Declaring your independence

Photo by Ryan Tamayo from

The fourth of July weekend always seems to be the best and happiest holiday with no gifts exchanged.

We always celebrated it at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium when the A’s were out-of-town with Roller Derby, marching bands, special events and of course fireworks.  Southern Californians may remember Tommy Trojan who strutted his stuff in front of the famous Trojan band and was on the sidelines when SC scored as he was the extra point guy.  Anyway, he would create our huge fireworks displays after our games.  And we had tremendous crowds for these games, up to 35,000 paid.

We kind of took over for the city of Oakland in those years as they didn’t have funds for fireworks, so the Bay Bombers bombastic was followed by tens of thousands of citizens outside the stadium.  We always made it a benefit for something in Oakland and I remember giving a check for $14,000 to the March of Dimes one year, and $17,000 to a very surprised and pleased Mother Superior for the Providence Hospital fund the following year.  40 years ago that was a lot of money.

I love fireworks and usually try to be up in Seaside Oregon (see earlier posting on “By the Sea”) where if it is not rainy or foggy you can see the fireworks up and down the coast for miles.

And of  course the fourth of July is just a month away from the annual day of founding of Roller Derby, August 13 (1935).  So I thought I would use this occasion to put forth my personal wishes for Roller Derby in the next year.

First, a caveat:  whatever I say about the game or whatever I express, it is all for the love of what the current 940 leagues in 35 countries have accomplished in bringing back this sport from the ashes, an unheard-of feat.  It costs them to skate, of time, funds, and effort, and yet the game grows and thrives.  But I know that we all have opinions which we should express.

1.  The continued growth should be sustained.  Almost 500 new leagues in the past year alone.

2.  The flat track game be simplified so it is easier to watch and play.

3.  The banked track game to continue to grow.

4.  More interplay between leagues near each other who are of the same skill set but not the same sanction or control.  I am going to the championship game of B.A.D. this weekend, and thought wouldn’t it be sensible to have a Nor Cal tournament with so many leagues within 100 miles.  And so many teams could play so many more games.

5.  The establishment of a national TV network in addition to DNN (or utilizing Hurt and everybody else who makes us think that the viewing of our favorite teams everywhere is just a natural thing….what they have done is unprecedented).

6.  Steps toward a professional league.

7.  Continued fun and enjoyment for those who play, participate and watch this wonderful sport.

8.  Some league or region establish the Leo A. Seltzer cup or trophy for their championship.

9.  Even more admiration and love for the Commissioner.

I assume you may have a few ideas on what you would like to see happen in the growth and development of Roller Derby…’s your chance.

16 comments on “Declaring your independence

  1. Love your list!

    Here are some comments:

    #2 — OSDA did that years ago!

    #4 — Penn Jersey Roller Derby has challenged some WFTDA leagues in the past and gotten turned down. Maybe they need Jerry Seltzer to promote it?

    #6 — What do you think OSDAPRO is doing?

    #8 — Very doable!

    #9 — Is that really possible? lol

    Jersey Joe

  2. 1. That is a lot to ask for. I don’t know if we need another 500 leagues. Rather than put a number on the number of new leagues, I would like to see the derby diversity grow. Like you mentioned in #4, I would like to see the derby league structure turn more into something like minor league baseball (A, AA, AAA). I would also like to see the growth of the game internationally, especially in Japan at locations off the bases. Singapore and Malaysia are developing teams. I would also love to see new leagues form in the Philippines.

    2. OSDA was already mentioned and I agree with that. Arizona House Rules (such as what AZDD used before they went banked track and is somewhat used by DDRD right now) is a simplified rule structure. WFTDA’s “no minors” ruleset is a major step in the right direction (pardon the pun). The ruleset needs to not just be player friendly and must be fan friendly. I would rather see penalties served at the ends of jams so that way there’s an explanation to why someone is going to the box.

