Mark Hayward's City Matters: It's a show, it's a sport, and it's tough
The Granite Skate Troopers, from left, “Emily Deck’erson” (Caitlin Murphy of Concord), “Irate Pirate” (Bethany Tozier of Nashua), “N. Raging Grace” (Patti Finn of Hanover, Mass), partially obscured, and “Penalty Bex” (Bekah Kistler of Manchester), skate around as the team is introduced before taking on the Seabrook Meltdowns at a roller derby event at JFK Memorial Coliseum in Manchester on Saturday. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
For example: either you oppose Obamacare or you are a socialist who wants your doctor on the government payroll delivering Third World health care to your family.
So it’s odd that I was at the New Hampshire Roller Derby doubleheader last Saturday asking: sport or entertainment?
“Probably sport,” said Manchester resident Emily Sheldon, who sat in the stands as 10 women competed in what could best be called football in the round.
“These girls, they work really hard,” Sheldon said. What does she like about it? “It’s all girls, showing they’re tough too.”
The home games are played at JFK Memorial Coliseum. Last Saturday night’s game drew a paying crowd of about 200, a crowd the organizers said was small because of the carnival going on in the parking lot.
The air is filled with the low-volume chatter of the game callers and the clacking of multiple skate wheels on the track.
Talk to players or hard-core fans, and they’ll apologize for the roller derby of the 1970s.
The decade did to roller derby what disco did to rhythm and blues, it seems.
Today, no one gets a fake elbow or takes part in a folding-chair smackdown, they say.
No one flies off the track. In fact, there is no railing or banked track; the track is a flat, hard-plastic mat with a painted oval to designate the field of play.
Yet, the doubts live on.
Sport, insists Jenna Sheehan, a 26-year-old from North Reading, Mass. She manned a booth that explains the game and said everyone asks her if roller derby is a sport.
The league logo shows the silhouette of a shapely, skirted, long-haired woman; arms akimbo; head cocked and hips jutted forward in a sexy amazonian pose.
All wore uniforms and tights, and only one — Kistler — was skirted. None of the uniforms were particularly revealing, although a player who had the night off and worked the door — Chicana Bruzya — apparently knows that pushups are more than calisthenics.
“It’s a little of both,” said Raymond resident Cail Desrochers, who came to the game at the behest of Kistler. “I thought it would be a little more violent. I just see everyone having a good time.”
Sheehan is a construction site project manager and is applying for a college Ph.D. program. Teresa Giblin graduated from MIT and works for an information technology company.
She skated in both matches on Saturday, and was ready for the apres-game celebration.
“You can beat each other on the track,” Place said, “then have a beer with them.”
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