Don't you hate missing the best example of whatever point you were making? In my last column I tried to gin up a heated rivalry between Portland and the dustbin known as Manchester, New Hampshire (see "Where's the Hate?" April 24), where birds fly upside down because the town isn't worth pooping on. Rivalries stir the soul, was my angle, but with all the pontificating I left out the best local example, everyone's favorite team and riot grrrl sports cult, the roller derby. Here's what you might not know about the derby girls: Maine Roller Derby's all-star team, the Port Authorities, had previously earned the animus of their rivals from Providence, Rhode Island, and a couple of weeks ago, a roller clash occurred. It had bad blood, trash-talking, and a lopsided score, all the makings of an epic grudge. These things don't just happen spontaneously. There's always history.
Last April, the Rhode Island Riveters came to Maine to skate against the Port Authorities at the Portland Expo. The visitors had every reason to be confident. Though strong locally, the Port Authorities were relatively new on the New England scene, a nascent club looking to make their bones. On paper, the Riveters were more experienced, and nationally ranked by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, modern roller derby's governing body. On paper, the Riveters should have cleaned up, but, as the old saw goes, the game ain't played on paper. In that initial dust-up, The Port Authorities' Patty O'Mean (Crystal Vaccaro), a derby brawler who was actually, clinically, born without mercy, played a tough, stifling defense, allowing the Port Authorities to eke out a close win, stunning the Riveters, 75-64. For the first time, an unranked derby team had defeated a ranked one. Just like that, a rivalry was born. As you would expect from serious competitors, setting such a dubious precedent stuck in the Riveters' craw. With the solemn fury of kung fu movie protagonists, the girls from Rhode Island swore to have their revenge.
And they got it, a couple weeks ago. This time it was the Port Authorities on the road, and they rolled into the biggest non-mafia ambush Providence has seen in a long time. If you ever wondered what kind of players the Hanson Brothers (from the movie Slapshot) would have been if Paul Newman had secured them Ritalin prescriptions, the Riveters were your answer. They were skating tough and focused, with a bruising physicality. In the first period of the rematch, they knocked out two of the Port Authorities' crucial skaters, high-scoring Olive Spankins (Lisa Bassett) and powerhouse offensive blocker Lois Blow (DJ Hickey). Punchy O'Guts (Amy Martin) made several tough plays on defense, giving her team chances to score, but the Riveters just had too much. They kicked the Port Authorities' collective asses, by the final, taken-to-the-woodshed score of 111-59. Providence indulged in some post-bout trash talk on Twitter, where everyone's a badass, but what do you expect? They felt as good as Inigo Montoya, after the finally runs his blade through his father's murderer in The Princess Bride. They had slain their monster.
111-59. Ouch. Just typing those numbers in makes me feel kind of embarrassed for Portland's roller girls. I guess it's their turn to circle a date on next season's schedule. Until then, they'll have to take it out on somebody else. Pennsylvania's Dutchland Derby Rollers, who are coming to the Expo for a bout this Saturday (doors at 5 pm; action at 6), sound like perfect candidates. They had better look out. There's going to be a mugging.
Rick Wormwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.