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.

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.