How Roller Derby Works

Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from

Josh Clark: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. This is Josh Clark. Charles W. Bryant is clearing his nose out across from me.

Chuck Bryant: I was laughing up boogers because you were singing Dolly Parton right before we went on air.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I was.

Chuck Bryant: I love Dolly.

Josh Clark: I'm hoping that was never recorded by Jeri secretly - surreptitiously.

Chuck Bryant: We have not had a little outtakes in a while. It's been a while. Jeri, get on that.

Josh Clark: We haven't said anything funny in a really long time.

Chuck Bryant: Is that what it is?

Josh Clark: I think that's the problem.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, boy.

Josh Clark: Hey, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Hey, dude.

Josh Clark: Did you know that we are smack dab in the middle of roller derby playoff season?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Oh, you did?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I would say -

Josh Clark: - Did you know that prior to 9:00 a.m. this morning?

Chuck Bryant: - No, no.

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: But I would say we're smack dab in the middle of a roller derby revolution.

Josh Clark: Yeah, yeah. We're smack dab in the middle of a roller derby playoff season that is situated within a larger roller derby revolution.

Chuck Bryant: Indeed.

Josh Clark: Can we agree to that one?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: Okay, yeah, you're absolutely right. Roller derby - it's kinda everywhere. If you are not into it, I'm sure you've at least seen some cool posters or stickers on cars -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - supporting roller derby leagues all of a sudden. And if you noticed that there really weren't any prior to 2001, you're a pretty sharp person.

Chuck Bryant: I would say so.

Josh Clark: We have our own roller derby league here in Atlanta - the Atlanta Rollergirls.

Chuck Bryant: Have you been?

Josh Clark: I have not. I've seen them on Cable Access though.

Chuck Bryant: Is that your Tuesday night?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Just watching Cable Access?

Josh Clark: I know. I actually don't remember where I would have seen them because I don't even have Cable Access, or cable, or anything right now.

Chuck Bryant: We need to go. We need to make a point to go.

Josh Clark: It's, like, right down from my house.

Chuck Bryant: It's on Ponce, right?

Josh Clark: Yeah, the Arab Shriner Temple.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, oddly.

Josh Clark: All right, we'll go.

Chuck Bryant: All right.

Josh Clark: Because you know Saturday, September 25th, which is probably before this will come out -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: - that's the next playoff.

Chuck Bryant: I bet if we took Jeri she'd know, like, a third of the people there.

Josh Clark: She probably -

Chuck Bryant: - You know? They'd be like, "Hey, Jeri. What's up?"

Josh Clark: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, Chuck, the Atlanta Rollergirls are one of 98 sanctioned leagues -

Chuck Bryant: - And growing.

Josh Clark: - roller derby leagues. Yeah, because when did Tracy write this article - like, maybe 2006?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I think that the WFTDA, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, has been around since 2004. So, she did not acknowledge that in this. So, it was probably 2003.

Josh Clark: Okay, so, since 2003, Tracy cited there was about 30 leagues.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Now, there's 98 sanctioned and another 43 that are apprentice leagues. They're up and coming.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Right? So, there is a boat-load of roller derby going on around this country.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: And I was looking on the Flat Track Derby Association's site and they have, like, the links to all the different team's pages.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: So, they have the logos of each one.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And I think I found the best one.

Chuck Bryant: Which one?

Josh Clark: My favorite was the Dutchland Rollers out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They have, like, an Irish woman with that head kerchief on with a black eye.

Chuck Bryant: Amish or Irish?

Josh Clark: Amish.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay.

Josh Clark: Did I say Irish?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, she might have been Irish, too.

Josh Clark: Did I say Irish?

Chuck Bryant: You did.

Josh Clark: Oh, that stinks because I really meant Amish.

Chuck Bryant: That's all right. So, is that their whole getup? They all wear Amish gear?

Josh Clark: I don't know. I just saw the logo.

Chuck Bryant: They probably do because they go with the themes, generally.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But that's for later, right?

Josh Clark: So, Chuck, let's talk about this. Let's talk about roller derby, and by let's talk about it, let's talk about its history.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, from what I can tell, Josh, in the mid-1930s, there was a sports promoter named Leo Seltzer - sounds very, like, sports promoter form the '30s, doesn't he?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: "We need a roller derby, see?" And that's basically what he said, but initially it was - you know, they used to have all these endurance competitions back in the day?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Like the dance-a-thons, and all those silly things you did before television?

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: His was initially a roller skating endurance competition.

Josh Clark: Right. It was called the Transcontinental Roller Derby.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it was, and the idea was to do 57,000 laps, which is about the distance across the U.S.

Josh Clark: It's about 3,000 miles.

Chuck Bryant: That's a long way to skate.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But they all kinda realized this kinda stinks and it's not very fun to watch.

Josh Clark: It does. Plus, skaters were skating about 11.5 hours a day.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's no fun.

Josh Clark: Right? And I'm sure there's a pretty sizable cash prize. This is during the Depression. So, you could make people, like, wrestle bears in tutus -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - and do all sorts of crazy stuff -

Chuck Bryant: - Sure.

