thoughts on the start of the 12th year of Modern Roller Derby


The first actual game was in June 2002 by TXRD.  And because April Ritzenhaler (La Muerta) had just come out of boxing training, the name they gave to these matches was “bout”.

I first became aware of the growing sport in 2005, when I met Val (sigh) Capone and the members of the fledgling Windy City Rollers at the 70th anniversary celebration of my father’s creation.

After that I was hooked.

Like all sons of gods I really wanted to see the game recreated in the original image, but I have learned that what you are doing – in the various rule sets – has made it your own, and I accept that.  I don’t think it is a big secret that I like a fast skilled game (preferably on a banked track) and it certainly is trending that way.

But what this post is really about is who I have met and interacted with along the way, and the effect that it has had on me.  Please don’t get upset if I don’t mention or acknowledge you; I always write this whole thing by memory as that is just the way I write.  So feel free to comment or yell at me.

First of all, remember my original role with Derby:  the owner-promoter from 1960 to 1973 who employed (all) of the very talented men and women in the International Roller Derby League.  And we were hugely successful in terms of attendance, television ratings etc.

But today is different, and in this environment we are all equal (am I being presumptuous in including me in that statement?).  So many of you have become great friends and what you do both on and off the track has brought happiness to me and many others.  The Bay Area Derby Girls making me feel such a part of what they were doing and even acknowledging me in their program; the WFTDA allowing me to say a few words before the nationals in Portland and the other courtesies shown me.

Both the Denver Roller Dolls and RMRG who made my trip to their city so memorable (and the indomitable P J Shields who coolly staged the greatest Colorado rescue of the century) when lst Bank Center became the Dolls home; Rose Columbo and Tom and all the others who brought me to Philly to see OSDA on a banked track (still there!), and how the original game with men and women could work today, and Ms Evanstone of the Philly Roller Girls who let me help them find a new venue.

And how all of you responded, raising tens of thousands of dollars from around the world to pay for surgeries and care for Lori Milkeris whose skating career ended when she was so brutally beaten, almost to death (see I Like Women post on my blog), and that Rhea responded immediately to start “Derby against Domestic Violence” on facebook to bring help to those in abusive situations; over 2000 belong today and you should also (and don’t forget about “Blockers, not bullies”).

And Donna”thehotflash”Kay who although with medical problems that would crush others (especially at age 56)  just keeps trucking and wants to help all in Roller Derby get a sense of value about themselves and their behavior; and because of her there is now “Derby over 40” on facebook, with an amazing array of women (and men) who are still skating -almost 1500 members-and talking about it and giving advice to each, a number in their 60s and a few 70-year olds!

I should devote a whole page to at least two very influential organizations that really helped and crystallized the growth and acceptance of Derby around the world (1418 leagues, 41 countries).  First Hurt Reynolds and his wife and all the others at http://www.derbynewsnetwork.com who certainly have not made a fortune out of their efforts to bring dozens of games each month, not only from the US but from Canada, UK, Australia and I don’t know how they do it.  And they have shown WFTDA and USARS  and whatever they can to help the game grow.  As a friend, I ask you to support them.

OK, now let’s talk about Ivanna and Trish and all who have made Rollercon the centerpoint for Derby.  The concept of bringing 5000 people together to live, skate, learn, seminar, party, get married (I’ve done it twice, and will once again this July) is such a logistical nightmare to me that it boggles the mind.  Realize, I put on over 3000 Roller Derby games in the US, Canada, and Mexico; booked concerts for the Dick Clark review, Willie, Waylon, the Highwaymen, Merle Haggard, the Smothers Brothers, etc and booked and presented trade shows; and knowing what I know, you have no concept of what is involved in putting this extravaganza on in both the US, Australia , and soon in Europe.

Rollercon is really the University of Roller Derby; it brings all of you together, and not only do you learn about skating from the best, but you meet and learn from each other (the best part!), regardless of style of skating, rulesets, etc.  And they keep adding tracks (I believe 5 last year) and remember, if you have to wait to skate, that is just the way it is…..you can only squeeze so much toothpaste out of a tube.  Please make the commitment to go to Rollercon if you haven’t already….it will make you jump start your ability (with Quadzilla (my friend from Rollerjam days), Bonnie, Suzy and all the others with years of knowledge and ability who are teaching you, and make you appreciate the game even more.  More importantly, say hello to the Commissioner who will also be leading a seminar.

