Jammer Mostly Harmless pushes through the traffic. Photo by Scott Ball.

Roller derby has always been a curiosity of mine. I didn’t understand the rules of the game, but it seemed like an entertaining event. After I photographed a derby practice for this story, I knew I had to catch an actual match. The Alamo City Roller Girls Las Tejanas versus Dallas’ Assassin City Roller Derby squared off in the first of two matches on Saturday evening. The high level of organization put on by the derby was nice to see and unexpected. Multiple skaters walked around with signs that said “Ask me about roller derby” and a small army of referees, penalty judges, and score keepers filled the gymnasium at the Mission Concepcion Sports Park.

Cast Iron Cassy, Streetcar Named Destruction, Dire Rita, and Juggs Judy were some of the player names. The quirky, in your face names made me believe the derby didn’t take itself serious. When the game whistle blew, I quickly realized just how wrong I was. Jammers speeding past my camera, blockers crushing the opposing teams players, and coaches screaming for formation changes made me feel like I was in a high stakes playoff game. Fun for the whole family included face painting, concession stands, and plenty of room for kids to play. Our local team, Las Tejanas wiped the floor with Dallas’ Assassin City Roller Derby 273 to 45.

Referee Chop Stewie deliberates with other referees. Photo by Scott Ball
Referee Chop Stewie deliberates with other referees. Photo by Scott Ball

Below is an excerpt of Roller Derby 101, which was stated in a pamphlet given out at the event:

Each roller derby bout consists of two 30 minute periods and a 20 minute intermission. Both teams are on the track at once – each with one pivot in the front (wearing a striped helmet), three blockers in the middle, and the jammer (wearing a start on their helmet) in the back. At the beginning of each jam a long whistle signals for the pack of pivots and blockers to take off and two short whistles signal the jammers to leave the line. The jammers will sprint as fast as they can and fight their way through the pack. The first jammer to legally get through the pack claims lead jammer status and has the advantage of calling off the jam anytime she wants. The jammers will lap the pack and for each member of the opposite team they pass, they will receive one point. A jam will last two minutes unless the lead jammer calls it off early.

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Scott Ball

Scott Ball is the Rivard Report's photo editor and a native San Antonian.