What's in a Number? Derby Number Significance

By AmericanHurL Doll

One of the really fun and most anticipated aspects of going through the Fresh Meat program in roller derby is selecting your derby name and skate number. Once selected, this becomes your new identity in the derby world and people often forget or maybe never even really knew your actual name. While I could write an entire feature about choosing derby names, the focus of this story will mainly be on the significance of derby numbers. Some skaters get pretty creative when choosing their numbers, some go for simple, and some choose numbers that hold a deep, personal meaning for them. The topic was recently brought up in a group discussion started by one of our Fresh Meat skaters, Nicety 152, who was curious about it and we thought the subject should merit a feature all unto itself. Nicety chose her number in memory of her biggest fan, her mother, whose birthday was June 1, which is the 152nd day of the Julian calendar.

Choosing your number carefully is pretty important. After all, your number will be emblazoned on your helmet and on the back of all your practice and game shirts. You will wear these numbers in sharpie on your arms. It will be the order in which you are listed on the game day flyers and bout rosters. It will be the number bellowed LOUDLY by the officials and NSOs when you have committed those unforgiveable penalties and need to be sent to the sin bin. It is something you need to memorize quickly. It’s also one of the most frequently asked questions between the ladies at practice as we skate around the track or wait our turn for drills. What’s your number about?

PIcture by Tristan King Photography

PIcture by Tristan King Photography

Many of our skaters have chosen the year of their birth, child’s birthday, or number of children to represent them. Some decided to go with a lucky number or former sport number used. We have skaters with numbers that are in homage to a favorite song, like Misfits song 138 for Bad Lux or musical group M83 for me. Some of our skaters reference their hometowns area code like 215 Philly Sleazesteak and 804 Nick Fury.  We have quite the assortment of weapons for numbers too, AR-15 Pink Assassin, .22 Az-sassin, .38 Saturday Night Special and 3X3 for Refael Cranium, which is the symbol of the sai, Raphael’s weapon of choice from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Some of our skaters decided to be a bit more creative or just have fun with their numbers. Catsmeow chose 4o5 because she wants to “stop people in their tracks” just like the 405 freeway. Tokyo TakeOut is 1-800 for obvious reasons. Sage Fright chose 8/10 because she is literally the 8th out of 10 children! Buckingham Malice, from the UK, chose +44, which is the country code for dialing England, the number of bathrooms in Buckingham Palace, and her age when she picked it! Kra$ha is 808 for the 808 drum which is a synthetic drum machine commonly used in pop music. Liba Raunchie chose AU79, the periodic letter/number for Gold, which is a nod to all things glitzy, kitschy, and glamorous for Liberace, the inspiration for her skate name. Gizmo chose 12:00 because it refers to midnight and you can’t feed mogwais past midnight or they turn to gremlins!  Some skaters have references to anime cartoons, like Dragonball Z 9000 Mimi Murderface and NANA for 707 Devotchka Rose, the apartment number in her favorite Manga series.

So you can see the sky has been the limit in the past for choosing derby numbers, with your imagination or cleverness driving your decision. You were simply limited to 4 letters, numbers, symbols or less. Now, going forward for 2015, WFTDA rules have changed in regards to the size and placement of alphabetical letters, so many of us now find ourselves with “illegal” numbers and will need to change them. This will be more than just an inconvenience for skaters whose numbers hold deep significance for them.  Speaking personally, it gives me the opportunity to put more thought into it and be more creative next time around!

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