what if Roller Derby controlled all the media sources?


It is ok if it is a benevolent dictatorship…..at least that was my justification.

Because I did……but such a different situation.

I know, with DNN gone, Leadjammer magazine and Blood and Thunder not printing (but going online), it doesn’t leave much choice in getting information on all skating, games, scores, upcoming events by USARS, RD banked track, MADE, Renegade, or even the multitude of WFTDA and affiliated leagues, and other forms of Derby.

When I started operating Roller Derby there was no cable, satellite, personal computers, social media, whatever you are so used to.

There were radio, newspapers, and television…..and except for New York and Los Angeles, never more than a handful of TV stations in a market.

We hit at exactly the right time: videotape (2 inch for broadcast) had just been developed and KTVU in SF/Oakland had a machine……so for our live telecasts on Sunday they would tape the last hour, which would be replayed the following Saturday morning, getting good ratings for the station and us a boost for the weekend games. And we didn’t have to pay the expensive pick up costs to videotape games.

And when we had a request to provide a tape for a station in Portland (KPTV), we found a sponsor to cover the cost from KTVU ($400!) and our syndication was under way. Within a few years we were on 120 stations in the US and Canada and shipping tapes and copies to all of them.

Of course we controlled the content within the tapes, having our own information (training schools, mailing lists, rules, promos for upcoming games throughout the US) and this was generally the only information the 15 million viewers weekly had about this game.

And we published the Roller Derby Reporter…..a monthly “house” journal of all the activities within the sport. I was publisher, need I say more?

Herb Michelson, an excellent sports reporter with the Oakland Tribune and AP, moonlighted as editor and writer. We had such fun with it, reporting on rule changes (well, maybe one) the Commissioners had decided on during the annual meeting in exotic locations (I believe 1970 was the Bahamas), and the skater of the month, the feuds within the league, the potential for games in Mexico and on and on.

But it was all in fun and aimed at promoting our profit-making (well, not all the time) play for pay enterprise. And believe or not, a number of newspapers were reporting our upcoming tours, scores and features.

Today there are so many ways to let the world know about Derby. Unfortunately, the best one to date has disappeared.

For those who think the best way to get your news out is to limit how it can be done, you are wrong.

Roller Derby is a DIY, maverick, cult, empowerment enterprise by tens of thousands of individuals……let us hope the gap will be filled.

PS. Scott Pio just informed me that Rollin’ News will soon be picking up the mantle soon…..I hope so……

420, Banana Slugs, blood, and great Derby


Santa Cruz in California is a place you have to go…..especially on Friday, August 29 (but if you can’t, there are alternatives, keep reading).

This is where much of mainland surfing began, years ago; and is about an hour south of where the world-famous Maverick competition is held.

It is also where 420 started – where people sit in an open space and smile and contemplate their navels.

The most casual campus of the University of California is here, and of course its teams are called the Banana Slugs, and their new athletic director Cliff Dochterman is a Roller Derby fan! (Invite him to your next game, Derby girls).

The town has great beaches and America’s best classic seaside amusement park…..it is 75 miles from San Francisco and just 32 miles from San Jose (the Bay Area’s largest city….bet you didn’t know that).

We used to play Derby there about once a month at the tiny Civic auditorium, and that is where the Santa Cruz Derby Girls skated, until the Kaiser Permanente Arena opened a few years back and now they consistently fill it with their great league play.

This league, which is ranked high among all leagues, has been at the forefront of so much in maintaining and growing Derby awareness in their community. They are part of almost all community projects and are featured consistently in local media (all of you should check what they have done and still do).

And two years ago they decided to work with the Red Cross with a blood drive, and they were so successful they become the model for the northern California blood drives with Brown Paper Tickets, the Red Cross, and the Roller Derby leagues. And last year the drives received enough donors to save 660 lives.

And this year the drive is under way with even more leagues (listed below), but on Friday, August 29, you can donate in Santa Cruz at Whole Foods, 911 Soquel, Capitola, from 8 am to 6 pm and of course the Santa Cruz Derby girls will be there, and many donating. As of this date, they have an amazing 52 registrations, and are hoping to break the Derby record of 60 sent a few weeks ago by Quad City in Livermore. What a great competition that saves lives!

