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.
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……..by the way, the lead jammer should be the jammer that takes the lead during the jam.
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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