In the last post here, I tried to explain where all the GnRs from last season went and where all these new GnRs we've got this season came from. Now let's try to work out why in both opening bouts the GnRs looked like they were getting shaken down for their lunch money by the playground bully.
And here's a hint: while GnR had thirteen skaters retire during the off-season, the other three teams didn't see nearly as many of their skaters leave.
Let me really clear right now about those retirees: I can't fault any of them for choosing to retire. Rose City Rollers skaters are both very competitive and very skilled, but they still play this game entirely for fun. And they don't do it for free—they actually pay to do it. They pay dues to the league and put in required volunteer hours. They pay for their own equipment (just a decent pair of skates and wheels runs a couple hundred bucks). They pay for their required liability insurance. And they practice something around 15 hours a week on top of working a job (which doesn't always provide insurance coverage in the event of a not-uncommon injury), going to school, or being partners or parents. So when a skater makes the difficult decision to give up derby to make room for the other obligations in her life, the only decent responses are things like: "Thank you so much!" or "We'll miss watching you on the track!" So there's that.
And despite having talented and dedicated skaters, GnR just doesn't have the experience that the other three league teams have. Putting aside the temptation to focus on jammers as derby's point-scorers, the game happens in the pack: moving your jammer through the pack while stopping the opposing jammer from doing the same thing is how a team scores points. Doing both of those at the same time takes a nimble awareness of not only where all the skaters are at any moment but also a prescient sense of where all the skaters will be as a result of everyone's current actions. Simply what's happening in the pack eludes me pretty much all the time, and I'm sitting track-side and can see the whole pack all at once. Knowing where all the skaters are, what they're doing, and where they're going to be in a few seconds is hard. Not hard like long division—hard like going to the moon. It takes practice and experience as an individual skater and together as a team. And it's that experience that left GnR with those thirteen retired skaters.
As a completely rough, approximate, wholly inaccurate, not particularly meaningful comparison that nevertheless points in the direction of perhaps revealing something about differences in experience, let's look at the balance of travel team skaters among the teams.
Out of the thirty skaters that currently make up the Wheels of Justice and Axles of Annihilation, GnR has three—Punchkin, Bella Massacre, and Havana Good Time—all of them on AoA, the "B" team. You shouldn't even have to do the arithmetic to see that the other teams are going to have roughly "more," but let's look at their rosters anyway.
First up, the Heartless Heathers, who GnR played first at the Coliseum scramble. By my count, the Heathers only have four travel team skaters: The Blast Unicorn, Firecrotch, Twat Rocket, and White Flight (three WoJ—FC, Twat, and Whitey—and one AoA—BU). But they also have these former travel team skaters chartered: Butcher Block, D-Day, Sol Train, and TeqKillya. That's eight current or former travel team skaters on the Heathers. And that's one more than the number of skaters GnR has who skated last season (seven). It's that sort of difference in experience we're looking at.
Finally, GnR skates against the Break Neck Betties on Saturday night at the hangar, and the Betties have four current —Joyride, Push La Tush, Shove Me Tender, and Soulfearic Acid (Acid is on WoJ, the others AoA)—and four former—Domesticated Violence, Leet Speaking Missile, MaRollin' Monroe, and Scrappy Go Lucky—for a total of eight skaters with travel team experience.
Like I said earlier, this isn't some statistically significant, multiple linear regression kind of analysis. Some of the skaters are brand new to the travel teams (like GnR's Havana Good Time); others have been injured or have come back from retirement (like TeqKillya), and it's problematic to compare them now to before. So I don't want to hear whiny crap about how it's unfair to say that skater Eksie Whysie gives her team a real advantage—I'm saying it right now: it's not fair. Or accurate. Or anything.
The point here is that the Heathers, the High Rollers, and the Betties each have more "travel team" skaters than GnR has skaters who skated last season. And that's a big damned hill to climb.
Because that's Havana Good Time in her second bout. And that's D-Day skating in her sixth season.
Can we look forward to a bunch more of this? Probably. And that sucks.
But here are some things that don't suck.
That really really really don't suck.
So after that, the GnRs might have lost some of their enthusiasm when they skated against the High Rollers. (Really, who wants to get set on fire twice in the same night?) Instead, they put on Blood Clottia's and Mel Mangles's unitards (I think Havana already had her own unitard \m/ ) and played every one of the more than thirty minutes of that bout too. I know it was more than thirty minutes because in her excitement (skating a new season! and in the Memorial Coliseum!), Hurricane Skatrina forgot to call off the final jam when the period clock had expired. Everyone was having so much fun starting a new season—and skating in the Memorial Coliseum!—and she just kept skating and skating through the pack again and again. Skatrina is one of my (many) favorite skaters, and I can't imagine she'd gloat or rub it in a little, would shewould she? (And if she did, I'll forgive it for Layla Smackdown's toe-tapping, looks like she really has to go pee, "I love you, High Rollers" little dance.)
No, the GnRs never quit. And they never gave into frustration, or lost their heads, or started trying to hit whoever was closest whatever the cost. Those sorts of issues have stalked GnR teams of the past like a 12-year-old with a bad crush, a new cell phone, and unlimited texting. But I didn't see any of those things.
I saw well-executed hits, solid teamwork, and a never-say-die attitude. And so did lots of the other skaters, especially on the Heathers and High Rollers. Just ask them.
So I won't be surprised if the Betties outscore the GnR on Saturday.
But I will be surprised if the Betties outplay them.