Can Roller Derby ever become a major spectator attraction again?


Before you jump down my throat about your love for the game, I am not talking about anything except attracting more fans on a meaningful basis.

And ironically after writing this I found out that one of Derby’s greatest stars, Charlie O’Connell has died, and he was one reason that fans came to the games.

Yes, some leagues are doing well, especially the ones that have their own teams that play each other (can we start differentiating between teams and leagues?).  Obviously Gotham, Bay Area, Toronto, Texas, LA Derby Dolls, TXRD,  etc come to mind, but each of their teams has its own following and the fans can see their progress during the season, ending in a championship.

But many of the 2000 teams/leagues throughout the world depend almost soley of the local “family” support to continue, and many do not even think that admissions and merch can bring them sufficient revenue.

During the recent World Cup – the amazing event created by Robin Graves and her staff, there was a real feeling of what the game could mean to a paying public…….but when you got down to it, only a few of the countries could really manage the complexity of the game as it should be played, and they dominated the competition.  And the final, exciting matches had an enthusiastic crowd, but virtually all were “family” and not enough civilians.

A good friend of mine named Bill was in attendance on Friday, and liked what he saw so much that he returned for Sunday’s finals with his wife, who yelled herself hoarse.

Bill is a powerful player within the sports industry, and we had a very interesting discussion after the Cup ended.  Some of which I will relate.

He loved the possibilities of the sport, but found the game too complex and hard to follow for the larger audience necessary, and remarked on the excessive penalties (justified or not) that seemed to keep teams from being at full strength.  I explained the make up of teams/leagues throughout the world, the play for rankings and not for a regional league, the excessive amount of leagues in any area, etc.

He still wondered about the possibility of modifying and making a more spectator friendly game.

(Those who think I shouldn’t be talking this way or am criticizing the game you and thousands throughout the world love, please give it a rest for now……the game works for those who play it).

So looking back on what made Roller Derby successful there were many elements, albeit a very different animal…..you are thinking we don’t want the showmanship, the fights, etc.  And I agree….no need in today’s competitive sport.  But what if in a specific example you could present to the public an exhibition that combined the best of the rulesets (original, WFTDA, USARS, MADE), that allowed for the speed by the players and pack, really having offense and defense on the same play, having officiating more in tune with hockey that is no harm no foul (but obviously protect the players), and allowing stars to shine, and players to project them selves honestly, as in hockey and basketball.

Today you have the best roller skaters in the world in Derby.  You have participants who skated the old Roller Derby in a more recent form (Quadzilla, Mark Weber, etc) and former skaters like John Hall, Cliff Butler, Debbie Rice, Judy Arnold, Frank Macedo who would love to be a coaching participant in a different form of Derby.

Do I want to own Roller Derby again?  No, I did that, and it was wonderful…to sell out Madison Square Garden and every major arena and fill stadiums with crowds ranging from 27,000 to 50,000…for whatever you think of the past, the game always was about the skating to the fans…..nothing excited them more than skaters flying around the track, chasing each other, and one or two points on a jam.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYC4ia6bBO4   A bit about Roller Derby in the 70s.

Of course I will continue to support the wonderful people and players I know in Derby.

But I would love to see what I described, promoted and featured, in just one weekend in a major city to see what the response would be.

You know I will always be a promoter at heart.

Burlesque and Roller Derby……and when the twain meet!


The Tuesday Tease: Burly Meets Derby This Weekend! | Brown Paper Tickets.

Please click on the link above.

Of all the ten thousands of events handled by Brown Paper Tickets, two of the largest and most appreciated are Roller Derby and Burlesque……and as Jimmy Berg so eloquently explains, both are primarily controlled by and empowering for women.

so when Seattle and Stockton decided to have fundraisers: why not Burlesque……and a number of other leagues have done or are doing it.

We love to work with you on it, and Jimmy is about as leading an expert on burlesque (as Bob Noxious and Michelle at BPT are on Roller Derby) so think about it.

And if the Commissioner shows up, I promise you he will cover his eyes.

Why I, many Derby leagues, music, and theater love this company


Bainbridge Graduate Institute · The Pioneer of Sustainable Business Education · Chatting for Change with Steve Butcher.

Please click the above link.

See why I am blown away by Brown Paper Tickets after over 30 years in the ticket business…..can there really be a company that does not want to gouge producers, the public and be a good corporate citizen….Please read this recent interview with Steve Butcher, CEO of BPT.

You will find it interesting and understand there are those who do not just believe that greed and profit should be what we all are striving for.

Jerry Seltzer, sales outreach, Brown Paper Tickets.

Back to the Northwest


Spent a week in Portland and Seattle. Rained heavily in Portland (surprise!), not much in Seattle.

I’m from Portland originally, just haven’t been back much. Happy to see Ken and my relatives. Seattle was to get caught up at Brown Paper Tickets. Really an amazing company. So unusual: let’s help the producer, the public and contribute to good causes…..and oh yes, a 99-cent service charge on all tickets and if you are with us, we will work with you on a free promotion package that is amazing. Glad that a number of leagues and attractions are taking us up on that.

I call working for BPT my penance. It all started with promoter Bill Graham and our desire to get his ticketing business, so I gave him a 25 cent rebate on all tickets we sold……and over the years that has grown to be the reason that there are some $40 service charges that other ticket companies charge, and the Derby leagues that have to use them sometimes find that the service charge almost equals the ticket price. (Rabobank Center in Bakersfield, for one….I know there are others).

And BPT has a very active Derby division, as well as music, arts, clubs,theaters etc whose only purpose is to educate and aid those providing culture and entertainment. see http://www.brownpapertickets.com.

Where did they go wrong?