Monday, August 20, 2007

Roller Derby Action



Our friend Dayala called Saturday afternoon and asked if we'd be interested in seeing the Bay City Bombers roller derby team that evening.



It was being held in the Bombers' ancient haunts of Kezar Pavilion at the edge of the Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park, and the place felt like walking into a literal time warp.



The Bombers were playing against the Chicago Pioneers, one of the revived mixed-gender "professional" roller derby teams that reconstituted in the late 1990s.



It seems that roller derby started during the Depression as an offshoot of the marathon dance craze and over the decades it peaked as an entertainment during the early days of television in the 1950s and 1960s (click here for an interesting Wikipedia article on all the various leagues and schisms).



The sport has died any number of times and presently has mostly revived with all-female leagues raced on flat tracks rather than the traditional mixed-gender banked track affair we were seeing that is an odd mixture of serious athleticism and "sports entertainment" like professional wrestling.



The teams were an interesting mixture of legendary old stars and young people who were being mentored in the Roller Derby Way of Life...



...with its skaters flipping dramatically over the rails and into the crowd...



...lots of fisticuffs...



...and plenty of outrageous drama over the course of eight separate periods that alternated between genders while keeping a cumulative score.



The tickets were cheap if you bought them in advance, $10 for adults and $5 for kids, and the crowd was half the fun with the large, scary woman above taunting the Pioneers and leading the audience in chants of "Let's Go, Bombers, Let's Go!"



There were also more family groups of more ethnicities than I've ever seen at a public event in San Francisco, and everyone seemed to get along famously.



The greatest moment for me was at intermission just before the second half when the Bombers' captain was being honored for his decades of service to the sport and its revival, and after a long speech was awarded with a monstrously large trophy.



This apparently so enraged The Bad Guy of the Pioneers, an excellent athlete/villain named Trujillo (#58 above), that he walked over to the Bombers' captain, grabbed the trophy out of his hand, and proceeded to smash the thing into small pieces all over the rink at which point mayhem ensued.



We were duly informed that Trujillo had received a $500 fine "PLUS the full replacement cost of the trophy."



The match finally wound down to the last minute and a half with the Bombers six points behind, but the gentleman above managed to leap over the entire pack at one point which had been conveniently tackled from behind. He then lapped the pack again and proceeded to climb on top of the rail and somehow skate around them, scoring 10 points in the last seconds and thereby bringing joy to the home fans.



Afterwards, the fans and the players joyfully hung out with each other, and Dayala drove us home, remarking "that definitely exceeded expectations." The next match at the same place with the same teams is Saturday, October 13 and I can't recommend it highly enough (click here for the Bay City Bombers website).

10 comments:

momo said...

I remember watching roller derby on TV growing up in SF in the late sixties-early seventies. I think this was the first time I saw women athletes compete outside the Olympics.

Jon said...

OK Mike, You win. Absolutely the best culture blog in SF. Who else gives genuinely interesting and informative coverage of high and low culture in SF? Not to slight your political reporting, but I love your reports from the symphony and now the roller derby. Hooray for you.

sfmike said...

Dear jon: I've gotten some nice, sincere compliments over the last couple of years I've been publishing this thing, but those may be the sweetest words I've yet heard. Thanks so much.

Matty Boy said...

Wow. Roller derby. Wrestling has stayed in the public eye by making itself so much more grotesque than it used to be, much to the danger of the participants who are dying young from steroid abuse. But these pictures make it look like exactly the same product we got back in the 60s! Congrats to the competitors and the fans, and to mike who lets the public know about it all.

Did I already say wow? Yes, I guess I did.

puck said...

oh, i'm so glad that you posted about this - i've been really sad that i missed it, since i learned at it at a few hours after it happned. it's great to see pictures - i hadn't realized that the bombers were banked track. i wish they were bouting again before i moved away!

AlbGlinka said...

Nice comment from Jon and I agree...

That one audience member's bazongas are even bigger than Madame Glinka's!

Hey, I saw the dead animals you guys will be carrying in Tannhauser. PETA would NOT approve!

sfwillie said...

As I recall, the home team (Bombers) always won the match with a miraculous come-from-behind final jam.

I love the trophy story.

Mathias said...

You know, I went to see the Bay City Bombers last year at Kezar, can say it was one of my best San Francisco experiences ever. Kudos to SF Mike for getting it right in his commentary, his observation that the event had the kind of crowd one just doesn't see much of anymore, sadly, in San Francisco. Indeed, a throwback, a reminder of our city's wonderful past when the working class and families could afford to live here.

momo said...

I read through some of your links, and realized what a big deal Joanie Weston was at the time. I remember her throwing elbows and being secretly thrilled.

Anonymous said...

I was there at night!!! All of us remember watching it many years ago on TV - in fact, one of member of our party remarked that this was the first time they ever saw it in color. What an hysterical, fun night we had. We were laughing, booing, hissing, yelling and ducking down (we were in the 3rd row)! We all came tumbling out of Kezar with smiles across our faces and thinking that this was the best therapy we ever had!
suzy h.