I didn’t know what to expect when I agreed to meet members of Fayetteville’s Rogue Rollergirls – the city’s only female roller derby team – at their home court, the Round-A-Bout Skating Rink behind Eutaw Village Shopping Center.
    The only real knowledge of the sport I possess is what I had gleaned from the 1972 movie Kansas City Bombers, starring Raquel Welch, and the few televised matches I’d watched back in the sport’s heyday of the '70s, where my adolescent mind was rocked and rolled like an off-kilter Roman candle by the sight of girls aggressively throwing other girls around like rag dolls on wheels.
    Those women scared me to the depths of my soul.
    However, after meeting the Rogue Rollergirls, all I could think of was the tag line from the old Virginia Slims cigarette ad – you’ve come a long way baby.{mosimage}
    The Rogue Rollergirls are not the brutish, unfeminine bunch of bruisers I had envisioned. Though all were athletic and toned, a few were actually what I’d call "dainty" in appearance. They reminded me of that Don Henley/Stevie Nicks song, Leather and Lace – tough as an old saddle, but also soft and feminine as the black fishnets, which, along with a military-style camouflage top, they wear into battle against other tough, yet soft girls.
    Mothers, soldiers, wives of soldiers, daughters, girlfriends – the Rogue Rollergirls it turns out, pretty much run the spectrum of Fayetteville womanhood.
    Bull Lee (all the girls use stage names that represent their on-rink personality) who founded the team in October of 2006, is married to a soldier deployed in Afghanistan and a mother of two. She looks more like an aerobics instructor or phys ed teacher than a lady who could crush your skull with a single flying elbow – which, by roller derby rules (yes, there are rules in this seemingly unorganized chaos of estrogen-fueled aggression) you’re not allowed to do during the match.
    Speaking of rules, after talking to Bull and consulting the Internet, this is Roller Derby 101: there are 14 girls to a team, with five on the rink floor. The person who scores is the jammer, who uses her blockers to get around the rival skaters. The jammer scores when she laps the competition. You may block using body parts above the hips, excluding forearms, hands and head. Elbows may be used in blocking, but cannot be swung at other players or used to hook an opponent's arm.
    It’s an aggressive, action-packed sport that hooked Bull and never let go.
    "I was skating in Ohio with the Jet City Rollergirls when I moved here with my husband," said Lee. "I tried out for the Carolina Rollergirls in Raleigh and made the team, but then my husband was deployed. With two small children I couldn’t make the commute two to three times a week for practices.
    "I .did not want to stop,” said Lee. “Once you start derby it’s a lifestyle, not a sport.
    "So in October I had a meet and greet, about 10 girls showed up and we started from there. In about six months or so, we were up to about 20 girls. Our first bout was March, 2007, against ourselves and we had 400 people show up."
    Among the first skaters to show up for Bull’s casting call was Evergrace, a trim, attractive girl who looks … well … graceful.
    Though "grace" had nothing to do with her first real match.
    "During the introduction, I tripped on my first step into the ring and fell flat on my face in front of everyone," said a sheepish Evergrace.
    But she recovered from that first misstep to become one of the “grannies, or leaders, of the team – a team that is 4-0 on the season.
    It is Evergrace’s job to mold and bring along such young talent as Lief Mia Alone, a native of Maine who wears magenta and black make-up around her eyes and sports a scarlet streak in her hair that gives her the futuristic look of Mad Max meets Blade Runner.
    Like Bull and some of the other skaters, Mia was deeply affected by the 2001 documentary Hell on Wheels, an award-winning film that featured a group of Texas women hell-bent on reclaiming the glory days of roller derby.
    "I saw the roller girls show on A&E and I had to do it," said Mia. "Roller derby is the most fun I’ve ever had. The best thing about it is having an aggressive sport that women can participate in. And the girls are great."
    Despite the aggressiveness of the sport, Lee says serious injuries are rare, though she did follow that up with the news that recently, one of the Rogue Rollergirls broke her leg in three places.
    However, the danger to life and limb doesn’t dissuade the Rollergirls, not even the oldest member of the team, Slipknot, whose muscle tone and unlined face betrays her true chronological age. (Side note: None of these girls had any apparent scars. Or blemishes. Which make me think maybe women should just ditch the Curves workout and L’Oreal and strap on a pair of skates.)
    "I’ve been doing it for seven months and I really have to work hard to keep up with the younger girls," said Slipknot, who in real life works as a military contractor. "I always roller skated in the parking lot where I worked and someone told me there was a derby team. I showed up at practice and have loved it ever since.
    "My favorite part of it is the adrenaline rush," said Slipknot. "Pure adrenaline. Once you get the adrenaline, that’s the drug; you don’t want to do anything else."
    In fact, Slipknot carries a lottery ticket around, waiting for the big payoff so she can devote her life to the sport.
    "If I ever win I’ll be gone from my job and doing roller derby every day," said Slipknot. "I’ll build my own rink for the girls."
    You don’t have to wait to win the lottery to watch the Rogue Rollergirls in action. On May 4 at 4:30 p.m., they meet the Reedy River Girls of Greenville, S.C., at the Round-A-Bout, 880 Elm St. Tickets are $12 or $7 for kids ages 6-11. You can save $2 by visiting the Rollergirls’ Web site, www.roguerollergirls, and buying tickets there.
    The after party is at Coaches, where I’m hoping the still attractive Raquel Welch shows up in her Kansas City Bombers outfit.
    Or better yet, fishnets and camo.


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