The GateKeeper defense are the thing nightmares are made of. Like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens of eggball, the GK have line-ups of monsters that have one objective: Ruin your jammer’s day [and do it as a team].
Another old dog of the MRDA, GK has been growing since Magnum PIMP and Bat Wing decided to form the league in 2009. With over 50 active members, the GateKeepers (and their highly competitive B team the B-Keepers) strive to bring a balance of speed, communication, airtime, and pure pain to the roller derby track.
This season, GK appeared at Spring Roll and RollerCon. From an outside perspective, ti seemed that they approached these two events with one goal: Establish unquestionable dominance over every team they meet. And, for the most part, they did.
If you’ve ever seen GK play than you know that they rely on super strong blockers who are huge AND have amazing lateral motion across the track. Coming up against a wall of Monster Jam, Double Excel, and Neil Death Experience is a terrifying prospect [and I am not even skating this weekend]. Not only does each take up the entire track by themselves, but they know how to seal holes to prevent jammer breakthroughs and their timing is all excellent.
Mixing in blockers like Bane-Ana, Debaucherous Prime, and Gnat King Kill into lines help to keep the GK diamonds fluid and fast. These are the blockers that can dart out of a pack and pick off a stray jammer or destroy an opponent’s brace to give Shane Bower some space to run.
In every article I have talked about teamwork. The GateKeepers exemplify what it means to have teamwork. What it means to understand how your allies on the floor skate, and how to pick apart an opponent as a two or three wall, instead of as an individual. BUT if the time comes where an individual needs to make a quick save, they know who is bridging, who is chasing, who is baiting the pack to speed up, and how to recycle back to that massive concrete wall.
The only time the GateKeepers get in trouble is when they start landing in the box. Yes, obvious statement, but true nonetheless. I don’t have the stats packs to prove my point, but I remember GK getting into some penalty trouble against Shock Exchange, and that’s when NYSE starting getting a little more ahead. When they finally took hold of the NYSE game is when they calmed down, worked as a wolf pack, and ate the NYSE jammers and blockers alive [while NYSE let them at least].
The jammers of GK are not to be forgotten because they are majestic to watch. Remember how I said that they mix in ‘airtime’ to their strategy? These guys eat apexes for breakfast. In fact, if we can have a contest this weekend to have Screecharound from GK and Reaper from Southern Discomfort have a head-to-head ‘jump off’ battle, I’d really appreciate it. (Ironic note: It wasn’t until after I was coming back through and editing that I realized that Screecharound is #66 and Reaper is #666. Obviously there’s a connection.)
While Screecharound and Shane Bower both have the long, beautiful legs that allow them to take flight each bout [without effort]. Both skaters are able to switch up between long, loping strides and the small, controlled edgework to fake out opponents.
Shane Bower has a little more experience under his belt, and you can see it when he comes up against stronger walls. He’s deft at playing offense for himself by simply shifting his weight as he approaches a pack and trying out different spots in a wall until someone over commits and he can easily glide through. He seems to find holes in defenses unperceivable to the human eye on the physical plane.
Then there is GateKeeper founder, Magnum P.I.M.P. Magnum is to be feared with the star. He is strong, he is light on his feet, and he has a head for the game. He understands his blockers, and how they move on the track. His offense understands him and can create the smallest distraction for him to take full advantage of. He is definitely a utility jammer.
In the first round the GateKeepers will be coming up against a relatively green Southern Discomfort. While the men from England are ready to make a statement, they are going to have to pull out all the stops and have a stellar game to make a dent in the GateKeeper strategy. GK’s jamming bench is deep and wide, and their blocker rotation is so versatile that the SD jammers are going to have to continually readjust to the styles thrown at them. Do I think So Disco could come out with a surprise for the GateKeepers? Absolutely.
“But Khaos! The Gatekeepers already beat So Disco by 200 points this year!”
True. However, look at the circumstances: SD played GK the last game of Spring Roll in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The GateKeepers had a 6 hour drive to the venue, and had only played two other games that weekend. Southern Discomfort was 6 hours out of their normal time zone, and had already played six games in the previous 8 days (including games against Mass Maelstrom and Your Mom). So Disco did not come into that bout as they will come into this one: Fresh, studied, and hungry.
However, there is still the fact that they’ll be facing off against the St. Louis GateKeepers who are on a mission for Your Mom.
(Sorry for the cliché opening. I’ve been hoping for a reason to use it for years.)
Seriously though, they are. Only they come bearing red Bonts, not red coats (and if we’re lucky some Blue Coat … and limes, but that’s another issue all together). Southern Discomfort is my new favorite derby team, and with the sheer amount of talent on the roster, I’m sure no one is surprised.
Their skaters qualified to play at the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup on Team England, France, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland: Seven chartered skaters appeared at the Men’s World Cup. Several others from the So Disco league were also featured during the WC, even though they don’t appear on the SD charter. It’s very possible that they are the MRDA team with the MOST skaters on World Cup teams (just based on what I’m seeing). Thanks to Flapjack for helping me come up with some of the World Cup info!
