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.
“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.”
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.”
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?
“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.