Josh Clark: - to, you know, feed their family.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So, I'm sure that's why people skated 11.5 hours a day for these things. The problem wasn't that it was too much for human constitution; it was that it was boring.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: It's just people going around a track again, and again, and again, and then ultimately, its like, "Wow, they just skated across the U.S.," but in the meantime, it's boring. And there was a sports writer - a very famous sports writer, named Damon Runyon -

Chuck Bryant: - Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: - who in 1937, came to Seltzer and was, like, "Look, dude. This is a good idea, but the coolest part is when people run into each other."

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: "Why don't you make something, like, that really emphasizes that?"

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And apparently, Seltzer was like, "I don't know. That seems kinda rough," and, "We'll give it a shot." All of a sudden, the next thing you know, you have, like, 1930s ladies just beating the tar out of each other.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Have you seen footage of it?

Chuck Bryant: It's pretty awesome.

Josh Clark: It is. I mean, back in the '30s, too -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: - you think of everyone as so gentile and everything.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: And no, it was just as rough-and-tumble as it is today.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah, and he only had the endurance version for a couple of years, I think, before he was like, "You know, you may be on to something."

Josh Clark: Right, and from that point on, that's roller derby.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, Josh, and it grew. It was very popular during the '40s and '50s, and clearly, if you remember, like, Happy Days, I think there was a roller derby on Happy Days at one point.

Josh Clark: There was. Didn't Pinky Tuscadero participate?

Chuck Bryant: I don't know. I was wondering that earlier.

Josh Clark: Seems like something she would do.

Chuck Bryant: See, it seems like she'd be too cool for that, but she would, like, beat up the girls after the match maybe.

Josh Clark: That's pretty bad.

Chuck Bryant: I don't know. We'll have to look that up.

Josh Clark: Chuck -

Chuck Bryant: - Leather Tuscadero, wasn't it? Or was that her sister? Were there two of them?

Josh Clark: Was Leather a nickname?

Chuck Bryant: I don't know.

Josh Clark: Man.

Chuck Bryant: We'll have to look that up. But it did grow in popularity up until about the '70s. I think a lot of things declined in the '70s because of the stinking economy -

Josh Clark: - Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: - and the gas crisis.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: And so, people weren't going out and spending money on things like roller derby anymore.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Or skateboards.

Josh Clark: Skateboarding had an opposite effect though, didn't it?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it boomed, I think, because of that awesome documentary the Lords of Dogtown.

Josh Clark: Was that a doc?

Chuck Bryant: Well, there was a documentary and then a feature film based on the documentary.

Josh Clark: Oh, okay.

Chuck Bryant: But the documentary is better.

Josh Clark: Okay, well, yeah, it usually is.

Chuck Bryant: - But all the swimming pools - people couldn't afford to, like, fill up their pools. So, the pools dried out and they skated -

Josh Clark: - Right.

Chuck Bryant: - skateboards in the pools.

Josh Clark: And that - Stacy Peralta was one of those who would go on to found Powell-Peralta Skateboards -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: - the greatest skateboard company of all time -

Chuck Bryant: - They were awesome.

Josh Clark: - who would sponsor the greatest group of skaters of all time - The Bones Brigade.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But that has nothing to do with roller derby except for the wheels.

Josh Clark: Well, it does actually have something to do with roller derby in this case that the doc is always better than the feature film. You just hang onto that one.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: Put that one in your back pocket.

Chuck Brya nt: Well, it's interesting though in that roller derby did decline in the '70s, but that's when it was actually probably most visible because they had those televised, I remember, when I was a kid.

Josh Clark: Do you?

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah. They televised it on like -

Josh Clark: - You were, like, a 25-year-old?

Chuck Bryant: That guy was 25 in 1975. And I sent you the link earlier and we watched a little bit of these clips. If you YouTube, like, 1970s roller derby, you can see some of this stuff.

Josh Clark: You can, and you can hear the commentators. When they tried to revive it in the '70s after it's decline, there was kinda an artificial revival where roller derby toured the country in civic centers and small towns.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, like an exhibition-type of thing.

Josh Clark: Right, but there were different times, but like, the announcers were the same.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And the announcers used a lot of colorful language. Like, there was one woman -

Chuck Bryant: - They were misogynistic. Let's just come out and say that.

Josh Clark: There was a woman who was like - I think they cited her weight at about 200 pounds. She was, like, a big blocker.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And the announcer said that she was roughly the size of the State of Rhode Island. And it was just kinda like - even on the YouTube clip, the person who posted it said, "I apologize for the announcer saying that -"

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: "- one of the skaters is the size of Rhode Island."

Chuck Bryant: It was the - anything went back there in the '70s.

Josh Clark: Pretty much.

Chuck Bryant: You could do anything you wanted.

Josh Clark: Pretty much, but even that didn't keep roller derby into the '80s, like, that kinda fantastic misogyny -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - and the kinda World Wrestling look and feel that it had to it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they took it sorta over the edge to where they would, like, fake hit each other, and stuff like that.

Josh Clark: Right, but that didn't keep it alive, right?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark

And we should say also that that revival is significant in that it foreshadows the 21st century revival because it was all women.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Prior to that -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, yeah, true.

