The Sac City Rollers roller derby girls are taking their fishnet stockings, broken bones, and tattoos… to the top level of roller derby competition. Recently, they took a couple of days to show me what it's like to be one of the girls.
Slamela Anderson likes pink sequins and loves a new athletic challenge.
ANDERSON: "Softball and volleyball, which I played non-stop for 12 years…you can't really apply it to derby. "
She was drawn to the sport by the movie, "Whip It," the story of a teenage girl named Bliss who uses roller derby to come out of her shell.
WHIP IT : "Get ready to meet your newest Girl Scout, Babe Ruthless!"
Slamela's one of three dozen women who couple a double-entendre roller derby name with glam outfits, torn stockings, or a myriad of tattoos.
Lipstick Librarian has all three, but has a warning for anyone considering fishnets.
LIBRARIAN: "If you skid on the floor with your fishnets, you can get them embedded in your skin and have to pick them out piece by piece."
HN ICY and the Blue-Eyed Monster are two of the league's all stars. They volunteer to train me at their concrete warehouse facility to be the best roller derby girl I can be.
We start…with stopping...
ICY "Okay, when you get back up, I want you to use your toe stop."
….and move to starting… on tiptoes…
MONSTER: "It's like walking in high heels. BEEP. Bend your knees more. (Laughs)"
"How bout duck walking? Is there a duck walking jammer start. There is a duck-walking jammer start! No sudden stops. All right."
By the end of day one I can properly run like a duck…
"[Clomp clomp clomp.] You had it! I totally I had it!"
And, I have an official Sac City Roller Derby Girl name… courtesy Slamela Anderson.
ANDERSON: "What's your actual name again? Bob. Let's go with um, Bombshell Bob. Bombshell Bob? Bombshell Bob."
Two nights later, Sac City hosts the OC Rollers for a bout.
The rules have changed since the sport's popularity peaked…and then crashed 40 years ago.
LA LUCHA: "no elbowing, no clothes lining, no tripping, no fighting. (laughter)
As Slamela Anderson skates past in her pink dress selling raffle tickets, Evan Smestad leans on a railing that's covered in fading black and confetti carpeting. He's fine with the old style of roller derby fading away too.
SMESTAD: "There was a lot more violence -a lot more. This is much more like, how athletic are they? Can they get by, use the blocks, etcetera. There's a little more strategy here. I like this a lot better"
Injuries are still common, though, and are badges of honor. The league website proudly displays its x-rays -including one of a broken leg still inside a skate.
One of the Sac City Rollers wears a bright blue singlet that says Rock Hell Belch on the back. She's 40 and has previously broken both collarbones.
BELCH: " I don't see myself stopping until my body gives out. Q:When do you think that might be? I don't know. I'm hoping to have another good ten years in me."
When it's time, one of the members of the league's junior program, the Bad Apples, will be ready to replace her.
The Lipstick Librarian says the goal of the program is to help girls aged10-to17 develop confidence…not to develop a love of spandex, fishnets or tattoos..
LIBRARIAN: " They play differently, they skate differently, they're treated differently. But, it's the same level of intensity. So we just encourage them to be the best that they are, not to be like the grownups."
It mirrors the advice given to Bliss in "Whip it"
WHIP IT: "I just wanted to tell you all that you're my new heroes." "Well, put some skates on… be your own hero."
Five days after the girls crush their visitors, I line up for my final practice.
A bout has two teams, each with four blockers, and one "jammer" who has to lap members of the opposing team to score points. Today, I start in the jammer position. The opposing jammer: …Blue Eyed Monster.
I never see the hit coming.
It took a lot of ticket sales to raise the money for their new bright blue synthetic floor. It has a little bit of give. And when I land, I appreciate every dollar.
LA LUCHA: "You're going to be sore tomorrow"
I lead the team in falling…
LIBRARIAN: 02 "Come back up, Bob, come back ."
LA LUCHA: Yeah. Yeah Bob. Oh oh oh. C'mon back Bob. (Laughs.)
La Lucha says it's a major penalty to cut across the track in front of everyone else... That's when the ref blows the whistle.
REF: "Major! Cut! Bob (laughter.)"
So, my last five minutes with the Sac City Rollers end with me… in the penalty box…
They expect to move up to a new level of competition in June. To their new opponents, I say, "Beware the Blue Eyed Monster."
Click here for more information on the Sac City Rollers.