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Funding DNN in 2010: Open Letter

Back at the start of the derby year, March 27 didn't really stand out on the calendar. It wasn't a major event or tournament weekend; while there were a couple of interesting bouts scheduled, there weren't any top-10 showdowns; it wasn't clear that live coverage would be available from any more than one or two bouts. Just another Saturday.

Little did we imagine that Just Another Saturday would turn out to include no fewer than 12 live bouts, 6 of which were first-time coverage from new locations. Or that I'd be on the phone or at the computer pretty much nonstop for two days leading up to it, helping orient enthusiastic coverage newbies to the available tools. Or that it'd be a 15-hour day of remote support, troubleshooting, and basic DNN operations like score updates. Or that we'd take another look at the calendar and realize that, in addition to an unprecedented slate of major events, we'd be facing of a whole lot of similarly dense non-event weekends.

Shepherding the live coverage load for Just Another Saturday turned out to be nearly as much work as I previously described for Wild West Showdown, a massive two-track weekend event.

While covering the WFTDA tournaments last year, and particularly during WFTDA Nationals, many of you made a point of expressing your admiration for out coverage efforts. This was very gratifying of course, but what really stood out was the number of people (Wicked Skatewear being the standout example) who expressed their determination that we need to be able to do this full-time. We joked with each other about how someday, in the indeterminate future, maybe derby would reach the point where covering it would consume every last waking moment, and that somehow we'd have to find a way to make it our vocation in addition to our avocation.

By the end of the day on March 27, it became clear: ready or not, we were there.

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a proposal:

change your name to National Public Roller Derby, or, NPR.

That does not make sense

That does not make sense considering roller derby is international.

I'm not sure how well this translates to Canadian English...

NamelessWhorror wrote:

That does not make sense considering roller derby is international.

Sorry you didn't get the joke, eh? National Public Radio (NPR, eh?) is a radio network that was created by the government but is run independently and is funded by the Listeners and corporate donors/local businesses who often match listener donations. They don't have commercials, per se. Just vague sponsorship messages on some programs that never promote a product, just that this company or their like-named foundation funds that show.

About every three or four months, the stations have funding drives where they constantly interrupt the news and programming to ask for donations. Often they break down how much a particular donation level costs you per day. Often there are things the donor gets for certain levels of support. Coffee mugs, T shirts, canvass bags are very common items.

The person with the NPR mug at work is usually demonstrating his or her generosity, as well as sending a quiet "I'm smarter" message. If they are management, they're maybe trying to seem a bit less of an ogre. If they aren't management, their boss knows they are a @#%@ Democrat who must have voted for Obama. He or she and the guys/gals with the Rush Limbaugh mugs probably roll eyes at one another by the coffee machine.

I really ought to phone this in to "This American Life," shouldn't I? Back to work fixing the top 25, anyways.

Public Roller Derby International

PRI is the international public radio network.

DNN == PRI

And personally, we should be on Wait Wait Don't Tell me sometime soon... :)

I love..

That poster. If I can get a copy of that I will give an arm a leg and all the photos of bad ass woman on skates you can handle. As well as some cash.

Hugs and kisses.

I agree

gil wrote:

That poster. If I can get a copy of that I will give an arm a leg and all the photos of bad ass woman on skates you can handle. As well as some cash.

Hugs and kisses.

Seriously, you have to start selling that poster.

Poster

I'm really glad the two of you piped up. We considered the possibility of a poster as a premium, but we decided we weren't confident there'd be interest enough to warrant a long enough print run to bring the price down. Also, fulfillment means shipping via tubes, which is kind of a giant pain in the ass.

Adding all that up, then setting a donation price point for which this would be an appropriate premium, left us concerned that it'd just be asking too much. Your enthusiasm suggests otherwise. Ringer from Flat Track Revolution is already looking into costs for a really high-quality screen print.

Meanwhile, we'd like to get a little better grasp on demand, so do let us know if you're on the list of people who'd jump in. Feel free to use the submit link if you'd rather not gum up the comment thread with a whole lot of "me too!" posts.

