My friend, Scorey Feldman, has been on me for several years to come out and see the Windy City Rollers compete. I’ve meant to do so on several occasions, but the opportunity always seemed to have passed by the time I remembered that I wanted to go. A few days ago, I learned that the last home game of the 2009 season was scheduled for Saturday. Again, I meant to tell Whirl about it and ask if she’d like to go. And I got sidetracked. (This is becoming something of a theme in my life. I should do something about that.) So yesterday afternoon, a few hours before the bout, I asked her and some of my friends if they’d like to go. Whirl agreed; my friends had other plans. But Smokes suggested I should call up Scorey and see if I couldn’t get a media pass to shoot the bout from the floor. So I did. And Scorey hooked me up with a photography pass and a media access pass.
The little part of my brain that operates as a photography assignment desk sent over the instructions to the other little part of my brain that is a wannabe sports shooter: go to UIC Pavilion and make photographs that will cause Strazz to weep. (My assignment desk mind has some incredibly high standards.)
The night was a double header. Two bouts. The first bout pitted the Windy City Rollers development team Second Wind against the Brewcity Bruisers from Milwaukee. The second bout — the main event — was between the Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice and the Windy City Rollers All-Stars. The WCR All-Stars are the top-ranked team in the region and headed to the National Tournament in Philadelphia in November. The Wheels of Justice are one of the hardest hitting, physical teams in the nation.
So I had about an hour to try and get my act together on how to shoot this sport. Everyone I met was friendly and helpful. Gil Leora, the team photographer, suggested shooting positions and provided some very helpful advice on how to capture the action without becoming an accident of the action. Flash Hottie spent a lot of time with me explaining the rules, the strategy and highlighting some key players to watch. As I said, I’ve never been to a roller derby bout before. And now that I have been, I can state that I really had a great time. It’s a fun sport, with lots of action and strategy. Flash Hottie described it as a martial art mixed with athleticism. And while the redundancy of that statement amused me at the time, I think her irony was intentional. It doesn’t take itself terribly seriously.
The entire production is done by volunteers. None of the players or the support staff get paid for what they do. One of my co-workers, Tally Savalas, also works for the WCR as a statistician. He was amused to see me in attendance, and then further intrigued that I was there to shoot it.
As to the results of the bouts, the Second Wind lost a close-fought game against the girls from Milwaukee. The All-Stars game was extremely close for the first three quarters of the game until Varla Vendetta and Eva Dead broke it open and routed the Wheels of Justice 113-73. The breakout scoring all happened in the last twelve minutes due to hard-fought, physical play and some very speedy jammers.
And with that, the team is off to the Nationals.
If you get a chance, check it out!