Sunday, June 29, 2008

Something different on a Saturday night

"So when are we meeting up to go to the Roller Derby?"

Those are words I never expected to utter, but that's what I said on the phone with Kate on Saturday afternoon as we were planning our night. Two of her roommates are on the Queens of Pain team in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league, and on Saturday evening we went to the gym at Hunter College to see them play the Brooklyn Bombshells. I had never seen roller derby before, so I had no idea what I was going to see. I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had.

The entertainment started early. Since it takes a while to get through the metal detectors and security at Hunter College, and because the league likes to raise money, they played bingo to pass the 90 minutes or so between opening the doors and starting the bout. They also sold tickets to a 50-50 raffle and talked about the halftime entertainment. The bout started at 8:30 PM and I was lost for the first few minutes. Actually, I was lost for most of the night, but gradually I figured out how the game worked. The bout has two 30-minute halves. The players rotate in and out of the game during stoppages, sort of like a hockey lineup. Each "jam" is about two minutes and features a "jammer" from each team wearing a star on their helmet. Everyone skates counterclockwise (turning left as in NASCAR) and the jammers have to work their way through the pack (the blockers) and pass everyone from the other team in order to score points. There are penalties, injuries, and strategies, some of which I understood but most were lost on me. Queens jumped out to an early lead and at halftime was up by 30 points. But they had a few injured players so the team had to double-shift, which wore them down as the game went on. After a halftime show of bicycle polo and a cheerleader performance, Brooklyn chipped away at the lead and got it under 30 before Queens managed to hold on for the win. They did so in front of a packed gym full of Brooklyn supporters, who cheered lustily for their team. I was shocked to see a full gym on a summer Saturday night, filled with people who were as into the game as this crowd was. Kate cheered for her friends and yelled at the referees on questionable penalty calls the same way she yells at the TV during Yankee games, which I thought was funny. I guess sports are sports.

At the end of the night we congratulated Kate's roommates and then went in search of food and drink, which we found at a nearby pub. We all had such a good time that we're definitely going back. Next time I'll even know where to sit and what kind of photos to take.

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