I've got to say, we have no problem understanding the reaction to the art... I mean, man, that's our faces. It's just ridiculously awesome. It has been *really* hard to keep this under our hats as the design came together.

potential investor

Have you considered asking Steve Wozniak for money? He has lots of it, and he loves roller derby.

NPR Tactics....

"that's just 13 cents a day for the type of Derby Programming you depend on to keep you and your family informed on all the latest news and happenings...."

Oh, we're on it.

Stay tuned!

Raising awareness of DNN

Maybe a banner can be created with the DNN logo and URL that leagues around the country can display at their bouts--may go a long way toward bringing casual fans to DNN, increasing their awareness and appreciation of the national and international derby, and enlarging the pool of potential contributors (investors) to DNN.

I was literally....

just wondering to myself whether y'all were doing this full time, and if not, how you kept your day-jobs.

Justice's forearms....

Seriously after looking at the new DNN poster, I haven't seen arms that beefy since Trogdor the Burninator.

http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail58.html

Tank

Justice's arms really do look like that.

We think it's just him overcompensating for the legs that look so sexy in fishnets.

Holy Shit Australia

Holy Shit Australia is RIGHT!!! What ever are we thinking?!!??!!

Not bloody wrong

That's all I got.

Apart from the fact that it kicks off in EXACTLY six weeks.

We would like to help

How can OneWorld Roller Derby Inc. Help? We'd like to help any way we can.. As I mentioned to you and Wicked as well, I can bring the IT, I can find investment, I can help DNN get funded.

Skater scholarships are my goal, but that can expand to helping further your efforts.

One way to help yourself...

Speaking just for myself here:

Hot Flash, you have a name that a fair number of people in the derby scene know. You're in the movie "Blood on the Flat Track," after all. You're Miss Fortune's mom, who used to be her teammate. Derby resumes/pedigrees don't get much better than yours.

I think people would be more enthusiastic about what your new company is trying to do if they knew that you're "one of us" instead of assuming it's someone trying to capitalize on "our derby" from the outside. Which people can see you very clearly aren't doing once they know who you are. In other words, put your name and face on your product (roller derby trading cards). No pun intended. Throwing out your current and former league affiliations from time to time probably doesn't hurt either.

When you think of DNN, you think of Gnosis, Hurt and Justice. When you think of Sin City Skates you think of Dish and Ivanna and whomever else answers the shop phone nowadays. I'd go on but I don't recall the names of the skaters who own the shop who's got the ad up above right now (d'oh!).

Oh yeah, if you already aren't part of Derby-Owned, get your biz listed on their web site already.

Your pal,
*~[Grand Poobah

Message from Poobah

Hey, Thanks Poobah!

I just spent some time making this really well thought out response and then lost my iNTERNET connection and lost it.

Anyway, what I said was that this makes complete sense to me and of course no one could possibly know what I'm about by me throwing a logo out there....I value your opinion very much and will go to Derby -Owned for sure.

I updated my bio on DNN that might help clarify my intentions. Derby helped my life get WAY better and I am seriously dedicated to providing scholarships to skaters. That is my goal (as crazy as it might sound) along with showing people that you can become a good skater regardless of your age.

Again, Thank you Poobah. It will take some time but I can't WAIT to help buy gear for people or give funds for league dues and insurance.

It's a crazy fucking world and I pushed through the worst of it so what the hell? I'm doing something that I'm passionate about and it feels awesome. I want to give opportunity to other people to do the same.

yeeeeaaahhhhaaawwww...........

The Hot F'n Flash

You guys are the BEST!

