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.