The first thing I hear when I walk into the UWM Panther Arena on a Saturday night is a loud thud, followed quickly by a chorus of cheers and jeers. As I take my seat in the stands, I can see a blur of reds, blues, yellows and blacks swimming around the track taped to the center floor.
A whistle blows and 10 more women decked out in pads, helmets and intimidating grins race onto the floor. I soon learn this is the beginning of a new Jam, or short scoring opportunity, in the high-octane Brewcity Bruisers women’s flat track roller derby bout.
It’s invigorating, watching these women jockey for position or bash their way through a wall of bodies. In no time I’m picking up on the strategy: one team may focus on a pint-sized but quick Jammer skirting around Blockers while another team may put in their big-time bruiser and pound their way through.
There’s four main teams in the Milwaukee league that play each other monthly in bouts (matches), in addition to two traveling teams. There’s even cheerleaders (excuse me, Beerleaders), and a pipeline of youth talent via the Micro Bruisers team.
Though it’s my first time in the stands, I see many fans repping their favorite teams’ gear. The swag table is crowded throughout the bout.
*CLAP CLAP CLAP*
The sometimes scary intensity during a bout is simply adrenaline: at the end of each match, no matter the score (or the hits), the teams line up for a roll around the track and high-fives for everyone (fans included). It’s a good reminder that this is meant to be a fun athletic outlet.
But perhaps more than anything, the Brewcity Bruisers seem to be a family, a group of sisters. Everyone knows each other, and I catch rivals posing for group photos after each match.
As I leave the arena, I can’t help but smile to myself. The Brewcity Bruisers is not only a cheap and entertaining way for me to spend a Saturday night, but now I’m aware of yet another unique group of people in this city doing something positive both for themselves and for the community.
The next Brewcity Bruisers bout is March 12th. I’ll be rocking my mouth guard in the stands that night.