I left my place at roughly 5pm on this afternoon for the trek down I-75. (Sounds like my usual post, right?) Five miles later, I took the downtown Toledo exit and headed for Tony Packo's with friends to get some dinner before the bout between the Glass City Rollers (GCR) and the Circle City Derby Girls (CCDG) here in Toledo. So, it turns out this post is more like "Have Sports, Will Commute." Parking downtown was pretty scarce, and the restaurant filled quickly. Before just about every Toledo Mud Hens home game, "Packo's at the Park" is overflowing with diners, but I had never seen such on a winter evening. I eventually learned that the Toledo Walleye minor league hockey team had a game directly next door to the derby venue. Still, we made it in and out, pleasantly stuffed with chili, hot dogs, and dumplings, in time to stroll over to the Seagate Centre by 6:30. I sent the my dinner companions into the bout to find seats, while I waited outside the gate for two other friends.
Everyone eventually arrived, and I made my way to our seats (a third of the way up, roughly at the center of the back straightaway) with a few minutes to spare. Toledo's venue is no match for those of some of the larger leagues, but I think GCR does an excellent job with the space it has. Sightlines are generally very good, and bouts seem to sell out or come close all the time. I spent a lot of the first half explaining rules and strategy to a derby virgin, so if I am off on a detail or two, please forgive me. I'll give a few more observations on the Glass City bout experience a the end, but let's get to the recap.
*** GCR mostly employed a four-jammer rotation, and all of its jammers had periodic success against an excellent Circle City pack. Punk Monkey got the most turns with the star, as well as the nod for being the most effective of the group. On the open track, she showed excellent speed. Punk Monkey also threw in a few moves that had the crowd gasping and cheering. Unfortunately, many of those moves ended up with a quick stop at the rear end of one of Circle City's excellent positional blockers at the middle and front of the pack.
*** Other GCR jammers Slue Foot Suzie, Fairy Dangerous, and Pamazon had similar difficulties, but each of them pulled off at least a couple of excellent jams. Suzie got the crowd back into the game with a grand slam coming out of halftime. Fairy Dangerous, meanwhile, was all business. Either she lacked the lateral quickness of some of the other jammers or she just chose not to use it, but her style was that of a straight line bull rush. Pamazon has outstanding speed to go with her size, but once she was slowed or stopped within the pack, she had a tough time accelerating and squeezing through gaps. I generally found it tough to evaluate the Glass City jammers because they weren't getting much help from their pack.
*** The GCR pack struggled to match up with its Circle City counterpart for much of the evening. In the first half, it was porous, often managing neither defense nor offense as CCDG built a large lead. On many occasions, the Glass City blockers were completely boxed to the inside of the track, allowing fast and easy scoring passes on the outside. To their credit, the ladies from T-Town made some very good adjustments at halftime, and their packs then played much more stalwart defense. The walls of Toledo skaters at the back of the pack generally held up well, but some penalty troubles often left GCR struggling to avoid being blown out on 2-on-4 pack situations. Even after the adjustments, Glass City didn't get much offensive support from the pack, and that left its jammers to face some staunch walls with no support. Glass City has some good talent, but it must improve the two-way game within the pack in order to make great strides as a team.
*** While Toledo's pack struggled, a few of the GCR blockers had notable performances individually. Betty Floored did a nice job, both with positional blocking and with some punishing hits. I recall a particularly powerful jammer take out against Vivi Section. Slash & Burn played a smart game, and many of Glass City's lead jammer calls were a direct result of her shutting down a Circle City jammer at the middle or back of the pack. One memorable collision left Circle City's Liberty Spykes on the ground and out of bounds. Pamazon did some strong blocking work as well, and based on her work as a double-threat, I'd give her a slight nod over Punk Monkey as Glass City's MVP.
*** On the Circle City side, three jammers took the majority of the work with the star. Co-MVP for CCDG goes to Roll-R-Damage, who combined excellent speed and good lateral movement with a lot of help from her pack to simply dominate the first half. Her first triple grand slam took the CCDG lead to 28-2 after eight minutes, and she followed that with another 15-point jam at the midway point of the first half to extend the lead to 47-8. Roll-R-Damage was rarely contained throughout the game, and she continued to pile up the grand slams. While I don't have the stats, I would be shocked if she were not the bout's leading scorer.
*** Roll-R-Damage was not alone in effective jamming for CCDG. Liberty Spykes showed off some nifty moves to go with her outstanding speed. From where I was sitting, Liberty Spykes was the fastest skater on the track all evening. While she did absorb quite a few solid hits, she showed toughness in bouncing right back up to her skates and excellent acceleration to allow her to skate right past some of the Glass City walls after being knocked to the ground. I saw Liberty Spykes (and some of tonight's other Circle City skaters) in her first ever bout, a "fresh meat" exhibition bout here in Toledo. After watching her in that bout, I mentioned to one of her veteran teammates that she was the one to watch. She has thus far developed into an excellent jammer, and I see even better days to come. Thanks to her, I felt like a very good talent scout from my perch in the stands.
*** The third main jammer for Circle City was Vivi Section. While she certainly has her pack to thank for some low-stress scoring passes, she did some great work herself. Of all the CCDG jammers, I thought she did the best job with navigating tight packs to score. She's a very heady skater, and it seemed like she saw plays develop just an instant before the rest of the skaters on the track. Shock Hop took a break from her outstanding blocking for a rogue jam and came out of it with 20 points. Birthday girl Beattie Sedgwick didn't fare quite as well in her single jam, as it was called off scoreless within the first 30 seconds.
*** Don't cry too much for Beattie Sedgwick, though. Her masterful pivot play earned her Circle City's other co-MVP nod. Beattie consistently stymied the Toledo jammers at the front of the pack, often walling them off with superb one-on-one positional blocking. On many occasions, although she was dwarfed by Pamazon, she managed to completely shut down her quarry. More impressive yet was Beattie's management of the pack. The CCDG pack seemed to always know exactly what to do, changing speeds fluidly to take advantage of opportunities and thwart GCR's advantages. While there was generally a wall at the front of the pack, a Circle City blocker often drifted back to the middle or even the rear to give an assist. This was, by far, the best two-way pack play I have seen from Circle City, and Beattie Sedgwick deserves much of the credit.
*** Many other Circle City blockers turned in praiseworthy efforts. Faye Stunaway, in surprisingly limited track time, was everywhere. She was equally adept at serving as part of the inpenetrable front wall and at sliding back to play both offense and defense. Whenever she was on the track, fans could be assured of seeing her ride a Glass City jammer out of bounds or seal off the last Glass City blocker to allow her jammer a clear pass. Faye's smarts, quickness, and fluid skating contributed greatly to CCDG's pack dominance. While I will certainly miss naming some effective blockers for CCDG, I will note that I was particularly impressed by Shock Hop at the front of the pack. Also turning in very good performances were Nova Blaze, Bambi Lance, and Kimmie S'more.
*** As I'm sure you've guessed by now, Circle City was in control of this bout from the beginning. Outstanding defensive pack play held Glass City to only 18 ponts at the half (to Circle City's 76). The action did even out some as the second half began, and the lead jammer calls were roughly equal for most of that period. Circle City just had too much in every facet of the game, and a couple of big jams supplemented steady, disciplined play to produce a 157-42 victory for the ladies from Indy.
*** Allow me a few final thoughts on the overall Glass City bout experience. First of all, I wish that all Toledoans knew of this hidden gem of a team. The Glass City Rollers play hard and truly deliver a great athletic event. Glass City's referees and other support staff did excellent work, and the logistics of the event were very smooth overall. The announcing was very good, although a bit too loud at times (no need to yell into a microphone). One thing that would definitely improve the experience for me would be to silence the DJ's music during play. It detracts from the fans' comprehension of the announcers and adds to the overall excessive level of noise. Why not play the music during breaks and while the pack is forming, and allow the bout action to speak for itself? Also, I noticed that many of the fans are rushing out even during the last few minutes of play. Perhaps GCR should emphasize the availability of skaters for meet-and-greets after the bout. Along with this, it would have been nice to see the skaters remain on the floor a bit longer and make an effort to engage the fans who do come down. Overall, though, I had an excellent experience at my second GCR bout, and I'm looking forward to another in March.
I had originally planned to go directly home from the bout, but Circle City's Screama Donna convinced me to stop by the after-party at the Avalon Bar for a while. I made my way over before any of the skaters arrived and found a spot to relax and sip on my Diet Coke. (I'm not much of a drinker, and never at all if I am driving home.) Screama Donna was the first one I saw when the teams began to arrive, and I talked with her and with one of the announcers for a while. Congrats to Screama Donna, by the way, as she was the only fan to reply on Facebook to my giveaway offer. She will be receiving a limited-edition Hellarad hip bag from the Wild West Showdown, assuming that I can both find one and manage to not look ridiculous buying it.
When this little group moved on to eat, drink, and mingle, I found myself transported back to my early days watching the Cincinnati Rollergirls. I suddenly felt very shy and self-conscious, and I stood back, not attempting to break into the cliques of derby girls and support staff that had formed throughout the bar. I was about to give up and leave when I caught the attention of Faye Stunaway, with whom I had spoken at length the last time her team visited Toledo. Thankfully, she remembered me and was very sweet. We talked derby, dogs, and law school for a while, and I was glad that I got to see her. Finally, I summoned the courage to break into a cocoon of CCRG folks and meet Liberty Spykes. I told her about watching her very first bout and complimented her on her performance at this one. We had a short but friendly chat, and I decided to make my way home to walk my dog. I hope to meet more of both the Glass City and Circle City skaters and staff at upcoming bouts.
In a first for me, I am actually writing this recap the night of the bout (or technically the morning after). Given the travel involved, I could never hope to do this for Cincy bouts or others away from home. I hope that by writing immediately, I have remembered the details more accurately. I also hope that I have written something that makes sense, as it's been many years since my brain functioned effectively much past midnight.
So, tonight I had derby in the city of glass, and parking turned out to be a pain in the ass. Derby's the real thing, and I hope you'll find: GCR is worth getting behind.