On Saturday, September 21, 2013, North Coast Roller Derby (NCRD) held their season ender against Flood Water Roller Derby (FWRD). Perhaps it was meant to be? The Flood, on their seven hour voyage to Crescent City, drove through the first rain of the season and past dozens of tsunami warning signs. In fact, one skater (Rolling Goddess) had to be left behind because of some freak boulder v. car accident. Don't worry, she lived.
Upon arrival, the Sirens were warm, friendly, and welcoming, just like the sirens of Homer's Odyssey; not at all like the blaring warning signal when it's already too late to run for safety. In fact, the Sirens didn't blow that trumpet until The Flood had already made their introductory laps.
Sharks fear tsunamis too, just as any creature of water or of land should. Rumor has it that some of the Flood Water girls were crying before the bout even began. Hey, who knew what to expect? Crescent City is isolated and nestled just outside the Pelican Bay visitor center and prison. When not messin' with Sasquatch or carving chainsaw sculptures, what else is there for a woman on the North Coast to do? Roller skate, that's what.
“A lot has changed since I was a top jammer”
...says Jammer Delaney in Roller Boogie or was it Coach Old Xchool for Crescent City? Old Xchool was a roller derby skater back when men played without wearing tutus or ladies underwear and what has he brought with him to the modern game? The dominance of the hit. A lot of leading teams in the WFTDA rely on things like forcing penalties, recycling jammers, and capturing goats. Well, these things aren’t important if every hit a Siren lands puts an opposing player on the ground.
NCRD brings an Old Xchool approach, a pure approach, one of violence, aggression, and organization. Like a pack of wild beasts, tall, beautiful, and intimidating, the Sirens rush at the opposition with the force of a natural disaster and lay the landscape flat. It’s beautiful to witness, unless of course, you are the landscape…
The Crescent City girls were big, in an opposing athletic way. They made walls like a forest. Flood Water made walls more like white picket fences… pretty but they won’t protect your property from a tsunami. Immediately Siren jammers Tricky Kitten, Valkyrie, and Full Metal Jackie* crashed through the Flood Water defense, over and over again, racking up point after point after point. Occasionally, Knee-High Ninja, NINgirl Roxit, and Bad Astral snatched up a few point scraps when the Sirens weren't looking.
Those pesky rules and the magic of the floor
Penalty problems arose immediately. The out-of-play warning was issued repeatedly as Siren defense was pushed out 20-feet by Flood Water jammers. The optional warning was issued, followed by an abusive, quasi-legal hit by Siren defense, and yet no penalty was assessed. This is the rule peeps:
6.10.5: Blockers may not initiate engagement outside the Engagement Zone.
In the event that engagement is initiated outside the engagement zone, a major penalty shall be assessed when:
6.10.17: Any illegal blocking while out of play that forces the receiving opposing skater out of their established position. This includes forcing a skater down, out of bounds, or out of relative position.
Without placing blame on any particular ref, in any particular bout, please take particular notice of the last fragment of the sentence: “or out of relative position.” Remember way back in 2012 when roller derby rules had those things called minor penalties? Well, those were handy. Back then, if say, a Siren hit a Floodling just after the out-of-play warning was issued, and the Floodling jammer didn't fall down and go boom, the Siren would get a minor penalty. Once she did this four times, count it, four times, she would get a trip to the box, just like when issued a major penalty.
Back then, the difference between a minor and a major penalty was the magic of the floor. It was obvious; if the skater just got rocked a little, maybe a wobble, a minor was assessed. Well, now that it’s 2013, if the Floodling jammer crosses the 20-foot mark (aka the end of the engagement zone) and she gets hit, and this hit brings her back to 19 feet, or makes her trip on her footing, or slows her progress on her next point pass, she has been forced out of relative position. She doesn't even have to hit the floor.
It’s no minors people. Referees everywhere are overly neglectful of the loss of relative position portion of the penalty because it is more abstract than a bounce on the track. It’s a point that needs addressing as refs and skaters become more familiar with the new rule set.
Regardless, once brought to the ref’s attention, Sirens Killa B and Nursin’ a Grudge made several trips to the penalty box for out-of-play hits. Even with two blockers in the penalty box, as became the norm for the Sirens carrying over into the second half, Flood Water jammers were still stymied by Siren powerhouse hits.
Ragin’ Reg, explains her teams philosophy: “I come from a long line of roller derby, both my husband (Coach Sloppy Joe) and my father (Coach Old Xchool) play(ed) roller derby and roller derby is about hitting. If there’s anything we focus on its hitting. It may not always be legal…but we’re going for it.”
Score at the half: 152-35, Tsunami Sirens
As the ruthless assault continued and it became obvious that two Sirens made quick work of four Floodlings, the ladies of Water Damage started to feel a fire in their belly. Rather than continue with what hadn't been working, The Flood changed their line-up mid-stream, sending out their biggest strongest blockers to hold back the Siren jammer and letting just about everyone left on the team have a chance to jam.
Tactical Nuclear Penguin, (who won the award for most mispronounced name) turned angry bird as she hit anyone wearing the wrong color jersey. Surprisingly enough, Knee-High Ninja, both small and sneaky, did a solid job as a blocker, occasionally pinching two Sirens on the inside of the apex.
The Flood was able to score twice as many points in the second half, with a boost from Bad Astral's 20-point power jam in the first few minutes of the second half. The Sirens answered back with a crushing 122 points. Despite rising frustrations, tempers were kept in check and on the line the Sirens were quite pleasant, remarking, “We like you guys. You don’t get all pissed off when we hit you.” And The Flood liked them back, because in life and double in derby, you only hurt the ones you love.
Final Score: 274-96, Tsunami Sirens
For excellent action photos check out Hot Shots Sports Photography.
*Full Metal Jackie actually received zero penalties in this bout.