All posts by KC Carr

Forever Fearleaders

One of the most common questions I get about roller derby from a fan’s perspective is: how do you decide who your “favorite” teams are? I understand cheering for the home team, but aren’t the house teams pretty much all home teams?

Well, yeah… but there’s more to it than that. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for my part, I just let the teams come to me. That’s literally all there is to it — I show up, watch some derby action, and my mind picks my favorites for me. Imagine what that was like at the Show-Me Der-B-Q when two of my favorite teams, Houston and Omaha, faced off on the last day. Minutes into it, I knew my heart was behind Omaha.

I remember perusing the KCRW site about three months before the 2010 season began. I’d never been to a bout before, I didn’t know any of the skaters, and at that point in time, I had no idea where my loyalties might lie. Based on the web site, the team photos, and unfathomably, the uniforms (which can have a remarkable effect on a fan’s psyche), I assumed intuitively that the Victory Vixens would be my favorites. Everything about them screamed, “We’re your team.”


And something about “standing at attention,” but anyway.

March 27, 2010 showed up, and I found that I loved the Vixens, all right… but before the first game was even over, my whole heart belonged to the Black Eye Susans. From an early stage, four little words altered the landscape of my derbytude and laid the foundation for my love of the greatest sport in the world, and those four words are BLACK EYE OR DIE.

With Dead Girl Derby, I thought it would work in much the same way, and for a while it did.

Until it didn’t.

I immediately latched on to the Royal Pains. For one thing, my alma mater’s colors are purple and white, so we’re off to a good start. Throw in strong leaders, skaters, and personalities like Dir-T Diana, Azz Catch-em, Dixie Danger, and top-scoring Poison Evie, and you’ve got America’s all-American midwestern team of all-Americans, America. (I don’t even know what that means.)

Meanwhile, as surely as my favorites reveal themselves over the course of the season, so do the villains — and this league’s villain team was, without question, the Fearleaders. I’ve no idea why; it’s not like any of them were rude, cocky, or showed poor sportsmanship. In fact, they hadn’t done anything. They didn’t even have anything in common with KCRW‘s dyed-in-the-wool villains, the Dreadnought Dorothys; at least the Dorothys’ villainy was justified by their iron-clad un-defeat-ability. By contrast, it seemed that the only team the Fearleaders could beat for the first half of the season was themselves.

But that was how I liked it, and the Fearleaders maintained their villain status in my mind for the better part of the season. I delighted in their consecutive losses, and much like the Kansas Jayhawks, I felt the irresistible urge to cheer for anyone who was playing against them. This included the Lovely Lethals, who pulled out a last-second win in game three that marked the very last time I ever Thought Pink. I was not necessarily a Lethals fan, but I couldn’t have been happier to see the Fearleaders go home winless yet again, particularly after such a nailbiting ending. Those are the worst.

So what the hell happened? Didn’t I say in a previous post that I wound up on their side? What the hell happened?

Well… they beat my favorite team. Wait, what?

I went into game five knowing there was no way the winless Fearleaders were going to beat my Azz-catching team of All-Americans. Regardless of the fight they’d put up against the powerful Lethals, an entire season (thus far) of coming up short would have to take its toll. And beyond that, I was pretty confident about the Pains’ ability to take them down, since they’d done it already.

But that’s not how it went. To their credit, the Fearleaders brought it to the track and left it on the track — and by the time it was over, they’d scored their first win of the season against Their Highnesses, the Purple Passion, the one team in Dead Girl Derby I’d give my left skate for, the Royal Pains. I was incredulous. Throw in the Deadly Sirens‘ first-ever loss at the hands of the Lethals that same night, and I went home less than enthused with roller derby for the first time ever. That’s because I’m a bad sport, you see.


Pictured: the opposite of me.

One of the good things about being “just” a fan is that strictly speaking, you’re not under any real obligation to show good sportsmanship. It’s a bit hypocritical, since sportsmanship is something I value so highly in a derby league, but since I’m a paying customer, I’ll cheer for (and against) anyone I want. And I wasn’t about to lose any sleep over the Fearleaders‘ win, but I was certainly in no mood to congratulate them on accomplishing what I’d considered impossible only three hours earlier.