Image by RAWKU5 from stock.xchng.com

Image by RAWKU5 from stock.xchng.com

Others who leap out at me:  Jessica Wendling, amazing woman from Alabama; Ten Gauge Rachel Rage; Fernando Leguero, the professional soccer star from Mexico who is bringing so much to Windy City and our game; all of the women from my home team, Resurrection Roller Girls; the wonderful women of Gotham, Oly, LA Derby Dolls who have brought the national attention to our game; April, of course; Swede Hurt; Erin “Lucy D” Dynamite who has brought her great artistry and design to our game.  Victorian Roller Derby, Far North Roller Derby, Sonoma County Roller Derby, London Roller Derby, Toronto and Montreal, Tel Aviv, Sacred City, LA Derby Dolls and their new and more exciting version of banked track Derby,  and on and on.  And of course, Far North Roller Derby in Alaska who are leaving a ticket and a Commissioner’s chair at every game!

And Roller Derby has several shrines:  The National Roller Derby Hall of Fame in New York (covering earlier Derby), the Roller Derby collection at the University of Texas in Austin: and Seltzer Park, located in Seaside Oregon right on the Pacific Ocean.

AJ from Vancouver who is going to succeed in getting Derby on TV; Cliff Butler, who can train you like no one else except for John Hall; Larissa leaven; my beautiful Pia Mess, Misty Greer; Atomatrix; Suzy, of course; Raw Heidi;  Bar Elder; Brandy Rettig, Lara (hot wheels) Irons, the wonderful and brave women of CaiRoller Derby, daring to bring the game to Egypt.  I have to stop and I apologize to all of the friends I am pissing off; just send me comments.

And USARS for honoring my family by naming their Championship trophy “The Seltzer Cup”

I have to acknowledge Donalei Erie especially, and the other photographers (except for one) who are so good and professional at what they do that you should acknowledge them and support them because they are doing it for the love of the game.

Many great writers following the game:  my favorite “Windyman”.  And of course Matt Faure.

And the magazines that are so professional:  Blood and Thunder, Lead Jammer UK (had to list those first, since I have columns), Five on Five, Hit and Miss, and the others out there also on line.

And the announcers; without their skill and sense of fun the game is much less (and remember, no other sport (I hope) has Dumptruck!)

of course the NSOs and officials, and PR and all other volunteers and those who make the sport work.

And those outside who work with Derby:  first of all Scott Riegelman and the great people at Riedell.  Not only do they have a great product but their sponsorships at Rollercon and elsewhere are their symbol of giving back.  And I know Scott does a lot more that you don’t know about in supporting skating.

The people at Atom wheels who have been particularly kind to me (and the owner gave us his wife -that sounds terrible- Atomatrix), and they also have a great shoe product now.

And Doug Martin of Roll Models (www.competeteamoutfitters.com) who wants to bring the professional uniforms he provides to other major sports to Roller Derby – designed by Derby women -and has quietly served almost 100 leagues so far.

And to Drew Barrymore who unknowlingly brought the sport to so many people who were not aware of the modern game.

And to Robin Bond, David Wruck and Ron Patrick who made the glorious “Derby Baby” with their own funds.  Please book it on a large screen in your city if you haven’t already, and certainly get the dvd.

And of course, Brown Paper Tickets (www.brownpapertickets.com).  I know, I joined them after almost 40 years of being a pioneer in computerized ticketing, but this is why:  they provide the best service to you at no cost; a 99 cent  service charge to your fans (plus minimal credit card fee); they have a dedicated person, Bob Noxious, who will work with you on helping your league, regardless if you are a customer or not.  They will help you with promotion and advice, help you to find a venue, provide paperless ticketing if you want! (imagine being able to tell the audience at a game that they can go to their cell phones and order tickets for the next game!), do season ticketing.  And 24 hour client service for you.

William Jordan and Steve Butcher are to be commended in creating a ticket service that is not just a huge profit center with service charges and imbuing this spirit throughout their whole worldwide organization.  And Sten Iverson will answer any of your quesstions at client services.

They don’t care how many tickets you sell on the system, so put your league on, let the fans know that you are with one of the largest, most accessible ticket providers in the world….they can order by phone (for just 99 cents), talk to operators in English, Spanish and French,and can service your league anywhere in the world. And the President and CEO are determined to keep this a buyer friendly, fair trade company.  They donate 5% of the service charge to community and charity organizations.  And they serve far more leagues than any other service.

Now you understand why I am with them, although I do not handle Roller Derby.

