The Deal

Roller derby has its own set of linemen and running backs

This is a sidebar to this week's feature, "Roller Grrrls

Roller derby is more like football than you might imagine, with positions analogous to linemen and running backs, except both teams are playing offense and defense at the same time. It all starts when a pack of eight skaters (four from each team) takes off around the track, buffeting for position. These skaters are like linemen, and the two women in front, the pivots, keep them clumped together.

When the pack gets about 20 feet beyond the starting line, the two jammers take off like running backs on wheels. They've got to make it through the pack, using their own teammates as blockers while dodging members of the other team. The first jammer to make it through assumes the lead position, and only she can call off the jam. But before she does that, she and her opponent hurtle back around the track, racking up a point each time they pass an opposing player.

A crew of referees follows the skaters around, watching for infractions such as holding and tripping, which'll land a skater in the penalty box for a minute and leave her team shorthanded. In the event of a fight, the clock stops…but you'll be too busy screaming to notice.

 
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