Wednesday, August 13, 2014

HRD - July Recap

Houston Roller Derby’s July 21, 2014 games at Bayou Music Center inarguably lived up to all the league’s promotion, my unabashed hype and the fans’ expectations.  If you were not part of the nearing capacity crowd to watch what was clearly the best 1-2 combo of games in HRD’s 2014 season so far, you do not have my sympathies - because, I warned you.     

Carmen Coaches Like a Boss

Game 1 was the black and blue (“bruises”) battle of the Bayou City Bosses versus The Brawlers.  Donning impromptu black as erzats Bosses coach, Carmen Geddit (née Valkyries) stood on, jumped along and generally infested the sidelines as they traded several lead changes and played Chicken with The Brawlers.  Only six points separated the two teams (Bosses 97 - Brawlers 91)  at halftime.

There were two halves though; and in the second, the Bosses slowly but surely pulled away from The Brawlers.  It did not help that The Brawlers suffered from some form of jammer-point anemia for the first handful of jams.  Elly Gone Gonzo (#38), N. Fuego (#585), Misfits (#314) and even fan-fav Freight Train (#22) all posted at least one pointless jam each to open.  And yet meanwhile, on the other side of the pack, the Bosses were steadily hitting and quitting with a series of single but positive point jams.  

The real standout in the second half had to be the Bosses Lock Jaw (#J0) who practically owned Lead Jammer status in Period 2.   She earned Lead in all but one jam that she toed the back line (7 out of 8 times by my count).  And although she did not have any huge point total jams while doing so, she was very effective in getting her points and getting out before The Brawlers jammers could answer.

It was “Win or play for 3rd place on August 16th”.  The Bosses won (161 points) and garnered a Champs spot. The Brawlers did not win (139 points) and will duking it out for 3rd.  The only question left (for Game 2 to answer) was, who would be facing who?

Putting the X (factor) Back in “Christmas”

Game 2 was the red and green (“Christmas”) showdown of the Psych Ward Sirens and the Valkyries.  Carmen, back in her “usual?” bright green and having already chalked one Win for the evening, looked poised to help post another “W”.

And poised to win the Valkyries did look.  On the skates of the get-your-points trio of Speed’O (#3, who tallied a noteworthy 20+ point jam in the 1st), Hot Assets (#751) and Bullet Sucker (#950), the Valks had built a decent 26 point lead (93 to the Sirens 67) by halftime; and had increased it to a nice, round 30 point lead by the first few jams of the 2nd half.   

That’s when the Sirens decided to prove that age old roller derby adage: “anything less than 100 points is practically a tie game”.   Or is it only 50 points?  Regardless, the Sirens unleashed a trio of points partisans of their own in the form of Jekyll & Heidi (#21, with 15+ unanswered), Mistilla (#16) and Starr (#6) who combined to post 32 points in only three jams to the Valks 3 points.  While that didn’t cause a lead change (the Valks were still up 101 to the Sirens 100 at that point) it did pull the comfy point cushion out from under the Valks.  The Sirens stayed hot on the heels and wheels of the Valks for most of the rest of the half - with never much more than a single digit point spread separating the two teams - and were finally able to skate ahead of the Valks with only a handful of jams remaining.  With Mistilla posting the lion’s share of points for the Sirens and mainly the Valks Speed’O and Mystified (#0) unable to effectively answer her, the Sirens skated away with a final of 171 to 154 over the Valks and an undisputed, no need to check the box scores trip to the August 16th Championships.

The X-factor in sports is “that certain something”.  Whatever that certain something is, the Sirens had it this game.  While the Valkyries could have and maybe should have won the game (they were fully staffed and in-it-to-win-it at the start), the slightly short-staffed Sirens apparently didn’t know or care.  Kudos to the Sirens Iron Mavens: Lisa Lava (#2000), Jekyll & Heidi (#21) and Mistilla (#16).  Whether by design or of necessity, some combo of those three skaters seemed to always be on the track doing something.  I vaguely recall one set of jams in particular where Heidi finished a jam as Jammer and then was sent right back on the track as Pivot and may or may not have received a Star Pass?  Hazy recollections aside, I’ve been told by someones who have been around the track a few times that back-to-back(-to-backs?) can be a rather tiring experience.  

