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Reflections On 300 Articles: Giving Coverage To Local Teams That Deserve It

by Brian Ledford

I had to go back and look at the date. February 4, 2014.

That was the day that I submitted an e-mail application to write for Arch City Sports. In my response sent to this website’s creator, Mick Lite, he posed this question.

“How many posts do you feel you could contribute in a month?”

Photo Credit: Bob Dunnell

Photo Credit: Bob Dunnell

In full disclosure, my original intention was totally marketing-based. As an announcer for Arch Rival Roller Derby, a St. Louis-based women’s flat-track roller derby franchise, I wanted to give a little promotion to the league’s upcoming local events on this rapidly rising web sports platform. Present a preview and a recap of monthly local events was my internal focus.

In order to do this, I would have to modify a style of writing online. St. Louis media normally doesn’t acknowledge roller derby except for the casual narrative of “occupation by day/roller derby star by night.”

Although local participants are often identified by interesting “noms de skate,” such as Chewblocka, D’Manda Flapjack, Cruella Belle-ville and Shimmy Hoffa, in the end they are all real athletes that were engaging in an extremely physical sport.

As a result, my “modus operandi” was to present the sport to a new-found Arch City Sports readership with the same type of presentation and coverage as one would find with any St. Louis-based athletic franchise.

Photo Credit: Bob Dunnell

Photo Credit: Bob Dunnell

I replied to Mick’s inquiry to blogging frequency. “Two columns a month, minimum,” I meekly wrote. That seemed safe for a guy that possessed a 1992 print journalism degree from SIU-Edwardsville but never utilized it to any significance. A preview for monthly Arch Rival events to build awareness and a straight X’s-and-O’s recap to keep a potential audience informed and engaged was my plan.

Using this meager bi-monthly barometer, right now I should be at about 70 columns collectively since February 2014.

This entry is number 300…just a little under five times the amount of the early projection.

I don’t do this to brag, but in reflection, it’s interesting how the personal journey over the last two and a half years has progressed…and how I found myself embracing online journalism and the other local sport franchises that I would eventually write about.

Photo Credit: Mick Lite Photography

Photo Credit: Mick Lite Photography

Of course, sticking with my P.T. Barnum-style missive, I submitted reviews and recaps of Arch Rival local events. That extended to coverage of its primary travel team that competes on an international level within the governance of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

But then I realized that in order to be a transparent journalist, I needed to provide coverage to another local league that was competing on that same national level: St. Charles-based St. Chux Derby Chix. In March 2014, I began covering the cross-county collective whose roster included names such as Whip L’Ash, Pixie Dust-Ruction and Jedi Knight-N-Gale. Present them in a similar light and frequency as the league that I yapped for.

Immediately thereafter, I added the St. Louis-based men’s flat-track league, GateKeepers Roller Derby, to my portfolio. That brought another collective of quad-skating monikers such as Magnum P.I.M.P., Percy Controll and Debaucherous Prime.

gkThree leagues deep, derby writing was in my wheelhouse and Arch City Sports happily provided the platform for it. Mick Lite understood that sports coverage of teams outside of the big three (Cards, Blues and, at the time, Rams) was important in setting itself apart from other locally based sports websites. Sure, there were a plethora of Gateway City portals that could pontificate about Cards skipper Mike Matheny’s latest roster shake-up, but how many of them could also construct a story that featured a handle-bar mustached blocker named Wrecking Bill? We both knew it.

With traction that was gained from the derby coverage at the website, I started to realize that there were other hard-charging teams outside of derby, also receivers of minimal media copy, that could also benefit from Arch City Sports and its FaceBook following of over 142,000. If I were truly to classify myself as a “sports fan,” then I would embrace all forms of local athletics. In the process, I found myself transitioning from just “the derby guy” to a scribe that wanted to become “hyper-local” for the website with his respective columns.

Most importantly, I wanted Arch City Sports to provide a stage for teams that were successful on a national level that deserved coverage that went beyond the one-off feature articles they normally received from traditional outlets.

Some might call it “rooting for the underdogs.” I prefer to reference it as “writing for the biggest dogs in their respective kennels.”

Photo Credit: Mick Lite Photography

Photo Credit: Mick Lite Photography

The St. Louis Surge, the local women’s professional basketball franchise, was top-priority on my bucket list. The squad, under the ownership of high-intensity entrepreneur Khalia Collier, was drawing quadruple-digits to its local games at UMSL and providing coverage seemed like a slam-dunk. The Surge became a fixture of Arch City Sports, launched by a Collier profile in July 2014, and extended to the team’s Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League title run later that summer. They completed the mission again in 2016 and firmly established themselves as the legacy franchise of the WBCBL.

