A call went out and they answered it. Traveling hundreds if not thousands of miles, crossing states, international borders and time zones, all to come to Fort Wayne, Indiana to play the sport they love so much.
The Spring Roll invitational is in its fifth year and still going strong, if participation can be used as a gauge. Hostessed by The Fort Wayne Derby Girls, Spring Roll's function is two fold. First, it gives teams of equal ability a chance they might not get due to location or scheduling a chance to play each other. It also gives teams a chance to get their sanctioned bout numbers up so they can qualify for the big year end tournaments. The WFTDA requires six and MRDA requires five, all by June. Last, but not least, there's always the love of the game. The All-Stars were among those invited so they packed up their skate bags and hit the open road for the eleven hour trek to The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Check in was at noon and the All-Stars were in the last game of the night on Track 1. As fate would have it, their first game was against the last team they lost to, The Chicago Outfit's Syndicate. The last time these two met was in Chicago last month. The Syndicate gave them a healthy spanking at 188 to 163. With more losses than wins this season, The All-Stars need a victory on this night.
I spoke with team captain, Dr. Dread, right before the game and she admitted that the team was off its game in Chicago but they've learned from their mistakes. The All-Stars were focused and ready to play their game their way. "Tonight will be better" she reassured me. At the time of the game, May 15th, The Syndicate was ranked 45 and KCRW was 48 by WFTDA.
The offense line up for The All-Stars included Dr. Dread, Mary Lou Wretched, Case Closed and A.P. Leasure (Reptar's All-Star alias). Jamming for The Syndicate was team captain Lola Blows, Ice Hurt, Motza Ball Breaker, Kill 'Ems and Joan Ranger.
True to the good doctors prediction, The All-Stars were leading 82 to 67 at the end of the first period.
In the second period, A.P. Leasure was able to take advantage of multiple power jams and really poured on the points as the defense took care of business. The Syndicate put up a good fight but this was not the same team they played back in Chi-town. When the final whistle blew, The All-Stars had swept up 174 to 122. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a great way to start a weekend. At the end of each game, there is an MVP announced for both teams. A.P. Leasure was The All-Stars and blocker Smarty McFly was The Syndicates. Congratulations to both players.
After the game, the team retired to their motel rooms for some well deserved rest. The time to celebrate victories would come later. There were still games left to play.
Saturday was the first full day of derby. The first game started at 8:30 a.m. The All-Stars were scheduled to play Toronto's CN Power at 6:30. The team was either resting in their rooms, watching one of the games or taking a shift at the merch booth. I would ask each player for a statement on their thoughts of going up against Toronto. After a while, it started to feel like the montage introduction sequence from The Warriors, "what do you know about Cyrus?" "They say he's the one and only." Geography has kept these teams separated so that all they know is a name. The only thing anybody knew for sure was that Toronto is ranked 24, everything else was rumor and hearsay. CN Power was truly The Dark Horse From The Great White North. Despite the lack of information, The All-Stars drew confidence from their skill, abilities and determination. They were going to go out there and leave it all on the track and whatever the scoreboard said at the end didn't matter.
During halftime for the Men's MRDA teams Rock City Riot/Chicago Bruise Brothers game (Rock City was leading 104 to 54), the teams for the next game come out and warm up at this time and that's when we had the first look at Toronto Roller Derby's CN Power. They were a good looking team, both in physical appearance and skating ability. Their pink and black uniforms gave an almost ironic contrast as the blockers were forming walls and the offense started running their drills. They didn't get to 24 on good looks and charm.
The All-Stars were not allowing themselves to be shocked, awed or intimidated. They were all business warming up. Both teams left the track as Halftime was wrapping up. The enemy had been spotted, their actions observed, time to form a plan of attack before the first charge at dawn which would be coming in about 45 minutes.
The final whistle blew on the men's game and The Riot had rolled over The Bruise Brothers 291 to 74. The All-Stars and CN Power reclaimed the track and started doing warm up laps. These would be the quiet moments before the battle began.
Both teams lined up, anxious for the game to start; Case Closed was jamming against Mad Megz. CN Power, who's offensive line up also included Bella Reina, Smoka Cola, and Kookie Doe, got an early jump on the score board. Kansas City would struggle through the first period to catch up.