And So It Has Come to This

With the board set and the pieces ready to get rolling, all that remains of the 2014 Houston Roller Derby Home Season and the who-finishes-where is to play the games on August 16th.

Prepare to be warned again.  With very little doubt, Game 1 of the Championship double-header to decide 3rd-4th place between The Brawlers and the Valkyries will be a highly contentious affair.  On The Brawlers side and with Elly Gone Gonzo (#38) out for the game due to injury, the question will be who will take her place in the jammer rotation with N. Fuego (#585) and the sometimes reluctant to jam so much Freight Train (#22).  On the Valkyries side the question isn’t about the jammers but the Blockers ability to derail the train at the end of the line  in the form of a retiring Goldie BloXX (#007) and the tenacious Kelly Killpowsky (#93).  

I think I already know the answers to my own questions and I absolutely have to go with the Valkyries in Game 1.

In Game 2 to decide 1st-2nd place between the Bosses and the Sirens, I am just short of flipping a coin.  It is true that there is a 87.48% chance of Brand Aid (#26) returning for the Sirens.  But  her extracurricular injury put her in a boot and out of skating-shape for many weeks/games now.  So if the Bosses enforcers of Jenetic Defect (#S10W), Mayhem Angelou (#86R) and/or Betty Watchett (#19) can find a way to contain a fresh Brand-Aid in the first half, there’s a chance they wouldn’t have to deal as much with a winded one in the second.  Since I suspect they can, I’m putting the coin back in my pocket and going with the Bosses for the 2014 HRD Championship.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

June Recap

Three to get ready.  Two for the show.  One "for the money" to go.

As the track dust settled and the last of the skaters geared down on June 21st in the Bayou Music Center, The Bayou City Bosses, The Brawlers and the Psych Ward Sirens had crowded themselves into a 3-way tie for first place in the league standings at 3 wins and 2 losses each.  Only two of those teams get to compete for Houston Roller Derby League Champion on August 16th; and, they only have one more rankings game to decide who goes.

Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Bosses.

As I so eruditely predicted last month, the Bayou City Bosses got in touch with their feelings of chippiness and channeled them into a victory over the Psych Ward Sirens.  What I did not know at the time of my prediction was the Sirens would not have their go-to jammer available for the game.  Brand-Aid (#26) was absent (with leave?) due to a pre-existing family condition known as "Grandma’s birthday party”-itis.  While Grandma-Aid got the girl; the Bosses got the gift.

Thanks to you-know-who-you-are for a few stats.  When Brand-Aid dons the star cover,  she earns Lead Jammer 63% of the time.  She has a 5.3 PPJ (Points Per Jam) average and she jams 16 times (equals almost 85 points) on average per game.   But, that’s just averages.  When the Sirens beat the Bosses in March, Brand-Aid chalked up an actual 117 of the Sirens 218 total points.  

So while Little Red #26 went over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, the big bad Bosses went roaming the trackside without having to deal with her as a scoring threat - posting a 216 to 90 Final Score.  

I am not saying that if the Sirens had been able to apply a Brand-Aid to the wounding, they would have necessarily won the game.  The Bosses definitely demonstrated that they wanted the “W” more than the remains of the Sirens.  But the game sure as hella-would have been closer than 126 points.  Who knows?  Perhaps Gramma-Aid is actually a Bosses fan; and maybe, a picnic basket full of a 126-point smackdown against the Sirens was just the special gift that a special lady wanted on her special day.

Do Blue Chickens Dream of Green Skaters?

