Frank Deford could have destroyed us…the crazy times


Roller Derby was different from other sports…..we were outliers; so our rules toward press, etc were not deferential, because we got so little outside press.

So when Frank Deford from Sports Illustrated got permission to go on the road when we did our annual winter tour, I called the skaters together.  I said don’t get chummy, be careful what you say or do; this is America’s most prestigious sports magazine and we won’t get chances like this again…they all acknowledged, and shook their heads.

Now Frank who just passed away -America’s greatest sportswriter –  and I became lifelong friends but we weren’t at that time in 1968.  He didn’t tell what happened for years, but now here in his own words:

“Unlike other professional athletes, Roller Derby skaters were unaware that you should play up to a writer from a national magazine; rather, they felt no compunction about embarrassing me.  One of the most prominent skaters – let’s call him Tom – was obviously gay, and late one night in Minneapolis, when I was seated with several skaters in a dark hotel bar after a game, he made a move on me.  It was duly noted by those in attendance. As the plot would have it, I had already arranged to ride alone with Tom to Duluth the next day. Also duly noted.”

“When the game began in the packed Duluth arena, I was seated by myself at the press table. After only a jam or two, the Bay Bombers called time out and skated over to a position just above me. There, a cappella, led by their fabled captain, Charlie O’Connell, they looked down upon me and sweetly sang, “Here comes the bride.”

“I was mortified, but then it dawned on me that none of the baffled Duluth patrons understood what was going on, so I blew kisses to the Bombers, and the game resumed.”

Frank didn’t reveal the story until 40 years later, thankfully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rollercon 2015: banked track, 3 birthdays, ending Roller Derby Wars


I have really been remiss in posting here….but so much going on.

Going to my seventh Rollercon, certainly a highlight of the year. It is no secret I loved banked track Derby; after all my family started it, I grew up with it and it was the game when we became a national favorite, sneaking up on established sports with over 15 million watching on television weekly, and over 3,000,000 attending games yearly.

All Leo Seltzer wanted was his game to survive, become a nationally played sport, and be in the Olympics. When he died in 1978 he no longer even talked about it. His creation had disappeared.

And then you all came around…..starting from one league in Texas (that word is kind of misused; they actually had, and still do, 4 teams in TXRD), and transferred to flat track by one very creative league (Texas Rollergirls) till today when there are 1853 listed leagues in the world. (check out the amazing website by Sam Santos, http://www.derbylisting.com).

So that brings us to Rollercon, which has to be the mecca for everyone in the game to journey at least once…..over 5000 from virtually everywhere will cram the Westgate in Las Vegas July 22 till 26, all created by Ivanna S. Pankin and friends. (get down on your knees and give thanks). And check out the master schedule at Rollercon.com for whatever you want to do.

9 tracks this year for training and games and one banked track! And the most amazing games ever are scheduled…..most are created for the event, and you might learn a lot from that fact alone. Skaters regardless of rule set, age, or geography playing for fun. Have you lost the fun in the game? Is it less fun for spectators to pay and watch? That may be one of the most important considerations for your team, league, whatever.

Bob Noxious and I will go there in our marketing seminar Friday at 1:30 at Rollercon….not just advertising, promotion, ticketing, but making your games events…..and fun!

And there really are more than three birthdays, but the especially noticeable ones are Rollercon and WFTDA’s 10th year, and the 80th birthday of the game itself. We will celebrate it at the Brown Paper Ticket booth on Thursday the 23rd at 3:30 with cake and juice, and stars of the past: Judy Arnold, Frank Macedo, and Hiroshi Koizumi on hand, and some stars of today: the immortal Merby Dick Roche, who at 75 is in his fifth year with his team (league?). There will be some surprises on hand also.

The game is thriving, but in reality the world doesn’t know or fully accept it. Instead of fighting amongst the rule sets, why not all join in figuring a way to really broaden the base to the general public and make certain that what you are presenting can be appealing to a non-derby affiliated audience. Unfortunately, when you are charging admission, you are competing with other forms of entertainment, and to survive you have to keep the fans you have and grow the attendees. as I said, Bob and I will address that as part of the larger picture.

This is more than a game to the majority of you; you are not paid, you sacrifice your time and money. But the huge reward is a world that most do not know or understand, a kinship that extends far beyond the game, team or league. Somehow you must let the world see that.

And please come by the booth and give The Commissioner a hug. It is what keeps me going and coming back.

Derby News


IN THE NEWS:

jerryPioneer

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Shanghaied Roller Doll turned referee, Scars Volta, sports much of the racy attire associated with Roller Derby including colorful tattoos, a tight fitting uniform and unique eyewear. Her job on the track is serious though as safety is the number one concern of