By Thomas Gerbasi
Last Saturday at John Jay College in New York City, it was just another ho-hum chapter in the rivalry between the Brooklyn Bombshells and Manhattan Mayhem. You know the drill – put two of the best teams in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league together for 60 minutes and watch them slug it out until one squad emerges with a nail biter of a victory.
This time, it was Brooklyn getting the nod, 161-158, and with the typical New York sarcasm out of the way, it was another instant classic and a fitting follow up to the teams’ last two meetings, which were decided by a combined six points.
“It's enough to give a person a heart attack,” said Brooklyn MVP Lady Fingers. “Player and patron alike. I think these games consistently go down to the wire because we're very evenly matched. Manhattan has a deep jamming roster and some incredibly skilled blockers; not to mention their powerful offensive strategies. They play in a way that really shocks other teams from the start. Either you absorb that shock and keep playing your game or you play their game. Brooklyn has the amazing ability of staying calm through the chaos. It allows us to continue to play our game, our way. We just stayed the course, battened down the hatches and kept sailing to a win.”
“I think these two teams don't ever give up,” adds Manhattan MVP Bruzin Brody. “The score doesn't dictate performance; they are both bringing one hundred percent, one hundred percent of the time, which makes for an exciting bout.” Yet while all the GGRD home team games are tightly contested, Brooklyn and Manhattan make a habit out of it, and to have a bout like this opening the 2016 home season campaign was a great omen for the rest of the season.
For most of this bout though, it did look like Manhattan was going to take the victory and a substantial one at that, as they put the Bombshells on the ropes early thanks to a 24-9 start. And once they extended that lead to 39-19, Brooklyn – who were missing co-captain and GGRD All-Star Sexy Slaydie due to injury – had to find other options to get back in the bout.
They found them, with former Manhattan jammer D.A.R.Y.L. (28 points) and All-Star scoring machine Miss Tea Maven (a game high 91 points) pulling Brooklyn to within two points by the tenth jam of the game. Manhattan wouldn’t relinquish that lead, as the All-Star trio of Violet Knockout, Roxy Dallas and returning captain Bonita Apple Bomb opened the door for Brody (63 points) to lap the pack and keep the Mayhem in control heading into halftime, with the inmates heading into the locker room with an 87-73 advantage.
The nip and tuck action continued in the early stages of the second half, but slowly, cracks began to form for Manhattan as the penalties piled up. “As far as a difference maker,” Brody said, “I think too much time in the box didn't help us. Myself included. That is something we can remedy.”
On this night though, it was going to be an issue, with Roxy, Full Metal Jackie and Spork Chop all fouling out. Add in nine jammer trips to the penalty box in the second half to Brooklyn’s three, and the stage was set for the Bombshells to make their move, one aided by a mindset that allowed them to focus on the game and not the scoreboard.
“Brooklyn has worked for many seasons to really improve not only our physical game, but our mental game,” Fingers said. “We have some key players on our team that help us accomplish this, and it's where some of our vets really shine. Animal, Evil, Schnitt, Slaydie, and so many more, are stalwarts of our team. They remind everyone to stay calm both on the bench and the track, shake off whatever happened and be prepared to do your best in the next jam, because every new jam is an opportunity to continue your hard work, make up for a slip up and be a better partner. But most importantly, it's a chance to improve and learn from your mistakes. We try to stay positive, which helps us in those key last minutes where anything can happen.”
And it did happen.
With Brody, J-Rod and Em Dash putting Manhattan up 145-103, it looked like it was time for Brooklyn to pack up and concede defeat, but after slowly chipping away, the Bombshells got a 15-point jam out of Maven and a 10-point jam out of D.A.R.Y.L., and the lead was chopped to 14 points. Twelve more points out of Maven over the next two jams made it 158-156 for Manhattan with 33 seconds to go, and with Brooklyn getting a power jam and Maven taking the lead jammer slot, her five-point run was enough to give her team the victory.
Of course, that begs the question, is this just an appetizer for a rematch for the GGRD championship in August?
“Sure, but I'm also not counting anyone else out,” said Brody. “Each team has their own strengths. I don't know who we'll meet up with in August, but I do know I believe in Mayhem and know we'll be there, ready for whoever shows up.”
“I definitely think we could be seeing Manhattan again,” adds Fingers. “They're aggressive and determined and the final point differential was only three points. The last time we saw them it was five points. But the first game of the season is kind of a blessing in disguise. It gives each team an idea of what to improve on for their next game, where their opponent is weakest and the time to put in some serious work. I have no doubt that we'll both be going back to the drawing board a little to prepare for a second encounter.”
BROOKLYN vs. MANHATTAN STATS
1 2 F
Brooklyn 73 88 161
Manhattan 87 71 158
Brooklyn MVP – Lady Fingers
Manhattan MVP – Bruzin Brody
Leading Brooklyn Scorers
Miss Tea Maven – 91 points (22 jams)
D.A.R.Y.L. – 28 points (14 jams)
Hela Skelter – 27 points (7 jams)
Leading Brooklyn Blockers
Papierschnitt – 22 jams (-4)
Sissi Fist-a-Lot – 19 jams (+2)
Tail Gunner Flo – 19 jams (-3)
Leading Manhattan Scorers
Bruzin Brody – 63 points (17 jams)
J-Rod – 41 points (13 jams)
Em Dash – 34 points (8 jams)
Leading Manhattan Blockers
Violet Knockout – 28 jams (-38)
Sunshine Skate – 26 jams (+10)
Bonita Apple Bomb – 26 jams (+1)
Minutes in Box: 35 Jammer Box Trips: 8
Minutes in Box: 61 Jammer Box Trips: 17
Stats compiled via Rinxter