    3. Banked track will continue to grow. The banked track continues to bite more leagues who were traditionally flat track in the past (AZDD, RMRG, etc.) and as leagues grow in the flat track arena, they will have bigger budgets and the ability to get bigger venues. AZDD’s flat track season in the 20K+ seat Coliseum was pretty much a disaster from an attendance perspective.. put a banked track in there and they have turned that around many fold.

    4. As mentioned, I do agree. More evenly matched teams as well as changing the rules so skaters are not penalized until after the jam and that there should always be a jammer out for both teams. A jammer penalty should only result in a team skating short. It’s time to get rid of the “power jam”. This will bring the scores more in line.

    5. This requires leagues to do a MUCH BETTER job at communicating with their fans. Fan communication is one area that most derby leagues do a lowsy job in when compared with minor league pro sports and college sports. This can be attributed mainly to the volunteer aspect of the sport. There are simply not enough resources to keep good information flowing. Let’s not talk about TV deals until we get some professional teams out there with staff who will maintain fan communications.

    6. I agree that OSDA PRO is taking our sport in that direction. WFTDA is still caught up on the “by the skaters/for the skaters” rhetoric and as long as leagues continue to keep that attitude, we will not see too much progress come from within the current DIY arena even though these people are the best people for the job.

    7. This requires a more fan friendly game. A ruleset and structure that can be easily understood by a spectating audience as well as a television audience is essential to the future success of a fan friendly game.

    8. If we ever have a “world cup” for international roller derby, perhaps it can be the “Leo Seltzer Cup”.

    9. You have a whole ton of derby lovers who love you.. and I love you too! ❤

    with derby love…

    • Michi – I can’t understand how any fan can enjoy their home team losing by a score of 314-39 (for example). For me, I’d lose interest very quickly and leave. I hear some losing teams say it’s a learning experience. Well, tell me, what did they learn? That they are not very good? It would kill my moral as a skater!

      I disagree with you on one point. #2 — I prefer to see a penalty called and the offender put right in the box. Why wait? It only slows down the game. Let them serve it now. I’m glad to see they are eliminating the minor penalties too.


      • That’s exactly why we need to have divisions, to prevent these kinds of superlopper games. I was just at a bout of two evenly matched teams (Salisbury, MD vs. Mason Dixon) and it was an exciting game. Another concept is to allow leagues to work their way into a higher division through some form of ranking or tournament qualifier.

        (Penalty enforcement between jams) I don’t see how it would slow down the game. There is designated time between jams. It’s working out in the west for banked track.. I don’t see why we can’t do it for flat track.

  3. i still prefer the 12min. ladies then 12 min. men. the whole 8 periods. the men in the last couple years of roller derby 71-73 added so much excitement and color to th e game. they were fast, tricky, and in superior shape. in my opinion much better talent than the women overall.

    • @ Anthony — at OSDAPRO, we will be skating old school style games. 8 alternating women and men’s periods @ 10 minutes each.

      We will be making announcements for a Fall game.


  4. @Michi – I’ve watched those west coast banked track games and the gaps between jams is too long. One thing that I’ve always loved about banked track Derby is the fluid, constant movement. Stopping between jams is boring for me and many others.

  5. the stopping between jams was a creation of Rollerjam and never was in Roller Derby. I think they did it to have more commercials. Bad idea.

    • Jerry – I could not agree more. I’d like to see the end of the breaks between jams and the end of the use of the word “bout”. How “bout” you? lol

      • I say games, but when the women created their version they called it a bout and they have every right.

  6. I like the term ’bout’ Game is ok too, but so is match (soccer, tennis, etc.,) ’bout’ just seems to sound cool.

    1. Growth is good! More teams=’s More opponents and a better chance of playing opponents who are matched in skill.

    2. WFTDA could simplify their rules, but generally the reason rules get more specific is due to ‘more’ abuse of loopholes or needing clarifications for things not directly specified.

    3.I hope so!

    4. I’d say ‘but not necessarily’ same sanction.

    5. That’d be awesome, though once we go that route they’d have to include mandatory ‘tv’ time outs for being able to sell time to sponsors.

