Get Your Hellaradder Name

Enter your Name:

No Skirt, No Justice

by Hurt Reynolds, for HELLARAD #13, The Death of Fun

You missed the point.

Yeah, you. You with your rules about face paint, and pink shirts, and which refs are permitted to wear skirts and why that’s an indication of “professionalism” that’s necessary to be “taken seriously” so we can “build a fanbase” and “get on tv” and “play for a salary.” You totally missed what we were doing and why we were doing it, and in doing so you’ve robbed us of the very element that made us riotously successful in the first place.

Modern roller derby was revived in 2001 with the vision of a spectacle, an over-the-top lark… “flaming bears on unicycles,” to paraphrase Devil Dan. A bunch of friends DIYing something so outrageous you couldn’t help but laugh along, and join in.

And did it work? Boy, did it work. City after city followed Austin’s model because someone visiting town saw it, went back to Minneapolis or Seattle or Raleigh, and said “oh my god we’ve GOT to do this here.”

Along the way, the participants quickly discovered something totally unexpected. While mock-wrestling and pillow fights were fun, *actually winning* was even more fun. Between 2004 and 2006, the game rapidly became more disciplined, culminating in the miracle of Dust Devil 2006. Not a single on-track fight took place at that first massive tournament, because the skaters all felt that the competition on the track was paramount. (You young whippersnappers have NO IDEA how amazing this was at the time).

Let’s talk about Getting Taken Seriously.

Classic derby had all the trappings of a “legitimate” competitive sport, with teams in uniform and professionally-dressed referees ostensibly officiating with a regimented ruleset… but the truth was obvious. Classic derby was fixed, staged, a “fake sport.” It was the cousin of pro wrestling, not to be taken seriously.

Modern roller derby was essentially classic derby’s photo negative. We mocked the appearances they upheld so earnestly, and took seriously the spirit of competition they so comprehensively mocked.

By 2007, modern derby had arrived at a brilliantly successful (and marketable) formula. The appearance was carnivalesque, with skaters in wildly personalized boutfits, refs in bunny ears and tricorn hats, and support staff wearing whatever they goddam felt like within certain *very lax* limits of reason — but the actual on-track performance was as serious, and seriously officiated, as any sport.

And our audiences got it, and loved it. Jam off? Dance party. Jam on? All business. Sure, that ref has fairy wings on, but damned if he didn’t make the exact right call on that track cut. Appearances don’t deceive this generation. We’ve been swimming in million-dollar fx shots and “reality” tv our whole lives – we know what “real” is, and when it does and doesn’t matter. And furthermore, we get the joke, and we *like* the joke.

So why have we retreated to playing by the boomers’ rules? It’s our turn, goddammit, and we judge things differently. We’re way more savvy about the difference between appearance and performance (Exhibit A: Mark Zuckerberg).

By creating a modified-judgment environment, we gave license to everyone to contribute their own creativity to the presentation. Not just the skaters, not just the officials and support crew… but the audience, too, got in on the act. Half the fun of an early Rat City home bout was seeing how Grave Danger’s fans were gonna zombie it up this month, or what faux-Marxist silliness would arrive in support of the Derby Liberation Front.

When the audience gets in on the act, there’s more fun for everyone. WAY more fun.

Look at Comicon. It’s one of the biggest dates on the entertainment industry calendar today, because it so comprehensively captures the imagination of fans of high-grossing entertainment properties. Few things are generally more boring than a trade show, but here’s a trade show that’s come to be attended by tens of thousands of consumers, and why? I’d argue that it’s because it’s participatory. And participatory is engaging.

Engaging your audience on that level makes for a much more loyal and active fanbase. I’m not just there to cheer on my team — I’m there because my team, and my team’s fans, and the random people I run into on the way to get a pretzel get a laugh out of high-fiving the guy with the clown shoes and the unicorn horn. Making other people happy is just goddam fun.

Our original damn-near-anything-goes dress code made derby different from rugby, and lacrosse, and all the other aspiring team sports trying to break into big sports business. And different is marketable. Those silly outfits and funny names got us literally millions of dollars worth of free media. They were our notability, without which derby’s just another pretender to the throne. Silly outfits and funny names were the road to playing for a salary.

And they were fun.

We took the sport seriously, but we didn’t take ourselves seriously. We should remember again how to do that, before the last fun person checks out.

Photo of Hurt and Justice Feelgood Marshall by Levar Hurtin’
Photo of Hurt and B Train by Derek Lang

Miles Prower’s Guide to Bitching about Minors

Follow my travels online at

While some of us out here in derbylandia may or may not be deliberating, arguing and even losing sleep about the idea of a potential no-minors ruleset, HELLARAD’s resident zebra makes no bones about his opinion on the subject. We present to you…

Miles Prower’s Guide to Bitching about Minors

Well, I already lost one friend over an article with a similar title, so I figured, “Why not see if I can flush my entire derby career by pontificating on something I have no right to change?” And pontificate I shall! Because I feel like it’s high time the ‘Rad talked about something we all know: Minor penalties are annoying as shit.

Now, I’m all for keeping some annoyance in your life. As smarter people than me have pointed out, annoyance is like alcohol, you need to build up a tolerance to it or you will suffer serious brain death if you get too much. But derby already has enough annoying shit going on in it’s culture: Referee divas, announcers who yell too much, people who don’t read this zine. We don’t need it in our game. Here’s why:

People already don’t understand this sport.

