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This DePaul staffer’s on a roll, literally

By day, Molly Fannin is an assistant to the DePaul College of Education Office of Development. By night, she thrives in the world of roller derby as Bork Bork Bork, a blocker for the Manic Attackers and the Windy City Rollers All-Stars.

The Windy City Rollers is Chicago’s premier women’s flat track roller derby league, consisting of 100 individuals who play for one of the four home teams — Double Crossers, The Fury, Hell’s Belles and the Manic Attackers. Skaters new to the league start out on the developmental squad, Haymarket Rioters, before being drafted to one of the home teams. The strongest skaters from each team are drafted into the traveling team, the Windy City Rollers All-Stars, who compete nationally against other leagues one weekend per month.

Roller derby is played with five skaters on the track: one pivot, who sets the pace; one jammer, who scores all the points; and three blockers, who clear the way so the jammer can score.

Fannin, 26, is a blocker, and she says her job is pretty simple.

“My sole purpose on the track is to smash other girls who are trying to hit my jammer,” she said.

Fannin got into roller derby in 2009 when she attended a Windy City Rollers vs. Rose City (Portland, Ore.) bout at the UIC Pavilion, where all WCR bouts are held once a month during the season. Since that time, she’s had “stars in my eyes” for roller derby.

“After meeting some of the derby girls, and hearing all about the league, a friend and I decided that it would be fun to try out,” Fannin said. “We started attending speed practices at Orbit to learn how to stay off the ground to get ready for the tryout in Nov. 2009.”

Fannin passed the tryout and perfected her craft with WCR’s farm team, the Haymarket Rioters, quickly being drafted to the Manic Attackers in Dec. 2009 and taking the name “Bork Bork Bork,” the trademark sound the chicken-chasing Swedish Chef from the Muppets makes.

“[Bork Bork Bork] doesn’t define my style of play, really,” Fannin said.  “It’s more of an homage to my childhood, and my penchant for absurdist humor … which is what the Muppets are all about!”

It didn’t take long for Bork Bork Bork”to establish herself in the league: She was named the Rookie of the Year for 2010 and got called up to compete nationally with the All-Stars. Additionally, she’s 2012 co-captain for the Manic Attackers and the events committee co-chair, as the non-profit league is run by volunteers who pay to skate.

Fannin has a background in physical sports such as volleyball, basketball and rugby, so roller derby seemed like the next logical step.

“I play because I’m competitive, I like to stay busy,” she said. “Strategically, I’ve never had to think so much about playing a sport—we play offense and defense at the same time. Physically, never have my leg muscles been so huge.  Emotionally, I am more invested in this sport and league than I’ve ever been.”

Of course, roller derby is at night. During the day, Fannin, a DePaul alum, works in the university’s College of Education, supporting efforts to raising money for DePaul’s Campaign, a fundraising initiative centered around students.

“DePaul is my 9-5 job, and luckily it doesn’t intersect with roller derby at all,” she said. “I go to work at 9 a.m., out by 5 p.m., and then usually practice on skates for two hours in the evening 3-4 nights per week. “

There are physical dangers involved in roller derby. Things like torn ACLs, spiral fractures, broken fingers, etc. are not uncommon for the skaters, but the worst injury Fannin has received — “knock on wood” — was a PCL sprain that cleared up in a few weeks.

Having said that, there are other dangers to the sport, she said:

“Other dangers include ‘hulking’ out of your jeans because your quads get so big that regular size[s don’t fit anymore],” Fannin said. “Forgetting that, unlike your teammates, the general public is offended by rank elbow pad smells, and putting all other life goals on hold because roller derby is just so much fun.”

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