The hits are harder. The skating is faster. The PBR flows like, well, PBR. It's tourney time in roller derby land, and Madison's favorite girls in blue, The Dairyland Dolls, have packed up their skates, hopped in their cars, and sojourned to Columbus, Ohio for Heartland Havoc, the Women's Flat-track Derby Association eastern regional tournament. Girls from all over the eastern division -- from Carolina to Chicago, Minnesota to New York -- are all here to show their stuff and solidify a slot in next month's national tourney in Austin.
Boasting the best of the best from all four Mad Rollin' Dolls home teams, the 2007 Dairyland Dolls are primed, polished, and pumped for the action, ready to show the nation who's who in women's roller derby. Broadcast on national television and blogged across the country, this is serious stuff. No costumes or comedy; no flash and no frills; just down and dirty derby at its best.
I decided to put down my own skates, pick up my pen, and follow my fellow Dolls east to bring the action home.
And after a nine-hour road trip, we arrived in Columbus.
A progressive college city not unlike Madison, Columbus welcomed us with hot weather, hopping nightlife, and a monstrous convention hall crawling with derby girls, derby staff, and the most diehard derby fans. Vendors touting apparel, skates, gear, and even professional massage (along with, of course, the obligatory hot dog stands and plenty of Pabst tappers) dotted the walls. At center stage, stadium seating enveloped a glittering track lined with neon lights and rabid devotees.
Ranked #1 in the east, the Dairyland Dolls (a.k.a., the DDs) rolled into the tourney with a Friday bye, giving our gingham girls a chance to scope out the competition. Sitting rinkside at the notorious "sweet spot," the DDs watched the first game of the day, one that would determine who they'd face on Saturday. While hometown favorite Bob Noxious announced the game (in fine voice, as always) and a local DJ rocked the tunes, the Dolls sat riveted while Chicago pummeled Atlanta, sealing the girls from the windy city a spot against top-ranked Madison in the brackets.
As Chicago fans erupted, our favorite ladies in blue headed off to powwow in preparation for the second round. On their way out, I cornered Chop Suzzy (who's new to the tournament team this year) and asked her how she felt about Saturday's match-up:
"I feel like we are completely ready to take on the Windy City Rollers tomorrow [Saturday]," She said. "We couldn't be more ready." Then, as she grabbed the hand of a teammate and leapt eagerly into the air: "And I couldn't be more excited!"