I’ve featured a lot of uncommon sports in our blog over the years such as our outstanding ultimate Frisbee team, the Madison Radicals, our fun-loving summer collegiate baseball team, the Madison Mallards, as well as activities such as hooping and slacklining in James Madison Park. Plus we’ve recognized some of our UW teams that don’t always make the headlines like our fabulous women’s volleyball and hockey teams. In keeping with this theme, there’s another unique sport becoming very popular in Madison and whose season is just getting underway.
The Mad Rollin’ Dolls start their first roller derby “bout” this Saturday, December 5. The team competes at the Alliant Energy Center and has been around since 2005. Each year, the buzz around the Mad Rollin’ Dolls builds as more people discover the excitement of roller derby. While most of us associate roller derby as a bunch of mean girls pushing each other around, there’s actually much more strategy, skill, and athleticism. Plus there’s still that element of fun and spectacle.
Roller derby has its roots in the 1930s where fans came to watch 12-hour endurance events but were drawn more to the excitement of skaters smashing into each other. The sport flourished up to the 1970s, when it faded away like disco, partly due to poor management, crazy production antics, and the economic recession. In 2003, roller derby made a comeback starting with the Texas Rollergirls. Today there are more than 600 leagues and 19,000 skaters worldwide. The sport held on to its kitschy fun where women are encouraged to be aggressive and gorgeous.
A “bout”, the term for a roller derby competition, consists of two 30-minute periods with episodes of play called jams. Jams usually last about two minutes during each period. Skaters form packs which require two positions: blockers and jammers. Points are scored by the jammer each time she legally passes an opponent. Skaters can block and target using just certain parts of their body. Much of the fun can come from knocking down an opponent but there are also penalties for knocking down or blocking illegally.
Mad Rollin’ Dolls has two interleague teams plus four home teams and a recreational team. Experience ranges from the Dairyland Dolls interleague all-star team to the Mad Wreckin’ Dolls recreational team which welcomes even the beginner skater. Adding to the fun, players adopt crazy names like Gingah Snap, Kentucky Fried Carnage, and Sequin Destroyher.
Like some of the other athletic events we’ve featured, roller derby in Madison has two great things going for it: affordability and accessibility. In an era where professional and some college sports can bust an entertainment budget, tickets to a Mad Rollin’ Dolls bout cost only $10 in advance. And when you get your ticket, you’re among a crowd that’s close to the action, making the competition so much more engaging and enjoyable. Plus with names for the bouts like “New Year’s Bruise-o-lutions” and “Too Hoth to Handle” (Star Wars theme), you’re sure to have a great time.
The Mad Rollin’ Dolls website has plenty of information including how to buy tickets and the season schedule. But there are only five home bouts this season, so don’t delay in planning for a very memorable evening. In keeping with its quirky ways, Mad Rollin’ Dolls says this about their sport: The future is clear – first the Olympics, then world domination! Seeing how much fun they’re having, I think the world would be a better place with more roller derby!