why can’t sport be entertaining?

I think it has to be to succeed.

In professional wrestling they used to have “shooting matches” where one of the showmen wrestlers would challenge another and engage in “real” wrestling, untimed……thereby having one  of the combatants keep a hold for fifteen or twenty minutes in order to wear his opponent down. Generally these matches were done in private because they would be boring to a live audience.

And then for the scheduled matches they would go out with all their staggering, fakery, hurts, etc, often having razor blades hidden so they could cut themselves and show the fans bleeding warriors.

It has changed little today except for complex story lines written by hired hands, just like a TV drams.

Well, the roller skating game has gone through those kinds of cycles and it actually continues to exist in some areas.  But this is not the game that Leo Seltzer or any of us want to see today with the tens of thousands of skaters around the world sacrificing so much for the fun of this sport created 77 years ago and brought back to life in Texas with the first “bout” in 2002.

Now April Ritzenhaler (La Muerta) was one of the originals with TXRD, and they are staying pretty much on the original path they created:  banked track, a legitimate game but with fun bells and whistles that people keep coming back to see.  They have been more or less successful for the past ten years and plan to release their ruleset to all to those who want to skate their style.  Talk to April sometime, an amazing holistic woman.  I am not crazy about these activities, but they do seem to work in Austin.

Texas Roller Girls split off from TXRD, went flat track and pretty much established the rules of the WFTDA.

And then of course there is MADE, which utilizes the original game rules, MRDA which is close to WFTDA, and USARS which has taken a bit from each, and OSDA and banked track skating under several rulesets.

I was speaking with one of the greats who on the sly skated a USARS game.  And she felt the game would be skated more by schools, clubs etc because it is too fast and grueling for most of the WFTDA people.  Personally, I find that hard to believe……it still is no where as grueling as the original game.  Of course these were professional paid athletes who skated over 200 games per year.

And then there is the Renegades game which doesn’t seem to have many rules but is just kind of fast, rumble tumble fun for those skating it.

Without criticizing any of the rulesets, I think it is well-known that I like the fast-paced, hard-hitting continuous action game that Roller Derby was meant to be……and I saw a lot of that at the Championships.  I personally am opposed to whatever style that doesn’t portray the game as an explosive athletic-driven contest that most skaters like and the audience loves……after all, the fans hold the ultimate vote on whether the game survives and in what form.

Anyway, hope to see you all at the USARS championship in Fresno December 14th and 15th where I will present the beautiful Seltzer Cup (in honor of Leo) to the champion team……and no this does not mean I am part of USARS or any other Derby organization.  I hope DNN will televise these finals, with Oly as one of the teams involved.

The next five years will be very interesting, especially as the junior skaters bring their terrific talent to our game.  I have more faith in the survival of the game than I have ever had…..I hope you do too and contribute as much as you can.

In the spirit of the Holiday

Photo by saavem from stock.xchng.com.

I guess I am a little late, but I just got caught up with the USARS posting of their rules that they are testing, as put on facebook by Roxi Tucker today.  I guess actually it was posted in October.

I like some of the changes, thought others unnecessary but really didn’t dwell because I have nothing to do with them except give my opinions.

But then I read the comments under the post;  “how dare they do that……The flat track rules represent 6 years……sue them….etc, etc”

This ownership thing makes me crazy……do you think Leo invented everything that was in the original game?  He took some from the Walkathon, some from six-day bike races which were popular in the 30’s (“jam”), and added other elements suggested by Damon Runyon.  And of course I changed some of the rules to make the helmet game in the 60’s.  The name Roller Derby has long become generic, and we certainly didn’t try to copyright or patent it after my father had done so.  The only copyright still remaining belongs to the Roller Derby Skate Company.

Not every wants to or certainly has to skate the WFTDA, OSDA, MADE, TXRD, MRDA, WORD, Renegade or any other rules.  It is a simple game, 5 players on a team, timed jam, lap the field and pass for points.

Why the need for possession and ownership?  Is it about control?  Let it go everyone.

It would be a great Christmas present for all.

Will the real Roller Derby please stand up!

I seem to get in the middle of everything…..maybe if I would just shut up.

So there are some 1125 leagues out there:  women, men, junior, coed, flat track, banked track and I think that pretty much covers it.

