We saw a new era in Roller Derby at the WFTDA champs, and wow!


I think everyone knows I can be cantankerous.

But the last finals I really fully enjoyed (prior to yesterday) was in Chicago 2010.

After that event, passive offense became the watchword for the game, and virtually all fell into line…..new skaters didn’t seem to know there was another way to play.

And Rose City showed it last night. Split the walls into offense and defense, actually block the other blockers during the play, and keep the pack moving during the jams without pack destruction. Yes, Virginia, the game is played on roller skates.

To me, so much excitement in the game comes when players are engaging without standing still, and boy was there a lot of it in perhaps the best modern game I have seen. The future looks bright, because everyone follows a winner and thousands were watching Portland’s tactics against what has been Derby’s gold standard for years, the Gotham Girls.

Now if anyone thinks Gotham’s days are numbered, you are wrong. They haven’t stayed atop the Derby world by standing still (no pun intended!). But what a pleasure to see two teams of superbly conditioned athletes go at each other for the duration of the game without stopping. And to have two players, Scald Eagle and Bonnie Thundeers side by side on so many of the jams! That is one advantage of the offense and defense at the same time aspect of Roller Derby; only in our sport can you see the top offensive players from the two teams on the same scoring plays!

Now about Gotham: there could be no better group of people to represent the game in America’s largest city. Their standards are incredibly high, and if you wanted to hand pick a team to represent what the sport today is all about, it is this group. I sorely missed seeing Suzy Hotrod out there, but the talent on the team was certainly equal to the task. And if I can mention, both Gotham and Rose City are clients of Brown Paper Tickets.

I have to admit I was for Portland in the game; it is my home town and that of Leo Seltzer who created the sport in 1935. And the support that the Rollers have given my niece Phyllis (Leo’s granddaughter) in her battle with cancer just signifies how they and all the leagues in WFTDA are part of their community. As for New York, it is where Roller Derby was made national in 1948 when my dad brought it there, and where we had so many sellouts at the 19,500 seat Madison Square Garden, and the skaters could really skate the game without the extra showmanship.

What a show the sport gave to the ESPN3 viewers and all of the fans. So all the leagues coaches will be going to the drawing board to figure the best way to play the “new” game brought by the team from the Northwest.

And don’t forget that the international teams are barking at their heels.

Remember in 2015 when the game took another jump forward…..tell your neighbors and friends they had better come and see what the fuss is all about.

Meet Bonnie Thunders, who might be the LeBron James of roller derby – ESPN


Meet Bonnie Thunders, who might be the LeBron James of roller derby – ESPN.

CLICK ABOVE

 

This was on ESPN.  The game has stars, and people come to see stars.  Suzy Hotrod and Bonnie Thunders skate on the world’s best team, and their public personas are so different, yet work wonderfully together.

To see Bonnie go jam after jam, virtually unstoppable by any blockers is a thrill not enough have experienced, and of course Suzy may be the best combined jammer and blocker in the game.

I know this is a team sport, but there is at least one skater who shines in every league!  Feature her (him) in your press and promotion to bring in more fans.  It still is a team game, but don’t hide someone who brings it all to the track!

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.

About Suzy Hotrod


I really don’t know Suzy that well.  We have met and talked on several occasions but are not really close friends.  But there is really something about her that portends well for the future of the game (and obviously I am not the only one to see that.)

Suzy is taller than you think, obviously very strong, and a hell of a skater and, very importantly, very charismatic.  If I were to compare her to skaters of my day, you would automatically think of  Ann Calvello because of the aura around her.   However, she is a much better athlete than Ann, and remember that showmanship was a big part of our game  –  and Ann portrayed it to the max.  Probably the one woman skater I admired the most for her agility and physicality was Judy Arnold, and she didn’t stay with us that long.ann

It is hard to make a comparison as we skated 5 games a week, but I have the feeling that wouldn’t be a problem for Suzy.

Suzy portrays the game so well:  she is a great interview, her photos in ESPN The Body Issue were amazing, and she is trying to make a living from this so far amateur game.  She has been endorsed by “Derby Baby” and toured for the film, she is sponsored by Riedell and frankly I don’t know her other products or arrangements, but more power to her.

Suzy and the Commish:  https://jerryseltzer.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/rollercon-suzy-hotrod.jpg?w=173&h=130&crop=1

I rotate the cover photos on my home facebook page fairly regularly, and a few days ago I put up one of Suzy and me at my house in Sonoma after the festival screening of “Derby Baby”.  The response has been amazing; she is a magnet to all those in Derby.

But this is not just about Suzy and what she has become to the game.  It is about the need for personalities that will make the game more identifiable to the public (and potential sponsors, etc).  If you notice, the NBA teams promote upcoming games with the stars that are on the visiting teams; women’s beach volleyball features Walsh and her partner; Shaun White has raised his brand of snowboarding to a whole new level, and look what Gaby Douglas means to women’s gymnastics.

OK, so our game has not had the benefits of network television or even heavy coverage in the media, but we have PR people and others who must pick up on the “stars”, and like it or not we must have them and feature them.  Look at Atomatrix or any of the other names on the DNN nominees for 2012 All Stars.  Get their background information, and start bringing out your own stars.  And you will find that when you start building up the stars on incoming teams, you have started to really lay the groundwork for the future.

Wouldn’t it be great if one of your fundraising promotions would be for an all-star game against your league.  If you advertise, and your PR people exploited it, you might create a whole new fan base.  Your league would have to have sufficient arena capacity to be able to afford a guarantee, but only you can decide if it would be worth it.

Many leagues have complained about falling attendance this past season.  I strongly suggest you plan out every game of the upcoming 2013 year, how to make each one an event (girl scout night, student’s night, etc) and make the evening more entertaining with pre-game and halftime entertainment.

And don’t forget about the stars!