Sandi Mustang Johnson…..she set off a Derby explosive


About 4 years back I started expressing some feelings about how the game was becoming not fan friendly.

And the head of an organization came down on me in quite a strong manner; and I don’t want to relive the experience which was widely misinterpreted, but I just said what the hell, let’s get on with it.

Of course I have strong feelings about Derby; the game was created by my father; I shepherded it through its most popular period and was so happy to see the revival in 2003, so it this is what everybody wants, so let it be.

Then yesterday Sandi posted on her home page a 500 word or so statement of her feelings, why she has left the game after 10 years, and that set off a firestorm that I never expected. There have been over 100 shares, thousands of views, and so many great comments. I urge you right now to go to her page and read it or to my page where she kindly let me repost it or to any of the others who have also done the same.

I don’t even want to try to compress what she said, because she did it so wonderfully and with such feeling. Why have crowds for her home league (Knoxville) decreased so much? Why wherever she went to skate she was seeing empty buildings? what can be done to reverse it. And then the comments have piled in….please read them.

I have expressed concerns over the current ruleset not being fan friendly, and this was stated over and over by those out there, but with the caveat hey we skaters like the game, leave us alone! And it is apparent that there is no once simple fix to whatever the problem is.

If you are skating for yourself and friends and family, then just don’t worry about charging admission and possibly boring the audience, but if you want to charge admission, then you must admit that you are an entertainment, which is difficult…….but don’t construe that to mean not a real competition…..look how successful TXRD and the LA Derby Dolls are.

And if you don’t get money from the games and merchandise and concessions, then obviously you have to get it from your players and not sustain travel expenses or other perks.

And so much more came out: too many leagues in limited areas; not enough attention paid to game presentation and being fan friendly; each game is often meaningless because it is played for “rankings” rather than competition; smaller leagues are ignored; the travel teams become so important that other skaters feel like they are not getting their money’s worth and on and on. And skaters want to skate and not play a stop action game. not my words.

Everyone wants to own Roller Derby……that concept ended 40 years ago. Wouldn’t it be great if there could be a super conference of the heads of the different rulesets, educated observers like WindyMan and others and just worked out a concept of a game for the skaters and fans that is entertaining, and address all the other issues.

Baron Wolman is one of the greatest photographers for entertainment and sporting events that we have ever seen (his stuff is in Hard Rock cafes, museums, and galleries throughout the world). And he has seen Roller Derby in its various forms for 40 years expressed a comment: if the game could become professional again, and get national coverage, it would so help the amateur teams and create interest and they would flourish.

Of course I agree with that, but with the present situation and decreasing attendance in most areas, no one is interested right now.

Can we broaden this whole discussion and do something about it? Selfishly, not too sure how much time I have left.

What can Roller Derby learn from World Cup futbol?


Soccer is the world’s game, whether we like it or not in the US.

To some it may seem slow, complex, but really it is a very simple game. And they are smart enough not to muck it up.

Continuous action (note they do not allow television to have commercials during the play, except for a small visual of a product by the score); the one referee doesn’t slow things down……for some reason the fans don’t like officials huddled and the players not playing….and not excessive rules.

The fans know that any one score can mean so much so the anticipation is tremendous.

And if anything, there certainly is not an excess of cheap points.

the players don’t stop and just stand around.

And continuous effort and speed, and the fans love it.

That’s all I am saying.

Obviously if your attendance is maintaining and growing don’t pay any attention to the above.

Do I hate Roller Derby?


I do not, but I must plead mea culpa.

I am opinionated.

It won’t get any better as I add one more year to my collection tomorrow.

I find it easy to criticize when probably I should really be more supportive of the attributes of what has happened in the last ten years.

Almost 2000 leagues in the world, including women, men, and juniors.

Somebody must be doing something right.

I have this vision of what the game should be; oddly enough, everyone does not agree with me.

Although many of you feel I want to “take back” the game to what it was 40 years ago, that is untrue.

There are things about the rankings method, the stoppage on the track, the blocking backwards, the blowouts that really bother me; but if that is what the nature of the game has become, so be it.

I am not any kind of official or affiliated with any rule set (although some believe I am). I just want to see attendance grow, not decline; more teams of equal ability competing, and anything that enhances Roller Derby.

There is no way any of us can wave a magic wand and bring it into being. And when I see the BAD girls play fast paced games with their four equally balanced teams, I see what the game is. And it is not unique to that league.

I would like to see rule modifications that bring it to the original intent of offense and defense always at the same time; I love the chase of one jammer after another.

But you out there play the game, and if this is what you want and the fans support it by attending, then just stay with it. And at Rollercon I hope I can help you market your games.

I still have the first modern Derby tee shirt I ever received, a Hotrod Honey given to me at Rollercon in 2006. And there are so many great athletes playing the game today: from Bonnie and Suzy to Tony and Bloody and V-Diva and Demanda and Quadzilla and on and on.

I won’t say I won’t make comments, but it is easy to criticize. I know what you go through just to be able to skate the game you love.

I want to move forward with you.

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.