Josh Clark: - in the '40s, the '50s, and the '60s when - like during the heyday of roller derby, it was coed.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, well, not coed on the same team. They would have, like, the men -

Josh Clark: - No, teams were coed.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: I think periods were not coed.

Chuck Bryant: - I didn't see that. Oh, see, I thought it was women competed on the same night as men, but only against each other.

Josh Clark: I think teams were originally coed, which has grown from the first roller derby where they were 25 teams of one man and one woman -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - and that that carried on. So, I think the teams were coed.

Chuck Bryant: Oh.

Josh Clark: But different periods it would be the male team or the women's team.

Chuck Bryant: Got you.

Josh Clark: I think.

Chuck Bryant: But the men kinda went away for the most part, and now, the modern revival is all ladies.

Josh Clark: Right, in Austin, Texas, in 2001, a group of women got together and basically singlehandedly revived roller derby into this really huge incarnation that we're seeing now, right?

Chuck Bryant: Well, yeah, and like we said, in 2004, just a few years later, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association was formed, and they pretty much run the show. And we should mention that flat track means that - well, it's clearly not a roller rink at the Shriners' Auditorium in Atlanta.

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: But a lot of them use roller rinks instead of the curved bowls.

Josh Clark: - The banked.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, the banked bowls that they used to use, but they still have those in some places.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: And -

Josh Clark: - And I get the impression that flat track and banked kinda go head to head over, like, who -

Chuck Bryant: - Well, yeah. The one lady - they interviewed some women - Tracy did for this article. And she said that they'll debate that of course, but it's really all in the spirit of the sport.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: They're still, like, sisters.

Josh Clark: I should say there's a documentary about that formation in 2001 in Austin called Hell on Wheels.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: Uh-huh, and that's where I saw footage of the old-timey -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - 1930s roller derby - people just beating the crap out of each other.

Chuck Bryant: Awesome.

Josh Clark: Yeah, it is pretty awesome, but then there's a feature film based on that.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: That, Chuck, I don't know if you remember or not -

Chuck Bryant: - I do.

Josh Clark: - but on the way back from Guatemala -

Chuck Bryant: - That's where I watched it.

Josh Clark: - you were watching it and I was watching you watch it, and like, every once in a while just be like, "Pfft." Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore in the same movie! That's a rough one.

Chuck Bryant: Drew Barrymore directed that, I believe.

Josh Clark: And produced it, and basically, paid for it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it was called Whip It, and it was set in Austin, and I hesitate to say I didn't like it very much because you never know if Drew Barrymore is a listener, but -

Josh Clark: I thought about that, too. It was good, Drew.

Chuck Bryant: I think it put it on the map, for show.

Josh Clark: Definitely. It brought it into the mainstream. How about that?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: And Jimmy Fallon was just terrific as the announcer and -

Josh Clark: - Isn't he always?

Chuck Bryant: - Future Man was the coach.

Josh Clark: Class act.

Chuck Bryant: So, that was Whip It.

Josh Clark: Let's talk about the spirit of roller derby, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: It is fishnet stockings, and tutus, and knee socks -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, skirts.

Josh Clark: - and black eyes, and big elbows.

Chuck Bryant: All kinds of costumes.

Josh Clark: - And awesome names.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: Right? So, just in this article alone, Atlanta Rollergirls, Susan B. Agony, which -

Chuck Bryant: - That's good.

Josh Clark: That's my favorite.

Chuck Bryant: That's pretty good.

Josh Clark: Let's see. Who else is there, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: Well, I saw a Jackie Daniels, which is kinda good. Some of them play off the tough, like, liquor bottle thing.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: Like, our friend - well, we should also say, too, our friend Debbie -

Josh Clark: - Freak Girl.

Chuck Bryant: is her blog and she's a freelance writer. She did not write this, but she is new to roller derby, and I posed some questions for her, and we'll get to those throughout. But her name -

Josh Clark: - Too bad we can't have her doing voice-over.

Chuck Bryant: I know.

Josh Clark: That'd be cool.

Chuck Bryant: Her name is Molotov Cupcake 100 Proof.

Josh Clark: I like that one.

Chuck Bryant: And she makes - she's a really good cupcake baker.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So, she's incorporating her love of liquor, and explosive, and cupcakes all into one.

Josh Clark: - That's awesome, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And I should also mention, too, my favorite name of all time - this is from a listener about a year ago wrote in and her name was Sudden Beth. I thought just - sometimes the simplicity of a name like that - Sudden Beth.

Josh Clark: There was - in the Hell on Wheels doc, one of the original roller girls was Betty Rage.

Chuck Bryant: Betty Rage.

Josh Clark: I like that one, too.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, or Beyond Slay.

Josh Clark: Yeah, apparently, Beyond Slay, according to Molotov Cupcake is the worst, biggest blocker you've ever heard of -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: - in the history of roller derby, right?

Chuck Bryant: She's a big girl and she is, like size - that's one of the cool things about roller derby that Debbie points out and that the league points out is that physique does not matter. You have a skill set you can bring whether you are a 250-pound blocker, or you're like, Juno and you can just zip through people real fast - Ellen Page.

Josh Clark: I know.

Chuck Bryant: Okay, sorry. You looked stupefied.

Josh Clark: No, I know.