With a collective effort from A.P. Leasure, Dr. Dread, Peanut Butter Panic and Mary Lou Wretched, The All-Stars were only trailing 95 to 101 by Halftime. Enigma would be pulling double duty and get added to the offense line by the second period. For her efforts, she would be awarded KCRW's MVP.
There were five seconds left on the period clock as the last jam of the game started. This time Case Closed skated against Bella Reina. Only three points behind, if Case could make one scoring run as the defense held Bella, she could change the course of the game. Unfortunately, Bella made it out of the pack first and got lead jammer. As Case closed in for her scoring pass, Bella checked the period time and seeing it at 0, called off the jam ending the game. CN Power had won 191 to 188. Bella Reina would also be voted Toronto's MVP.
Meanwhile, over on Track 2, our hostess team and home town heroines, The Bomb Squad, had their hands full with the other local favorite, Naptown's Tornado Sirens, who ended up winning 179 to 142. Fort Wayne and KC were scheduled to square off the following day. Both teams would be playing for more than just points after this night.
Later that night, The All-Stars went to a local restaurant for dinner. Despite the outcome of the game less than two hours old, the team was in good spirits. They had lost but they were not defeated.
After dinner it was back to the motel for an early night of mental preparation and rest for the following day. The weekend wasn't over yet, there was still one more game to play and they were going to be ready.
Sunday, May 17th 2015. It's the last day of Spring Roll and The Fort Wayne Derby Girls can chalk up another success. All the teams I've come in to contact with have had good things and positive experiences to talk about. In the world of amateur sports where your only reward is the love of the game, this is what it's all about.
The Bomb Squad played The Old Capital City All-Stars from Iowa City on Friday and lost by 30 points. The following night fared no better. Their game of the day would be the last one at home for the season. Fort Wayne doesn't have home teams but they do have two travel teams, The Bomb Squad and The SWAT Team, both of which have about half of the season left.
I had a brief pre-game interview with Bomb Squad captain Carrie Baker. When I asked her for any thoughts going into the game, she and her teammates exchanged some good natured jokes and one liners. Spirits were high, you could tell the previous games weren't bringing them down.
Me: Being the hostess, you've had a chance to assess each team, what have you done to prepare for KCRW?
CB: We tried analyzing each team earlier in the season but found that a detriment so we've just focused on playing our best and enjoying the game we love.
Dr. Dread expressed the same sentiment just from a different perspective.
Me: You have one loss, one win, and one game left to play. What are your thoughts going in?
DD: Of course, we want to win but after yesterday we're going to need to bury them if we want to do well in the rankings. We need to focus on maintaining our intensity.
For a brief moment, I had a vision of a spiky haired Nikita Khrushchev banging a skate on a table but this is roller derby and The All-Stars are here to "burn it down", as their motivational slogan says.
Both teams take the line and the whistle blows, starting the game. Mary Lou Wretched is jamming against Pushy Cat. Case Closed , A.P. Leasure, Dr. Dread and Peanut Butter Panic are on the offense roster. Majestic, Kellie Adkins, Speedin' Bayou, Wright and R.I.P. Tide round out The Bomb Squad offense. Fort Wayne manages to keep themselves alive going into Halftime at 93 to 74 in KC's favor.
Their chances for victory got bleaker in the second period when The All-Stars passed the double century mark. The final score was KCRW 220 Fort Wayne 138. In a rare occurrence, both of the MVP's were blockers. Tuff Noogies for The All-Stars and Enya Grave for The Bomb Squad.
After the game, The All-Stars went over to Track 2 to cheer on their former rival, The Syndicate. Chicago ended up losing by three points to The Brewcity Bruisers All-Stars but none of that seemed to matter, it was still a good game to watch and everybody on and off the track seemed to be enjoying the sport we all love so much.
Later, there was another team dinner and everybody was celebrating. It was the pre-after party party. We had basically taken over the back room of a Mexican restaurant and there was a steady flow of food and margaritas. There were some Toronto players that showed up to eat and ended up joining in the celebration. I'd be willing to bet that the after party was much the same way with all of the teams present. Unfortunately, I had to return to reality in 12 hours with an 11 hour drive still ahead of me. I pointed my car south and drove on into the great American night down the road kill littered highway with long haulers hopped up on bennies and coffee that took on the personalities of angry blockers after a few miles.