Back on track | November 21, 2008 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - November 21, 2008

Back on track

SF Bay Bombers put roller derby in the spotlight as they battle at the fairgrounds Saturday

by Emily West

Donning roller skates, the SF Bay Bombers will fly around the banked track with a vengeance in a battle over San Diego Firebirds Saturday at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. As the team dukes it out for the win, they're also fighting for a comeback.

The new generation of Bombers hopes to see a resurgence of interest in the sport. While recent games have had good turnouts, general manager Jim Fitzpatrick thinks going beyond the word-of-mouth publicity will bring in new fans.

The co-ed teams are comprised of 10 members, but only five can be on the track at a time. The game has two halves, and with each half there are four alternating 10-minute periods for women and men.

At the start of a game, the teams start in position called the pack, which is comprised of two blockers, two jammers and a pivot man. In order to score a point, the team must "jam." During this time, jammers have 60 seconds to go from the rear of the pack and pass a member of the opposing team all while evading blockers. Each person passed is a point scored. All this, is done on skates around a banked, or angled, track.

The game is physical, with some skaters flying through and over the rails. Fitzpatrick said the skaters make it look easy, but it proves challenging even for the toughest athletes.

In the past, Channel 20 would feature games on TV. Fitzpatrick remembered watching it as a kid and seeing the team near his Sunset district neighborhood in San Francisco. He started with the minor league team in 1978 and then made the team in 1980. When injuries put a halt to competing, he was a referee in the league.

Then 21 years ago, roller derby went off the air and the sport lost its momentum in the Bay Area.

"I've been waiting for a long time," Fitzpatrick said.

The timing seems right as Channel 20 KOFY was brought back Oct. 8. Fitzpatrick and a team member recently hosted "Retro Night" and are working on a Thanksgiving special show.

As for athlete interest, there are several willing and able competitors ready to get back in the action. With exhibition games at the county fair this past summer, Saturday's game marks the second time the team has come to Pleasanton.

Makani Roy was born and raised in Hawaii, where the sport was very popular. It wasn't until moving here years later that a friend skating with the Bombers encouraged him to come to a training day. He picked up with the team in 2001 and has been with them ever since.

"We have a really great team of talented skaters," he said. "I really look forward to having the East Bay community come out and support us."

So far he's been impressed with the comeback and hopes the interest continues.

"We've gotten more and more fans attending," he said. "We're doing really well and hope it continues with the younger generation taking part in the sport. It will keep on rolling."

For anyone who is unfamiliar or even unsure about the sport, Fitzpatrick encourages them to come out Saturday and see what it's all about. He brought his daughter's Girl Scout troop to a game last season and the girls had no prior knowledge of the sport.

"They walked in with bored looks on their faces and then their eyes got wide," he said. "They lost their voices and all got hooked."

He said the same thing usually happens for any new group taking in all the action.

Historically, having started during the Great Depression, the sport has had its popularity during war or bad economic times. Fitzpatrick said now, in a time of war and economic uncertainty.

"They come and get their emotions and aggressions out," he said.

Doors open at 7 p.m. with game time at 8 p.m. in the expo center at the county fairgrounds, located at 4501 Pleasanton Ave. VIP tickets are $20, while tickets for adults are $10 and children are $5. Parking is $8.

To learn more about the team, visit


Like this comment
Posted by John Cassidy
a resident of Foothill Place
on Nov 22, 2008 at 10:39 am

I loved the Bmomers growing up as a kid. This is great news they're bringing the Bobers back to Pleasanton and TV too!

Like this comment
Posted by Laura Munsiac
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Nov 22, 2008 at 10:46 am

I totally agree. The SF Bay Bombers, Joan Weston, Charlie O'Connell were all we talked about at home as kids. Good luck Dan Ferrari and Jim Fitz for brining the Bombers back home to Pleasanton after so many years.

Like this comment
Posted by Jimmy North
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Nov 22, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Remembering the original roller derby:

Roller Derby was great in the 70's but it will never be what we all remember. I was at the wednesday training, and to me it looked like one big Circus! This is not a professional sport and it looks all stageed from what i seen. The oval track looked to be falling apart not very safe for my kid to have a spin on it. A lot of the men out on the track are very fat and needed to have a cigarette before they got on the track. What i hear is there going to be on television TV 20 next week. OMG!!!! This will never look like the old days.

I could go on about the great skaters and fun times we had back then.

Like this comment
Posted by Tim Patten
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Nov 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Old, fat and out of shape.... give it a rest!!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Candy Jones
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 22, 2008 at 4:37 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Like this comment
Posted by Alfonso
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Nov 22, 2008 at 5:37 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Like this comment
Posted by John R.
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Nov 22, 2008 at 9:51 pm

It's a pity one self-important former skater has to post some of the above messages under "assumed" names of other real people. Just because you are washed up and no one likes you doesn't mean you have to drag everyone else down with you.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Nov 27, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Michael Vick is on his way...he's gonna settle in PTown!

Like this comment
Posted by Jack Jones
a resident of Danbury Park
on Dec 5, 2008 at 9:33 am

I took the family to the game and had a blast! Great going and good luck with TV.