Break Neck Betties
On a quiet Friday night, I went to see one of the local roller derby teams here in town play a match against a team from Pullman, Washington. At first I was thinking that the Rose City Rollers was the roller derby team and I kept looking at their calendar to find their next match, but nothing was ever listed. So, as near as I can figure, the Rose City Rollers are not one team, but rather a collection four adult teams and two junior teams. I was lucky enough to see the Break Neck Betties play the Palouse River Rollers.
Admittedly, what I know about roller derby is limited to the Jim Croce song and an episode of King Of The Hill, so I decided to go online to see the rules of the game. I found that this wasn’t necessary as there was a woman giving pregame lessons on how the game is played, the nature of the penalties, etc. She gave us enough information that we could follow and enjoy the action, and she said if we had any questions during the game that we could ask people sitting next to us in the stands and they would be glad to fill us in on what was happening. This proved to be true. There were good-natured, loyal fans in attendance that provided a real community atmosphere, but there were a lot of first timers such as myself. I should note that the stands were dominated by women. The men in attendance were usually accompanying a woman, like the couple sitting next to me. They too were first timers and we joked and educated each other with the little tid-bits we had picked up so far. I won’t attempt to explain the rules here, but suffice it to say that one can easily pick up enough to enjoy the action.
The matches are played at The Hangar at Oaks Park, a city landmark highlighted by an amusement park. I arrived early enough to take stock of the place. The track surface is put together with connecting tiles with neon orange boundary lines outlining the oval track. The Betties were in the middle of their pregame warm up, which in and of itself was an entertainment spectacle. The place was beginning to buzz with excitement, and by game time there was a certain anticipation brewing of what was to come. With it being my first time and attempting to apply my new-found knowledge of the game, everything was going really, really fast. However, I could still follow the action enough to understand the progression of the match. Also, there were enough breaks in the action that I could garner a quick answer from a fellow attendee.
It became clear with an ever-growing point spread differential that our local Break Neck Betties were a superior team to the Pullman club. The Pullman club scored the majority of its points on power plays that were provided by the Betties spending multiple minutes of the jams in the penalty box, due to their rough play. One of the highlights of the match came when a Betty jammer emerged from the penalty box and chased down the opposing jammer and knocked her out of bounds, a legal move, and then reversed herself to the opposite side of the track to nullify the advantage the Pullman club was enjoying. We could see this play unfold in front of us and realized that the Pullman jammer didn’t see our Betty coming. What a thrill!
I had a great time, and look forward to returning. Next time with my daughters as I am sure they will enjoy this. The vibe there definitely had a “Keep Portland Weird” feel to it, but also a real American throw-back to a more gritty, non-digital world. Believe me, I was humming that Jim Croce song all the way home (round and round, oh round and round. Biggest hunk of woman that anybody ever seen!)