It’s been quite awhile since the Richmond Wrecking Belles have tasted defeat. On Saturday night, March 2, 2013 however, at the Craneway Pavilion, their home venue, the Belles were finally defeated by the San Francisco ShEvil Dead. At the final B.A.D. bout of the 2012 season, in the last seconds of play, the Belles squeaked out a four-point victory over the Dead (90-86, Belles). After a few months of off-season, the Dead gathered their strength, fought back and defeated the Belles by 39 points, starting the 2013 season off with an upset.
Since Nationals 2012 to now, a lot has changed in roller derby, and a lot has not. Most notably the new WFTDA rule set took effect on Jan 1, creating a one-whistle start, eliminating minor penalties, and instituting a policy of rolling while on skates. The goal of the rule changes is to make the game of roller derby one of movement, more fun for the skaters, more fun for the fans.
Remember the pivot line?
All eight blockers started on the jammer line, as has become custom, leaving the long forgotten pivot line a relic of the past. Skaters no longer need to begin the jam with their knee on the ground, because one whistle now starts the pack and the jammers with no delay. The strategy of standing, however, the culture of stopped derby, most commonly known as sausage derby, persists.
What is sausage derby? In simple terms it is when, during a power jam, ALL the blockers from one team stand perfectly still on the track and let their jammer single-handedly fight up to four opposing blockers. This strategy has been widely despised by spectators over the last year and the new rule set has instituted a policy of no standing. According to the new rule set, a skater must remain rolling. These things take time.
The first half
The Belles were the first to score and held the lead until 5:17 left in the first half, when ShEvil took it from them: 60-58, Dead. Though the Belles would get close, they would never get the lead back. What does the ShEvil Dead have that the Wrecking Belles do not? Knock Knock, a jammer extraordinaire who simply rolls off, around, or under opposing blockers with a smooth and sophisticated charm.
Score at the half: 73-66, Dead
During the bout I witnessed more than one instance of the sausage strategy and skaters standing. Of course I yelled “skate” because that’s what one does. Trixie Pixie of the ShEvil Dead, began a power jam early in the second half. Her blockers left her to fight it out with a particularly strong Belles pack, and rather than going on a scoring spree, she went to the penalty box for a major back block.
Later, Abominatrix, for the Richmond Wrecking Belles, would lose her opportunity to close the score gap for her team as the four-point sausage (two blockers on each side of the track) left her to battle it out; instead of points she collected a track cut major. That’s one way to close a gap.
With no minors, it is more important than ever that blockers assist their jammer (as they are meant to do) because one mistake is now a trip to the box. No jammer, no points. No points, no victory. The sausage, however, wasn't a major factor in either teams success or failure.
Blocker or jammer?
Throughout the bout were numerous and amazing feats of skating power. Demanda Riot, usually a power blocker, jammed for the Belles and often perpetrated excellent jammer on jammer on violence. Meanwhile, Dead blocker Belle Right Hooks, assisted by Sherlock Homeslice, pounded on Belle jammer Chiquita Bonanza. Perhaps this was the Dead's strategy all along.
In the final quarter of the bout, Lulu Lockjaw, who had been blocking for the Dead, came out jamming. A seasoned and capable jammer, she was fresh on the jam line while Chiquita was exhausted (and who wouldn't be after that kind of punishment?). Lulu made quick work of the Belles pack and cleaned up the points, finally getting the Dead their victory.
Final Score: 158-119, Shevil