30 December 2011

Bout Recap: Twin City Riot vs Burlington Bombshells

Now that the Cup is over and Flocci has returned to health and sanity, let's go back in time for a long-overdue bout recap.

Back in September, we kidnapped our friend SlapDash and headed up to Barre to see the Twin City Riot host Burlington's Bombshells. Before the women took the track, though, the men of the Burlington Bomb Quads and the Mass Maelstrom went head-to-head in an exhibition bout. As with most men's derby, we lamented the lack of speed control (it's all fast, all the time), but marveled at the footwork and jumps, even if they were a bit sloppy. Also true to form, there was one skater who stood out, but we don't know his name -- he skated for the Maelstrom, and his number is 1337 -- he used strategy, he's an effective blocker, and his pink helmet was terribly cute. (Dear teams, please post rosters on your websites? Please?) The Bomb Quads wore black, the Maelstrom wore white, and, as SlapDash pointed out, "the guys in white always win." The Maelstrom's victory was a decisive 133-68.

Twin city came out sporting sequined silver skirts to celebrate the bout's disco theme, aaaaand... it kind of went downhill from there. Don't get us wrong, we love the Riot. They're awesome. But when they play a team that's not even close to being at the same skill level, even the best team can be kind of boring to watch (see also: Team USA vs. everybody). The Bombshells, wearing Sharpie-numbered uniforms and low-contrast panties (almost as if they were deliberately giving WFTDA rules the finger), looked wobbly on their skates, and barely managed to score 16 points by the end of the first half -- answered with 196 by the Riot. The Riot, realizing they'd win the bout without even trying, let just about everybody on the team try their hand at jamming. We discovered that you can take Mocha Latte out of the blocker role, but you can't take the blocker out of Mocha -- she brings the booty blocks even when she's jamming.

At the half, we looked at the score, looked at the time, and decided that we'd rather go get dinner than stick around for the rest of the slaughter. Flocci's notes read, "2nd Half: Who knows? (...what evil lurks in the hearts of men...) Burritos!" That the burritos were better than the derby made us sad, but at least we had full bellies to console us.

The only good thing about this bout is that the highlight video (if one can call it that) is available online. CVTSport has posted it here. You'll hear a lot of cheering only because the hometown crowd was so supportive of the Riot that they went nuts for each and every scoring pass.

The final score, we found out later, was 260-38. That says it all.

07 December 2011

World Cup Photos

One of the frustrating things about the venue (as if the list weren't long enough already) is that their camera policy kept changing. On Thursday, they let all cameras in. On Friday, they let non-professional models in (SLRs were okay, but only if they didn't have huge lenses). Saturday and Sunday, no SLRs whatsoever.

Flocci, being something of an amateur photographer, brought both her point-n-shoot (for taking video) and her DSLR. The fancy camera has a very basic, not the least bit professional, stock lens on it. It allows her to take decent pics, but not fantastic ones. Axel Adams would look at it and laugh.

So when the security guy made the announcement Saturday morning that all SLR cameras were banned unless the user had a media badge (and believe me, we hope that this blog becomes popular enough before the next big event that it'll qualify for a media badge), Flocci was more than a little disappointed. Her point-n-shoot camera doesn't do well at motion photography. In fact, it doesn't do motion photography at all, unless what you intend to capture is a screen full of blur. If someone who is otherwise holding still takes a breath while the camera is trying to make up its mind about whether to take the picture, the entire frame is blurry. If a breeze moves the photographer's arm hair by a nanomilimeter, the whole frame is blurry. If the... well, you get the point. It's not a great camera. But that was the only option available as of Saturday morning. After a few bouts of abysmal shots, Flocci finally gave up and resigned herself to only having photos from Thursday and Friday.

Here are some of her favorites. More are already up on Flickr, and more still will be going up just as soon as her head stops feeling like she just got kicked with a skate. Whether you call it con crud, arena plague, or Beaver Fever (which, we understand, is a completely different illness in some parts of the world), being sick isn't fun. Not one bit. Anywho, on with the pics!


aus1

aus-ger3

skates1

If anyone has any good cold remedies, drop us an email, k?

05 December 2011

World Cup Elimination Bouts Recap Part 3

We made it across the border and back home safely (and with far less fuss than we expected -- those new enhanced licenses really are awesome) and are starting to thaw out as the dormant furnace comes back online, so it's time to finish up the recap. We weren't quite finished with Saturday's bouts...

Germany met Ireland to determine 9th and 10th places, and despite some really good jams for Ireland, Germany still took the win 116-60. It's okay. Ireland still has that skater with those frilly, shiny skins. They win in Flocci's book.

Sweden and New Zealand went head-to-head on track 2, and what a game it was! The score was seriously close (45-42 at halftime) until the last few minutes when NZ's jammer got a major penalty and Sweden surged ahead. NZ couldn't make up the points in time, and the game ended with the Swedes ahead 94-66.

France also played Finland that night, but we went back to the hotel to be sure we would be well-rested for the final. Finland won 115-84, setting them up for a bout with Sweden to determine 5th place, and bumping France into a bout with NZ for 7th place.

Sunday brought precipitation first thing in the morning, prompting the security team to bring the expectant crowd indoors (which they should've done on Thursday, but hey, lesson learned). Once they started letting people into the track area, there was a mad rush for seats, since everyone wanted the best possible spot for the final bout later in the day. We snagged the spot we'd had the day before, giving us a good view of both tracks, so we could catch all the action.

The first bout of the day was Canada vs. England to determine which would play in the final. England put up a heck of a fight, struggling to collect points while preventing Canada from scoring too many of their own, but England's jammers had a rough time with Canada's blockers, and Canada ended up taking the bout 161-90. This bout saw one of the only serious injuries of the Cup -- Canada's Georgia W. Tush broke her collarbone in the second half (which we didn't find out until later, because she was up and skating off the track almost as soon as the medic got to her), keeping her out of the final bout.

Meanwhile, Team USA was up against Australia on track 2, and it was the most dramatic slaughter of the Cup: 532-4. In the first half, USA was scoring nearly 100 points every ten minutes, and the Aussies didn't get their 4 until the second half. It was, in a word, rough. But it settled the opponents for the final: USA and Canada.

