Roller Derby is a game on skates

This week I am scheduled for an interview on a CBS TV network program called “Through the Decades”.  It will be part of the whole program which will be seen on CBS stations throughout the country around the 13th of August, the date of the very first Roller Derby in Chicago in 1935.

History has been a problematic topic in current roller derby, all amateur composed of 2000 women and men and junior leagues throughout the world.  Some (and boy have I run into them!) believe derby is modern, created by women around a table in Texas in about 2002; Others glory in the history, even though in most cases it is a far different game.

Now the reason this TV program came about is because a wonderful group in the Chicago area got most of the leagues together last year for World Roller Derby Week, a celebration based on the history of the game in Chicago; there was a public display and skating at the Coliseum Park, what is remaining of the original arena, and a contest skated with juniors and then adults at a skating rink.  And Barb Morgen of Brown Paper Tickets PR working with Jane and Cheryl and the others got almost Super Bowl coverage in Chicago and throughout the US on TV, Radio and on line media, and the result was a blood drive with the Red Cross that set a record of our 30 drives with Roller Derby leagues of almost 200 lives saved.

And that is why Decades is interested this year.  The history is an asset.

So yes Virginia, there was a Roller Derby in 1935 and up until 1973 and it was skated on skates, originally with maple wheels on a banked track.

As the game evolved Leo and Oscar Seltzer wanted to make certain the players had skates designed for the games; they founded the Roller Derby Skate Company and even after I took over the stewardship of the enterprise in 1959, that is all we used.  Then Oscar developed a urethane wheel and that changed the game.  The skates were costly; if the skaters had to replace a pair and break in a new one (they hated that worse than anything), we had to pay $27 for a new pair.

After we shut down Roller Derby in 1973. the skate company continued to grow; it was now run by Oscar’s son, Ed Seltzer, who was a physicist graduate of Cal Tech.  They developed the first outdoor shoe skate for kids (the Street King; I actually sold the first pairs to a retailer in Southern California) and produced skate boards, hockey and in line skates, ice skates and more, and are in retailers throughout the world under various brand names.

But what did Ed miss?  The re-emergence of Roller Derby.  I called him immediately after the first Rollercon, but they were doing so well and others in the company saw no need to enter the field, that they missed out for the first years.

But then they found Tony Muse, who some (me) consider the best speed and derby skater in the world.  Now what many don’t know is that the Roller Derby Skate Company has patents and they are the only one that can have Roller Derby Skates as the title; also, they have the exclusive rights for the name on merchandise but Ed chose never to enforce that (good move!).

So some of the upcoming women’s World Cup leagues will be using the Roller Derby Elites, and about half of the USA Men’s Cup team will be wearing them….I have examined the skates, and against the competition, they are a great value.  And I have nothing to do with or no interest in the company…..

So I guess this is an endorsement of my friend Tony and his co workers; and I love to see Roller Derby Skates as a part of the sport as a further tribute to Leo and Oscar.

And if the history bothers you, what a shame.


after 2012, what?

OK, so “Derby Baby” is out soon, there is talk about considering Derby for the Olympics (I wouldn’t be too excited… would be a long ways off), and from what I have seen, this looks like a great start to the year.

I know some of the great players retire every year, but a greater number are showing up, and  a star from Colorado did so at the Doll House last night.

Those of you with four or five years experience really know the game now, and are aware of the need for conditioning, diet, practice, and a great lifestyle.

And I often hear from those of you who say things are just fine as they are now; you want the rules to remain the same, to have the costumes and fun and after parties.  And nothing is stopping you.

And please all realize that.  There is no need for a great unification of style of play….no need for ownership.  If you want to flat track, go backwards, renegade, MADE, OSDA – that is your prerogative.   And one of the first things I heard after it was released that Roller Derby was being considered in 2013 for the 2020 Olympics was “we don’t like the rule set they will be playing”.

Will you still be playing in 2020?  And if you think there is a possibility of getting in before 2024, you are dreaming.   And you think all current rules will remain constant for 12 years?  Relax and enjoy the games……and you are not the ones that this post is addressing.

For those of you who are serious athletes and competitiors, I offer the following:

1.  It is time to associate with a league that is going to skate on a banked track, and I would love to see that happen in New York, Philly, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco………it will allow the teams and skaters to progress at a accelerated rate……all who want to skate flat track should continue… is a different game.

2.  Get serious about what you wear at your games.  Uniforms that are really professional, with numbers on back (not #1), your real name on the back and a dynamite design.  I strongly suggest Roll Models,  go to, click on Roll models link…..they do a lot of other sports and quite a number of Derby Leagues.

3.  Really get your PR and Marketing going full tilt to attract new skaters, and especially a larger audience so you have the funds to work with.  And most of you need to skate more home matches (more games, more concessions, more merchandise,  more revenue)……

4.  Do not play teams that you can beat up….may be good for rankings, terrible for paying audience….they want to see contests.

Now realize you don’t have to do any of the above.  Obviously this is what I and a few others would like to see.  By the way, I make no money from selling banked tracks or uniforms.  I just want the game and you to be as professional as possible.

Please don’t bitch and moan at me……one-sided games are  fine, not-ready-skate-players are fine, tattered uniforms, fine, bad attendance fine, keeping your league hidden, fine.  1 game a month, fine……I just don’t think it is the way to go.

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.

keeping Kitt Track busy

Kitt Track sent me a message on facebook today.

Demand for his banked track is accelerating, and he is on his 13th and feels he will have 20 by the end of the year.  And they are all over, none from the major cities (outside of LA), but somehow the leagues are able to get the funds and get them done.  I know Everett, Washington, has one and they have had very successful attendance in the local arena in really a small market.

Photo by Afonso Lima from

Skating on a banked track requires much different technique than flat track, and my concern is that skaters are taught properly, as it is faster and requires more skill than other kinds of skating, but can be much easier on the legs and body parts.  Skaters from hundreds of miles away are flocking to Philadelphia to learn under the tutelage of Roller Derby great Judy Sowinsky and Skip Schoen, and one of the major flat track leagues is learning on the banked track and they know it will  help` immeasurably for flat track.

I would like to suggest to OSDAPRO and NRDA that they produce a 10 or 15 minute video (or even longer) and provide it at a reasonable cost to the new banked track leagues on the proper training techniques.   And believe me, they are very, very difficult but worthwhile.

I heard today from one of the members of a mens league, and I suggested that if he has the opportunity he learns to train on a banked track.  He said his league is standing by their sisters and won’t do it.

I am an advocate for all styles of Roller Derby.  Don’t be close minded.  Anything you can learn or do better is of benefit to your game.

The Commissioner