This past Saturday, I was faced with a dilemma. The Toledo Mud Hens were holding their second annual "May The Fourth Be With You" Star Wars theme night, while the Glass City Rollers (GCR) were finishing their home season just a block away. Last year, I did it all for the Wookiee, so I decided to forego Jawas for jammers this time around. Since I managed to score a ride downtown directly from the Mega Pet Adoption Event in Maumee, I arrived roughly 90 minutes before the doors opened. I expected to find a spot in the hallway somewhere and kill time by playing games on my phone, but the nice GCR folks let me in right away. I suppose that I either looked like a VIP or a pathetic guy sitting alone in a wheelchair, but I went to take my place in turn three, settling in to watch warm-ups. A lot of warm-ups. The time dragged, but it was broken up by nice chats with GCR announcer Biff Mixalot, superstar NSO Screama Donna, and skater Destruck-Shawn. I also made a trip to the concession stand for my usual derby meal, a hot dog, soft pretzel, and Diet Pepsi.
Finally, the line-ups were announced and the anthem sung. It was time to watch the GCR All-Stars take on the most annoyingly named team in women's roller derby, the Fox Cityz Foxz of Appleton, Wisconsin. I have some good memories of sports in Appleton, as I used to go there for single-A minor league baseball games on the way from Chicago to my friend's vacation home. I enjoyed many a Friday night watching the Appleton Foxes, formerly the Fox Cities Foxes, from whence the derby team's Scrabble-riffic name likely derives.
I had been informed that I would witness a time of transition for GCR. The doubleheader would feature farewells from both its best player (Sonic Crush, moving) and its face (founding member Pamazon, retiring). Making her first appearance for GCR was Ena Flash, formerly of the London Rollergirls All-Star team. I settled in, ready to see the comings and goings.
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This is a fan's view of the action. All recaps guaranteed completely accurate, or your money back.
Unlike many leagues, Glass City features its A-team first in doubleheaders. GCR came out on fire, riding the jammer tandem of Looks That Kill and Punk Monkey. In the bout's second jam, GCR blocker Ravin Bubbles did some excellent work at the back of the pack, bottling up the Fox jammer to give Punk Monkey a grand slam. Soon thereafter, the GCR pack turned in a dazzling performance. Sonic Crush handed out a great assist at the front to spring Looks That Kill for lead jammer status, as well as teaming with Gimme Moore, Ena Flash, and Nadia Getit to beat on Fox jammer Just The Hip. By the time the beleaguered Fox skater took the star panty to the penalty box late in the jam, Looks That Kill had tallied 19 points. Stepping to the jammer line alone, Punk Monkey notched 19 of her own, her blockers standing still in the most boring "offensive" tactic of any sport. Eight minutes in, the Toledoans held a 44-1 lead.
GCR's Elle O'Hell took the star next, showing off some nice moves on her way to a grand slam. Unfortunately, she was sent off before she could attempt a second pass, and Fox took advantage, icosi-ena-tupling its score with a 20-5 result. The next six minutes belonged to Glass City. Sonic Crush forced a track cut on Fox jammer Olive Glitter. The Fox pack did some solid penalty killing, limiting Elle O'Hell to ten points with the help of a great jammer take-out by Lulu Palooza. By the time the penalty ended, GCR had capped a 23-0 spurt.
The next eight minutes were mostly sloppy and painful to watch. Jammers and blockers for both teams paraded to the sin bin, and at one point, both jammers were sent off on simultaneous track cuts. The sole example of appealing play was a nice penalty kill by GCR's Carrie Baker and Mother Nature. The Cheeseheads took advantage of the chaos to claw their way back into the game. By the time Olive Glitter juked GCR's Wendy Boughbreaks on a magnificent scoring pass, Fox was in the midst of a 52-14 run, spanning nearly twelve minutes of game time. Punk Monkey incurred a jammer penalty, and it looked like Glass City would surrender the lead. Over the period's final three minutes, the GCR blockers put on a sparkling performance. As Fox's Daisy Mae D'Stroir tried to pile up points on the power jam, Sonic Crush rose to the occasion. She applied a punishing take-out to the Fox jammer, then raced to the back of the pack, deftly weaving through opponents to avoid a direction-of-play penalty. The stellar blocking continued over the final two jams of the half, highlighted by Carrie Baker's crushing hit on Fox's Olive Glitter and Ena Flash's beautiful stall blocking at the front of the pack. Glass City went into halftime with a slim 96-85 lead.
The next 15-20 minutes were easily the worst of the evening. At halftime of the bout, some charter members of the new Toledo Juniors team came out and danced/skated to the most annoying of line-dance songs. I don't take issue with the skill level, as they are just getting started. It was just interminably long and featured terrible music.
As the second half commenced, the Sonic Crush Show was back on the air. The skillful GCR blocker forced yet another track cut on Olive Glitter, leading to an 18-0 power jam for Elle O'Hell. Once again, jammer penalties for both teams began to define the game. Glass City hammer Ravin Bubbles managed to commit two penalties on a single jam, handing the Appletonians a 22-4 score. Fox's Olive Glitter returned the favor on the next jam, starting solo but being sent off on a forearm. Just over ten minutes into the period, we finally saw something resembling roller derby. Glass City's Slash & Burn dished out a big assist at the back of the pack, propelling Punk Monkey to a tidy 4-0 jam and GCR to a 143-112 lead. The penalty-laden action led to both Ena Flash and Ravin Bubbles collecting their penultimate trips to the box with over 17 minutes remaining in the bout.