Sweden and Finland played their 5th place bout, which, looking back at the notes, should have been a real nail-biter, since it had lead changes and close scores throughout, but the play was a little on the slow side and the fan groups for those teams weren't nearly as noisy as Canada's or England's, so it felt less exciting than it probably should have. The Finns took the bout 126-100, putting them 5th overall, and Sweden 6th.

After the USA vs. Australia carnage, New Zealand took on France for 7th place. We were very happy that the Kiwis performed their Haka in a place where we could see it this time, as it's quite the impressive display. The French were clearly unfazed by the show, however, jumping to an early lead and holding it for most of the remainder of the game (there was a brief tie in the first half, but then France got a power jam and reinforced their dominance). Penalties were frequent on both sides (it wouldn't surprise us if someone was ejected, but we didn't see) and it was a somewhat messy bout, but a good show by both teams nonetheless. France ended up 7th overall, and New Zealand 8th.

Before the 3rd place bout, seating had to be rearranged to allow everyone to see the action on track 1. This was handled in slow, laborious, and gruff fashion by the security team, with one of the bout announcers stepping in on the mic to help keep people calm. Folks who had gotten up early, stood in the rain, and jockeyed for the best spots on the track 2 bleachers first thing in the morning were informed that their effort had been for naught, as the bleachers were going to be cleared of all belongings before being moved. This made people angry, and for a little while we were worried there would be a riot, but fortunately, derby fans are generally nice folks (even when irritated), and the re-seating procedure (when it finally happened) was relatively pain-free. If it hadn't been for that announcer (whose name I didn't catch, else I'd totally give her props), things could have been a lot worse, but she did an amazing job of putting some humor and rationality into the situation and addressing people's frustration with kindness and understanding.

With everyone re-seated (and a projector displaying the CCTV feed on another wall, with spare bleachers set up), the England vs. Australia bout finally began. It wasn't the most painful point disparity of the bout, but it was still a decisive win for Team England, at 203-85. Australia was even ahead for a few jams early in the first half, but then England got two back-to-back power jams to put them back in the lead and just kept going. The officials seemed to have trouble with this bout, making it a rough one to watch, what with refs changing their calls on the fly and calling official time outs every other jam to correct or clarify score/penalty issues, but we decided to be thankful that all of these issues happened in this bout instead of the final.

Finally, after three solid days of bouts, the top two teams in the world took to the track. The cheering was deafening, the signs were hilarious ("Beaver Fever" and "Kick Ass and Friendly" for the Canadian side, for example), and everyone was excited.

And then, the carnage began.

By the 7th jam of the first half, Team USA had racked up nearly 100 points and hadn't allowed Canada to score. Late in that jam, though, the US jammer attempted her second apex jump and got called on a cut track major, allowing the Canadians to start jam 8 in a power jam, which they used to grab a precious grand slam. They snuck in another four points a few jams later, but that was the last they scored before halftime, while USA nearly doubled their own score.

In jam 7 of the second half, even though USA had lead jammer, Canada still managed to score another ten points, though by that time USA's score was well over 200. Next jam, Canada picked up another three and prevented USA from increasing, a pattern they repeated a few jams later, but it wasn't enough to stop the flow of points onto the USA side of the scoreboard. The game wrapped up at 336-33, with everyone cheering, and the very first Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup was awarded to Team USA.

In case you're thinking that Team Canada didn't play an amazing game, consider this: they scored more points against the USA in that one game than all the other teams that took on the USA all weekend combined. They also kept the USA to their lowest score of the weekend by more than 40 points. They did a fantastic job against unbeatable odds, and we salute them.

That's it for the recapping, but we'll keep posting some World Cup-related tidbits over the next few days as we unwind from all the excitement and settle back into normal life here in Vermont. If you missed the action on DNN and want to get bouts on DVD, check out the World Cup's merch, where you can pick your bout(s) and get a volume discount if you want multiple bouts!

World Cup Elimination Bouts Recap Part 2

Okay, so if you've been following World Cup coverage at all, you already know that the USA took home the cup. And if you saw them play at any point during the weekend, you're not the least bit shocked that they won. Every team that they played, they beat by over a hundred points. Sometimes over two hundred. Sometimes over... well, you get the idea.

Saturday's USA vs. New Zealand bout was business as usual for Team USA. Get lead jammer almost every jam, get a bunch of grand slams, don't let the opposing jammer get out of the pack, and if she does make it past the blockers, call the jam. Simple when you think about it, but difficult for most teams to pull off... but then, most teams don't have Suzy Hotrod and Bonnie Thunders and Donna Matrix and... well, you get the idea. So we weren't exactly floored when USA beat New Zealand 470-8, but we cheered ourselves hoarse when NZ got those 8 points in two jams.

While that was going on, Germany and Scotland were having their consolation bout, where German organization beat out Scottish fire for a final score of 104-41. That put Scotland into a battle with Brazil for 11th place and let Germany move on to their final placement bout.

Once the track was swept, England and France set up for their elimination bout, and boy, was that a rowdy game. French fans are just about as loud as English fans, and it didn't matter what the score was, everybody cheered all the time. My favorite cheer from the English fans had to do with skater Violet Attack, who wears skins with "ATTACK" emblazoned across her bottom. Whenever she was on the jammer line, her fans would chant, "I see London, I see France, I see Violet's underpants!" It was probably more than her inspiring attire that helped England beat France 383-14, although as a blocker, she probably had something to do with england holding France to only a two-point gain in the second half while England more than doubled their points.

The Canada vs. Finland quarterfinal bout was rather like watching a USA bout, only the Finns scored a few more points than most of the USA's opponents. The final score was 499-31 (with chants of "five hundred" peppering the last two jams), and Flocci was tickled to see that Canada's helmet covers incorporated maple leaves into the design (one around each jammer star, and several along the pivot stripe).

Scotland and Brazil had their 11th place bout over on track 2, and the Scots easily took a 110-64 win to settle their spot in the rankings.

