Pounding and Pathology (Franky Panky I)

The Florida State Fair came and went this year with hardly a blip on the screen.  (Granted, my screen was nearly unreadable in February.  Covered, as it was, in sickly florescent yellow phlegm that create getting scraped out of my upper respiratory.)  The futuristic Gravitron 2000 and hella futuristic Gravitron 3000 stalwartly operating night after monotonous night knowing, deep down in their electronic souls, that Sunshine Skate 2010 would not be happening there.  Little dribbles of motor oil slowing oozing down whichever safety sensor the Gravitrons use for eyes.

The State Fair without roller derby?  They might as well take away all the pork-butt-on-a-stick too!  Derby’s practically the only reason I’ve been attending the fair these last two years!
The loss would show too.  Gone were all the roller derby-ish shenanigans from years past.  The haunted house ride without the creep that follows behind your cart to scare you?  Gone.  Hanging upside down in the Gravitron?  Gone too; worse yet, outlawed.  With so much missing, even the world’s smallest woman, Gloria, seemed depressed.  Not even the two dollars I paid to see her could bring a smile to her full-grown yet miniature face.

That’s all that the State Fair lost.  Now what did the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins lose?  Nothing worth listing, unless you count any “benefits” coming from fielding a recapper who’s too drunk on animal fat to shoot a camera straight.  My cholesterol applauds you ladies.

Instead of the idyllic (FL) State Fairgrounds, this weekend the USF campus housed Sunshine Skate‘s replacement, Franky Panky.  (For those of you desperate to know where Molly Roger ranks in Florida derby, you’ll just have to wait ’til October.  Sorry.)  Franky Panky was a mini-national tournament, hosting two foreign (read: out of state) teams and two in-state teams in the most bizarre gymnasium I’ve ever had the privilege to explore.
Bizarre for the building seemingly had no first floor.  All doors leading, as they did, to the second story entrances.  (Actually on further recollection, I believe the first floor housed the showers.  Yes, that’s right, an entire floor dedicated to hygiene!  No wonder tuition is so high; can you imagine the water bill this university generates?)  Upon entering this absurd gym/bathhouse (bathnasium?) I realized (surprise!) I was late.
Late to what might be the greatest roller derby match in Florida’s history by one team I knew (know) nothing about and another team which scares me terribly.  (As all things “Texas” usually do.)  We’ll start with Cincinnati since I haven’t already spent a blog slandering their state.
Cincinnati’s roller derby team (the Black Sheep) are ranked #16 nationally.  Strangely enough, besides that, not much is known about this Cincinnati.  It’s chief exports being humor (in order of decreasing hilarity: Drew Carrey, Wayne Brady [strike one!  Wayne’s not from Ohio, but (B)Orlando, FL!  I knew there was a reason I hate that city!  Because of this, please mentally rank him lower than the upcoming O-HI-O joke], and the joke who’s punchline is O-HI-O), and the Presidents of the United States of America [strike two!  Research shows they’re actually from Seattle.  I enjoyed Seattle the one time I visited there, so I’ll keep this erroneous reference here out of kindness.  In fact, all I really know about Ohio stems from what I remember about the Drew Carrey show.  He might not even be from there, but I’m scared to look ‘cuz it’ll mess up the forthcoming “strike three!”].  Because state law bars them from giving away for free what so much of their income relies on, the Black Sheep played with a cold, calculating, heartless precision much admired on and off the track.

The Dallas Derby Devils’ Hell Razors came to Florida after already beating Tampa twice earlier this year in Texas.  A couple wins to add to the one from last year, where they gave the Tantrums a beating few had ever seen in Tampa before.  Some names I remembered from that night: “Lickity Splittail,” “The Shocker,” “Strawberry Deathcake,” and “Weapon X.”