Chuck Bryant: But it's - that's part of the fun of it all is picking out your name, and designing your uniform, and your look as a team. The one from New York - they have one that's really cool. They all have, like, a checker cab theme.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: So, they have, like, checkered hose on, and, like, a yellow cab skirts and shirts - like bowling shirts.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: It's cool.

Josh Clark: I think that the common theme, it's not physique, like you said; it's basically just sheer guts.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And an ability to stand up to torture, including self-torture, right - which is pretty much the basis of training?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Like, Debbie was telling you in that little mini interview you conducted with her that she had to do plank position, squats, push-ups, sit-ups. What else?

Chuck Bryant: Well, all of this is in skates, by the way.

Josh Clark: Well, I was gonna add that at the end. That's, like, the kicker.

Chuck Bryant: I'm sorry. Okay.

Josh Clark: You can't put the kicker in the middle.

Chuck Bryant: They cover basic - she said it was boot camp on wheels and squats, and all sorts of, like, physical training.

Josh Clark: All on skates.

Chuck Bryant: There you go.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Which - she's on the New Jersey Hellraizers, with a "Z", team. And they practice two hours twice a week, and she's been training for four and a half months, and just finished her basic skills test.

Josh Clark: Right, and so when you're training - like, she was just talking about basically calisthenics, but there's, like, training as well. Like, you throw yourself on the ground to learn how to roll and get up really quick.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: Because it's not just getting up; like, you're getting up with four wheels on each foot.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and people zipping by you - that you have to learn how to jump over people.

Josh Clark: That's a tough one. Have you ever tried to jump in skates?

Chuck Bryant: - I would imagine. No.

Josh Clark: Have you ever done any disco boogie or anything like that?

Chuck Bryant: I was a ice skater.

Josh Clark: Okay. Roll-bouncing!

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: All right.

Chuck Bryant: Did you see that movie?

Josh Clark: I saw parts of it.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Yeah, it looked pretty cool.

Chuck Bryant: They still do that in New York, some of the '70s, like, disco skating and stuff.

Josh Clark: They do everything in New York, man.

Chuck Bryant: I know.

Josh Clark: Hats off, New York. You also have to sk ate at high speeds, Chuck, I understand.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: There's actually a bullet in this Tracy Wilson article. It says, "Skate at high speeds."

Chuck Bryant: There's also one that says, "You need to stretch out beforehand."

Josh Clark: Yeah, that's a big one, too. And you have to start and stop in skates is what -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, but I think - to be fair, I think that means, like, you need to start and stop on a dime.

Josh Clark: Got you.

Chuck Bryant: Precision, high-speed skating, dodging, jumping, balance, control - all on four wheels - eight wheels. Jeri just laughed at that for some reason.

Josh Clark: Jeri like - all right, so, Chuck, that's the training part, and apparently, there's a very delineated process to it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And you keep the newer people away from the more experienced people, according to Debbie.

Chuck Bryant: Fresh meat.

Josh Clark: And then you actually have to pass a test to become, like, in a sanctioned Flat Track Derby Association -

Chuck Bryant: - Participant, yeah?

Josh Clark: Yeah. Like, I guess you can't actually participate in a bout until you're cleared by them, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, because it's dangerous, you know? They don't want you out there getting hurt -

Josh Clark: - Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: - although people do get hurt all the time, clearly. Should we talk about that? No, we'll talk about that later.

Josh Clark: Well, let's talk about how to play.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Like, because even after reading this and understanding the rules, unless you really - I think it's probably one of those ones where unless you're there or you're very familiar with the two teams, so you know who's who, it's tough to - it just looks like a muddle of, like, elbows, and fists, and stuff.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. In the Drew Barrymore movie they handled that kinda clumsily just by having a segment where they explain the rules.

Josh Clark: Do they? That's like - did Ellen Page explain the rules because that's what she did in Inception, too? Remember? Like, every, like, 30 minutes she'd stop -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - and look at the camera and be like, "Okay, everybody. It's refresher time."

Chuck Bryant: - No, she didn't explain the rules. I think Jimmy Fallon did, but it's necessary in a movie like that because when you look at a roller derby match, if you don't know what's going on, you might just think it's mayhem out there.

Josh Clark: Because it looks like mayhem.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: But there's actually not just rules, but there's also strategy to this as well, which makes it even more awesome, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes. Let's hear it, Josh.

Josh Clark: Okay, well, Chuck, first of all, let's talk about the different kinds of players on a team. You have two teams.

Chuck Bryant: Yep.

Josh Clark: And these teams are going to play a bout.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, five players each.

Josh Clark: Right. A bout is a series of shorter races - two minutes tops, but they can be shorter than that.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they're called jams.

Josh Clark: Jams, right? So, you have a jammer, and this person is delineated by a star on her helmet.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: Right? The jammer - there's a jammer on each time.

Chuck Bryant: Um-hum.

Josh Clark: And the jammer is the only person on these teams who can actually score a point.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Right? So, here's the deal: You've got a jammer on each team. You have three blockers on each team.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: And the blockers don't have anything on their helmets.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And then you have pivots on each team. So, if you're looking at the starting line going back, you have the two pivots -

Chuck Bryant: - They have stripes on their helmet.

