Steve Shay
ROLLER GIRLS. Out in front is La Petite Mort, Captain of the skate team Throttle Rockets, and a White Center resident. Behind her is #55 Skate Trooper, Derby Liberation Front, or DLF who owns Bird On a Wire Espresso in West Seattle.

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A respectable-sized crowd filled about one third of Key Arena's 15,000-plus seats Feb.7 to witness Season-5, Bout 1, between two pairs of teams belonging to the Rat City Rollergirls, the White Center-based all-female roller derby league. The Rollergirls have four teams, Grave Danger, Sockit Wenches, Derby Liberation Front, and Throttle Rockets. Each team has about 20 players. There is also a fifth, traveling team.

Those at the Key Arena watched the Sockit Wenches edge out Grave Danger, and the Derby Liberation Front, or DLF, beat the Throttle Rockets. The skaters, who do not get paid and actually shell out some expense money, are rough and tumble. While they exhibit athleticism on the oval track, most sport a "bad-girl" persona, and some are clad with foreboding tattoos. Their monikers are cleaver puns, like "Meg Myday," "Burnett Down," "Darth Skater," and "Ann R. Kissed."

But menacing turns to fun once they take a spin, and often a tumble, on the track. To the uninitiated, the exhibition, which participants say is unrehearsed, seems chaotic, with whistles blowing, penalties called, elbows flying, and points somehow adding up on the overhead scoreboard. Luckily, a program is issued to each ticket holder with explanations of the rules and regulations. The fundamental idea is that the "jammer" scores points lapping the opponent's "blockers." The jammers seem to be a bit lighter on their skates, like a football wide receiver quick on his cleats. The blockers tend to be more physically formidable, shall we say.

In keeping with the character of the event, during the intermission between bouts, a belly dance troupe called Skin Deep performed to a delighted crowd.

During the match, the teams seemed a tight-knit, competitive lot, and exhibited a strong cohesion of group spirit. Many fans young and old were clearly loyal repeat customers and were there to cheer on their favorite skaters and team. While only two teams came out on top, opening night at Key Arena seemed like a victory for the Rat City Rollergirls.

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