When You Steal a Man’s Knapsack, You Break His Heart (Death By Derby).

8

How quickly things change in roller derby.  Three-ish years ago when I started watching it religiously, the programs[photo link] were a lifeline.  There’s three teams in Tampa, each boasting 18-19 skaters!  So I’d clutch each program in order to put names to faces, and sometimes even get them right!

Tonight for the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins’ Bloody Valentine’s Death By Derby I arrived too late.  (Some things, it appears, will never change.  I still haven’t picked up the derby’s emphasis on punctuality.)  The arena was packed, and all the programs were distributed.  Yet, amazingly enough, this was the first bout where I really didn’t need it!  While I’m not at the Kat A Killzem level of identifying skaters via their laces and pads, I am light years ahead of just randomly putting names to bodies.  Those numbers on the jerseys actually mean something!

Speaking of crowds, attendance tonight was so high they actually sold out of raffle tickets!  I didn’t even think that was possible, let alone likely!

As you can imagine, since I showed up late there was already a long lead to make sense of.  Now of the two exhibition teams on display tonight, the Heartbreakers had a huge, 33 point, lead over the Make-Out Bandits.  Barring any bizarre, as-yet-unseen exhibition rule tomfoolery (i.e. a pre-bout exclamation along the lines of, “We’re so good we’ll beat your team and spot you 33!”), I’d guess it all came down to penalties.  Tampa does enjoy, after all, a good fight above all else.

So the Make-Out Bandits’ jammer is in the penalty box, leaving the Heartbreakers’ Rojo Grande with a power jam.  Which, right there, is how I came up with my theory about the lead.  Rojo showed off some fancy footwork getting by Ninja Monkey, and fellow Heartbreaker Spank Sinatra assisted with a big shot against Gore Mae (5-30).

Make-Out Bandita Bettie Kruger stole the next jam.  I’ve gone on-and-on about Kruger’s ability to lay anyone out, but I don’t think I’ve yet done justice to her speed.  When push refuses, for whatever reason, refuses to shove, Kruger’s really fast!  Making two quick laps bringing in some easy points, and inadvertently setting the stage for later in the match.

The spotlight would next fall upon Make-Out Bandita Ninja Monkey for her own skating prowess.  Ninja became lead jammer after using her trademark “step” to “walk” past Heartbreaker pivot Foxy del Fuego.  Unfortunately all the fancy footwork in the world wouldn’t be enough to allow Ninja to slide by Leia Flat again.  Flat ended her run at a respectable (19-31).

Speaking about defense, Heartbreakers Rojo Grande and Spank Sinatra made the season’s first impenetrable wall.  Stopping Bandita Kitty Danger dead in her tracks.  A transgression not lost on the Bandits, who would soon pay new jammer Ram ‘Em Noodle back in kind.

Now the jams were playing out predominately fast and physical.  This was turning out to be one of the better exhibition bouts in awhile!  From the (ample) crowd’s perspective, there were a lot of spills to keep things interesting, along with extremely short jams.  Which helps keep the mechanics of the game shrouded in mystery.  Perfect for enticing the people in the stands to return next month!  It worked for me folks!

A return that will surely happen if the capacity crowd’s participation is any indication.  This wasn’t only one of the biggest crowds we’ve seen so far, but also the one of the loudest.  Bradentucky and Gold Coast take note, Tampa Bay will no longer be intimidated by your own boisterous ringers!

Death By Derby‘s biggest surprise came from Heartbreaker powerhouse Bad Credit.  Credit’s been known to deliver devastating hits from time to time, but I’ve never suspected she was as capable a jammer as she is!

Credit’s jamming ability does make sense when you consider the fact that she splits her time between playing roller derby and hockey.  I had always figured the hockey would influence her hits more predominantly, but tonight it was her skating that amazed the crowd.  Credit easily taking lead jammer…

Only to have it snatched back after cutting the track!  Leaving Kitty Danger in control, and providing the Make-Out Bandits with their first major chance at staging a comeback.

Ninja Monkey was clearly cognizant of this opportunity when she intercepted the returning Bad Credit.  Knocking Credit down with the other move Ninja’s known for: the always fun to watch sliding tackle.  Further ratcheting(?) up the hockey quotient in this match!

If all the impressive skatework and brutal take-downs weren’t enough to please the crowd, Bettie Kruger brought out a trick next !  Accepting a star pass to better keep the pressure on the Heartbreakers.  Things were getting close now (55-58), so the Bandits started pulling out all the stops.

At least until they were stopped by Frieda Killigan.  With the sliding tackles and star passes out of the way, the only derby ingredient still missing was a healthy smattering of Frieda’s brutality.  An oversight that was soon rectified (62-70).

Next, newcomer Ram ‘Em Noodle brought in a big jam for the Heartbreakers.  Though the Make-Out Bandits’ defense was still fierce, pounding Noodle for all she’s worth, and then some, she never lost her balance.  Finishing her jam beaten but unbowed.

Noodle would continue turning in big jams, and (unfortunately for her) taking big hits, throughout the bout.  Being one of two new jammers who clearly have the offensive side of jamming down, even if they’re still working out the defense.

1

Despite their best attempts to put themselves over the top, the lead still remained just outside the Make-Out Bandits’ grasp.  A frustrating situation that was resolved by the Bandits taking out whatever amount x they were behind by in Heartbreaker flesh.

Bandita captain Punkin was clearly laying down the law as the “go-to” pivot.  Using her experience and know how to organize the disparate parts that are: Anita Bopabitch, Bettie Kruger, and herself so that lead jammer Foxy del Fuego was stuck firmly in the pack.  Punkin providing a little reminder for all the longtime Tampa fans of what they had been missing last season.