Every day more and more people are learning about what you are doing.  As Bonnie D. Stroir says, it has gone from people asking about Roller Derby to do you skate with them.  The game is here to stay; now you have to realize that you must continue the good community works and all skate like the big girls do (although Junior Roller Derby will change the game radically in 5 to 7 years).  The world will finally realize just how major a sport this is; some of you don’t want that, but the great part about the way the game has grown is that is for you to choose.

Another Derby year gone?


Not quite, you have the USARS championship for the Seltzer Cup coming up December 14th and 15th (on DNN?) in Fresno…..hope if you are nearby you will come……makes no difference what game you play, it is Derby and deserves all of our support.  And Oly will be there in the field.

Image by pawel_231 from stock.xchng.com.

Image by pawel_231 from stock.xchng.com.

I will be watching DNN and WFTDA.tv during the month and see what is going on around the Bay Area.  And then we have 2013 and the whole process starts again.

Not that it is important, but as a promoter, I ask the following of all of you:

1.  Train as hard and as often as you can. I know the difficulty of just being able to skate with all that is going on in your life, but those who were able to see the Championships in person or on WFTDA.tv realize what a giant step it is to get to the top twenty, and that is what you should strive for even if it can’t happen.

2.  Make your league more skilled in the game itself.  So many times in games I have watched players seemingly out of position and not prepared to block to help or stop jammers, and when the jammers just fly by it certainly looks like a lack of skill…..hoped you watched the pack play of  the Gotham Girls in the finals.  If you can get the archive tape, do so.

Image by datarec from stock.xchng.com.

Image by datarec from stock.xchng.com.

3.  Avoid injuries at all costs.  Broken legs, huge bruises, damaged coccyx’s are not badges of honor.  Most are avoidable.  Should you wear tights, have a butt pad, whatever?  And the better your skill, the less likely you are to hurt someone else or yourself.  And don’t allow an underskilled player to participate in a game.

4.  Try and figure a way to get more games so that everyone in your league who pays and practices gets a chance to participate in real game action…..whether they are scrimmages, or private, or unsanctioned, everyone is in it to play Roller Derby!  Remember, they even do that in Little League.  It is more important to compete than to win!

Image by johnnyberg from stock.xchng.com.

Image by johnnyberg from stock.xchng.com.

5.  Make each game meaningful…..can you establish a local “conference” of at least six teams so that there is a reason for fans to come back or to get new fans.

There is a lot more, but stop with the preaching already.

Any of the many training camps that are offered will be great for you.  And for god’s skate, come to Rollercon.  There is so much for you besides just hugging the Commissioner.  Ask those who just attended the first one in Australia.

All of the above will help get the game worldwide up to a universal standard of excellence.  Then just watch what happens.

Now in 2013 I am entering a new decade for me that might be terrifying for most people, but I am so excited and you all are largely responsible.

unsung heroes and not sung enough about heroes


Nature abhors a vacuum.

Photo from stock.xchng.com by Ove Tøpfer.

And when they have occurred in Roller Derby unselfish people jump in to fill them.

We all know this game is a disease; when it grabs you it just won’t let you go.  In no way am I aware of all of you who give your time and effort and sweat and blood for no other reason that it is what you want to do, without looking for excessive reward.

And the first thing that comes to my mind is what the Seales have brought to the table.  How many of you think you are entitled to watch great Roller Derby from Boston, Chicago, London, Australia and the countless American cities that Derby News Network brings to you every week on DNN?  They and their ill-paid compatriots have done more to let people see what is going on than anyone.  I was in television production and distribution back in the day, but this whole idea of carrying everything on their backs and making connections so that you and I can sit at our computer or iphone and watch the top teams in the world play is something we certainly take for granted, without giving much thought to how Dumptruck, Val, Tara and the technical people often jump in their cars and drive thousands of miles so you won’t be disappointed.

And we all learn from these telecasts:  how the game should be played and what should not be part of Roller Derby.  They help all to understand the strategy, the speed, the conditioning that are necessary, and the game becomes the same wherever it is played.

And the Seales are not making a fortune and have sacrificed so much to make this happen.  In their case, Derby Love is almost not enough.  When you get a chance, go to their website, see what they have to offer and even help with their fundraising if you can.  To have this kind of TV coverage is not a right, but a privilege.  God Bless all connected with DNN.

There is an enigmatic soul in Virginia who goes by the name of cat of nine tails.   If you try to friend her (as I did) you will end up with a new friend in Australia who is a dominatrix and an erotic performer…..well friends are friends.

