There is an adage that any publicity is good publicity———-WRONG!

When the leagues are starting and are struggling for attention you might think if some member of the media wants to do a feature on your organization,  and it is obvious they are not taking you seriously it is OK as at least you are getting a story out of it.

In the last week I saw a very good TV interview from Louisville (well, the interviewer wasn’t good, but the Derby women were great) in which it was patiently explained to the woman what the modern Roller Derby is all about and what is required to make it happen.

And I was forwarded an interview from the high country which I posted, in which is obvious that the writer (Geek something or other) had done research before writing the article, understanding about the old Roller Derby and what sacrifices it took for a league to start, how no one is paid, how practice is run, and he also saw a game.  Unfortunately, in this day and age of get any kind of story to fill pages or time, it is easy to do a mocking kind of story that says we all know this is just some kind of joke.   A recent episode of McDonald sports show on Comedy Central had that kind of story.

So, what should you do to avoid it, and remember it still can happen.  These are things I used to do, and remember our Roller Derby was different from the current leagues, and every reporter wanted to say “I know what’s going on” and often they did.  But then you had someone like Frank Deford who did the wonderful piece in Sports Illustrated and had the obvious in there but really concentrated on the skaters, the fans, what a huge draw it was and the success on TV.

I always had a stock answer for questions I might not get asked, and I used it even when I wasn’t asked:  “These are excellent athletes, injuries are common, we outdraw many of the sports teams in the San Francisco Bay Area, over 15,000,000 people watch us every week on television, we sold out Madison Square Garden…….” etc.

Public domain image of Aretha Franklin.

So how should you prepare anyone who speaks to the press (and that is something for you all to decide):  give them the basic facts:  This completely legitimate game is the fastest growing women’s game in the world (and men too), with over 911 leagues on all populated continents, over 40,000 participants, all amateurs.  The game requires extensive training and no one plays without passing skill tests; it is all non-profit, non-paid and there are dues from the players; and all leagues do community service, etc, etc.  And be sure and always mention the type  of women and professions that make up your league, as well as when open training is and your next game (include where tickets are available).

I think you see where I am going.  Don’t expect others to respect what you are doing if you don’t appear to respect it yourself.  Never be on the defensive, whether it is about tattoos, skating outfits or other things.  And you have the right to turn anyone down.

This game is growing and you are all part of it.  Now is not the time to wimp out.

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.