Roller Derby At A Crossroads: Bye-Bye Fish Nets, Hello ESPN

By Aylin Y. Woodward
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Columnist Aylin Woodward points out, “Roller derby now stands at a crossroads, torn between going mainstream, with national media coverage and bids to become an Olympic sport, or remaining true to its punk rock roots and a do-it-yourself attitude coupled with devil-may-care whimsy.”

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.

With one minute left on the clock, skater Krista Corwin places her front wheels just behind the starting line, core tight, legs coiled, arms ready to pump furiously. The roar of the crowd and the flash of the cameras fade away as Corwin waits for the final whistle in the bout between the Santa Cruz Derby Girls’ Boardwalk Bombshells and Bay Area Derby’s Berkeley Resistance.

The shrill tweet then echoes through the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium as she takes off like a gazelle, leading the Bombshells on a recent Saturday to their first victory of the 2017 season.

The Bombshells and the Resistance are just two of more than 1,250 amateur roller derby teams around the globe. But all the excitement about one of the fastest-growing sports in the world masks the fact that roller derby now stands at a crossroads, torn between going mainstream, with national media coverage and bids to become an Olympic sport, or remaining true to its punk rock roots and a do-it-yourself attitude coupled with devil-may-care whimsy.

Skaters continue to argue over whether they should wear wild outfits or uniform jerseys, and whether they should use their legal names, or punny ones like Shamrock N. Roller or Sharon D. Payne.

“I want roller derby to be both: to keep that punk rock edge, as well as become a polished, well-recognized endeavor for elite athletes,” said 33-year-old Sophia Booth Magnone, who teaches literature at UC Santa Cruz by day and morphs into “Patti Smithereens” by night.

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