Roller Derby is making a comeback, and it's doing it the old-fashioned way -- like "Banana Nose," "Elbows," and "Little Iodine" played it during its heyday in the '60s and '70s. This Saturday in Vallejo, a few new nicknames could get made as the Bay Bombers take on the Brooklyn Red Devils from the American Roller Skating Derby league. A training session and tryout is offered beforehand for those who dream of a life on eight wheels. Roller Derby began in the '30s to capitalize on the popularity of dance marathons. A rare coed professional sport, the derby was the first to pay women to compete athletically. In the '60s, popular derby star Joanie "The Blonde Bombshell" Weston earned a higher salary than either Billie Jean King or Peggy Fleming. While Roller Derby was last shown on network TV in the '70s, new leagues have been sprouting up around the country in the last few years.
Though purists insist that it's a "real" sport, many consider it the grandfather to entertainment sports like WWF. Wayne Hurlbert writes in his Internet column, "Wayne's Derby World": "You can call it a sport if you like. That doesn't change the fact that all professional sports are offered as an entertainment product. Roller Derby falls under that professional sports category."
And entertain it does. In Roller Derby, women and men trade off through eight ten-minute periods. Offensive "jammers," defensive blocks, and a pivot person form a five-person skating pack, looking for opportunities to "jam." The object of the jam is to lap and pass as many opposing skaters in sixty seconds while your blockers try to knock them down. Illegal blocking or fighting can send you to the penalty box for a minute; major penalties are two minutes. That doesn't mean you won't see the bodies fly, however.
"This is a very exciting sport for all ages," says skater Maverick Howard, who took it up in the '80s. "Don't leave anybody home!" The tortoiseshell helmets and short-shorts worn over leggings may not bring to mind serious athletic pursuits. But when you're cheering for your favorite skater -- Gwen "Skinny Minnie" Miller or Danville's pride, Makani -- you may not care about the ratio of sport to entertainment.
Training session at 3 p.m.; tryouts at 5 p.m.; derby at 8 p.m. (anything-goes match race at halftime). Mare Island Sports Center, 785 Walnut Ave., Vallejo. Tickets $5-$25. Info: Freewebs.com/arsd -- Annika Dukes
Woofin' on U
Four legged athletes compete
It's your basic jock-dog workout at an art gallery housed in an animal shelter -- Saturday's Free Day of Dog Athletics at the Oakland Animal Shelter (1101 29th Ave., 510-535-5604, 2 to 4 p.m.). See the Bay Racers play flyball, a relay steeplechase involving a tennis ball. Gasp at the airborne Frisbee frolics of Disc Dogs of the Golden Gate. Cheer dogs through an obstacle course. Visit the photo exhibit on dogs of the early 1900s. But please, leave your own hound at home. Want to adopt? OaklandAnimalServices.org -- Kelly Vance
Experienced triathletes and fitness fans who'd like to get started in the organized world of swim-bike-run competition -- start your engines. On Your Mark Events' Tri-for-Fun Triathlon Series begins this weekend at Pleasanton's Shadow Cliffs Park. Saturday's Tri-for-Fun #1 features a 400-yard swim, a 12-mile bike race, and a 5K run. Don't worry if you've never Tri-ed it before -- 40 percent of the field at each triathlon event in the summer-long series consists of first-timers. The Pleasanton Rotary Spirit Run (5K, 10K, kids') takes place Sunday. Register for both at OnYourMarkEvents.com or 209-795-7832. -- Kelly Vance
Fred and Tyrone on a Roll
Legendary former Raiders wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff and current running back Tyrone Wheatley are hosting a bowling benefit Saturday at Hayward's 24-hour Holiday Bowl (29827 Mission Blvd., 510-538-0300), and you're invited. Biletnikoff started the Biletnikoff Foundation to provide support for young women after his daughter Tracey was murdered. Wheatley helps schools with his Strikes for Students. Both stars will appear in person at the benefit, which begins at noon. Biletnikoff.org or 877-787-2239 -- Kelly Vance
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