BOSTON — All over the city last week, a poster screaming in red, white and black popped up everywhere: “Detroit vs. Boston.”
The Detroit Derby Girl Allstars, who represent the best of Detroit’s five derby league home teams on the road, traveled to New England for their first bout against Boston since 2009. Detroit looked incredibly tough, cool and collected.
Spanish Ass’assin, otherwise known as Angie Veronese, and so named for her killer booty, is one of the team’s captains, and served as this reporter’s guide into the Alpha-woman’s world of roller derby.
She introduced the team and soon Freakin’ Rican (Leela Cabello) proudly showed off the scar that runs almost the entire length of her upper left arm. “I snapped my arm in half,” she says with a little smile. Roxanna Hardplace (Laura Livingston) pulled her T-shirt over her shoulder, to show off her own scar, and poked out her broken collarbone.
“It is fantastic” to play derby, Ass’assin gushed. “Very invigorating.”
Derby is the fastest-growing women’s sport in the world. The leagues are skater-owned and -operated, and they are self-sufficient, with a governing motto of “by the skaters for the skaters.” No one can come in and buy their team, per Women’s Flat Track Derby Association rules.
There’s a growing movement to make derby an Olympic sport. Detroit’s Racer McChaseHer (Amy Ruby) also plays on Team USA — the current world champion team — in the international Derby World Cup.
The players on the Detroit team have been skating for 7-8 years, while the average career of a derby girl is just 4 or 5. The women range in age from 25 to 40, with Fatal Femme (Danielle Simone) as the eldest — and also a grandmother. The women range in occupations too, including nurse, lawyer, teacher, hairdresser, wedding designer and school bus driver.
Coach Speedy (Rob Dunn) has an inline skating background. Being benched by Speedy, the team agreed, is one of the worst things that can happen. “It’s like your dad giving you that look,” they said.
“Sometimes, they just need a time out,” Speedy explained.
“Losing your mind will get you benched,” confessed Boo (Lauren Dziadosz). “I’ve learned to take my own time outs.”
The game against Boston was held at Simoni Rink in Cambridge, not far from the MIT campus. Food trucks served raw oysters and hamburgers outside. The White Stripes thumped over the speakers as each Detroit girl was introduced and cheered on as they lapped the track.
Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis introduced the game. “I’ve never seen anything like this before!” she declared, just before she blew the first whistle.
“Boston! Boston! Pinch! Pinch! Pinch!” chanted the crowd in support of their home team. Boston took the lead immediately, and Detroit spent a good bit of time in the penalty box. Unfortunately, 195-153-Boston was the final score. Despite the loss, officials named McChaseHer MVP
“I’m proud,” said Coach Speedy. “We didn’t lay down.”
The loss helped them realize “a couple of holes in our strategy that we need to work on and practice,” said Ass’assin. And they will, as they prepare to go to the sectionals in September and championships in November.
Detroit is the oldest and largest roller derby league in Michigan and ranks number 15 out of 155 teams.
Also representing the D in Boston were: Swift Justice (Michelle Thomas), Murder City Mistress (Kelly Genei), Feta Sleeze (Amanda Misisian), Bruisie Siouxxx (Bethany Soucie), Lazer Beam (Kathryn Prater), Ally Sin Shoverland (Jen Denryter), and U.S.S. Denterprize (Heather Jay Robinson).
Catch the Detroit Derby Girls at the DIY Art Fair, Sept. 13-15, at the WAB tent pouring beer.
All tips go to support the Detroit Derby Girls.
Valerie Vande Panne is a freelance journalist based in Boston. Send comments to valerievandepanne.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.