By Thomas Gerbasi
In sports, there’s nothing like a second chance, or in the case of the Bronx Gridlock, a fourth chance for a first win and third place in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league standings. If those are a lot of numbers to digest, suffice to say that the Gridlock are unconcerned with the specifics of this Saturday’s bout against the Queens of Pain at John Jay College in NYC, only that when those numbers are tallied, they have more points than their opponents.
“This is kind of like the playoffs,” co-captain Back Alley Dred said. “There’s a team that can have a bad season, but then all of a sudden, boom, this is the playoff and this is what matters. So in some ways, this is our playoff. We don’t have four out of seven or three out of five, but it’s still that same idea of this is where it counts.”
Winless since May of 2014, the cabbies have had another rough year in 2016, but as is usually the case in such a competitive league, the scoreboard doesn’t always tell the whole story.
“We give people a run for their money,” said Dred. “No one ever walks away from a game with us and says, ‘That was so easy, we felt like we had it in the bag.’ And that’s a win in and of itself.”
That was certainly the case in April, when Queens defeated the Gridlock 200-159 in a bout that was a lot closer than that score would indicate.
“The game went back and forth and felt really close and really hard the whole time,” agreed Queens’ Tiny Apocalypse. When that bout was over, it looked like Queens was just getting warmed up for a spot in the GGRD championship game, but pivotal losses to Manhattan and Brooklyn dashed those hopes. Thankfully for the ladies in black, they too get another shot at finishing 2016 on a high note.
“We’re really lucky that we get that extra game and that the season isn’t over for us,” Paco said. “Looking back at the games we’ve already played, we get to take the things that we’ve learned and try to improve on any mistakes we’ve made and keep doing what we’re doing right. It’s a good way to start getting ready for next year.”
“Not that this game isn’t also important, but we’ve already started thinking about next season,” she said. “We learned a lot from our last game against Brooklyn, and even though Bronx and Brooklyn are very different teams, we’re looking forward to taking what we learned from that game and capitalizing on opportunities against the Bronx where maybe we didn’t in our Brooklyn game. We just want to prove that this season, even though it looks like a rebuilding year for us because of all the new skaters, we’re pretty strong and we’re going to finish strong.”
The Bronx squad has the same motivation, and as Dred describes it, this isn’t the same team that lost to Queens four months ago.
“We played Queens early on, and we had just started working together,” she said. “Right now, we’re at that point where everybody is trusting each other on the track, having a feel for what our jammers want, how to play offense for them, how to stick together in the walls and communicate, and that’s what’s different for us. So we’ve been building after each and every game. Our walls are getting stronger, our jammers are getting better, and we’re working as a more cohesive unit. And this is just going to continually progress. This is one more step of us gelling together and a win would be fantastic.”
As for Queens, they’re also not counting on playing the same team they did in their season opener. They’re ready for a battle.
“I think every team is so close skillwise that playing a team one day versus playing a team a different day, whether it’s four months apart or a week apart, could produce a completely different outcome,” Paco said. “And I think we know that. We see it during the week when we have scrimmage nights and we saw their walls in their game at Coney Island against Manhattan and they looked really good. They were really strong, and they’re really different from us, so we know what we have to focus on. We have to focus on those differences, the difference in size, and their offensive style versus ours, and how we can make the most out of our strengths and take advantage of any of their weaknesses or mistakes.”
And just win. It may not be for the Golden Skate Trophy, but for two teams looking to exit the 2016 season with a victory, it could be even more important.
Tickets for Saturday are available here.