We saw a new era in Roller Derby at the WFTDA champs, and wow!

I think everyone knows I can be cantankerous.

But the last finals I really fully enjoyed (prior to yesterday) was in Chicago 2010.

After that event, passive offense became the watchword for the game, and virtually all fell into line…..new skaters didn’t seem to know there was another way to play.

And Rose City showed it last night. Split the walls into offense and defense, actually block the other blockers during the play, and keep the pack moving during the jams without pack destruction. Yes, Virginia, the game is played on roller skates.

To me, so much excitement in the game comes when players are engaging without standing still, and boy was there a lot of it in perhaps the best modern game I have seen. The future looks bright, because everyone follows a winner and thousands were watching Portland’s tactics against what has been Derby’s gold standard for years, the Gotham Girls.

Now if anyone thinks Gotham’s days are numbered, you are wrong. They haven’t stayed atop the Derby world by standing still (no pun intended!). But what a pleasure to see two teams of superbly conditioned athletes go at each other for the duration of the game without stopping. And to have two players, Scald Eagle and Bonnie Thundeers side by side on so many of the jams! That is one advantage of the offense and defense at the same time aspect of Roller Derby; only in our sport can you see the top offensive players from the two teams on the same scoring plays!

Now about Gotham: there could be no better group of people to represent the game in America’s largest city. Their standards are incredibly high, and if you wanted to hand pick a team to represent what the sport today is all about, it is this group. I sorely missed seeing Suzy Hotrod out there, but the talent on the team was certainly equal to the task. And if I can mention, both Gotham and Rose City are clients of Brown Paper Tickets.

I have to admit I was for Portland in the game; it is my home town and that of Leo Seltzer who created the sport in 1935. And the support that the Rollers have given my niece Phyllis (Leo’s granddaughter) in her battle with cancer just signifies how they and all the leagues in WFTDA are part of their community. As for New York, it is where Roller Derby was made national in 1948 when my dad brought it there, and where we had so many sellouts at the 19,500 seat Madison Square Garden, and the skaters could really skate the game without the extra showmanship.

What a show the sport gave to the ESPN3 viewers and all of the fans. So all the leagues coaches will be going to the drawing board to figure the best way to play the “new” game brought by the team from the Northwest.

And don’t forget that the international teams are barking at their heels.

Remember in 2015 when the game took another jump forward…..tell your neighbors and friends they had better come and see what the fuss is all about.

For those of you bitching about WFTDA finals on ESPN3, I have a few words for you

I believe that i Derby is one of the best community sites for the game, and so do about 10,000 others….you get a great mix on the page.

And today there seems to be quite a few complaining about Championship day being on ESPN3, taking the crucial day away from those in the game. Of course this only applies to those in the US, everywhere else people can see it on WFTDA.tv.

This is perhaps the best opportunity to date for those outside our rather incestuous circle to see what the fuss is all about; why tens of thousands around the world have been attracted (and/or participate in) the modern version of the sport. And I know there are those out there who seemingly don’t want that to happen.

I know better than any of you what television can mean to the game; on our own independent “network” we had (by ratings) some 15,000,000 people watching every week our one hour videotapes on 110 stations. And those who never roller skated became huge fans and attended our live games in their areas, and many tried out for the sport.

I feel this effort by WFTDA is a great attempt to broaden the audience without really harming any of you. First of all, so many cable systems throughout the US can allow you to stream ESPN3, and if you happen to not be in an area where you, or someone in your league does not have cable, go to a local sports bar, indicate you will bring a large contingent there (which will increase your enjoyment) if they stream ESPN3 on one of their many screens, and others in the bar will watch. And you would probably be surprised at the limited audience that individual streaming has been able to achieve to date……what if hundreds of thousands were exposed to Derby?

I hope this is a godsend to increasing fan interest and could be so helpful to leagues that are having problems in drawing audiences on a consistent basis outside of the sport’s particpants, friends and family. And the super strong international particpation this year makes the event even more appealing.

Take this opportunity to make others aware that Roller Derby is being played on part of the leading sports network (ESPN) in the world.

It is important to know the track is flat, but not the world.

Woz, Roller Derby, the US Festival and the Steve Jobs movie

I met Steve Wozniak at the US Festival, perhaps the greatest collection of contemporary bands in 1982 and 1983. I believe almost 60 of the best bands and performers from the Clash to the Grateful Dead to Van Halen to Willie Nelson to the Pretenders and the Police and on and on appeared in the two year run over a total of 7 days near San Bernardino, California. Look it up.

Because David Zimmerman from BASS Tickets had heard how unhappy Woz had been with the way Ticketron had handled the sales in 1982, I was able to sign up the Festival for the fledging Ticketmaster entrance into Southern California in 1983. The impetus that the million dollars in advertising generated (always mentioning Ticketmaster as the phone and outlet source) really made us known in that area.

So I went both years, all days, but I must confess I didn’t listen to all 12 hours or more every day. And that is when I met Woz who solely created, financed, and presented the events.

This amazing man created the products that became Apple. Apparently, Steve Jobs liked the attention (I am seeing the movie this weekend), but really had nothing to do with creating the Apple 1, 2, etc. And Woz eventually left the company but today represents them with visits all around the globe.

What I found out in talking to him that he (of course) had watched Roller Derby on TV in the Bay Area where he grew up (and lives today), and he was quite a fan. I understand that he has shown up at various Derby events, and even skated on the banked track. Of course I got him a copy of “Roller Derby to Rollerjam”.

In the limited interplay that I have with him, I have found him to be a warm, accessible human being. He is a friend on facebook (and 32 of my friends are also mutual friends…..Misty (Pia Mess) Greer, why am I not surprised that you are one also). I also follow him on twitter where he seems to be traveling the world incessantly (all departure and arrival cities are listed), and he drives his Tesla to Morgan Hill to recharge and enjoy the delightful cuisine of this quaint village (really, Morgan Hill?).

So when you purchase an ipad or iphone, realize that at the start of the largest company in the world, there was this delightful man, a Roller Derby fan.