By Todd Reicher
Pop quiz: Were you aware Rockford hosts a roller derby team? If you got the answer wrong, then you didn’t know. But now you do. The Rockford Rage have actually been skating at the ISC (Indoor Sports Center) in Rockford for a few years, with the 2009-2010 season being their fourth.
Most people, myself included, remember roller derby from the 1989 television show called Roller Games. Sure, the show only lasted one season, but it had a very large rating and cult following in that one season. (The distributor went bankrupt, not because of Roller Games, which led to the cancelling of the show.) This form of roller derby deviated from the traditional flat-track roller derby by adding an embankment and making the track a figure-eight instead of an oval. The show was also a little “flashier” than standard roller derby, as the show producers took a page from the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) to create rivals and storylines for each team.
But the Rockford Rage is different from its television predecessors. They don’t have to create fake drama or make storylines for their bouts. They have one task at hand, and that is winning their bout. These women come out and give 100 percent every time they step onto the track.
What drives these women to play? It certainly isn’t money, as these women all volunteer and do not take home one cent for their hard work. From watching their most recent bout, you could tell these ladies do it because they love it. These women are not just roller skaters, they are athletes. Even if a person cannot physically play, they find some way to get involved. Take, for example, Sinful Sally, who was sidelined with a back injury and became involved by taking the microphone and being a guest announcer for the bout.
The Rage had a bout at home this weekend at the ISC against the Arch Rival St. Lunachix from St. Louis. This was my first bout this year, and I was hoping for a fast-paced, exciting match. The teams didn’t disappoint. The bout started out in the Rage’s favor, as they jumped out to a quick 24-7 lead just 10 minutes in. That lead would grow throughout the first period as the Rage took a big 66-40 lead into halftime. Twenty-six points may seem like a steep margin, but to anyone who knows roller derby, that lead can evaporate faster than it was built.
Lunachix came out stronger in the second period, holding the Rage’s jammers to only 15 points in the first half of the second period, partly because of Rockford’s inability to stay out of the penalty box. That opened the door for the Lunachix as they knotted the score at 81 just shy of the 15 minute mark.
But Rockford knew they could regain the momentum if their defense played like they did in the first. It started to work, as Rockford built up a 14-point edge going into the last minute of play.
The Lunachix had control of the last jam, and Lunachix jammer Whipped Scream skated fiercely as the clock wound down. For those of you who do not know the rules, a jam can last up to 2 minutes long, and can continue after the time on the clock has expired. As the clock expired, Scream raced around the track, taking a big lead over Long Legged Lola and the rest of the pack.
With the blow of the referee’s whistle, the jam ended. Rockford was hoping to hold on to their 14-point lead as the officials tallied up the score. Both teams gazed with anticipation at the scoreboard. Four points went up. Then, a few more. The tallies were still coming in. The final tally was counted, and the scoreboard reflected the final score of 127-126. The Lunachix bench erupted as they had come from a 14-point deficit and stunned the Rage in the last jam of the bout.
The bout lived up to my expectations, and exceeded them ten-fold. What effort and heart displayed by both teams! THIS, readers, is what roller derby is all about.
The Rage’s next bout is a double-header in Milwaukee Saturday and Sunday, May 22-23, at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex for the Midwest Brewhaha Tournament. The Rage returns to the ISC Saturday, July 17, when the team takes on the Kalamazoo Derby Darlins.
If you would like to learn more about the Rockford Rage, you can visit their Web site at www.rockfordrage.com, or contact the team by phone at (815) 871-4859. You can also learn more about the sport of roller derby by visiting the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Web site at www.wftda.com.
From the May 19-25, 2010 issue