Life on the fast track

I would like all who read these words to know the following: My name is Ernest C. Wilkins III and I am bad at roller skating.

Well, I was. See, I went and spent some time with the Windy City Rollers, Chicago's premier roller derby team. A cabal of ladies of various shapes and sizes, they're easily the most entertaining team we have in this city, excluding no one.

We proposed an afternoon where they'd teach me the ins and outs of derby, trying some basic moves and seeing how I shaped up. WELP, I showed up and strapped on the gear only to find myself looking like a newborn giraffe. You know, awkward, bowlegged and covered in goo? (I'm a heavy sweater. What of it?)

I fell. A lot. Having not roller skated since Clinton's second term, I made a fool of myself while the Rollers showed me how it's done. They executed spins, sped around that track like demons from hell and stopped on dimes.

I kept falling.

I was like .0009 seconds away from saying eff this and going to grab a beer. My pride was hurt. That kind of feeling can make you go running in the other direction when faced with legitimate adversity, not to mention something trivial like not remembering how to skate.

To their credit, the team couldn't have been nicer and more supportive. Specifically Busty Brabender (you have no idea how happy it makes me to type that name) and Dinah Party.

One led me around the track like we were doing a couples' skate in the '70s while I regained my composure, and the other hit me with the Rollers' advice for up-and-coming skaters:

"Ernest, you didn't fail at anything today. You had some challenges, and if each girl quit after she thought she failed, there would never be anything to shoot for in the sport! We always use the word 'challenge' versus failure because a failure implies an end point whereas a challenge allows you to constantly strive to improve in order to reach a goal."

It's a damn fine quote and mission statement. Go check out the Windy City Rollers as soon as possible, and remember not to let your pride be your downfall. You know, especially if you're on skates.

Ernest Wilkins is Chicago's wingman.


The Women's Flat Track Derby Association has a long list of skills skaters must master before they can compete for a team like the Windy City Rollers. Ernest Wilkins tried these four:

>> Backwards skating. "I couldn't skate."

>> Lap time. "Ditto."

>> Crossovers. "Once I could skate, these were easy."

>> Whips. "Imagine a rubber band that snaps you forward with crazy speed. Now, imagine that rubber band is a person.



What: The Windy City Rollers invite three roller derby teams from across the country to compete in round-robin competition.

When: Competition starts at noon Saturday and Sunday; doors open at 11 a.m. both days.

Where: UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave.

Cost: $30-$45; tickets available at


Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 5 alternatives to bad Chicago baseball

    5 alternatives to bad Chicago baseball

    It's July in Chicago, and around this time, the city would normally be watching one, maybe two, contending baseball teams. Unfortunately, this isn't the case in 2013: While the Blackhawks ripped through the playoffs to a Stanley Cup, the summer months have not been kind to Chicago baseball. Both...

  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The three clichés that color every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • Joggers use paddle board to rescue man in the lake

    Joggers use paddle board to rescue man in the lake

    Joggers are credited with saving a man struggling in the water off North Avenue Tuesday morning by grabbing a paddle board and paddling it out to him, according to officials and those involved.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half-over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to insurance sales agents.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

  • 'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    Welcome to RedEye’s coverage of “The Bachelorette,” arguably the most misogynistic show on television! The format is pretty simple: Five women of RedEye each drafted five of the 25 competing men. Everyone gets one point for every man who gets through each week. If you ever want your daughter to...