are you ready to shoot the Derby messenger?


The good news: with this post I have officially passed 300,000 readers of my blog since I first starting posting it.

The disturbing news? This subject will stir up the pot again.

Last weekend my first modern derby league had their season ending championship. It doesn’t really matter who won, what matters to me is that the 9500-seat UIC Pavilion looked quite empty.

OK, so if you bought the best ticket, $35, you paid a $6.50 (!!!!) service fee to Ticketmaster, but you could save money by buying tickets in advance from any WCR player, so that is a small part of the issue. And there were general admission tickets for $15 plus service charge; $10 if you bought in advance from a player.

A friend of mine who lives in Glenview, my old home town northwest of Chicago was there. “It was boring”, he said. Ouch. “Players just scored points in bunches with little or no opposition.”

How can Roller Derby, the hard-hitting, fast paced game on skates be boring? I will not relate what the game has become since 2010 where the slow game became more or less the official strategy…..skaters may love it, fans (outside of friends and family) don’t. And the question is, if they come one time will they come back?

Hey, if I were a jammer I would love it if I could score 100 points a game; but the game is about a team of 5 players who work together to keep the other team from scoring and get your own jammer out and help her score. Why do players stop, go backwards, and just stand aside? And why are many, if not most jams with just one skater, getting (to me) very cheap points by just skating around endlessly. And has the 30-second penalty rule really changed the game? I don’t think so. I am waiting for WindyMan to present the statistics. And now many players are upset that by allowing clockwise skating, chest and other injuries will occur.

OK, on my facebook page is twelve minutes of women skating from 55 years ago. Probably not what many of you expect, and how many in today’s game are in this kind of condition. if you have time, check it out.

The game is for the skaters…..rule changes in WFTDA take a long time to be adjusted, and if you are a skater benefiting from the rules, and you vote on them….isn’t it obvious what will not happen.

I was discouraged when I saw the USARS championship two years ago in Fresno. The game appeared to be untidy, pack strung out, only OLY a very good team; players unsure of how to use the pivot position. Then a few weeks ago I saw the Chicago Red Hots play the Pennsylvania all stars, two teams of primarily WFTDA skaters from the Windy City Rollers, Rockford, Philly, Steel City and more and the USARS rules really worked……rarely more than a few points on a scoring play, great pack action and the speed of all the players was wonderful…..the game could be considered a blow out, 91-31, but the pack action and play kept the fans enthralled, and few if any left.

I would love to see great players who are capable and want to skate all styles of play forming teams in California, Texas, New York, etc to play all rule sets; the PA All Stars play WFTDA, MADE, OSDA, and now USARS. I know that not all can play this fast game (One of the players from Indiana told me in Cicero that in 20 minutes she skates more and harder than in her home league games), but why not present the best of you to the fans and hopefully they won’t say the game is boring. And the more players learn and play other types of Derby, eventually a game should evolve with the best of all rulesets (in a perfect world).

Yes, many places – LA Derby Dolls, Gotham, BAD, skate a faster more crowd exciting game under the WFTDA rules…..but certainly not all…..if attendance was skyrocketing everywhere then you certainly don’t need to pay attention. The problem is probably more than just the ruleset.

But I think many of you had better look at what is going on and try to address it. At least start talking about what may make your league better.

SHHH: I just got to watch the first two episodes of “Derby Till I Die”


Obviously, even though we don’t like to admit it here, the Brits sometimes do things first and better than us.

The people from Rampage Studios were kind enough to send me the first two episodes of this series about the London Rollergirls (and a lot more). But they were also smart enough to allow me just a few hours to watch them and with restricted passwords, so I can’t post them for all to see. The series can be seen on Extreme TV in the UK.

I have seen every Derby Film from The Fireball with Mickey Rooney, Pat O’Brien, and Marilyn Monroe. to my “Derby”. “Whip It” and “Derby Baby” so you can say I know my Derby. But DTID chooses an interesting path: each episode follows a different individual through her daily life, especially with Derby. Treekill Tart (Theresa Brown) wants more than anything to be a London Rollergirl and is in their rec league. The first episode follows her through her training, competing and finally with her tryout which occurs every six months by LRG. What makes it good programming is seeing the reaction of others in her personal life, her work as a park ranger, her try with the other women at burlesque. and finally her tryout, which if you have watched Derby at all you know she will be rejected, but she just goes forward to try again. And unlike the series shown on AE years ago, this show is never dull or exploitive.

Although the camera work and editing are stellar there will be complaints from Derbyites that there isn’t more Derby and less other. The obvious answer: if you are creating a series you want everyone to watch and be interested in, you better achieve balance, and the producers have accomplished that. And Treekill exudes such joy and spirit the episode just flies by, and of course my very own (she will learn someday) Raw Heidi and the others are huge contributors. They were able to catch the naturalness and the uniqueness of Roller Derby (“Darby”) people. And the Ewok portion showed another side of the fun of the game.

