POM SHAKERS SUPPORT THE LEAGUE IN NUMEROUS WAYS
by the Grand Poobah, ARRG Bout Co-Announcer
In the main entrance of the Pipkin Building in Memphis, Tennessee, a man emblazoned with schwag that represents the Arch Rival Roller Girls wheels a handcart that contains a large cardboard box. He’s there to provide support for his league’s travelling All-Star squad and to overall entertain the crowd at a site unseen.
The 300-mile journey from St. Louis to get there was somewhat easy. Finding a place to prepare is another matter altogether.
“Excuse me, do you know where I can get dressed?” he inquires to one of the building’s support staff.
It’s not uncommon for a question like this to be asked around these parts. About 400 yards due north from the Pipkin stands the Liberty Bowl, a collegiate football stadium that once played host to the one-season Xtreme Football League in 2001. In the same distance northeast stands the vacant Mid-South Coliseum, where thirty years prior professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler “piledrove” comedian Andy Kaufman‘s skull through the canvas in a now-infamous grapplin’ match.
But there’s something unique about this particular wardrobe scenario in Memphis. This dress-up involves derby, for within the box that’s being carted contains a pirate’s head…a really, really large pirate’s head.
And after finding a place to change, the performer will ply his trade for the next four hours as Archie the Pirate – ARRG’s roaming costumed mascot – in front of 300 fans.
Such are the lengths one will go through to support the Arch Rival Roller Girls…and the friendly plunderer wouldn’t have it any other way.
This represents the spirit of the ARRG Jeerleaders – 15 members strong – who perform and entertain audiences for local bouts at Midwest Sport Hockey and – in Archie’s case on this particular night in Memphis – at the league’s travel bouts.
“We’ve got a costumed mascot here and the home team doesn’t even have a costumed mascot,” says ARRG All-Star blocker Chewblocka. “Just having that level of support here is fantastic.”
And for Archie personally for the last three seasons, playing the role of the swashbuckler takes care of a personal goal.
“I’ve always had a dream of being a big-headed mascot for a sports team,” says Archie. “Something like that had always been on my bucket list. And at my age, that list is getting short. I’ve done a lot in my lifetime and this might be the last fun thing that I’ll do in my lifetime. So considering that, I’m really motivated to give it all I’ve got and do the best I can.”
And that proverbial best can be found by all Jeerleaders on event night. They shake their poms, hold up signs and perform routines. Most importantly, they entertain and connect with the audience.
“The Jeerleaders add ‘pizzazz’ to the ARRG bouts,” says squad member Miss Lippy. “We make signs and decorate the venue prior to the bouts. We provide halftime entertainment…dances and games.”
“We also have a ‘Kid’s Corner’ where the younger fans can go for crafts and candy,” she adds. “We cheer for our teams and try to get the crowd into the game. We also participate in fundraisers and parades along with the skaters.”
It’s a long laundry list for the volunteer group, but it’s an integral part of the “ARRG experience.” It’s imperative to a sport that mixes both athleticism and entertainment.
“The Jeerleaders and any other die-hard ARRG fan are the heart of this league,” says ARRG skater Munchausen by Foxy. “The Jeerleaders do so much to make sure the fans are having a great time. They put in a huge amount of time and effort making signs, coming up with half-time games and choreographing dance routines.”
And Foxy can relate to the Jeerleaders. Prior to becoming a skating member of the local M-80s’ roster, she shook poms herself.
“I personally have a lot of respect for the Jeerleaders since I started out as one when I first joined the league,” she says. “They do a lot to keep the fans coming back and that means so much to the league.”
Lippy’s path as a Jeerleader was opposite to Foxy’s scenario. After retiring as a skater in 2010 due to injury, she immediately jumped at the chance to continue her involvement with the league.
“I have always loved performing in front of a crowd,” Lippy says. “I’ve never been easily embarrassed and I don’t mind making a fool of myself in order to entertain others. I also love costumes, so any excuse to dress up in a snazzy outfit is good to me.”
And Lippy takes her wardrobe up to another level by transforming into the role of Sparklemotion, the official Jeerleader of her once-skated team, the Stunt Devils. For her team’s intros, she’ll pedal a children’s tricycle onto the flat track. Once play starts, she hauls a megaphone that’s almost half her spirited height.
“I feel so lucky to play the role of Sparklemotion because it keeps me involved with my team,” Lippy says. “It was the perfect transition for me as a retired skater because I still get to be with my Stunts and I get to wear a Stuntacular-sequined outfit!”
For one of the “pom shakers,” becoming a Jeerleader was merely an extension of life.
“I didn’t find Jeerleading, it found me,” says Mama Lockdown, whose daughter, May Require Stitches, skates for the M-80s and the ARRG All-Stars. “I have always been Stitches’ personal cheerleader. I never missed any of her high school or college games and she played five varsity sports.”
For Lockdown, her intro into Jeerleading was the direct result of attending her daughter’s initial derby practices two years ago.
“I would come with Stitches to the ‘newbie’ Monday practices and would literally get hit in the head with poms,” Lockdown reflects. “Finally, someone said ‘Just join us!’ I made sure that Stitches wouldn’t be totally embarrassed, but she was fine with it!”
And although she’ll be the lone jeerleader at the away bout in Memphis sans costume, her involvement is still prevalent. Prior to doors opening, Lockdown will hang homemade signage that supports ARRG. And in a building that contains primarily blank concrete walls, her impromptu decorating skills will bring a splash of the league’s hue of pink to the interior.
Since the league’s first set of local bouts in 2006, the Jeerleaders have been a fixture with their involvement. And as the faces have changed through the years, the mentality of preparation prior to event night has remained constant. This has to be in place knowing that the Jeerleaders have to perform a routine in front of a potential 1,000 monthly at Midwest Sport Hockey.
