Flood Water Roller Derby’s travel team, Water Damage, took on the Nor Cal Roller Girls on Saturday Sept. 14, 2013 for the fourth bout of their inaugural season. Sadly, FWRD lost this one, making their league record 2:2 (not too shabby for a first year team). The bout, held on NCRG’s home turf was full of action and excitement ranging from tense moments of injury to confusing new strategy emerging within the WFTDA.
The first half: something borrowed, something blue
NorCal took The Flood by storm, opening with a commanding lead. It would take Water Damage several jams to put any points on the board. NorCal’s seasoned jammers Slappa Ho and Crunch Yo Numbaz barreled through FWRD’s defensive lines with ease. The Flood, currently absent fledgling jammer Apehanger Alice due to injury, brought in Sunshine Nightmare from Tahoe, but she, like Scary Magdalene and Knee-High Ninja fell easy prey to the NorCal defense, at least in the beginning.
After getting a little more accustomed to the slippery roller rink floor, Water Damage started to make a dent in the NorCal lead. Long-time vet Shadow Soldier left defense to Bellatrix Deranged and Vivien Slay while alternating from blocker to jammer just as the first half began to expire. Though NorCal blockers like Bad Vibrations, One Hit Wonder, and Shotgunn Shortyy were unable to slow Shadow’s progress, she was repeatedly unable to score on more than one pass before NorCal jammers caught up and ended her advantage. In roller derby, lead jammer will almost always call off a jam before letting an opposing jammer score even one point. The point spread matters more than ever now that WFTDA rankings are on a purely mathematical formula.
With just over a minute left in the half, a pile-up involving three or four girls on corner two threatened to end FWRD’s momentum. A shrill scream rang out, followed by sobs and a chilling hush that covered the entire venue. Shadow Soldier was found crushed beneath Van Caylen screaming in pain. In a few minutes time she was wrapped in bandages and ice. Though injured, Shadow was assessed a low block penalty and FWRD’s team captain, Bad Astral took her seat in the penalty box. At half time no one expected her to return.
Score at the half: 117-52, NorCal
Upon returning for gear check both teams were shocked to see Shadow Soldier skating around the track. In fact, she donned the jammer panty for the first jam of the second half. To what does she attribute this amazing resiliency? Bikram yoga, of course. In fact, without the healing powers of Bikram, Shadow believes she never would have been able to jam, period.
The second half: something old, something new
Shadow lined up on the jammer line alongside Crunch Yo Numbaz. Once the whistle blew, instead of fighting to get through the pack first, Shadow hit Crunch out of bounds and skated the track in the clockwise direction. At any time a skater can legally skate clockwise on the track. (Regular derby direction is counter-clockwise.) Reasons to skate in the opposite direction vary but usually a skater moves backwards to pull an out-of-bounds skater back and slow their progress on the track. In most cases the farthest back a single skater can pull an out-of-bounds skater is 20 feet. Any further and she is out of play.
Jammers, however, are never out of play. What does this mean for Crunch? This means that Shadow can skate her as far back as she wants, multiple laps if she so desires, and with Crunch following on the outside of the track she may never catch up. The potential advantage to Shadow is that she may skate Crunch back far enough that her pack can engulf her (this is called eating the baby) and that Crunch must then make two passes through the pack before she is eligible to score.
Crunch, if she knew what to do (as most skaters do not at this juncture…the particular beauty of the play) could counter by skating the opposite direction, outside of the track, and reentering the track in front of the pack (still behind Shadow) and avoid a track cut. Crunch didn’t do this.
Shadow’s pack, however, needed to continue skating forward, at pack speed, but because they too didn’t fully understand this new-fangled perpetual circle business, one of her blockers rolled backwards and disrupted pack speed. In all, the play was a bust, but still a very exciting beginning to the second half.
The refs were pretty ok, for a change
Aside from confusing geometry, other troubles less apparent to the crowd were happening on the track. One penalty widely considered forgotten after the loss of minor penalties is the back block. It still happens out there, constantly, and because it isn’t policed on a minor level, it seems never to get called. Along with a shortage of back block calls, there were quite a lot of high block penalties going unnoticed, for both teams.
“Hey, this is roller derby; sometimes you get hit in the face,” –Coach Dirty D, 2011
Often, when called in for a Captain/Ref meeting, a certain amount of push-back occurs. Many referees believe that they make no mistakes and all skaters are always perfect, obviously. At this bout, however, head ref Walk of Shane (with a special shout out to Doggy Fresh—er—Dougie Foulzer and It’s Complicated) was happy to listen and take action. The simple fact of derby is this: way too much is going on out there for it all to be seen. All that can be done is what can be done. Sometimes reffing is visibly one-sided. In this bout reffing was impartial and well handled. (When’s the next time you’re going to hear that from this source?)
After a nice 30-minute warm-up, Water Damage started to seep in. FWRD's defense put up more of a fight and FWRD jammers put up some more points. In the second half, NorCal scored only 64 points (compared to 117 in the first half) and FWRD scored 69 points (compared to 52 in the first half), making the second half a totally different game. Sadly for FWRD, there are two halves to every derby bout, and they both count.
Final score: 181-121, NorCal
NorCal was an excellent host league and even gave out prizes at the end. Knee-High Ninja got best jammer (for the third time in a row), Shadow Soldier got MVP (for the ten-millionth time), and newcomer Charlie Maltimore got best blocker. Her hits on the inside line did devastate many an opposing skater. Upon receiving her first ever derby trophy she began shrieking and jumping up and down on her skates…that is, until she came crashing down on her backside. She will live to skate again but let this be a lesson to you, would-be champion: don’t let the celebration be the reason you can’t play derby anymore.