    6. Would definitely be interesting to see, but I hope that Modern Derby wouldn’t lose ALL of its DIY local appeal.


    8.I’ll see what I can talk Crotch Rock-It into doing for the Derby South Tournament coming up in Nov. Would you as his heir give Crotch Rock-It permission to call his trophy the Leo Seltzer Cup?

    9.Write that Autobiography!!!!

  7. I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said. I would like to add:

    10. Independent officiating organization(s). A officiating org controlled by the skaters makes no sense in the big picture. It should be run independently, with things like training and certification being done on a regional, and consistent basis. The current state of officiating in all forms of roller derby is less than admirable, considering the epic growth of the sport in the last few years.

    11. Inclusion of males. I understand that modern roller derby is a women’s movement, and I have gobs of respect for all the women involved in roller derby (I even married one). But excluding males, especially ones who may be valuable to the sport, or relegating them to only be officials, not only makes hypocritical the banner of inclusiveness that roller derby generally raises, but it will inevitably prevent the holy grail of inclusion in the Olympics which so many hope for. Frankly I’m happy to see the MRDA take such hold.

    12. Major strides in youth involvement. While I think it’s great and necessary for adult leagues to hold bouts and make money required to keep the league going, 12 year olds don’t need that. Roller derby could very easily become the next big house league sport just like hockey or soccer. Organizations can spring up in every city and run youth derby leagues after school. Simple model (use if you like): sign up a bunch of kids, put them on teams evenly according to skating ability and other factors, have practices once or twice a week, then on Saturdays the teams play each other, one game after another all day. The venue can be a school gym, a local rec center, etc. No need to market, sell tickets, any of that. Just kids playing a sport for fun.

    13. Less politics. Among the entire sport, be it nationally, regionally, locally, or individually by league, politics needs to disappear, and integrity upheld as a shining beacon. Infighting hurts derby, and every league has it. For all the talk of sisterhood, I hear a lot of backtalk and backstabbing.

    14. More love for the Commish (couldn’t hurt to repeat).

    Viva la derby!

    • 11. I agree with the fact that we need more male involvement in the sport. I know of one non-WFTDA league who took all men out of “leadership” positions including head ref because of the archaic “there’s no balls in derby” attitude.

      I would also like to see the leagues open their doors to male-to-female transsexual skaters who are far enough along in hormone replacement therapy where their levels are in a competitive range and that they are socially ready to be on an all women’s team. WFTDA’s so-called “gender policy” is a good start but there’s nothing in that policy that requires the local leagues to allow trans skaters to even join and practice. The WFTDA policy only applies when a league does allow trans skaters to compete on travel teams. While some are opening their doors, there’s still others who will not. No league was willing to participate in my request to put together a list of trans friendly leagues. I know a few off the top of my head but we need to make this opportunity available to everyone.

      12. Brat leagues.. most definitely. This is your future of the sport. I am a major supporter of the mission of the JRDA and I was a big supporter of one of the first Junior programs to start, the Tucson Derby Brats. Brat rules are similar to big-girl rules except there is no hitting. I would love to see brat leagues up there with Little League Baseball.

      13. Derby drama has been there since day one and when you have a volunteer skater controlled environment, the drama will continue. I have seen my share of derby drama (and unfortunately, I had actually been a part of the drama) and I can tell you is if you let the skaters focus on skating and let the staff focus on running the business (yes folks, derby IS a business), there will be a lot less of the power struggles and drama. The derby world needs to get over the image of the fat man in the back room smoking a cigar running the league (one of the early impressions of the classic sport by today’s DIY community). There is nothing wrong with non-skaters (even men) managing leagues and aspects of league operations. OSDA does not have this requirement and it really should not exist in WFTDA.

  8. Pingback: Nerd Meat Part 10: Playing the Game « The Derby Nerd

  9. Jerry, just a short note to let you know how much I enjoy your posts that recall the Roller Derby of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. I also liked your mention of Providence Hospital in Oakland, as I was born there in 1957!
    I live in Albuquerque, NM, now, and there are local women’s roller derby teams here — but it’s just not the same.

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