We should mention the banana. The east coast's best-known mascot (NY Shock Exchange skater Bane-Ana On Skates) was at the Cup in all his a-peel-ing glory, cheering for whichever team had more yellow in their uniforms and teaching the crowd some brain-hurting puns during time outs. He was a wonder in and of himself, and then we noticed that someone else (possibly Finland's coach?) was wandering around in a monkey outfit. Sadly, we never saw the two meet (nor chase each other around the venue, which we would have paid extra to see), but it was funny in our heads.

It's time for us to pack up and head back across the border, so we'll save the rest of the recap for when we get home. For anyone else who's on the road today, drive like you're jamming, but stay out of the box!

04 December 2011

World Cup Elimination Bouts Recap Part 1

When last we spoke of our intrepid roller derby heroines, they had just finished the seed rounds, and everyone was taking a break so the math geeks could have their way with the numbers. Well, the numbers came out like this:

Seed 1: USASeed 8: Germany
Seed 2: CanadaSeed 9: New Zealand
Seed 3: EnglandSeed 10: Finland
Seed 4: AustraliaSeed 11: Brazil
Seed 5: SwedenSeed 12: Argentina
Seed 6: FranceSeed 13: Scotland
Seed 7: Ireland

With the seeds set, the elimination round began with two bouts on each track Friday night.

First, we saw Sweden take on Argentina, which wasn't an especially close bout, but it had some drama in the second half. Sweden attempted a star pass but failed on a technicality (the jammer has to put the helmet cover on the pivot, not just hand it to her), and then one of Argentina's jammers was ejected for excessive penalties mid-jam. The Swedes had started the bout by grabbing four points and turning that into 24 in short order, and they kept on racking up points throughout the game, finishing off with a 191-65 win over Argentina.

Unfortunately, that was the only bout we saw Friday night due to exhaustion and health issues, but we got some rest and came back bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Saturday morning, ready for more action. We met up with members of our home team, the Green Mountain Derby Dames (hi, ladies!), and staked out the best seats for seeing both tracks at once. Everybody got their brackets caught up, and we settled in for the bouts.

Germany took on New Zealand first thing that morning, and it was one heck of a bout. There were lead changes, a couple of tied-score jams, and an interesting coach-jammer communication technique displayed by the Germans: a red or green flag depending on whether the coach wants the jammer to keep skating or call the jam. Considering how many jammers miss their entire freakin' bench giving the "call the jam" signal, it seems like the simplicity of the color method has merit. It wasn't enough to help Germany make up a last-minute point deficit, though, so New Zealand took the win 143-127.

Meanwhile, on track 2, Scotland (who lost the night before to Australia) kept a moderate but stable lead over Argentina throughout their consolation bout, and came out with a 114-91 win, leaving Argentina ranked 13th overall.

We watched Australia trounce Sweden in the first half of their elimination bout, and cheered as Sweden reduced Australia's 75-point lead to a mere 48 points by the end of the bout. It was still a pretty solid loss at 126-78, but the Swedes were smiling and singing at the end, and, as we've mentioned, that's one of our favorite things about roller derby -- the score doesn't alter the skaters' enjoyment of the game or the friendships they make with their opponents.

Over on track 2, Ireland put Brazil into the 12th spot overall by pulling off a 213-57 win with ease. Flocci was a little distracted by one of Ireland's skaters who was wearing frilly gold skins ("they're so shiny!"), but she did manage to glance at the scoreboard long enough to notice that both teams almost doubled their scores in the second half, which turned Ireland's lead from commanding to unbreakable.

Aaaaand writer's block has just hit. More in the morning after sleep and before packing our bags and freshly-purchased merch into the car for the eight-hour drive home.

World Cup Day 2 Seed Bouts Recap


Day two saw the conclusion of the seed rounds, a few hours of quiet while the results were tabulated, and then the beginning of the elimination rounds. Some of the bouts were painfully mismatched due to the way the seed groups were set up (random draw), and some of the teams were seeded rather higher than they should have been, but as the elimination bouts progressed we got a much better idea of which teams knew their derby and which have some room to grow.

We staked out Track 2 on Friday, claiming a spot on the suicide line at turn 1, and our first bout was New Zealand vs Scotland. It started off looking like NZ was going to wipe the floor with Scotland, but then the Scots got a power jam near the end of the first half and brought the score to within ten points. That was, however, the closest they got to beating NZ, and while they put up a good fight and kept the score fairly close, they were never able to bridge the gap. The last whistle blew with the score at 124-111, New Zealand over Scotland.

The next bout was Germany vs. Finland, which was almost an upset. Germany took the first lead on the scoreboard and pulled ahead, but then Finland started grabbing lead jammer again and again and held a ten- or twenty-point lead for most of the first half and into the second. Germany must've had one heck of a pep talk during halftime, though, because ten minutes into the second half, they grabbed a ten-point lead and slowly built it up to end the bout at 104-80.

Our third seed bout on Friday was one of those slaughters we mentioned yesterday. USA took on Scotland, and skated like they weren't even there. The final score was 435-1, and Team Scotland was heard cheering, "we got ONE! We got ONE!" Later that day we found ourselves sitting behind Team Scotland on the bleachers, and they were in high spirits, so these girls know how to see a loss in a positive light and keep having fun.

Our final seed bout was France vs. Sweden, which, while not as rough as some of the bouts, was still a pretty decisive game. France took an early but small lead, and then Sweden grabbed it and didn't let go for the rest of the bout. The final score was 110-46, Sweden over France. France clearly has a way to go when it comes to their derby strategy, but they played their hearts out in every bout, and were clearly honored to be there.

The seeds were announced after a break, and while the calculations were going on, we sat in the car and tried to guess where each team would fall on the list. We did fairly well, getting six out of the thirteen teams right, and only being off by one slot for another three.

Time for breakfast, so we'll cover the elimination bouts in the next post. If you're not here in Toronto today, be sure to stream the final bouts live on DNN!

03 December 2011

World Cup Day 1 Recap

Okay, whinge session finished, let's get to the derby. We decided to get our money's worth out of these weekend passes and arrive on Thursday night when the seed bouts started. We didn't take rush hour traffic into account, so we arrived a little late, and once we got to the Bunker we waited in line for the better part of an hour to get in, but once we were in? Derby heaven. Hundreds of derby girls, bunches of derby vendors, and two glorious tracks of wicked derby action.

