The Heat is On in Coney Island as GGRD Comes to Town for Annual Doubleheader

By Thomas Gerbasi

With all due respect to Joey Chestnut and the gang downing hot dogs last week, the real summer sport of Coney Island returns to Abe Stark Arena on Saturday, as the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league hosts its annual doubleheader, an always festive event highlighted by visits from GGRD alumni and fans that prefer world-class derby action to rides on the Cyclone (though that is a post-event option).

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

And when it comes to derby, this Saturday in July always produces one of two things: it either determines who battles it out for the Golden Skate trophy that is awarded the league champions or it previews the following month’s playoff action.

In 2019, we’re getting a championship preview, as the Bronx Gridlock and Manhattan Mayhem collide in advance of their August 24 title bout at John Jay College in NYC. Plus, the teams competing in the August 3 third-place bout at John Jay – the Queens of Pain and Brooklyn Bombshells – get acquainted in their final regular season contest.

Yet even though such matchups in other sports might be categorized by resting starters, testing out new strategies and the like, with so few home games in the GGRD season, there is no holding back or saving anything for the swim back. Every game is played to win by everyone on the track.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

That’s why loyal Gotham fans will show up for what is expected to be another sold-out event, and there is plenty of intrigue in both bouts on the boardwalk.

In 2018, the Bronx Gridlock were the comeback story of the year, as they roared back from years of bad luck to win the league title, breaking an eight-year championship drought in the process. This year, the cabbies are in a much different position, as they look like a team not just in position to repeat as champs, but one that could become the league’s next dynasty. That’s how they’ve looked in their wins in 2019, finding a way to win a close one against Queens in March, and then defeating Brooklyn more comfortably in May. As for Manhattan, a squad seeking its first title since 2016, they’ve been the league’s juggernaut in 2019, with a 53-point win over Brooklyn and a 66-point victory over Queens. Those are two teams you don’t blast through, but Mayhem have done it. Suffice to say, this is a clash of the titans in Coney Island.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

When it comes to the preview of next month’s third-place game, Brooklyn and Queens meet up, and while it’s been rough for both teams in the nuts and bolts of wins and losses, it got rougher for the Bombshells when All-Star jammer Miss Tea Maven went down with a knee injury that will keep her sidelined from Saturday’s bout. For the fans in attendance, the key thing to watch is how Brooklyn’s other jammers will step up against a Queens team that remains as dangerous as they’ve ever been, despite the 0-2 mark for the year. 

So while it’s going to be hot outside in Brooklyn on Saturday, it may get even hotter once the whistle blows inside Abe Stark Arena because while playoff spots are already secured, that little something-something called skater pride means both bouts of this doubleheader will be fought as if a championship is on the line.

Stakes Are High As Mayhem Tries to Secure Title Game Berth Against Hungry Queens Squad

By Thomas Gerbasi

It’s that time again. As Gotham Girls Roller Derby league fans know, there’s only a three-game season for every home team, so when June rolls around, the title picture starts to take shape. In some cases, it’s already 95% set by the time the league heads to Coney Island for the annual July doubleheader, and that will be the goal for the Manhattan Mayhem when they face the Queens of Pain at John Jay College in NYC this Saturday.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

At 1-0, Mayhem already sent Brooklyn down to defeat in April, and a similar positive result against Queens this weekend will put them in a first-place tie with the 2-0 defending champions from the Bronx.

So if you’re keeping score at home, the matchups in Coney Island will look like this on July 13:

Queens (0-2) vs Brooklyn (0-2)

Manhattan (2-0) vs Bronx (2-0)

In other words, we’ll get a championship game before the championship game between Mayhem and the Gridlock. Not bad when it comes to bang for your buck.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

But Queens, one of the league’s perennial powerhouses, is not about to settle for such an outcome to their season. The skaters in black went to war with the Gridlock in the March rematch of last year’s title bout before penalty issues cost them in the second half, and they can never be counted out of any bout.