The next morning, though, it was all I could think about. Twelve hours prior, I’d watched two dedicated, hard-hitting teams slugging it out on the track, but only one was really fighting for its dignity in the face of an entire season of losses; you can’t really overstate that part. Once they’d pulled out the win, all four teams were out on the track, hugging and butt-slapping (ok, I made that up) and congratulating the Fearleaders on their very first-ever hard-earned win. The level of camaraderie and straight-up friendship on display that night showed me, the Most Important Fan Ever, exactly what this league was made of: integrity, grit, guts, and massive… massive ladyballs. It takes a great deal of character to congratulate the underdog who just beat you 30 seconds earlier; the Dead Girls are certainly made of finer stuff than I.

As proud as I was of the Royal Pains for their extraordinary show of character, I was finally realizing that the Fearleaders, with their endless tenacity, dedication, and competitive spirit, were setting up shop in my heart whether I liked it or not. If the entire league could stand up in front of everyone and congratulate them on getting over that hump, then there’s no reason that shouldn’t be good enough for me. The Fearleaders didn’t lose another goddamn game all year, and I’ve been right behind them, cheering them on every inch of the way ever since — even at the Zombie Apocalypse, when they faced off (once again) against the Royal Pains, this time for third place. It was the first time Their Highnesses didn’t have me in their corner.

If you had told me six months ago that I’d be cheering for the Fearleaders against the Royal Pains before the season was over, I’d have said you were smokin’ banana peels. All things being equal, though, you may never see me at another Dead Girl Derby game wearing anything but the black and grey.

How I Met Dead Girl Derby

I remember once laughing out loud at the name “Dead Girl Derby” when my friend Jerry commented, “That doesn’t sound like much fun to watch.”

And admittedly, I was a bit cautious approaching the league in the beginning, almost skeptical, in a way. I discovered Dead Girl Derby the same way I found the Kansas City Roller Warriors — online. That’s really where the similarities end, but the fact remains, this side of two years ago, my surfing habits managed to lead me to one of my favorite things in the world, and indeed, the greatest sport ever invented. Do read on.

In the case of KCRW, I forget the exact sequence of events, but I do remember getting wind of Kansas City roller derby and Googling it; the rest is history. That was at the tail end of 2009, and the next season wouldn’t even begin until the following March, but I got online and bought season tickets immediately, without attending a single game. Some people think that’s nuts, like buying a movie you’ve never seen, but I already knew what I was getting.


Not this.

I voraciously ate up my first season, even tripping up to Omaha to see an away game (the second game I ever attended, in fact); I only missed one game all year, and that was because I was on a cruise ship to Alaska. Shortly after the season ended, I stumbled across someone on Facebook (maybe even KCRW) who had “liked” an organization called Dead Girl Derby, which was based in Riverside and was apparently some kind of an upstart league I wasn’t familiar with. A quick tootle around their rather sparse web site didn’t tell me a whole lot except that they weren’t affiliated with KCRW, that they operated out of an organization called the Old School Derby Association (OSDA), and that they had taken special care to wait until KCRW‘s 2011 schedule had been posted before announcing their own. That told me something right there.

Once I’d made sure there were no conflicting dates (turns out the Dead Girls played on Sunday nights), I decided to give it a go. And as excited as I was at the prospect of getting twice the derby in the same season, I ruled out the possibility of season tickets sight unseen. In all fairness, KCRW seemed relatively established, playing all their games at Municipal Auditorium downtown (and Hale Arena in past seasons). By contrast, the Dead Girls held their bouts at a skating rink up north somewhere, about 30 miles from where I lived. At the time, Dead Girl Derby didn’t even have photos of their bouts on the web site, so all things considered, I was understandably skeptical about committing to an entire season without at least seeing what I was getting first.

The first game of the season was nuts. The crowd numbered nearly 600 fans (packed inside a skating rink, don’t forget) and garnered a news report on the local NBC affiliate — not bad for a league beginning only their second season.

Wait, second?

That was news to me too: the Dead Girls’ debut season was already behind them and I hadn’t heard peep one about it. All I did know, as I was standing in a line that stretched to the back of the building, was that I needed to arrive about thirty minutes earlier for future bouts, because there’s nothing I hate worse than standing in line while all the good seats inside are being snapped up.


