May 13, 2023 3 min read 8 Comments
By Ray Glier
Evelyn Block, aka Stevie Fleetwheels, blew the whistle and did what roller derby referees do to misbehaving athletes. She put the offender in the penalty box. The girl had taken out her mouth guard while skating on the track, which is against the rules.
The child, who was five years old, burst into tears at the penalty.
“We are loose with the rules, usually, with kids that age,” Block said.
“I felt terrible, I destroyed her world, but it was a safety issue.”
A safety issue? What do you call a 75-year old woman who referees roller
derby on skates and is feet away from a scrum and getting knocked over, or knocked out?
“A bad ass,” Block said. “My son calls me a bad ass.”
Look at the picture that goes with this story. It is easy to see the zeal on Block’s face. She lives in Redondo Beach, Calif., and she sees the walkers, joggers, pickleballers, golfers, and surfers and is content with her choice of sport. She has to look in the mirror to see somebody her age refereeing roller derby.
“I look around and see friends in the northeast who are my age and they are in rocking chairs,” Block said. “I guess it’s the weather out here. My older friends in California are always doing something to stay active. It’s a mindset.”
The cool thing about roller derby is it is too cool for the Olympics to add it as a sport. The talking hairdos in Switzerland will not go for nicknames in their starched-shirt world. Pseudonyms are the essence of the Roller Derby
culture, like pro wrestling. Block picked “Stevie Fleetwheels” because she is a fan of Fleetwood Mac and the superstar Stevie Nicks.
She has a friend, Anita Another, whose husband, Justin Bibe, are in the wine business. “Pistol Packing Mama”, another pal, is a retired police officer.
“A lot of times people don’t know one another’s real name,” Stevie Fleetwheels said.
That she was a family therapist in a New York borough did not ease Stevie’s devotion to the sport when it came to penalizing the 5-year old. The child’s coach came over to speak with the kid and calm her down and that goes to the posture of this brand of roller derby.
Abusive fans get showed the door. This is not the roller derby of the 70s, which featured staged action, but also some real fisticuffs. Abusive players know better than to be unruly, even those twice the weight of Block.
She got caught up in one of those roller derby scrums and a 250-pound man ran into her. As she tumbled over the man shouted he had been fouled “That was a back block,” he yelled.
“No, it wasn’t,” Block shot back at him.
The referees who also play the sport are the most challenging to deal with because they think they know better. No, they don’t. Block has been doing this almost 11 years and she dissected the 64-page rule book long ago.
“I’ve been doing it long enough that I don’t get intimidated,” she said.
Evelyn never played Roller Derby. When she moved to the west coast she considered surfing and thought it too complicated. She saw the flotilla of skaters on the beach boardwalks and thought, “I’ll do that” and became a referee, which she considered fun enough.
It was a blast several times a week until Covid interrupted the fun. The warehouses where they played had to shut down inside activities. When the Covid veil lifted, Block said, the marijuana growers had taken over the warehouse spaces. Now the games are usually just Saturday.
The games on the weekend are not enough to keep Evelyn fit. She does neuromuscular training, which she says “is just more sophisticated and brain-based.”
It is hard for her to explain, she says, but here is one example of a neuromuscular workout.
Roller Derby requires a lot of balance and, let me tell you, Block considers the ramifications of being body-blocked to the floor and breaking something. A 75-year old woman, no matter how stout, heals less quickly and her roller derby days would be over.
“Yeah, people get injured, it’s a full contact sport,” Stevie said. “Broken ankles, broken leg, concussions, that sort of thing.”
That sort of thing? Her husband Steve comes as a volunteer “non-skating official” mostly to keep an eye on her.
Block seemed to shrug through the phone at the idea of being hauled off in a meat wagon with a broken sort of thing. “You’re not in the middle of the pack where the injuries happen,” she said.
Still, Stevie Fleetwheels is part of the pack, which is the Geezer Jock pack that defies age.
Geezer Jock is free. Thank you for reading. The writing helps me cope and I hope you find some value, too.
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