Sam McManis roams the region to find where you want to go

Discoveries: Let's get ready to r-r-roll! Derby strong in capital region

04/22/2012 12:00 AM

04/22/2012 2:14 PM

Round and round they go, bobbing and weaving and crashing into one another like bumper cars at an amusement park. The sound of skate wheels on polished wood is a sustained grind, muted only somewhat by the murmur of the crowd and the patter of the play-by-play announcers echoing off the walls.

It's mesmerizing, watching roller derby. Completely captivating. A Zen exercise, even.

But then Slapjack, the enforcer for your Sacred City Sacrificers, uses her lethal hips to send Bullet Brains, jammer for the visiting Emerald City Roller Girls, careening off the track, and the contem- plative spell is shattered.

About 400 fans at the Roller King in Roseville erupt like NASCAR fans cheering a crash.

"Whoa, ho, ho," a man in a black "Sons of Anarchy" muscle shirt chortles, his excitement such that he nearly spills his beer on the young couple below him sharing a soda and nachos. "Yeeesssss!"

Now the 4 Closer, jammer supreme, stalks her prey for the home team. She slithers between hulking Emerald City blockers Rex Havoc and Medusa Harm, faking them out almost back to Eugene, Ore., before fending off a blow by snarling foe Frankie Facebreaker and accelerating with arm-swinging abandon to notch four more points for your beloved Sacrificers.

Ah, yes, time again for that storied rite of spring that makes even cynical scribes wax poetic: the start of roller derby season.

All it takes is the sensory splendor of hearing the crack of a jammer's spine or seeing the mix of mascara, sweat and blood on a blocker's face to transport you back to those innocent days of yore when you packed the family in the station wagon and


You didn't know there even was roller derby in town? Where, like, have you been the past five years or so?

The Sacrificers – the elite of the six squads skating under the Sacred City Derby Girls umbrella – is one of the top teams in the national Women's Flat Track Derby Association. Certainly, it is Sacramento's most successful pro sports team. (Sorry River Cats, Capitals and Kings: These women rock – as well as roll.)

And, if there were any justice in the world, the 4 Closer, not Tyreke Evans, would be celebrated on billboards across town. By day a mild-mannered, 37-year-old real estate broker from Roseville named Halee Daily, at night she dons three-quarters black tights, a clingy red jersey (No. 44) and transforms into the 4 Closer, who uses speed, guile and forged-steel quadriceps to skate opponents into submission.

She is, without question, queen of the rink. Blonde and buxom and brimming with athleticism, admired by men and women in equal measure, the 4 Closer is a big reason why crowds lined up outside the Roller King an hour before doors opened. She attributes her derby prowess to her days of playing basketball, saying many of the same principles come into play, like blocking out, setting screens, "filling lanes" and quick acceleration.

The 4 Closer is crazy quick.

Off the track, though, she's a modest superstar, giving back the love she receives from the derby minions.

"The crowd gets so into it," she said. "When you're exhausted, you hear them yell for you. It's like you say to yourself, 'I can't believe I'm doing this and I'll do it again.' A lot of adrenaline is flowing."

There also was lots of beer and estrogen flowing at last month's season opener, augmented by Pat Benatar's anthemic "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" over the PA system and abetted by a roving band of roller derby docents in T-shirts emblazoned "Talk Derby to Me."

The crowd was primarily women supporting their skating sisters. But many men, too, apparently have cultivated an appreciation of the fairer sex pounding on each other like someone tenderizing a steak.

"I was surprised, when I started asking around, how popular it is," said fan Jeremy McClure of Roseville, who brought his two young daughters to the bout. "I had no idea roller derby was making a comeback. I used to watch it as a kid."

Ah, yes, the TV roller derby spectacle of the 1960s is still imprinted on many a baby boomer's psyche. But this isn't that kind of derby – the staged spectacle that was more theater than athletic endeavor.

"A lot of people think that," said Shock 'n Auburn (a.k.a. Cole Bogue, who skates for the Roseville Trainwreckers). "It's a misconception. But they come here and see it's a legitimate sport. They're used to the old-style derby.

"We don't throw elbows, but there's lots of contact. I tell people it's a great female sport because we use our hips. With the hips, you have a better ability to take someone out."

Professional though it may be, this post-modern version retains a theatrical flair.

The names, for one thing. They are kitschy and occasionally bawdy. Some of the memorable Sacred City monikers: Evil Shenanigans, Mazel Tough Cocktail, Ruthless Booty.

Don't kid the skaters about their names; it's serious stuff. The Sacrificers' Colt 45 (a.k.a. Josie Moody) used to be called Debbie Derringer. But that name was too similar to one used by a skater in Texas, so she was forced to change identities.

"There's a database of all derby names in the world," she said. "If someone wants to call herself Colt 46, see, it's too close to my name. They need to get permission from me."

Indeed, you don't want to mess with these women – or the men who love them.

Standing in a beer line was superfan Alex Peratis, wearing a black fedora, pink bandana around his neck, jeans with "Sacred City" stenciled down the legs in gothic script and a T-shirt with the name of his favorite skater, Judy Jettison, on the front.

On the back of said shirt: "That's my f-ing Mom."

Sacred City Derby Girls

Roller King, 889 Riverside Ave., Roseville

Cost: $15 advance; $20 at door.

When: The next bout is today at 7 p.m., when the Midtown Maulies take on the Roseville Trainwreckers.

About This Blog

Sam McManis has covered travel and recreation at The Sacramento Bee since 2011, criss-crossing California to report on interesting, humorous, unexpected and sometimes truly strange stories. When he's not driving all over the state for work, Sam likes to run on the many mountain trails California boasts. Reach him at or 916-321-1145. Twitter: @SamMcManis

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