Our first bout was Germany vs. Australia. We quickly fell in love with Australia jammer Shortstop, who has a magical way of finding holes in packs and helped her team take an early lead. They then widened the gap in the second half, and despite a great final jam for Germany, the Aussies came out ahead, 136-53.

While we were watching that bout, we caught a minute or two of Canada's bout against France, which ended at 244-17. Because of the way the seed round groups worked out, there were several such slaughters Thursday and Friday, and even a few on Saturday, too... but we'll get to those later.

Our second and final bout of the evening was USA vs. New Zealand. We didn't get to see NZ perform the Haka, but we heard it, and it was very impressive. Unfortunately, this was another of those slaughter bouts, and the yanks walked away with a 377-8 win over the kiwis, but the crowd's reaction to NZ's 8 points (scored in two 4-point jams) was so loud that folks on the other track couldn't hear their own whistles for a minute.

That's been the best thing about the crowd here in Toronto: no matter which team you're rooting for, everyone roots for the underdog, and everyone cheers like mad when that underdog gets points, gets lead jammer, or even just makes it out of the pack. It's really amazing to see that kind of unconditional support at a sporting event that could just as easily foster intense rivalry.

Time to have some food and crash for the night, but while we're doing that, check out this clip from CTV News. We're the ones who drove eight hours to get here!

02 December 2011

Open Letter

Dear Toronto,

You're a very groovy city. You have all sorts of culture and you're pedestrian friendly and you have fruit vendors on the streets, which we thought only happened in the movies. If we were living here, we'd probably be very happy.

As we're just visiting, though, we have some issues.

First, let's talk hotels. The choice should not come down to: $60/night for a closet-sized room that lacks both temperature control and on-site parking or $100/night for something decent. We're here for several days, and that nightly rate adds up. I've stayed in budget hotels before. I've stayed in a place that had roaches and ants and needed to have the room key re-coded twice a day, and that place was better than where I'm sitting right now. I know property's expensive in the city and all, but I'd almost rather sleep in my car than pay that much for this little.

Secondly, driving. I get that Toronto is a pedestrian/cyclist/public-transport kind of city. That's awesome. But that shouldn't mean that trying to do anything by car requires a degree in cartography, a two-year apprenticeship, and an endless supply of patience. It should also not take an hour to go ten miles. I strongly suggest some research into things like flex time (so everyone's not trying to use the same road at once), traffic light synchronization (so one can move more than a block before hitting another red light), and reflective paint for the lines that help drivers know what lane is theirs and what lane belongs to the bus/trolly. Years ago I taught myself how to drive by spending a lot of time in Manhattan, and that training definitely came out last night... I'm sorry for being kind of a jerk out there, but it was that or let the car transform into a gian robot and just stomp everyone to death.

And finally, roller derby. ToRD, we love you, and we think you're the bees knees for hosting this event. But how in the world do you expect to be able to handle the insane number of fans you're going to get on Saturday and Sunday if Thursday's relatively small crowd was almost too much for the venue? I understand why you had to set up two tracks (there is, after all, a lot of derby that needs to happen this weekend), and that, because it's a film studio instead of a sports arena, you had to bring in bleachers, but the amount of seating is simply inadequate for the number of people, it's difficult to get from one track to the other because people are sitting wherever they can find space (often in the walkways), and apparently the only way to get a team's merch is to not watch them, because you only have each team's merch out when they're actively playing.

There's also the matter of the check-in tables (waiting outside in December in Toronto for the better part of an hour because you didn't have enough ticket-checkers issuing wristbands was not fun, lemme tell ya) and the food lines... I get the feeling you weren't expecting a thousand of us to show up all at once. Lesson learned? Maybe? We're going to compensate on our end by getting there wicked early and keeping the same seats all day instead of trying to go from one track to the other, and we're hoping you get things sorted on your end, too.

I'm not even going to talk about the washroom situation. I simply have no words.

So, with all the bitching out of the way, let's get to the positive bits, shall we?

The crowd here is spectacular. People cheer for good skaters and good moves no matter what team they support, folks are generally friendly and eager to connect with other fans, and the skating is great! Last night, when USA creamed New Zealand by three-hundred-something to eight, every single fan went hoarse congratulating NZ on those precious few points. I have never seen anything like it. The people watching the other track must have wondered what happened, because the eruption of sound as people realized that the NZ jammer had actually made it through the pack was deafening.

The programs are beautiful. We would have liked to see the schedule in the program posted on the website for the benefit of those who couldn't be here in person, but since we are here in person, I suppose we shouldn't complain. We love that we can write in our brackets, we love the team pages, and we love that it was affordable. Keep the printing company -- they rock.

It's about time for breakfast, so I'm going to leave it at that for the time being. Summary: the event is fantastic, and we're thrilled to be part of it, but the logistics could use a lot of work.

Love and bruises,
Flocci Lady

01 December 2011

Toronto!

We're here, we caught a couple of bouts already, and we're going to pass out for the night so we can be fresh and energized for tomorrow's bouts. Pics and recaps will come when we have a minute to breathe.

07 November 2011

Bout Recap: GMDD vs. NHRD

One afternoon in September, we piled into the car and drove to a part of the state we rarely think about and never visit: the Northeast Kingdom. The Dames were hosting New Hampshire Roller Derby and splitting the distance by holding the bout at the Lyndon College hockey rink.

One of these days, we'll see a good bout that's in a good venue with good seating, good sound, good lighting, and a good scoreboard. Not yet, though. The rink had good lighting and good sound, but was apparently designed for fewer than 100 spectators who didn't care what the score was.

That said, it was a pretty good game. It was something of a rematch for these teams -- they had scrimmaged back in May, with NH beating GM by only 15 points despite having nearly twice the skaters and injuring one of GM's best blockers in the first half. So this time around, with the Dames sporting a full roster, things went a bit better.