VIP seating is extra.

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, my only complaint.

In my opinion — and I know not everyone will share this sentiment — the rink at which the Dead Girls held their games was an absolute dump. It’s probably no worse than any other skating rink I’ve been to, but in those cases, I was actually skating, not trying to find a comfortable (or even clean) place to sit for three hours or so. I won’t name the venue or link to their web site, but suffice it to say that I eat before the games, not during, and I bring my own hand sanitizer.

Also, and this is the most unfortunate part, there really is no good place to sit. The crash zone is on the hard, filthy skating rink floor; there are actual seats on both ends of the track, but that limits visibility, and your only other options are the benches outside that little concrete wall that surrounds the rink itself. The set-up is just altogether bad, but then again, it is a skating rink. My fondest wish for Dead Girl Derby‘s third season is that they find a better venue. They certainly deserve it.

[ Insert rumor here. ] Yes, I’ve heard things.

Having said all that, let me be clear: I will never, as long as I can avoid it, miss another Dead Girl Derby game. I will have season tickets from now on, period.

I was immediately impressed with their skating ability. I had no idea what to expect, and yes, there have been the inevitable comparisons between them and KCRW, but that really isn’t the point. The games themselves are very competitive (even more so than the KCRW house games, actually), and in fact, they only got more competitive as the season went on. The sportsmanship the skaters display is incredible, and their willingness to accommodate fans by posing for pictures and being altogether awesome in person impressed me as well.

And wait till I tell you the story of how I began the season hating the Fearleaders… and then ended the season cheering them on against my favorite team. Believe me, no one was more surprised than I was.

Last I heard, Dead Girl Derby‘s 2012 season will begin sometime in February. We haven’t confirmed that and the schedule isn’t posted, so forget you heard it from me, because we try not to traffic in rumors. And here’s hoping for a new venue for the Dead Girls in 2012 that is much more suitable for derby, much cleaner, much larger, and much closer to civilization than Riverside.

Update your bookmarks

Our domain, http://www.kcderbydigest.com, is now active, so please do update your bookmarks to reflect the change (although the previous WordPress address will still redirect you here).

Also wanted to give a shout-out and much derby love to all the new blog subscribers and Twitter followers who have come out of the woodwork in the last few days. Thanks for following along, particularly Those On Eight Wheels. You’re the reason we do this.



Yes. Yes you are.

If you haven’t subscribed, there’s a handy SIGN ME UP button in the right-hand column that will take care of that for you. And hey, spread the word about KC Derby Digest. It may be the off season, whatever that means, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t hungry like the wolf for all things derby in Kansas City.

Likewise, if you have news (not rumors or gossip, please) about upcoming events/developments in your favorite KC derby league, don’t hesitate to e-mail us at kcderbydigest [at] gmail [dot] com.

Blacksnake Roller Girls

KC Derby Digest has gotten wind of a promising new roller derby league in St. Joseph, Missouri (about 55 miles north of Kansas City) called the Blacksnake Roller Girls.

BRG‘s Facebook page went live today with a very short description and little else: “Newest roller derby sensation to hit St. Joseph, Missouri. Skating under the Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor (M.A.D.E.) rule set. More info coming soon!”

Let’s hope so. As of press time, no further information has been posted, but you can bet we’ll be keeping an eye out for what is no doubt a very talented, dedicated group of ladies bringing the greatest sport in the world to St. Joseph.

Continental Divide and Conquer

Because apparently, with teams like the London Rollergirls and Toronto Roller Derby, you’re not supposed to call it “nationals” anymore.

So this weekend, the final brackets for the WFTDA Championship Tournament were released, and they look a lil somethin’ like this:




Click for larger, printable PDF version.

Overall, it is clearly going to be a very, very good month for WFTDA fans. Let’s get right to it.

Game 1 – Minnesota vs. Charm City
I don’t think anyone would pick Minnesota over Charm City, particularly since the latter enjoys a 3 ranking in the East division (right behind ridiculous powerhouses Gotham and Philly), and I’m not, either. Minnesota has certainly earned their place at nationals this year (after a Cinderella season in 2010), but they can’t stand up to this. Charm City by 120 pts.