From London, England, So Disco has been together since 2010, when players from the south of England (who would get together to play men from the north of England) decided to ban together and start the first men’s team in the UK. Like their sisters, the London Rollergirls, SD didn’t have the luxury of being able to travel to close, competitive teams.
“I think our coach Kitty sums it up best when she says that the distance can actually work in your favour. We don’t always know what other teams are up to so we have to assume that they are flat out training and playing. This means we have to work harder than that in order to compete.” – Samdroid
The first look most of MRDA had of the team was this year during the week of Spring Roll in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The lads crossed an ocean for an infamous “7 games in 9 days”, where they took on 3 of the 4 top ranked MRDA teams (Shock Exchange was the only one they didn’t get a crack at). The start of the tour was tough because of the extreme jet lag felt by the team, and they ended the adventure playing the GateKeepers. They looked like the Walking Wounded by the time the bout finished up, they had all put so much into that 9 day stretch.
“I think this was a great experience for everyone. Those tight knit situations, being on top of each other for nine days can either bond you together or split you apart. For us it was a great bonding experience, it was great to play so much derby together and really get to know our rhythms. We met a lot of really lovely people who put us up, gave us lifts and food and were so hospitable. The toughest games were the first couple in Des Moines, where we were playing at the equivalent of4am UK time. Not a lot of people can remember those two clearly and the final game at Spring Roll was tough just because we had been so beat up. That was one just to get through.”
So how did I fall in love with So Disco? By watching them play Mass Maelstrom on Friday night at Spring Roll. We all know I’ve been a Maelstrom fangirl since SR ’13, so of course I was track side (especially with this unranked international team as the first match up). After the first jam, I knew that we were in for an amazing bout – So Disco flat out muscled the Maelstrom jammers for the first half. It is a feat to keep Jurasskick Park in a pack, but combination of men like Spectral Aberwraytion, Hooks Linger, and Rolling StoneR on the floor kept all the Maelstrom jammers fighting for every inch. I loved the acrobatics of Mr. Furieux, the backwards agility of Sutton Impact, the airiness of Reaper; I loved watching Ballistic Whistle toe up against Wes Turn (two jammers with very similar styles and amazing footwork).
Right so fast forward: The game was tied at the half (TIED!), but the second half proved too much of an endurance game and Maelstrom ended up winning by 50 points. Eventually the offense/defense switched helped establish MM’s hold on the game. I was sold on Southern Discomfort at that point though. It was over.
All told, So Disco went 3-4-0 during their run in the states. They beat Twin City Terrors, Capital City Hooligans, Denton County Outlaws, and CT Death Quads, while they fell to Your Mom, the GateKeepers, Mass Maelstrom.
When rankings came out in June 2014, SD anxiously waited to see whether they had broken into the top 8 on their ranking appearance. “Disappointed” is how players described their feelings when the rankings were released with Southern Discomfort sitting at the 9th position. With unranked Denton County Outlaws slated to play the #8 Deep Valley Belligerents in August, SD still held onto hope that they would make it to champs thanks to their hard work (and their victory over DCO at Spring Roll). See my Denton County blog about why this mattered.
In the meantime, while the rankings were left up the good folks of Denton County and Deep Valley, So Disco focused in on the Men’s European Cup. With determination in their eyes (and their training), they took what they learned during their time in the states and implemented it into their gameplay. And, quite honestly, they dominated. No one else at the MEC even came close to defeating them. Then the next good news came: Denton had soundly defeated #8 Deep Valley before the final rankings for Championships were due. When the September rankings were released, So Disco found themselves at #7 in the MRDA. They had punched their tickets to Maritime Mayhem.
In the first round, So Disco gets another shot at the St Louis GateKeepers. With both teams at full strength it should be interesting to see how this shakes out. Both teams have exceptionally strong blockers and equally as wiley jammers. Both have fluid walls and communication. This could be one of the best bouts of the 2014 MRDA Championships. I doubt that Southern Discomfort walked away from their loss at Spring Roll without some lessons (or the footage on DVD to watch over and over and over).
In the fan survey I conducted, a handful of people said that they’d be rooting for Southern Discomfort during the tournament and believe that Mr. Furieux could be named the Tournament MVP because “Dude does not fall down ever.” (WildStyle, Capital City Hooligans). Casanovacaine is giving it to #666, Reaper “because he has skills and flare and is an all-round lovely chap. And has fought through injuries to be stronger and better.”
The countdown is on for the MRDA Championships, keep an eye on their webpage for info as it’s released. If you want to get more info about Southern Discomfort, visit their webpage! To support their GoFundMe and get some wicked So Disco merch, you need to visit their Fundraising Page ASAP.
When asked if there was anything else the world should know about So Disco, Samdroid simply replied:
“We’ve discovered that we’re not particularly keen on elephants as a league, which is quite interesting.”