The teams seemed pretty well-matched until halftime, when the Dames led by a mere 13 points. The first few jams of the second half made it seem like NH had gotten one heck of a pep talk during the break, but then the Dames found a new gear and went all-out. By the time the last whistle blew, the Dames had pulled out a well-deserved 120-55 win over New Hampshire.

We'd like to mention two refs who impressed us in this bout. The first is awesome because of his name, which is our unanimous Name of the Bout: 2 Pack Shock-her. The second ref is awesome because he's a stickler for the rules: the Dames' own Ref Doomsday. We think his favorite rule must be the one about how a lead jammer calls off the jam, because we see him insisting that it's done correctly on a regular basis.

The rule states: [The lead jammer] calls off the jam by repeatedly placing her hands on her hips until the referee whistles the end of the jam. (WFTDA Rulebook sec. 3.4.6)

The Dames skaters, who work with Doomsday all the time, know exactly how to call off the jam. The NHRD skaters, on the other hand, missed it once or twice, thinking that either gesturing in the direction of the hips or tapping the ribcage would suffice. Doomsday refused to blow the whistle to end the jam in those cases. Some of the other spectators thought it was annoying, but we thought it was great. The rules, after all, exist to keep play consistent so everybody can tell what's going on. If skaters start altering the way they communicate with the refs, people get confused, and the sport suffers.

So thank you, Ref Doomsday, for enforcing the rules, even the little ones. We superfans appreciate it.

05 October 2011

Pack(ing) is here!

Holy relocation, Batman! Flocci and Johnny are in the midst of moving two households into one, getting two pairs of kittehs to refrain from killing each other, and grumbling about the 5GB/month data transfer limit on their new DSL line. We're going to make time to get to a Green Mountain bout on Saturday, but posting may not happen for a bit. Y'all should amuse yourselves by watching the North Central Playoffs this weekend. It's gonna be some great derby.

25 September 2011

September Double Header: Green Mountain Derby Dames

Bout Recap #1: Black Ice Brawlers vs Team Unicorn

This was the first bout of a double-header that gave us whiplash. Our B team had a spectacular loss to Madison's Mad Rollin' Dolls Team Unicorn. And by "spectacular," we mean a final score of 71 to 256. It hurt. A lot. And not just for us. One of the Unicorns injured her knee in the very first bout and had to sit out the rest of the game. Her team then helped her feel better by picking up a 34-point jam later in the first half.

In the second half, Madison increased a 105-point lead to a 185-point win, thoroughly trouncing our poor Brawlers, but doing it with style. Team Unicorn jammers who get lead jammer status put up "the horn" in celebration. They also bring some impressive names to the track, including our unanimous favorite, IƱigo Destroya #6FM. So, despite the epic loss for our home team, we enjoyed watching the bout.

MVPs: Madison - Major Kusaknocky #sec9
Green Mountain - Snatch McKraken #3.69



Bout Recap #2: Grade A Fancy vs Legislashers

To balance the catastrophic loss of the first bout, the Fancies turned around and beat Granite State's Legislashers 245 to 36. StrawBuried Jam, who we've seen skate for Central Vermont as well as the Dames, is, according to twoevils, officially a member of the Burlington Bombers, but she did some amazing things for the Dames in this bout, and we hope she sticks around. Nancy Nightmare also had some great jams, and it looks like our Fancies are working on their strategy and pack awareness.

Speaking of strategy, we saw not one but two attempts to pass the star, that somewhat obscure play that we first saw in Boston a few months ago, though only one of the attempts was successful. Pivots, remember that the jammer panties go over the pivot panties. Removing the pivot panties only gets you a major penalty. Still, the successful star pass did help the Legislashers gain a few points, and that first failed attempt was a good learning experience for them.

All in all, it was a great way to finish off the night, and we even got to pick a name of the bout that we'd missed out on the last time we saw the Legislashers play: Catcher In The Thigh #1972.

MVPs: Granite State - Em Bomber #6ft
Green Mountain - StrawBuried Jam #623

Bout Recap: Riot vs Legislashers

Looking at our notes from this bout, we're not sure if it was actual issues or just grumpiness at the hot and sticky weather that left so many unhappy bullet points on the list, but considering there were some good exclamation points mixed in, we're thinking there may really have been some problems with this bout. The game itself, the actual skating, was great. Twin City is getting good at blocking, the scores were close for the whole game, and our MVP decision was easy and unanimous: Granite State's Tazslamian Devil stole the show with her jamming.

But the rest of the event... oy. The sound guys at Twin City still haven't figured out that a pair of monitors (usually pointed back towards a band so they can hear what they sound like) does not an arena-filling sound system make (which is to say we couldn't understand the announcers AT ALL). Arriving when doors open meant that we spent an hour sitting on the wooden bleachers waiting for the bout to start. The rosters in the program didn't match the skaters who actually showed up. And, dear Legislashers, while that shiny white spandex looks awesome on the bolt, it makes your skaters, even the skinny ones, look lumpy and uncomfortable. (What? Flocci's a seamstress. She cares about these things.)

But the skating? Fantastic. These are two well-matched teams, which says a lot for Twin City, since this is still their first season, while Granite State has been around for a while. [Edit: Holy failed research, Batman! 2011 was actually Granite State's first competitive season. Thanks, Taz, for the correction!] Taz, as we mentioned, was in top form as a jammer, and while we were a little surprised that she spent most of the second half as a blocker, she did some amazing things in that role, too. The Riot's Quad Shot also had some stellar jams, helping her team grab a nine-point lead at halftime. The second half saw an epic struggle for dominance that ended with the Legislashers coming out ten points ahead at the final whistle. Close games are so much fun to watch!

We thought we had settled on a name of the bout before the teams came out for their intros, but then we realized that half of the skaters on the program had stayed home, so after watching a few jams and crossing skaters off the list, we settled on the Legislashers' Angie O'Nasty.

We're hoping to see a lot more games like this one -- close scores, well-matched skaters, and the occasional spectacular play that leaves us hoarse from cheering. This is good derby.

18 September 2011

WFTDA East Region Playoffs: Dutchland Wrong to Forfeit?