Game 2 – Rocky Mountain vs. Nashville
By far the ugliest game of the tournament, nothing else to be said. Rocky Mountain by triple-digits, easy. I don’t even want to speculate on the point spread.

Game 3 – Kansas City vs. Rose City
I may get skewered for this, but I cannot, in good conscience, slate my home team for elimination in the first round. Rose City may be ranked 4th in the super-powerful West, but I’m picking Kansas City to edge them out by no more than 20. This one could be brutal. Both teams will come away crying for mommy.

Game 4 – Philly vs. Naptown
No contest here, 2E Philly will crush Naptown early and often. By at least 100.

Game 5 – Charm City vs. Texas
Texas may still be riding high from their upset over KC at the Show-Me Der-B-Q two weekends ago, but it won’t be enough to take out Charm City. Baltimore by 40.

Game 6 – Rocky Mountain vs. Gotham
I absolutely cannot wait for this one. Here you’ve got two of the toughest, most iron-clad leagues in all of women’s flat track, Rocky Mountain having taken the Hydra last season and Gotham winning their 2011 sanctioned bouts by an average of 173 points. Assuming the 1STBANK Center is still standing at the end of this one, I’m going to say Gotham by no more than 30, and possibly quite a bit less.

Game 7 – Kansas City vs. Windy City
Let’s face it, the North Central Region isn’t underestimated, they just don’t have the muscle, at least right now, that the other divisions do. Windy City‘s no pushover, but I’m picking Kansas City by 50.

Game 8 – Philly vs. Oly Rollers
Quite a match-up, this one, but I’m going with the obvious choice. Oly by 30.

Game 9 – Gotham vs. Charm City
Charm City‘s luck officially runs out in Game 9 — not that they got here on luck, mind you, they got here on sheer bad-assery. Gotham is just too much, though, they’ll win by 50.

Game 10 – Oly vs. Kansas City
These two titans met earlier in the season, and KC put up a strong showing against #1 ranked Oly, but the end result will be the same here. Oly by 70, or more if KC can’t keep their lady-asses out of the box.

Championship Game: Gotham vs. Oly
This is as it should be — the two best teams in the nation going head-to-head for the WFTDA Championship, and it couldn’t happen to a more talented buncha ladies. I’m going to say Gotham by no more than 20, possibly way less. In fact, if we’re lucky, this one could come down to the final jam.

Post your picks in the comments section, or if you’re too lazy to fill out the whole bracket, just let us know who you think is going to be the WFTDA 2011 Champion.

4 Ridiculous Things You Probably Believe About Roller Derby

Who among us has been to a WFTDA or OSDA bout and didn’t love absolutely every moment of it? And for those who raised their hands, how many of you also delight in the deaths of puppies and baby woodland animals?

Roller derby is one of the few sports that just about anyone can enjoy. It’s fast-paced, exciting, easy to follow once you’ve learned a few basics (just like any other sport), and it is, in my opinion, one of the most affordable sporting experiences available today, dollar-for-dollar. That’s referring to tickets, mind you; by the time the bouts are over, you’ll want so many t-shirts, stickers, patches, hoodies, caps, and key chains that you’ll probably wonder where the “affordable” part went.

But it’s also one of the least-understood sports in the country, and given the flamboyant history of roller derby dating back to the wild and crazy 70s, it’s no wonder. Those who were around then can remember the spectacle, and even those who weren’t have probably seen the footage. Here, then, are four of the silliest misconceptions making the rounds today about women’s flat track roller derby.


Myth #1: The games are staged, and the outcomes are pre-determined.

The reality:
The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is nothing like the roller derby of the 70s, when Raquel Welch dazzled us in Kansas City Bomber. Obvious differences aside — like the presence of a flat track instead of the banked track Welch skated on — the games (and fights) actually were staged back then and the outcomes decided in advance, much like present-day professional wrestling. But those days are long gone.


Yeah, no.

Likewise, the Old School Derby Association (OSDA) skates under a slightly different set of rules, but the parallels remain: even though there is an element of spectacle and the skaters adopt tough, almost cartoonish monikers under which they compete, the fact remains that the roller derby of today is a real sport.