I'm happy to help out! I've spent so many Saturday's watching you live streams, I may just ditch cable :)

The larger question

I think the more appropriate question to ask is, do you want to continue to run the organization on a shoe-string budget, or do you have a strategic plan in place? I would gladly become an investor, but not if it meant only supporting the next six months at the current status quo.
Some key things you did not mention, which to me stand out as red flags: what is your plan for attracting more traffic to the web site, particularly the bout webcasts? How are you reaching out to additional advertisers? What steps have you made in attempting to televise bouts? Do you have an exclusive broadcast agreement with WFTDA?
As a potential investor/sponsor, the last thing I would want would to see is ESPN swoop in, and suddenly start televising bouts, completely nullifying my investment in DNN.
The major problem I see throughout roller derby is the lack of will to move beyond the Charity mindset, into a Professional Sports mindset. The major roadblock to the sport breaking out is the ticket prices. Every bout I have attended, the ticket price is ridiculously low, and is generally less than half that of any other event on the venue's calendar. This is a giant loss of revenue, that can pay for everything from player stipends and travel reimbursement, to television cameras, to your own salaries. The other huge benefit to higher ticket prices, besides perceived value from the event, is the perceived market to advertisers. When advertisers see an event where people can afford $35/ticket, suddenly they will have more motivation to sponsor it.
I would recommend a banner ad campaign on ESPN.com, specifically to promote upcoming bout webcasts. This should generate many additional viewers, which in turn puts you a better position to attract advertisers.
As for the issues with the Name Registry -- the inability to put together a quick PHP solution for this is certainly not something you want to mention when asking for money. This would take any seasoned programmer no more than a couple days. Exactly how many lines of code were you thinking it would involve? SELECT * FROM registry WHERE derby_name LIKE '%query%' ORDER BY 1. And it's up and running. If it truly is a monster-sized project, it should have a web site devoted to the project, with the ability for additional programmers to donate time. Is the project currently listed on SourceForge?
And then there's advertising and promotion. When I go to ESPN.com, under College Basketball, I see ads for Flowers, Cameras, Burgers, even Cars. What does it take to get larger corporate sponsors? Well, viewership, both at the bouts, and on the webcasts. During the difficult bootstrap period, the best you can do is tons of cross-promotions. Again, from all the bouts I've been to, I've never once heard an FM radio station promoting it. Yet every bout has *tons* of available space to hang a banner for a local radio station. Likewise in your webcasts (and I must apologize as I haven't seen one yet, I'm more of a fly out and watch it in person kind of guy) you should have ample opportunity to plug whatever regional outlets have helped promote the event. All this cross-promotion can ideally be done for no exchange of money, but will help bring up the attendance of bouts. And then from there, most things will be on auto-pilot.
I have full faith that if you were fully funded you would be able to carry out many of these sort of plans. But formulating the plan to get there is so critically important, and coincidentally enough, just having the plan in place can make a lot of other key elements fall into place.

raising ticket prices

You raise an interesting point about raising ticket prices.

I have been to quite a few derby bouts and the highest price I've seen (excluding fees) is $17 and the lowest is $5. When my league moved to our new venue, we got many complaints from fans about how expensive their derby nights out became. We didn't raise our ticket prices (they stayed the same at $15), and it wasn't exactly the ticket prices that fans were upset about, it was the whole "night out". Two tickets ($15 x 2) + Parking ($10) + four beers ($9 x 4) = $76. Certainly no one was forcing anyone to buy a $9 beer, but it's pretty expected for derby fans to enjoy one or two. And the parking fee was difficult to avoid. Our league has no control over the parking or the concessions fees, but $10 to park and $9 for a beer is not unheard of for an arena-type venue. It is pretty average in my opinion, and yet there aren't floods of complaints about these kinds of prices for concerts or other sporting events, which take place in the same type of venue. So perhaps...it's the incongruity between the ticket prices and the parking/concessions prices? Ten bucks for parking doesn't seem so bad when your ticket cost $60, does it?

My point is, maybe raising ticket prices will actually make people stop complaining about how much things cost!

Ticket Pricing, Etc

- Just a note in the discussion, LA Derby Dolls tickets prices are and have always been $20 standing room, $40 Bleachers and games always sell out. Now granted this is Los Angeles and Banked track which is a different beast- but the idea is a model exists for a relative level of ticket pricing.

