flat track.

Queens of Pain getting ready for their bout against the Bronx Gridlock. (spoiler alert: the Queens of Pain lost pretty bad)

Queens of Pain getting ready for their bout against the Bronx Gridlock. (spoiler alert: the Queens of Pain lost pretty bad)

We went to our very first flat track bout and although it was super different than what we were used to it was still pretty awesome.

Bronx Gridlock during their pre-game practice runs

Bronx Gridlock during their pre-game practice runs

In Austin we were fans of the Texas Roller Derby (TXRD) Lonestar Rollergirls. Their bouts were on a banked-track and many would say they brought derby back after starting up in 2001 and being featured on an A&E docu-series in 2006. The league embodies Austin’s motto “Keep Austin Weird” with their toughness, their rock-bands at 1/2 time, their crazy costumes and small business/entrepreneur attitude. They’ve had 10 years to perfect their model and one thing’s for sure they don’t play by anyone else’s rules. The Gotham Girls Roller Derby (GGRD), our new home league, on the other hand plays on a flat track! They too have a very unique spirit and shortly after founding their league in 2003, were also founding members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) in 2004 which now consists of  over 100 leagues worldwide. We went to their season opener on Saturday at the CCNY campus on 137th street. We splurged for the “VIP” tickets which means we got reserved front row seating, a gift bag, and no wait in line. Nice.

The half-time show involved a rope wrangler. I love the girl's expression in this photo!

The half-time show involved a rope wrangler. I love the girl's expression in this photo!

With the banked track there are railings between you and the players – sometimes they fly over or through the railings and often they force each other into the railings but in general it keeps you apart. Flat track was different, there was literally a strip of bright pink tape keeping the players from charging into us. This was a little alarming especially after a pregnant woman sat next to me on the bleachers. I was constantly worried for her!

totally out of place "Wast of Human Flesh." The TXRD Putas Del Fuego had a similar mascot but he was more in line with their overal theme.

totally out of place "Wast of Human Flesh." The TXRD Putas Del Fuego had a similar mascot but he was more in line with their overal theme.

The bout was great but very different. TXRD has a lot of silly antics which keeps the crowd’s attention like a penalty wheel which is spun by a player after they receive certain types of penalties. Sometimes this just gets ridiculous. Like a pillow fight. No one really wins and it doesn’t actually progress the game in any way but the crowd goes wild for it. GGRD seemed to be perched precariously on this odd middle ground between professional sport, silly antics and high school sport. They had “Jeerleaders” which featured the “Waste of Human Flesh” – a man dressed in full S&M gear lead around on a leash – totally out of place under the bright lights of the CCNY gymnasium! The gym is really a gym complete with CCNY students selling hot dogs and candy bars and the GGRD banners are taped to the wall with the same bright pink tape they use to mark the track. The women are athletes first a foremost. They play hard and they play to win, their outfits are more uniforms than the costumes the TXRD players hand-make and there are no pillow fights in sight. There are several referees on skates that speed along with the players keeping up with the fouls and there were no brawls on the track whatsoever. It wasn’t as “rock ‘n roll” as I expected but that wasn’t necessarily bad just different.

the pack is literally at a stand still as they wait for the jammers to catch up.

the pack is literally at a stand still as they wait for the jammers to catch up.

One major difference I noticed was the pace of the bout. Their jams are 2 minutes which means the pack can literally choose not to move at all until the whistle blows for the jammers to start which seems like it takes 30 seconds! In a 2 minute jam that’s a loooooong time with no action going on. When the jam did get going there were some very exciting moments but with no railing keeping them apart I felt like the players pulled their pushes and shoves when they were near the audience. There’s more intensity with the banked track somehow but I will definitely go out to some more GGRD – bouts the delivery is different but the spirit is the same. Women playing to win.

We met an awesome girl who just moved here sporting her former team's colors. I love that derby is everywhere now.

We met an awesome girl who just moved here sporting her former team's colors. I love that derby is everywhere now.

I should mention my borough team the Queens of Pain lost to the Bronx Gridlock 152-81. It was not pretty but it was fun. For a full game recap check out the GGRD website. I couldn’t even begin to try.

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About clarissa

I'm a girl from Texas living in New York since October 2010. I fell in love with New York City on a business trip here in April 2009. I had to drag my husband along for the ride at first but just a few hours on his own while I was at the conference and he was completely on board. He began texting me mundane things like the price of milk and the quality of produce so that I could see it wasn't so much different than Austin. What are the chances that after just one week in New York two people would leave with the exact same resolution to one day live there? We did. Just about 18 months later we signed a lease on a new apartment and started a new chapter in our lives. This blog will hopefully give me a chance to document our adventures in New York as well as to share my perspective on the same using photos and stories. enjoy.
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