So, who else has been glued to the free live stream of the WFTDA East Region Playoffs this weekend? There have been some great bouts, some bouts that should have been great but weren't, and one unprecedented decision that has a lot of people very upset.

The 8th-ranked Dutchland Derby Rollers were slated to play 1st-ranked Gotham Girls Roller Derby in their second game of the Playoffs. Dutchland was going to lose, no question about it. There was a good chance that Dutchland's skaters would come out of the bout with low morale, high exhaustion, and potentially some serious injuries. They had a team meeting, consulted WFTDA officials, and decided to forfeit the game.

They're catching a lot of flak for this. Some folks think they should have been kicked out of the Playoffs, others think they shouldn't even be in WFTDA for the next year, and the decision is generally being condemned as unsportswomanlike and, well, lame.

We get it. You come to the Playoffs, you expect to see all of the scheduled bouts go off as planned, even the unbalanced ones. But y'know what? We think Dutchland made the right call for their skaters. They knew they would lose anyway, they weighed the pro of experience against the con of skater health, and they made the decision to take the loss without risking the safety of skaters who still had several bouts ahead of them.

Roller derby is a tough sport for tough gals, and we love that toughness. Thing is, you can't just be tough. You have to be smart, too. If this had been Dutchland's last bout of the tournament, then yeah, take the chance and skate against the best team in the East Region, risking major injury and a serious blow to morale. But putting your girls up against such a formidable opponent that early in the tournament when you need all of them to be fit and healthy for two or three more bouts in the next two days? That's just not smart, and we applaud Dutchland for realizing that and having the guts to make a tough call in spite of the damage to their reputation.

Good call, Dutchland. We salute your brains. Now, back to the tournament!

11 September 2011

Bout Recap: Grade A Fancy vs CNY All Stars

August 13th saw us filling up the gas tank and heading out to Rome, NY to see our Green Mountain Derby Dames take on Central New York's All Stars. As a bonus, we also got to see our local lads, the Burlington Bomb Quads, skate against the Quadfathers. Men's derby isn't really our thing (not enough fishnets), but it was pretty cool to see the Dames' coach, Pope John Maul, strap on skates and get out on the track.

The venue (JFK Arena on W. Embargo Street, *snerk*) was pretty nice, aside from the netting hanging between the bleachers and the rink, surely put there for the sole purpose of irritating photographers like me. (Nothing to do with catching stray pucks/gloves/teeth during hockey matches, oh no.) We were very impressed with CNY's VIP section, furnished with comfy couches, and with their modular track boundary, which helped keep folks sitting on the suicide line safe.

There are some people who, no matter what their title or position, end up being in charge of whatever they're participating in, by sheer force of character. The Dames' Ref Doomsday is, we've discovered, one of those people. Even though he wasn't head ref at this bout, he was clearly head ref as far as the other refs were concerned. He's also a stickler for the rules -- a lead jammer tried to call a jam, but she didn't actually touch her hands to her hips, so Doomsday didn't blow the whistle. He's hardcore like that.

We also liked what seems to be a budding trend in referee fashion: the kilt! The Constable, visiting ref from Alaska (probably the only person who traveled farther to attend this bout than we did), was decked out in a striking sport kilt, black with white pleats. See? Pretty spiffy. And for those of you wondering what a ref wears under his kilt: bike shorts. This is a family-friendly sport, after all.

After all of this chatter about refs and couches and such, we... don't actually have much to say about the bout itself. Our beloved Dames lost 75-160, largely because of blocking: CNY did it, and the Dames didn't. The Dames blockers have a tendency to get so focused on the opposing blockers that they let the opposing jammer sail right on through without so much as a hip check, and the Dames jammers don't get a lot of support when they come up against a solid defense. That said, our jammers did slip past CNY's blockers often enough to score a respectable number of points, and we cheered for them as loudly as we could.

Our MVPs for the bout came down to a tie for the Dames between Nancy Nightmare and Sonic Euthanizer, and a clear favorite for CNY, Gutshot. We were uncharacteristically split on our favorite names of the bout: Flocci favored Mean Squeak, while Johnny liked Bitter Swede.

We rolled into the driveway around 2am, exhausted and stiff, but glad we'd made the trip. Even when they lose a bout, our Dames are a joy to watch, and we'll follow them anywhere.

21 August 2011

Bout Recap: Hellions vs Bruisers

All of this sticky summer weather has left us more inclined to stretch out on the porch with a glass of lemonade than boot up the hot computers and write or process pics, so we're behind by three bout recaps and at least three bouts worth of pictures. Now that the temperatures are falling back into a more comfortable range, though, we're cuddling our laptops for warmth, so we'll be caught up in no time.

To that end, let us tell you about our trip to Schenectady a few weeks ago to see the Hellions of Troy host Garden State's Brick City Bruisers. We've liked the Hellions for a while (Flocci's very first bout was the Hellions vs. the Green Mountain Derby Dames), but hadn't seen them on their new home turf, which turned out to be a compact Rollarama rink in the 'burbs.

As venues go, it seems more appropriate for a practice space than a bout space – seating is limited to maybe a hundred chairs on the track and some standing room behind the team benches, the lighting is on the moody side, and a moderate line at the snack bar begins to block the merch tables. On the positive side, because it's a rink designed to pump disco tracks to happy skaters, the sound system is pretty groovy. We'd love to see the Hellions upgrade to a venue designed for sports events, but they did the best they could with what was available.

Scanning the program while the skaters were warming up, we decided that, in addition to picking MVPs for each bout, we're also going to pick our favorite derby names. Our choice for this bout was unanimous: the ref Crimes New Roman (from the NJ Hellrazors), whose number is 12pt. We love us some font geekery.

Johnny, being a vintage firearms aficionado, was tickled to hear the Hellions reciting a modified version of the Rifleman's Creed, paying tribute to their skates before the bout. It was also heartwarming to hear the announcement that the bout would be skated in honor of Assault City's Raging Ruby, who passed away on August 3rd.

