It's been a busy week for me, and I've been trying to put together something coherent here about last weekend's Guns N Rollers bout against the High Rollers. My strength isn't in insightful, sportsy recap or analysis—it's in mocking stuff. But there's just not a lot about that bout to poke fun at because despite GnR losing by one hundred eleven points, I think it was some of the most fun derby I've seen.
Despite mixing things up a bit, HRMF played to their strengths as an experienced team by opening up lanes for their jammers (often by drawing GnR's blockers to the inside and clearing the way for their jammer to pass on the outside) and by increasing the pace. Because HRMF as a team were able to maintain a pack speed that at times seemed absurdly fast, their better endurance wore out the GnR, and by weakening both GnR's offense and defense, the High Rollers were able to dominate the bout and keep an increasingly comfortable lead.
You could argue that the High Rollers kinda took it easy on the GnR: They often jammed newly drafted Illegally Blonde or rookie Napoleon Blownapart—who both burned up the track, and one of the strongest things about the High Rollers is that it's not very clear how much of that to credit to their individual skills and how much to credit to the HRMF pack work—or other skaters who rarely wear the star like Heidi Go Seek or Intensive Scare. On the other hand, regular HRMF jammers like Minstrel Psycho blocked in several jams. And they didn't roster Texine, Devaskating Deva, or Layla Smackdown.
So, the High Rollers made easy work of the Guns N Rollers—what's so much fun about that?
That initial surge from GnR—the first half of the first period—showed that they can threaten talented and more experienced teams. That the High Rollers adjusted their play to answer GnR's powerful opening says more about the High Rollers's strength than it does about GnR's weakness.
It's not as spectacular, but Scald can move just as easily through the pack as a blocker, which means that she can wall up in front, knock your skater out of bounds, stop dead and force her to re-enter play at the back of the pack, then skip to the front wall and do it again to another skater. Because that tactic can recycle an opposing jammer just as well as it can open a hole for her own jammer to skate through, I hope that with a little more experience, GnR's jamming will regularly fall to other skaters—including strong newcomers like Supa Sixpack and Untamed Shrew, and recently returned Guts & Bolts, the three of whom shared the bulk of the bout's jamming duties with Scald—and the Eagle won't be seen as GnR's "go to" jammer. Besides, that everyone goes both ways is just another one of the many joys of roller derby.
While the High Rollers were reliably able to shunt GnR's blockers out of the way of their jammers for the second half of the first period and for the first half of the second period, I was happy to see that GnR understood what was going on and was able to adjust to it. In fact, GnR constantly adjusted their line-ups, trying out different combinations of blockers and jammers.
And yes, there were too many instances where the GnR jammer was trapped for too long behind a front wall of High Rollers. But when I recognized that Supa Sixpack or Untamed Shrew were skating in their first bout for GnR and that wall of High Rollers includes Hurricane Skatrina (former WoJ) and Intensive Scare (current RCR President—that'll make you think twice about how you want to hit her!), I'll accept that the Shrew or Sixpack might need some help there.
kind of way.)
Aside from Scald Eagle, no individual skaters really call much attention to themselves—and no one would really notice Scald if she weren't 6'9" tall—and I mean that in a good way. It makes it difficult to comment on how well any one skater is playing because you have to pay close attention to them. There are individual explosions of brilliance, sure, but on the whole, GnR's play isn't built around a few super-charismatic skaters or flashy hits (no, that's not a Harmicist reference) but on solid pack-work instead. And it's the High Rollers own pack play that's made them so strong—in my opinion, their most valuable skaters are all primarily blockers: Layla, Heidi, Scare, and Hurricane Skatrina—and it's what they used to beat the GnR last weekend and to win last season's championship.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this GnR team skates against the Overbeaters Anonymous at their fund-raising bout this Friday. Party-mix teams like this tend to be all about individual efforts because they don't have experience skating with other, so I'm excited to find out how well GnR works together against them. (You can get info at the RCR website.)
So would someone mind getting the cowbell out of the WoJ merch box and giving it back to me? I promise, I won't beat it near you.