It’s almost here: The 2014 MRDA Championships. This week, skaters, officials, announcers, and fans will descend Tacoma, Washington for Maritime Mayhem, hosted by Puget Sound Outcast Derby. I figured that I should do a preview of the teams, like last year, to get us all amped up about the tournament. Coming in as the Eighth Seed is a new team (to the MRDA and the tournament): The Denton County Outlaws.
Fun fact: Denton County is debuting in the Top 8. A feat not easy now that there are so many member leagues. BOOM. Nice work, fellas.
I got to watch DCO play at Spring Roll this season. Truth be told, most of us watched their bouts because they (as well as the Cincinnatti Battering Rams and Southern Discomfort) were giant wild cards in the MRDA at that point. Most of us fans had not seen any of the teams play and we were curious at the showing they would make. Denton was of particular interest, since many of us had watched some of their vets play on Dallas Deception, Magic City Misfits, and Team USA previously.
DCO definitely came out swinging. They played the Carolina Wreckingballs (ranked 16th at that time) first. They came out with a definitive strength and speed that the Balls just couldn’t handle. Game 2 of Spring Roll brought them against a different kind of Wreckingball: the lads from London, Southern Discomfort.
Side Note: After the game against the Carolina Wreckingballs, the lady fans of the Balls decided that Denton won the “Team Sexy” award for 2014. “Bout Sexy” of Spring Roll went to the Denton County Outlaws v Southern Discomfort. (For those who have been reading my writing, you may recall that 2013’s SR winner was Bridgetown Menace v Mass Maelstrom.)
So Disco was able to [mostly] capture the jukes and ducks of DCO jammers (it was a blast watching Haterade give them a hard time though). The walls of Denton blockers just didn’t have the same experience as their competition, but it was a phenomenal bout. DCO only lost by 99 points (super impressive considering So Disco had lost to #4 Mass Maelstrom by only 53 points the night before). DCO rounded out their Spring Roll with a definitive win against the Canadian powerhouses on the Mont Royals.
The Outlaws have only been together since March of 2012. They skate out of the House of Quad (just north of Dallas), and get to share the space with North Texas Derby Revolution and the Rolling Rebellions, a junior league. While they have picked up vet skaters, newbies to derby like Keith Rucker are making their mark on DCO. Vet TJ Binkley says:
“Keith is our under-rated jammer. He is a rink rat but fairly new to derby. [He] has some moves …that he shouldn’t be able to. The guy is fearless.”
When mid-season rankings came out, DCO was still unranked, since they had not played their 5 sanctioned MRDA bouts. The world of men’s derby (ok, maybe just me and a few other people who are rankings nerds) were waiting with baited breath to see how DCO did at the Arizona Rattleskates’ Southwest Sausage Fest.
Well let’s talk rankings for a second. In the WFTDA there is a fancy new equation that helps the organization calculate rankings. In the MRDA they’re still doing things a little old school. So the member teams vote. That being said, if a team has established wins that calculate out properly, they tend to move upward. Here’s what we need to look at:
Southern Discomfort played 3 of the 4 top teams in the MRDA and lost to them, but … only lost to Maelstrom by 50 points (almost a tie in derby standards). Denton lost to So Disco by 99 points. DCO was slated to play Deep Valley Belligerents at SW Sausagefest. DVB was ranked #8 at mid-terms. Right. So if DCO could beat DVB, that would mean that they were better than the #8 ranking and since So Disco had beaten DCO by a larger margin, it would mean they were at least better than at least the 8 seed. (Ok, so maybe me and So Disco were waiting with baited breath for Sausagefest).
Sorry. Back to writing about derby now. //EndRankingNerdMoment
As you may have figured out, DCO DID beat Deep Valley. The walls of DCO had strengthened since I watched them play at Spring Roll (through the magic of the interwebs, I got to watch the stream of Sausagefest). The walls were more fluid and worked as a unit to contain, play offense as they were playing defense (yay!), and kill penalties. Deep Valley simply couldn’t contain the DCO jammers. I wish I could give you stats on this one, but it seems that the stats package hasn’t been uploaded to FTS. Womp Womp. I will say that I particularly enjoy watching Lucky Charmer magically break through packs and Phillip Stout working with his team mates to destroy opponents.
So let’s talk Champs. Denton is facing off in the first round against Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby. To say they’re the underdog is a bit of an understatement. Especially since one of their primary jammers, aforementioned Haterade, is out recovering from surgery. Binkley says the guys aren’t looking at their underdog status as a negative stance though:
“Our main goal is to have fun and learn from each game. We just want to the rest of MRDA that we belong here. Whatever place we finish in at the end of the tournament accomplishment since this is our first time being ranked. I know the DCO guys will soak everything in and come out of this tournament that much stronger. [Denton County is] extremely excited to be a part of the years champs. It’s every team’s goal to make it to champs. I’m just happy to see our goal come to life!”
Regardless of how this weekend turns out for Denton, you can be sure they are going to come out with fast feet, spins, hops, and powerful blocking.