Josh Clark: Yes, thank you, Chuck. And the pivots act as kinda like the - you know, like a catcher in Major League Baseball is kinda managing what's going on, on the field?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Same thing. Tracy also compared the pivots to, like, NASCAR pace cars.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they set the pace of the game, basically.

Josh Clark: But they're also, like, calling moves out to the rest of the team. They're -

Chuck Bryant: - Calling plays.

Josh Clark: They seem to be the bosses, right?

Chuck Bryant: They're actually plays.

Josh Clark: Okay, thank you.

Chuck Bryant: And coaches.

Josh Clark: Right. So, Chuck, going from the front back, is the pivots, the blockers, and then jammers.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And the pivots and the blockers all take off when the ref blows his whistle the first time, and then after about 20 feet - actually after exactly 20 feet - the ref blows his whistle again, and then the jammers take off.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Right? So, their whole point is to snake through the crowd, and get ahead of them, and come all the way back around, lap them, and go through again because -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, I get the idea that the jammer is clearly the speediest and probably most skilled skater.

Josh Clark: And probably the most svelte, slinkiest person who can just kinda, like, get through.

Chuck Bryant: I would think so.

Josh Clark: Yeah, but I would think you'd have to be extremely skilled.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Because you're probably having to jump the most. Like, your whole job is to go forward -

Chuck Bryant: - Yes.

Josh Clark: - as fast as possible.

Chuck Bryant: While other people are trying to keep you from going forward.

Josh Clark: - As many times as possible - right. So, you get a point for every player as long as everything is above the boards and in-bound, and we'll get to some of the -

Chuck Bryant: - The rules.

Josh Clark: - Okay.

Chuck Bryant: And penalties.

Josh Clark: Yeah, in a second, but for every player the jammer passes after the first lap -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, the first lap there's no points, right?

Josh Clark: No, but that establishes the lead jammer.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And we'll get to why that's important in a second.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: But for every opposing player the jammer passes, their team gets a point, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So, the lead jammer is the one who comes out of the pack first - through the first lap. No points are scored, but the lead jammer has the ability to actually stop the jam.

Chuck Bryant: I love it when you act that out.

Josh Clark: Right - by putting her hands on her hips.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Or touching her helmet and touching her hips a couple of times, I've seen as well.

Chuck Bryant: And that means the jam is over.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And there's a break in between, and then you start another jam, which is a part of the overall bout, is that right?

Josh Clark: That's right.

Chuck Bryant: And we were wondering - I wonder if Debbie e-mailed me back - why you would call a jam before the period is over - the two-minute period. And we both surmised that it's probably a strategy thing. If you feel - like they're calling out the points, I believe. If you're up on points, you can just go ahead and call the jam -

Josh Clark: - Right.

Chuck Bryant: - and you've won that jam.

Josh Clark: Right, you're locking the other team out of a comeback from that jam.

Chuck Bryant: Right. I think that's probably why they would do it.

Josh Clark: It's gotta be.

Chuck Bryant: It's gotta be. Why else would they do it?

Josh Clark: So, that's pretty much, like, a standard jam.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's how it's scored.

Josh Clark: And there's actually - there's a cool Flash animation on our site. Did you check it out?

Chuck Bryant: No, I watched a YouTube thing instead.

Josh Clark: In the article, you can just click, and you make all these little people that you're seeing from over head -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, really?

Josh Clark: - like go around and - yeah, it's pretty neat.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, that's fun.

Josh Clark: It gets the point across very well.

Chuck Bryant: So, Josh, there are some other rules - specific rules - because it's not just a free-for-all. Like, you can't trip and stuff like that. So, we'll read a few of these off. You have to be in-bounds. You can't go out-of-bounds to pass an opponent -

Josh Clark: - Right.

Chuck Bryant: - in order to score your point. Like you said, I believe you can pass the jammer responsibility over to your pivot. Is that right?

Josh Clark: You can.

Chuck Bryant: During a match?

Josh Clark: Apparently, there's something on the helmet that you can - I guess the star comes off.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And you can pass it during the match, but the lead jammer status doesn't transfer.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, so you can't call the match?

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Oh - or the jam, sorry.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Phew. This is more complex than college football. You do not receive additional points if you fall to the back of the pack and then pass the same player. So, you can't zip by everybody, then hang back, and do it all over again. Once you pass that player, that's your point for that player.

Josh Clark: Right, you have to come all the way around again and lap them.

Chuck Bryant: Right, and if you actually lap the other jammer -

Josh Clark: - That's more points.

Chuck Bryant: - that's called a grand slam.

Josh Clark: That's called money in the bank, my friend.

Chuck Bryant: That's the big daddy move of all time.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: I imagine that's pretty hard. I would say a jammer probably has to go down fo r that to happen.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Or your jammer just has to stink.

Josh Clark: Yeah, it could be a poor jammer.

Chuck Bryant: So, what's the deal with the blocking because obviously, you're not just skating through each other? Your purpose as a blocker is to keep them from going by you.

Josh Clark: Okay, so I think the rules slightly vary a little bit here or there - league to league, I get the impression. But some of the very common ones are you can't block with your arm fully extended.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Definitely no clothesline.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that stuff you've seen in the movies when they hook up together and clothesline, that's just - that's not right.

