Archive for November, 2011

miniposting

More than a twitter status, less than a full post.  It seems to be my style this week.

A couple themes from the weekend:  watching derby alone, derby fandom, and the state of the sport.  All could prompt full-length posts, but I only have minipost thoughts at the moment. I’m also still recovering from an evil little stomach bug that decided to strike during FINALS of all times, and has kept me away from most anything resembling nutrition for the last 48 hours or so. So here goes.

First, on watching derby alone. I’ve been to many derby bouts on my own before, fortunate to have the support of a derby widow to allow me travel both near and far for the love of the sport. And it’s always a little bit weird going into a new bout space that’s vibrating with the crazy energy unique to derby, and finding a spot to sit by myself.  I do it anyway, of course but why the weirdness? Maybe it’s because I’m not naturally boisterous; being part of a team or a group of friends brings that out in me, but it never feels authentic when I’m by myself. I also tend to doubt my knowledge or cred when I’m in another pond; everyone around me seems to know more about the teams, the players and rules than I do. Which isn’t a problem, it just makes me a little reticent to get as vocal as I would be when cheering on one of my own teams from the suicide seats. Case in point: I was at my loudest and most vocal this weekend on the night of the semifinals, watching the Oly/KCRW bout surrounded by the Texas and Gotham players and coaches who had just come back in from the locker rooms. I guess I was in the right spot, mostly by myself in a section just behind the jam line, and they piled in around me. Heckling Oly, heckling the refs, being snarky about Oly splitting the pack yet again and getting penalized for it, oops did Atomatrix just fall on her knee and have to adjust her teeny weeny kneepad? — it was hilarious and awesome, and I’m pretty sure I was standing and screaming at several points.

I’m not sure what the takeaway is; but it’s definitely a stretch outside the comfort zone for me, and as ironic as that is (given that playing derby is actually risky), it’s the truth. And getting to see derby outweighs the weirdness for me.

Speaking of the proximity of the Texas/Gotham players… Nationals was a derby fangirl’s dream. There’s a post to be written about differences between derby and other sports as far as fans go; maybe the tournaments keep everyone’s fangirl meter on freeze or something, but I just didn’t see a lot of fan signs or autograph-signing or any of the other fan behavior I might expect, even at home bouts. Halfway home I thought about how a Team USA poster, signed by each of the skaters, would have been awesome. But I’m terribly shy and protocol-observant about such things… would have been gauche, no?

eta: this piece on superfans showed up in my feeds this am.  Mascots aren’t superfans, but of the rest, the MN fans are the only ones I saw. And still, much less signage than a hometown bout.

And ok, the state of the sport of roller derby. Bullet train to legitimacy. I would really love to have plucked off the street some average sports fan who didn’t know a thing about derby, and sat that person down to watch Nationals and talk about the experience. Sure, roller derby is all “I’m a wiiiild and CrAzY guy!!!” and punk and nerdy and DIY and all, but Nationals sure as heck looked like a sports tournament to me.  And the World Cup scrimmage on Monday = pure sport at the highest level, albeit in a sleepy little warehouse just off the highway.

Day 2 superbrief wrap-up

In a nutshell:

Bout 5: Texas over Minnesota 141-108
Bout 6: Gotham over RMRG 187-139
Bout 7: KCRW over Windy City 112-95
Bout 8: Oly over Philly 181-95

Bout 9: Gotham over Texas 195-113
Bout 10: Oly over KCRW 124-104

Another amazing day of great roller derby, with no blowouts and some a few teams threatening to upset in a big way.

MN had an amazing start against Texas first thing in the morning, with jammers earning lead in jam after jam. MN jammers played smart, letting Texas pick up minors in the engagement zone, often earning lead despite being second through the pack. 67-66 Minnesota at half time. But Texas fought in the second half, and both teams kept it close throughout the period. Really great jamming by Lexi, Medusa and Harmony, and fantastic pack work by the whole MN bench.

