are you ready to shoot the Derby messenger?


The good news: with this post I have officially passed 300,000 readers of my blog since I first starting posting it.

The disturbing news? This subject will stir up the pot again.

Last weekend my first modern derby league had their season ending championship. It doesn’t really matter who won, what matters to me is that the 9500-seat UIC Pavilion looked quite empty.

OK, so if you bought the best ticket, $35, you paid a $6.50 (!!!!) service fee to Ticketmaster, but you could save money by buying tickets in advance from any WCR player, so that is a small part of the issue. And there were general admission tickets for $15 plus service charge; $10 if you bought in advance from a player.

A friend of mine who lives in Glenview, my old home town northwest of Chicago was there. “It was boring”, he said. Ouch. “Players just scored points in bunches with little or no opposition.”

How can Roller Derby, the hard-hitting, fast paced game on skates be boring? I will not relate what the game has become since 2010 where the slow game became more or less the official strategy…..skaters may love it, fans (outside of friends and family) don’t. And the question is, if they come one time will they come back?

Hey, if I were a jammer I would love it if I could score 100 points a game; but the game is about a team of 5 players who work together to keep the other team from scoring and get your own jammer out and help her score. Why do players stop, go backwards, and just stand aside? And why are many, if not most jams with just one skater, getting (to me) very cheap points by just skating around endlessly. And has the 30-second penalty rule really changed the game? I don’t think so. I am waiting for WindyMan to present the statistics. And now many players are upset that by allowing clockwise skating, chest and other injuries will occur.

OK, on my facebook page is twelve minutes of women skating from 55 years ago. Probably not what many of you expect, and how many in today’s game are in this kind of condition. if you have time, check it out.

The game is for the skaters…..rule changes in WFTDA take a long time to be adjusted, and if you are a skater benefiting from the rules, and you vote on them….isn’t it obvious what will not happen.

I was discouraged when I saw the USARS championship two years ago in Fresno. The game appeared to be untidy, pack strung out, only OLY a very good team; players unsure of how to use the pivot position. Then a few weeks ago I saw the Chicago Red Hots play the Pennsylvania all stars, two teams of primarily WFTDA skaters from the Windy City Rollers, Rockford, Philly, Steel City and more and the USARS rules really worked……rarely more than a few points on a scoring play, great pack action and the speed of all the players was wonderful…..the game could be considered a blow out, 91-31, but the pack action and play kept the fans enthralled, and few if any left.

I would love to see great players who are capable and want to skate all styles of play forming teams in California, Texas, New York, etc to play all rule sets; the PA All Stars play WFTDA, MADE, OSDA, and now USARS. I know that not all can play this fast game (One of the players from Indiana told me in Cicero that in 20 minutes she skates more and harder than in her home league games), but why not present the best of you to the fans and hopefully they won’t say the game is boring. And the more players learn and play other types of Derby, eventually a game should evolve with the best of all rulesets (in a perfect world).

Yes, many places – LA Derby Dolls, Gotham, BAD, skate a faster more crowd exciting game under the WFTDA rules…..but certainly not all…..if attendance was skyrocketing everywhere then you certainly don’t need to pay attention. The problem is probably more than just the ruleset.

But I think many of you had better look at what is going on and try to address it. At least start talking about what may make your league better.

16 comments on “are you ready to shoot the Derby messenger?

  1. I love you Jerry, You know that. However, with the drastic changes in rules that happened in March, the stopped/slow game has become more active. Yes, slow powerjams still occur, but with the change to 30 second penalties, the action resumes MUCH faster and doesn’t feature the ‘runaway speedskate’ that USARS does; as teams are still both responsible for keeping/forming the pack.

    I think if you watch a few more WFTDA games this year you’ll see quite a difference from before.

  2. I have, Daniel….the recent tournaments in the past weekends…..and if you watched the recent USARS as I described you will see the pack controlled……is it better now, yes……is it where I hope it will be to become the national game it should, no.

  3. Jerry, you should visit Phoenix and check out Arizona Derby Dames and Desert Dolls Roller Derby.. those are two leagues that still have a great game and some good fan involvement. Definitely worth the ticket price.

  4. So you weren’t at this bout that was boring? Would you say it was better in 2005 when the Windy City Rollers became “you’re first WFTDA team?”

    • it was better in 2010 than in 2005 at the championships in Chicago…no I wasn’t there as I made clear, and only expressed the opinion of my friend and the people who showed up as empty seats….the Windy City Rollers deserve better.

  5. During the recent Beach Brawl invitational I had a chance to interview and chat with Carmella “Tiny” Grosso who skated from 1959-1963(?). One of the points she made about the differences was the high scores.. She talked about how it used to be “5 and done”.