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: Or they might do that to intimidate.

Josh Clark: You can. I think you can hold hands, but neither person's arm can be fully extended.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay.

Josh Clark: You can throw elbows, but you can't throw elbows above the shoulder.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Generally, you can't throw -

Chuck Bryant: - Or below the waist.

Josh Clark: - you can't block - actually, below mid-thigh.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, is it mid-thigh now?

Josh Clark: You can't fall on purpose in front of somebody - as awesome as that move is.

Chuck Bryant: - See, I think that's a total punk move.

Josh Clark: - Especially if you try to fall and the person jumps over you.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, true.

Josh Clark: Because it's, like, "Psst. Burned!"

Chuck Bryant: And what happens if you break these rules is you go to a penalty box -

Josh Clark: - Also called the Sin Bin.

Chuck Bryant: - just like you do - the Sin Bin?

Jos h Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: So, like in ice hockey, you can spend, like, 30 seconds to a minute in there, which is - you know, that's like a half a jam.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: Or if you commit a major, you can be completely, like, removed from the scene - like fighting.

Josh Clark: Removed from the scene. The police come. They're like, "You have to leave with us."

Chuck Bryant: - The police come and take you away. Any kinda fighting or, I think, deliberate falling is a major infraction.

Josh Clark: Unless the person jumps over you and goes, "Psst. Burned."

Chuck Bryant: Not true. Or if you foul a skater while they're down, or if you give the referee too much guff, I think they can throw you out -

Josh Clark: - Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: - for dramatic purposes.

Josh Clark: Insubordination.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: I know the Rollergirls' Sin Bin is a wading pool.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: At least circa 2004, I should say. There's a picture of one of the Rollergirls in a wading pool, and there's, like, a Wheel of Fortune that you spin to find out what your penalty is.

Chuck Bryant: I got a few more things here from Debbie.

Josh Clark: Okay, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: She said that she had not been on roller skates since she was 15.

Josh Clark: Yeah, because that's a big deal.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: I don't think roller skating is like riding a bike, necessarily.

Chuck Bryant: No, it's like riding roller skates, and she is about my age now, which I'm not gonna say how old Debbie because I just wanna be nice that way.

Josh Clark: She was 25 in 1975.

Chuck Bryant: So, she said that there are women there that have never been on skates before that in her training.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And I asked her about the bonding aspect of it because I think Debbie did it because she was looking for something fun to do - an activity, a physical activity to help her keep in shape, and stuff like that.

Josh Clark: Yeah, plank position in roller skates is rough.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, pheew. Well, she said it's the hardest thing she's ever had to do physically.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But she said the bonding has been the most surprising and best part about it. She said that after feeling sorta awkward initially as being the new girl, she all of a sudden has 18 new girlfriends, and they're real supportive of each other. I think she said one of the girls is in a band, and they'll go and see her play, and I'm sure some of these ladies probably eat her cupcakes, you know?

Josh Clark: I'm sure, too.

Chuck Bryant: So, it's a good supportive scene there.

Josh Clark: Yeah, it sounds like it.

Chuck Bryant: And I think part of it has to do with the fact that men aren't allowed. So, women feel empowered to have a sport to call their own that's rough-and-tumble. And her niece even remarked that she thought it was cool that there's a sport that boys aren't allowed to play.

Josh Clark: Right, isn't that cute?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's very cute, and another factor that Debbie likes - and I know that most of the women probably like - is that it's fun. You get to dress up. She says she gets to wear cute skirts and knee-high socks, and then go beat the crap out of somebody -

Josh Clark: - Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: - and then have a beer with her later on.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So, sex and violence all rolled into one.

Josh Clark: You got it, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: What? I mean, that's as American as it gets.

Josh Clark: I think you just came up with the new slogan.

Chuck Bryant: We should pitch that.

Josh Clark: Yeah and there is tons of violence. There's a lot of injury. Although from what I've seen of 21st century roller derby, compared to 1970s roller derby, there's far, far less violence. But I think it's more frequently real.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: There's a lot of injury - a lot of soft tissue injury -

Chuck Bryant: - Um-hum, bruises.

Josh Clark: - contusions. One of the Rollergirls interviewed in this article broke her tailbone twice.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Have you ever fallen on your tailbone and you're just like -?

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: You come nowhere near breaking it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: But it's just, like, this really jarring pain.

Chuck Bryant: It's awful.

Josh Clark: Imagine breaking it twice.

Chuck Bryant: I can't.

Josh Clark: So, it happens.

Chuck Bryant: You couldn't catch me out there, man. They're way tougher than I am.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: What's the fishnet injury? What's that called?

Josh Clark: It's called fishnet burn. It's where you fall and slide while you're wearing fishnets.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And it leaves, like, this stippled burn on your leg.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I got hit in the -

Josh Clark: - I gotta tell you. It's not nice.

Chuck Bryant: It's not nice? I got hit in the face with a baseball when I was a kid, and I had, like, the baseball stitches embedded in my face.

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: I don't know I felt the need to you that, but -

Josh Clark: - It's okay.

Chuck Bryant: - it swelled shut, dude. I got hit in the face, and dropped to the ground, and picked my head up, and my eye was already swollen shut.