Roller derby is a confusing game. If you’re like me, you’ve had many conversations go in the “Yeah, I went to a game one time, I didn’t get it. I don’t think I’m going back.” direction. I’ve gotten pretty good at giving a brief description of the game to people who don’t know how it’s played. Odds are, however, that you don’t have my positronic brain, so you’ve just gotten confused looks, extra questions, or a cooter punch when you attempt to explain further. AND THAT’S JUST THE BASICS!


We have the only sport in the world [that people like] where an infraction does not result in an immediate advantage for the opponent. In the blessed name of all that is micro-brewed, why? I can’t be the only person out there that thinks there’s a better way to do this, and I know I’m not the least-liked person pulling for a No Minors rules set.

Minor penalties add extra layers of frustration for the new derby enthusiast. When you first experienced derby you didn’t think to yourself, “Man, this penalty structure is so accessible! I totally understand why that person with the star hat just left the track!” No, you thought, “Fuck yeah, hit that bitch again!” or, “Damn, that jump was dope!” or,“What’s with charging $10 for a tall boy?” And when that fourth minor penalty was called, or a skater lined up to poodle, you thought “Wait, what the fuck is happening?”

News flash: This isn’t Lost. We don’t watch sports to be confused and eventually disappointed by the ending. Nobody wants to pay $15+ for a ticket to have WTF moments, especially when…

We can’t see anything from the sidelines anyway.

Down low, drunk, and as close to the track as possible is, arguably, the most fun place to watch the game from. Recently, however, I’ve taken to watching derby, sober, from the nose-bleeds. Why? Simple. I make bad decisions around alcohol and there are too many people on the infield. I don’t want 4 refs, 5 NSOs, and a white board between me and the awesome.

It’s not like I hate NSOs or anything. I like Miss Nomer’s mustachioed butt as much as any other red-blooded cyborg, but there’s a reason they call it a back door and not a back window.

I want to see what’s happening AND worry about catching a skate to the teeth if I’m yelling swearwords. Once the No Minors beta testers figured that a lone penalty tracker and a jam timer were all that we needed on the infield, the extra lines of sight and skating room were more glorious than my own bed after a weekend of derby travel. And speaking of snores…

There isn’t enough contact in this contact sport.

I know that everybody is totes stoked to go watch jammer line starts and pack destruction games. But maybe we could take a minute away from that pulse-pounding action to watch people fucking hit each other again.

Some people like the screening and massive body checks of hockey. Some people like the precision skate work and agility of figure skating. We like roller derby. We like both.

Minor penalties, at best, only reward about half of that. At worst, they punish most of it. Does taking away minors make the game more dangerous? No. It makes you, the blocker, harder to get around. It makes you, the jammer, a little more squirrely. It makes you, the player, have to be tougher or more agile. It gives you, the fan, a more exciting game to watch. It gives me, Miles, a half-stack just thinking about it. And speaking of dicks…

The refs are easier to hate on.

Here’s where the beer meets the lips for you folk. You think the refs are easy to hate on now? Hoo-boy, it’ll be so much easier without those pesky minors. Now, granted, you might not get as many opportunities to hate, but this is about quality hating. You’re a Hellarad reader, you pull for Team Heckle. Step up the game.

eat a dick
Photo stolen from DNN

Think of how justified you will be when you know that a penalty wasn’t called because you didn’t hear a whistle. (Right now you could just be too busy taking a pull off that flask to catch the minor hand signal.) Imagine the difference in outrage that you will feel when the skater didn’t go to the goddamn box off of that forearm. (Right now all you have is a steady buzz and some slight indigence over her not racking up her I’ll-deal-with-it-later tally.) Revel in the thought of the entire fucking crowd booing along with you because Miles Prower, that asshole, assessed major impact instead of no impact. (Right now that half-stack of mine is going away.)

Death to false penalties!

My aforementioned friend used to talk to me, on cold derby days, about a beautiful rules set that lived in the hearts and minds of people who wanted our game to make sense. We would sing songs about it as we sat around the campfire, burning league grievances. I would raise a water bottle to it during official reviews. That rules set could come to life, comrades! But first, we must raise our whiny, petulant voices in unity!

Or, you know, you could just be a dick about it.

(Editor’s note: Don’t get yer panties in a wad! Put a beer on it! And while you’re beering, you may as well keep that shit cool with a HELLARAD summer coozie, available only at our online store. )

The Star Pass – A Derby Dorks and Dragons Adventure

by Miles Prower


If you got yer paws on a copy of #11, The GALACTIC! Issue (and like so many of us read, it on the toilet), chances are good that you used Megatron and Miles Prower’s “Dungeons & Dragons & Derby & Deeds & Dorks” article in place of TP. We’re here for you in a pinch! You’re welcome.

Anyway, if that article didn’t lull you into a deep slumber from which you might never awake, you’ll remember reading Megatron’s promise of a derby-derived game of D&D, to be created by the authors and then posted to this here website. Well, the day has arrived, dorks. We are TOTALLY PUMPED to finally bring you The Star Pass, here, in its entirety. We don’t understand most of it because we like to go outside sometimes, but think the illustrations by Woody Hearn at are pretty cool. We even recognized some of the characters from the derby world, like Val Capone, Dumptruck and Randy Pan the Goat Boy.



So! Here it is: The_Star_Pass. Download away, but if you must actually play this game, be forewarned that your chances of getting laid in the next six months (or maybe ever) will be greatly diminished.

Hi-res version available here (cut and paste into your browser):

Keep it ‘Rad,

Sport the ‘Raddest stache around! Our webstore is up and ready for you to give it the business!!!