Then Gotham vs. Rocky Mountain… and what a bout! I’d never seen Gotham play before, and had only seen Rocky Mountain in last year’s finals and the previous day against Nashville, so it was hard to know what to expect. They didn’t disappoint — not that anyone has, really. Gotham is fierce, and had a strong lead throughout the first half, going to halftime at 75-50. Very fast, open packs, constant recycling by both teams, and not an instant where they didn’t all know where both jammers were. Watching Bonnie Thunders and Suzy Hotrod jam is like a master class on jamming, really. Different styles, but both so powerful and wily, able to speed through the smallest space that opens in an instant. Hard not to be a fangirl with such talent all around this weekend. RMRG was their own worst enemy in this game, though, getting in to penalty trouble in the second half that sent Psycho Babble, Urrk’n Jerk’n and Amanda Jamitinya out of the game entirely. That team seems really hotheaded to me… they make dumb mistakes. Be prepared for an echo in Game 10.

I was looking forward Windy City vs. KCRW; I was pretty sure I’d underestimated KC going into this, and was almost hoping they’d spoil my bracket here. The game was close throughout, with the score at 25-24 KCRW halfway through the first period. KC pulled ahead to leave it at 42-29 at the half. Windy didn’t play Beth Amphetamine – not sure why, unless they expected to win and were saving her for a later game. Jackie Daniels and Varla Vendetta handled most of the jamming for Windy, and Kelly Young and Track Rat did an amazing job for KC.

Last game of the second round was Oly vs. Philly, and I think my derby-watching brain was full, so I made an emergency Starbucks run and loaded up the feed to catch the second half. A little sorry to see Philly lose, but not really a surprise.

After a much-needed dinner break, we got down to the semifinals with Texas vs. Gotham and KCRW vs. the Oly Rollers. Derby Royalty in these semifinals… KCRW won in 2007, Gotham in 2008, Oly in 2009, and of course Texas is the original (modern) flat track derby league.

Texas-Gotham was incredible… scrum starts every time, with both teams racing to get to that line, mostly kneeling sideways to claim the line. Gotham had the advantage of being closer to the jam line in the first half, and Texas in the second, and I have to wonder how much of a difference that made to their strategy — both seemed to rely on having the back line. Best quote of the day: “Suzy Hotrod, still stuck in the pack” — definitely something you don’t hear every day! Amazing jamming by both teams, and incredibly fast packs. But Bonnie and Suzy are like gunshots through those packs, they’re practically unstoppable.

Last up, KCRW vs. Oly. And some actual starts at the pivot line! KC kept it fast, controlling the pack speed well, right away. Nice defensive jamming from KC’s Trauma, giving her the edge to get through on scoring passes. Oly got in some penalty trouble, with two of their toughest blockers, Tannibal Lector and Hockey Honey, in the box for 6 minutes of play (both were ejected near the end of the second period). Tannibal is a hell of a shark, and a powerful jammer, but they made some crappy decisions to split the pack that got them in trouble. Close game, great game, and I was so engrossed that I didn’t write much in the notebook. By the second half, I was surrounded by Texas and Gotham, and quite a few Oly hecklers in that group. Obviously both teams were heavily invested in watching these teams play, as Gotham would play the winner and Texas the loser of this bout.

Another amazing day of derby. One more day to go, just two bouts left, and they should be just as amazing. I almost feel guilty for having this close-up view. Almost.

Day 1 superbrief wrap-up

First day of Nationals 2011 in a nutshell:

Game 1: MN over Charm 160-121
Game 2: RMRG over Nashville 198-58
Game 3: KCRW over Rose 143-135
Game 4: Philly over Naptown 225-68

It’s a bit of a blur at 7am… but I had so much fun yesterday, and took pages and pages of notes. No big surprises, and my bracket is still intact, but Charm and Rose City both made credible threats.

