Quick count: are there more stubbed-out cigarette butts outside Cicero Stadium, or more sleeve-tattoos inside?
The gymnasium, full up on plastic cups of beer and sausage-and-cheese slices, with stands packed from floor to ceiling, has reached an uncomfortable temperature. The Windy City Rollers season is nearing the playoffs—the undefeated Hell’s Belles are set to take on the reigning champions The Double Crossers, and in the first bout, The Fury fight the heavy underdog Manic Attackers. Elastica’s “Stutter” tumbles through the gym’s speakers. Then Metallica. Then Veruca Salt. It’s a mid-nineties meltdown until “Hey Ya” shakes the Polaroid.
“Are you ready to talk derby?” growls one of the two suited MCs, both standing on a balcony near the DJ, armed with mics to call the games’ action. The crowd is a mixed breed, but mostly cheering families and friends, howling for loved ones as they dart across the track. (Photos snapped, high-fives slapped.) All-star players make their presence known almost immediately once the matches begin. For The Fury it’s Eva Dead and Yvette YourMaker. For the Manic Attackers, Beth Amphetamine (“I need another hit of Beth,” the MC croaks) and Gigantor (she’s really small). Hell’s Belles has got Varla Vendetta, who seems to dominate the entire evening, and Shocka Conduit. The Double Crossers seemingly have no one, as the team’s completely housed by the Hell’s Belles.
At halftime, the MC insists on a dance-off in the stands. An entire group in the Northeast corner indulges. A lone hipster shakes his ass like a goof near the front. A girl with a handkerchief giggles and wins the competition. Lone hipster’s pissed; he waves off what he thinks was a great injustice. Then he moves for another slice. (Tom Lynch)