So the big birthday is upon us.

By:Angela Kane

75 years ago my father had no idea that what was a  variation  on a marathon would become one of the amazing sports stories of the 21st century.

I don’t have to go through the history of the last 75 years;  it is in Wikipedia, videos, books, etc, as well as the oral histories of so many skaters who delight in telling the tales of what for many was the best times of their lives.

But there are many things to note about the current state of the game.

First of all, this time there is the best chance for the long-term survival because it has come from the bottom up, rather than from having been seen on television and others wanting to duplicate it.  There is a strong natural foundation from the 570 plus leagues and many tens of thousands of participants around the world who don’t just see this as a game to play, but as a cultural event that crosses borders and ethnicities and creates a sisterhood (and now brotherhood also) of people who didn’t even know each other, and the common thread is Roller Derby in their lives.

These are not perfect people in a utopian place:  there are many different organizations, and rules, and break-off leagues in the same cities (I believe 6 is the maximum), but the love of the game is there, regardless if it is flat track, banked track or whatever.  And with the growth of the junior Roller Derby (I will always capitalize it as long as I live), so much is being done for the empowerment and the teaching of community for young people.

And this is not a career choice.   Everybody has something else they are doing in their life from working at a profession to raising children.  Right now there are no paid leagues that I know of.

As someone who has lived all of the 75 years (and a bit more), you can imagine the changes in the world I have seen and experienced.  The one I am perhaps most proud of (outside of family, of course) is what Roller Derby now represents:  a contact sport primarily performed by women that embodies my father’s ideal of his game being a completely legitimate sport that hundreds of thousands of fans are enjoying from New Zealand to Berlin, and undoubtedly will be in the Olympics eventually.

What do I see in the future:  several thousand leagues in virtually every country, the continuation of the amateur game owned and operated by the leagues and a fully professional game with full-time paid athletes who will never lose their obligation to the leagues that brought them to that point.

Did Leo Seltzer have any concept of how the game would be on its diamond anniversary in 2010, that there would be over 50 leagues in California alone?  Of course not.

On this 75th date of the first appearance of Roller Derby, with its groundbreaking use of women as participants, please honor August 13th whether as a moment of tribute or something more grandiose.  The leagues in Brisbane, Nottingham, Chicago, New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, Berlin, Scotland,  and others have all notified that they will.

Be proud of the history of the game.  Be even more proud that you have created the fastest growing sport of the 21st century.  I love you all, the skaters from my era and those of today and all those who are helping to make the game what it has become.

Leo and I and Ken Gurian and Loretta and all others salute you.

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31 comments on “75

  1. I am so so grateful for roller derby. It’s had such a positive impact on my life and is something I will cherish forever.

    Happy birthday, roller derby!!

  2. Jerry, well said. Roller Derby has been part of our lives in many different ways, and I am grateful for the same. While I yearn for a legit banked track game, I have great respect for all who have been part of the game, in any format. Thank you for your contribution, and Happy Anniversary.

    • there will be a legitimate banked track game…..there already are in LA, Philly, Phoenix and a few other places.

      Eventually, there will be professional teams.

      • You’ve got that right, Jerry! Derby is coming back and I’m proud to be a part of it here on the East Coast!

        Happy Anniversary!

  3. Jerry you are soooo correct. It is my pleasure for the NRDA to host the 75th Anniversary “A Diamond Celebration.” Thank you for the opportunity and pleasure.

  4. Thank you Jerry for including me as always we both think alike in seeing how far this sport and been reborn into another generation.
    In 6years we have seen many changes in the way these women have grown into having fun and now taking it more into a sport.
    Its been something we both had said your all going to be in time in the olympic.
    This I know is a dream of every girl skating.
    Never lose the fact that dreams can come true.