But the problem, IMHO is that very few leagues are putting forth the effort to justify a $40 ticket price-- few consider the audience in their presentation of the event at all. The skating is fucking godhead, but everything else is farm league.

I became involved in LADD for just that reason. I cannot count the number of derby events I attend where basic sporting event concepts are overlooked-- such as a scoreboard visible to the whole audience. I've been to dozens of events where zero effort was made to even inform the audience of the score. Handmade signs held up with duct tape, poorly organized door check in, poor audio, etc-- Many of these problems are not the result of limited budget, just a lack of effort and little thought for presenting a professional event.

- But it's also important to note that sports leagues don't make the majority of their revenue from ticket sales, they makes revenue with television deals, direct sponsorship and merchandising. Again, I'm only involved in working with LA, but these areas have been a big focus for the LA league and there has been a serious uptick in interest on all those fronts.

- As far as Honkin calling out DNN's specific business model, I certainly can't comment on Hurt's gameplans-- but I can say that trying to stage professional style broadcasts are extremely expensive. I doubt Hurt has any exclusive agreement with WFTDA (they'd be insane to offer such an agreement) and so the risk is ESPN could swoop in any time-- and to even approach what they could offer- well Hurt's $25k would barely cover labor for one broadcast.

The main roadblock to attracting a bigger audience for a web broadcast of a sport is that there are no established web broadcasts of sports. General sports fans are not poking around in the dark online looking for sports to watch... they either watch on TV or seek out their specific favorites online where available.

What's more, the production value we're able to offer (and I'm speaking specifically of the efforts I'm doing at LADD) are laughable to the average sports fan. No replay, no real time stats, amateur level audio and video. Hell, we run a 5 camera HD show with animated chyron in LA and it's still a real far cry from what any passing sports fan would expect from game coverage. Even if you run banner ads on ESPN or wherever- you're pissing in the wind until you can package a real sports style broadcast which intrigues passing viewers. You might be able to spend $$$ to buy viewers, but I'd bet dollars to donuts you wouldn't be able to hold their interest with the program we're currently offering.

I don't think anyone is capable of doing that yet- so the meantime we try to produce something that is budget possible and attractive to our base audience, and hope that the base continues to grow. The only alternative is to hope that someone like ESPN or HDNET comes along with deep pockets and wants to throw money at broadcasting derby-- but when that happens many of us hobbyists will certainly be left behind.

So in the meantime a model like what DNN is supporting makes perfect sense: They're producing content for a hardcore audience that will forgive the blemishes and imperfections... so they ask for that hardcore audience that is consuming the media to help fund it. Sort of like pitching in for gas on a roadtrip with some friends: you know it might be slow and the backseat might smell funny-- but you're helping fund the journey.

\\Vince Wheel
La Derby Dolls RaD

I'd like to mildly refute the

I'd like to mildly refute the statement that "there are no established web broadcasts of sports." The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has been webcast, in its entirety, for free, for two years running now. TNT has started offering an interesting, four-camera webcast ((free)) of some of their NBA games this season. And, of course, there are season packages available from the NBA, MLB, the NHL, etc., where, for a lump sum payment, a viewer can watch webcasts of pretty much any game ((subject to aggravating local blackout)), all season long, so i'm going to whistle a minor on the assertion that established web broadcasts don't exist. Sure, it's fair to say that the average sports fan of today isn't clicking around the web, looking for events to watch, but there are no indicators as of yet which indicate that things aren't going to be moving in that direction at some point.

Agree, Norb...

One of the first people to approach me for a deal with derby was an internet broadcast company with a new technology concept who had big backing from the National Science Foundation and the government, partly based on their success at getting viewer numbers online with hockey fans in 2006.

In 2006 (don't hurt me, hockey fans!) I think it was the AHL (the other hockey league?) that lost over a million on PPV with their Champs the year before, switched to this online broadcast service, and actually saw better viewer numbers online than NHL got on tv that next year.

