Welcome to part one of WRDN’s Battle on the Bank IV Diary, a wrap-up of banked track’s national invitational tournament. This six-part diary will highlight six games and use them to comment about the event—and the state of derby in general—from a different perspective.
How did I have the best AND worst derby weekend of my life? What does it mean to take pride in your team—and your city? Why was the closest game of the weekend boring to me? And what does it mean for derby to see a superstar in the making? To find the answers to these and other questions, read on…
The Revenge Game
Arizona 72, Texas 45
When the schedule for Battle on the Bank IV was released, everyone knew that the first day was going to feature a lot of blowouts. With one exception, that turned out to be true from top to bottom as more experienced teams with higher seeds blew the gills off of the minnows with the lower seeds. The scorelines for these blowouts weren’t pretty: 89-24, 106-34, 177-11, 165-10, and 155-4.
But I did mention there was an exception.
Going into tournament weekend, all eyes were on the first-round match-up between the Arizona Derby Dames and the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls. It promised to be the closest and best Friday game, although that was a given considering the seed and experience differential between teams in other games. But there was a lot more to this game than two closely matched teams facing off.
Last year, at Battle on the Bank III in San Diego, Texas and Arizona faced each other in the first round. Last year, Texas still had their full complement of top jammers and veteran skaters deep in their rotation. Last year, Arizona was still a fledgling banked track league looking to get their feet under them. Last year, Texas easily beat Arizona, 100-42.
But that was last year. Since then, the Dames have had a chip on their shoulder. It seems that the first thing they did after coming back from San Diego was to circle June 10, 2011 on their calendar and write “BEAT TEXAS” inside it with thick, red ink. Sure, they wanted to avenge their loss, but they also wanted to give their home crowd a big win to cheer at, and show that they had what it took to defend their home track.
Still, they were going up against Texas, mighty Texas. The original derby girls and still the most veteran team out there, even though they lost a big chunk of their core to retirement or transfer since last year, they were still Texas. This wasn’t going to be their first rodeo, so to speak, so you would have expected them to come out to a strong start.
But who answered the bell when the game got under way?
Holy cow, Arizona.
Right from the word go, Arizona was the faster, sharper, and much, much more aggressive than Texas. They were going faster, hitting harder, and had…well, they had the eye of the tiger. The thing that immediately sprang to mind while watching Arizona play was one of those wildlife nature programs that you may regularly see on Discovery HD Theater, where a cheetah runs down and tears into an impala after catching it, complete with 1080p visuals with the noise of flesh being ripped from bone in surround sound.
Although TXRD was up to the task during the first 10 minutes of the game, they seemed as if they were surprised by Arizona’s aggressiveness. They eventually slipped and gave up a few big jams, ultimately falling behind by 29 points after the start of the second half. It was starting to look like the Arizona onslaught was starting to become too much.
But then coming out of a timeout, Texas started regaining its composure and momentum. A 29-point deficit became 28. Then it got knocked down to 26. Then 24. Then 20. With around six minutes left, AZDD pulled a 4-0 jam to stop the bleeding. With four minutes left, TXRD pulled back its own 4-0 jam to reopen the wound. With 3:30 left in the game, Texas was still down by 20, but they were holding all the momentum.
At this point, my spider sense was tingling. I was getting the feeling that something crazy was about to happen in the next jam. Texas seemed due to break out with a big jam and open the floodgates on their comeback. It didn’t hurt that they had one of—if not the best—jammers in their rotation on the line, one Rocky Casbah. They were on a 22-13 run since calling the timeout, and with time starting to run out, I felt that this was their time to strike.
I also started to get the impression that perhaps Arizona was starting to feel the pressure. Could they hold this lead? Would they crack? Would Texas take advantage? Was Texas still going to be Texas? I got out my phone and started to record video of the jam, because I knew something was going to happen.
Boy, oh boy, something happened, alright:
In a game where four-point jams were at a premium, Goody Goody Blooddrop came out of freaking nowhere to score nine points and put the dagger in Texas. Just like that, all of that Texas momentum and that Texas “aura” was gone. If this were an NBA game and Texas was playing in front of their home crowd, this jam would have been that “dagger” three-pointer that the road team sinks at just the right time to silence the crowd, deflate the opponent’s spirits, and put the game out of reach for good. You just knew that the game was over, right then and there. And so it was.
Without a doubt, this was the biggest win in the history of the Arizona Derby Dames. It set a tone for the rest of their weekend, and likely, the future successes of their league. I had picked Texas to win this game, and although they clearly had it in them, in retrospect there was nothing that was going to take this win away from Arizona. They wanted it more, they worked harder for it, and they got it.
But not only did they get it, they got it in the best way possible: By getting revenge over the team that beat them last year. Ain’t no victory sweeter than a revenge victory…especially one where you dangle the carrot in front of the opponent just long enough to think they can grab it, only to snatch it away at just the right time.
So what about that opponent? Texas losing to an Arizona team that, by most accounts, they should have beaten, probably helped them to their quick exit from the tournament. But then again, Texas is still Texas. Even though they got beat by the plucky upstart, you know they’ll be back.
After all, Apollo Creed didn’t back down from the challenge after he got upset by Rocky Balboa, right?