Texas Rollergirls Rule!

29 Jun 2005|Lee Shupp

I was in Austin, Texas for business last week, so I snuck into town for the weekend to see what was shaking. Austin has a thriving arts and music scene, and always has lots of interesting alternative culture going on.

I spent the weekend checking out underground events. By far the most fun was the roller derby, which was part punk rock, part Burning Man, and part World Wrestling Federation.

Here’s why it was so interesting:

The Texas Rollergirls is a business run by women, and these women have attitude. LOTS of attitude 😉 Best of all, they know how to create a great consumer experience that is authentic and fun.

The show was held in the Thunderdome, an old airplane hanger from Austin’s previous airport. Punk rock bands played at the beginning of the show and at halftime on stages set up on opposite ends of the hangar. Announcers in gaudy sports jackets (think ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 1970s) narrated the event with tongues firmly in cheek. Great T-shirts designed by local artists were selling like crazy. Beer and soft drinks were quickly consumed by the sweltering fans.

Best of all were the Rollergirls. Don’t believe me, follow the link to see for yourself. (Warning: it’s a bit risque, but all in good fun.) The teams had baudy “uniforms” that were personalized to reflect the persona of each skater. Each team also had a human mascot. The Hellcats had a man painted red with devil horns who hissed at the opposing team. The other team, whose name I can’t mention here, had a man painted like a leopard who was kept on a short leash by his dominatrix/trainer. I remarked on this unusual mascot to the person sitting next to me, who drawled, “ah, that’s Leopard Larry.” Of course the two mascots ended up in a catfight.

The Rollergirls have successfully coopted many of the forms of mainstream media, while keeping a grit and authenticity that was a wonderful contrast to corporate sporting events. I believe that this quest for authencity is the catalyst for many home-grown events which are showing strong grassroots growth (think Burning Man), as people chose to co-create, rather than purchase off-the-shelf, meaningful experiences.

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