    I’m not saying or even implying that’s the way it should be done. Just passing on a viewpoint from a previous generation of derby skater….

  6. you have to realize the pack was going almost as fast as the jammer(s), and the jams were one minute….a good jam resulted in 2 or 3 points.

  7. Those who love ‘modern Derby’ should take a cue from A.A.’s first step…. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.” The first step to any recovery is admitting defeat. The ‘modern’ version of the sport is NOT working, has NEVER worked and has only been interesting to those participating or to family members watching. Rather than malign the original Derby as ‘fake’ and ‘staged,’ WHY NOT LEARN from what made it so incredibly popular, filling arenas all over the nation year after year, making it a HUGE success. The only way for modern Derby to succeed… is to admit defeat and start over.

  8. Gary, I have to disagree. with almost 2000 modern Derby leagues in the world, the majority are skating the WFTDA rules. My point is I would like to see modifications that would make the game more interesting to the fans (my opinion). I truly believe that fine tuning will take place, and all inolved should let their thoughts be known to the skating community.

    I also believe that eventually there will be a professional game again and the rules will be even more modified to present an entertaining truly competitive contest.

    Throwing the game out entirely is not a solution or even practical.

  9. As a small jammer, I hate passive O because I have to beat my way through the opposing blockers alone. And when I’m blocking, it’s a real drag to stand there and watch my jammer have to do the same. When I’m a spectator, it’s boring as hell and I wish someone would just hit somebody. Ironically, prior to passive O, teams were instructed to slow down the pack when their jammer had the power jam so that she didn’t have to work so hard to get through it. But the expectation was that the blockers would help her through. Now she has to go it alone and often ends up working much harder than she did with a fast pack on a power jam.

  10. GREAT detailed observations , Mr. Seltzer. I hope that those that skate the game read, understand and adjust their type of play. The fact that some teams have adjusted , do well in playing games and skate a game that is exciting and please the Fans , is a very important FACT. As a former skater, I always had a great feeling when me and my team skated a good game ( win or loss ) and all the fans liked it and would return for the next game. Giving the FANS the excitement , enjoyment, thrills is very important. In addition, help your fans by selling your team tickets ( in advance ) to them. They will appreciate you doing them a favor ( financially ).
    Thank you Mr. Seltzer for putting in print for ALL to see…..that some teams already do what you ‘ post’ and they remain successful ( in attendance and revenue ) and are among the teams that Fans will go to watch…..John Hall.

  11. Jerry, I’m not suggesting ‘throwing the game out’ as a solution. What I AM suggesting is getting HONEST this version does NOT work. It’s NOT interesting to any impartial observer, so therefore, what’s the point? Those who make the rules MUST admit defeat and start over. No, that doesn’t mean throwing everything away. Take what works and develop it. LEARN from the original Derby’s ‘simple’ concept. ANYONE watching the original Derby could understand the sport within a few minutes and usually became a lifelong fan. Making the new version’s rules so complicated does NOT elevate it. It makes people run for the doors and I’m assuming that’s the opposite goal. STUDY the game. LEARN the game. HONOR the game. Simple as all that, but it WILL take HONESTY, an admission, this version does NOT work.

  12. Gary Powers….I understand your comments fully. However , I totally agree with Mr. Seltzer. Stopping or starting over is not an answer to the current game. Improvements and modification to rules that are applicable to all Leagues would be a step in a positive manner. Gary , remember that ‘ if not ‘ for the current flat floor version of roller derby, there would be no worldwide roller derby taking place. The prior dialogue ( by ONLY a small number of the hew flat floor skaters ) had stopped a long time ago. It is rarely ever mentioned by skaters and at times a ‘ media release’ will mention a comparison to the past. I have seen many of the current games in person and on the Internet. I have seen some interesting and exciting ones. There is a foundation for improvements. The roller skating interest has received a boost because of the involvement of over 30.000 plus skaters worldwide. Roller Rinks and roller skate company have increased their revenue ( and with that , more jobs have resulted ) and the surface has only been touched. The ‘ BEST’ can still be accomplished , but only by a continuation of a roller skating game. As a veteran of both past professional banked track leagues and as a former roller rink owner , I will continue to hope and support games that excite me. It is my hope that many of my peers of the former days will do the same. Thank you, gentlemen for taking time to read this. grateful…John Hall / Owner-Philadelphia Warriors of Roller Games-East Inc.

  13. You bring up LADD as being an exciting outlier in modern derby, but you have to acknowledge that the reason that their game is more exciting to watch is that they don’t use WFTDA rules, they use RDCL, which has an emphasis on being fun for the fans as well has the skaters.

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