Your tax dollars are paying for people successfully experimenting with doing what DNN does on a more funded, corporate level. What does that tell you about the future of tv?

And before anyone asks - the one piece of the deal we couldn't make work was that they couldn't figure out how to do production for us. There was no financially feasible way for them to get camera crews out to games they wanted to run, and they had production standards, and didn't want to carry it if it was some derby widow shooting his camcorder. They put a bunch of funded manhours behind trying to figure out a cost effective way to do production of derby games on a regular basis, and couldn't do it. And they own a bunch of gear.

Pay Per View Buys

Because I'll never abandon an opportunity to bring pro wrestling into *any* conversation:

Ring of Honor is a nationally-recognized 'indy' promotion with a sizable, knowledgeable, dedicated fanbase in the US. Sparing the details of their business model, they opted to option to go low-production-cost PPV instead of straight to cable TV. After all, they saw how going to TNN (Spike TV) helped put Paul Heyman's ECW out of business financially.

Just for sake of comparison, a national promotion with a vested, dedicated, ardent fanbase could only muster ~900 buys of their last PPV show (at $10-15 per show). This is actually on the high end for them, I believe - previous reports of shows have them selling 36 show buys through the entirety of Dish Network.

Now compare those views to the number of viewers DNN gets on Justin.tv for many bouts, let alone replays of archived bouts. Apples to oranges? Yes, a bit. But the reality of how difficult the PPV market is hit me when I saw how few buys a national wrestling promotion can muster.

excellent point professor

Actually professor you should use every opportunity to bring pro wrestling into any conversation. I may have gotten a degree in college and law school but my years in wrestling were my real business education.

There is no question, as you and others have mentioned, that PPV is a sinkhole unless you KNOW you can get very high buy numbers. Going PPV without major stars is a losing battle plan. Names sell PPVs. Create the stars first and then you get the buys. ROH is a great example of a company that has a dedicated niche fanbase, but not enough to justify PPV and had no stars wth that kind of appeal. Roller Derby is years away from that kind of recognition and once they get it, PPV may not be a viable alternative anyway. Better off selling the DVDs and using DNN and other internet avenues to get the word out.

Don't do PPV

I'll also use my inside knowledge of the wrestling business to contribute to this discussion...

The PPV vendors collect the revenues, and the person putting on the show only gets something like 40%-50% (depending on the deal) after the vendor and the cable carriers all get their cut.

And then, the PPV vendor drags their feet for months (literally) before they send you the check. If you ever look at ECW's bankruptcy paperwork, you'll see that they listed as one of their assets money owed to them by inDemand that was well into the seven figures. Perhaps if inDemand paid ECW in a timely fashion the bankruptcy may not have been necessary.

Point being: PPV is only for companies that are already well established and can wait months for the PPV payment. While it is a good idea, it just wouldn't work with modern-day roller derby.

If I may clarify

I think my idea here was poorly communicated and I should revise:

This was not to say there are not successful sports show on the web. The remainder of my comment was that there are TELEVISED sports with established audiences that ALSO piggyback webcast... my point was there are few sports fans wandering the digital divide looking in the dark for sports to watch: they go online specifically directly to the established sports they want to see when they're not in front of a TV watching the same.

To make it more clear "there are no established web-only broadcasts of sports. No sport has [yet] established itself using primarily the web as the medium."

Prognosticatin'

Vince Wheel wrote:

To make it more clear "there are no established web-only broadcasts of sports. No sport has [yet] established itself using primarily the web as the medium."

Of course. Flat track derby is the most likely sport to create a battle between new and traditional media, since its popularity when it is eventually to the point of eliciting coverage will be at the crossroads of new and traditional media.

Neither of those conditionals have been met yet. Give it time.

PPV streaming, DNN, & Money

The bottom of the thread is getting off the original topic so I'm starting in the middle. I read most of the comments but sorry if I missed something similar in there somewhere.

