Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00
Roller derby skaters, or “Derby Girls,” from all over the state descended on Skate Safe America in Old Bethpage on Saturday, Sept. 3 for the Second Annual Empire Skate Showdown. While there was plenty of the traditional glitter and fun associated with the sport, the all-day contest to determine the best female roller derby team in New York State for 2011 brought out the kind of physical, aggressive play that football and hockey fans could appreciate.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, the action of roller derby takes place during two-minute intervals called jams. There are three positions: The scorer, called a jammer, scores points for her team by lapping members of the opposing team during a jam. Skaters of the second position, called blockers, try to block the other team’s jammer from passing them. The third position is the pivot, who sets the pace for the blockers and acts as their leader.
The blockers and pivots make up “the pack,” which a jammer must pass through in order to become the lead jammer, at which point they have the right to end the jam at any time for strategic purposes. While blocking the opposing team’s jammer, blockers also try to assist their own jammer in getting to the front of the pack.
Nine New York female teams competed in 16 challenge bouts to determine who could boast the title of Big Apple Champions. The teams participating were: Gotham Girls’ Wall Street Traitors (NYC), Assault City Roller Girls (Syracuse), Ithaca Suffragettes (Ithaca), ROC City Roller Derby (Rochester), Hudson Valley Horrors (Hudson Valley) Albany All Stars (Albany) Hellions of Troy Roller Derby (Troy), Central New York Roller Derby (Utica) and Long Island’s very own Long Island Roller Rebels.
By 8 p.m., the final four were Central New York, the Hellions, the Gotham Girls Wall Street Traitors, and the Long Island Roller Rebels. While, unfortunately for local fans, the Roller Rebels fell to the Traitors, the semi-final match between the two teams was one of the more competitive of the day.
The Traitors took an early lead, but the Rebels caught up to tie the score at 17 at approximately halfway through the bout. Effective jamming by C-Roll, who dominated at last December’s Long Island Roller Rebels Championship Charity Bout, kept the Rebels scoring points, but the Traitors managed to take back and widen their lead with some impressive jamming of their own. The final score was Traitors 64, Rebels 25.
The next match, between the Traitors and Hellions, was more lopsided, with a final score of Traitors 115, Hellions 25, however, looks can be deceiving; for the Hellions, who came in last place at the 2010 Empire Skate Showdown, achieving a third-place finish in the tournament represented a huge step forward. Furthermore, the Traitors were last year’s victors. The Hellions put up a good fight, but couldn’t hold back the Traitors’ team of fast jammers including Pippi Strongstocking, Double Clutch, and Brazilian Nut.
The finals saw the Traitors pitted against Central New York, thus far undefeated in the tournament. In a tough, punishing bout, with many skaters knocked down, the Traitors continued to dominate. CNY couldn’t seem to push their jammers through the pack often enough to rack up the points they needed. Key Traitors’ player Anne Frankenstein took a hard fall and had to be examined by EMTs twenty minutes into the bout, but fortunately was able to resume skating. The final score was Traitors 93, CNY 26.
However, since CNY had yet to lose a bout before the finals, the two teams skated a second, tie-breaking finals bout. Yet, CNY continued to struggle to get points on the board. In fact, the Gotham Girls held CNY to only one point for a large portion of the match; the score was Traitors 48, CNY 1 at the halfway point. Fortunately, an amazing power jam by Spin Spin Sugar brought CNY’s score up to 24, although the Traitors soon rallied and went back to overpowering their opponents. The final score was Traitors 92, CNY 41, and the Gotham Girls Wall Street Traitors took home their second Empire Skate victory.
However, CNY went home with a little something extra as well: the team collected dry-cleaned socks for members of the agricultural community in and around Utica, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irene. Other teams sold specialty items and donated some or all of the proceeds to charity.
On Saturday, Oct. 29, the Long Island Roller Rebels will be holding a Halloween Fundraiser at the Broadway Bar in Amityville from 10 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about upcoming local roller derby bouts and events, visit www.longislandrollerrebels.com.