Banked track, flat track

Maybe people are choosing up sides unnecessarily.

I am amazed at how inflammatory the subject is.  So I will try to discuss it in a rational manner.

Obviously Roller Derby evolved as a banked track game and was enjoyed by millions, albeit many times as an exhibition.  We, the management and the skaters, never even thought of it as possible to be skated on a flat surface.  So we were proved wrong, as almost 700 leagues around the world are doing it successfully today.  And if the game is skated by skilled players before two evenly matched teams, it is very exciting.

Image by Mary LaVenture

However, that doesn’t mean that banked track skating should be dismissed, because it isn’t going to be.  As many leagues as can afford it and can figure out the logistics of storing, setting up, training, more will keep appearing.  I am very interested in what the response will be to the banked track skating game in Chicago on December 11 and I am certain to hear from the players and spectators.

My belief is that the game on the bank is a better game for the spectators and maybe for the players; they can go faster and use the physics of the track to their advantage.  It definitely creates a more focused arena; remember, I was a promoter and always judged what the audience would appreciate to make the game much more of an event.  There is little doubt in my mind that when professional women’s Roller Derby is presented to the public it will be on a banked track.

Does that mean that flat track derby is doomed?  Of course not.  Many leagues will never be able to play in an arena large enough or cost efficient enough to play the other game.  And the more that Roller Derby is seen by the public (witness what happened when “Whip It” which was filmed on a banked track came out), then all leagues should be even more successful.  I personally never want to see what brought my family’s game back in such a great way disappear.

Many of the current skaters who have other professions want to keep things the way they are; they would not consider joining professional skating teams.  Others will want to.  And unlike when we promoted Roller Derby, there are thousands of skaters out there who not only know how to skate, but even more importantly know the strategy of playing this very complex contest.
From my point of view I think it will be so important for everyone to see how empowering this game is to women, who are playing a rough contact sport where the rules have not been altered for them.  But it is also a necessity, as far as I am concerned, that some kind of acknowledgment or even compensation be set up for the existing leagues, much as the minor league systems now work for baseball.

The majority of cities will never see the new development, but they can certainly benefit from it.  Obviously – and here is another sore point – the rules will probably have to be altered, but the game will remain the same legitimate sport all of women have created, at a great cost of time, money and effort.

Think of the excitement of major league teams of what will eventually be an international league.

The above is what I think will happen;  I of course (as a promoter) have guessed wrong more times than not, but this fastest growing sport cannot be ignored any longer.  If it ends up flat track, that is fine by me.  Ultimately whoever creates the professional game will decide.  If it does occur, I will do my best and whatever influence I have to make certain that those of you who have worked so hard not be forgot.

So let me know how you think it will roll.

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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

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 ( 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

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.

after 75 what?

I have taken a break from writing for a while.

Saturday night was amazing.  The National Roller Derby Association had a 75th anniversary function at the Clarion Hotel at the SF Airport to honor all the wonderful skaters and personnel from the start until today.


Photo by East Bay Roller Derby


It was the first dinner that I had attended that had both the original skaters and today’s participants. Because the Bay Area Derby Girls were skating in San Diego they couldn’t attend, and the Silicon Valley Roller Girls were also competing.  On hand were representatives from Chico, from East Bay Roller Derby and from Sugartown (Oxnard CA) Roller Derby.  Interestingly enough, all the Roller Girls (who were dressed up and gorgeous) sat on the left side of the room, and on the right side (also dressed up and gorgeous) were the skaters, fans, and family from the first 40 years.

Representing the players from the ’30s was Mary Youpelle, who skated as “Pocahontas” Youpelle – there was no worry about politically correct in those days.  Mary is part native American.  She took the microphone and chided today’s skaters for using toe stops.  “They are for dancing, not for Roller Derby.”  She also gave instructions on wheels, suspensions and bearings.  Once a Roller Derby Star, always one.

Carole “Peanuts” Meyer had recently had knee surgery, but she was there with Mark and the rest of her family.  Bomber women’s captain Margie Laszlo came up from Las Vegas with the irrepressible  Loretta “little Iodine” Behrens.  All the greats who lived nearby including Eddie Krebs, Jan Vallow and more attended, as well as Pete Boyd from New York and many more.  I am doing a disservice by not naming all.    And of course Cliff Avery (Butler), who along with Karlos Ray, “Blades” Gallagher, Georgia Haase and Bob put together the whole awards program and music.


Photo by Coach Kutthroat Chico


So what was the purpose?  The NRDA is preparing for the next step: training skaters on the banked (and flat) track for a professional career, even though none is available now for a fully legitimate game.  The Sugartown Derby Girls raised over $25,000 and are building their banked track in Oxnard.  Soon a number of leagues will be following.  And I understand that Judy Sowinski is doing the same in Philadelphia.

The ultimate purpose is to provide a professional outlet for those who want it, and hopefully help support the amateur leagues in existence.  It is apparent that funding is required for all of the leagues and although some can make it on their own now because of the ability to draw sufficient crowds in their facilities to bear some of the league costs, but they represent a miniscule amount of the total leagues.  And there is a catch 22 here:  to move the large arenas and to promote the matches sufficient to get a large crowd requires a large amount of money.

This fact is why I feel some major promoters who see the future of this game will step up when they realize how successful this game can be given the proper exposure.

The evening ended with Anti Social bringing her team across the room as well as Sugartown and the other Roller girls on hand to meet and mix with the prior generations of skaters.  And they all agreed that Roller Derby was the greatest thing in their life.  Today’s Roller Derby may be very different than my father envisioned, but it is wonderful as are the people in it and the hundreds of thousands who follow it world wide and on the Derby News Network and all the other media outlets and social networks.

It is doubtful if I will be around for the 100th anniversary, but most of you will, and you can look back and say I was a part of it or I helped support it so it could continue to prosper and grow.


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