What about using the PPV concept online on DNN? Charge a couple bucks to watch the online streaming? Maybe less to log in and read the text-cast?

The interface would have to be easy and fast. How many viewers/readers are you averaging per bout that you cover?

We've considered this

Without going into painful detail, we're pretty sure that at this point, the level of technical, legal and financial complications online PPV would introduce into our business model would not end up being worth it (and might actually end up being a negative).

We might come back to that idea later, but I wouldn't expect to go down that road soon.

Also of note...

It's worth noting that while our GA tickets stayed at $15, we added reserved seating at $30/$35 and those sell really well - we actually just had to expand our reserved seating section.

Along those lines, more or less

honkinberry wrote:

I think the more appropriate question to ask is, do you want to continue to run the organization on a shoe-string budget, or do you have a strategic plan in place? I would gladly become an investor, but not if it meant only supporting the next six months at the current status quo.
Some key things you did not mention, which to me stand out as red flags: what is your plan for attracting more traffic to the web site, particularly the bout webcasts? How are you reaching out to additional advertisers? What steps have you made in attempting to televise bouts? Do you have an exclusive broadcast agreement with WFTDA?
As a potential investor/sponsor, the last thing I would want would to see is ESPN swoop in, and suddenly start televising bouts, completely nullifying my investment in DNN.
The major problem I see throughout roller derby is the lack of will to move beyond the Charity mindset, into a Professional Sports mindset. The major roadblock to the sport breaking out is the ticket prices. Every bout I have attended, the ticket price is ridiculously low, and is generally less than half that of any other event on the venue's calendar. This is a giant loss of revenue, that can pay for everything from player stipends and travel reimbursement, to television cameras, to your own salaries. The other huge benefit to higher ticket prices, besides perceived value from the event, is the perceived market to advertisers. When advertisers see an event where people can afford $35/ticket, suddenly they will have more motivation to sponsor it.
I would recommend a banner ad campaign on ESPN.com, specifically to promote upcoming bout webcasts. This should generate many additional viewers, which in turn puts you a better position to attract advertisers.

As a hard core fan, I would be very inclined to pay more for a ticket provided it is an all star bout, where you're pretty sure that the derby will be of a good to high quality; but for an intra-league bout where there is a lot more variance in quality, you would be very hard pressed to draw fans. I think another potential problem with raising the ticket prices to $35 or higher is that some leagues don't have the benefit of a venue where you can get what would be considered by many a decent $35 view: While a few leagues have the benefit of bouting in arenas with comfortable seating and good sightlines, many derby leagues have little choice but to bout in skating rinks where if you're not lucky enough to get dibbs on some rare bench space you either sit on the floor or stand and look over somebody's head or watch between people to see the action. I suspect many people may object to paying a lot of cashola for struggling to get a good look at the derby in a small rink. Unfortunately at this point in the new derby's existence, there isn't enough clout on a institutional level and or cash to get leagues on a critical mass level into as much as the equivalent of minor league level capacity sports facilities.

I'm not inside the TV industry, but I'm not getting the sense that ESPN is going to swoop in a televise the new derby in the near term. But how feasible would PPV be at the present? I know it would cost bucks, but if you have people proactively paying for the broadcasts, would it not go a ways toward paying for them?

We're all getting pretty windy about this aren't we?

Who are the DNN viewers?

As a regular sponsor business for DNN (and a boutcaster, and a big fan of webcasts), I determine which ones my business can afford to sponsor based on my guess of who is watching. So I have given it some thought. Boutcasts started with the Big Bouts - top teams taking on each other that the rest of our community - that is, the skater community, not so much the fan community - was interested in. In other words, the people that buy tickets to see Gotham are not necessarily the people watching a boutcast when a Gotham game is broadcast on DNN. Its ME watching, along with a crowd of skaters that can practically be measured according to how high the teams are ranked, what's at stake, and how controversial the team tends to be.