  5. Neon lights, the “P.A.”, six games a week, then five, match races, thumbing through the Chronicle and Tribune to find the misspelled names of the skaters exploits they were ashamed to print, a friendly man whose robust baritone I hear in my head to this day, becoming livid when someone referred to the other outfit as Roller Derby, Tickets at Sears and Other Fine Stores, One Night Only, The Only Game of the Year, the Big Game of the Month, They’d “Skate til One Man Cannot Continue,” Founder’s Cup, Consolation Games, Championship Playoffs,Souvenirrrrrr Programs, Bay Promotions, Bay Ticket Office, Bay Bomber Booster bumper stickers, The Bombers are Back, Roller Derby Returns, The last half of another exciting Roller Derby game between… And there he was “in all his sartorial elegance,” “we’ll just put the microphone right here so we cover up his necktie,” “And now direct from Trackside…” “Live,” The last half seen again Saturdays, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays on Ch. 40, and the same game again on KGSC (“The Perfect 36,” Spokesperson Carol Doda), and watching them all… “Honey you must have seen that game six times!” What’s your point, mom?

    Tell you what I recall the most. The last game of the year at Kezar. Not videotaped for the masses, just broadcast to us in the Bay Area, the best Roller Derby fans anywhere. As the crew started to dismantle the track on camera (and us not recognizing the skaters doing it), Walt provided a wrap up of the game, the telecast, the season, the promise of the playoffs, no interviews tonight but a salute to the crew, and the melancholy knowledge that this was the end of the season, and the beloved title screen, “Roller Derby,” and the litte jammer–was it Larry or Macedo, no one knew… in the pre theme-song days, this was moving as hell, and burns in my memory.

    That and, watching whatever rerun or ancient movie KTVU had going and, months later–clips from last year, something from the road, something the station put together… Roller Derby Returns this April something, this May something. Everything put right again.

    Me seeing an ersatz “Bomber” team in the late 70’s finally getting to Kezar, and my girlfriend telling people at the time, “you should have seen Keith, the expression on his face, it was just like a little boy…” Even so, it ended in 1973 and it only took me about 20 years to accept that.

    If you’re a rollergirl or rollerguy with that same starry expression on your face at a “bout,” I’ll be rooting for you when you get out there. And, I would suggest, don’t even bother trying to explain your passion. Or the rules, in fact, for a free copy of the rules, perhaps they could write to this P.O. Box here…

  6. Roller Derby has changed my life and obviously the lives of many, many, many others. Thank you to everybody who has had the passion to ensure that it has made it to 75 years and I sincerely hope that it will live on forever. With JRDA up and running & the proliferation of Leagues all over the world I believe Roller Derby will never be dormant again.
    Long Live Roller Derby!

    • Sena, it is amazing, you are in Australia, I am in the US and we are looking at the growth of something that has brought us and many others together.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful note. Roller Derby (I capitalize it too) has changed my life. I am so proud to be a part of this amazing sport and cannot begin to express my deep love of all things Roller Derby. Even though we don’t have practice tomorrow I will be putting on my skates as a tribute to the birthday of Roller Derby.

  8. Very cool! Thank you! Love the sport and have you seen it this year. The use of the rules in new ways is changing the game very quickly.

    The sexiest, most friendly competition in all of sports. I love it the way it has become dominated by women right now. Women of all sizes. The game is serious but with a sense of family among the members of all the teams.

  9. Happy Birthday Roller Derby you changed my life and I am a better person, mother, friend, and wife because of you. I am stronger, I have an outlet for everything and I owe it all to the sport of Roller Derby, and the wonderful people who are a part of it. Thank you to everyone who has, is, and will be a part of this sport!!!!

    Raci Lords,
    River City Rollergirls

  10. Pingback: 75 jaar Roller Derby

  11. thank you jerry for all of your hard work and sacrifices. this sport has changed my life. i can’t even begin to tell you how much it has changed my life. i love this sport and what it has become.
    happy birthday roller derby!

  12. From my salad days (age 10) when my German grandmother and mother drove to downtown LA to watch in person (didn’t take my sister nor I–phooey!) to the present day when some female skaters have ridiculous “issues” with men’s derby, we raise all of our respective glasses and toast your father, you and the many skaters, their families and all of the support staff who made and make this happen. Oh yeah, and the audience and sponsors.

    Btw, on my first visit to the Skate Key to see the opening season of Gotham Girls, I said to Margaret Thrasher, “You’ve got to get on TV!” Now that’s happened for GGRD. But I agree, Jerry, the sport will make it in the Olympics — and without bothering with the X Games, etc.