On with the bout! After a quick game of rock-paper-scissors to decide which ref would get which jammer, the jam was on. We've been seeing a couple of teams repeatedly use a tactic that we find as frustrating as a congressional fillibuster. Sadly, it came out a lot in this bout: taking a knee to create a no-pack situation at the beginning of a jam. In theory, this gives a jammer with a powerjam the opportunity to get through the pack and be lead jammer without having to deal with blockers, since if there's no pack, anyone who tries to block the jammer gets a penalty for blocking outside the pack. In reality, the pack usually re-forms before the jammer gets to it, and sometimes teams use it when both jammers are on the line, and it just generally hurts our brains to see it.

However, it does, occasionally, work the way it's supposed to. At the whistle, the Hellions took a knee, the refs called no pack, the jammer whooshed through like a deadline, and went on to score 15 points before the end of the jam. Despite that success, we'd still like to see teams use this technique less. In fact, Johnny's working on a rant about all sorts of things we'd like to see less of in derby bouts, and that one's near the top of his list. At the top is the slow start, where one skater takes foreeeeeeeever to get across the line, holding up the jam – sadly, we saw a lot of that in the second half of this bout, too.

On the whole, though, this was a pretty good bout. The Hellions took a thirty-five-point lead in the first half and increased it to over fifty points by the end of the game, using some great blocking skills to keep the Bruisers' jammers stuck in the pack long enough to be lapped in several jams. The Hellions' Kitty Porn rocked the jammer star again and again, finding holes in the pack that even we eagle-eyed fans couldn't see, making her our MVP of the bout. The final score was 154-98 (we think – there were some issues with the time- and score-keepers' control over their software), and both teams skated well.

And if you catch a Hellions home bout, stop at the Redwood Diner afterwards (close enough to walk to) and try the veggie lasagna or a burger – good stuff!

Next up, a recap of the Utica All Stars vs the Green Mountain Derby Dames!

Buttz to Nutz

Having seen precisely 1.5 men's roller derby games, I now consider myself an expert on the subject. Several aspects of the sport stand out in my mind:

In general, the male players I have observed are less skilled skaters than the more common female variety. There are exceptions of course. The Quadfather's Wildstyle being a notable example. However, it seems someone forgot to teach them crossovers and the all important "fall smart, fall small" rule. Overall, there seem to be far more serious injuries in a men's game compared to a women's.

The game seems to be less about strategy, like adjusting the pack's speed during a power jam. The male skaters skate fast all the time which gives the game a more old-school feel.

More players take turns jamming. While the Bomb Quads and Quadfathers rely on a few core jammers, they rotate in blockers more often.

Finally, as Flocci pointed out to our favorite post-derby waitress last night, the men don't look quite as good in fishnets.

Looking forward to over-analyzing our next scheduled men's game on September 24: Burlington Bomb Quads vs Mass Maelstrom.

...Johnny Bash

10 August 2011

Toronto, here we come!

Howdy, y'all! Flocci here. We'll have a bout recap and a book review coming soon, but I wanted to share something funny first. This conversation happened twice at work today:

Me: So Johnny and I booked our first vacation together last night.
Co-worker, then Boss: Oh?
Me: We're going to Toronto!
C-W&B: Oh!
Me: In December!
C-W&B: Oh...
Me: For the first-ever Roller Derby World Cup!
C-W&B: Ohhhhh!

I think it's possible that I talk about derby too much at work. ;)

Anywho, the trip to Toronto in December means that we're going to be cutting back on our bout trips for the next few months to save money, limiting it to just GMDD and CVRD games. We'll still be posting, though, so do check in every week. And if you're going to the World Cup, too, let us know!

28 July 2011

Bout Recap: Riot vs. Lumber Jills

We love seeing new teams, whether new to us or new to roller derby. We especially love seeing new teams that kick butt. When Central Vermont's Twin City Riot hosted Plattsburgh's North Country Lumber Jills last weekend, that's exactly what we got. It was the Riot's first home bout, and the first time we'd seen the Jills, so we were doubly happy.

We don't know exactly what sort of magic the Riot worked while promoting this bout, but whatever it was, it was successful. The venue was sold out, there was a long line waiting for the doors to open an hour before the whistle, and the crowd was bursting with hometown pride, as well as a love for the game (which, from what we overheard, was brand spankin' new to a lot of the folks who came to cheer on their sisters, mothers, coworkers, and friends) that had it cheering for the visiting Jills, too.

In other words, it was fun!

Let's get the two drawbacks out of the way before the gushing continues. The sound system left a lot to be desired (like power and balance -- we couldn't hear the announcers at all), and the reffing crew included a couple of lazybones who forced others to pick up the slack, meaning some zebras were distracted and calls weren't made they way they should have been. Even first-timers in the audience were seeing calls the refs missed, so it was pretty bad.

Okay, back to the gushing.

One of our favorite things about the Jills became apparent during the demo jam, and made one of us gleefully exclaim, "they've gone to plaid!" That's right, the Jills have plaid panties. Which match their plaid skirts. It's amazing. The Jills also had our unanimous favorite derby name of the bout: Salvadora Brawli.

This bout was a nail-biter from start to finish. The scores were rarely more than 15 points apart, and the half saw the Jills leading by a mere two points. Blocking, which is usually one of the things we complain about being sub-par, was excellent on both sides. The Jills even managed to keep a full-length Riot powerjam to just two points! Lead changes were pretty frequent, and while there were a lot of 0-point jams due to well-matched teams, there was also a spectacular 29-point jam (jammer: Khaos) in the second half that gave the Jills a lead the Riot couldn't quite make up in time. The final score was 125 Riot, 140 Jills.

The one chronic issue we noticed was jammer awareness, both of the other jammer, and of the coaches. A lot of jams dragged on for a lap or two longer than they should have, with one jammer hot on the other's tail, because the lead jammer wasn't thinking strategically or wasn't paying attention to the shouts and mimes from the bench. At one point, every skater on the Jills bench was screaming for the jammer to call it, and it took her almost a full lap to notice. It's easy to get tunnel vision when you're jamming, but skaters should be training themselves to conquer it so they can jam more effectively.

We now love both of these teams, and will be going to the next Twin City Riot bout in August. Even with our stretched definition of "local," the Lumber Jills are a bit too far away for us to enjoy their home bouts, but we hope to catch them playing some of our other favorite local teams soon.

