I have to say, when the Tent City Terrors were behind significantly at the end of the first period in their bout against the Carolina Rollergirls on Sunday night, I thought they were just toying with their prey. Carolina was having to sweat hard to keep up the pace against them.

When Carolina was still leading significantly at the end of the second period I was starting to be surprised. I’d figured AZRD would turn on the nitro and just go.

When Carolina squeaked out a 10 point win despite a substantial come-back by AZRD in the third period, I was ready to eat my hat. Nobody expected that. I didn’t expect that and I was watching it happen.

So, let me formally say that I was, as has been demonstrated, uniformly wrong with my prediction for Sunday’s bout. Let me get that right out of the way! I was completely wrong, and utterly glad to be proved so.

Now, that said… wow. What a dirty game. I have to say, I was pretty shocked by some of the stuff I saw pulled out there on the track. Whichever Arizona skater tried to mix it up with Lucy Lastkiss was, depending on whether you saw the precipitating event, either insane or just settling a score. Regardless of all that, however, I have to say it’s not very classy at all when a third party – skater’s boyfriend or no – leaps into the fray. I thought that – getting involved in a personal way with what was going on out on the track or between the skaters when one isn’t a skater one’s self – is what got people thrown out of the rink…

In other measures of how dirty it was: I think Carolina got a lucky break on more than one occasion in terms of fouls not being called against them. That is not to say, however, that Arizona was some poor, mistreated team who got robbed of the match. Carolina’s jammers were rarely able to overcome Arizona’s jammers, who were simply faster and, let’s be frank, meaner than Carolina’s, even faster than Roxy, but there were jams where CRG held the lead jammer position and heck, let’s just go ahead and say it: Arizona fight dirty and when they do they do it dirtier than any Carolina player I saw. In the same jam I saw Deez Nuts (1) grab a Carolina Rollergirl by the arm and fling her out of the track in the middle of a turn and then (2) put her hands on the helmet of another and shove her down and outside in the middle of the same turn on the way through. I don’t know the rules in and out, but that hardly seemed legal.

Let’s be even more frank: Mink Stole – whose masked persona becomes more understandable when you’ve seen how she treats her foes, as surely she makes enemies at every game – is very, very good at keeping an eye on where the refs are and who’s looking and, when the refs are not looking, beating the hell out of anyone she can get her hands on. Or, if other watchers are to be believed, simply turning one foot out to trip anyone who happens to be skating by at high speed.

And finally, let’s talk about Arizona’s penchant for staying on the track after being sent to the penalty box. I won’t say they were outright insubordinate, though. I’m sure it’s very hard from the middle of the pack to hear what’s being said. Over the loudspeakers. In a raised tone of voice. For the fourth time. And hey, if you just happen to get a couple of takeouts in the lap (or two) you squeeze out of your meandering path to the penalty box, well, who’s counting? Right?

This game was very different from what I expected. Arizona are crazy skilled, yes, but Carolina showed that they’re way more skilled than even I was willing to think and I’m a hometown fan. On the other hand, Carolina was way more willing to throw elbows and, let’s be honest, completely superfluous flying tackles while not even inbounds and for no real apparent reason (*cough*LucyLastkissWasKindOfAskingForThatPunch*cough*) than even I had been willing to think and Arizona? Oh my. That southwestern sun does bake a hot temper into those ladies.

There are all sorts of psychological factors to take into account when analyzing this bout and its outcome, of course: Arizona just beat #1 Texas in Austin, something never done before. Maybe they came into this thinking that, in comparison, CRG would be a cakewalk. Maybe they held back a bit too much in the first period while testing their opponents’ mettle. Maybe some CRG member read my last derby post and felt there was something to prove (if so, my response: point well and enthusiastically taken!).

On the other hand, maybe it’s been a long time since the last national meet and those rankings – which put Arizona at #3 and Carolina at #8, and which are about to be updated in early 2007 – are more overdue for that update than anyone realized… who knows?

All I can say is that I am deeply grateful that the next bout is a home game to benefit charity. There are a lot of skaters I’ve missed seeing on the track (where were Leadfoot and Violet Femme, anyway, and where’s Busty O’Lipp, CRG’s natural answer to Mink Stole, been all this time?) and I hope I finally get to see them this time – and I hope Carolina can play a nice, relaxing bout without having to make those EMT’s at track-side bust ass back and forth from Turn 2 to Turn 3 and back again (and again, and again) like they did on Sunday. Tsk.

But you know what? It was a hell of a fun bout to watch. It was probably the most fun interleague game to watch since they hosted (and upset) Minnesota (who just walloped Ohio 142-55 in November) at the Skate Ranch a year (or so) ago. It might have been the most nail-biting, seat-leaving match I’ve ever seen. It was amazing. It was dirty, but it was amazing. The tapes of that bout are going to be watched over and over again by both teams. If you weren’t there, you’d probably do well to try to buddy up to a roller girl and get your hands on the video. Other teams and other leagues should be asking for copies of those tapes to study. I mean… wow. That was all anyone could say outside, afterward: “Wow.” It was a damned fine game to watch, regardless of all else.

(Please see this follow-up for corrections to this post.)