(Marianne Lijewski / Alligator Staff) A Jacksonville RollerGirl blocks Gainesville Roller Rebels’ Lil Mamma Jamma as she attempts to score a point at the Saints vs. Sinners roller derby game hosted by the Rebels at the Alachua County Fairgrounds Sunday evening.
At a glance
- More than 500 fans gathered Sunday night at the Alachua County Fairgrounds to cheer on the Gainesville Roller Rebels at their first home match
- Players wear costumes and go by nicknames to intimidate their opponents
- Outside of the rink, the women in the league lead regular lives, with husbands, children and nine-to-five jobs
By SARAH KIENY, Alligator Writer
Wearing red metallic hot pants emblazoned with the words, “It’s gon’ hurt,” Spritzi Beers sped around the track as she lapped her tattooed, fishnet-wearing opponent to score another point for the hell-raising Sinners.
Spritzi is one of the Gainesville Roller Rebels, an all-female flat-track roller derby team.
The Rebels held their first home match, an inter-team scrimmage themed Saints vs. Sinners, in front of a crowd of more than 500 fans Sunday night at the Alachua County Fairgrounds.
Despite their on-track personas, members of the team lead fairly regular lives. They hold nine-to-five jobs and have husbands and children.
When she isn’t playing the role of Spritzi Beers, Lauren Schaffer is a business owner and part-time waitress at Satchel’s Pizza. Given monikers like “Terror A. Part” to conjure fear in their opponents, players are required to wear helmets, pads and quad speed skates. The rest of their attire, however, has no restrictions. From angel wings to black fishnets, the league’s costumes are just a part of their intimidation tactics.
Today’s derby girl is less theatrical and more badass, unlike the 1970s roller derby TV shows that featured staged scuffles and pillow fights at halftime. These tougher-than-nails Roller Rebels hold twice-weekly practices, and the full-contact bouts leave many skaters bruised or injured. Skaters for the league have had radial fractures, severely bruised tailbones and rink rash.
“I like hitting people,” said Catherine Seemann, known as Ms. Rebel on the track, who is out for the rest of the season due to torn ligaments in each knee. “It really is fun. You’re not supposed to play nice in derby.”
Seemann, founder of the Rebels, insisted she is not a violent person and said there is strategy involved in roller derby.
The frenetically paced sport is played in matches, called bouts, betweeen two teams. Each team has three blockers and one pivot who skate together in a pack as defense. Players called jammers start from 20 feet behind the pack and have two minutes to skate past the blockers and pivots to score points.
After the first point, jammers score additional points for every opponent they pass. The team with the most points at the end of three 20-minute periods wins. On Sunday night, the Sinners triumphed over the Saints, winning 107 to 64.
A resurging interest in roller derby began with the creation of the Texas Rollergirls of Austin in 2003 and has fueled the formation of more than 50 leagues across the country, according to a recent ESPN news story.
The Rebels described their league as a sisterhood in which the members watch out for each other.
While the husbands and boyfriends of the Rebels, known as Derby Widows, are supportive, they try to stay out of most of the planning and execution.
Dann Hansen, fiance of Jennifer Cowan, known on the track as Diamonds & Rust, stood on the sidelines watching their three children as Cowan circled the track wearing demonic face paint.
“It’s definitely a subculture where men aren’t allowed,” Hansen said.