By Thomas Gerbasi
It’s been a rough couple years for the Bronx Gridlock, but if there’s an omen for getting back into the win column for the first time in nearly three years, it may be that they will be lining up this Saturday against the team they beat in that May 2014 bout, the Brooklyn Bombshells. But the cabbies aren’t superstitious or thinking of the past. They’re simply approaching the season opener at John Jay College as a fresh start.
“I think we’re all really positive,” said Lucky Scars. “It’s a brand new team, a brand new year, so we’re all very excited to be able to go out there and show everybody what we’ve got. People are pumped.”
Home to four new skaters (Scars, Annie Mergency, Gwen Animals Attack, Heronymous Bosch), the Gridlock still retains much of its veteran core, a unit that has weathered the bad times and still show up on bout night ready to leave it all on the track. In this league, that’s the M.O. for every team, but with so much talent on display across all four Gotham Girls Roller Derby league home teams, it becomes a game of inches where one key injury or one penalty at an inopportune time can spell the difference between victory and defeat. For fans, that’s a blessing. When you’re on the wrong side of that injury or penalty, it’s a curse, and one the Gridlock hope to break in 2017.
“That says something about the draft process and how close games have gotten in the past few years,” said Scars. “It’s really anybody’s game, and over the last few years, the Bronx has put up a really good fight, but it’s just come down to a few points. So it’s really anybody’s game on any given day. Bronx is a really hard working team, we love each other just like any other team, and we have just as much of a chance as anybody. So I’m really looking forward to bringing back those wins for the Bronx.”
With league parity making virtually every game a fight to the finish, it’s the intangibles that often set the squads apart, and even early on this season, team personalities are starting to take shape. So far, the Mayhem are the defending champs looking for a repeat and Queens is the team that returns fully intact from 2016. But what are the Brooklyn Bombshells bringing to the track this year? The two-time GGRD champs got hit hard with turnover in the off-season, but their draftees are some of the most experienced and highly-regarded skaters in the league. So are they the derby version of Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates?
“We don’t know what we’re gonna get,” laughs Scars. “But I think as a league there are some things that we can expect, some things that the Bombshells do that never change. We’re all familiar with each other’s little tricks and twists and we try to prepare for that, but then you never know what’s going to come out of left field. But we try to adapt and that’s part of the game and I think we’ll be able to do that.”
As for the Gridlock, they’ve gone through various personalities as a team over the years. The near-dynasty years from 2007-2010 saw the team skating like a well-oiled machine, technically sound with few mistakes. Then they became the cardiac kids of Gotham, pulling off miracle late bout runs that kept fans on the edge of their seats. And in recent years, they’ve been the squad that has stared adversity in the face and just kept moving forward, refusing to give in on and off the track. So what does the 2017 version of the Bronx look like?
“The personality of the 2017 team is very hardworking, very close knit,” Scars said. “We’re funky, we’re a mixed bag, but it just works. We all meld together in this funky fresh kind of way. Every jam’s a new jam, every game’s a new game and every year’s a new year. You just have to keep working hard, and it’s like a restart. Every game is anybody’s game, so we can absolutely take it.”
On Saturday, the road back begins. And while it is a fresh start, Scars and her teammates realize that there is also a history there for the Gridlock, and it’s something they take seriously as they attempt to recapture the glory days.
“Whenever I put on that jersey, it’s a very proud moment,” she said. “There is the history. You have Bonnie Thunders and Vicious Van GoGo, who have been on the team before, and it gives you confidence.”