I started this commentary just so I could talk, give my history and opinions and whatever…..I really didn’t care who reads it, if anyone, but quite a few people have found it:  110,000 to date.  And I don’t even make a dime off of it.

Because the game has been with me most of my life obviously I have strong opinions of what I like about it…..so I give them.

Now realize I am just like any other spectator who loves the game, but not certain aspects.  So I don’t mind creating controversy, but please do not misinterpret me.  I am not trying to take control of the game (just how would I do that?) or have some nefarious purpose in mind.

First of all let me get clear with the WFTDA game:  this is the first and only rules I have seen to date, with the exception of my trip to Philadelphia to see what OSDApro was all about and talk to my old Derby friends.  I have not seen TXRD, MADE, MRDA, USARS, Renegades, etc.  Without WFTDA there is no way that Roller Derby would have achieved the connection worldwide that it has.  And of course, the majority of my friends on facebook, twitter, here and elsewhere are those that I know from this game.

So if I say I don’t like slow play, stopping, going backwards, the Hall for world cup etc I am certain most of you know that is my opinion.

WFTDA is for the skaters by the skaters.  Even the all-powerful Commissioner cannot influence them one inch.  But I can certainly express what I feel might make the game better, in my opinion only.  And I won’t stop.

I hate to see all of the organizations fighting and sniping at each other.  I think there will be just what there is:  different groups with different rule sets depending on what the participants want.  No one body or rules or skating surface will work for everyone, but there is no reason you cannot accept that and work together for the sport and learn from each other.

Hey guys, it’s all Roller Derby to me…..and thank you!

I think there is a good reason….

It seems that the rapid worldwide growth of Roller Derby has really slowed down…….probably not more than 10 new leagues in November.

That may be a good thing.

Everyone has been excited about the rapid growth, the new skaters and all of the benefits.  But I think we are all aware that there is a lot of work to do on the underpinnings of the game…..Obviously, I am speaking generally, because no one voice can address 1100 plus leagues.

Image from stockxchng.com by rore_d.

The following is what I (the uber fan) see as what is needed for cleaning up:

1.  WFTDA had done a good job of setting up rules and conditions for safety, but not everyone skates WFTDA.  It has become obvious that there are a number of skaters who would prefer to skate OSDA, MADE, Renegades and other forms of the game.  I was amazed to find out that MADE is now in 40 leagues and is not only skating their version of the original rules, but also has co-ed skating (optional).  This is a good time for all to look at their game and see what can be done to make it easier on the officials and skaters, and certainly more easily watched by the spectators.

Spectator growth is essential to the prosperity of all leagues; not only ticket sales, but merchandise, concessions, sponsorships (the more fans and awareness of the league, the more dollars) etc.

2.  All leagues are anxious to get teams going as fast as possible.  This is a very dangerous practice.  If you have people skating who are not proficient, they not only will get hurt but will also hurt others.  And it is important to figure how to get teams to play others of equal ability.  There must be a way to take or change rankings so that not every match becomes necessary to beat up on a less powerful team.  As I have stated before, it would be a good thing if leagues not affiliated with each other were allowed to play.  Right now each game has no standing in importance to the fan (LA versus San Francisco, Denver vs Denver) and normal rivalries with more than one game against each other would be great.  Skaters who are paying to skate would be able to get more games for their money.

3.  National PR sucks.  That is so clearly shown when no major US media or newspaper to date has focused on the World Cup.  I would like to see each month some topic that is included in every league’s press release that doesn’t pertain to who scored how many points in the game, etc.  For example, The World Cup, Derby for Change (against domestic violence), Suzy Hotrod in ESPN magazine.  You can make your market and league bigger by bringing in the outside world.

4.  Presentation.  I have covered this before.  It is so important that your rink, Arena, or Hall be an exciting place when the fans arrive.  Banners, music, people greeting them……a specified autograph time…..and most important, give your track area a feeling of an arena….extra light, good sound, (can you dim the other lights when game starts?), etc.  And the announcers must make the fans feel they are part of it, explain the game, tout the great plays and skaters.

5.  oh yes, get rid of slow play and no play, minor penalties, have jammers on every jam, shorten jams, eliminate power jams.

I am sure you agree with all of the above.

Even if you don’t, please concentrate on getting your league’s act together….Let growth be slower and much more consistent.

Derby Love……..The Commissioner.