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Hopkins Charmers
Pistol Whip and Nurse Wretched are just two employees who become Charm City Roller Girls by night.

blank Roller Girls
Back row, from left, Laura Jansen, Lisa Scotti, Laura Komatinsky; front row, from left, Jenna Los, Andrea Hayes.

The sign in the lobby is large and explicit. Social Policy, it proclaims to all patrons, reinforcing its gravitas in yellow and black lettering. No Pushing. No Shoving. No Arguing. No Inappropriate Language. No Inappropriate Body Contact. Violators Will Be Banned From the Rink.

On this night, some 40 women ranging from their early 20s to mid-40s will walk right past the sign. They will ignore it completely. And within five minutes of hitting the hardwood at Putty Hill Skateland, one thing is abundantly clear.
The roller police have taken the night off.

Blessed with outstanding talent, effusive temperament, and copious amounts of trash talk, the Charm City Roller Girls, as this collective is known, are a sight and sound to behold. Because they’re armed with aliases ranging from the macabre (“Creeping Myrtle”) to the suggestive (“Mistress May-Eye”), it would be easy at the first glance of fishnets, sweats and booty shorts to dismiss the Charm City Roller Girls as an amateur novelty act.

That assumption, says Hopkins nurse educator Lisa Scotti (“Flo Shizzle”), would be a grave mistake. Scotti, who works on Osler 8, is among seven Hopkins employees on the Charm City Roller Girls, which consists of four teams that play locally and a highly ranked all-star travel team that competes across the country. They are but one of more than 300 women’s roller derby leagues nationwide in what Scotti calls “the fastest growing sport in North America,” where crowds of several thousand at bouts are increasingly the norm.

Hopkins nurse Laura Jansen (“Reckless Ndangerment”) finds playing in the five-year-old national Women’s Flat Track Derby Association positively liberating. “In nursing, we try and make things work between doctor and patient. You compromise. You don’t go head-to-head in nursing, or, if you do, you find it’s difficult to get things done. But in Roller Derby, everybody understands we’re here to push each other around and race to given spots on the track and whoever gets there first gets it. That kind of direct physical competition, I think, is really cathartic for nurses.”

Well, not just nurses. While Laura Komatinsky (“Nurse Wretched”) is also part of Hopkins roller nursing clan, Lesa Bain (“Pistol Whip”—she married her husband, referee “Mr. Pistol Whip,” at halftime of a bout), Andrea Hayes (“Bambi’s Revenge”) Brandy Carter (“Mibbs Breakin Ribs”) and Jenna Los (“Allie B. Back”) have duties ranging from finance to speech pathology to research around campus.

Still, even when rolling at speeds up to 25 m.p.h., the Charm City nurses never completely forget their day jobs. Despite, or maybe because of, their athleticism, women aren’t allowed to bout until they’ve gone through a grueling months-long assessment of their skills, endurance, rules understanding and general track competency. Accidents ranging from bruises to breaks aren’t uncommon. When they happen, the verbal alarm goes off. “Everyone yells for ‘Flo’ first, because she’s the elder of the tribe in nursing and derby and life,” says Laura Jansen. “And I end up coming over because I work in Emergency Medicine. Between the two of us, we end up doing the stabilizing and looking at what we have.”

One thing they usually won’t see are tears. “No! No!” laughs Laura Komatinsky, who, as a psych nursing assistant on Meyer 4 uses her skills to break up conflagrations. “There’s no crying in derby! Ohmigod! If you cry you better be darn sure something is wrong with you.”

With its 2009 season already under way at Du Burns Arena, Scotti, who like many Derby participants helps run the league, believes it won’t be long until her sport, which was featured on both the Today Show and last year’s Virgin Mobile Festival at Pimlico, goes big time. “I wouldn’t be surprised if within five years people will be able to watch this, at least on cable,” she says. “Maybe even the X games.”



—Mat Edelson

 

 

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