    What I especially love about the “new” derby is the female sensibilities from whence it rose (“First Rule of Derby: Don’t Be A Douchebag”). And the men who live by those rules, too. DERBY LOVE FOREVER!!!

  13. OSDA Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the First Roller Derby Game,
    Announces Pro Division and Pro Training School opening.

    As fans and skaters worldwide celebrate Roller Derby’s 75th Anniversary of its first game today, OSDA joins all in paying homage to Leo Seltzer, his original Roller Derby and its Skaters. From our inception in 2007, the OSDA has looked to the past to create the future of the sport we love. The OSDA Mission Statement says it all; “It is the goal of OSDA and its members to restore ties with “Old School” skaters, trainers and coaches from past decades and learn from their experiences and input.”

    OSDA is very proud to follow the example of Leo Seltzer, who created and developed the only sport that allows men and women to compete by the same rules on the same track. Leo’s Roller Derby has seen many incarnations since the 1930’s.

    Over the past three years, the OSDA has been proud to offer an alternative to the currently popular and fast-growing all-female flat track Roller Derby game. The OSDA allows member leagues to choose to play flat or banked track games with any combination of all female, male or co-ed teams in addition to the traditional Old School style game.

    In January of this year one of OSDA’s founding leagues, Philadelphia’s Penn Jersey Roller Derby, made the commitment of setting up a Banked Track. With this addition, the OSDA has taken the opportunity to create a new division specifically focused on training skaters on the Banked Track in the Traditional Roller Derby game.

    The OSDA PRO Division Banked Track Training School will open its doors to the public in Philadelphia on Saturday, September 18, 2010. The Training School will be open to all skaters with the desire to train in the traditional Old School style of Banked Track Roller Derby.

    OSDA PRO believes in Leo’s steadfast insistence that TRAINING of the skaters is the most important part of Roller Derby game. Only professionally trained skaters have the endurance and stamina it takes to skate the caliber of game presented when the sport of Roller Derby first swept the nation and the world.

    To accomplish a professional standard, OSDA PRO has retained the services of retired pro skaters Judy Sowinski and Arnold “Skip” Schoen.

    Judy Sowinski (aka “The Polish Ace”) has had a long and colorful professional Roller Derby skating career that stretches from 1959 to 1992. She is a deserving member of the Roller Derby Hall of Fame and has coached and trained for Penn Jersey Roller Derby since its inception.

    Skip Schoen’s introduction to Roller Derby began in 1968 while skating for the Eastern Warriors. During his career, Skip skated for the Detroit Devils, the New York Bombers and the Canadian Braves. He is best known for his run with the Warriors where he skated on and off from 1968 thru 1973.

    With Judy and Skip as the OSDA PRO Training School Directors, OSDA PRO is excited about the future possibilities of presenting some truly worthy Roller Derby Teams. Our ultimate goal is to have a sufficient number of skaters trained and game ready to begin to form teams in 2012.

    We think Leo would be proud.

  14. happy 75th anninversary to the most unifying awesome sport community. I have never felt so empowered. Thank you to all who have brought such a gift into my world. My universal derby family is brightly coloured and I love you Bring on the next 75 years I say xx

  15. Pingback: Cincinnati.Com | Cincinnati Enquirer | Roller Derby Diva » Happy birthday, roller derby and CRG

  16. Pingback: Queen of the Rink » 75 « Jerry Seltzer

  17. We’re celebrating 75 tonight in Chicago with the Red Bull Banked Jam, the first banked track game of any sort in Chicago since 1984 at the UIC Pavilion, bringing it all home.

    The game is even uniting the two main roads roller derby (it’s not capitalized unless referring to the original Leo/Jerry Seltzer promotion) has taken. Featuring Chicago’s Windy City Rollers, a highly ranked flat track league; vs the L.A. Derby Dolls, the 7 year old banked track league that first introduced flat/banked competition in 2008.

    Sadly, there won’t be any live video of the game (production is in Red Bull’s hands), but Derby News Network will carry a live textcast tonight starting at 7:45 CST (5:45 PST): http://www.derbynewsnetwork.com/live/bouts/2010/12/windy_city_rollers_vs_la_derby_dolls

  18. Pingback: 2010 in review « Jerry Seltzer

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