Years ago, Saturday morning meant Bugs Bunny, Hulk Hogan and the T-Birds. The simplicity of a pesky rabbit, a freak show wrestler and a team of spandex-wearing, loud-talking roller skaters ushered in the weekend.
Soon the Saturday morning guilty pleasures came to an end. Bugs lost his time slot to the Smurfs. Hogan's receding hairline eclipsed his entertainment value. The T-Birds lost a pivotal match to the Violators and the RollerGames concept was scrapped.
Today, Bugs rebirth on DVD entertains a new generation. Hogan wrestles around on cable TV and roller derby is a legit sport.
"I know a lot of people..." said Elektra Violette, "the idea that they have about roller derby is that it's fake, staged and gimmicky."
Elektra Violette is her skate name, of course. She much prefers to go by the moniker than her given name. And don't call her sport fraudulent.
"We practice three times a week and we are just now adding a fourth practice. Most of the girls have a pretty regular workout schedule in addition to the practice time we have at the rink," said Elektra.
The Green Country Roller Girls home rink is Broken Arrow Roller Sports, 551 W Oakland Pl. Each practice lasts two or three hours. These girls mean business.
Elektra co-owns the GCRG along with Scarlet Devil. Together they run the business, skate, schedule practice times and plan travel itineraries.
The hard-hitting contact sport of roller derby is governed by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. More than 5,000 skaters around the world compete in 105 member leagues and 46 apprentice leagues in the modern version of roller derby. The GCRG have over 40 active skaters at this time with two teams.
"You have a 14-person team for each game. We actually have two teams right now. We have our All-Stars, which is our nationally ranked team and then the Thunder Dollz which is our development team. Newer girls can get some experience.
Maybe they've decided they don't want to compete as seriously. They can try on with the Thunder Dollz too. We've created a place for everybody."
The GCRG have an open-door recruiting policy. They are always looking for more skaters, referees, coaches and volunteers. Just make sure you are not looking to fill your pockets. Skaters do not make money, in fact, they pay dues to skate. The money paid in dues along with some of the proceeds from home bouts goes toward travel expenses.
A couple of years ago the girls purchased a used 29-seat school bus. They give road rage a whole new meaning.
Their bouts take them across the country to spots like Huntsville, Memphis, Wichita, Oklahoma City and Dallas among others. "We absolutely love it. It's a blast," said Elektra.
The WFTDA sets guidelines for all leagues. The GCRG are currently ranked 11th in the South Central Region and 43rd in the nation. Before bouts take place, there is the matter of learning the rules.
New skaters go through a strict five-week training period. This means five weeks of no contact, no scrimmaging and basically no skating with the big girls.
Next they go through a battery of skating tests. They are also quizzed on the rules of the game. Once they complete both tests, they are free to skate and scrimmage with the squad. After a 60-day period, they can be added to a game roster.
Protective equipment is worn at all times. Fighting and clotheslining the opposition is strictly prohibited. "When people talk about roller derby, they talk about throwing elbows, clotheslines and fighting. That's what roller derby used to be. That's not what roller derby is now," she said.
However, being a full-contact sport means bones get broken and egos deflated. They do all possible to prevent injuries.
The league mandates flat tracks in lieu of the gimmicky banked track of yesteryear. This is advantageous on two fronts. Moving from banked to flat track separates the orchestrated sport from the real sport of today. An added bonus? It's much easier to find a flat surface to skate on.
"We just need a flat surface that is big enough and smooth enough to skate on. We don't have to have a warehouse with a 50,000 dollar track set up all the time," laughed Elektra.
Other aspects of the modern version of roller derby match the old-school rock'em, sock'em style of the late '80s. The jammers are the fastest of the skaters. They adorn the star-marked helmet and score the points. They earn points by passing the blockers from the opposing team.
Illegal maneuvers such as elbows to the cranium will earn the skaters time in the penalty box. Four to seven referees oversee each bout. Coaches rotate two sets of blockers and four jammers during two 30-minute periods.
The Roller Girls are serious about their sport. They recently brought in a coach from the Pacific Northwest to fine-tune their skills.
The ladies are also serious about their community and charity work. They collect funds throughout the season to raise awareness for many causes including the issue of missing and exploited children. The Morgan Nick Foundation hits close to home for the team.
"It's in my blood. I cannot imagine my life without roller derby. When I came face-to-face with playing this game; it's what I was meant to do. I feel like every experience, everything I've done in my life up to now has led me to this," said Elektra.
For basic women's flat track roller derby information visit wftda.com and for information on the GCRG visit greencountryrollergirls.com.
