As I mentioned in my last post, this week’s Twitter Twenty question was “What Does Spring Mean for You?” and over the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
More than anything else, the return of my favorite Cleveland sport means Spring is officially here for me. No, I’m not talking about Indians Spring Training (though I will be excited to take in a game at Progressive after Opening Day). I’m talking about roller derby!
A week before Spring sprung, Scott and I were at the Wolstein Center to take in the opening doubleheader of the Burning River Roller Girls’ fifth season. Since last season’s incredible Hazard Cup championships in July, the only BRRG roller derby I’ve been able to see in the offseason was the Black and Blue fundraiser in November.
However, I can stop itching for some flat track action, because the Burning River Roller Girls are back with their new season titled “Let the Good Times Roll.”
With modern flat-track roller derby, gone are the days of old school, theatrical antics. What you see when you go to a BRRG bout are female athletes who are dedicated and hardworking.
With their passion for the sport, they’ve rocketed the growth of the league and its fan base since starting five years ago.
As we entered the Wolstein Center for the first time since last season, fans were quickly brought up to speed on a few changes for Season 5, namely an increase in the length of bout halves to 30 minutes each – which means more time for derby! A lot of the rosters saw changes as well, with some players retiring during the off-season.
I felt like these changes were most evident in The Hellbombers team. In the first bout of the doubleheader match, the Hellbombers, whose 3-time Hazard Cup record was broken last season by the Rolling Pin-Ups, took on last year’s 4th place team the Cleveland Steamers. However, with a few of the changes to the rosters, the Steamers did extremely well.
It was a very close matchup throughout, with the first three jams going to the Steamers and the score going back and forth throughout the first half. Although the Hellbombers were up at one point with the score 17-9, killer jams from Killustrator and Cupquake towards the end of the half led to the Steamers taking the lead 36-35 halfway through.
The second half continued to be close with the score tied up 53-53 at the 20-minute mark. However, with a few unfortunate moments such as a rare double power jam (where the Hellbombers’ jammer and the Steamers’ jammer got put in the penalty box during the same jam) and a called off jam that wasn’t immediately noticed, the Hellbombers got the inch they needed to pull out a lead with the final score 87-83 for the Hellbombers.
Even though the Steamers lost, I personally felt like this was a victory for them. They played some of the strongest derby I’ve seen them play against a three-time champion and I hope to see that continue throughout the rest of the season.
While the first bout was a nailbiter, the second bout matching last year’s champions the Rolling Pin-Ups with 3rd place Hard Knockers was a knockout (if you’ll pardon the pun). With veteran roller girls Punkd Pixie, Eva Lucien and Soul Eater nimbly breaking through their jams, the Pin-Ups quickly racked up the points with the score being 26-00 only a few jams in.
Although the Hard Knockers were able to keep it from being a shut out by scoring 20 points by the end of the first half, the Pin-Ups had already scored 72. Some teams have come back against a point deficit this large and the Hard Knockers were definitely fighting to come from behind; however, the Pin-Ups didn’t let up during the second half, ending with a final score of 138-63.
This bout proved that any roster changes the Pin-Ups made during the off-season didn’t change their gameplay and I expect the incredible momentum the champions had last season to continue this year.
Something that set last weekend’s match apart from ones before is that for the first time I got to enjoy cheering on a roller girl I know off the track – Steamers’ rookie Girl Gone Wilder. Having a coworker who is also a player drives home the fact that these are real women out there – women who have families, jobs, and live their lives off track just like their fans. For me, the relatability of their everyday lives contrasted with their fierce skills on the track is one of the greatest parts about the sport.
If you missed the ladies’ first match, April is a one-two punch with bouts on Saturday, April 2 and Saturday, April 30. The four teams will match up against one another as they battle to position themselves for the Semifinals on June 11 and the Championships on July 16. Doors always open at 5pm, with the doubleheader bouts starting at 6pm.
In honor of those who serve our community, the April 2 bout will be Military ID Night and April 30 is Law & Order Night. More information on these discounts, regular ticket pricing and how to purchase tickets can be found at www.burningriverrollergirls.com.
The good times will definitely be rolling at the Wolstein Center over the next couple of months and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of Spring than taking in a match.
Burning River Roller Girls 411: