Sunday, February 19, 2012

eViL Tactics: Eat The Baby

"Eat The Baby" is a term that is fast becoming known in the derby world... It has nothing to do with ingesting offspring. Roller derby is often wrought with innuendo and language as colorful as the characters who participate in it. The acceptance of expression among roller derby players, leagues, and personalities makes roller derby real and tangible. Practice is often some place we feel free to make jokes (or express other bodily functions) and not worry about being judged... at least to some degree. Once you've caught a whiff of your teammates' pads, you realize they really do smell like roses! It's a beautiful community that was primarily built by women... I thank you (for all the things I overhear among dozens of women and wished I didn't).

Back to "Eat The Baby"... it's a tactic employed by lead jammers on opposing jammers to give themselves an extra cushion to increase the possibility of scoring points before the opposing jammer reaches the pack. This is definitely not an eViL original, but I wanted to give it mention because... I LOVE IT!... and I want to see it attempted more often. This tactic is executed when the non-lead jammer exits the pack immediately after the lead jammer exits the pack. If "Eat The Baby" or some type of jammer on jammer tactics are not employed, the lead jammer usually calls off the jam before any points are scored on the current pass to avoid the chance of a negative point differential. Even with a small (quarter lap) cushion, picking up a couple points and calling off the jam may still result in the opposing jammer scoring due to the response time of the jammer ref and their subsequent 4 short whistle blasts.

To execute "Eat The Baby" properly, teamwork and awareness are essential. When the lead jammer establishes lead jammer status (or exits the pack after a scoring pass) by a narrow margin, and the non-lead jammer exits right afterward, the lead jammer will immediately look to engage the non-lead jammer to slow them down, knock them to the floor, or force them out of bounds. Once this occurs, the lead jammer's blockers must recognize the situation and quickly absorb the non-lead jammer back into the pack. Here's how the possible scenarios pan out...

- If the non-lead jammer is being slowed down with positional blocking by the lead jammer, the lead jammer's blockers should position themselves to hammer & nail or take over positional blocking so that the lead jammer is freed up to score.

- If the non-lead jammer hits the deck, the lead jammer's blockers need to race up to overtake the non-lead jammer before they recover.

- If the non-lead jammer is forced out of bounds and is trapped out of bounds by the lead jammer, the lead jammer's blockers need to race up to overtake the non-lead jammer before the opposing blockers reabsorb the lead jammer and the non-lead gets back in bounds.

- If the non-lead jammer is forced out of bounds and decides to take the minor track cut penalty by re-entering the track in front of the lead jammer or "Eat The Baby" fails, then the lead jammer will be forced to call off the jam. Failure to "Eat The Baby" usually results in the same outcome if an attempt is not made... 0-0 jam... no loss. But, you will fail at 100% of the attempts you don't make.

It's my opinion that "Eat The Baby" is underutilized in roller derby. I think the tactic has been around long enough that most leagues and players know of it and should practice and use it more often. Of course there are situations in which a team wants to run out the clock, or to trust their blockers to make a defensive stand toward a positive point differential, or even hope the non-lead jammer slips and falls. I'm all about changing things up, but how many times have we seen "Eat The Baby" attempted? And successfully? Personally, I get really excited to see this type of guile, awareness, and teamwork. I was really impressed by former teammates, Miss Teaza (Teezy) and Apple Clobber (Apple), when Teezy was lead jammer and booty blocked the opposing jammer long enough for Apple to race up and blindside the non-lead jammer... BLAM!!! So proud :) Or the more widely witnessed Bonnie Thunders and Gotham execution against Philly at Eastern Regionals in 2011 (mostly Bonnie's doing). AWESOME!!!


  1. THAT is an amazing play! Very well done.

  2. Did Philly's Jammer have 3 minors or something?

  3. @Jonas... I don't remember how many minors the philly jammer had. I'm pretty sure she didn't start the jam with 3. I agree that the proper response would be to take the minor to avoid the point deficit. I wonder why it seems so rare for a jammer to take the minor in that situation.

  4. I wonder that as well... minor cuts are a major resource for jammers (har, har, har)...

  5. Found this while trying to explain the play...perfectly worded and makin me hungry for jammer!!
    XO, F.U.B.A.R.bie

  6. There is word that I, Shenita Stretcher, was the first to do this play way back when. The old-old rules set allowed a jammer to cut the other jammer with no penalty. When they made that a minor, there was the opportunity for the jammer to hit the opposing jammer (with three minors) off the line and OOB and run back to try and force a cut and/or suck the opposing jammer into a negative pass. The opposing jammer who had three would be forced to do so or she would get her fourth. I would like to see that happen more often now that it is a major evrytime. It is hard to do in scrum starts though.