Man alive! What a bout!

Tonight the Carolina Rollergirls played the Minnesota Rollergirls in Carolina’s second inter-league bout. In November, Carolina travelled to Minneapolis for their very first inter-league; this time, the Minnesota girls came down here for a taste of Southern hospitality. What’d they get instead? Beat, that’s what.

The thing is, the November bout saw Carolina take a loss. That was a downer, but the players I talked to said it was a real eye-opener and extremely… well, educational. See, the Carolina games between the local teams (the Debutante Brawlers and the Trauma Queens) are always about skill and finesse and athleticism. Sure, they’re rough – the Rollergirls are no wilting flowers, afraid to mix it up – but they’re athletes, not thugs.

I think it’s important that I state, clearly and unequivocally, that they are not afraid to get rough. I say this because I know some of them and they could totally kick my ass and I’d like for that not to happen. Perhaps that, in itself, is ample demonstration that they are no wimps.

Minnesota? They’re rough. It might be amusing to sit back and think of Carolina as a bunch of Southern belles with brass knuckles but Minnesota really takes the cake. No complicated metaphors for them, no sir. They fight. They throw their opponents around just for fun. I mean that quite literally. They get in there and try to draw some serious blood.

I have to say, they lived up to that reputation tonight. They were some tough customers. They’d check a Carolina Rollergirl the second the whistle blew to start a jam, just because. But even though Carolina got called on most of the fouls – I have never seen a jam where literally half of a team was in the penalty box, much less multiple times in the same game – and even though they had to contend with Midwesterners trying to beat the ever-living shit out of them, Carolina finessed and fought and powered their way to a ten-point victory over the course of 40 very intense minutes. An added bonus is that they held the lead for the vast majority of that time.

I have never screamed so much or so loud at a Carolina Rollergirls bout. I stripped my throat and left most of my voice at the rink. The place was packed, sold out long in advance of the bout, and the crowd went crazy for most of the time.

That’s actually, I think, my favorite thing about this bout: that we were all cheering for the same team. The Rollergirls I know personally are Debutante Brawlers. I never get a chance to cheer for the Trauma Queens. Tonight, though, I got a chance to cheer for the Trauma Queens who are just damned good and, unhappily for those of us pulling for the Debs, wearing black and blue rather than pink and white. Watching Violet Femme lap the Minnesota jammer and tear through the pack at supersonic speed, racking up 13 points (more? I don’t remember) in one jam? That was hella fun. It was awfully nice to get to cheer at the end of that.

I have a lot of friends who are really into sports. Me, not so much. I used to watch football, in the ’80s, but eventually I just fell out of love with it (and fell out of love with watching the Browns blow the AFC championship year after year). Eventually I wondered why I cared so much when there was something better on another channel. Eventually, it was that simple for me: it was just TV, just something as remote and impersonal as an episode of The Rockford Files. This is different, though. Nobody’s on the track because of their million-dollar contract. Nobody’s there to score an endorsement. I’ve said this before, I know, but it’s an accessible sport in a way enjoyed by no other sport I can think of. When the Rollergirls are on the track there are people three feet away – no, really* – who are screaming their lungs out for them. It’s raw and emotional and real in a way that watching the Super Bowl just isn’t. If you at all like sports, you should be going to Rollergirls games. That’s the bottom line.

* Three feet is the minimum distance required between the front row of floor seating and the outside boundary of the track. If you sit there – and I always try to do so – they give you a special warning that you could get hit. A lot of people get hit. It rules.