As some of you may know, roughly 2 years ago we started the process of replacing the legacy photo gallery system with SmugMug. The results have generally been pretty good, except for one issue — all of the old links in our news posts (and most importantly all of our older Rolls Reports) had their images broken. This was a massive amount of articles — our first post was over 15 years ago and our first freeroll coverage in October of 2008. There’s been a lot of rolls reports in that time.
So they were broken, but we’ve now relinked the images. I won’t claim the formatting on the posts is universally pretty (15 years is a long time on the Web, and the style of rolls reports has certainly evolved over that time), but effectively all of the old gallery photos should now point at their SmugMug equivalents. As a result, though, I’ve had the opportunity to get a glimpse at a broad cross section of how freerolls have gone for a decade and a half in very short order. Having never really read them in detail before — it was a broadly different experience from reading through the 100 Years of Buggy articles for those years — in that it had not just the highlights, but all the daily details of what was going on with rolls. Along with that, there’s frequently a bunch of comments from teams and other alumni discussing what happened — and the result is a great snapshot into each week.
So, with much thanks to Sam, Ben, Shafeeq, Natalie, Josio, Tishya, Ethan, Connor, Tom, and the many other contributors and coordinators through the years, I wanted to share a few of the more interesting bits I found through this process.
First — did you know that not only have we had a Raceday Video Broadcast since 2003, but also that for several years we experimented with livestreaming freerolls? That’s right, from roughly 2011 and sporadically (“at least when it is on YouTube there are no ads”) though 2012 until a cellular plan change forced its end in 2014, you could occasionally watch freerolls live (example stream here).
Rolls Reports are also a great place to find out about things you might otherwise have forgotten. For example, for a few years, CMU didn’t have Homecoming, it had Cèilidh. Or maybe you might want to learn about orgs that made a go of it on the course, but only briefly, and key events for them such as DeltaForce, NROTC, KapSig’s return in 2011, or maybe KKG-ZBT.
Looking backwards, its also fun to learn something new about an org or buggy that has lasted through the years, such as the first leak of the name of Malice, the first self-built buggy for Apex (or, for that matter, did you know that Apex rolled Camo originally, but never on raceday?), or maybe just a year with a lot of new buggies including Krait.
The photographers that contribute to Rolls Reports Past also seem to have great fun documenting the state of the roads. For example, in 2018 and 2013:
Beyond that, there’s a large number of other things that have caused problems for rolls. We’re all familiar with the trouble of squirrels and geese, and in more recent years deer (but apparently deer were on the course as early as 2012!). Beyond that, you might be surprised that things that stopped rolls included not just mysterious discharge from Porter Hall, but also the G20. Sometimes, the best of intentions isn’t enough to avoid cancellation.
However, there’s an equally surprising list of things that didn’t prevent rolls from happening, despite what you might expect. This includes bus detours related to The Great Race (or just busses parked alongside the freeroll), vomit across the chute, and even (to the surprise of anyone who has gotten used to weather calls being made before 8pm) late night rainfall and wet roads. It turns out, if Sweeps and the organizations want to roll badly enough, it is entirely possible to make good come from a bad situation.
I also got an enormous amount of amusement about the creativity that teams have displayed with their pushers and buggies through the years by costuming them around Halloween. Some particularly good years included 2010‘s pusher costumes, along with buggies in 2017, and 2019.
Finally, in the interest of keeping things light, I haven’t covered many crashes/incidents here (but there is no doubt they are there throughout the reports) — but I will call out one from November 2016. Since, when the robots inevetibly rise up, it seems likely they’ll consider this an attempt at a first strike against Transistor. Please don’t drive antibuggyward around the course once the roads are closed during freerolls.
After EMS was confirmed, the morning got off to a panicked start. After Robobuggy pushed off, a Fringe car set off against traffic to deliver their flaggers and coffee. The safety chair immediately gave chase, but was unable to stop the determined Fringe motorist. The vehicle and Transistor crossed paths in the Chute, but by an act of the Buggy Gods, no contact was made. For safety reasons, we encourage all orgs to never drive vehicles against the flow of buggy traffic.
To conclude: I hope this has given you a taste for the diversity and quality of what the rolls reports provide to the history and cultore of Buggy. And, you can help! The BAA is still looking for a Rolls Reporter and local-to-Pittsburgh contributiors to help with reports this year. If you’re local and come out to rolls, consider signing up to the buggy-watchers list and/or grabbing the “Pittsburgh Local” rolerank on Discord to hear more about contributing. If you’d like to find out more about being the Rolls Reporter, come find one of the officers on Discord. Either way, I’ll see you on the course once freerolls start (permits start Sep 16)!