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February 1st, 2006 Laura Parisi | Featured Stories
 

Whole New Ball Game

     
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Forget the Blazers and the Winter Hawks. On the eve of the Rose City Rollers' season-opener bout this weekend, we've compiled a cheat sheet on Portland's three newest reasons to get off your ass and root for the home team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rose City Rollers
A cadre of four roller-derby teams
Established 2004
The Portland Avalanche
Our very own gay rugby team
Established 2004
The PortlandLumberJax
An indoor lacrosse expansion team
Established 2005
Sport History
Invented during the Great Depression, the derby has since experienced more comebacks and plunges into obscurity than Cher. Its latest incarnation looks like it might actually catch on this time. Unlike Cher.This 200-odd-year-old sport is known as more of a British thing, but in recent years it has enjoyed increasing popularity in the United States. It's like football, but minus the helmets and padding.The Iroquois Nation is often credited with inventing this sport many centuries ago, and it still enjoys a bigger following on the East Coast. Lacrosse rivals hockey as a national sport in Canada. Go figure.
The Players Are...
Hardcore women, mostly in their late 20s and early 30s, each of whom rounds the rink as her alter ego, à la pro wrestling. Each skater pays $40 a month to cover the team's expenses, and on top of three or four practices a week, still finds time to be gainfully employed. "Sometimes we knock the crap out of each other," says RCR president Kim Stegeman, a.k.a. "Rocket Mean," whose day job is at Davis Elen Advertising. "But at the end of the day, we're still friends."Mostly gay men, but hets play, too. Players of all ages pay $200 a year to compete. "It's very social," says player/board member Mark Horn, explaining the post-game tradition of a "drink-up," a gathering of both teams replete with drinking games and raucous rugby songs—that's the British influence kicking in.Men, the majority of whom fly in from Canada every weekend to compete—one player is a police officer in Toronto. Players start at $6,500 for rookies and top out at $23,000 (you can see why these men haven't quit their day jobs). Practice players make a whopping $1,000 for the season. "I still don't really think of myself as a pro athlete," says practice player Danny Ernst, 22, the one and only Portland-bred Jax. "But it's worth it. I'd do it for free."
Violence Factor
Intense. The point of this game is to skate in circles and attack each other. Mid-to-high. "There are actually less injuries in rugby [than in football] because there are no pads," says Horn. In a rugby tackle, "you wrap them up and go down with the player," he says.High. Have you seen the commercials? Hitting someone over the head with a stick was something these boys were born to do. Negative points for wearing helmets and other protective gear.
Number-Crunching
The league is a nonprofit, which means that the team isn't exactly raking in the big bucks. Stegeman estimates that the team's expenses this year will run upwards of $100,000.This little club team gets by on $9,000 a year. Let's just say a lot of people chip in to make it all work.It's impressive that a team composed mainly of Canucks has garnered a strong local fan base. It might have something to do with the $2 million budget that helped the franchise plaster the city with its logo.
Team Sponsors
PBR, Daddies Board Shop, the Portland MercuryLaurelhurst MassageScion, Jax Bar & Grill, Bally's Total Fitness
Über-fans buy...
Flasks are 10 bucks. Tix $10, too.T-shirt $10-$15, $20 for a cap. Tix free!Jersey $90, tix $10-$50.

Catch the Rose City Rollers Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Portland Expo Center, Hall C, 2060 N Marine Drive, 736-5200, www.rosecityrollers.com. 6 pm. $10. For upcoming Avalanche games, practices and drink-ups, visit www.avalancherugby.org. The next LumberJax (www.portlandjax.com) home game is Saturday, March 4.
 
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