Josh Clark: You looked like an Amish woman.

Chuck Bryant: I did.

Josh Clark: Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: Josh?

Josh Clark: I guess that's about it, right?

Chuck Bryant: Well, we should say if you wanna support, we are coming into playoff season.

Josh Clark: Oh, wait. Hold on. Let's talk about that. These leagues are - there's, like, pretty m uch no paid professional roller girls.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: They're all - they pay for their own equipment.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: They pay dues for the league.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Right? And a lot of times, these leagues are pretty much de facto charitable organizations.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's awesome.

Josh Clark: Like, they donate to local charities in the community.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: And even better, there's some corporate sponsors. Like PBR is a big corporate sponsor -

Chuck Bryant: - Of course they are.

Josh Clark: - which means that they just funnel money right to charities?-

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - through these groups. So, if you go pay to see a roller derby, you're going to be helping people, probably.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they have raffles and stuff, and they sell schwag, and I think there's comic books.

Josh Clark: They sell schwag?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they sell swag. They have the - what is that - why is that funny?

Josh Clark: It just is.

Chuck Bryant: So, like I said, we're approaching tournament season. The WFTDA has a championship tournament November 5th through 7th in Chicago.

Josh Clark: Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant: And first, and second, and third place teams from each region - they have four regions. East, north central, south central, and west, earn a spot at the championship. And there are Big 5 tournaments in September and November to determine who goes to the ultimate championship.

Josh Clark: Yeah, so the Rollergirls - the Atlanta Rollergirls - playoffs are gonna be in Lincoln, Nebraska from October 8th to the 10th.

Chuck Bryant: I was about to say, "Is that the closest one?" But looking at these, that may be the closest one.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and if you're in Sacramento from October 1st to 3rd, check out the west region playoffs.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, the east region is in White Plains, New York, September 24th through 26th, and for all you Sconnies out there - I know we have a lot of Sconnie fans - September 10th through 12th in Green Bay, you can go to the north central playoffs.

Josh Clark: Um-hum and you should probably build a time machine to do that.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: Um-hum. So, Chuck -

Chuck Bryant: - Well, I hope you went.

Josh Clark: - you wanna talk about roller derby in cinema?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I mean, Whip It - what else is there - that Raquel Welch movie?

Josh Clark: Yeah, Kansas City Bomber. That's a very famous one.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: There is also The Jammer, which is a stage play -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, yeah?

Josh Clark: - by Rolin Jones. It's about a love story between two members of a classic coed team.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay.

Josh Clark: And then there's an A&E documentary called Rollergirls.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that was a one-year deal in 2006, I think.

Josh Clark: And there's also - again, there's Hell on Wheels, which, if you don't like paying for your documentaries, you can go onto and watch it in its entirety for free.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I bet Netflix has got that stuff, too.

Josh Clark: Yeah. I predict that no matter what happens to us, Chuck, we have at least careers as washed up sports commentators for roller derby in our future.

Chuck Bryant: That would be awesome.

Josh Clark: Okay?

Chuck Bryant: Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live skit with the '70s commentators - sports commentators?

Josh Clark: Nuh-uh.

Chuck Bryant: It's really good. It's Sudeikis and what's his name? Will Arnett? No. Will Ferrell? No. Will Wheaton?

Josh Clark: The -

Chuck Bryant: - What's the guy's name?

Josh Clark: I don't know.

Chuck Bryant: MacGruber.

Josh Clark: Is that his name?

Chuck Bryant: No, he plays MacGruber.

Josh Clark: Oh, he plays MacGruber? I know who you're talking about.

Chuck Bryant: Will Forte.

Josh Clark: Nice. You pulled that out of nowhere.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, he and Sudeikis do this sports commentary, but it's really off-color and inappropriate, but its' very, very funny.

Josh Clark: - Is it? That's awesome.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: All right, well, if you want to learn more about roller derby and play with the cool Flash animation we have in this article, type in "roller derby" in the search bar at And that'll bring that article up and you will thank us a lot.

Chuck Bryant: I think so.

Josh Clark: So, do we have any listener mail?

Chuck Bryant: Josh, we're gonna do what I like to call fan gift thank yous and what you like to call -

Josh Clark: - Administrative details.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, we have a list here of things here that people sent us that we're very thankful for. So, Nicole - what?

Josh Clark: Go ahead - nothing, you're fine.

Chuck Bryant: Nicole from Ontario sent us Lego candies.

Josh Clark: What?

Chuck Bryant: You didn't see those?

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: I'll show them to you.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: Joe Garden, our buddy from The Onion, he's a writer at The Onion. Joe, who has a terrific Facebook experiment going on - his T-shirt project -

Josh Clark: - Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: It's really cool. He wears a T-shirt every day and says whether he should keep it or toss it.

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: And he's on his - approaching his 90th T-shirt.

Josh Clark: Holy cow.

Chuck Bryant: And depending on what people vote, he will throw it away.

Josh Clark: That's really cool.

Chuck Bryant: It's funny, but that's neither here nor there, but he did send us - he and some other Onion writers, including his wife, I believe, wrote the New Vampire's Handbook: A Guide for the Recently Turned Creature of the Night. Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: And he sent us that and that's very funny.