Rainbows and Hurricanes
The holidays are what you make of them. Some people stress and overanalyze every minute. Others relax and enjoy the time with family and friends. When all else fails, hit the eggnog, hard.
Eggnog is super nasty, but it brings up an interesting thought. Why do we only serve eggnog during Christmas? Anyone ever sipped on eggnog during May? On an airplane you can order a Bloody Mary or Mimosa early in the morning without feeling like a drunk. Why not the nog?
Forget the mucus-y eggnog. Why do we save plump, juicy turkeys and delicious, honey hams for the holidays? Is there a law against these delectable dinners during the spring? Cornbread dressing probably tastes great in March too.
On a sportier note, why do the Olympics contest the basketball games during the summer games? The National Basketball Association season takes place during the winter. Wouldn't this add significance to the struggling winter games?
The college bowl system stretches out the bowl season from Dec. 18 though Jan. 10. Before you mention the NCAA basketball tournament, remember those games are not every day during their one-month stage. Plus, that tourney kills the regular season.
Back to the bowl season. Did anyone in the city of Tulsa watch the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl? Probably not. But it gave an outlet to those who otherwise would have been forced to watch Minute to Win It: Contrived Holiday Edition.
Christmas Eve was a difficult time slot to reach the masses for TU. We know this. America loves football so perhaps TU's resounding victory over Hawaii garnered enough attention to wrap the season in the top 25.
A quick side note. For my money, the bowl victory was by far Head Coach Todd Graham's best win on the sideline. With apologies to the fun Notre Dame game of course, this one was spectacular.
As much as I wanted to dive head first into an award-winning Oklahoma State (10-2) versus Arizona (7-5) Valero Alamo Bowl breakdown, it is not happening.
Two problems. First, the timing. The bowl game takes place on December 29. A proper preview needed to run last week, but we were breaking records. We live in Tulsa, so unlike some of my media brethren, we focused on the home team.
Second of all, this game means very little in the grand scheme of all things OSU. It is an awful match-up. Sure the Wildcats are a Pac-10 team, but they stink. The Pokes in a route. Losing Dana Holgorson and potentially replacing him with Mike Leach is the bigger anecdote. Well that and whether or not the QB and WR are coming back next season.
So let's turn our attention to OU and the remaining big bowl games of local interest.
January 1st is absolutely loaded with phenomenal match-ups. Three spectacular SEC versus Big Ten games start the slate.
The most intriguing non-BCS title tilt takes place in Pasadena. The Rose Bowl presented by Vizio (a nice little flat screen for the money) pits Wisconsin (11-1) against TCU (12-0).
The 2004 college football season ended with USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all undefeated. Auburn got screwed and OU was embarrassed on the field.
This year nary a murmur for TCU's case. This is the Horned Frogs chance to shine on the brightest stage possible. Meanwhile, Wisconsin can slam the door shut on the little guys once and hopefully for all.
Arkansas faces NCAA darling Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on January 4. The Ohio State has not fared well in these battles with the SEC.
Good news for the Buckeyes. Cheating penalties have been delayed until next year. Also, the Razorbacks defense is what some may call a liability. Fun game nonetheless.
Only one of the 35 bowl games features a SEC/Big 12 battle. The best two conferences in the nation only get one test against each other? Forget pining for a playoff system, this is the biggest BCS bowl system failure since 2004.
Sooners and Cowboys only agree on one thing when it comes to football. They agree to dislike Les Miles. Must be hat jealousy.
Miles' LSU Tigers (10-2) are favored in the AT&T Cotton Bowl over Texas A&M (9-3).
The Cotton Bowl used to be a staple of New Year's Day. Jerry Jones and his precious stadium moved the game to primetime on Jan. 7. It is the lone bowl to be broadcast on Fox this year.
Expect time and effort spent on gratuitous band and cheerleader shots. Also, conference supremacy is on the line, by default.
Which brings us to Glendale, Arizona or as Sooner Nation refers to it, Norman West. The Sooners drew the short stick getting the Big East's best in UConn, which is like marrying the prettiest girl from Pacola. But I digress.
The Sooners are a 17-point favorite. Some will convince you this has a Boise State upset potential. They should watch more football.
The Broncos team that "upset" OU several years ago was a good team. The Huskies are not. They just play in a football conference on par with C-USA.
A mere ten days after OU makes a mockery of UConn and the Big East, the stage is set for an incredible title game.
Auburn and Oregon promise to delivery scoring fun in bunches. Shortly after the game, we can look forward to local media members ratcheting up their spring football reports.
Happy New Year!
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