do you just shut up when someone attacks you?

I am unbelievably angry.

When flat track derby was very young, I was welcomed by the teams and the WFTDA because of my family’s history with the creation of the sport involving men and women on an equal basis.  Without my asking, I was sent credentials for many events….never asked for them; obviously I would buy tickets (and do so whenever I attend a game).  In 2012 I went to the regional in Richmond Ca and was informed I was not on the list….no advance notice.  The vendor from Luigino boots invited me in as I was going to buy a ticket, and to make a long story short, I was asked to leave by the WFTDA rep…she then said I was upset that I didn’t have a free ticket.

Since I didn’t want to face the situation again, I asked the WFTDA if I was credentialed for the champs and received a nasty email from Grace Killy, head of the WFDA, stating I had no relationship to the game today; was not as worthy for admittance as any NSO.  I didn’t go.  In previous nationals I had been invited, and I even made a welcoming speech at the tournament in Portland…..that was fine, I didn’t need that.

But Killy has been obsessed with keeping me away or having any influence or respect by those in modern derby.  Screen shots of her comments were sent to me….I haven’t had 10 spoken words with her.

In 1959 I took over the operation and ownership of the International Roller Derby League, and it achieved the maximum success and exposure during my 15 year operation of the sport in the 60s and 70s.  Then I went on to successful careers in other fields, always working with community organizations….I was proud that I had been appointed to the Bay Area Board of the American Red Cross, on the board of March of Dimes in Oakland, and many other positions.  None of this had anything to do with Roller Derby.  I have continued to work with derby teams that ask me, holding marketing conferences and meeting all at Rollercon, and helping more individual players that I know.

When I was hired by Brown Paper Tickets almost five years ago (at 80), I was not the roller derby rep but have other accounts and developed the non-profit BPT, Red Cross, Roller Derby blood drives that have involved over 30 leagues to date across the US, saving 3300 lives.

So Killy decided a short time ago to misrepresent a posting on twitter, and a satirical one on a satirical site….she and her minions look for anything I post anywhere (obsessive?).  then they posted as a slur on sites that were not even relevant….yes, my friends sent me screen shots.

The ultimate step came when she contacted Brown Paper Tickets on its facebook page (giving them a bad rating…not sure she ever used them) and complaining that I – an evil person – worked for them and implying that the should get rid of me…..she also directed others how to contact BPT with similar statements….BPT is an amazing company and not only services many leagues, but has increased its PR efforts to counteract the decrease in sales of many of the flat track teams.

I immediately contacted BPT to resign…there is no reason this fine company should be tarred with her evil brush.  I loved the work I was doing, and it provided me a livelihood.

The many hundred of friends and others who know me have been supportive…I cannot even fathom this measure of hatred.

Please do not equate what she is doing as condoned by WFTDA.  I have had no problems with the leagues or the many players and most of my friends in the sport are on WFTDA teams throughout the world.  And they have been so supportive of the blood drives that I have worked on.

My life has been full and I have no regrets:  from shaking hands with John Kennedy to counseling Muhammed Ali and so much more.  This does not affect my life, but it should never have happened.

A writer on the New York Times best seller list has asked me to be a prime source on a book being written on Roller Derby….of course I will be fair.

Ultimate irony: I was notified a few days ago that I have been selected by the American Red Cross as a Red Cross Hero of the year and will be honored at a function in April….I will leave a credential for Killy.


The significance of Sports Illustrated

It may not have seemed like much.  There have been so many articles and features on women’s Roller Derby that it is hard to keep track:  in Antwerp this week, many in Australia and New Zealand, France, UK and certainly the US and Canada.

But in last week’s Sports Illustrated, under Faces in the Crowd, there was a matter-of-fact four-line paragraph next to the photo of Portia Hensley about her scoring the final points  for her RMRG team to beat the Oly Rollers in the WFTDA national championship game in Chicago.

No mention of bizarre behavior, tattoos, costumes, etc; just that an athlete scored the winning points for her team in a championship contest.

No Roller Derby (wink wink) or any denigrating descriptions.  No, these women are skating Roller Derby and we know what that means.

This may not be as important to you as it is to me.  The legitimacy of the game is not questioned, as it should not be.  No aspersions on the 681 leagues skating in 25 countries.

Photo by Sanja Gjenero from

Roller Derby had its most important impact in 1969 when Frank Deford wrote what was then the longest piece ever in Sports Illustrated on the game.  It became the basis for his book “Five Strides on the Banked Track”.  Frank portrayed the game and the skaters as they were, and it was a great article, but although it acknowledged the athleticism of the players, it was not an endorsement of the sport.

And when Robert Lipsyte, perhaps the best sports columnist ever on the New York Times wrote:  “Roller Derby defers no payments, it rings bells now.  It offers one-dimensional action and excitement without baseball’s fabricated mythology or that increasingly suspect insistence, in all major sports, on the integrity of the game.”

And this is how people accepted and enjoyed the game, and that was its eventual downfall.  Sponsors did not take it seriously and without continued television, it faded from sight.

The new Roller Derby may have started from a strange beginning in Texas early in this century, but it has grown full-blown into a team sport played and enjoyed by tens of thousands of players and hundreds of thousands of fans.

And it is very important to me that the game be acknowledged for what it is today: the incubator for what will become one of the world’s great sports.

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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.

We are the Champions of the World

Photo by emsago from

This was the championships in Chicago two years ago……It was the best one I have seen out of the three to date…Chicago was old home week to me, the Palmer House was wonderful, the Windy City Rollers treated me wonderfully, and my friend Marsha Jordan at ABC was kind enough to do a wonderful feature on the event.

