It is undeniable that roller derby has made a huge comeback in recent years, but you wouldn’t know it by attending a local Chattanooga Roller Boys bout.
“We are completely baffled,” said Chattanooga Roller Boys team captain and founder Justin McCloskie, looking at an audience of six people at their game Saturday evening at the VFW on Amnicola Highway. “And this is the largest crowd we’ve had so far.”
McCloskie formed the Chattanooga Roller Boys six months ago after witnessing a match featuring the Chattanooga Roller Girls at the downtown Marriott Convention Center, competing in front of a packed, sold-out audience.
“It blew my mind,” said McCloskie. “It was such an exciting game, and everyone in the audience was totally into it, cheering non-stop. I thought to myself: men’s sports are more popular than women’s sports—just look at professional basketball—so men’s roller derby should be even more popular than women’s roller derby.”
“I was wrong, apparently,” said McCloskie, who also goes by the alias “Terence Trent Derby.”
The Chattanooga Roller Boys currently has a membership of 20 skaters, aged between 18 and 35, who compete in flat-track quad-skate roller derby bouts across Tennessee.
“What are we doing wrong?” asked blocker Regin Plesson, a.k.a. “Reginald Cattermaul,” to The Chattanooga Bystander after the bout. “We’re doing our best to make a dynamic, exhilarating competition. That’s what people want to see, right?”
In addition to participating in bouts, the Chattanooga Roller Boys performs a significant amount of charity work. In particular, the team is focused on raising money to fund testicular cancer research, and the last project involved selling brownish-purple-ribbon car magnets for the “Save the Nutsacks” campaign.
“I don’t know how long we can go on like this without more support,” said jammer Wes Granwood, known by his derby name “Wesley Crush-Him.” “Now I kind of regret getting this lower-back ‘CRB’ tattoo.”