There is an adage that any publicity is good publicity———-WRONG!

When the leagues are starting and are struggling for attention you might think if some member of the media wants to do a feature on your organization,  and it is obvious they are not taking you seriously it is OK as at least you are getting a story out of it.

In the last week I saw a very good TV interview from Louisville (well, the interviewer wasn’t good, but the Derby women were great) in which it was patiently explained to the woman what the modern Roller Derby is all about and what is required to make it happen.

And I was forwarded an interview from the high country which I posted, in which is obvious that the writer (Geek something or other) had done research before writing the article, understanding about the old Roller Derby and what sacrifices it took for a league to start, how no one is paid, how practice is run, and he also saw a game.  Unfortunately, in this day and age of get any kind of story to fill pages or time, it is easy to do a mocking kind of story that says we all know this is just some kind of joke.   A recent episode of McDonald sports show on Comedy Central had that kind of story.

So, what should you do to avoid it, and remember it still can happen.  These are things I used to do, and remember our Roller Derby was different from the current leagues, and every reporter wanted to say “I know what’s going on” and often they did.  But then you had someone like Frank Deford who did the wonderful piece in Sports Illustrated and had the obvious in there but really concentrated on the skaters, the fans, what a huge draw it was and the success on TV.

I always had a stock answer for questions I might not get asked, and I used it even when I wasn’t asked:  “These are excellent athletes, injuries are common, we outdraw many of the sports teams in the San Francisco Bay Area, over 15,000,000 people watch us every week on television, we sold out Madison Square Garden…….” etc.

Public domain image of Aretha Franklin.

So how should you prepare anyone who speaks to the press (and that is something for you all to decide):  give them the basic facts:  This completely legitimate game is the fastest growing women’s game in the world (and men too), with over 911 leagues on all populated continents, over 40,000 participants, all amateurs.  The game requires extensive training and no one plays without passing skill tests; it is all non-profit, non-paid and there are dues from the players; and all leagues do community service, etc, etc.  And be sure and always mention the type  of women and professions that make up your league, as well as when open training is and your next game (include where tickets are available).

I think you see where I am going.  Don’t expect others to respect what you are doing if you don’t appear to respect it yourself.  Never be on the defensive, whether it is about tattoos, skating outfits or other things.  And you have the right to turn anyone down.

This game is growing and you are all part of it.  Now is not the time to wimp out.

9 comments on “R-E-S-P-E-C-T

  1. I avoid going out of my way to say it is legitimate unless asked. I don’t want to plant the idea with people who don’t have the prejudice to begin with. Instead, I say the sport is nationally and internationally competitive.

    • excellent point; my assumption is that interviewers often come at you with comments about girls fighting, hair pulling etc, and if they are sincere, why bring it up.

      • Sure, often. I take it as it comes. I have certainly declined our participation in some stupid media opportunities that sought to exploit the league and players. But, yes, I never introduce the idea.

  2. You definitely want to avoid people who want to put the sport down. That type of publicity sucks. There is a video somewhere out there from a couple years ago when some of the Cincinnati Rollergirls went on some clowns radio show and he sat there putting them and the sport down. For the most part they handled it professionally. Still, it got them irked from time to time throughout the interview and it didn’t look good all together.

    But at the same time, I don’t think it would be so bad if they had some fun with someone for show. Mainly what I mean is if you know what the personality of the person you’re going to conduct business with and you know he/she likes to joke around a bit, that’s not too incredibly bad. Like if someone along the lines of Conan O’Brien wanted to shoot a fun piece with a team. Of course he’s going for laughs, but at the same time he knows the biggest laugh will be towards his failures.

    For instance three or four years ago in Tacoma the Dockyard Derby Dames shot a little bit for a website. The basic story evolved around a couple of guys who are total losers on the show. They decide one night to go where the hottest women in Tacoma are and wind up at the Dockyard bout. They meet some of the players, put their moves on them and get shot down in flames. They then showed some bout footage with occasional shots of the two guys covering their faces up in “horror.” Then once it’s all over, the girls shoot them down again, but they have become fans of the Dockyard Derby Dames (and, I suppose, roller derby in general).

    But definitely do some research on those who want to do interviews and little tv/radio pieces with you before agreeing to do it. There is definitely a fine line between someone wanting to have some fun and someone wanting to make a fool out of you. Having fun isn’t such a bad thing…it shows the athletes have some personality. But someone trying to play you as a fool…it’ll still show personality, but not the type of personality you want to portray to the general community.

  3. You are so right, Elwood, and I meant to bring that up…..it does you no harm if you know where they are coming from and have fun with them. Ann Calvello and Joan Weston would often appear on Creature Features on KTVU in SF/Oak and help introduce films and be part of the repartee.

    It’s just the attempt to humiliate that should never be tolerated and should be dealt with. The players are giving too much of themselves and their lives to promote a sport that we all love.

    I also think it is a good idea for leagues to prepare a cheat sheet for anyone is is doing an interview, giving background on the revival, the league, and other information the you want promoted, which is the quid pro quo for giving any access to your people.

  4. Jerry, I’m not currently playing as I have a band commitment, but I completely agree. Every attorney in the office I work with feels derby is a joke and all about “throwing elbows.” They liken it to Kansas City Bomber. Much as I explain that we have rules, penalties, a different track, and specific training, it seems to roll back to “oh, yeah, I used to watch that on TV when I was a kid.” Chicago has two WFTDA leagues, one’s season is wrapping and I believe the other is just getting under way. There’s no excuse, save for financial, that a person can’t google a Chicago league and see what we’re all about. I don’t diss the person I’m trying to explain it to, I just say, “no, that’s not it at all.”

  5. I just re-read what I wrote, and it sounds like I am saying that if anyone contacts you to do a feature you should have a chip on your shoulder; I guess that reflects back to the days when I ran Derby and we were so often mocked. There certainly is no reason for that today.

    Obviously welcome all who want to cover you and seek them out. Go after TV news, etc, as they are always looking for features to fill time. Give them the story: one player teaches in a special ed school, etc.

    It is only if you suspect the intent of the feature or you know they are not serious that you should keep your guard up. And remember, write out for each player the points you would liked stressed and mentioned in an interview.

  6. …for whatever it’s worth, when I lived in Tucson, every night I attended a TRD match I would phone in the final scores to the local TV stations. Also phoned them in to most of the Phoenix stations if AZRD was an opponent; when El Paso came to town, I phoned that score to the stations there, too. To my knowledge, of the four local stations — KVOA/4 (NBC), KGUN/9 (ABC), KMSB/11 (Fox) and KOLD/13 (CBS) — I only saw KGUN actually report the score on the air. Once. Most nights, the sports reporters couldn’t have given less of a damn, and in the case of KMSB, since their newscast was from 9:00 to 10:00, the second game of TRD’s usual double-header wouldn’t end until halfway through their newscast and there would be nobody at the desk to take the call. Having said that, I also must report that several times the guy who’d take the call at KOLD would ask about Sunni Sideup or Peaches Rodriguez by name if it was a Furious Truckstop Waitresses score I’d given him. So at least one of the guys was a fan. Never saw KOLD run a score, tho…

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