The official WFTDA rule book is a quarter-inch thick (and costs eight dollars to buy), complete with penalties, parameters for ejection, and “zones of engagement,” which I still haven’t figured out. It can take years of experience to really grasp the minutiae of the game, and by then, the rules have been revised slightly and there’s more to learn. But the point is, anyone who’s afraid they’re in for a WWE-style fake-fest is in for a shock, because there are games to be won — and believe me, these girls are in it to win it. Best get out the way.


Myth #2: The players make good money doing this.

The reality:
Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

The WFTDA is a not-for-profit international governing body of women’s flat track roller derby; none of the skaters get paid for their participation. Players must pay for their own equipment, medical treatment (when necessary), travel expenses, and all incidentals related thereto including meals, hotels, and so forth. They pay monthly dues to the league and are required to participate in committees that organize fundraisers, event planning, rulebook changes, marketing, and merchandising — all without a paycheck. It can (and often does) amount to an enormous time commitment, but there’s hardly a one in the bunch who would say it isn’t worth it.

The women who participate have full-time jobs, families, spouses/partners, children, and bills to pay just like all of us. The fact that they’re infinitely more bad ass than we are doesn’t mean the electric company just looks the other way. Although I would, if I worked there. Who wants to incur the wrath of a derby girl?


Go ahead and count me out.


Myth #3: It’s basically a fight on wheels.

The reality:
Did I mention there’s an actual game being played? As rough as the game of roller derby can be, some of you would be positively shocked by the kinds of physical contact they can’t make: elbows, punching, tripping, kicking, even shoving. All of the above would likely result in an ejection from the game on the basis of gross misconduct. The rulebook is very specific on the kinds of blocking allowed, the body parts players can block with, and the legal target zones, i.e. the parts of opposing players’ bodies you can hit. If you’re still stuck on the similarities between roller derby and pro wrestling, you may just want to get it out of your system now:

Now that you’ve seen that (fun) mess, go to our YouTube page at www.youtube.com/kcderbydigest and compare it to any one of our game videos. Except that you can’t, because there is no comparison.

The level of sportsmanship displayed by players in the WFTDA is unparalleled. I’ve seen fights in baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, and even tennis, but I have never, ever seen a fight at a WFTDA bout — and I’ve seen bouts in Kansas City, Los Angeles, Omaha, Des Moines, and Houston. That kind of sportsmanship is pretty extraordinary when you consider the level of physical contact and competition these ladies experience on the track. Unsportsmanlike conduct that leads to violence is so rare in this particular league that when it does happen, fans give it a name like “The Punch Heard ‘Round the Derby World,” or something equally cheesy. Because it just doesn’t happen.


Myth #4: It’s a low-class, lowbrow game for tattooed bikers and bull dykes.

The reality:
First of all, I’d mind my pints and quarts, if I were you, about assuming all tattooed bikers and bull dykes are low-class. Even if you believe it, seems like saying so could be hazardous to your health.

But social stereotypes aside, if you go to a game sometime, what you’ll quickly realize is that you meet all kinds. Roller derby appeals to people across the social spectrum, and that’s really the beauty of the sport. Football is marketed toward the blue-collar good ol’ boys cookin’ up barbecue, tailgatin’ in the parking lot with coolers fulla Schlitz, and baseball is typically the sport of choice when your Chairman/CEO drops by and mentions he’s not using the company box seats that weekend, so who’d like to see the Yanks take on the Red Sox? Roller derby, in actuality, defies all barriers. You will see plenty of tattoos at the games (and maybe a mohawk or two, if you’re lucky), and you’ll also see lots of button-down shirts and even a pocket protector here and there.


Just browsin’ for a new tattoo.

If you’re still not convinced, look at some of the companies that sponsor your local league. Here in Kansas City, the businesses that sponsor KCRW and Dead Girl Derby run the gamut. They include roofing contractors, sign/print companies, restaurants, apartment and housing complexes, attorneys at law, professional photographers, and yes, tattoo shops. Likewise, the jobs and careers the skaters hold down when they’re not on the track would surprise you, if you’re still in the “derby is low-class” camp.

Take your pick:

And so on. And so on. On top of everything else, every event is billed “family-friendly,” and I regularly see kids of every age at the games. If that doesn’t change your mind, we probably can’t help you anyway.