Rollercon 2015: banked track, 3 birthdays, ending Roller Derby Wars


I have really been remiss in posting here….but so much going on.

Going to my seventh Rollercon, certainly a highlight of the year. It is no secret I loved banked track Derby; after all my family started it, I grew up with it and it was the game when we became a national favorite, sneaking up on established sports with over 15 million watching on television weekly, and over 3,000,000 attending games yearly.

All Leo Seltzer wanted was his game to survive, become a nationally played sport, and be in the Olympics. When he died in 1978 he no longer even talked about it. His creation had disappeared.

And then you all came around…..starting from one league in Texas (that word is kind of misused; they actually had, and still do, 4 teams in TXRD), and transferred to flat track by one very creative league (Texas Rollergirls) till today when there are 1853 listed leagues in the world. (check out the amazing website by Sam Santos, http://www.derbylisting.com).

So that brings us to Rollercon, which has to be the mecca for everyone in the game to journey at least once…..over 5000 from virtually everywhere will cram the Westgate in Las Vegas July 22 till 26, all created by Ivanna S. Pankin and friends. (get down on your knees and give thanks). And check out the master schedule at Rollercon.com for whatever you want to do.

9 tracks this year for training and games and one banked track! And the most amazing games ever are scheduled…..most are created for the event, and you might learn a lot from that fact alone. Skaters regardless of rule set, age, or geography playing for fun. Have you lost the fun in the game? Is it less fun for spectators to pay and watch? That may be one of the most important considerations for your team, league, whatever.

Bob Noxious and I will go there in our marketing seminar Friday at 1:30 at Rollercon….not just advertising, promotion, ticketing, but making your games events…..and fun!

And there really are more than three birthdays, but the especially noticeable ones are Rollercon and WFTDA’s 10th year, and the 80th birthday of the game itself. We will celebrate it at the Brown Paper Ticket booth on Thursday the 23rd at 3:30 with cake and juice, and stars of the past: Judy Arnold, Frank Macedo, and Hiroshi Koizumi on hand, and some stars of today: the immortal Merby Dick Roche, who at 75 is in his fifth year with his team (league?). There will be some surprises on hand also.

The game is thriving, but in reality the world doesn’t know or fully accept it. Instead of fighting amongst the rule sets, why not all join in figuring a way to really broaden the base to the general public and make certain that what you are presenting can be appealing to a non-derby affiliated audience. Unfortunately, when you are charging admission, you are competing with other forms of entertainment, and to survive you have to keep the fans you have and grow the attendees. as I said, Bob and I will address that as part of the larger picture.

This is more than a game to the majority of you; you are not paid, you sacrifice your time and money. But the huge reward is a world that most do not know or understand, a kinship that extends far beyond the game, team or league. Somehow you must let the world see that.

And please come by the booth and give The Commissioner a hug. It is what keeps me going and coming back.

Busiest Derby week of year, and Val on my mind


I have to say I will be pulling for the Bay Area Derby Girls in the Championships…..frankly, I don’t know if anyone can beat Gotham. It reminds me of what a prominent sportswriter said in the Sandy Koufax era: “He belongs in a higher league.”

As I gave blood Saturday at the BAD girls drive in San Francisco I was aware that they had a scrimmage that morning in Oakland in preparation for the regionals and wasn’t sure if they could make it; and they did, and we had a record amount of donations which put us over the top of last year with the help of the 9 Derby Leagues.

love them BAD girls: http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=9XfEH4r8coE&u=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D_cAs891AD1s%26feature%3Dshare

BAD really came through, with appearances on CBS (if you missed them on channel 5, reporter Roberta Gonzales will be doing a special report on October 3, before our final drive date in Rohnert Park on October 18), and other promotions.

And last Saturday Val Capone was so much on my and everyone else’s mind as she continued her recovery from the horrible Crohns attack, but like the spoiled kid she is, she wanted to be at Riot Fest in Denver, and every other possible activity….good to hear she went to the Red Hots and Bruise Brothers scrimmage and did walking while there.

the one and only Val: https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpa1/v/t1.0-9/s640x640/10614265_840784379299560_389014403991346266_n.jpg?oh=04414350fa554c301e191b977dd7b63b&oe=54C94B3C&__gda__=1422091499_81baab9be07c12fc07a60b166c2c2446

I hope to see her at the men’s tourney in Seattle on October 17, if we both make it.

And I have to give Windy City great kudus for winning the most exciting game I have seen this year against a heavily favored Texas team, 176-173; and although they lost in the final game of the regional to London (what a powerhouse!), they and Texas will also be at the Championships…..don’t know if I will be going this year, I keep checking the mail.

And what a Roller Derby weekend coming up: On Saturday I am taking the publisher of the Petaluma Argus Courier (check out their website, quite an amazing publication) to see her first game, as the Resurrection Roller Girls take on Shasta from far northern California…..I was able to buy my tickets easily of course through Brown Paper Tickets.

And on Sunday, off to Stockton for the USARS Nationals……anxious to see Oly play again and the Pennsylvania all stars with V-Diva and, one of the most exciting teams I have ever seen in modern Derby. I will be presenting the Seltzer Cup (in honor of the man who invented this sport way back in 1935) to the eventual champion. And this may also be the first major exposure of coed play on live streaming.

They are probably the third choice, but my sentimental favorite has to be the Chicago Red Hots now with Kola Loka and Doc Josie…my friend D is on the squad and Fernando Regueiro is GM….but to me it is Val’s team…..I have to wear the Red Hot shirt so I am certain all will understand.