4

Not that Bettie Kruger needs much direction out on the track.  She and Anita Bopabitch had no problem befuddling Bash ‘Em Up Barbie’s jam attempt.  Leaving the track, and spotlight, open for the still lightning-fast Rock-C (71-100).

Which was followed by a pairing that can only be truly appreciated in a exhibition setting.  With brand new Make-Out Bandit Kitty Danger jamming head-to-head against Heartbreaker, and Tampa Bay Derby Darlin, mainstay, Flirtin W. Disaster.

Anywhere else and this match-up of the new guard versus the old guard wouldn’t have been given the space to breathe; no much at risk for both teams.  Skating outside the realm of “stats” though, allowed one to sit back and enjoy youthful enthusiasm struggling against years of experience.

2

A match-up, should you ever encounter it, where putting your money on “experience” is the safe bet.  As was proven next by a jamming Frieda Killigan. who, despite her non-blocking duties, still managed to slide in a devastating blow into adversaries.  Earning her a brilliant “Frieda Smash!” ad-lib from the announcers.

It’s official; it’s 2010 and all the usual derby shenanigans are now present and accounted for in this blog!

Old guard versus the mid-guard?  Punkin trying her hardest to take Lunch Lady down.  Lunch Lady saved by the most daring/lucky lateral hop I’ve yet witnessed.  Desperation bringing out the best (93-138).

Two-thirds of their way through the match and the Make-Out Bandits were now down nearly forty points again.  What’s a team to do?

Give Rock-C the jammer panty, of course, and watch the deficit shrink!  Rock-C scoring an astonishing fifteen points in just a single jam (123-143)!

Equally astonishing was that, after Rock-C’s amazing run, I was recognized by a foreign skater in the crowd!  Almost too much excitement for one night!  Proving, once and for all, that no matter how many times I do get recognized, it’ll always be exciting.

7

Sort of like running into your old milkman thirty-odd years after his job became irrelevant.  And finding out he still remembers your name!  Or, as in this case, can still recognize you under the cover of two separate coats and a pair of glasses.  That’s as incognito as I can get!   Doesn’t everyone hurriedly take notes will watching roller derby?

Faced by the harsh reality of losing their lead again rather quickly, the Heartbreakers brought the match back to basics.  The basic jams that were being stressed in the first half and had somehow fell out of favor.  Foxy del Fuego set the tone this time, rapidly scoring a number of points then calling off the jam before the Bandits could retaliate.  Perfect for leaving your competition reeling without tiring yourself out in the process (132-162).

With the clock winding down and the scores growing closer, you could feel the tension mount.  Which could only lead to bad times, in this case, an injury.  Leia Flat finishing her jam clutching her hand after a terrifyingly terrific Punkin hit.

A hit that was not terrifying, nor terrific, enough to actually stop Leia though.  Flat kept skating through the pain buying her teammate Foxy del Fuego time to retaliate.  Fuego taking out Bandit jammer Sketch E. Artist.

5

Please note here that this recap doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to Sketch E.       Artist’s contributions in the bout.  There are, after all, only so many times one can mention being knocked down before the wrong impression begins to take hold in the audience’s minds.  Which would be contrary to what Artist provided.  She was clearly the “heart” of the new recruits; getting schooled by the veterans at every turn yet still hopping right back up on her skates.

Similar to earlier in the bout, the Make-Out Bandits’ comeback owed as much to what the Heartbreakers were doing as it did to the recently re-released economical jams.  The Heartbreakers, riled up from a couple of excessively hostile jams, started making basic penalty mistakes.  Which allowed the Bandits a golden opportunity to capitalize off of either a.) the resulting power jam, or b.) the fact that the Heartbreakers just didn’t have enough skates out there to be effective (156-168).

Boosted by another big Bad Credit power jam, the Heartbreakers were looking to better cement their lead.  A desire that was more than adequately assured when Leia Flat waylaid Bandit jammer Anita Bopabitch.  Bop, thrown off her considerable game, then picked up a penalty as she recovered, which left (who else but) Foxy del Fuego as the sole jammer.

Unfortunately what one hopes for and how it turns out after one gets it are often two different things.  For after losing their jammer the Bandits’ defense settled into mitigating their loss.  And after tightening up, the defense would remain “on” for the remainder of the bout.

Bringing to mind memories of physics class as the pack would seem so pliable as to be almost intangible for Bettie Kruger.  She’d pass right through, and then it’d become as unforgiving as a rock.  As Bash ‘Em Up Barbie found out mere moments later.

This “Barbie trap” was effectively the last major pack play of the night.  Breaking tradition from most other Derby Darlins bouts, Death By Derby sported the unorthodox three period format that probably messed up the skaters nearly as much as it did my own traditional recap continuity.

Used to skating two, the skaters began losing steam, and the pack started loosening.  Even on the inside, the shots were becoming infrequent and decidedly less ferocious as everyone focused on staying on their skates.

6

Perhaps the only skater unaffected by the added skate time was Flirtin W. Disaster.  When everyone else was slowing down and rationing their hip checks, Flirtin took a vocal approach in motivating the defense.  Allowing the Heartbreakers to safely stave off an upset that the Make-Out Bandits had fought so hard to provide.  The bout ending with the Heartbreakers over the Make-Out Bandits (178-222).

MVPs of the night were Ram ‘Em Noodle and Sketch E. Artist as the top jammers (Heartbreakers and Make-Out Bandits respectively).  Blocking honors going to Bad Credit and Iron Rose.

Coming up next is the March 27th bout featuring the Black Widows defending their numerous claims (2009 Champions, undefeated, etc.) against a revamped Cigar City Mafia.  Another warm-up bout before April’s Franky Panky 2010 Championship!

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