All photos by Nicole Adamson
There isn’t a better venue for hosting women’s flat-track roller derby in northeast Georgia than Athens Arena, a simple cinder-block-and-aluminum building tucked away in the warehouse and whatnot district off Atlanta Highway, in Bogart.
Those in charge couldn’t agree on a single tint, style or wattage of lightbulb, so the overhead illumination in Exhibit Hall C at the Chattanooga Convention Center is scattershot and mildly psychedelic. The beer selection at the concession stand is less interesting.
When we last checked in with our local roller derby squad, skaters were taking the track to the familiar chug of “Crazy Train,” and for the next 60 minutes an alarmingly sparse but attentive crowd at the Classic Center witnessed a blizzard of quads. The visiting, and heavily favored, team from Baton Rouge jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, thanks to some deft jamming from Sparkles Fantastic, but they were shut out during their next three scoring attempts, and found themselves down 10 points after five minutes of play—and trailing by 15 at halftime.
Photo Credit: Classic City Rollergirls/Facebook
During an interview last Friday morning on local sports talk radio station AM 960 The Ref, former two-time team captain Louis Strongarm admitted there was something special about playing against teams from Atlanta because of CCRG’s long history of losing skaters to the much more highly ranked squad just an hour's drive to the west. Her response was diplomatic, if understated.
All photos by Joshua L. Jones
Athens has been home to a nationally ranked women’s flat track roller derby team for more than a decade. The Classic City Rollergirls reflect the wildly eclectic and hopelessly transient nature of our town, as women from all walks of life come and (in most cases, eventually) go—making the sustained popularity, competitiveness and professionalism of the squad all the more impressive.
Photo Credit: David Eduardo
What transpired Saturday night at Akins Arena inside the Classic Center was, without hyperbole, the most thrilling display of grit and athleticism in the decade-long history of women’s flat track roller derby in Athens. The largest regular-season crowd in recent memory held its collective breath for two 30-minute halves as the visiting team from Tallahassee and our hometown Classic City Rollergirls battled with every ounce of their being in a slugfest for the ages.
Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file
Day One: Saturday, June 18
When Albuquerque, NM-based Duke City took the track against Marietta's Peach State at 10 a.m. Saturday to kick off the 2016 Classic City Crush, they were confident the most stressful and frightening events of the weekend were already behind them. Their flight to Georgia was rerouted to Chattanooga due to severe weather. They taxied the runway in Tennessee until conditions improved in Atlanta, where they eventually commandeered ground transportation for Athens. Arriving eight hours late, they did not benefit from a good night’s sleep, nor did they have time for sightseeing. (The Tree That Owns Itself will be there until we replace it again.)
We didn't learn much from the No. 148 Classic City Rollergirls' recent 226-54 demolition of the visiting No. 137 Tragic City Rollers in the Akins Arena at the Classic Center on Apr. 16. The 007-themed high school prom being held in the facilities atrium provided more tension and drama.
Photo Credit: Mike White
Heading east on 7th Street, my heart sank a little at the prospect of getting into another line—one that from my perspective seemingly flowed all the way from The Side Bar to the Wendy's at the exit ramp on Interstate 35. After getting a little closer, it became apparent the long line was not in fact people clamoring for access to the 10th annual Athens in Austin SXSW showcase. Most would argue he's gone soft of late, but nevertheless these fans were standing in the high noon sun waiting to see Waka Flocka Flame at the bar next door.
Photo Credit: David Eduardo
The decision to leave the beautiful city of Austin at noon on Friday, just as SXSW was hitting its stride and the Texas sun was breaking through low-hanging clouds, was easy. Willie Nelson was throwing a party at his hill country ranch in nearby Spicewood, complete with food-truck rodeo, free beer and cocktails and a stellar lineup including Jenny Lewis, Blitzen Trapper, Robert Ellis and Billy Joe Shaver. Additional incentive to attend came in the form of a free downtown school bus shuttle to and from the hoedown. What an amazing host.
A growing town that recycles and reloads a healthy portion of its population with great frequency deserves the benefit of a public service reminder, every now and again. The more you know.
Pssst… There is a women’s flat track roller derby team in Athens, Georgia.
At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Fun Galaxy, the vintage (antique?) skating rink on Cherokee Road, offered no relief from the heat and humidity outside. The swampy space may have an AC, but from the feel of things inside, the Classic City Rollergirls were not allowed to touch the thermostat.
Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones
Everyone loves parity in professional sports. Leagues of evenly matched teams result in hotly contested matches that go down to the wire, and fan bases that remain interested every season (and all season) because their team is forever in the hunt, capable of winning on any given night.
It’s a ritual unlike any other in sports. Conventional wisdom would suggest that staging an all-out civil war immediately before a season starts is not the best way to build camaraderie, establish chemistry or avoid injury in team competition.
But roller derby isn’t your average sport, and the Classic City Rollergirlsdon’t mind talking a little trash or getting into each other's faces,especially before the season starts, as every skater competes for one of the 20 coveted spots on the team charter and, ultimately, the active roster of 14.
Photo Credit: Bill Ruhsam/Flickr
It has been a busy off-season for the Classic City Rollergirls. The team has elected a new captain (Louis Strongarm) and once again endured attrition, losing important members of the 2014 squad to retirement (Amy T. Ville) and the Division I league in Atlanta (Human Missile Crisis and High Jinxx). Those are tough skates to fill.
If you missed Saturday night’s matchup between our Classic City Rollergirls and the visiting Greenville Derby Dames, you’ll have to wait until next year to catch women’s flat track roller derby at the Classic Center. The 2014 season came to an end in front of a nearly sold-out crowd that witnessed some pretty memorable jamming, and an impressive yoga demo at halftime.
Photo Credit: Gene Rabin
Last Saturday morning, the Classic City Rollergirls caravanned through the North Georgia hills and Cumberland Plateau, over more than 230 rural highway miles, to face the heavily favored Dixie Derby Girls in Huntsville, AL. CCRG lost by five points in a heartbreaker to Dixie last season in Athens. When the team took the concrete track shortly after 6 p.m. at the National Speleological Society Conference Center, they showed no signs of being road-weary—or the least bit intimidated.
Both squads went scoreless in the evening’s first jam, setting the tone for the entire bout. These were defensive-minded, physical skaters, unafraid to mix it up in the pack. Classic City quickly acclimated themselves to the opposition and track conditions. High Jinxxx scored seven hard-earned points during her second jam, followed by an impressive 14-point scoring effort by pivot Elizabeth Impaler after jammer Louis Strongarm had the presence of mind to pass the scoring star to her teammate.
Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence
Saturday night, if you had picked the right entrance at the Classic Center, you’d be rewarded with the chance to crash a small, hopeful wedding before dodging a large contingent of tandem bicycle enthusiasts from around the world attending a mixer in the hallway. Evidently these narrow, two walled spaces can be leased. For your next awkward event.
Finally, in a ballroom that wasn’t hosting a high school graduation ceremony, there was roller derby.
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