For all those interested, no, the Shocker did not wear her shades while competing this time around [strike three!  I’m out!  I hereby promise to correct/remove any other errors found in this particular blog.  It was actually Cheatin Chong who sported the shades.  My apologies to both ladies].  Frankie Pank was a WFTDA sanctified tournament thank you, so everyone was focused on winning.  Which is a shame ‘cuz I really enjoyed the potent mix of bravado and nonchalance that those shades brought to the track last time.
The first thing noticeable about both teams was just how evenly matched they are.  Not even taking into account the close scores that they were jockeying for when I arrived.  Just look at those names a second, the Dallas Derby Devils and the Cincinnati Rollergirls.  Nothing too amazing, right?  Now look at Cincinnati’s logo:

Cincinnati’s skater is clearly sporting a halo!  No wonder everyone was watching with such rapt attention.  It’s the literal rapture, or at least a convincing facsimile,  playing out right in front of us; a mere 300 yards from USF’s golf course!  Just as prophesied in the Good Book, page 14!

Roxie La Roo’s endeavors aiding the Dallas Derby Devils were obviously suppressed when said tome went to the publisher.  Something about taking the limelight off of the publisher’s grandson or something.  Not here though!  Frankly, it would be sacrilegious not to mention how Roxie scored Franky Panky‘s first grand slam!  On her way to skating the first double digit jam (22-28)!
[To all my devout derby followers, I hereby promise to stop with the religious jokes.  Frankly, I’ve run out of them at this point.]
The second thing immediately noticeable here was that Dallas’ and Cincinnati’s packs operate a lot different from what we’re just to seeing over here in Florida.  First off, they skate slow.  Real slow.  Not as slow as I get these recaps to you, but you get the idea.  With all their pack members setting up plays, then executing them in a blinding flash, only to slow back down to plot again.  This constant shifting of speeds actually helped serve to highlight the hits, of which, as you probably already guessed with teams of this calibre, there were plenty.

Now it might seem presumptuous to declare Harazzis Mine’s block, one that would send her to the penalty box, as “Franky Panky‘s smoothest check.”  After all, I had only been watching the match a mere five minutes.  Sadly, without a videoclip of it to serve as an example, you just can’t understand how graceful she was sliding into Cincinnati’s jammer.  As if a devastating blow commands no more forethought from her than skating in a circle.
Which might explain why she was penalized.  Does WFTDA have a morality clause?  Is acting nonplussed after a vicious blow a punishable offense?
Dallas continued to spring board off the push given by Roxie La Roo, with Miley Virus speeding through the pack.  She was aided considerably by the on-point pack mechanics already discussed, as Dallas’ blockers would stall to split the pack, allowing Virus to breeze right by Cincinnati’s defense (22-38).
Roxie’s next jam did not go nearly as well for her as her previous one.  Trying to regain her balance while attempting to call off the jam, all done before cutting the track, La Roo came up short.  Incurring the penalty which left Black Sheep Sadistic Sadie with the chance to make up some ground.  Sadie would go on to score a grand slam before the jam clock expired (27-41).
During her next jam Sadistic Sadie would show the reasoning behind her namesake.  Sadistic to a point, even towards her own team, Sadie spent the start of her jam boxing Dallas’ Miley Virus out.

A rare glimpse of common sense tells me Sadie might have been trying to goad Virus into committing a foul, but such a plan seems almost too smart to make it into this blog.  So we’ll leave it for the more concise pundits.

If anything, Sadie’s skating goaded the Hell Razors’ defense into becoming more brutal than usual.  With Keltic Kamaikaze and Harazzis Mine wasting no time in coming to Miley Virus’ aid.
One of the most amazing things about watching these two teams compete was their plays.  Actual, bona-fide roller derby plays!  Akin to those legendary basketball plays, it’s always been rumored that derby had plays too.  Even though all you generally see is a large crush of bodies.
Not so today.  Dallas had a plan, and executed it perfectly.  After the pack skated around the first curve, Dallas’ blockers stopped and waited for the jammers.  Popping Cincinnati’s team as they caught up.  Sure, it sounds simple, and looked cheesy when I saw it in Whip It, scoffing, “They don’t do that!,” but apparently it also works!  Paint my face pink and call me Frank; it practically gave lead jammer to Hot 4 Teacher.  It’s rather hard to argue with results like that.
Another thing Dallas brought besides their playbook was their friends.  Incredibly loud friends; who sat in the bleachers and shouted aid at the Hell Razors, the refs, and anyone else within earshot.  “Back block!  Back block!  Open your eyes ref!”