Once again, Glass City's blockers took control, led by the Sonic Crush and Carrie Baker Pain Delivery Service. By the eight-minute mark, when Punk Monkey posted a 20-0 power jam, GCR had pushed the advantage to 194-132. Fox's Derrieress attempted to singlehandedly erase the deficit, taking a sweet inside pass during a 9-1 jam. She then did something rarely seen, powering directly through Sonic Crush on a subsequent jam. A 21-1 run by Fox brought the difference down to 42 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining. That was as close as it would get, as Glass City closed well. Derrieress fouled out on the last jam, and Elle O'Hell finished with a 25-point tally, leaving the final score at Glass City 237, Fox 161.
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, Sonic Crush was the clear-cut MVP. This is not surprising, as I came to the very same conclusion in the other two GCR bouts I attended this year. If we're choosing sides, I'll take Sonic and give you the next three picks. She is fast, powerful, and precise. I could tell just from watching the warm-ups that she would be the most talented and focused skater on the track. While others lazily skated laps, Sonic Crush worked her way around the referee lane, each time skillfully executing a different form of skating. It's rare that the quickest, strongest, and headiest player on the track are the same person. Glass City will miss her dearly.
Carrie Baker turned in the best performance I have seen from her. She was dominant at the front of the pack, excelling at both positional blocking and laying the lumber. Her lateral quickness seemed much improved from earlier in the season. Ena Flash showed a lot of talent, especially in one-on-one blocking situations. She will have to tighten things up going forward, however, as she took a lot of sloppy penalties. Other notable blocking performances for GCR included Nadia Getit and Gimme Moore.
On the jammer side, Punk Monkey turned in the top performance. She is the most explosive of the Glass City scorers, showing off nice speed and moves. Punk Monkey still takes too many jammer penalties for my taste, but she definitely shows great potential. Looks That Kill also saw quite a bit of success wearing the star. While she doesn't earn superlatives in any one area, she has a steady all-around game. Elle O'Hell had an uneven night, posting some big jams but failing to deliver consistency. Ravin Bubbles took a few jams, committing some costly penalties.
On the Fox Cityz side, Derrieress showed the most talent. She has a nice mix of speed and power. Like most of the jammers in this bout, however, she needs to clean things up more and avoid sloppy penalties. Olive Glitter and Daisy Mae D'Stroir both showed flashes but were often beaten into submission by strong GCR packs. Top blockers for Fox were Tilly Screams and Just The Hip, but this squad needs more depth in its blocking corps to stand up to better teams.
I actually felt myself aging as a very long, boring between-games break took hold of the arena. Possibly due to the Mud Hens game, attendance was very poor to begin the night. By my estimate, there were no more than 300 fans present, and they were a quiet bunch. The long lull in the action only worsened the situation, as roughly a third of the fans filed out before the Glass City Killer B's could take the track. In arranging my ride home for that night, I had left plenty of time for two bouts and some chatting. The loose bout production meant that I had to leave at halftime of the second bout.
I doubt that I missed much. The River Rats of Taylor, Michigan made their second appearance at the Seagate Centre this season, and it was clear they hadn't improved much. The difference in talent was apparent early on, as River Rat's Crimson Bullet took a jammer penalty and GCR's Destruck-Shawn displayed a nice inside move on a 15-0 jam. On the next turn, an outstanding GCR pack of Pamazon, Elle O'Hell, Betty Floored, and Beefy Vanderhuge completely flummoxed the Michiganders. Talented rookie Hanaconda took advantage, putting up a rare 29-0 without the benefit of a power jam. Destruck-Shawn followed with another nice jam, winning it 10-0 with the help of a great jammer take-out by Jeeper Creeper in turn three. Fewer than ten minutes in, Glass City had posted 54 points, and I was tied for top River Rat scorer with zero.
Things went a bit more roughly for Glass City over the next five minutes. Destruck-Shawn failed to call of the jam with an advantage and yielded a 3-2 River Rat point advantage. Unfortunately, things got very ugly soon thereafter. GCR's Ima Zombie went down hard in turn one with what appeared to be a major injury. She left the track on a stretcher, and I can only hope that she is doing well now. The injury sucked any remaining energy from the building, but Glass City returned to the track with a dominant performance. Jeeper Creeper forced a track cut by the Taylor jammer, who joined a cluster of her blockers in the box. Pamazon had only a single blocker opposing her for a portion of the power jam, and she racked up a 35-0 score. Glass City held a 100-point lead just 19 minutes into the bout. The carnage continued into the half, as GCR skated off with a 150-29 lead.
If I were to name an MVP for the half-bout, I'd split the prize between Pamazon and Jeeper Creeper. In the final game of her GCR career, Pamazon simply shredded the overmatched River Rats. She showed excellent speed and balance, leaving the home fans with a great final memory. Jeeper Creeper was the enforcer for Glass City, dishing out the biggest hits of the 30 minutes. She also showed very good track awareness, rarely ending up in anything but perfect position. Hanaconda and Destruck-Shawn also impressed me.
Moving forward, Glass City will have a tall order in replacing the talent and production of Sonic Crush and Pamazon. I definitely see some talent coming up through the pipeline, so upcoming road tests will bear watching. The biggest flaw I saw from Glass City that night was in their bout production. Before the next home season begins in October, the league will have to work on better and shorter breaks in the action. Also, as I have stated many times, it's ridiculous to have the DJ continue playing songs during the action. Save it for time-outs! One high point for GCR is the in-house announcing. Not many leagues the size of GCR have an announcer as strong as Biff Mixalot. He mixes the perfect proportion of information, laughs, and excitement, spurring an often lackluster and clueless crowd to a better evening.
I wish the best of luck to my hometown Glass City Rollers going forward, and I look forward to renewing my season tickets for 2013-14. Much like one-hit wonder JJ Fad, I will look back wistfully to the days of Super-Sonic (and Pamazon).