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Derby Girls

The underground sport of women's roller derby is on the rise and these ladies are not afraid of a few bumps and bruises
Michael P. Geffner
From the Print Edition:
Tom Berenger, July/Aug 2007

(continued from page 1)

"I used to be the fat, red-headed kid with glasses that everybody picked on," explains Snap before the bout while sucking down bottled water at an alarming rate. It's a humiliation she suffers from no longer. Instead, she is puffed to the hilt with the adrenaline rush of feeling. All at once, she is infinitely powerful and aggressive, athletic and graceful, and sexy and feminine. It's a combination, she says, that's so unusual, so alluring, that it can't help but captivate the men who watch them and addict the women who join them.

For the players, there's that irresistibly luscious tingle of unbridled tension release, the rare opportunity to pound thy fellow sister after a particularly stressful workweek, boyfriend problems or simply a rough ride in on the subway. At times, it translates into heat-of-the-moment helmet throwing, nose-to-nose shouting matches or down-and-dirty catfights.

"There's a lot of female testosterone going around," Snap concedes, but adds that the current code of women's roller derby is akin to that of Vegas: "Everything that happens on the track stays on the track." It's that or the unseemliness of appearing privately before a conflict-resolution board to settle the issue.

No one wants that.

"What we're all about is competition and camaraderie, kicking each other's ass for an hour, then having beers afterwards," says Snap, who's the Gotham Girls' public relations "mistress," as well as the past media and marketing director of the national Women's Flat Track Derby Association. "There's no money in this yet. So we're all here out of nothing but the love for the game."

That notwithstanding, the most memorable fight in the Gotham Girls' short history was between Joey Hardcore, the Pain's baddest bad girl, and the Mayhem's Roxy Balboa, who sports a perpetual shiner around her left eye and, according to her league profile, is 64 inches of "pure fighting power."

The two went after each other during the Gotham Girls' first championship bout in October 2005. The hostilities, according to Roxy, started with a stiff elbow by Joey jabbed to somewhere around the chest. They continued with a supremely growled "Bitch!" that Joey shot Roxy with her typical sneering glare, which prompted Roxy to vow, "The next time we go around the rink, you're going down!" And so it happened, on that next 45-degree turn, with both pulling shirts and dragging each other to the ground, tumbling around on the track, and throwing wild but healthy punches before the refs pulled them apart. It was quite the scene.

"We're civil but we still don't get along," the 26-year-old Roxy, a sweet-faced girl with short, light-brown hair, is saying now, perched in the bleachers tonight, as is Joey Hardcore, though the two are separated, thankfully, by about a hundred people. "I try to get along with everybody, but she's so smug, way too cocky for her own good. Such a punk ass." She claims the whole to-do exploded from something that "had been building all season. I just couldn't take it anymore, couldn't control myself. I finally said, 'I'm done with you.'" She giggles. "It's funny, I've blanked out on so much of it by now, but I do remember punching her good to the gut."

Unsurprisingly, the broad-shouldered Joey had an entirely different take on this she-said, she-said matter. "You mean the time I beat the shit out of her?" she asks. Then, after an eye-staring pause that one usually sees in the center of a boxing ring: "Yes, I tangled with Roxy, and I'm sure she won't forget it." A sex educator for teens by trade, the 24-year-old Israeli-born Hardcore is decked out in all dominatrix black, including a T-shirt that reads "XXX" across the back. She casts this positively unctuous grin that makes her look like Ricki Lake's evil twin. "I have a lot of anger," she offers bluntly, which explains her penchant for temper tantrums, incessant trash talking, giving the finger to booing crowds and for generally being an all-around troublemaker.

"Roxy was aggressively fouling me, not just hitting me with her forearm—which is a foul—but chopping away at me," is Joey's version. "So I took her down, grabbed her ankle and punched her." She then abruptly pulls out from under her shirt a ball bearing hanging on a chain around her neck—the Gotham Girls' low-rent equivalent of a World Series ring—and with an overtone of utter payback adds with finality: "And we won the game."

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