Of course, Manhattan is eager to win their first title since 2016, and a win this weekend will earn them a date with the Gridlock. But let’s switch up the numbers and look at what happens in Coney Island should Queens emerge victorious on Saturday:

Queens (1-1) vs Brooklyn (0-2)

Manhattan (1-1) vs Bronx (2-0)

Oh boy, things look a lot different, eh? Now each bout on the boardwalk holds championship implications, and that’s really some bang for the buck.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

Either way, it’s going to be some summer kickoff in Coney Island next month. But in the meantime, June will be making its own statement this weekend, and if you’re a derby fan, there’s no better place to be than John Jay College, as Queens and Manhattan try to cement their own summer plans, with visions of the Golden Skate Trophy dancing in their heads.

Derby Game of Thrones - Gridlock Hopes to Hold Off Hungry Bombshells on Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

Miss Tea Maven has seen it all in the world of roller derby. Whether competing in front of the derby world as a member of the GGRD All-Stars or doing her thing jamming for the Brooklyn Bombshells, it would be easy for her to get jaded. But as she approaches Saturday’s bout against the defending champion Bronx Gridlock, the thrill is still there.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

“It’s still such an incredibly high level competition,” said Maven. “To be fair, I don’t care who’s watching, I don’t care if it’s televised, I don’t care if world championships are on the line. All I care about is really good competition. And what’s wonderful about Gotham is that even at the home team level, even at scrimmages during practices, it’s such a high level, it’s always so much fun to play.” The skaters are “still my league mates, they’re still my friends, they’re still my teammates. And then this one night, I get to make them my enemy and really show what I’ve got against them competitively. It’s a nice, fun change of pace and then on Sunday we’re all friends again,” Maven added.

 

For sixty minutes at John Jay College in NYC, there will be blood (not literally, but you get the idea) when the Bombshells look to even up their 2019 slate to 1-1 against the unbeaten Gridlock, who could conceivably earn a spot in this year’s home team championship game with a win.

Yes, that’s the downside of derby life in Gotham with each of the four squads only having three regular season games. But the upside for the fans is that every bout means something.

“We have to win this one,” said Maven, whose Bombshells dropped a 175-122 bout to Manhattan on April 13. “Unfortunately we didn’t pull out the win against Manhattan, but we cleaned up a lot of our play. We had a lot of penalty issues in that first game, and we’re focusing hard on getting a really strong, together, clean game for the Bronx. And the Bronx is coming into this on a high. They’re winning, they have a whole new jamming rotation which gave them a big boost. They still have some of the most incredible blocking lineups in all of Gotham and I think they might underestimate us a little bit, which is fine for me, but we definitely need to win and it’s Bronx’ game to lose right now.”

Yes, the Gridlock has made a complete 180 in the last year, going from the hard luck team that couldn’t buy a win to a championship winning juggernaut that kicked off the 2019 season with a 173-156 win over Queens in March. But don’t mistake that confidence for complacency.

“Morale is high,” said the Gridlock’s Sally Handsome. “I think even in the times when there weren’t a lot of wins for a long time, it wasn’t a bad team. I just think there was a lack of confidence and a lack of focus. And we really came into our confidence, we know each other well and we have great leadership that tells us that we can do it. And having a championship and a couple wins under our belt helps you feel a little more confident too. (Laughs) Stuff has changed and this is a team that people are excited to be on now.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

Add in the fact that Brooklyn has six new skaters debuting for the team in 2019, and it would normally be a recipe for disaster, but as Maven points out, their sextet of newcomers has come together just fine, and with one Gotham home game under their belts, they’re amped up for their second trip to the track this weekend.

“Our captains, D.A.R.Y.L. and Fingers and Bella, did an amazing job picking in the draft,” Maven said. “There were so many people to pick from and I’m so happy with our draft picks. We did such a good job and everyone is really on pace with everything. As far as team strategy, team ideas and team practices, everything’s been really good. It’s just experience. A lot of the newer skaters are relatively new to the sport and definitely new to this level of competition in the sport. They’re skating against Team USA skaters and D-1 Gotham who have playing for years and years in championship games almost every year. The only thing we have left to do with these newer skaters is just get them time and experience on the track against these heavy-hitting foes. But the training and coaching is all falling in place really well.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

In other words, it could be a perfect storm in NYC come bout time, but Bronx has their rain gear.