Of course you want to go to the boardwalk, ride the classic rides, and take advantage of the beautiful weekend by the beach, and give blood….you may go to http://www.redcrossblood.org, enter “Derby” in the box and register for Santa Cruz or the other drives listed.

And hopefully this will become a national project next year with Brown Paper Tickets, Red Cross and all Derby leagues. Bob Noxious is checking on leagues, Val Capone (who else) has volunteered to be the Midwest project manager, and shortly we will let you know how to let us know your interest.

And here are the other Derby drives upcoming: Silicon Valley Roller Girls, Saturday, September 6, 9 am to 3 pm in San Jose; Faultline (ouch) Derby Girls, Saturday, September 20,10am to 3 pm, Hollister; Bay Area Derby Girls, Saturday, September 20, 10 am to 4 pm, San Francisco; Sonoma County Roller Derby, Saturday, September 20, Santa Rosa; Resurrection Derby girls – Saturday, October 18, 11 am to 4 PM, Cal Skate, Rohnert Park.

For exact locations: http://www.redcrossblood.org, “Derby”

Our goal is to save 1000 lives this year in Northern California….and am I donating? Of course, on September 20th.

Breaking News: All meet to work together to assure future of Roller Derby


I never thought it would happen, and I don’t know how they managed to keep it quiet…..there were so many involved.

It was at the Palmer House in Chicago Saturday and Sunday.

There were the heads of WFTDA, USARS, MADE, MRDA, JRDA (including Claire Ashcroft from the UK!), and a rep from Renegade Derby. And reps from Roller Derby in Australia, Canada, UK, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden and I am not sure where else. And of course April Ritzenhaler from TXRD and Demolicious from LADD.

Val wasn’t there, but I saw Juanna Rumbel; Jane Hammer and Demanda Riot; Suzy; Lara Irons (Hot Wheels); Sandi Mustang Johnson (the troublemaker): Elle Hoar (who has put together a regional league in Canada); Tony Muse; Justice Feelgood Marshall; Szerdi Nagy(South Africa); Angie Kls from France; Elektra Q Tion; Ivanna S Pankin; Brandy Rettig; Teresa TC Miller; Carly Marie; from original Derby: Loretta Behrens, Judy Arnold, Cliff Butler, John Hall, all of whom have worked in training modern Derby skaters (I guess Buddy Atkinson, Jr couldn’t make it); Debbie Rice, Mark Weber, and Quadzilla from Rollerjam and today, and more….sorry I can’t list you all.

and the purpose of the conference (believe it or not!): to all work together to present a combined front in 2015 so that the Game would work for all; leagues big and small, the fans, and of course, the skaters.

On hand to serve as chairwoman and chairperson: Mia Hamm and Andy Dolich. Mia of course brought women athletes to the forefront with her abilities in the Olympics (and did a lot for sports bras also). Andy, the former marketing and operating head for the Oakland Athletics, Golden State Warriors, and consultant to the 49ers now heads his own sports firm and has always recognized the potential of Roller Derby. And Marsha Jordan from ABC TV Chicago and other members of the press were there, including Robin Graves, Vic “Moxie”, Five on Five, and Hit and Miss, and Rollin’ News.

Also there as observers and possible contributors, Windyman, Bob Noxious, Judi Flowers,Erin “Lucy dynamite” Loggia, Donna “The Hot Flash” Kay,  Bill Yates, Frank Deford and others.

there was a general session on Saturday morning, defining the areas to be covered: rules, operating standards, marketing, officiating, and more. Then there were breakout sessions: Rules to try to combine the best (from the skaters and fans view) rules to make the game more accessible: should jams be 1 minute, 90 seconds, 2 minutes long? Should all skaters be permitted to block at all times? how could the rules be simplified for less penalties, should there be a limit on scoring an any play? Should there be different levels of rules depending on the quality of the leagues? As you can see, a very difficult agenda.

One group was dealing with the problem of supersaturation in market areas: could leagues be combined? should there be mini leagues in geographical areas to increase fan interest? and of course more.

