“If You See Your Mother This Weekend…” (A HOT Roller Derby Bout).
A few weeks ago I found myself driving down to Bradenton, exhausted. My year-long sabbatical from working weekends is now over, and I refuse to allow something as trivial as work get in the way of what I actually enjoy doing.
So up at 2:30, working at 4, home by 1, then driving to a brief pause in St. Pete before continuing to the ultimate destination, Bradenton. A schedule that makes for a tiring, but exciting, day.
It was during the drive when I realized what spot roller derby now commands in my life. Filling the vacancy that live music once filled. After you become too old to comfortably share a crowded room with thirteen year-olds obsessed with grindcore, you start reevaluating your options.
Especially once you realize all your favorite bands end up as openers. I’m happy to have driven 300+ miles to see the 400 Blows open for the Icarus Line, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But those chances are few and far between. (This was the original, awesome, 400 Blows; not the reconstituted one.) Most of the bands I care about now are as old as me, and content to record endlessly bizarre echoed-out guitar solos and Sparks covers.
Enter roller derby.
Giving me something to think about early Sunday morning when everyone else around me is whining about how much they need (read: want) coffee. Derby turning into a(nother) pleasant escape hatch from their world.
An escape hatch that’s beginning to become crowded. For this was easily one of the best attended Bradentucky matches I’ve seen yet. Between this and Tampa Bay’s (equally) packed season opener, I’d say I’ve done enough (non) scientific research to conclude that Florida’s undergoing a roller derby renaissance!
(Fret not my readers worried about facing a crowd too large to me to properly document said matches. I found out tonight that luckily I’m slim, flexible, and still remarkably (willing and) able to contort my tiny frame into smaller spaces. All for you, the silent, glaring eyes of the internet.)
Tonight’s bout was promised as “A Hot Roller Derby Bout!” I’m not yet certain whether that counts as the title, or just a descriptive advertisement, so that’ll be the last time it’s mentioned by name. The bout did, however, feature Bradentucky’s Nuclear Bombshells against the Fort Myers Misdemeaners. Who are, I’m assuming, the Fort Myers Derby Girls’ B-team. For no matter how strange I found it to have the league called FMDG, while the actual team boasts the Palm City Punishers. I’d still miss the Punishers moniker if it was truly gone.
Wisely seeking to impress the near capacity crowd early on, Bradentucky wasted no time making its move. One unidentified Bombshell managing to take out three Misdemeaners in one fell swoop. Creating a hole for which Bombshell Mad Cap to reap the rewards; an easy four points (0-4).
A powerful start that would not prove to be indicative of what was to come. Recovering quickly from the Florida Wheels Skating Center’s mesmerizing “Charlie Brown effect,” Fort Myers immediately rebounded; picking Bradentucky apart.
Sending their Serenity Storm out to blow Crash Test Barbie away right off the line. Which, to be fair to Barbie, was understandable considering how insanely fast Storm skates. There would be numerous points in my notes where I’d feel the need to reiterate how much her speed made her a threat. Doubling Mad Cap’s success and then adding a little something on top, Serenity began Fort Myers’ lengthy hold on the lead (9-4).
A successful run then matched and topped by Serenity’s following teammate Fire & Ice. Who raised the ante even higher, scoring two grand slams before calling it quits (19-5).
As with Serenity Storm, Fire & Ice would remain a distinct presence on the track throughout the remainder of the bout. Not even resting after her big jam, instead joining the pack in a strategic capacity. Teaming up with fellow blocker Handi J to take out the Crash Test Barbie. While Handi J kept Crash occupied via a series of shoulders, Fire & Ice quietly came creeping up, surprising the beleaguered Bombshell with a text-book flanking maneuver.
Beleaguered but not beaten, as Crash Test would prove later, after Handi J and Misdemeaner jammer Shear Chaos were sent to the penalty box. Giving Crash the chance to enjoy a power jam in relative peace until she too was sent to the sin bin. Tonight would feature many of these penalty swaps, at once hindering and helping both teams. throughout (29-9).
Though, while both team were affected by these penalties, it was the Bombshells who were hurt the most. Fort Myers being most able to capitalize off them, as their team is remarkably adept at chaining battle plans on the fly. In this case allowing jammer Death Rae a chance to bring in another grand slam.
Here Betty KnockHer Out’s previous competing experience was a huge asset. Formerly of the Broward County Roller Grrls (now Gold Coast), KnockHer’s ability to lead from within the pack was deadly. Calling for her teammates to slow down, thus forcing a split pack, providing dual bonuses: disarming the Bombshells’ blockers while protecting their own jammer. Skater attrition being one of the biggest factor any visiting team will face.
This is not to say either team was ever truly safe from the sting of penalties. The Misdemeaners losing Fire & Ice to an unfortunate cutting call left things open for Esther Gin n Juice. Who, in a standing testament to Fort Myers’ defensive prowess, couldn’t bust through Misdemeaners’ blockers. Rather than passage, Esther found trips, falls, and fouls at nearly every turn (34-13).
As commanding a presence that Betty KnockHer was as a pivot, she was also equally as dangerous as a jammer. Smartly using her defensive acumen to find holes where others would have only found punishment.