Josh Clark: Thank you, Joe.

Chuck Bryant: Kristen F. sent us handmade candies from Dish Bistro and Bar in Pasadena. And remember the homemade nougat?

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, dude.

Josh Clark: Yeah, that was good - the pistachio?

Chuck Bryant: I didn't know I loved nougat until I had this nougat.

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: It was amazing.

Josh Clark: Chuck, where have you been? Haven't you ever had a Mars bar?

Chuck Bryant: No, but this is unlike that kinda nougat.

Josh Clark: It's good nougat.

Chuck Bryant: This is supreme nougat, and she got onto us because this was a while ago, and she didn't make the last cut. She was like, "Thanks a lot."

Josh Clark: Oh, she did?

Chuck Bryant: "See if you get any more nougat."

Josh Clark: Yeah. Well, do you think she'll send us more nougat now?

Chuck Bryant: I hope so. Mark from the band Red Pete sent us a CD with a song inspired by our Ponzi scheme show.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: He wrote a song about it.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: Corey T. of Massachusetts sent us a tick remover, which I didn't know they made.

Josh Clark: A tick key.

Chuck Bryant: A tick key.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Elizabeth made a flower pen for Jeri, which is very sweet.

Josh Clark: That is sweet.

Chuck Bryant: And Jeri has it in her office, if I'm not mistaken. Dr. Diane Hamilton - we supplied her with a cover quote, and she wrote a book, Josh, about being an online student. And I read it, and I gave her a quote, and -

Josh Clark: - Soup to nuts.

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, it's actually on the book.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Our first cover quote.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So, if you wanna Dr. Diane Hamilton, it's called The Online Student User's Manual, and if you're into online education, it's like, really the whole deal there.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: Jim, Sue, and Peter, Steven, and Lauren -

Josh Clark: - Wait. I have a question for you.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Did you - in your book did you - read the inscription?

Chuck Bryant: Our cover quote?

Josh Clark: Uh-huh. No, but did you read the inscription?

Chuck Bryant: Oh, that she wrote to us?

Josh Clark: Uh-huh. Did yours say, "Don't tell Josh, but you're my favorite"?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Mine said that, too.

Josh Clark: Mine said, "Don't tell Chuck, but you're my favorite."

Chuck Bryant: Really? I feel so betrayed because she didn't say that in mine.

Josh Clark: Oh, no!

Chuck Bryant: Actually, she said, "I wasn't gonna tell you this, but Josh is my favorite." Jim, Sue, Peter, Steven, and Lauren sent us a postcard from Guatemala. They're doing volunteer work down there.

Josh Clark: Are those Jeri's friends?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: And sent us Real Men Weigh Two Bills T-shirts,

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: And you know what's funny is that he said in the e-mail like, "You don't feel like you have to mention us. This isn't like a marketing ploy. We just wanted to do it." And then on the little packing slip it said, "Marketing Rush. Send this quickly."

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: In pen, yeah.

Josh Clark: That's hilarious.

Chuck Bryant: So, we don wanna plug you for that. And finally, Pauline does custom photographic prints on homemade abaca paper.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's so cool.

Josh Clark: It is. I have a nice view of a lake in New York.

Chuck Bryant: I got a guy surfing at the Golden Gate Bridge, and Jeri has one as well. And if you want to see this - she actually prints this stuff on homemade paper.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I'm not sure if that's getting through. She makes paper.

Josh Clark: It got through to me, pal.

Chuck Bryant: And they're very awesome, and you can support her at

Josh Clark: And as usual, if you have sent us a nice gift and we've thanked you for it, you should feel free to post it on our Facebook page, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes, please do.

Josh Clark: Okay. We do have a Facebook page, which we should mention.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark:

Chuck Bryant: I can't wait for that movie.

Josh Clark: I know. I'm looking forward to it, too.

Chuck Bryant: It looks awesome.

Josh Clark: I love the kid who's playing Zuckerburg.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark: He was in Zombieland.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, he's been in other stuff. He's good.

Josh Clark: And then we tweet.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, you do.

Josh Clark: @SYSKPodcast. And then, we also have blog Stuff You Should Know. It's at the blogs at

Chuck Bryant: Yes, and we have our Atlanta trivia event coming up.

Josh Clark: Yes, October 13th - that's a Wednesday - from - just block out 6:00 to 11:00.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And then there's gonna be trivia in there some time. It's free. John Hodgman and Joe Randazzo are gonna be playing with us.

Chuck Bryant: And Dave Willis, creator of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies -

Josh Clark: - That's right.

Chuck Bryant: - will be on our team.

Josh Clark: And we're going to be a team and we're gonna take all of you suckers on.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And we're going to beat the tar out of you -

Chuck Bryant: - That is -

Josh Clark: - if you wanna come and play for free.

Chuck Bryant: Yes. That is at the 5 Seasons Brewery Westside in Atlanta on October 13th, and come one, come all.

Josh Clark: It's gonna be fun.

Chuck Bryant: Absolutely.

Josh Clark: So, that's it, man. That's Plugfest. If you have an e-mail you wanna send us, I would love to hear about your first brush with -

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