Another was focused on marketing, ticket sales, and merchandising, with Bob Noxious and Judi Flowers and Andy Dolich lending their expertise.

There was a wonderful dinner in the Empire Room Saturday night, sponsored of course by Scott Riegelman of Riedell…..and everyone got along so well…there appeared to be great progress. There were to be two more breakout sessions on Sunday, and then the final gathering Sunday afternoon to try to present and vote on actual procedures to be put in place.

I was seated between Hot Wheels and Szerdi Nagy; suddently I couldn’t hear anything because of the incessant barking.

And that damn Bishop woke me up….

you are 79, whither thou skateth?


In spring of 1935 Leo Seltzer was having dinner in Ricketts restaurant with his managers from the walkathon he was operating. He had taken over the management of the Chicago Coliseum and was starting to book events in the historic arena: the site of many of Chicago’s shows and expositions, including the 1896 Democratic National Convention.

They were discussing what to book after the “walkie” ran its course in the summer. The building was not air conditioned (none were at that time) so there were no tenants looking for a place to book.

Leo had just read a factoid in the (now defunct) Literary digest: that over 90% of all Americans roller skated at some time in their life. “You know”, he said, “we could make a roller skating game.” The others scoffed: “Leo, that is the craziest idea you have ever had, and you have had a few”

So on August 13, 1935, he presented the first Roller Derby to Chicago and the world: a marathon on skates, a team a man and a woman, and the object over 30 days to skate across America (as pictured by a map on the wall with electric lights), and the first couple to achieve it would receive a prize of $500.

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/roller-skating-derby-in-new-york click link to see the original marathon.

So approximately 10 couples took off on a race to nowhere in a game that has evolved, survived several shutdowns, and today is played by almost 2000 women, men and junior leagues in 49 countries.

And very soon the game will be 79 years old and the birthday will be celebrated by leagues everywhere.

Rollercon this year showed the maturity of the modern game. (by the way, next year Rollercon will be 10, Roller Derby 80; how will Ivanna deal with the convergence?). Every day there were game after game, showing the diversity of the rules, the players, and enjoyed by all on hand.

But all is not serene in skateland. Those who have read my previous post and the comments of Sandi Mustang Johnson on her facebook page know that there is some discontent throughout the skate world. And all who participate should look at the problems, if you acknowledge there are any.

In the discussions generated by the previous postings, the following seem to be of the greatest concern:

1. The game had become boring to fans and spectators, and attendance was decreasing sharply in many areas.

2. As the sport keeps growing, there were too many leagues in compacted areas.

3. The smaller leagues were suffering because of the rankings, and perhaps the rules should be modified for leagues not in the top tier,

4. Perhaps there should be clear divisions, with the larger cities in the top tier, and the smaller in a lower tier, only completing amongst themselves.

And more, which you are welcome to add to.

Some skaters only want to train and skate games and do not want to be encumbered with fund raising, ticket selling, or concerned with the costs of presenting games to the public, which brings up the valid point, should many leagues even be in the “promoting” business. The examples of softball and soccer were brought up: why not just play for fun, not charge admission, and exist by the dues of the players and contributions by family, friends, and sponsors?

Obviously some leagues are doing well, and can sell tickets and merchandise and get sponsorships so they can support travel teams, etc. But others complain of difficulty in scheduling because of venue availability, other leagues in the area playing the same dates, and when the emphasis is on the travel team, the lesser players – who pay their dues and fulfill all the functions – have a lesser role.

At 79 reality is really settling in……should there be a quick rule modification to satisfy skaters and fans (unlikely), should leagues in compacted areas merge? Should you consider other rule sets?

If you are facing any of the problems stated, or know others, it may be the right time to try to come up with solutions. Some leagues in Canada and Australia have formed regional leagues to help with scheduling and meaningful competition. Some players (V-Diva from the Philly Roller girls) have formed independent teams to go around and play other rule sets, and some like Teresa TC Mueller and her cohorts have formed Detour Derby, a no drama, no cost to players event that occurs once a week in Colorado….and on and on. And let us not forget the LA Derby Dolls and TXRD for making the skaters and fans happy.

If survival without stress is a concern, take some time to look at your options.

Happy Birthday.