The Alter Ego
One of the first things a new roller derby spectator notices is the names.
“Angela Death speeds toward Eva Doom and Alex Terminateu. She fakes to the outside, then jukes around them to score.”
These monikers, often humorous and/or menacing, are as much a part of roller derby as the distinctive quad skates the athletes wear. However, the selection of a derby name is not to be taken lightly. Derby names are submitted to the International Rollergirls’ Master Roster. Each name must be unique within the entire roller derby universe, which now includes thousands of skaters from more than a dozen countries. Like most roller derby-related efforts, the Master Roster is maintained by volunteers, and with the explosion of roller derby leagues in recent years, it can now take months for a name to be officially approved and added to the roster.
As entertaining as they are, derby names also serve a few practical purposes. Some skaters adopt a pseudonym representative of a less inhibited, perhaps more aggressive on-skate persona. For others, it’s a way to maintain some level of anonymity and privacy from over-zealous fans. From a logistical standpoint, it’s a way to differentiate between the multitude of Heathers, Jessicas and Andreas that may be part of the league at any given time.
The obvious drawback of derby names is that roller derby gets lumped in with wrestling as “scripted sports with fake fighting and fake names.” Roller derby has evolved as a sport and no longer allows the fake fighting that fans may remember from the 70s. Everything that happens on the track is real, un-scripted, genuine athletic action. But, with fake names, the connotations persist. In an effort to nudge the sport closer to legitimacy, in 2009 the majority of the skaters on the Denver Roller Dolls’ all-star travel team, the Mile High Club started skating under their legal names. Each skater has the option to choose under which names she skates, and many opted to use their legal names while competing on a national stage. These women have proven they have the talent and dedication to compete with the best in the sport, and they choose to own their accomplishments— to be recognized by their real names for their skill and achievements.
This is not to say these skaters have abandoned their derby names altogether. Generally these players continue to use their derby names when they skate with their home teams but proudly sport their legal names when playing with the Mile High Club (i.e. Crash Dance, Fonda Payne and Bea Ware of the Bad Apples home team become Quigley, Begeman and Rivas when they don the Mile High Club jerseys). As roller derby continues to be considered both entertainment and sport, the skaters of the Denver Roller Dolls have identified a way to serve both fan bases.
Fan tip: Even when skaters’ jerseys bear their real names while competing in an MHC bout, fans will still shout their support for Disco, Crash and Vinyl. Hmmm…. think that confuses their opponents at all?