When the SF Bay Bombers approached Jim Fitzpatrick in 2006 to be a part of the derby revival, his longtime passion for the sport made it impossible to say no.
Two squads — one men’s and one women’s — skating for a combined score on a banked track is the game, and the SF Bay Bombers have been American Roller Skating Derby league champions since 2007. Every time their skates hit the track, the SF Bay Bombers are keeping roller derby history alive.
“Every time I thought this thing was over, I got dragged back into it,” said Fitzpatrick, an alumnus of SF State.
But he isn’t complaining. From watching the once widely televised sport as a kid, to getting a job assembling banked tracks, to skating in games, Fitzpatrick has always thrived in the derby scene. He skated for the SF Bay Bombers during the 1977-1987 revival of derby until injuries took him out of the game, but his passion brought him back to manage a team of equally devoted skaters.
“When I said I was passionate, I really meant it,” said Lali Outhoummountry, captain of the Bombers’ women’s squad. “My whole purpose is to pave the way for the next generation.”
Outhoummountry, who lives in Las Vegas when she isn’t skating for the Bombers, has her own banked track in her backyard so she can train and teach from her own home. The Bombers also offer open training sessions for people of all skill levels — all you need are skates and medical insurance.
“I always try to teach and share my expertise with new people,” she said. “Back in the day, they were harder on newcomers. I will correct you, but in a more positive way. I compliment and motivate.”
This Saturday, The Bombers are set to face the Brooklyn Red Devils in the Professional Banked Track Roller Derby World Championships. The two teams have competed against one another for the championship title every year since 2007. Fitzpatrick describes the rivalry as being on the Giants-Dodgers level, and he wouldn’t dream of letting his winning record go to his head.
“I don’t want anyone to get cocky, because anything could happen,” Fitzpatrick said.
Megan Martinez, who Fitzpatrick describes as one of the team’s top young stars, is looking forward to the competition. Martinez with her high speed and smaller stature is a jammer, whose job it is to score points.
“I’m excited for each team to bring their A-game,” said Martinez, a Los Angeles native. “When you get cocky, you start to lose. You need to work together.”
With all the players coming from different places around the country, it can be difficult to keep the unit intact and stay motivated through the season. Roller derby requires a lot of physical endurance, but teamwork has been key in keeping the Bombers at championship level.
“You’ve got to really work hard at it,” Outhoummountry said. “I’m there to get you out of the pack and assist team members in scoring. (The other team) may pick on the less experienced players, and I’m there to protect my players.”
The fact that the Bombers will be competing on their home turf at Kezar Pavilion is an enormous advantage. Roller derby’s longevity is fueled greatly by a strong fan following, and the Bombers appreciate their fans immensely.
“When you have the crowd behind you, you get that adrenaline rush. (The other team) may not be as pumped as we are,” Martinez said.
Fitzpatrick and his team are always thrilled to meet fans after games and often receive thank-yous for keeping the sport alive.
“People get really into it. Having that support makes a huge difference,” Fitzpatrick said. “Nothing lasts forever. I don’t know if we’ll keep winning, but you’ve got to enjoy it while you have it.”
The SF Bay Bombers will face the Brooklyn Red Devils in the championship game at Kezar Pavilion on Oct. 13. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the game starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children, and are available at sfbaybombers.com.