Derby play ‘a passion’ for women


The Barbed Wire Betties practice during a scrimmage match Friday night at Kishwaukee YMCA, 2500 W. Bethany Road.

Danny Cozzi

Of the many things I don’t understand, sports has always been one of the most embarrassing.

But that’s not the case anymore, since I am unofficially an expert in roller derby, courtesy of the DeKalb Barbed Wire Betties. I can confidently say this town has more to offer than barbed wire and corn.

Friday, I took part in visiting the Betties’ full scrimmage. Initially I had intended to strap some skates and pads on myself and roll with the girls of this town’s toughest roller derby team. But, there’s that whole worry about “You might get seriously, seriously hurt,” which kept me from participating in the scrimmage. That, and I am quite an embarrassing skater.

Kristin Spickerman, better known to the team as “Tootsie Bang Bang,” said she signed up for the roller derby team spontaneously at a booth while visiting the Sycamore Car Show.

“I really don’t know — I guess it just looked cool,” Spickerman said. “I thought, you know, I’d give it a shot.”

I’ve always considered myself spontaneous, but not that spontaneous. Just deciding to experience a real roller derby scrimmage was spur of the moment for me.

Even though skating was the most exciting part of the night, I did get to participate in the scrimmage as the jam timer. Don’t worry, I had no idea what that meant, either. Luckily, Dave Schrader, the Betties’ photographer, gave me a crash course in the sport. Schrader told me all about jams, bouts, packs, penalties and more.

A bout is a series of jams, which are two-minute periods of intense skating. Being the jam timer, I was in charge of starting and stopping each jam, unless there was a penalty.

The power I felt while blowing that whistle was monumental. Imagine having the authority to start or stop the action at the blow of a whistle. I was a god.

More seriously, I’m officially a fan of roller derby. This is a relatively new addition to DeKalb life, and more power to the Betties for putting it together. I’ve already considered picking up a pair of skates and trying my luck at it, assuming I don’t get killed in the process.

“It’s definitely a passion,” Spickerman said. “You’ll hear … that it’s like an all-or-nothing type of sport.”

So maybe I’ll stick to music, but I can’t help but feel the urge to strap on some skates and see how long I can survive.

Luckily, the sport’s not as insanely violent as it was in the 1970s, so maybe I’ll be okay.

One thing is certain: The Barbed Wire Betties provide one hell of a show.