I’d seen MN, Nashville, KCRW and Naptown play at regionals, but not the Eastern and Western teams, so my bracket predictions were really just honoring the rankings. I really liked Minnesota for the first bout, and they didn’t disappoint – though Charm really turned up the heat in the second half. Nashville had a tough game against Rocky Mountain; they just couldn’t seems to slow Rocky Mountain down at all, and their jammers were consistently trapped. A bit of showboating by RMRG here… I guess it’s to be expected with a home crowd, but there were a few plays that seemed a bit douchey. The KCRW-Rose game was the most exciting on the board — constant lead changes, tough pack work, and big crowd involvement. Rose really should have won that game, but KC had some favorable calls that allowed them to pull ahead. I was most looking forward to the Philly/Naptown game at the end of the day; this is where I would have loved to see an upset. But Naptown couldn’t keep control of the packs; I didn’t think they played as tightly as they did at regionals. They kept getting pushed past 20′ at the front, forced to let the jammer by. The Philly coach kept yelling to his bench, “NO CINDERELLA STORIES! NO CINDERELLA STORIES!”. They were ready for Naptown, and their pack work was just amazing. Some really incredible jamming by Maiden America and Amooze Booche, but it just wasn’t enough to close that gap.

Today should be just as exciting, with all of today’s winners facing the 1st seed teams from each region. North Central MN faces South Central Texas; Western RMRG faces Eastern Gotham; South Central KCRW faces North Central Windy; and Eastern Philly faces Western Oly.

Game 5: MN vs. Texas at 9:30a
Game 6: RMRG vs. Gotham at 11:15a
Game 7: KCRW vs. Windy at 1:00p
Game 8: Philly vs. Oly at 2:45p

And after a dinner break, Games 9 and 10 will advance the morning’s winners to the semifinals.

Game 9: (winner of 5 vs. winner of 6) at 5:30p
Game 10: (winner of 7 vs. winner of 8) at 7:15p

WFTDA Tournament Prep: Fan Version

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted here.

No better time for a complete non sequitur, then:  what to do while watching Nationals?

I watched two of the regional tournaments, and struggled with several things, not the least of which was the difficulty of keeping track of 10 teams I was mostly unfamiliar with, trying to pin down something useful that I could take away.  My memory without frameworks is shit. So this time, with the trip riding on a much larger stack of dimes, I’m determined not to waste any of it staring at the track like a coma patient. Instead, I’m working on a little template of sorts that I can fill out about each team, each game, and take back home with me. I’m hoping it’ll focus my mind a bit, and keep me from trying to see everything at once, failing to see anything (ok, now I’m just being hyperbolic).  But seriously, trying to see everything makes me miss a lot.  I swear, a derby brain has to be shaped over time. At least I hope so, because a lot of the time I’m pretty sure I wasn’t born with one.

I’m starting with some really basic and easily observable questions about lineups and patterns for each team:  who jams, who pivots, where do they start, where do they stay, etc.  Then penalties — who keeps landing in the box, for how long (especially jammers).  Noting lead changes and top scorers for that game will be good memory triggers later on.  And then capturing impressions about their general playing style — what game do they play?  Fast or slow, from the front or the back?  None of this is going to be solid data that I can analyze — just a way of organizing my observations.

I made a bracket, but it’s not based on deep knowledge of any of the teams, really.  Just a combination of limited footage over the last year and watching NC and SC regionals. So anyway, my bracket:

Bout 1: Minnesota over Charm
Bout 2: Rocky Mountain over Nashville

Bout 3: Kansas City over Rose City
Bout 4: Philly over Naptown (but I would love for this not to come true!)

Bout 5: Minnesota over Texas
Bout 6: Gotham over Rocky Mountain

Bout 7: Windy over Kansas City
Bout 8: Oly over Philly

Bout 9: Gotham over Minnesota
Bout 10: Oly over Windy

Bout 11: Minnesota over Windy (for 3rd and 4th place)
Bout 12: Gotham over Oly  (for 1st and 2nd place)

Contrary to appearances, I’m totally freaking out here with excitement. Everything’s arranged, and I’m mostly packed. Squee!!!!