Scorn Muffin sighed with relief, as she looked at the progress she’d made from laying down green tape. She’d done it many times before; it has become a pre-game meditation ritual to get mentally and physically prepared.
Along with her fellow roller derby queens, they busily worked to transform an athletic hall into a roller derby rink, all within the span of an hour.
Scorn Muffin is one of a posse of new Haveners who don skates—and alter egos—to engage in the contact sport as members of the Connecticut Roller Girls.
Inaugurating a new season, they helped transform a sports center just over the Woodbridge town line last Saturday night with multiple levels of colorful tape to form an oval-shaped track. Different colors and distances from the center indicated different boundaries and safe zones, for both the roller derby girls and the referees. As Scorn Muffin spoke, team members rolled out long strips of plastic to be placed underneath the stands, to make the clean up easier after a long night.
The preparation process was nothing unusual. For every home game, Connecticut Roller Girls (CTRG) make the place their own, by setting up the track, the stands, and booths for food, shirts, and other merchandise to be sold to the hundreds of dedicated fans.
Call it DIY combat.
Coming up with rink names is part of the fun.
“I was obsessed with corn muffins at the time,” explained Scorn Muffin, a Yale neuroscience ICU nurse who lives in Wooster Square and otherwise goes by the name Jennifer Brennan. “I like the athletic part of [roller derby]. If you would’ve told me ten years ago that I’d be on a roller derby team, I would have never believed you.” Brennan has been skating only since November 2011, but has already made it onto CTRG’s A team, the nationally ranked Stepford Sabotage. She was an alternate for Saturday night’s season opener , but was still there to support her team and help out in anyway she could.
CTRG, a non-profit organization, drew some 400 fans of all ages to watch two contestss: the Yankee Brutals versus the Queen Cherry Bombers (from New Hampshire) and the Stepford Sabotage versus the DC RollerGirls. The Yankee Brutals are the CTRG’s B-team, playing other teams within the region. There are three others teams within the league playing locally: The Bone Crushers, Iron Angels, and Widowmakers.
Scorn Muffin admits she found her skate name fairly easily and quickly/ Other teammates struggled longer to find names that fit their identities—and names that weren’t already claimed and listed in a skate-name directory on the web.
“Ever since roller derby started, leagues around the world have registered their names,” said Metal Malady, a player for the Yankee Brutals. “When you think you have an idea and you see it’s free, it’s taken. It took me forever to find one. I overheard on a podcast someone use the word, ‘Oh that’s a medal malady,’ and it stuck with me. Everybody has their full name, and then for quick purposes on their track they shorten the name to a nickname.”
Faith Marek (pictured above), Metal Melady’s identity outside the rink, is a 25-year-old film and media editor who born and raised in Westville.
“I’ve never felt more connected to something more than roller derby. It’s just awesome. You get the natural high from working out and exercising, and then you get this high from bonding with people over this physical element,” she said. We hit each other, and then we get bruises, but it’s all cool. I had first gotten interested in roller derby when I saw the movie, Whip It, and I wondered if there was a derby within the area. I was kind of surprised to see there was a team. I went to a couple of the games, and by the second game I noticed a tryout flyer, so I said, ‘Why not, this looks awesome.’”
On their website, the Yankee Brutals have a clearly stated mission. “[T]he Brutals have stood for teamwork, fun, and excellence, on and off the track. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all women are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of derby.”
Meredith “Ouching Tiger” Zolty is also a member of the Yankee Brutals. “It’s an amazing sport because all body types can play. It’s a sport that lets everyone play to their own advantage,” she said. Her skate name “comes from the fact that I tend to make unnecessary kung fu noises when I come in contact.”
While skate names may be playful, the sport has evolved, and has become more intense. CTRG league practices are twice a week for two hours, and team practices “throw in a few other hours each week”, said Zolty. “People also train outside of that.”
“The first thing I did when I moved to New Haven was look to see if there’s a local roller derby team,” said Natalie “Punchie Bruiser” Boyd, who started skating in Toronto in 2008. She cares for her young children while her partner is at graduate school at Yale. “Finding this league has been one of the best things about being able to settle into a new place,” she said.
Stepford Sabotage is gearing up to go to Indiana. The team needs support to make it happen. To donate, click here.