Personal injury attorney M. Brady Beyers became a fan of roller derby in 2009, but he didn’t expect that two years later he’d be playing the game himself. Eventually, a friend talked him into it.
“I resisted for quite a while,” Beyers said. “It had nothing to do with the lifestyle or the people. I think at that time, I was 37 years old, and I had made it that far without having to have any sort of bone surgically repaired. And I had a prior car accident myself and have some neck issues and didn’t figure that derby would be the best thing for it.”
But at the urging of another friend, Beyers went to an open recruitment event, and he admits he enjoyed it. “I had never intentionally run into somebody and hit someone on skates before until that day,” he recalled.
After that recruitment event Beyers was hooked, and he joined Indiana’s first male roller derby league, the Race City Rebels.
Not a fake sport – and not just for women
At first, Beyers was hesitant to tell people that he played roller derby.
“I’ve had several people that I’ve told – or who have found out – that I play men’s roller derby, and a lot of them laugh,” he said. “But I think these are people that don’t really have a full understanding of what it is. It’s not the WWF-style stuff that used to be on in the ’70s. It’s a true sport, lots of rules, and for the most part, it’s safe, but you’re gonna have the occasional catastrophic injury.”
Unlike the televised roller derby of the 1970s, the modern version of the sport is primarily played on a flat track. However, a handful of banked-track leagues, like those seen in the fictional film “Whip It,” do exist in other states.
The sport has grown exponentially in the past decade and has branched out to include not just women’s leagues, but men’s, children’s, and co-ed leagues. About 626 leagues – some with multiple teams – exist in the United States, with more than 1,000 leagues worldwide.
“I would say that derby is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – physically – and it’s a different skill set from anything I’d ever done before,” Beyers said.
To be eligible to compete, skaters must pass a set of minimum skating skills – including the ability to jump over an object at least three inches high and recover from a knee fall in two seconds, without using their hands to get up. And to keep those skills sharp, during competitive season, the Race City Rebels practice at least six hours a week.
Beyers has participated in sports before – golf, baseball, wrestling – but he wasn’t sure what to expect when he started playing roller derby.
“I felt like I was in OK physical shape, but I was not in derby shape,” he said. “Cardio has never been my thing, and there’s definitely a lot of cardio involved in this.”
Anthony “DV Ant” Morris, a coach for the Rebels, recognized Beyers’ natural ability right away.
“I remember seeing him skate at our first recruiting event. He skated harder than anyone else there,” he said. “Some of our vets were getting tired, but he just didn’t stop.”
Beyers primarily plays the position of jammer, the person who scores points for the team. Jammers must be agile, fast, and able to take a beating over and over again. Being small – and able to slip through gaps in the pack – helps, too. Beyers, at 5 feet 5 inches tall, was a natural fit for that role.
Beyers said he doesn’t think he’s ever gone up against a skater smaller than him, and he considers himself fortunate that he’s never been seriously injured, especially considering the size of some of the blockers he has faced. One burly skater for Pioneer Valley Roller Derby (of Northampton, Mass.) comes to mind.
“PVRD had a guy named Mongo, and Mongo killed me one time. But it never hurt,” he said. “He absolutely blasted me into the center of the rink, and I stood up and said, ‘Nice hit.’ We both smiled at each other, and I skated past him.”
The company you keep
Spectators might imagine that the men who play roller derby are brutes who enjoy hurting each other. But while tempers may flare during a bout, most skaters play by the rules and enjoy sharing a beer after the game.
Roller derby attracts a broad cross section of people. Beyers’ teammates include an aerospace engineer, an accountant, a drummer for a heavy metal band, an entrepreneur, and others. Beyers is the only lawyer on the team.
Teammate David “Dave Atonement” Weir, a PhD candidate at Purdue University, is the board secretary for the Men’s Roller Derby Association, which changed its name this year from the Men’s Derby Coalition and has been working to promote the sport and uphold high standards for game play. MRDA has 16 member leagues, including the Rebels, and will hold its national tournament in October. While the Rebels did not qualify for the national tournament, they head to Sioux City, Iowa, in mid-October to compete in the Rolling Along the River Tournament. Beyers – recently named the MRDA “Skater of the Week” – has not decided if he will join the team when it travels to Iowa; he’s currently in the process of moving to Hawaii, where his wife just got a new job.
After graduating from Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, Beyers worked in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office from 1998 to 2005. He worked for the Ken Nunn Law Office for one year following that, then as a solo attorney for a few years before rejoining Ken Nunn in 2008.
“It was kind of an easy transition going from being a prosecutor and fighting for people that had been harmed in some form or fashion … I feel like I’m still doing the same thing, but instead of compensating people with somebody going to jail, what happens is I’m trying to get damages for someone for what’s been done to them,” Beyers said. “So I’m still kind of protecting the rights of the injured or harmed.”
While playing roller derby requires the kind of time busy attorneys may not have, Beyers said he worked hard to make time for the sport. And when he moves to Hawaii, he intends to make time for another of his passions: opening a fitness club.
“My wife and I both used to be really into fitness. She still is, but with my schedule – living on the southeast side of Indianapolis and working in Bloomington and with my job taking me anywhere from Gary down to New Albany – it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for other things.”
Asked if he would try to start a men’s league in Kauai, he said he doubted he would. While he hasn’t had any serious injuries, his left knee has sent him several messages that it can’t take many more poundings.
“I’m 38. I’ve got a herniated disc in my neck. So I’ve often asked myself, ‘What the hell am I doing out here?’” he said. “It’s fun – it’s a great time – but it also allows you to stay fit. And to do something very few other people get the chance to do.”•
Editor’s Note: Indiana Lawyer reporter Jenny Montgomery is affiliated with the Circle City Derby Girls, whose umbrella organization – Circle City Rollersports Cooperative – originally housed the Race City Rebels. The Rebels formed their own independent league in 2010.