Transitioning from the hard court to the gridiron, coverage of the St. Louis SLAM women’s professional tackle football franchise was launched in April 2015. The team, established in 2003, was inactive in 2014 and a quick shot of awareness seemed beneficial for a return to its complexion. The team proceeded to reach the Women’s Football Alliance post-season later that year and inevitably went on to capture the WFA Tier II National Title one year later. It was truly a joy to see this hard-working group reach a monumental achievement when its future was cloudy two years ago.

And making the switch from outdoor to indoor football, St. Charles-based River City Raiders, who competed in American Indoor Football, was added in March of this year. The team went on to reach the opening round of the AIF post-season this past summer. Its 2017 campaign that competes under a new governing body, Champions Indoor Football, launches in March and with Saturday home games on the docket at the Family Arena I anticipate finding myself seated on a padded folding chair and stroking keys.

Photo Credit: Mick Lite Photography

Photo Credit: Mick Lite Photography

All the aforementioned franchises listed, whether derby, basketball or football-related, have established themselves as elite on a national level. For those readers that crave statistics, let these numbers sink in. Since February 2014, the six teams listed above have a combined record of 149-43. That’s a mind-numbing 77 percent winning percentage. Within that span, there have been a pair of international championships, three national championships, two national championship silver finishes and, overall, 49 post-season games played. Woof!

Those collective teams occupied over two-thirds of the 300 columns. The rest that helped reach the personal benchmark also had unique back stories.

Intentionally, I never wrote about the day-to-day activities of the Cardinals and Blues because there were Arch City Sports writers that could cover those teams more effectively. However, I did make it a point, thanks to my normal trade as videographer for a St. Louis television news operation, to write “on-the-road” features on those two leagues during their respective post-seasons.

blues-betterYeah, some laptop jockey might have pontificated about the Cards/Cubs 2015 NLDS match-up from the comfort of his couch. I conversely elected to do it in the driver’s seat of a Ford Escape in a McDonald’s parking lot across from Wrigley Field at 4 a.m. in the morning on October 15, 2015 prior to that series’ game four of the best of five.

Entries that ranged from professional wrestling to the annual prep “Show-Me Bowl” football tussles to the Gateway City’s “Naked Bike Ride” to an analysis of an Elvis Presley pick-up football game while vacationing in Memphis kept the column counts escalating.

My internal beast was perpetually growing and needed to be fed. Why it became that way, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because, at heart, I am a fan of sports just like you. Interesting stories about the local teams, and the people who participate in them, that perpetually drive our hearty sports community must be told.


Photo Credit: Mick Lite Photography

I’d like to give a few acknowledgements in this reflection. My prose is supplemented by the talented photographers that provide the images. Primarily, Bob Dunnell and Jeff Higgins for roller derby and the aforementioned Mick Lite for SLAM and Surge games contribute the top-notch frames that accurately display the athleticism, grace and beauty that is found on game nights. There have also been others that have voluntarily supplied pictures to help complete the narrative. I am internally grateful for their cooperation because it effectively added to the coverage.

Sports journalism is as only good as the accessibility a blogger receives. A lot of credit goes to the players and coaches of Arch Rival Roller Derby, St. Chux Derby Chix, GateKeepers Roller Derby, the St. Louis SLAM, the St. Louis Surge and the visiting teams that were kind enough to chat. I have never been denied an interview, either in win or loss, by any of these franchises and that is much appreciated.

Of course, thanks to all of you that have followed these stories online and have shared them on your personal social media outlets for further reach.

Final recognition goes to Arch City Sports, because it has always believed that all teams deserve equal coverage regardless of sport or size. If those squads reached pinnacles, hoisted trophies or donned medals, then that’s the cherry on top. It’s cool to see that they have collectively tasted a lot of pitted fruit.

To reiterate, my initial prediction in February 2014 would have me now at 70 cumulative entries on this website.

I’m happy, and grateful, that I was 200-plus off.

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By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is a writer for Arch City Media, dating back to February 2014. Emphasis is on featuring and promoting local women's sports, but will cover anything that is not reported by traditional media outlets. Also a contributor to local concert reviews.

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