My way at Craneway

San Francisco ShEvil Dead vs. Richmond Wrecking Belles. Photography by D.E.sign

I went to sleep last night thinking about the game I saw in Richmond (CA) and woke up this morning trying to analyze it.

Remember as a promoter who has seen well over 1000 Roller Derby games in my life:  from sold out baseball stadia to the hangar decks of aircraft carriers; from San Quentin Prison to the Kansas State fair, it is difficult for me to just go in, sit down, and enjoy.

The building is great:  a huge clear-span facility along the Richmond waterfront.  Inside good lighting for the “arena”, security to keep the aisles and fire door exits clear, and a great crowd:  primarily young families and a Saturday night date crowd who didn’t go to Jack London Square to Yoshi’s to hear jazz, or to any of the great night spots in San Francisco.  Not really close to the City, but well over 2000 people (maybe 2500) crammed into the available space.  I wish there had been risers and bleacher seating, but that would have been expensive.  And you could actually hear on the sound system.

And seated next to me, a beautiful (what a smile!) 9-year old from Vallejo; very serious and a fan of the Richmond Wrecking Belles.

This was the first game I had seen since the championships in Chicago, and for those of you who have read my blog (“We are the Champions of the World”), you know how I referred to the strategy of the game.

San Francisco ShEvil Dead vs. Richmond Wrecking Belles. Photography by D.E.sign

Well, this game was better, to my taste.  Obviously the two teams being in the same league knew each other very well. The San Francisco Shevil Dead (you are all too pretty and gracious for that name), and the Richmond team went at it hot and heavy.  Oakland and the new Berkeley team skate next month.

I think you all know by now that some of the characteristics of the game I don’t care for:  excessive penalties, penalizing the helmet and not the skater (a power jam should only occur when the jammer is penalized during the jam; not carry over to the next), stopped pack and a few other things.  I know they won’t change, but I can complain.

But both teams really understood the strategy of Roller Derby and played it correctly…….maybe one or two times the whole game a jammer got out unimpeded;  blocking started at the back and you could see the players knew their role, keeping the other jammer from getting out and trying to help their own.  On a number of plays there was less than a minute when the jammer broke loose (and you should have heard the explosions from the crowd who appreciated what was going on, very knowledgeable).  On one jam, neither jammer was able to get out for the whole two minutes.    And the jammers used strategy;   a lot of one and two point only jams where the other team’s player was coming up behind the pack and the jammer had to cut the play off.   The defensive blockers were in position to stop the jammers trying to score.  And a number of times the lead jammer would slow down to keep the other jammer back or stall for time if her team was skating shorthanded…… the way, the lead jammer should be the jammer that takes the lead during the jam.

San Francisco ShEvil Dead vs. Richmond Wrecking Belles. Photography by D.E.sign

What great coaching, what great skating.  My old friend Demanda Riot was everywhere.  I hate to pick out just one skater;  both teams had great energy and were disciplined.  The game was within two points with 11 seconds to go.  The Belles called a time out, and everyone stood on their feet for the final jam.  Richmond scored 4 points to win 81-79.

It may be satisfying to one player to score 90 points or for a team to win 230-42, but I saw Roller Derby last night and I am still tingling.

Certainly one of the great games of Roller Derby today.  It is a game of speed, blocking, agility, and primarily strategy.

Five stars to the Bay Area Derby Girls…….I will be back next month.

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3 comments on “My way at Craneway

  1. Watched the NYC Gotham Girls on cable tv this past season. It was often difficult to see which skater was the jammer on tv. I am not sure if this situation happens at the live event.I would suggest a more contrasting color star on the helmet.

  2. Mr. Seltzer I glad you enjoyed the Bay Area game Saturday, you saw a true gem. With skaters improving all the time and injuries removing others from play it is rare that two teams end up so closely matched during a season. As I’m sure you know, normally one team is dominate and skates rings around the other. Close games come about one a year; last year’s Oakland/San Francisco game was also decided in the last jam and by 3 points.

    The two teams you saw (San Francisco and Richmond) contained the most talented and experienced skaters in the league. Each team fielded just one rookie, who after the first half spent the rest of the game riding the bench as the more experienced skaters battled it out to the finish.

    The best skaters are on the All Star Team, Bay Area’s travel team. Those skaters can usually be identified by the travel team’s gold helmets they wear.

    Next month’s game between Oakland and Berkeley is an entirely different affair. First, Berkeley is a expansion team. Although they’ve been given a core of travel team members, four from Richmond, two from Oakland and two from San Francisco, the other half of the team is first year rookies. It’s been found that a blocker needs at least a year of training and experience before they get the strategy and skate skills down. In experienced teams rookies generally spend their first year on the team on practice track and at team scrimmages and if they are fortunate enough to be rostered for a game, they generally skate only a handful of jams. Berkeley will be putting rookies out to jam every jam all game long.

    Oakland will be putting out even more rookies. Because of skaters leaving to start Berkeley, a season ending injury to super star Burly Bot and the retirement of five long time Oakland skaters, Oakland has the fewest travel team members, only three, along with only three other veteran skaters. One should not expect the skill and pace you saw last Saturday.

    Who will win? Hard to say. Oakland still has possibly the best jammer in the league with Ivy Profane. And although the Oakland blocker corp is full of holes, that may not matter much, as Berkeley has no experienced jammer talent. Berkeley is a team of blockers, there is no travel team jammer specialists on the team. Berkeley has been pushing itself very hard this last month as it has played the most games for any Bay Area team. It has lost to A-teams from Santa Cruz and Central California (Paso Robles) and beat the B-team from Silicon Valley (San Jose). Berkeley rookies already have that thousand yard stare going strong.

    Oakland on the other hand has played a rookie league from Monterey Bay and crushed them, 241-24. Oakland is happy and confident. But in the mini-tournament (20 minute bouts) that Bay Area held to determine season seating, that Richmond won easily. The closest game was between Oakland and Berkeley, a 42-35 victory for Oakland. The last jam, Ivy Profane scored 16-0 over one of Berkeley’s rookies. But if Berkeley has blocker Taxi Scab returning for pregnancy and a fractured leg, skating the overcome could be very different. As Taxi, the New Yorker, is a skater that can put a team on her back and carry it, much like Demanda Riot can for the Belles.

    Next month will be very interesting, but it not be much like the Richmond San Francisco game.

    Bay Area Derby Volunteer

    Below are some photos sets of the Richmond/SF game.

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