I Guess “Thousand” Sounds Cooler Then “Fourteen” (Mama Said… Knock You Down.)

If there’s one reason why roller derby reigns supreme in Tampa, I’d say it’s the parking.  Granted, I don’t know if everyone else feels this way, but it even if it doesn’t rank so high, surely it still factors in.  Have you ever driven past (let alone been in) the Buccaneers’ stadium?  The parking lot is bigger than the field!  It takes you longer to walk to your seat than watch the game!

Such thoughts came to pass last Saturday.  Have you ever awoken, up early on your day off, only to sit in traffic for hours?  This after you get dressed up?  As if your only plan for said day was to listen to whatever FM’s “morning zoo crew” say zany things over canned beats while cursing out the various “green” enthusiasts flooding your already crowded city?

I did last Saturday.  You’d really think the brains behind an institution of so-called “higher learning” would know better than to schedule a seminar during a marathon.  Which was a short hop across the water from some green/old person appreciation day.  Especially in a city not known for its optimal parking options.  Plus, who drives their car to such a celebration?  Heretics.

Luckily for all of you readers tiring of this diatribe, the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins have taken all of these lifestyle/parking issues into consideration.  If the skating rink’s lot is full, you park across the street.  No problems, no wandering around a maze of one way streets looking for an affable hobo to “protect” your car as you watch the Black Widows take on the Cigar City Mafia.

Take that downtown Tampa!  No waiting/wandering and it’s the season opener!

And what a season it’s looking to be.  Anytime the bout opens with Eliza Lot going to town on Lunch Lady, you know you’re in for a treat.  Tonight’s bout didn’t disappoint, swiftly moving from the feral savagery we’ve come to expect love from Tampa, to a disturbingly perplexing final set of jams.  Poundings and pathos, all right here folks!

After Eliza struck the opening shoulder, newly recruited Mafioso Reeces Tear Ya to Pieces’ following jam showed that the Cigar City Mafia a.) had some new talent, and b.) were prepared to risk victory in order to ensure it was trained.  Reeces’ first jam was extremely successful for a new derbier; managing a couple a passes through the pack before she was knocked down twice in one lap.  Recognizing a change of luck, Reeces called it off.  Thus would mark the beginning of her trial by fire; as she found jam as often tonight as any of the Black Widows’ more experienced jammers (4-4).

Leaving the jammer panty free for one Leia Flat.  Flat, as long-time readers will recognize, is continuing on her quest to become the league’s most rounded skater, equally adept at pounding as she is passing.  This, by extension, will also make her the league’s _scariest_ skater, as her opponents will have no set reference with which to predict her actions.  Choosing the path of least resistance, Flat slipped past Eliza Lot’s already noteworthy shoulders to score four more points.

Extending Cigar City’s triumphant run was yet another new jammer, Kitten Kicker.  Showing off the great speed and moves that were a big surprise for the audience.  It’s rare to see a new jammer jump right into the deep end as Kitten and Reeces were called upon to do.  Even without the cover, ahem… fire of Tara Fire’s blocking, they still would’ve been impressive.

All good things must come to an end, and in roller derby the end’s almost always painful.  The Mafia’s luck changing as Heaven Leigh and Spank Sinatra trap Cigar City’s jamming Sasha Haughtbich in the classic “sandwich” maneuver.  Sasha’s run coming to an unexpected and presumably painful conclusion (14-5).

The Widows’ offense shone next, with Rojo Grande first bridging the point gap, then exploding it.  In fact, I’m not certain if they corrected the scores here, or if Grande just brought in 17 points.  In derby, either possibility is plausible.  Either way, by the end of Rojo’s run the Widows were a good jam ahead (14-22).

This is what an otherwise successful Lunch Lady jam looks like a split second before she gets floored.  This is also the nicest Kruger “hit pic” I’ve yet taken!  For all you out there keeping track (24-34).

Perhaps there wasn’t a computer error, as Little A was the next Widow to score 18 points in a jam!  “18” becoming, for all derby purposes, the new “5.”  Making grand slams just a little less, uh… grand

I have identified the source of Little A’s luck, though, as Mama Said… Knock You Down was the first Tampa Bay Derby Darlins bout where split packs became the norm.  (But it certainly wouldn’t be the last, if my notes on the upcoming Franky Panky tournament are to be believed.)  Tonight the splits all appeared inadvertent, with the Widows being slightly quicker in recognizing/utilizing them.

We might not understand pack splitting fully yet, but if there’s one thing Tampa does know, it’s cutting the track.  An ongoing blog regular for seasons, here Cigar City’s Sasha Haughtbich made the mistake of sliding back onto the track a little too soon.  Ceding a power jam to Anita Bopabitch, as she pleaded her innocence.

Fret not Mafia fans, since just as any middle manager from any soulless multinational corporation will tell you, a problem is just an opportunity in disguise.  So the Mafia’s defense came alive with a Ginger Fae, Napalm Nymph, and Dee Bauchery wall stalling Bopabitch.  A wall so strong, that Bopabitch, failing to find a way through, was forced to call off her jam!  That’s some defense folks (24-75)!

