vancouver’s Terminal City Roller Girls. Osaka Punch, a retired Bettie, cheers FLASH at the top of her lungs from the beer garden. “Help out your girls!” she screams.

FLASH was left in the dust from the first period. Public Frenemy won the bout 186 to 54 in a blowout. FLASH is comprised mainly of rookies this season, in contrast to Public Frenemy’s core of veteran skaters.

OSAKA said the Cog Blockers also have many rookies this season. Their bout with Tough Love put them behind by nearly a hundred points at the end of the first period.  Tough Love won the bout 198 to 66.

“I’m gonna pretend like I didn’t see the score,” said FLASH’s Pinky (short for Pink Pansydropper). “It seemed like their jammers had more skill.”

Though it pays to be fast in roller derby, Public Frenemy’s Didgeri Doom said it’s all about control. “Instead of making big hits, we were trapping people,” she said.

Roller Derby, popularized recently through movies like ‘Whip It,’ is renowned for its brutality and theatrical aspects.

OSAKA said roller derby has evolved since she played on the league. “There have been a lot of rule changes,” she said OSAKA has never seen an “all-out brawl” on the track, but said the game does get heated at times.

The game is more than just competition though – or even sportswomanship. The names that skaters adopt serve as alter egos for some.

“I find that I’m pretty shy,” said Didgeri Doom, “But through derby I’m able to explore the extrovert in me.” Her name pays homage to Australia, where she is originally from. On the track, she is the likeness of a modern day Rosie the Riveter. Off track, she is Belinda Williams, a graphic design artist.

Some of the other Bettie names include: Walker Texas Mangle’her, Rebel S. Nature, Schweddi Brawls, Venus Mantrap, Anita Drink, Effin Sweet, Ninjalina Jolie, and many others.

Each bout lasts 30 minutes and consists of a series of jams. Each jam lasts two minutes, and has two packs of skaters simultaneously racing around the track. Each pack of skaters includes a jammer, three blockers and a pivot.

Jammers, identified with a star on their helmets, race ahead of their packs until they are behind them. Once behind, it is their job to attempt a bypass of the opposing team’s pack. For each opponent the jammer passes, one point is added to her team.

The blockers, identified by the solid color helmet, are responsible for keeping the jammer from passing them. They serve as defense and are the main body of the pack.

The pivot, identified by a striped helmet, skates ahead of the blockers and sets the pace. She is sometimes a last resort to stop the opposing team’s jammer.

The WFTDA’s Western Region has six Washington leagues. The Roller Betties ranked number 14 out of the 30 leagues in Western Region’s first quarter of 2011. They dropped to 16 in the fourth quarter. Olympia’s Oly Rollers were ranked number two last year, and rose to number one, and the famed Seattle Rat City Roller Girls were ranked number six, but rose to number four.

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