“I see strong walls, jammers with great footwork, and we’re gonna really have to protect the line,” Handsome said of the Bombshells. “But I also see a team with six new players, so that’s something they have to overcome this season. But it’s gonna be a challenge. I think that they’re practicing stuff specifically to combat us and we’re practicing stuff specifically to combat them. They’re a very worthy opponent for sure.”

Yet the big question is, will Brooklyn be ready for practitioners of the Zen philosophy of Disco Serious?

Disco Serious?

“We have a saying on our team, which is Disco Serious,” laughs Handsome. “The ‘disco’ is us having fun and doing our thing, but we’ve got to bring the focus in, because it can’t just be fun. And it’s not fun to lose a lot, so fun comes with doing well and winning and being serious.”

Blow that whistle. It’s game time.

Mayhem in Manhattan for Old Rivals in 2019 Opener

By Thomas Gerbasi / Additional reporting by Hewlett Smackard

For 30 minutes at John Jay College on April 13, it was business as usual for longtime Gotham Girls Roller Derby rivals Brooklyn and Manhattan. Three lead changes, back and forth battles, and tension running thick in each jam.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

But then Manhattan flipped the script in the final 30 minutes, going on a second half run that not only allowed them to take control early on, but to keep that control as Mayhem cruised to a 175-132 victory in the 2019 season opener for both squads.

“The difference was that in the second half we trusted each other more,” said Manhattan MVP Malory. “We trusted each other, our abilities, and our skills, and that really showed in the second half. That was the difference.”

“I know that we dominated the first half, and then the second half, Mayhem got the jump on us,” added Brooklyn MVP Yeti or Not, Here I Come. “We just couldn't bring it back in time.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

Known for their nip and tuck nailbiters throughout the years, the Bombshells and Mayhem delivered on that reputation throughout the first half, much to the delight of the sold out crowd. And while a 16-point jam by the game’s leading scorer, Manhattan’s Giles, sent an early message, perennial GGRD All-Star Miss Tea Maven kept the Bombshells close, which was an impressive feat considering that they brought six new skaters to the track.

“We really came together,” said Yeti. “Even though we had six new folks, we definitely did a really good job of team cohesion.”

“It was very difficult to play against them,” added Malory. “Their team communicated a lot and I noticed the connection that they have as a team.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

Brooklyn went into the locker room with an 81-76 lead, but by the second jam of the second half, Manhattan was up 90-81 and it just got worse as Giles poured in the points and penalties began to rear their ugly head for the Bombshells. And while Brooklyn left John Jay with a loss, it was a loss filled with lessons while Mayhem got 2019 off to an impressive start.

“We occasionally lost our heads a little bit,” said Yeti. “We did learn that even amidst chaos, both intentional and unintentional, we were able to keep a really positive bench and still support each other and be real happy about the opportunity and privilege that it is to play a Gotham home team game. We definitely learned that we're resilient, and we will be doing some new strategies to the next time.”

BROOKLYN vs. MANHATTAN STATS

12F

Brooklyn8151132

Manhattan7699175

Brooklyn MVP – Yeti or Not, Here I Come

Manhattan MVP – Malory

Leading Brooklyn Scorers

Miss Tea Maven – 92 points (16 jams)

Switchcraft – 32 points (13 jams)

Sweets McBacon – 4 points (8 jams)

Leading Brooklyn Blockers

D.A.R.Y.L. – 23 jams (+7)

Lady Fingers – 21 jams (-49)

Shadow – 20 jams (+6)

Leading Manhattan Scorers

Giles – 100 points (14 jams)

Kid Vicious – 38points (10 jams)

Malory – 17 points (9 jams)

Leading Manhattan Blockers

Roxy Dallas – 24 jams (+37)

Bonita Apple Bomb – 22 jams (-6)