“The Jeerleaders get together for practice on Monday nights,” says Lippy. “We pick out our music and base our routine on the song. We work really hard to get in sync and we basically just do the dance over and over until we get it right. It sounds like a lot of work, but we are always laughing and having a good time.”
“We’ve practiced at the Skatium, the South Broadway Athletic Club and in girls’ yards,” adds Lockdown. “Believe it or not, we do work hard enough to sweat. I am so impressed with our stunts and our routines since the Jeerleaders create them!”
Practice was also imperative for Archie the Pirate when he first started portraying the swashbuckling mascot in 2009. Prior to his first performance, he had to get accustomed to a costume that sported a 15-pound pirate’s head that only allowed a small 1″ x 5″ window of visibility.
“I read up on being a mascot,” says Archie. “I saw where they suggested that I have an escort so I roped Captain Kid (his shipmate) into helping me out there. We practiced at my home before the first bout, going up and down stairs and stuff. We came up with our own sign language system to help us communicate with each other.”
Not only does the Jeerleader perform as Archie, but he also performs as Luna the Chick, the official rabble-rouser for ARRG’s Saint Lunachix travel team that would deliver a soul crush to the Dirt Cheap Chicken, if given opportunity. Other costumes include a full-size firecracker for the M-80s and a face-painted foot soldier for the Smashinistas.
But for this particular night in Memphis, he’s simply Archie, the 7-foot tall swashbuckler. As the All-Stars’ bout at the Pipkin progresses, he poses for pictures, gives high-fives and brings smiles to the young and young-at-heart.
If anything, the mere presence of Archie and Lockdown makes the All-Stars feel like a little bit of the Gateway City has made its way into the visitor’s lair.
“The Jeerleaders really push us forward,” says Chewblocka. “They do really great work for us. They’re invaluable.”
And just like the skaters, they always feed off the action, whether it’s for the league’s travelling squads or for one of the four local franchises that play at home at Midwest Sports Hockey.
In fact, a close, dramatic bout between a pair of intraleague squads will sometimes make the duties of Jeereleading difficult.
“I get pretty darn worked up,” says Lippy, the former Stunt Devils’ skater. “It is really hard sometimes to ‘just watch’ and not be able to skate out there and assist.”
For example, a last-jam battle between the M-80s and the Stunt Devils earlier this local season made Sparklemotion put down the megaphone and soak up the tense action.
“I’m pretty sure during that last jam, (fellow Jeerleader) Ruby Casino and I were barely able to watch,” Lippy says. “We were so anxious!”
And for Lockdown, whose daughter competes at hard-hitting, full-speed levels, the tension is even higher.
“Bout day is mixed with excitement and fear, but nothing a beer can’t cure,” she jokes.
Outside of bout night, an extension of the Jeerleaders includes charitable events. A variety show fundraiser held last July collected over $2,400 for the USO of Missouri. They also lend support to numerous fundraising activities for the league perpetually.
But in the end, they serve as the vocal mouthpiece for the league that they love so much. And the response they get when performing makes the hours of spirited volunteering worth the sweat equity.
“The best part about performing in front of others is having people tell you that they enjoyed your performance,” Lippy says. “As a skater, it was always satisfying to have fans compliment you on your gameplay. As a Jeerleader, it is the same way. It makes me happy to make other people happy.”
And the happiness goes both ways. As the bout in Memphis Saturday night becomes lopsided on the scoreboard – a result of ARRG building up a 200-point lead – Archie makes it a point to show his appreciation.
He cautiously avoids random cables strewn on the floor and gingerly moves over to the announcers’ area to pass along a message. The ARRG announcer leans over and puts his ear near the roller derby raider’s mouth in order to hear the orders. From a distance – and at an odd angle – it looks like Archie is attempting to eat the announcer’s boonie hat.
“Could you let ‘em know that Archie loves the fans?” the pirate says. “Tell ‘em I said thanks!”
Aye aye, captain!
Join the ARRG Jeerleaders at the 2012 ARRG Local Championships, held Saturday, April 28 at the Chaifez Arena in St. Louis. And don’t be afraid to approach them and find out how you can become a Jeerleader. No prior cheerleading experience is necessary. In fact, if you’re wanting to have a good time while supporting derby, that’s the only qualification that you need.
COMING UP TOMORROW AT 8 AM FOR ARRG’s “30n30″: It takes a lot to become a skater for the Arch Rival Roller Girls. One has to personally commit valuable free time in order to participate in the sport. From practices to bouts, the demands needed to compete take numerous hours weekly. But what if one had the extra responsibility as a parent simultaneously? We’ll feature a pair of ARRG skaters who have had to juggle derby on the flat-track and family commitments off. On Wednesday, we look at the ARRG Moms.
ARRG’s “30n30″ is a daily feature that examines different aspects of the Arch Rival Roller Girls – St. Louis’ first female flat-track roller derby franchise. In this section every morning at 8 AM for the entire month of April, a new feature will be presented.
Other installments of ARRG’s “30n30″: PRE-SERIES SET-UP (1) EVOLUTION (2) THE DREAM TO PLAY AT CHAIFETZ (3) LOCAL SEASON RECAP (4) ARRG ALL-STARS (5) SAINT LUNACHIX (6) ROOKIE RIVALS (7) REFEREES & NSOs (8) PRE-BOUT RITUALS (9) POST-BOUT RITUALS (10) GUERILLA UNCAGED – NO MINORS (11) ARRG VS. MEMPHIS PREVIEW (12) CHARITY (13) CHAIFETZ PUBLICITY (14) McWHEELY PHOTOGRAPHY (15) GUERILLA UNCAGED – DERBY NAMES (16) ARRG ALL-STARS VS. MEMPHIS RECAP.