Christine Burton has always been into trying new things. Just ask her parents. “I told them about starting a roller derby team in Tacoma,” says Christine of the 25-member, all-female Dockyard Derby Dames. “And they said, ‘Is this going to be like the mud-wrestling thing?’”
Well, not quite. Created in 1935 in Chicago and later the favorite pastime of socially awkward teens in the ’70s and ’80s, roller derby is back in serious fashion. Currently there are 135 active, all-female leagues in the United States, due largely to a resurgence among ladies like Christine who prefer their recreation to be equal parts childhood nostalgia, feminist statement, Xanadu, and professional wrestling.
“I do want people to know up front that this not recreation,” says Christine, 26, a native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “It’s dramatic, intense, and not for the faint of heart. It can be fun, but it’s all about the competition and empowering the women who do it. And trying to knock people down is fun, too.”
For the newbies among us, here’s how it works: On a 10-foot-wide flat track, two teams of five skate two 20-minute periods, with the clock running continuously. Each team consists of a jammer, three blockers, and one pivot person, who try to accumulate as many points as possible during the “bout.” Scoring occurs when the team’s designated jammer escapes the pack, laps around, and passes members of the opposing team.
Last winter Christine proved a quick study in the world of roller derby after joining forces with other would-be roller gals she found on the UPS Online Journal Blog. In true liberal arts fashion, Christine turned her new hobby into a compelling case study for her senior managerial accounting class (“I am secretly a math geek,” Christine admits). Since graduating with a business degree last May, she has devoted nearly all her time to getting Tacoma’s derby community, uh, rolling.“It’s the best business experience I’ve ever had,” she says. “Maybe someday I’ll actually get paid.”
— Stacey Wilson ’96
For more on the Derby Dames see their very cool website at www.dockyardderbydames.org.