After a bit, I forgot about the torrential rain outside of the fairgrounds building. But then the PA system loudly announced that our cars might be in an engine-drowning mega puddle in the parking lot and the roof started leaking on the track—and that's when the deluge came rushing back. 'Cuz who cares about a little rain when there's 34 hours of roller derby to watch.
This weekend was the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's division 1 playoffs in Salem. Ten teams and nearly 150 skaters gathered to knock the international snot out of each other. There were a few upsets, some amazingly close games, and no one drowned in the oppressive downpour. Success!
Catch the salient and not-so salient points after the jump.
I mentioned this earlier, but Portland's Rose City Rollers already played in their assigned playoffs in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in early September. They couldn't muscle past the London Rollergirls, losing by a mere three points in the last few seconds of the game. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Portland team, who went on to the consolation bracket, where they DESTROYED every team they could get their butts on.
But alas, we move on to other roller derby games and teams, strong and varied. Here's a few takeaways from the Salem tournament this past weekend:
Roller derby is fun. One look at the blast that the skaters from the Victorian Roller Derby League were having and it was shockingly apparent how fun this sport can be. They traveled all the way from Australia to play in Salem and got fifth place at the tourney, which was a pretty big upset from their #8 seeding going into the playoffs. They were fucking stoked with their showing too. I can't even imagine how jazzed they woulda been with a spot in the championships—although two epic plane rides like that might've sent them to the looney bin. Even with one of their teammates getting chicken pox on the flight over, these gals killed it on the track (and at the merch booth). Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oy, oy, oy!
I'm really liking the new seeding of playoffs. Just last year, the playoffs were based on regions, which is all fine and dandy, but a lot of the best teams in flat track roller derby are on the West Coast. Which means that when Western Region Playoffs rolled around, about seven of the world's best teams would battle it out for three spots at championships. Meanwhile in other regional playoffs, teams who weren't as experienced got the golden tickets to champs and then got creamed once they got there. Now the top 40 qualifying teams in the world go to playoffs no matter what region they're in, and it's making for a more even playing field. Plus, we get a chance to see some great West Coast teams—like Seattle's Rat City—play against squads from the South and the Midwest—like Atlanta and Detroit. More variety! Theoretically fewer blowouts! Everyone wins! Exclamation points for all!
I miss having a team to root against. Olympia's Oly Rollers weren't at playoffs this year (they didn't play enough sanctioned games to qualify), which left a huge hole in the audience's heckling budget. So that was kind of a bummer, but Oly was so nasty during last year's playoff game against Portland's Rose City Rollers, that it's hard to be too sad about their absence. But I did miss the camaraderie of an indignant mob.
A rousing cheer is great. Sadly it does not guarantee a win. Boston took a bit of an emotional walloping during their tourney games. They looked fantastic, but last-minute troubles kept them from capitalizing on their potential. After a seven-point loss to Seattle on Friday night—so close!—the Boston Dames were shuttled down to the consolation bracket (the saddest of named brackets). Their fans were in high spirits, complete with lobster heads and catchy cheers ("Pinch, pinch, pinch!), but the #23-ranked team suffered another loss to #49-ranked Toronto on Saturday. More thoughtfully saved timeouts might've won them both games. The lobster gals showed their support for their coach, though. On Sunday they handily beat Sacramento's Sacred City with "Trust in Justin" emblazoned on all of their booty shorts.
Gotta love a good derby name. My completely and utterly subjective winner for Best Name at Salem's Playoffs is Boston's Bad Person. I love how it means nothing else. There's no tricky pun. It's simple. It's strong. It's Bad Person. She was also a total Bad Ass.
Watching anything for 34 hours will probably make you sick. You will probably feel feverish and icky after all that sitting on the floor of a cold fairgrounds building. Also you might want to avoid sharing an entire chocolate pie with six other ladies and one fork. And stay away from roller derby fans of the germbag-toddler variety. Lessons learned. Lessons learned.
The playoff results—the top three teams advance to Championships in Milwaukee on November 8:
1. B.ay A.rea. D.erby Girls (San Francisco, CA)
2. Atlanta Rollergirls (Atlanta, GA)
3. Rat City Rollergirls (Seattle, WA)—their first trip to championships since 2008
4. Detroit Derby Girls (Detroit, MI)
5. Victorian Roller Derby League (Melbourne, Australia)
6. Toronto Roller Derby (Toronto, Canada)
7. Boston Derby Dames (Boston, MA)
8. Sacred City Derby Girls (Sacramento, CA)
9. Charm City Roller Girls (Baltimore, MD)
10. The Chicago Outfit (Chicago, IL)
Here's the championships bracket (PDF). Now we wait 'til November rolls around.