The second episode is definitely more hardcore. The focus is on that great Derby couple from the Brawlers, Stefanie Mainey and Olivia Coupe; Stefanie the star skater, Olivia the captain, and a couple in real life. You want to see fitness and training that any sport participant would want to emulate, it is here….a great tourney in Europe where the Berlin Bombshells upset the team from the UK, the Tiger Bay Brawlers; it is there where the skating and the fans are captured perfectly. And the episode ends with LRG coming to the US to skate (and beat!) the fabulous Rat City (Seattle) Rollers in a huge NBA arena. The action caught is startling.

I am not a reviewer and there is no way I can do this series justice. Those who know me know that I love film and am rather harsh in my criticisms (see “The Dallas Buyers Club” and know I liked it), so I am far less likely to fall over everything just because it is Derby.

This is a wonderful series: I hope someone picks it up here: frankly, if not ESPN, then Oprah, Bravo, etc. Perhaps the most important thing you will get from these shows are implied empowerment, team play, athleticism, love of sport with no pay, and an enthusiasm for life that is bigger than life.

Good show, Rampage, and the London Rollergirls and supporting cast.

Convergence for Roller Derby


I believe in convergence.

Sometimes things come together, and you would like to see that there is a pattern and a reason.

Sometimes you just have to assume there is.

This is the season for the championships of Roller Derby. The WFTDA tournament occurs the first week in November and the teams are in place. The number 1 team in the world Gotham should win it, but the Mile High Club from Denver is a real strong dark horse. But a huge difference this year is that a team from outside the US has qualified: The London Rollergirls, with the all powerful Raw Heidi.

And the Extreme Sports Channel has been quietly filming a 13-week series on the London Rollergirls which will start showing on October 18 to a potential audience of 30 million in Europe, Asia and Africa. This will certainly provide a boost to Derby in all those areas.

And a leading sports media company in this country will announce plans next week for a Roller Derby television program……over the air, not live streaming as now.

The Golden Era of Derby occurred in the 60’s and 70’s when the game was seen on 110 stations in the US and Canada, with an estimated 15 million viewers weekly, There is a short documentary on you tube (Mike Gammon Roller Derby) which will show you that time….Arenas from Madison Square Garden to Stadia such as Shea, Oakland, and White Sox Park had ten thousands of fans in attendance.

Yes, that was a different rule set and exhibition, but the fact that there are 1513 leagues in the world today in 41 countries playing amateur competitive Derby is a reality. And the fact that this has quietly occurred and most of our media has ignored it tells me that it is time to let millions see what the game is and what it will become.

http://www.rollerderbycommish.com/RDMadison_Square_Garden_1970s_001.jpg click to see photo of Roller Derby at Madison Square Garden.

And WFTDA has just announced that in February there will be beta testing of improvements in the current ruleset.

And USARS with the number two team Oly Rollers heading their tourney the end of October is also pushing the game forward.

Sports owners, producers, sponsors etc……we love lingerie football, crossfit training, curling, field hockey and whatever else you are trying to find under rocks, but the most competitive and difficult and woman-empowering game in the world (men competing again, also) is out there and already has a fan base in every North American city.

And this former promoter is willing to do whatever he can to help make it happen……..reach me jerry@brownpapertickets.com.

week ahead, Portland – Salem Divisionals -Seattle…….and my projected winners


Last fall I was in Atlanta for the Championships and thought the Derby girls there did a great job of hosting……the surprise to me was just how dominant the Gotham Girls were, and this year they look even stronger, and I don’t know of anyone out there who might beat them.

The divisional in Salem looks really intriguing – with one of my all-time favorite leagues Cherry City hosting – just a great mix of teams from everywhere: Melbourne, Toronto, my locals Bay Area and Sacred City, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago Outfit, Boston, Atlanta, and the closest thing to a home team, Seattle.

Because of obligations in Portland (and I have to get to Seltzer Park in Seaside, honoring the game’s founder, Leo Seltzer)and Seattle, I can only see the first round in person, and intend to be on hand all day Friday except for my time with Terry Sol (a Roller Derby fan all of his life) at KBZY radio. The last time I was in Salem was when we played at the Armory a long time ago.

The Northwest with Portland, Rat City and Oly have been leaders in Derby for quite a while. And of course the BAD girls are up there every year. But there is definitely the possibility of having no West Coast representation this year. Oly is competing in USARS and Portland (I know they don’t want to make excuses) had to travel all the way across the country and was eliminated……I would have liked to have seen the Rose City Rollers as the local rep in Salem, but I have nothing to do with it.

Nobody knows the exact comparative strength of Victorian; they did very well on an earlier tour of the area, and I don’t think the rankings do them justice. I feel they are a real dark horse. The way it should play out is BAD, Rat City, and Toronto going on to the nationals. My dark horse picks: Victoria, Toronto, and BAD. I would love to see three international teams in Milwaukee.

And what is truly ironic is that if the West Coast teams don’t get out of Salem, then tiny Santa Cruz by winning their playoff against their fellow Division 2 opponent could end up in Milwaukee.

And wouldn’t it be great if there were so few penalties that there were almost always two jammers on every jam……

See you in Salem. Please say hello to me as I return to my home state.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/52401610@N08/4821078009/ did you know that the Peanuts gang followed Bay Area Roller Derby back then? click on link.