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Gainesville 'rebels' try to take over roller derby

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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008 12:00 am

Patsy Clothesline was born three months ago on an elementary school basketball court, her red hair mussed, her roller skates scuffed and sweaty.

Like her teammates Evey Slammond and Darla Pistol, Patsy's a rowdy girl - she wears butt pads and a fringed skirt, she jokes about bodily functions and she likes to push chicks down.

But unlike her alter ego, 33-year-old Robin Morris, Patsy's not married with a 5-year-old son. Patsy doesn't work as a software technical writer, and she definitely doesn't go to a Unitarian church.

That's because Patsy's only life is on wheels alongside the women of the Gainesville Roller Rebels, a local squad of roller-derby badasses who hope their new-born team - with practice - will one day skate to greatness.

Patsy Clothesline is Morris' derby moniker, an intimidating name to go along with the intimidating sport. Yet Morris, a relatively new skater with a penchant for crafting her own clothes, seems far from threatening.

But that doesn't stop her from loving the game.

"I'm pushing myself in a way I've never pushed myself before, and it makes me feel really proud," Morris said during a break from team practice Sunday at J.J. Finley Elementary's open concrete courts. "You get to hang out with really awesome chicks. And you get to knock them down."

Though the sport of roller derby dates back to 1935, the Roller Rebels' roots in Gainesville are only a few months old.

Catherine Seemann, known as Ms. Rebel on the track, founded the team in November by posting fliers around town, talking to friends of friends and sending messages on MySpace.

She said the idea of an organized roller squad continues to get the attention of women from all walks of life: UF grad students, working professionals, busy moms and band members.

Several of the Rebels said the game, in which two five-person teams help their own scoring "jammer" player past the other team while blocking the enemy jammer and whipping around the track, provides a great workout and allows for unorthodox fashion choices like fishnets and micro-skirts.

"Girls like to play dress-up anyway. This way, girls get to dress up and kick ass, too," Seemann said. "I don't know anyone who doesn't love a good girl fight."

But besides the opportunities for fun clothes and "unsportsladylike" conduct, some of the skaters said the team aspect of the Roller Rebels allows the women an empowering form of sisterhood.

"I really like the idea of a sport specifically just for girls," said Jorden Miernik, an art teacher at a local Christian preschool who goes by the name Sidless Nancy.

"It's a girl-oriented power thing … These are girls who might have other jobs but want to rebel."

The Gainesville Roller Rebels - GRR, for short - will continue their biweekly practices in preparation for their first real "bout," which Seemann said remains unplanned.

Women interested in the team, she added, are invited to attend their practice at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Welcome to the discussion.