This one just for fun. Franky Panky's unadvertised yelling contest in mid-swing!

Not to be outdone, the Cincinnati Black Sheep brought two coaches who would prove to be as loud as the entire Dallas fanbase.  The coach, Quad Almighty, and his assistant were actual, legit coaches.  I know nothing of any strategies/tactics discussed, but I can tell you they were always shouting.  Thus fitting in with every coach I ever had; the ones who live on in my memory for getting reprimanded for stepping on the court, then flipping the refs off.  These are the types of refs I grew up with, and the ones I identify with “coaching.”

Unadvertised yelling contest part II! Even the NSOs and Refs were getting into it!

[Please note, though, that at no time did Cincinnati’s coaches actually throw birds, or anything like that.  They were just loud and overly dramatic.  Also note that I average about three and a quarter words said a day.  So all this loud talk could just be me
venting my confusion around all of the new sounds.]

Instrumental in Dallas’ plays was blocker Juicy J, who absolutely murdered Hannah Ouchocinco.  Catching Hannah on an attempted inside run through the pack, Ouchocinco had no recourse but to call it off after Juicy J laid into her (29-55).
Which was very much the key to Dallas’ lead.  The plays, the split pack, and the brutal shots inside the pack which made holes for their jammers.
Yet, even in the face of a 20+ point deficit, Sadistic Sadie still spent the opening of her jam boxing Hot 4 Teacher out.  Instead of pushing for, I don’t know, the lead.  Again I’ll fall back on the belief that she was trying to snag a power jam off of a frustrated Teacher.

Dallas’ Juicy J is not just a strategist, but, more importantly, a bruiser.  In the best possible (derby) way.  Taking out Sk8 Crime with a massive blow; sending Crime skidding out of bounds.

Cincinnati’s troubles still not over, they then lose jammer K. Lethal for whatever infraction is signified by the international “traveling” hand motion.  You know, the one where the ref continuously rolls his hands over-and-over in a circle.  Possibly skating without her wheels?  That’s the best interpretation I can come up with.
The next jam changed the course of the match.  Roxie La Roo fouling out, springing K. Lethal.  Who uses this opportunity to become the tournament’s star.  Total change from when she went into the box to coming out of it.  Now scoring effortlessly, with the pack no longer a concern for her.

Adding to Dallas’ woes, their defense chose this point to fall apart.  Ceding too many penalties to ever recover from.  Each jam would now play out with at least one Hell Razor sitting in the sin bin, frequently more.  Providing Cincinnati with a huge advantage that the Black Sheep did not ignore.

On a side note, though, it bears mentioning that after K. Lethal’s release Cincinnati’s entire bench went crazy, joining their coaches in an cacophony of hooting and hollering.  Yet they were still unable to top the amount of noise put out by Dallas’ four dedicated followers!

Cincinnati’s run continuing strong, a recovered Sk8 Crime teams up with Sadistic Sadie to take out Hot 4 Teacher with the famous sandwich maneuver.  Causing quite a stir, as it frequently does, as much finger pointing resulted afterwards.
Things quickly moving from bad to horrible, Dallas then loses four from their pack, filling up the penalty box and leaving one outside to serve her time when there’s room.  Leaving K. Lethal alone to score as swiftly as humanly possible.
Evoking Franky Panky‘s first chant!  As Lethal goes on to circle the pack however many times it’d take to score 17 points.  The jam ending with the Black Sheep only needing three points to tie, and, topping that, starting with a power jam!

After a Dallas time-out, the final jam commences with K. Lethal tapped to finish the run she started.  Juicy J leading Dallas’ defense in what was easily the most vicious jam yet.  Animosity this palpable not seen/felt often, and would not be seen/felt again for another 20 minutes when Tampa would take the track against Dallas.
While the Hell Razors managed to rough up Karma Krash something fierce; so fiercely in fact, that her errant body almost killed me, they were ultimately unable to stop K. Lethal.  Lethal scoring five points for the win (68-66).
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