MVPs:
Twin City Riot - VeggieMighty
Lumber Jills - Mayday Va J-J

10 July 2011

Road Trip: Boston

In our quest to expand our roller derby horizons, we sometimes travel great distances to see teams that are new to us. Yesterday, for example, we drove out to Wilmington, MA to see the Boston Derby Dames host Chicago's Windy City Rollers. The five-hour round trip was totally, unequivocally, absolutely worth it.

To make the trip out a little less boring, we stopped in Nashua, NH to check out Bruised Boutique, a skater-owned and -operated one-stop shop for everything derby. Flocci was mistaken for a roller girl (she was wearing fishnets and an NHRD shirt, so it was an easy mistake to make) after going a little crazy in the sock section, and Johnny picked up some goodies of his own, including Roller Girl - Totally True Tales from the Track, which Flocci will pester him to review here once he's finished reading.

The Boston Derby Dames sure know how to organize a game. Ticketing, merch, seating, music, everything was presented well and kept simple, which let fans focus on the action, and holy cow, what action! The first bout paired two Boston teams: the Cosmonaughties and the Wicked Pissahs. Intraleague bouts can often be boring because the skaters are used to playing together, so they don't put up much of a fight, but Boston is different. These two teams played their butts off, and every jam was exciting. Even though the final score was 58-145, the second half saw the underdog Cosmos score more points than the winning Pissahs, giving us great hopes for the Cosmos' future. If they can get their blocking together, they'll do great things. Our MVP of this bout was the Cosmonaughties' Space Invader, who caught our eyes with her stellar jamming.

In the second bout, the Boston Massacre went up against the visiting Windy City Rollers. This bout was intense. Windy City's skaters are fast, strong, agile, and rock solid. A couple of Boston skaters literally bounced off of some of the Windy City girls while trying to block, and one Boston skater was overheard saying something about "a very large woman" being the cause of her injury as she crawled off the track. Windy City's co-captain Jackie Daniels got our attention with her white cut-offs and shiny belt buckle, and led her team to a 147-44 victory with apparent ease.

That bout was the very last for Boston Massacre skater Maura Buse, and in the final jam, she came on the track as a pivot and left as a jammer, thanks to a seldom-used WFTDA rule allowing for Passing the Star. While there are rarely strategic reasons for passing the star, there are sometimes sentimental ones, and giving a departing skater one last moment of glory is certainly at the top of the list. It was a neat thing to see, both from a gameplay perspective, and as proof that, despite the bruises and badass names, roller girls really are sweethearts. Good show, Boston.

27 June 2011

Tell It Like It Is

Announcers bridge the gap between players and spectators. They tell us which skaters are jamming, which team just called a time out, what the score is, and who's in the penalty box. They also explain the game for derby virgins, give the sponsors some airtime, and amuse us with their antics during lulls in the action.

In researching this post, Flocci discovered that there's an Association of Flat Track Derby Announcers, and her top three announcers1 are all members. AFTDA's mission statement and code of conduct cover the basics of good announcing (don't show up drunk, know the rules, don't interfere with the refs, etc.), but there are a few other things that separate the good from the bad.

First off, know your terminology. We went to a bout recently where one of the announcers used "power play" to mean "power jam," and Flocci just about twitched herself into a seizure. An announcer should also know the skaters' names and numbers (not just from the bout program) and be able to identify them fairly quickly. We've seen announcers talk to every skater before a bout to make sure they get the names and numbers right, and to learn taglines that might not have made it into the pre-bout paperwork. This makes it much easier to call the game, which, in turn, means the audience gets a smoother play-by-play.

Learning how to make do with a sub-par sound system is another mark of the good announcer. If you find during your sound check that the only way the audience can hear you is if you hold the mic a foot away from your face and stand precisely seventeen feet from the amp, then that's what you need to do. If we can't hear you, there's no point in you being there at all.

Lastly, have some class. You can be silly and weird, but be professional, too. We want to laugh with you, not at you. (When Rock Thudson wore that fringed belly shirt, it was a little of both.)


1 Rock Thudson, Candy Corn-ary, and Pelvis Costello, in case y'all were wondering.

25 June 2011

Earn Your Stripes

Let's talk about zebras. Officially, it's the refs' job to monitor the game, call penalties, determine when points are scored, and generally make sure everything goes smoothly. For those of us in the bleachers, though, they also serve another role. They let us know what's going on.

We've seen some mighty good zebras. Doomsday and Ethyl Benzene of GMDD, for example, are excellent at watching the pack, making calls clear, and letting the announcers know things that the spectators want to know, like why play has stopped.

Other refs we've seen lately haven't lived up to that standard. They'll send someone to the box without showing why, they'll miss obvious penalties right in front of them, they'll miscount a score at the end of a jam because they weren't paying attention to their own jammer, and all of this results in a frustrating bout, both for the skaters and for the spectators.

So zebras, here's our wish list:

1. When you send a skater to the box, don't just tell her why, tell the rest of us, too. Make the symbol clear, and repeat it.

2. Don't get so distracted watching specific players that you lose track of the pack as a whole. The most common thing we find ourselves screaming from the bleachers is, "no pack!"

3. If your jammer got through the pack first but isn't lead jammer, tell us why. If she's second out of the pack, be aware of the other jammer's status so you can quickly indicate whether your jammer is lead or not.

4. Be aware that different teams interpret the "she calls off the jam by repeatedly placing both hands on her hips" rule differently, and don't fault a player for doing it in a way you're not used to. She may not bring her hands all the way up to her shoulders, for example, and she doesn't have to. All she has to do is tap her hips. It's up to you to watch for it and end the jam in a timely fashion.

5. Don't play favorites or take a player's word on a call you didn't witness. The corollary to that is: pay attention, don't miss penalties, and don't let "your" skaters get away with anything.

Reffing is hard work, and we've seen some of our favorite zebras make bad calls or miss an illegal block now and then, but as long as you're clear about the calls you make and pay attention to the action, you'll make the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Hello, world.

Testing, 1, 2, 3.