Sometimes in the heat of all the exchanges going on on the track, you can lose sight of the small things.  Such as the face (back-?) off going on between Little A and Leia Flat.   A tiny exchange of taunts, feints, and veiled threats ending with Little A skating away tapping her elbows in a knowing manner.  A beautifully subtle display of intent, most likely lost on anyone following who was scoring the points (32-79).

While I applaud Cigar City for their repeated use of new jammers, you had to eventually feel a bit sad for Reeces Tear Ya to Pieces.  Here she is trying to keep her head above the water when they throw a shark like Betty Kruger in the tank.  All part of the learning curve I guess…

Coming off the break, you could tell Cigar City really wanted to bring it.  Lunch Lady performing her now ubiquitous comeback run, only this time it floundered when she’s hit with a tripping penalty.  Little A went to town on the Mafia in Lunch’s absence, but upon her return it quickly became obvious that this was Lunch’s show, and Little would not commandeer it.

Sprinting past Rojo Grande for the lead (again), then continuing to power through the pack, Lunch made up ground while showing that no point was too painful to go for.  Ending her jam with a kamikaze leap in front of Widow pivot Bettie Kruger for that one last, final point!  Landing/falling in a pile of hip slapping glory (44-92).

That little bit of acrobatics would make Lunch Lady public enemy number one amongst the Black Widows’ blockers a few jams later.  When she now had to vigorously contort her body to keep from Anita Bopabitch’s punishing shoulders.  Only to be laid out by the always fast, always brutal, and (enigmatically) always smiling Bad Credit (48-112).  Cigar City enjoying a Lunch Lady led comeback in everything except the … uh, points.

Bettie Kruger, bringing her nightmarishness to another position, takes lead jammer, thereby ending the Mafia’s recent monopoly.  Only to run head first into a vengeful Sasha Haughtbich, who was apparently still sore about losing her last jam.  Sasha would repay Kruger by hitting the brakes after bumping Bettie out of bounds, thus incurring a cutting penalty.

Leaving Reeces Tear Ya to Pieces in a do-or-die power jam.  Reeces pulls out the full five after a beautiful Run ‘Em Down Rhoda shoulder crushes Heaven Leigh and opens up a hole (53-112).

Fifteen minutes left and the Black Widows still haven’t relented.  Sending Rojo Grande out to further pad their score while Bettie Kruger keeps Reeces Tear Ya to Pieces occupied (59-133).

This followed by an unstoppable Spank Sinatra.  Whom neither Ginger Fae nor Tara Fire could even slow down on her way to a grand slam.

The Widows “still [hadn’t] relented” until Little A came out to jam.  Already sixty points ahead, Little A decided to forgo scoring points and just run the clock down.  Easily the slowest jam Little A and company had ever been involved in.  At least until Mafioso Punkin was released from the penalty box.  Then the jam picked up and ended real quick, before Punkin could bring the hurt to any of their squad (59-143).

A sign of hope appearing (audibly) at the last moment, I really started to believe that the Mafia could still make good on their comeback attempts.  It turns out once the DJ starts playing Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” I lose all concept of reality, let alone what’s happening on the track.  Though there’s no better false alarm than that song’s opening.

Zoning back in on the match, Little A had also returned to running down the clock.  And how!  Choosing to box out the competing jammer Reeces Tear Ya to Pieces rather than go for any points.  A choice would be divisive amongst both the skaters and the audience.

Many didn’t appreciate the showboating, though I can see the need to play with a game’s conventions after victory is certain.  Here’s to hoping the league’ll keep this transgressive attitude alive; next time having her pull a Brett Hart[link] by passing her jammer panty to a child in the audience.  What would WFTDA, or the refs, say?  Would the other team be able to find it in their hearts to block (i..e hit) a four year-old?  Could said four year-old skate?  We’d be exploring new territory here folks!

If anything, Little A’s showboating helped keep interest in a bout that was increasingly one-sided.  Once a team’s losing by nearly a hundred points (73-152), it’s kind of hard to keep the crowd’s attention.  So you lighten the mood.  After all, it’s not as if the Widows had a total monopoly over tonight’s transgressive acts.

You had Punkin cracking up, clowning on Eliza Lot after both fell down in a hit gone awry.  Punkin kept laughing, all the way to the sin bin.  See?  Even Cigar City was getting in on the irrelevance!

The only problem with this type of shenanigans is that when things sour, they’ll sour quickly.  As they did here once the final jam commenced.  A communications breakdown stopping Cigar City from enjoying a power jam for as long as they were supposed to.  When Rojo Grande fouled out, the Mafia’s current penalized jammer, Run ‘Em Down Rhoda should’ve started… er, running ’em down.  While I’m certainly not saying she would’ve righted the (78-162) deficit, but she couldn’t tried.

So instead the crowd enjoyed (the also recently released) Punkin delivering shots to just about anyone she hadn’t hit tonight.  A display that might be just as cathartic as watching one last, valiant effort for the gold.

Surprisingly, MVPs weren’t awarded tonight, so do us all a favor and reread this blog and mail in your nominations.  Everyone was presumably too busy planning/executing the upcoming [already past!] Franky Panky to focus on anything else.  It’s forgivable since there’ll be two days of roller derby!  Four WFTDA teams (Tampa Bay, Tallahassee, Dallas, Cincinnati)!  A new venue!

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