After only a couple of point scoring jams by Freight Train (#22) and N. Fuego (#585), The Brawlers had duckwalked to a commanding 44 to 0 lead over the Valkyries in game 2 of the June 21st double-header.  With half time approaching, The Brawlers had extended their lead to 55 points (87 points to the Valks 32).

But, just when it looked like The Brawlers could set the cruise control and coast to victory, they suddenly got all kinds of mystified.  Valkyries jammer, Mystified (#0), to be more precise.

Near the end of the first half, Mystified went track-meet on The Brawlers - scoring 34 points while her teammates Speed O (#3), Kelly Killpowsky (#93) and Loco Meaux Tion (#555) had opened up a Recycling Center on Brawlers jammer Elly Gone Gonzo (#38).  Elly never got out of her initial pass and went GonZero for the jam.  That 34-point shutout was the Valkyries momentum shifter.  

With Big Mo’ on their side, Bullet Sucker (#950) followed with a 10-point shutout and Hot Assets (#751) capped it with a 15-point shutout of her own to move the Valks ahead of The Brawlers 91 to 87 at the half.  The Valkyries never looked back; and, The Brawlers never quite caught up.

But the bout ain’t over ‘til the fat referee bee-ooo-weeps.  With the game clock running out, Brawlers coach Chicken had dreams of one last jam and one last chance to avoid a loss.  The Brawlers jammer Flyon Maiden (#666) had earned Lead Jammer and the Valks jammer Mystified (#0) had earned a trip to the penalty box.  A hit-it-and-quit-it Call Off by Flyon would have set up one more (power) jam with less than a minute remaining and only 17 points separating the two teams.  

Chicken’s dream of a Call Off and a Power Jam abruptly ended however with an ill-advised  Flyon Maiden Star Pass to Radium DK (#88).  Radium picked up where Flyon left off - finishing a 5 point pass and adding 4 more for The Brawlers.  But by then, the game clock had gone to zero and the Valkyries Win record went from zero to one with a final score of 170 to 162.

Three teams enter, one team leaves.

The three teams in contention for the coveted 1 and 2 Champs spots control their own fate.

The short version is thus:  Whoever wins the Bosses v. Brawlers game on July 19th, goes to Champs on Aug 16th.  The Sirens go to Champs with a win against the Valkyries.  The Valkyries will be playing for 3rd place at Champs no matter who or what happens.

The less-than-short version involves a Sirens loss to the Valkyries.  A Sirens loss would put them in a tie for 2nd with the loser of the Bosses v. Brawlers games and the tie-breaker would be decided by margin of victory (or defeat) over the season.   Thanks to exhaustive web-surfing, an assumption-laced spreadsheet and several adult beverages, here are the numbers I have.

Of the three teams, The Brawlers have the highest accumulated over/under margin at 180 points.  The Bosses have the next highest at 87 points and the Sirens (thanks in large part to June’s loss by 126 points) have the lowest at 28 points.

So if the Sirens lose to the Valks by just 1 point, they would need The Brawlers to beat the Bosses by at least 61 points or the Bosses to beat The Brawlers by 154 in order to skate clockwise-direction into a Champs spot.  

Were Ifs and Buts all beers and nuts, we’d all be wasted and full.  

At the risk of sounding fanboy,  if you miss (or even show up late to) The Brawlers v. Bosses Game 1 on July 19th, you may need to have your derby-fan card suspended.  Because, while I highly expect the Bosses to take the Win and a trip to Champs, The Brawlers have had time to get their minds right and will NOT go down without a rumble.  And, not to take anything away from the Valkyries or their very vocal fans in Game 2, but a fully (I repeat *fully*) staffed Ward full of Psych’d Sirens is a difficult thing to put on lockdown.

