Unless this is your first time perusing Derby 101 with Wayne Mooney, you’ll know that in the course of explaining the details of roller derby I have a tendency to say things that are less than 100% truthful—things that some might even describe as blatant falsehoods. For instance, I once claimed that derby is played in quad roller skates because “inline skates attract giant bees” when, as any first-year student of American history could tell you, that the real reason is that inline skates were banned by the Treaty of Wichita that ended the second American Civil War in 1603. I bring this up because I want to be clear that when I say that today I will be talking about rollergirls eating babies, I am talking about a really truly true, real thing that really truly happens in roller derby. Metaphorically.
There are some variations in the details of how “eating the baby” plays out, but the basic idea is that one jammer delays the other jammer (the “baby”) long enough for the blockers to catch up to her and draw her back into the pack (the “eating”). Once the other jammer is stuck back in the pack, the first jammer takes off again, gaining at least a head start over her opponent and possibly even managing to lap her for an extra point. Pulling this off requires the jammer and her blockers to co-ordinate their actions, making it a tricky maneuver. It’s also a very risky one. One of the best ways for blockers to counter the other team’s attempt to eat the baby is to try to eat the other baby first. Picture a hungry, hungry hippo. Its neck stretches to an unnatural length. Its mouth, hinged open, advances with the speed of a striking cobra, then slams shut, sealing its prey inside. So hungry, hungry that it will not delay even long enough to chew, the hippo swallows its food whole. This nightmarish plastic god of consumption is the pack. The goal for the jammer, then, is to nudge the other within range of the hippo’s gleaming, unused teeth without being eaten herself. To the hippo, however, they both look like small white plastic marbles. To the hippo, all of us look like small white plastic marbles. Beware.