Betty was skating with a reckless abandonment that you have to love. Going for the gusto with a staggering three pass run through a likewise stunned Bombshell squad. KnockHers started off her leading run by plowing right through Dita Von Cheats; displaying that blend of aggression and selflessness she would perfect all night. Wary about her chances about succeeding with a similar plan a second time, KnockHer brought along Serenity Storm to run interference as she passed through again without any significant opposition. For her third pass though, Bradentucky’s wits had finally caught up with KnockHer’s speed. A reeling Von Cheats pooled her physical and tactical resources with one Areal Nightmare to stop KnockHer’s impressive run (57-20).
Betty wasn’t finished stealing scenes just yet though! Even after her run she managed to remain the talk of the track, this time due to a controversy concerning her jam’s opening. The ever tight-lipped refs hinted that KnockHer had started the jam in front of the jammer line or something. Long time readers will know the drill by now, lots of refs huddled mid-track, with no answers forthcoming. (Luckily we had visiting Tampa Bay announcer Vince Hannity sharing mic duties with Side O’ Bacon tonight as Vince knows a thing or two about interpreting legalese.) In one of the best decisions made in recent memory (at least from a fan/continuity standpoint), KnockHer’s infraction was not deemed serious enough to invalidate her wildly successful run.
As if it wasn’t so already, from here on out the bout would practically remain a Fort Myers’ highlight reel.
Breakneck Brie floors the jamming Esther Gin n Juice with an intensity that made everyone in the audience forget about ever donning skates for a second. Remarkably, and proof of Esther’s toughness, it appeared to take Esther less time to to regain her footing then it did to hit the track! This season’s first physical impossibility!
Miracles aside, Breakneck was an unsung but integral part of Fort Myers’ defensive strategy tonight. Playing one of the most effective rear guards seen; challenging then chasing down every Bradentucky jammer who tried entering the pack.
Serenity Storm, when not aiding and abetting Betty KnockHers, had remained impossibly fast throughout the bout’s second half. Fast and prolific; scoring double grand slams. Or grander slams if you will (117-44).
Despite the huge numerical difference between scores, Bradentucky never lost their team pride. How did they celebrate when Mimi Sha’ Boom, with a brilliant set-up by teammate Blaque Jac, pulverizes Fire & Ice? High-fives for everyone! It’s that kind of team culture/dorkiness that can’t be trained or taught, only grown. The Bombshells might be the only derby team around who smiles for their roster’s head-shots!
Feeding off the Bombshells’ utmost refusal to quit was the always energetic Bradentucky crowd. Who have to be the most vocal a congregation can possibly become without ever crossing that line into being hostile towards foreigners. I think even Fort Myers felt as one with the crowd, even as they destroyed the team everyone was cheering for. By sound alone you’d never realize that the Bombshells were losing by nearly a 100 points! You’d think it was neck-and-neck.
Kudos to Serenity Storm turning in what was tonight’s smoothest jam, as everyone else was battling it out at a fever pitch. As she’s skating it’s almost as if she doesn’t realize that the Bombshells were looking to maim anyone sporting a black jersey, or that the rambunctious crowd was actively feeding this blood lust.
Perhaps Serenity’s err… serene jam only looked smooth due to the speed with which she skates. As evidenced later when one of her jams was prematurely ended by a nasty Sin Da Roller shot. Amazingly enough, Serenity loses momentum just as fast as she gains it! A text-book definition of “acceleration” brought to life!
Alas, not every jam would be as smooth. Creating a bold juxtaposition Serenity’s efforts were followed by the night’s most confusing jam. Commencing with Mad Cap enjoying, then fouling out of, a power jam. Which releases Betty KnockHer from the sin bin ready to avenge her team. Only to pass the jammer panties right back mere moments later! A web of penalties almost too dense for my feeble mind to untangle. You start to lose track after awhile.
Adding to the confusion was all the payback flying across the track. Blaque Jac taking Shear Terror out. So Death Wringher floors the ever-unlucky jamming Crash Test Barbie, Who, after a match of beat-downs, finally gets a power jam and a chance to show the crowd what she can do. One of the few second period power jams that wasn’t immediately passed right back to the opponents. No, Crash Test milked this one for all it was worth (163-64).
A slaughter, but one where you could literally watch the Bombshells improve jam by jam. All the problems Von Cheats encountered earlier containing Betty KnockHer helped make her a stronger pivot by the end. This growth, in turn, allowed Bradentucky to bow out on a high note: a Esther Gin n Juice grand slam. Not big enough to change anything, but sufficient enough to show that the lose wasn’t in vain (171-69).
Now the match ended with superlatives as Bradentucky always does, unfortunately I don’t have the results with me. About halfway through the bout my overtaxed note sheet made a run for it, forcing me to hurriedly scribble down what trends and big jams I could remember before the second half commenced. This should also explain any instances of my describing the same incident twice. I think I caught all those occurrences, but I won’t know until it’s too late.
As you can see, I was eventually reunited with my notes, found, as with most runaways, a couple blocks from where I was seated, partying with the galactic carpet.