It’s Bout Time
Beneath their tough-girl persona, the Appalachian Rollergirls have an obligation to give back to their community.
Having helped benefit organizations like OASIS Inc. and the Watauga Humane Society, the roller derby team is no stranger to the area.
“It’s really nice to go out there and beat the crap out of each other,” blocker Jen “Rolli Cannoli” Pillow said. “But in the end, a portion of the proceeds are going towards one of these charities.”
The undefeated Appalachian Rollergirls (ARG) will reach out to Blowing Rock resident Eric Ford and his family at Saturday’s home bout against the B. Messie Smiths of Chattanooga, Tenn., at the George M. Holmes Convocation Center.
Eric Ford was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in May and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Proceeds from the ticket raffle sales will go toward the medical bills, as well as any personal or travel expenses the family might need.
Pillow said a few girls from the team knew Ford and his family and decided to directly help an individual and their family with a home bout rather than a charity. “This time, we wanted to make it a little more personable,” she said.
Roller derby, a sport that’s had its fair share of popularity and game changes in the 20th century, has made a comeback in the last 10 years in the United States, Pillow said. ARG formed in 2009 and is currently in its second season with a 4-0 record.
Roller derby bouts are played on an oval track with two jam sessions lasting 30 minutes and contain a series of two-minute jams in each session.
Each team has five girls on the track, four blockers and one jammer, who travel in packs of five, whether it is four blockers and one jammer or three blockers and two jammers. The blockers line up on the pivot line 20 feet from each other, and the two jammers fight for lead jammer by seeing who can pass through the blockers first.
Jammers can then score by passing opponent’s hips, one point for each blocker passed and an additional point for lapping the jammer. It’s the blockers’ job to make sure the opposing jammer does not pass through.
The lead jammer can call the jam off before the two minutes is up for strategic reasons, Pillow said.
“You want to not let them score,” she said. “So, let’s say our jammer is coming up, she gets like two or three points, the other team’s jammer is right there about to score, she calls the jam and, as soon as the whistles blow, she can’t score anymore points. You can nickel and dime teams’ points.”
While it is a full contact sport, Pillow said players cannot elbow, punch, trip or push another player from behind, as well as only making contact away from the face.
Pillow said roller derby has a special culture to it, including nicknames, like her’s, “Rolli Cannoli,” a play on her nickname, “Little Cannoli,” after her Italian heritage.
“It was like you take on this character, like a persona,” she said. “You could be a massage therapist during the day, very serene and calm, and then you get on the track and be the nastiest, beastiest girl out there.”
Blowing Rock resident Gwen Honeycutt has been a roller derby fan for two years since ARG formed and her daughter, Sheena “Punk Rotten” Honeycutt, was on the team for its first season.
“I went to several bouts last year and thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said. “It is so much fun to cheer on your team, and everyone loves to see gals knock each other down.”
Doors open at 6 p.m., and the bout starts at 7. Tickets are $5 for students with ID, $10 in advance and $15 at the door, and fans 12 and younger get in for free. Advance ticket sales are available at Black Cat Burrito, Boone Drug at Deerfield, Lucky Penny and Woodlands Barebecue.
Raffle tickets will sell for $1 for one of nine prizes, including a Pabst Blue Ribbon bar lamp and house cleaning service for two hours. Winning numbers will be announced at the bout and on ARG’s website, http://www.appalachianrollergirls.com.