As basically a marketer I find that www.derbyroster.com is an invaluable site.   You find how many amateur leagues there are in the world (as of this moment, 977) and an encyclopedic cross section of indices that let’s you see every league’s websites, how many different governing bodies, men’s leagues, flat track, banked track, etc, etc.  I ask all to look at this site often and utilize it.  You are in Bumfrick, Albania, and you want the media to pay attention?  Hell, we are part of the fasted growing sport in the world so don’t ignore us…..just go to www.derbyroster.com and see how big our brethren are in London, New York, South Africa, Israel, Brazil France, Germany, Australia, etc.  And I have spoken to this lady who does all of this, and if she wants to be known, she will be.  We have our own Google because of her.    Please send her a message on that site and let her know how much you love what she is doing.

There are dozens more to be appreciated, and I hope to hear from all of you who are publishing, taking photos, putting yourselves into producing fun and serious items for your sisters and brothers, but I have to address the people behind Rollercon.

How can you create something that incorporates both West Point and Disneyland?  Why start Rollercon of course.   Ivanna and all the others who have given so many hours to create this monstrosity of an event, with 27 pages of skating instructions, ref training, announcer bellowing, and seminars on everything that could possibly be of interest to anyone associated with Roller Derby is a herculean task.  And adding the hosting facility, the meals, the parties and the dynamics of coordination for 5 days of activities that go from early morning to late at night is mind boggling.  And each year it gets done and this year was the best!  Thousands of people doing what they came to do at a very reasonable price.  So are these people going to rest until next year?  No, they have already started for next year and,  just for fun, are adding London and Australia as new venues.

So of course if you haven’t done so, let the Rollerconites know what you think.  In just a few years it has grown from a grass-roots event to a very finished product, and that doesn’t just happen.

Kudos to the Seales, the mystery woman, and to the people behind Rollercon.  If this is what being underground means, then there is nothing wrong with it.

To subscribe free to my blog, go to subscribe at the upper right of this page and enter your email address.  There are now 115 postings to this blog and I hope at some point you will read the earlier ones and let me know what you think.

Should we go ahead?


This might be getting boring to those who are not affiliated with Roller Derby, but before I go back to other topics I have to write about one that is really concerning me.

Photo by Warley Rossi from stock.xchng.com

We all get excited about publicity and breakthroughs with the amazing game and people connected with it.  Some of the journalists and TV producers get it others don’t.  The article on the front page of the Sports section of the L. A. Times semi-got it:  Chris Hawkins reported on the game, but still had to get the question in about the legitimacy.  I wish all of these writers would do a little more research on the sport.  Marsha Jordan of  WLS-ABC Chicago really got it, and she was a fan of the classic game.  She covered the Nationals, featuring the Windy City Rollers (Chicago, of course), but managed to get excellent interviews of why the women are in the game and what it means to them.  I hope you all read the article and saw the ABC Chicago piece.

How can we all get together and form a unified product that can be presented on a national basis. interestingly enough, there is already a national TV network (Derbynewsnetwork.com) that could be easily integrated into am existing cable network (ESPN, Fox, Comcast, Versus, etc) that would get viewers.  If all cities compiled who their sponsors are and what success they have had, it would be a compelling document (and I mean to get real money for sponsorship, not just trade for merchandise).  There should be promoter involvement, as there already is with Live Nation for the RMRG and AEG-LIVE for the Denver Roller Dolls.  Boise also has a promoter, and I am certain there are others out there.  We also should know total paid attendance per month in the US as a selling point to show the national impace.

I would gladly work with the WFTDA, the OSDA, the Men’s leagues and whomever else to make it happen.  It is time, and if the current participants do not do it in some form, some smart people out there will take the concept and run with it, and it may end up again as an exhibition and a lost opportunity.

I also believe that in the long run the game in the major cities and arenas will be skated on the banked track.  There are so many advantages to doing it, and not because that is what I did.  The game is faster, actually safer (falling on the masonite is a bit like a trampoline, and the rails can be used to protect) and more spectator friendly.  I am not advocating the abandoning of the flat track game, that would be impossible for many of the leagues.  However with funding and more money available to the leagues and the participants, the expense would not be as much of a factor. We solved the storage factor by having the arenas we skated continuously buy their own tracks and set them up.

Maybe this concept is impossible now.  Initially it may have to be flat track only; however television is fickle, and if the best presentation by the best athletes is not available, there would have to be a great love of the game for it to continue in an expanded form, without any of you losing control of what you have created.

Photo by Quil from stock.xchng.com

Please give feedback and I would like to hear from those who would like to at least discuss Roller Derby going forward together, and how it should be accomplished.  I think all of you know you can post a comment here or on my facebook page.

2011 can be an amazing year.