It’s still quite a blur how exactly I stumbled upon the Atlanta Rollergirls. Without going into too many boring and senseless details, I had the opportunity to develop a pitch for a tv show. The idea to approach the Atlanta Rollergirls came to me passing one of their posters… even having never been to a bout, I knew right then that this was something that had the action and charisma that I’m attracted on and would make for a great project. I shot a lot of stuff and delivered an awesome pitch reel, but despite that, it went pretty much nowhere (mainly because they sold my division the day before I handed in the final product)… which in hindsight is probably a good thing. Because “reality” tv is a terribly deviant and brutal thing to unleash on anyone, much less a group of 100 women that I had developed both a very deep respect for and a healthy fear of them all pummeling me.
After that, I couldn’t really let go of the Atlanta Rollergirls. It felt weird to walk away at that point because I had caught a glimpse of the spirit and essence of what a true community was. This wasn’t just a “sport,” there was something deeper and more meaningful going on that I really wanted to be a part of. Now obviously I couldn’t try out because I contain that cursed Y chromosome… aside from that I’m really only good at random quick quips and making videos. So that pretty much left me with producing videos.
Now I could get into how I make the highlight videos, but honestly that’s really not all that interesting. They aren’t overly complex and honestly only video geeks would probably find that stuff insightful. In it’s most basic form, I just take the best shots and edit it together while I drink beer and listen to loud punk music. What I’d rather talk about is why they enamored me and pretty much sucked me into their amazing world.
First off, let’s get this out of the way. Roller Derby is pretty badass. As someone who has had pretty much zero interest in any organized sports, I think it’s a pure thrill to watch. I truly despise the more alpha male dominated aspects that permeate professional sports and find it juvenile and completely ridiculous. So with women’s roller derby I don’t have to worry about any of that… it’s pure unbridled athleticism from some simply amazing women. And quite frankly, I don’t think women get enough credit in sports. Yes there are leagues for most sports that are for women, but they often times get glazed over or approached in utterly ridiculous ways that are actually embarrassing as a society (I’m looking at you Lingerie Football League). Women’s roller derby is pure adrenaline based battle…which is about as good as it gets for me.
The real reason I latched onto this sport, and this is probably the hardest thing for me to describe… but it’s the entire community of roller derby. The Atlanta Rollergirls is permeated by the most devoted and dedicated people I’ve ever come across. Completely ignoring the actual sport, these women have put more emotional, mental, and physical energy into running the organization themselves than most people put into their jobs. From organizing travel schedules, hiring security staff, medical crew, training, practices, and even spending their Friday evenings laying down the track to play on the following day… this is an arena of pure unadulterated DIY spirit in action. Add in the team of medics, referees, NSOs, security, family, and super friends and you’ve got quite the eclectic mix of awesome people. Having only been with the team for 3 seasons, I am continually amazed more and more as I get a glimpse into the people behind the curtain.
One of my idols, the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr. wrote extensively about the demise of the extended family. How important it is to be a part of something much bigger than yourself and bonded by blood. It is getting harder and harder to find that sort of bond these days. We live farther and farther away from our immediate family… work a job that most of us put up with but don’t honestly love in the truest sense of the word, and merely get by. But with the Atlanta Rollergirls we all have a family. I’ve seen some of these girls go through some really tough times and be lifted up by the community. And I myself have had amazingly tough life experiences shatter my mental and emotional state only to find that there’s hundreds of people there to cheer you up, give you a hug, or simply hear your story and then buy you a beer. Which is so emotionally and spiritually strengthening to have. I didn’t realize this aspect of my life was missing until I found the Atlanta Rollergirls. This is despite the fact that so much of the time I’m not even with them. I watch my footage and strive to give them justice on how awesome they are. But as I watch the clips of them skating, pummeling and just tearing through the rink, I can look at so many of them and just smile at some random moment we had off the track or at an after party or whatever. I am proud of what they are doing, but also that I am in some small way a part of that experience.
I’ve worked on a ton of projects through the years but there honestly has been nothing as rewarding as working for the Atlanta Rollergirls. These women work so hard on the track and off it that hearing that something I made helped them promote their bouts or just maybe made the skaters see just how awesome they are is ten times as rewarding as pretty much anything else I work on. They push themselves in the name of the league and the sport and being able to help promote that in whatever small way I can honestly fills me with more joy than anything else I’ve had my hand in. I’m filled with almost child-like glee in mentioning to people that I am the Atlanta Rollergirls Official Videographer. It fills me with unbridled pride to have been accepted into this world. And that’s awesome, because they roll like the Hells Angels…you mess with one of them you mess with them all.
And I realize that this post might not be quite as inclusive in terms of the casual fan but I think it’s important to know that outside of the lights and whistles of the bouts there lays a deep seeded soul to it all that everyone strives to empower and make better for everyone involved. It will change your life…it changed mine more than I ever realized. Hell, my stepson is started to referee with the junior league here in Atlanta and I couldn’t be prouder because if he sticks with it, he’ll not only be involved in a badass sport but also be part of a very rare and special thing that is hard to find these days…a family. And I think we could all use a bigger family these days.