Roller Derby was different from other sports…..we were outliers; so our rules toward press, etc were not deferential, because we got so little outside press.
So when Frank Deford from Sports Illustrated got permission to go on the road when we did our annual winter tour, I called the skaters together. I said don’t get chummy, be careful what you say or do; this is America’s most prestigious sports magazine and we won’t get chances like this again…they all acknowledged, and shook their heads.
Now Frank who just passed away -America’s greatest sportswriter – and I became lifelong friends but we weren’t at that time in 1968. He didn’t tell what happened for years, but now here in his own words:
“Unlike other professional athletes, Roller Derby skaters were unaware that you should play up to a writer from a national magazine; rather, they felt no compunction about embarrassing me. One of the most prominent skaters – let’s call him Tom – was obviously gay, and late one night in Minneapolis, when I was seated with several skaters in a dark hotel bar after a game, he made a move on me. It was duly noted by those in attendance. As the plot would have it, I had already arranged to ride alone with Tom to Duluth the next day. Also duly noted.”
“When the game began in the packed Duluth arena, I was seated by myself at the press table. After only a jam or two, the Bay Bombers called time out and skated over to a position just above me. There, a cappella, led by their fabled captain, Charlie O’Connell, they looked down upon me and sweetly sang, “Here comes the bride.”
“I was mortified, but then it dawned on me that none of the baffled Duluth patrons understood what was going on, so I blew kisses to the Bombers, and the game resumed.”
Frank didn’t reveal the story until 40 years later, thankfully.
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