Spork Chop – 17 jams (+49)

Brooklyn vs Manhattan? You Know What That Means

By Thomas Gerbasi

Yes, friends, if this preview of Saturday’s meeting between the Brooklyn Bombshells and Manhattan Mayhem at John Jay College has a familiar opening, that’s not by chance or laziness. It’s because when these Gotham Girls Roller Derby league standouts square off on the track, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be Armageddon on skates.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

Why, you might ask? Well in seven of their last eight meetings the average margin of victory between the two squads has been 5.2 points. But in their last bout, the usual mayhem (pardon the pun) wasn’t there, as Brooklyn skated to a comfortable 172-130 win to take the 2018’s third place spot.

This could mean one of two things heading into Saturday night. Either Brooklyn has finally figured Manhattan out, or Manhattan is going to be charging harder than ever to erase that last loss and start issuing out its own brand of orange-tinted punishment.

Or…maybe last August’s bout was an outlier and we’ll be back to nailbiters come this weekend. Well, if scrimmages between the two teams have been an indication, option number three seems to be the winning bet.

 

“There is definitely some sort of magic that happens on the track when you take it against Mayhem, and they’re also respectful and extremely talented opponents,” said Brooklyn’s Yeti or Not, Here I Come, one of six new Bombshells debuting on Saturday. That’s a lot of new faces, for sure, but with veteran leadership in the form of Lady Fingers, Bellatricks and D.A.R.Y.L. getting the troops on the same page, Brooklyn is ready for battle.

“We’ve been putting in a lot of time and effort over the past few months since the draft, where we got so many new folks, and we’re sort of all learning how to work together,” said Yeti. “And in the end, derby – when you break it down – it shouldn’t matter who your opponent is. If you study them sufficiently, you should be able to combat them on the track.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

Having an extra month to hit the track for their season opener didn’t hurt either.

“We were so grateful that we did not have to play the first game,” said Yeti. “We got six new folks, and while some of them were vets that had been in the league for a while, three of us were relatively new to Gotham so we hadn’t been to John Jay before. And when I was working the first game (between Queens and the Bronx on March 9), I was like, ‘Holy crap, there are so many people in here,’ (Laughs) and it was so loud. But we have made some significant strides at practice in the last month and it’s really when things have started to click. And while we certainly would have done the best we could with the time we had if we had to play the first game, I think we’ll definitely have a better showing with the four extra weeks of preparation.”

Manhattan has had that four extra weeks, too, and having even more veteran skaters that are used to skating together, such as GGRD All-Stars Roxy Dallas, Bonita Apple Bomb, Brawleen Lidz, Cork Rebel, Giles, Malory and Spork Chop, Mayhem has a good chance to erase the memory of a winless 2018 campaign and get back on track.

The talent Manhattan is bringing to John Jay isn’t lost on Yeti, a member of the All-Stars herself, but for competitors like her and her teammates, that’s the reason you play the games. And though tradition has proven that Brooklyn-Manhattan bouts are usually instant classics, Yeti would have been excited to play anyone on Saturday night.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

“This game certainly holds an immense weight for some of the more veteran skaters on Brooklyn and Manhattan,” she said. “But for me, any time I get to take the track it’s a privilege, and since this is the first home team game that I get to skate with Gotham, I’m definitely giving it the gravitas that it deserves. It wouldn’t have mattered, I suppose, if we were playing Bronx or Queens, but I think Mayhem inspires a little bit of, ‘Oooh,’ because Roxy’s back on the team, their new addition Malory is a fantastic skater, so I know whenever we take the track against Mayhem, they’re going to bring that level of controlled chaos.”

And Brooklyn is ready for that chaos. And more.

“We’re gonna bring it, and anyone who misses Saturday night’s game is gonna regret it,” Yeti said.“I don’t know how it’s gonna shake out, but I do know that we have a team of 15 folks and two brand new awesome managers that are ready to take the win on the track and see where it takes us for the rest of the season. And I’m so stoked that I get to be a part of it.”

 

Tickets for tomorrow’s game are available here