Roller Derby Part 1: Battering the Temple

Do you ever just want to do something that could be potentially dangerous? I don’t mean wanting to do something dangerous because it is dangerous. I mean having the desire to do something specific, like football, for example, that you’re pretty much guarantees you’ll get hurt in some way while taking part?

I was recently taken to the roller derby here in Los Angeles by a friend of mine. The LA Derby Dolls, a league of several different teams, have their own rink, which was where the Drew Barrymore film Whip It was apparently made. This is where we went to see my first roller derby match. My friend recently began taking roller derby classes, which are a combination of fitness and lessons on how to play the game. She was encouraging me to join her, and I have to say, I was both scared and highly intrigued.

When I went to the match, I found it was like nothing I’ve ever really seen before. The whole event is a spectacular, theatrical mash-up of sport and sub-culture. I suppose it must be a lot like live wrestling events, except it’s a little more out there because it features women in the role of the body-bashing athlete. I have never been to a live wrestling event though, so that is just a guess.

But I did find myself wanting to participate. As I watched the “jammers” try to break through the pack or zoom past by the skin of their teeth, and as I heard the crowds cheer, I thought, “yeah, that would be all right.” But it is a given that you will get beaten up. I have no idea how many players went down that night, but I think I counted three refs falling hard, usually the victims of skaters accidentally sweeping their legs as they suffered their own wipeouts.

Roller derby skaters will get hurt. The only question is how badly. They wear helmets, mouth guards, and other padding where needed, but it is still a given. So my question is, in a sport like this, are we dishonoring the temple of God by purposely placing ourselves in a situation where we know our bodies could be damaged? Are we not using wisdom? I know there are situations where physical pain is a necessity to accomplish what God asks us to do, but martyrdom is a far cry from something like this, which is at best for fun and at worst for the sake of our own glory.

I mentioned football at the beginning of the article. I would ask the same questions about that sport. There are other issues I want to address regarding my experience at the roller derby, but for now, I would like to see if anyone else can weigh in on this one. And does the fact that women are the ones engaging in this sport make a difference at all? It’s a tough call.

About Kristi Israel
  • http://www.twitter.com/STEFCON_1 STEFCON 1

    Whip It was filmed in Detroit (in a movie studio built warehouse renting Oklahoma’s banked track) … the movie itself was based on a book written by an LA Derby Doll.

    TV shows have been filmed at the Doll Factory (but no movies).

  • http://www.twitter.com/STEFCON_1 STEFCON 1

    Who’s God? :)

  • Alan Noble

    Who is God or Whose God?

  • Robin

    Interesting question. Thanks to my husband (and a bizarre interest when I was a child), I HAVE been to live wrestling matches. When I was a kid I just remember it being great fun and pulling for the “good guys” against the villains. When I went with my husband lately, I was a little disturbed, but I didn’t really think about the fact of whether the wrestlers should engage in an activity where they might get hurt. I guess I just assumed it was choreographed and the risk was minimal, though. What disturbed me were all the kids (and adults) screaming things like, “Break his arm!” Now I know they probably think or know it’s fiction, too, but it still seemed a little bloodthirsty, or not what kids should be taught. My husband, though, thinks that wrestling–as opposed to today’s movies or TV shows, for example–is just good wholesome family fun.

  • Corinne

    I’m finally commenting on this awesome post. :) Finally!

    I was the friend mentioned in the article, and I have continued to skate in the Derby Doll’s introductory training program, Derby Por Vida. I initially learned of the Derby Dolls and roller derby at a New Year’s Eve party where I won tickets to a bout. Intrigued and a bit confused about what roller derby was, I went to my most trusted source…Wikipedia. Then, I found the Derby Doll’s website, found out about DPV, and the rest is history!

    After a few months now, I feel comfortable answering your question(s), Kristi. And they are fantastic questions:

    So my question is, in a sport like this, are we dishonoring the temple of God by purposely placing ourselves in a situation where we know our bodies could be damaged? Are we not using wisdom?

    To this, I would say, where is the line? When I order fries with the full knowledge that I don’t need them and that they will clog my arteries, am I not doing something similar? Damaging my body, just without the bruising? I would argue that the intense strength and athleticism that roller derby skaters have does not dishonor the temple of God, but rather shows how uniquely and amazingly each person is created. Skaters come in all shapes, sizes, and athletic abilities, and yet they skate together, train harder, and become better physically and mentally to meet their task.

    I know there are situations where physical pain is a necessity to accomplish what God asks us to do, but martyrdom is a far cry from something like this, which is at best for fun and at worst for the sake of our own glory.

    I can only comment on my own experiences, but I must say that starting from ground zero in a derby league is definitely not fun nor for any glory. :) I had never skated before when I joined. It took me almost the entire class time to get to the track on my lame skates. But, I really wanted to do it, and I kept pressing on. Watching the pros at bouts just made me want to push harder, work harder, and better myself so that one day, I, too, could skate that fast, be that stable, etc. To this day, I sometimes end class panting, wondering why I even try. But – I’ve gotten stronger, I have become more physically fit, and I have made friends I would never have met otherwise. That, in part, has made it 110% worth it. :)

    And the hitting/falling? It’s actually not that bad when you start beefing up. :) There is a strategy; no wanton hitting allowed!

    Cheers.

  • http://wrestlingproblems.jimdo.com/ Jim Blanquist

    I heard somebody talking about this on the radio yesterday, but I can’t remember what station it was.


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