You all can watch on pay tv, check out the USARS page to find out the site…..for some reason, not a lot of free games on tv anymore…..you don’t appreciate what you have until you miss them.

Now someone tell me how I can get Leo to watch.

what if Roller Derby controlled all the media sources?


It is ok if it is a benevolent dictatorship…..at least that was my justification.

Because I did……but such a different situation.

I know, with DNN gone, Leadjammer magazine and Blood and Thunder not printing (but going online), it doesn’t leave much choice in getting information on all skating, games, scores, upcoming events by USARS, RD banked track, MADE, Renegade, or even the multitude of WFTDA and affiliated leagues, and other forms of Derby.

When I started operating Roller Derby there was no cable, satellite, personal computers, social media, whatever you are so used to.

There were radio, newspapers, and television…..and except for New York and Los Angeles, never more than a handful of TV stations in a market.

We hit at exactly the right time: videotape (2 inch for broadcast) had just been developed and KTVU in SF/Oakland had a machine……so for our live telecasts on Sunday they would tape the last hour, which would be replayed the following Saturday morning, getting good ratings for the station and us a boost for the weekend games. And we didn’t have to pay the expensive pick up costs to videotape games.

And when we had a request to provide a tape for a station in Portland (KPTV), we found a sponsor to cover the cost from KTVU ($400!) and our syndication was under way. Within a few years we were on 120 stations in the US and Canada and shipping tapes and copies to all of them.

Of course we controlled the content within the tapes, having our own information (training schools, mailing lists, rules, promos for upcoming games throughout the US) and this was generally the only information the 15 million viewers weekly had about this game.

And we published the Roller Derby Reporter…..a monthly “house” journal of all the activities within the sport. I was publisher, need I say more?

Herb Michelson, an excellent sports reporter with the Oakland Tribune and AP, moonlighted as editor and writer. We had such fun with it, reporting on rule changes (well, maybe one) the Commissioners had decided on during the annual meeting in exotic locations (I believe 1970 was the Bahamas), and the skater of the month, the feuds within the league, the potential for games in Mexico and on and on.

But it was all in fun and aimed at promoting our profit-making (well, not all the time) play for pay enterprise. And believe or not, a number of newspapers were reporting our upcoming tours, scores and features.

Today there are so many ways to let the world know about Derby. Unfortunately, the best one to date has disappeared.

For those who think the best way to get your news out is to limit how it can be done, you are wrong.

Roller Derby is a DIY, maverick, cult, empowerment enterprise by tens of thousands of individuals……let us hope the gap will be filled.

PS. Scott Pio just informed me that Rollin’ News will soon be picking up the mantle soon…..I hope so……

420, Banana Slugs, blood, and great Derby


Santa Cruz in California is a place you have to go…..especially on Friday, August 29 (but if you can’t, there are alternatives, keep reading).

This is where much of mainland surfing began, years ago; and is about an hour south of where the world-famous Maverick competition is held.

It is also where 420 started – where people sit in an open space and smile and contemplate their navels.

The most casual campus of the University of California is here, and of course its teams are called the Banana Slugs, and their new athletic director Cliff Dochterman is a Roller Derby fan! (Invite him to your next game, Derby girls).

The town has great beaches and America’s best classic seaside amusement park…..it is 75 miles from San Francisco and just 32 miles from San Jose (the Bay Area’s largest city….bet you didn’t know that).

We used to play Derby there about once a month at the tiny Civic auditorium, and that is where the Santa Cruz Derby Girls skated, until the Kaiser Permanente Arena opened a few years back and now they consistently fill it with their great league play.

This league, which is ranked high among all leagues, has been at the forefront of so much in maintaining and growing Derby awareness in their community. They are part of almost all community projects and are featured consistently in local media (all of you should check what they have done and still do).

And two years ago they decided to work with the Red Cross with a blood drive, and they were so successful they become the model for the northern California blood drives with Brown Paper Tickets, the Red Cross, and the Roller Derby leagues. And last year the drives received enough donors to save 660 lives.

And this year the drive is under way with even more leagues (listed below), but on Friday, August 29, you can donate in Santa Cruz at Whole Foods, 911 Soquel, Capitola, from 8 am to 6 pm and of course the Santa Cruz Derby girls will be there, and many donating. As of this date, they have an amazing 52 registrations, and are hoping to break the Derby record of 60 sent a few weeks ago by Quad City in Livermore. What a great competition that saves lives!

Of course you want to go to the boardwalk, ride the classic rides, and take advantage of the beautiful weekend by the beach, and give blood….you may go to http://www.redcrossblood.org, enter “Derby” in the box and register for Santa Cruz or the other drives listed.

And hopefully this will become a national project next year with Brown Paper Tickets, Red Cross and all Derby leagues. Bob Noxious is checking on leagues, Val Capone (who else) has volunteered to be the Midwest project manager, and shortly we will let you know how to let us know your interest.

And here are the other Derby drives upcoming: Silicon Valley Roller Girls, Saturday, September 6, 9 am to 3 pm in San Jose; Faultline (ouch) Derby Girls, Saturday, September 20,10am to 3 pm, Hollister; Bay Area Derby Girls, Saturday, September 20, 10 am to 4 pm, San Francisco; Sonoma County Roller Derby, Saturday, September 20, Santa Rosa; Resurrection Derby girls – Saturday, October 18, 11 am to 4 PM, Cal Skate, Rohnert Park.

For exact locations: http://www.redcrossblood.org, “Derby”

Our goal is to save 1000 lives this year in Northern California….and am I donating? Of course, on September 20th.