DIG – Baton Rouge Uncovered

DIG Magazine DIG Magazine’s Emily Nemens writes “Belle on Wheels – Baton Rouge’s burgeoning Roller Derby team goes for the gold”.

This weekend, one group of local athletes won’t be watching the LSU/Alabama game. Instead, they’ll be competing for a title of their own. A caravan of women that includes a librarian, moms, a public defender, nurses, students, and a microbiologist will travel from Baton Rouge to Gulfport, Mississippi.

These women aren’t going to hit up the casinos or have a ladies’ weekend at the beach. No, they’ll be heading, roller-skates in hand, to the Harrison County Skate Park to face off against nine other roller derby teams from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.

They are Baton Rouge’s own Diables Rouge, and they’ll be competing in the first annual Southern Belle Ringer championship tournament, in a sport that’s anything but proper.

“There’s nothing genteel about roller derby. This is a bunch of brassy, brash women,” said Sarah “CupQuake” Ferstel, a referee for the league and an LSU librarian. That brashness means you can do whatever it takes to stop a jammer. Megan “Madie Sans Merci,” Williams, said her favorite part is hitting – defense at any cost. “The jammer is like the sacred person,” she said. “You have to protect them.” Winning or losing, Derby does something special for the women involved. Ferstel said that when she first saw it in 2010, she fell hard for the sport. “I loved that it was female-centric,” she said. “I loved that it was women being strong. It turned on a sports fan in me that I didn’t know I had.” It’s done wonders for Williams, too. “It’s made me confident and more out loud about things, she said.”

Fishnets, a helmet, and a big red stick (the team’s talisman) will do that. But the league is also committed to helping the community, and does many activities with local charities, including Habitat for Humanity, Big Buddy, ARC of Baton Rouge, and the Girl Scouts throughout the year. Ferstel said the league is particularly interested in local women’s groups and encouraging girls to be active.

Meanwhile, Mississippi is on everyone’s mind. The Big Easy All Stars, New Orleans’ top team, is ranked No. 1, and Diables Rouge are a close second, going 6-0 in the region, and 9-2 overall for the 2011 season.

“My prediction is it’s going to be a Louisiana battle.” She said. “As it stands now, we’re ranked in the top two teams. I guess we’ll really figure out who’s the top team then. We’ll have to.”

photo by: Erica Perry

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