Back in 2011, I started covering an up-and-coming sport called flat-track roller derby. I was fascinated the athleticism and deep commitment these women on skates put into their sport.
My “coverage”, if you want to call it that, originally was just limited to a blog I wrote for Chicago Now, called My Sports Complex. Eventually, I went a cut deeper into the sport, profiling other topics such as game strategy and fitness for a few derby related blogs and a print magazine.
All the while, I had tried to get ESPN interested, but the answer was always “no thank you”.
If you’ve never heard of Bonnie Thunders ... anyone up to speed on the game of roller derby might call her the LeBron James of the world’s fastest-growing sport.
But once you’ve seen her in action, you might decide LeBron James is really the Bonnie Thunders of the NBA.
-ESPN.com, May 2012
ESPN Playbook ran my story on Bonnie Thunders and her team, the two-time world champion Gotham Girls Roller Derby of New York City on May 1, 2012. At the end of the day, I remember my editor Dave Wilson, saying that “that post was definitely worth it! Send over your invoice!”
In the span of 24 hours, the story was shared over 7,000 times on Facebook and several hundred times on Twitter and other social media, by thousands of readers and the sport’s most rabid enthusiasts.
Over the span of the next four years, I ended up writing more than 20 features for ESPN about roller derby and its world-class athletes, also covering two World Cups and each year’s championship. It gave me other opportunities to profile women in sports, from Olympians to NFL executives and world famous tennis players.
(Slide photo credits: USA Field Hockey, Shutterstock, Lex Jackson, Jules Doyle, Tyler Shaw, Team AlterEgo/J. Bartholomew, US Speedskating, Manish Gosalia. Inset: Keary Ortiz/Agent Meow)