Roller derby nostalgia for a lifestyle?

Broads, Quads, Bruises and Brawls, the PPDD Slamazons versus the Muencas MuertasI enjoyed the buzz over the past decade as the Pikes Peak Derby Dames built their DIY franchise, as if a regional roller derby team had simply been an oversight of misplaced heritage. It didn’t occur to me to wonder why the WWWF of the 70s had gone the way of the spitoon.
 
This poster appears to depict a supine woman relishing the attentions of leprechaun droogs intent on mayhem, or -dare I suspect- her own rape murder?

I heard one Dame interviewed on local radio. She joked about a cat fight at the City Auditorium event the night before. Asked what being a roller derby queen meant to her, she answered “Everything! It’s a lifestyle!”

To be fair, she is probably referring to the full time job the dames have undertaken to enliven this city. At local events the Derby Dames always make an appearance to promote their upcoming bouts. The message is no more ever than frivolity and empowerment. But is the gladiator ring the greener pasture for those across the gender gap?

We can joke about mud wrestling, but marauding gangs of teenagers already cross our streets and schools intent on violence. Hair pulling being the least of the injury.

Did the zeitgeist of the 70s, newly health conscious, concerned for the environment, and sensitive to social issues, lose interest in the roller derby for its cartoon violence and promotion of an adolescent gang banger ethic?

The sport might have lost its television coverage, but roller derby teams have sprung up a quarter century later all on their own. As much as we might hold ourselves to higher standards, and hope to discourage gang violence, the ape urges are strong. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the trailer park out of the girl. The Salvation Army knows this struggle better than anyone, you can’t always keep a bad man up.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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