Chicago may be obsessed with Eastern Conference finals this weekend, but the Bulls aren't the only game in town.
The Windy City Rollers play their final pre-championship game tomorrow night at the UIC Pavillion.
The energy is high. So is the enthusiam. And for the rollerskating athletes, the action is intense.
ANNOUNCER: So Val Capone tryin' to slow down Sonya Mouthshut ....
BRAWLTERS: Val Kapone and Ada Hatelace. Thery'e holdin' the line really well though, she doesn't have anywhere to go....
Barbara Brawlters and I are sitting trackside at the UIC Pavillion as the Manic Attackers do battle with the Fury.
BRAWLTERS: Ohh! And Beth sneaks around the outside. And she's out…
Brawlters skates for the Windy City Rollers, but right now, she's giving me a private play-by-play.
BRAWLTERS: The fun thing about Sarg is she doesn't wait for holes. She just hits people and makes holes.
I expect to see big, bruising women on the track - and plenty are.
BRAWLTERS: Nicely done!!
But some are petite, some are lanky, some are buxom -- it's a complete smorgasbord of body types.
BRAWLTERS: Ohhhhh ! She just got through the line with about two inches of clearance.
One thing in common, though… these women seem to love that this is a contact sport
BRAWLTERS: Yeah, definitely, I mean even people like me with no athletic background, once you get involved in this and you feel what it's like to hit someone so hard that they go sideways. YOU GET HOOKED .
Barbara Brawlters is 27 with orange-blonde hair, a winning smile and large black glasses. Not a born athlete, she seems almost surprised to find herself here.
BRAWLTERS: Well, it's kind of funny, I've never really played sports before.. I never cared about sports before. I was a kid up in a tree with a BOOK.
ANNOUNCER: Five points! Makin' the score now 70 to 40 !
So here's how derby works. Each team has four blockers and a JAMMER. The Jammer's like the queen bee --the only one who can make points. Basically she's gotta elbow her way through the other team's blockers and lap 'em. After that, every girl she passes from the other team earns her a point, so speed counts.
BRAWLTER: So it's all about positioning and as a blocker, you play offense and defense at the same time. You're working on getting your jammer through, keeping the other jammer from getting through and at the same time trying to keep the other team's blockers out of your jammer's way - which is a challenge ..
ANNOUNCER: And that's gonna end the game. The Fury remain undefeated. ( WHISTLING, APPLAUSE )
The Manic Attackers didn't win tonight, but they're not exactly downbeat
VAL CAPONE: You killed it, dude.
ZOE TROCIOUS: The championship is still gonna be like a fight.
VAL CAPONE: Tooth and nail.
Tonight, Val Capone, Zoe Trocious and Alisin Chains are Manic Attackers.
VAL CAPONE: Exactly, I want another ring
But they don't get paid for this, and on Monday they'll all be back at their day jobs.
ZOE TROCIOUS: Umm, I do tech support.
ALISIN CHAINS: Uh, I work in an operating room as a surgical technologist.
VAL CAPONE: Uh, I sell beer at Wrigley Field.
ALISIN CHAIN: There's housewives. There's people that work various --
VAL CAPONE: Lawyers. Doctors.
ALISIN CHAIN: Government jobs
VAL CAPONE: Psychologists. A couple of social workers. Lots of teachers in roller derby. You have your summers off... have a lot of aggression built up.
Roller derby used to have a bad rap.. And some people still think it's faked up with winners decided ahead of time.. But don't say that to these athletes. Contemporary derby is truly competitive and these girls have to train hard:
BRAWLTERS: Ohhhhh, I cannot even begin to tell you. You use every muscle in your body. Especially your legs of course because you do skate in an actual squat position. So quads, hamstrings, calves everything - it's a huge leg workout. But also a huge part of roller derby is in your core. Your core strength is what allows you to stay low while you skate, as well as allows you to hit hard without falling down - and when you get hit, to stay up on your feet.
BRAWLTERS: you've no-doubt figured out, is a stage name.
A manufactured persona. When she's not here, she's working in accounts payable-- and her birth certificate says she's Erin Thompson. But part of why she does derby, is to have an alter ego.
BRAWLTERS: Because you're FREE when you come here. You are shed of all of your everyday roles in society and what people expect of you. You can be anything you wanna be. And I've actually found that Barbara has encroached upon Erin in ways that I think are really great. I'm more confident. I'm more assertive and that's because of Barbara. Barbara is who I want to be.
At the Windy City Rollers, for WBEZ, this is Linda Paul.
CAPONE: Your name is Linda Fall?
CAPONE: I thought you said "Fall." I thought - you already have a derby name…