14 January 2012

Bout Recap: Albany All Stars vs. Oz Roller Girls

Last weekend we got gussied up and went out to Albany for our first bout of 2012. The Albany All Stars hosted the Oz Roller Girls (from scenic Oswego, NY) at the fabulous Washington Avenue Armory, and it was quite the experience.

Albany's fans are... well, they're... erm... help us, Roget, you're our only hope! Passionate? Fanatical? Vehement? Ah, here we are, uproarious! Albany fans are devoted to the All Stars in much the same way Bostonians are devoted to the Sox: with extreme fervor, and with a bit of bloodthirstiness thrown in for good measure. We inadvertently found ourselves just a few rows down from a particularly vocal devotee who periodically screamed things like, "send her to the hospital," and, "break her legs!" It was a little unnerving.

Now, for those of us used to two 30-minute periods comprising a game, Albany does things a little differently. You still get your hour of derby, but you get it in three 20-minute periods instead. As fans, we rather like this setup. It makes snack breaks, restroom breaks, and holy-cow-these-seats-are-killing-me breaks more convenient, and, for single bouts, makes the event feel more like a double-header.

The bout got off to a late start (the All Stars love their fans so much that they hold the whistle until everyone's passed the ticket takers), but as soon as the wheels got rolling, it was a heck of a bout. Every few jams saw a lead change, and we noticed a pattern. If Albany's jammer stayed out of the box, Albany dominated the jam regardless of who was lead jammer. If Albany's jammer got a major penalty, Oswego rocked the power jam and picked up points. This trade-off was so well-balanced that the score was tight for most of the game. The end of the first period saw Albany up by just 12 points.

In the second period we noticed visiting announcer Bobby Narco (Gotham) doing something that made us very happy. Instead of waiting for the refs to explain why there was an official time out after the fact, he made the journey to the infield and talked to the refs while the time out was still in progress. It gave the announcers something to talk about, and let the fans interpret the refs' body language with a little more accuracy. More refs need to do this, or have a designated liaison with a walkie-talkie if it's inconvenient for the announcers to be on the track.

The second period saw the same pattern as the first, with the scores staying within about 20 points of each other the whole way through. Albany managed a successful star pass (one of the few we've seen that was done correctly on the first try) and some fancy footwork around the apex, but their jammers kept grabbing penalties, which let Oswego make up points. With one period to go, Oswego held a four-point lead.

Albany picked up those four points in the first jam of the third period, then followed with another point in the next jam, but that was the last time they had the lead. Oswego pulled away, making good use of more frequent power jams as Albany's jammers let the stress make them sloppy. Near the end of the period, Albany had an impressive jam that brought the scores close again, but on reflection the refs realized that both jammers had jumped the whistle, so they scrapped the entire jam, knocking Albany back down to a 24-point defeceit.

After that, Albany just couldn't recover, and Oz ended up taking the game 204-162. We felt that if the reffing had been better, with clearer and more consistent calls, the outcome might have been different, but it was still an entertaining bout.

Living in the boonies as we do, we don't often see folks from other teams in the stands at our home bouts. Albany, though, is a much more accessible location for a lot of the NY and southern New England teams, so we saw a lot of familiar faces. Hellions of Troy were everywhere, including announcer Eloda Sarcasm. Our favorite kilted Alaskan, The Constable, was spotted (in trousers, but we'll allow it since it was a bloody cold night). Even Pioneer Valley skater Chewbecca was present, wearing a cushy bit of handknitting that Flocci drooled over from afar. It's nice to see derby folk out supporting other teams and seeing how they play the game. We worry sometimes that we, as fans, see a greater variety of derby than most skaters do, so seeing skaters coming out to "foreign" bouts makes us happy.

Remember to check our calendar (link above the posts) to see what bouts we'll be attending, and come say hi if you see us in the bleachers!