Women's roller derby cometh

It must say something about me that I request days off work to drink Coors Light from a can and watch women truck around a flat track in roller skates, beating each other into submission.

I make no apologies. And neither should you if you really care about your community.

That's right, it's roller-derby season once again. The Southern Oregon Rollergirls are taking to the track Saturday against the Treasure Valley Rollergirls from the primitive Idaho backwater town of Boise.

Southern Oregon is blessed with two leagues, inhabited by the aforementioned Southern Oregon Rollergirls and the Sis-Q Rollergirls.

SORG is based out of the Medford Armory, which is where Saturday's bout will be held. The Sis-Q team holds court at Roller Odyssey.

Both are worth supporting. If you're man enough.

For this column's purposes, I will focus on Saturday's battle. I am working on a longer piece for a future Tempo about women's roller derby — its culture and its impact on the local scene.

SORG spokeswoman Fay Wrayge was kind enough to postpone her dinner Wednesday night to answer a few of my questions.

Q: Your website says your league is "skater run and skater owned." What does this mean and why is it important?

A: It's important to us that we are not owned by a company, corporation or rink. This league is driven by its members. We set up the bouts, sell tickets and clean up after the bout.

Roller derby has always been on the fringe. It has this outlaw edge to it, even though we want to be considered a real sport. But even then, we want to keep the freedom of having the players run it. We don't want to be like professional football or basketball and have companies run our teams.

Q: What is the etiquette when hosting another team? Do you socialize after bouts or do you sneak into the parking lot to flatten their car tires while they are warming up?

A: We have a hospitality committee that welcomes visiting teams and makes them feel at home. This is a sport of mutual respect. We always host an after-party after a bout.

Q: But things do get kinda rough out there on the track. Is there any animosity that spills over in these after-parties? Will the Medford cops have to show up to break up a "West Side Story"-sized rumble on Riverside Avenue?

A: They beat each other up on the track, that's for sure. But we always remember that we're all in this together. We don't want another team to leave hating us. We want to play them again. By and large, roller girls are some of the friendliest people I've ever met. The girls have friends on other teams.

Q: Come on. There must be some bad blood ...

A: Most girls drop that after the bout. We try to show sportsmanship. Even though it looks like a bloody brawl out there at times, we try to be fair to each other.

Sometimes things get heated, and girls might do something unsportsmanlike, but they pull each other aside and say that isn't cool. We don't need that stuff out there.

Q: What makes a good roller-derby girl?

A: We need to see heart. A willingness to work hard and work with other people. This is a rough sport, and you need to know your teammates have your back. The jammer is out there doing her thing, but supported by the team. The blockers and pivots must communicate with each other all the time. So you really need to trust each other to get things done.

The best girls have a passion for the sport. It's a delicate balance. You need some kind of ego to do this in front of crowds, but you also need to be humble enough to take direction from your team.

Q: It seems to me that women's roller derby is a rebellion against the Kardashians and Hugh Hefner girls who are the focus of countless reality shows.

A: Our league is dedicated to empowering women. I've seen so many women come to roller derby and blossom when they find inner strength they didn't know they had.

These are not powder-puff girls, even though there is a fashion consciousness on the track. We wear a uniform, but we also are proud of our fishnets. For us, it's about individuality and being in a team. These girls find so much power when they realize they are representing their community.

Q: Sounds like there is an ultimate goal in mind.

A: We want to empower a younger generation of girls through our sport. I want to bring up a generation of girls who kick ass and take names. Don't print that! (Laughing)

Too late. It's printed. And I couldn't have said it better myself.

Saturday's bout starts at 7 p.m. The Medford Armory doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door and $7 in advance.

Advance tickets can be ordered at www.brownpapertickets.com or picked up in person at Jack's Boardhouse, Castle Megastore, Bad Ass Coffee and Epic Ink in Medford, and from Eternal Body Art in Grants Pass. Children 6 through 12 pay $3 at the door; children 5 and younger get in free.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story