Next year is a big one for Roller Derby. August 13, 2015 will mark the 80th anniversary of the marathon that became a sport. And British Pathe just released a short video of a newsreel of the game in New York in 1936 that is probably the first view of Derby on film, and the announcer speaks British…the clarity is amazing…. here is the link for you to see it:
I know that some of you are confused in my role in all of this. Yes, I was alive at that time, but just an infant. It was my father who created the game. A few years ago a player said to me “you are the godfather of Roller Derby”, no I am his son, “then you are the Jesus of Roller Derby”, thus came about my blog: www.rollerderbyjesus.com.
To continue, we know how the game has changed: from banked track to flat track……from being operated as a professional 6-team league in the sixties and seventies (operated by me), to the approximately 1650 independent leagues in 43 countries, all amateur. And of course, primarily women, although men’s Derby is on the way back.
People are also often confused about our game since men and women competed….however, it never was a coed sport. Each team consisted of 8 men and 8 women, who played against other similar teams: the 5 men against 5 opponents, the same with the women….the score was cumulative. The only time there could be any gender mix (almost never), was when the roster dropped below 5 players available.
So anyway I had been in contact with Claire Ashcroft jrda.UK who suggested the idea that in conjunction with this important anniversary I come across the pond for a short lecture, talk, video presentation in the wilds of Britain. Well, I know that there are over 110 leagues in the British Isles and am friends with a number of you but interest for having me come there? I don’t know. I would love to meet with some of the leagues and actually have you participate if you would like….Claire will be checking it all out.
My previous visits have been there for vacations, for Ticketmaster when I was Exec VP, and to go with Judi and her mother Irene to visit her places of birth in Guernsey and where she lived in Port Talbot, Wales. What is not to love about Britain?
So keep that in mind…..would love to hear from you about that……Obviously information will be here in Lead Jammer and from my employer, Brown Paper Tickets.
Now, let’s talk about the game today. I thoroughly enjoyed the men’s World Cup from Birmingham; I though they did an amazing job..Obviously I wish the games had been closer; the US has such a dominance and I am certain we will see that again in the women’s World Cup this December. 14 countries sent squads to Birmingham. I and everyone else fell head over heel in love with the Japanese team, which really hadn’t played the game as is done today. My friend Hiroshi Kirozuma who was Mr. Roller Derby in Japan in the 70s was responsible and the skaters were amazing.
I wonder who the surprise country will be out of the 30 that will be in the women’s tourney this December in Dallas.
OK, now to the game itself. Of course I still love the product we had: continuous skating, jammers from the rear of the pack, no backwards, no stopping (or penalties given), and there always had to be jammers at the start of the jam; and the pivot skater could jam if no one from his or her team could break out; and jams were 1 minute…..no power jams! (in what sport can you continuously score over and over on the same play? Ruins the game for me).
Now there are some rulesets that are close to the original game: OSDA, MADE, and USARS. Well a short time ago I saw a USARS game that really excited me: The Chicago Red Hots vs the Pennsylvania All Stars. Both teams were composed of players who skated on other WFTDA leagues: the Windy City Rollers, Rockford ,Valparaiso, Philly rollergirls, Steel City (Pittsburgh) and more. What was different in this game was the skill of the skaters and how they knew what to do.
The very essence of Roller Derby is two teams on offense and defense at the same time, which you rarely see in most flat track games……and the game and strategy is really in the pack. Jammers are important, but no more so than the other teammates. The action was breathtaking and all players were engaged all the time; no standing there as a jammer flew around again and again……Pennsylvania dominated; the score was 91-31, but the fans never stopped cheering or encouraging the players.
And there were top flight skaters out there: Val Capone (who coached the USA men’s squad) and Kola Loka from Chicago and the absolutely amazing V-Diva from Philly…..
USARS is still a minor factor in the US…..I would hope you could see it some time soon. I believe the game is available on you tube.
The commish coming to Britain? I am not counting on it, but it would be great…..and I can tell you of all the unknown secrets of the game you love.
Keep watching here or on the Lead Jammer social media…..I just might persuade them to put their name above the tour.
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