I will see my fourth championship this coming weekend in Atlanta, and I will be at the Roll Models booth (best uniforms going), giving away trinkets and having autographed Derby books as usual.  It will be great, but not the magic of Chicago where the game originated.  And I have the feeling this will be the last WFTDA tournament I will attend….Please drop by!

I had not been back to Chicago for a while.  I got off of the plane, got my suitcase and wheeled it for miles, it seems, as I wanted to take the train to the Loop.  For just $2.25 I was able to go just 18 stops till Monroe, get out and pull my 50-pound case up 50 or so stairs and walk a block and a half to the Palmer House.

It brought back memories of my high school days in Skokie and my college days at Northwestern…..we would come to the Palmer House for the big events at the Empire Room and  the after prom parties.  The lobby looked the same, the huge painted ceiling and the none cookie-cutter feeling of the Marriotts, Holiday Inn, Ramadas etc.  The room was tiny but cozy, with the marble bathroom floors I had remembered.

I had a phone call from Marsha Jordan, whom I had first met 38 years before after our sold-out game at White Sox Park (50,000 plus).  Marsha is an Emmy winning journalist and producer at ABC 7 in Chicago and she had thought it would be a good idea for WLS-TV to cover the event for the Windy City Rollers (When will other media catch on to what a huge event Roller Derby has become?).  So I rushed over to the UIC Pavilion where the last game of the first day was taking place.  Marsha interviewed people from the WCR and me (for old time’s sake) and I got to say hello to Val Capone and others and DNN put me on the air.

When I got back to the hotel there were many of the leagues who had come from everywhere for this 12-team tournament composed of the regional winners.  And most had not qualified for the final.  I sat down and had a nice glass of Coppola wine with three beautiful women from the Gainesville league.  The all worked in some scientific capacity in that University town and all had attended University of Florida.  Roller Derby had become so important in their lives;  two out of three were married, the third had her boyfriend there.  They were happy that Gainesville was surviving as at least 6 other leagues in Florida had not been able to sustain the tremendous effort to keep Roller Derby alive.  I know it is wrong to generalize, but these women typified what I had come to know about Derby girls, open, confident and supportive of their league and their community.

I talked to many others that night:  the women of Naptown (Indianapolis), Charm City (Baltimore), Nashville, Olympia, Rocky Mountain and on and on.  Olympia is the Green Bay of WFTDA:  all the other finalists were from major US Cities, but Olympia – the defending national champions of the WFTDA – is a town of 37,000, some 60 miles south of Seattle.  They have many speed skating champions on their team as well as a major training program.

Remember, all of these people have to raise the money to get to these tourneys; some of the teams stayed 5 to a room.  Many had driven from far locations.  An unbelievable story is two skaters on Oly (sisters) had babies just four weeks apart, just 8 weeks ago and four weeks ago, and both skated and their husbands were on hand taking care of the babies when necessary.  And because the airlines would not allow the four-week old baby to fly (!), they had driven the 35 hours from Olympia to Chicago……talk about sacrifices!

Everyone was so good to me and appreciative of my family’s contribution to the history of Roller Derby (the first game had occurred just two miles from the hotel 75 years ago at the Coliseum which had been torn down).  And from my facebook postings and these blogs and the games I have gone to, they were aware of how devoted I am to what they are doing.  I finally fell asleep at about 1 AM feeling very good.

There were games all day long on Saturday starting at 9:30 AM.  I couldn’t make that one (time difference and all) but was there for the 11:30 game on.  It is amazing how far along the skating has come since I started watching in 2005:  the teams were beginning to focus on pack play which is the real strategic part of the game:  how to help your jammer while getting the other blockers out of the way and then making the pack ready to block the opposing jammer trying to score and clearing the blockers so your jammer could score.  The two best at utilizing the concept: Rocky Mountain and Oly, although others including Gotham Girls, Philly, B.A. D.,Kansas City, Nashville, Windy City and the others were not far behind.  And the dozens (maybe a hundred) other leagues on hand watched and learned to take back to their cities.

I have to say a word about how this tourney was run; as a former promoter who rented more arenas than you can imagine, it was amazing to me how the volunteers from WFTDA and the Windy City Rollers ran the Nationals.  UIC Pavilion is a great facility with about 7500 seats available for the tourney.  Volunteers were everywhere and helpful. I spent some time with a nice man who was in charge of the building for this event.  He mentioned how wary they were when they first rented it to the WCR when they saw the tattoos etc, but he said these are the nicest tenants they deal with and the fans show the most respect for the arena……is everything about Roller Derby so great?

I got to see Misty Greer, Ms Dolan, so many others of my favorites that my head spins.  I was able to see the Gotham Girls for the first time and could understand why they epitomize to so many people what the modern Roller Derby is all about.  Bonnie Thunders set a championship record by scoring over 100 points in the third place game!  Suzy Hotrod seemed to be on every jam.

On Sunday was the most intensive skating I have seen in the modern-day sport as Oly and Rocky Mountain from the opening whistle to the end slugged it out like Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier.  Skaters were hitting the floor and getting up immediately; jammers were flying around the track; blockers were working overtime.  When it finally ended Rocky Mountain had become the new National Champions by the slimmest margin: 147-146.  The winners went crazy, the losers crestfallen temporarily, but then in the spirit of Derby were smiling and warmly embracing the women from Denver.  No slow play or stopping, thank goodness.

And Leo was there, and Ann Calvello was there, and Toughie was there, and Ivy King was there, and Ma and Billy Bogash were there and Joan Weston was there, and all of Roller Derby was there and holding hands in a circle and saying thank you for Derby Love.

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