So, I got the chance to see my very first roller derby bout live on Saturday night. The Windy City Rollers were kind enough to let me and my friend Alaine in to see the season opener which was held up at the UIC Pavillion.
It has been nearly a year now that I had considered going to see what this whole roller derby thing was all about. Of course about a year and a half ago, I did a story on Morris' very own Molly Fannin, otherwise know in Derby parlance as Bork Bork Bork. She is actually doing quite well these days and on Saturday she was announced as making the All-Star traveling team again this season. This in addition to being a captain of the Manic Attackers during the regular season.
"We've been one of the 10 ten teams in the nation for years," Bork's fellow captain Ruth Enasia said of the travel team. "At least since 2008, we've been quite competitive."
First things first, though.
On Saturday the season got underway with a standard doubleheader bout. The first one out of the gate was a rematch of last year's championship between the Manic Attackers and the Fury. Days before the event, Bork told me that she thought it was going to be highly competitive and it was. The Manics won the Ivy King Cup last year but the Fury won it the year before against the Manics. Additionally, the Fury opened with a win in a preseason primer and then again on Saturday night by a 196-186 count.
Fury team captain Ska Face told me that the two teams have more of a connectedness than a rivalry going.
"The rivalry is deep and full of love. Almost like a sibling rivalry competing for the love of Ivy," she said. "We obviously respect the other teams, but the Manics and Fury have this bond for two reasons. One, we share the same night of practice and we seem to have the same ebb and flow on the track and when the Fury is having a good season, so are the Manics."
Ruth Enasia said that each year washes the slate clean for every team.
"Year to year teams change. There are always a small handful of people who ship out and come in, so you never know what the new season is going to bring," she said. "We do scrimmage them every week, but we are confident in our ability."
The nitty gritty of the bout went something like this.
The Manics jumped out to a rather large lead early in the bout and for the most part stayed there.
"One of our goals was to come out strong," Ruth Enasia said. "We've been a team who has had a stellar second half but who needed a few jams to get going. We wanted to come out strong and we did."
Penalties played a big role in the Manics jumping out to the lead and then the Fury making a remarkable comeback.
"The crushing blow given by the Manics in the beginning was due to our penalties," Ska Face said. "But what I think pulled us through is our per-jam tunnel vision ... we don't really pay attention to winning or losing streaks on the track. That let us claw our way out of the deficit."
The Fury did claw back and led once before half before the Manics claimed a 104-98 halftime edge. The Fury then took a second lead with 26:30 left in the game (30 minute halves) before the Manics pitched a shutout in five straight Fury jams.
"That's tough to do," Ruth Enasia said. "To hold them scoreless like that is a big thing."
The Manics were up 166-148 with about 12 minutes left but it was pretty much all Fury down the stretch.
"We got into some penalty trouble at the end of the game," Ruth Enasia admitted. "It's hard when there are people in the box instead of the floor."
In the second bout of the night, the Hell's Belles burst out to a 101-17lead by halftime, then went on a 34-0 run to start the second half in what turned out to be a 178-74 win by the Belle's.
Attendance was estimated at "a little shy of 1,500" according to Ruth Enasia.
"That's quite good. Of course we'd like to do more, but that's a good average," she said.
It would highly be worth your time and a trip to see the action up at the UIC Pavillion at the next match on March 1 to make that a plus-one. For more information, you can check out their website at windycityrollers.com