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!

11 January 2012

November Double Header: Green Mountain Derby Dames

November saw the final bout of the season for the Green Mountain Derby Dames, and it was an exciting double-header -- a great way to finish off 2011!

The Grade A Fancies' first home bout of 2011 was against South Jersey, a team that played by Old School rules instead of WFTDA, only nobody realized it until halfway through the first period, by which point South Jersey was down a lot of points and up a lot of penalties. The Black Ice Brawlers' final bout of the year felt similar, even though this time the opponents were, in theory anyway, using WFTDA rules.

The Poison Pixies, whether because they're a young team, half of their roster was pulled in from other leagues, or something else entirely, scored very few points and spent a lot of time in the box. Their skating was rough, their knowledge of the rules seemed shaky, and they played much more like an Old School team when it came to blocking.

The first half showed the Brawlers that they had nothing to worry about and could enjoy themselves, and showed the zebras that there was a lot of work to be done. Seven jams in, the Brawlers led 54-6, and the refs were running ragged trying to keep up with penalty calls against the Pixies. Doomsday got to enforce the rule about how a jammer calls off the jam (which seems to be a chronic issue with new teams), and Ethyl seemed frustrated at how many penalties she was calling. The first half ended with the Brawlers ahead 104-25, and we hoped the second half would be better.

It wasn't better, but it certainly was eventful. In the first jam, a Brawler pumping her arms for speed caught a Pixie in the eye, and the medics got to activate an ice pack (they do this by repeatedly throwing it on the floor -- we think they must live for the opportunity to throw things). Later on, one of the Pixies was ejected for excessive penalties. With just a few minutes left in the game, the Brawlers put an extra jammer on the track by accident, and we saw a rare 2-minute penalty as a result. When all was said and done, the Brawlers walked away with an easy 197-51 win over the Pixies, and we looked forward to the second bout of the evening.

In another bookend moment, the Fancies hosted a team for their final bout that was from the same state as their first opponents of the season. Jersey Shore brought their A game, and it was a nail-biter from start to finish. Jersey Shore grabbed 14 points right off the bat, and the Fancies answered with 15 points of their own in the next jam. The score stayed tight for the rest of the first half, and the halftime whistle found the Fancies barely holding a 65-63 lead over Jersey Shore.

Maybe there was a great locker room pep talk during halftime, or maybe the Fancies just needed a breather, but they came into the second half like a storm surge. Four jams in, they'd added 27 points to their score and kept Jersey Shore from scoring anything, and apparently this annoyed Jersey Shore enough to take action. It took them until the very last jam, but Jersey Shore chipped away at the Fancies' lead until they overtook by a scant five points, pulling off a 121-126 upset that was thrilling to watch.

We wrapped up the evening with a stop at Al's French Frys, one of our favorite post-derby hangouts, and called it a year. Flipping through the scrapbook, we found that, not counting the World Cup, we attended almost 30 bouts and saw teams from 21 different leagues. Not bad, considering where we live.

Now the challenge is to beat that record in 2012! Our other challenge will be to get recaps written and posted more quickly, since we've accepted an invitation to be the official bout recappers for the Green Mountain Derby Dames. No more waiting four months for recaps -- we'll try to have them up the day after the bout. That's as far as we're going with New Year's resolutions, though... wouldn't want to get in over our heads!