~The great white T. Burón

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New Editorial Writer ~The great white T. Burón

May Game Recap

Yes, Virginia, there is a Siren Loss.   
The HRD May, 2014 Home games at the Bayou Music Center saw the Psych Ward Sirens plow stop 35 points short of maintaining their undefeated status in a 149 to 184 loss to The Brawlers.  Now hold on to your hat, your beer or whatever you feel like holding, Virginia (or is it “VirginKneeYa”?),  because that loss to The Brawlers means the Sirens and Brawlers are now tied for first place  in the league standings  at 3 wins and 1 loss each.
Asterisks and excuses are unnecessary.  Yes, the Sirens were missing four skaters due to various reasons which I am sure were all plausible and mostly believable (Jekyll & Heidi (#21) vacationing, Eenie Meanie (#55) moved, Syrenge (#911) on 9-months LOA,  Marianne Morgue (#419) and Maul McCartney (#9) - not sure).  But roller derby, like all sports, suffers the disabled list and attrition and, um, vacation schedules I guess.
The fact is, The Brawlers brought their “A” game and their “A” players - with only Patti Painz (#9669) still in painz from her break and Pirouette Threat (#604) having moved out of town to maybe find some tights to accompany her barely booty shorts.
The stage is now set and the next two months will tell the tale.  Both teams have two more rankings games to play (June, July) before the HRD League Championships in August.
The Sirens may (I said “may”) have the tougher of the two games.  On June 21st, they go up against the Bayou City Bosses, who are 2-2 for the 2014 season, in the first game of the double-header at Bayou Music Center.   
In the most positive, least derogatory sense of the word, the Bosses have been playing the game with a bit of an attitude lately.  Lately?  Okay, how about a bit more so in a noticeable way?  Is it safe to come out yet?  With players like Betty Watchett (#19) and Mayhem Angelou (#86) chasing escaping jammers with almost as much contempt as they view the 21-foot Out of Play mark; and, a star-cover-wearing Voodoo Dollie (#9) acting like an opponent’s four wall is more like an insult than a barrier, one senses that the Bosses have all been playing the game with a huge chip on their shoulder...and hip...and maybe the occasional elbow.  If the indignation of Mary Queen of Skates (#1542) or the “this hit ain’t personal it’s just business” of Jenetic Defect (#S10W) or the “Oh, no you didn’t!” of Mommy Fearest (#15) can spur the rest of the Bosses to make The Pack an inhospitable place for the Sirens jammers, do not be shocked if the Final Score tips in favor of the ladies in black.
The Brawlers on the other hand, go up against the Valkyries in the second game of the June 21 double header.  
The Valkyries’ 0-4 record would seem to indicate an easy peasy lemon squeezy game for The Brawlers.  But before you bet your buddy a beer on The Brawlers, let me give you some points to ponder, pardner.
The Valks are a curious mix of old-school brawn but newer-school brains.  Veteran skater Goldie BloXX (#007) has two types of backwards-skating (mostly in the derby direction) shoulder hits: hard and harder.  I would describe returned-veteran Speed’O (#3) as both wiley and wiry on the track, but only if she took it as a compliment or I was safely out of retribution range.  The Valks have some muscle.  But just to name a not-so few skaters like Bazinga (#73), Bullet Sucker (#950), Chiro-Fracture (#35FT), Hot Assets (#751), Dutch Destroyer (#201) and (where in the world is) Carmen Geddit at bench coach, The Valks have a combined IQ that would rival many industrialized countries.  So if The Valkyries either live up to their namesake wing-bedecked Norse warrior goddesses or a crafty cosplay outcropping of Mensa members, their 0-4 record may belie a very real ability to play the spoiler role during these last few games of the 2014 season.

All that sets the June 21st,  Bayou Music Center double-header up to be a very interesting set of games to watch indeed.    Even if (as I am predicting here, derby fans) the Bosses do parlay their attitude issues into a win over the Sirens, you can rest assured the Sirens won’t let it happen in a hugsy-kissy, derby-love sort of way.  And while I will take that Brawlers-for-a-beer bet over the Valks, I won’t venture any point spread - because my feeling is that the Valks will make it a close one.

~The great white T. Burón
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