A friendly warning to those sitting trackside for Saturday’s Gotham Girls Roller Derby league bout between the Queens of Pain and the Manhattan Mayhem at CCNY…there might be some bodies flying around.
“There are so many big hits that people get a little hot-headed, so the games are really intense and they must be fun to watch,” said Queens’ Babe Brawlins. “I don’t know why it works out like that with these two teams but there are big hitters on both teams, for sure.”
Brawlins is one of those big hitters for the ladies in black, countered by the always imposing Manhattan duo of the aptly named Violet Knockout and Roxy Dallas. And despite the three being members of the same GGRD All-Star team and friends off the track, when the jerseys read Queens and Manhattan, it’s on for 60 minutes on game night.
“It gets intense,” she said. “I’ve hung out with [Mayhem players] off the track and they’re lovely people, but when you separate us into our teams, it’s strictly business. We’re intense on both sides, and since I’ve joined the league, it’s like it’s always been Manhattan, Manhattan. It feels a little extra special to win against them.”
A win over Manhattan would mean even more this weekend, as it would not only avenge a 189–150 loss in the 2014 title game, but also eliminate the Mayhem from this year’s championship race and secure a Queens vs. Brooklyn title bout in August. High stakes indeed, but Manhattan has the same championship ambitions as their rivals, and they’re not ready to let those goals fall to the wayside.
“There’s definitely a lot more riding on this game than just the win,” said the Mayhem’s Full Metal Jackie. “There’s the big picture as far as the championship, and I know that I want another bearing [the championship necklace pendant]. We were always about the big picture. It’s like the saying goes: you may lose some little battles, but we’re all about the war and we want to win it.”
The “little battle” that has placed Manhattan in a precarious spot heading into this weekend’s bout was a razor-thin 153–148 loss to Brooklyn in the league’s season opener in March. The bout proved just how evenly matched every home team in Gotham is, with one call or one jam going the other way likely the difference between victory and defeat. When that’s the case, it’s not that the losing team needs a total overhaul between bouts, but perhaps that they just ran out of time.
“I’d like to think we just ran out of time,” Metal agreed. “I was actually really happy with the way we played. We played against a highly competitive team, and we played Mayhem derby, which is really all that we care about. We’re together, in cahoots with each other, and obviously I want to win, but first and foremost, as a Mayhem player, I want to just play with my team. We lost by five points, we were down three players, and there was a lot of insanity, but the whole time I knew I could look at any of the other girls on the team and they had the mindset I did. We were calm, collected, we knew what we had to do, and we gave it our all.”
It didn’t help that the team lost GGRD All-Star and team leader Bonita Apple Bomb and blocker ROCKS! due to injury, and that standout jammer Bruzin’ Brody was also sent to the sideline after being ejected. But those negatives could be seen as positives—Manhattan still only lost by five points with three key players off the track. And with plenty of time to get ready for this second bout against Queens, Mayhem is in a good place mentally and physically.
“It’s definitely been interesting this time around with having that long pause in between the bouts, but it’s also been really fun to hone our strategies and push ourselves and figure out the next step where we need to go, instead of thinking about the next bout,” Metal said. “We had time to pay attention to our skills, rather than ‘Oh, what do we need to do for the bout?’ It was more ‘What do we need to do as a team?’”
As for Queens, their opener saw them in the same fearsome form they were in back in 2013 when they won their last GGRD title, as they defeated the All-Star-laden Bronx Gridlock 181–126. The way Babe and her squadmates see it, it’s just an omen of things to come.
“We’re always thinking about winning everything,” she said. “It’s on our minds. We want to go there, we want champs, we want it this year, so why not win all of them?”
Why not, indeed. And if you get to knock off an old rival along the way, even better, right?
“It’s always extra special,” Brawlins said about playing Manhattan. “There’s been a rivalry between the two teams where it’s always really intense and I don’t know what it is—it’s just really good competition. And it ping-pongs back and forth, but we’re going to make up for [last season’s] loss. We’re gonna win.”
If so, is Queens ready for two straight against the Bombshells?
“We’re going for it, and I think it would be interesting to see Brooklyn,” Babe said. “They’ve always been kind of an underdog team and I think this year they’re going to play really well. So it would be cool to have a BQE championship.”
Written by: Thomas Gerbasi