The Detroit Derby Girls have moved back to the Masonic Temple where it all started after playing the last season at Cobo Arena. At some point in their second season they started selling out every bout in advance, and it even got to the point where some bouts were selling out 3 weeks ahead of time. The larger capacity at Cobo gave fans peace of mind that they wouldn't be turned away at the door. Since Cobo Arena had to undergo renovations, it just couldn't be booked for this season.
Cobo Arena had most of the audience sitting farther from the action, but it had the benefit of tiered stadium seating. For the first two years of regular season DDG, I always tried to get unobstructed front row seating at the Masonic, and only succeeded once. Every time I sat in the second row at the Masonic, some big pumpkin-headed lunk had to sit directly in front of me just before the bout started. (In all fairness, at Cobo I often had obnoxious dudebros down the row who felt the need leave their seats and return every five minutes)
"We have a 900 person capacity at the Masonic", said league treasurer Rocky Brawlboa. "We can't sell as many tickets as we could at Cobo, but we'll now have 12 regular season games instead of 10, so we hope that gives our fans more opportunities to attend. A lot of fans told us that they missed the masonic, and that was a big factor in our decision to return here."
"I love playing at Masonic and I know our fans love it too. Playing back at the Masonic is like coming home.", said D-Funk captain Fatal Femme.
The drill hall at the Masonic certainly stands out from traditional sports venues. It sits on the seventh floor of the world's largest masonic temple. Although they call that floor "3 Mezzanine", so that their total floor count would be 7 (the numbers 3 and 7 are really big in their organization's lore, but don't expect me to understand why). The room was designed so that the Knights Templar contingent within the order would be able to practice their parade marching maneuvers. The intent of the design was to have a large open floor without any support columns, and to have a sub-flooring that could withstand the shock of lockstep marching. (In the past, armies marching across a bridge in lockstep could create a reverberating pulse effect that would cause the bridge to collapse)
The night's bout was between the Detroit Pistoffs, and the D-Funk Allstars. A rematch of last season's championship game, where the Pistoffs won 107-77.
The Pistoffs put the first points on the board to start the new season. Cookie Rumble got lead jammer status and scored 9 unnoposed points. D-Funk would then take the lead, with the help of a double grand slam from Roxanna Hardplace. D-Funk would hold onto that lead for most of the first half, but the Pistoffs managed to take it back by halftime with a 55-44 score.
The biggest change in tactics that I noticed was that the pack of blockers would sometimes stay completely still in one place and form a wall to block the opposing team's jammers. That sometimes caused a relatively motionless bottle-neck of players if a jammer couldn't get past, and her own blockers couldn't run successful counter-blocking. "The game has been slowing down over the past few years.", explained Fatal Femme. "I would say really this past season is when blockers started coming to a stop. It definitely changes the game."
The prevailing counter-measure by the jammers seems to be attempting to leap into a small gap between blockers, or around the blocker on either side of the human-wall. When the jammer had enough momemtum, she could wedge herself through two stationary blockers. The first time I saw the leap attempted, Freakin' Rican was trying slip past the wall on the inside of the curve. Her skate landed just past the inner boundary, so it couldn't be counted as a legal pass (doesn't score points, or confer lead jammer status). A shame, because she got a lot of air in that leap.
The halftime entartainment consisted of letting all the kids play with hula-hoops as a band played covers off to the side. I can appreciate letting the kids exert some energy, but I hope that they bring back the wrestling clowns from a few seasons back. They not only wailed on one another all across the floor, they also threw garbage cans at each other. I think some people in the front row must have complained after some of the garbage flew out of the can and landed on them.
D-Funk dominated early in the second half, and their lead reached to 107-67 with 17:02 remaining on the clock. They often made quick, calculated plays, using their lead jammer status to end the jam just after scoring 5 points, and just before the opposing jammer had a chance to reach the pack and score any. The Pistoffs then answered with some big plays, including a double grand slam by Cookie Rumble, and were leading 137-135 with 3:00 remaining. With just 2 minutes left on the clock, D-Funk's jammer, Roxanna Hardplace, was sent to the penalty box, and the Pistoffs capitalized on her absence to increase their lead to 150-135. With just 36 seconds left on the clock, it looked like the bout's outcome was already decided. In derby however, like it is in football, even when the game clock runs out, the game isn't over until the final jam is also over. In the final jam D-Funk's Tinja took lead jammer status, and the Pistoff's jammer Cookie Rumble was sent to the penalty box. Tinja, with the help of some really aggressive blocking and counter-blocking from her teammates, was able to exploit the jammer-vacuum to put a lot of points on the board, and D-Funk pulled off a 154-153 victory. Tinja was named the Most Valuable Player of the bout. One of the closest bouts I've seen in a while.
D-Funk captain Fatal Femme gave a little insight after the game:
Detroit Area Dork: What did D-Funk capitalize on to achieve victory?
Fatal Femme: D funk really wanted to have strong walls and to recycle up front as fast as possible when needed. We really worked on those 2 things a lot and it paid off. This season is going to be amazing.
D.D.: What Pistoff assets did you go out of your way to account for going into the bout?
F.F.: Last season the Pistoffs had really good strategy and we really focused on what we needed to do to play "our" game against them. I'm so proud of our team!
Was Zach Braff really at the bout? The blockers should have all taken turns knocking him down as punishment for phoning it in during the last season of Scrubs.
The next bout will be on December 17th, as The Grand Prix Madonnas take on The Pistolwhippers. Tickets available online.
All photos taken and generously donated by Maureen Tracy.
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I'm a dork, I live in the Detroit area, and sometimes I take blurry photos on an outdated camera