Muñecas Muertas skaters form a wall to stop San Diego’s jammer, Bonnie D.Stroir (26).
The score was tight. With three minutes of play left, the board read 75-69. The jammers lined up, elbow-to-elbow: Muñecas Muertas' stalwart Kamikaze Kim and the San Diego Wildfires' Ivanna S. Pankin.
The Muñecas had built an early 35-point lead, but the Wildfires roared back. With the Wildfires breathing down the Muñecas' necks, play became chippy. Kamikaze Kim and Ivanna S. Pankin rolled out, probing for weak spots in the pack. "I remember hitting the floor and I look up and Ivanna's on the floor, too," Kamikaze Kim said amid the postgame chatter in the locker room. "That jam was by far the craziest."
The Muñecas' signature strategy is to slow the pack, pushing opponents out of their comfort zones, and they executed the game plan perfectly in the first period. Wildfires co-captain Bo Toxic said they knew what to expect but still couldn't stop the slo-mo play. "We’re not used to having teams play at such a crawl like that," Bo Toxic said. "But we got them to play our game in the second period."
Muñecas blocker Carson B. Demented said her team lost focus and let the Wildfires back into the game. "We started to fall apart," she said. "When we’re winning, we start having fun and fucking around."
Still, the Muñecas held off the Wildfires and secured a victory.
Duke City Derby players were forced to go skate-to-skate against a former ally who helped form the bedrock of the Albuquerque league. Dahmernatrix, a blocker for San Diego, used to skate for the Muñecas. "We needed to show Dahmer that we’re still a good team without her," Carson B. Demented said.
It took months of distributing flyers and sweating it out in twice-weekly practices to prepare for the Duke City season opener. But despite the anticipation, the several hundred people in the stands were oddly quiet at first.
"I think the crowd wasn’t sure what was happening," said Kamikaze Kim. "I think toward the end, they kind of understood the game and got more into it." An explanation of the rules helps, but Kamikaze Kim said it takes a few trips around the track before a first-time fan catches the game's drift.
Buoyed by the excitement of their home-track debut, the Muñecas, Duke City's all-star travel team, hit hard and rolled confidently. Derby fans gradually got engaged in the game.
For the Muñecas' Neko Chase, the season opener offered a chance to test her skills against big-time derby competitors. "Trish the Dish and Ivanna S. Pankin are world-famous roller derby people," she said. "For the record, I took Trish the Dish out."
Tempers can run high during bouts. Muñecas blocker Sabrosa said she was looking forward to the postgame get-together, so players from both teams could cool off. "The after-party is a really important part of roller derby," Sabrosa said. "You take your skates off, take a deep breath and dance."
Disco Brawlers Bash the Bots
After the Muñecas put out the Wildfires, two Duke City Derby teams with a lot to prove took the track. Hailing from Santa Fe, newcomers the Disco Brawlers took on the win-hungry Ho-Bots in a bout packed with speedy jammers and quick scores.
During the second period, everyone in the Santa Ana Star Center held a collective breath as Disco Brawler jammer Meep Meep fell to the ground, writhing in pain. She walked to the locker room and returned to action several minutes later. She twisted her ribcage, but paramedics told her everything seemed intact and nothing was broken. "I was broadsided, and I couldn’t breath," Meep Meep said. "When it first happened, I thought I had broken my neck. My whole body spasmed, and it was like being born."
Meep Meep said she plans to return next month with no lingering effects from the injury. When asked if she thought she would have any hesitation, she said, "Oh no. Definitely not."
Brawlers' jammer Tronsexual helped her team cruise to victory despite playing heavy minutes in the previous bout. She said her teammates could have communicated better, but getting the win means they're doing something right. "We have some things to kind of talk about as far as strategy and teamwork and getting new people up to speed," Tronsexual said. "Overall, I think we did well."
Ho-Bots' captain The Vixenator couldn't play because of an injury, but she expects to be back in action for the next bout. "Our girls played super hard, and I'm very proud of them," she said. "We still have to prove ourselves, but this is the best game we’ve ever played by far."
A bright spot in the loss for the Ho-Bots was the speed and endurance of newbie Brutalitaur. She's only practiced with the team for six months, but the 18-year-old jammer had a huge impact on the game. Brutalitaur kept the Ho-Bots close by racking up points. "She's played field hockey, so she's used to getting hit and pushing herself as far as she can go," The Vixenator said. "She’s rookie of the year, in my opinion."
Brutalitaur said she's not ready to hoist that trophy just yet. "There are a lot of good newbies coming in," she said. "I’ve just found a sport that’s good for me."
The Rules of Roller Derby
The short and sweet version:
There are always two teams on the track at once, no more and no less.
Each team can have no more than five skaters on the track at one time.
Each team is made up of one pivot, three blockers and one jammer:
Pivot—Designated by a striped helmet cover. Skates in the front of the pack, controls pack speed and serves as a last line of defense against the opposing jammer. Can become jammer if jammer passes the helmet cover to her.
Blockers—Work together to help the jammer through the pack while stopping the opposing jammer. This includes moving opposing blockers out of the way.
Jammer—Designated by a helmet cover with a large star on both sides. The point-scoring player. Starts 20 feet behind the rear of the pack. Has to skate through the entire pack one time and lap the pack before she can begin to score points. Receives one point for each skater on the opposite team that she passes legally.