When its US watching, the fidelity of the broadcast isn't the primary thing. The word "fidelity" being my industry-ignorant blanket term meaning quality of the textcast - which for me is the volume of relevant game content related by the text casters in inverse proportion to inexplicable abbreviations, typos, shout outs and inside jokes, PLUS video, and if it exists, is it actually watchable, PLUS audio that can be understood, etc. Anyway, that is secondary. I wish they were all awesome, but I know how DNN scrapes to make it happen, and i'm so thrilled to get regular updates of the action that I will watch / read / listen to whatever DNN can provide and usually when they ask for money, I pony up, too. Maybe because I've seen the front and backside of the operation, but I suspect most skaters feel mostly the same: glad there is ANYTHING and willing to cobble it together to get any kind of picture of the bout. Its better than waiting for the final results twitter on the really good games! (Though I can't tell you how thankful i am for that, too, even though we've had it so long I take it for granted now. So awesome).

And then there's another "us," too. There are the games that we watch of other teams because they're high ranked and interesting, and I bet those bring the biggest viewership. But the other "US" watches only our own games. Like, your leaguemates are playing where ever and you can't go. Example: this weekend at the Ventura tourney, it wasn't a hotly contested title and no huge draw teams played (meaning top 10). So probably MOST of the people watching were from the playing teams' leagues. Just guessing, but I can't imagine otherwise.

I think that we are starting to get actual fans watching, reading post-bout recaps, being interested outside the actual game venue. But for the most part, its still just the two kinds of "us" and so while its never too early to make a business plan, you still have to take your actual viewership into account. We all work hard to make our leagues happen, so we can relate to DNN's struggle to make this happen for (and with) us. I never begrudge money I send to DNN. I totally think they're doing just the right thing the right way and growing - and learning - manageably right now.

And in my opinion, this sport isn't ready for prime time. Its not just our fidelity that isn't ready. I mean, I can't think of one other sport that puts so much of its amateur level play out there for the public in the first place. We're brand new, haven't even come close to a point where our standardized rules are remotely steady, and we're playing for thousands of people in markets large and small. Compared to ESPN sports - or even soccer, X-games, MMA or any other sport, shoestring or widely popular - those athletes learn their game first alone, or playing in high school or recreational leagues for their parents or partners at best. ONLY the very very best go on to play in front of crowds at college or semi-pro (baseball farm leagues, arena football, MMA exhibitions, sponsored amateur skateboarding contests) and those are still mostly parents and partners watching plus some die-hard fans. And then the very very top tier best of ALL athletes in that sport get recruited to professional teams and get a shot at playing in stadiums and arenas and having those games be broadcast to an interested public.

Meanwhile, we've got athletes that started rollerskating - not playing derby, just rollerskating less than 5 years before they're playing for thousands. Shit, in some cases, less than a year, even. There are skaters in my league that have the goal of making our sport professional (the implication being that they'll get paid to do it in this league sometime in the near future). I think that's kind of insane. NO ONE loves this sport more than me, no one - but we're not ALL of us producing top level derby just yet. I kind of feel like its presumptuous in some ways to ask people to pay even $15 for some of the derby getting played for giant audiences already. Upping ticket prices isn't just a matter of upping production levels and providing a good show. The derby needs to be there, too. The derby isn't all the way baked yet. Imagine what we'll be doing in 5 years!!! If you think its more of the same but everyone just better skaters, look back at what we were doing 5 years ago. It doesn't even compare on any level. Not any. We're crazy to think that raising ticket prices (with or without raising production levels) to theoretically raise perceived value is what to do NOW. We need to keep concentrating on raising the derby, in my humble opinion.

Again, not saying "fuck the fans." God bless them for tolerating and being interested already at this stage in our infancy. But I don't necessarily think more fans is what we need right now. We're still in diapers. Let us get better first!

Just one skater's opinion,
Ivanna S Pankin
San Diego Derby Dolls

Ivanna, stop being so wise,

Ivanna, stop being so wise, sensible and rational. It makes the rest of us look cray-cray. Thanks.

Amazing.

To anybody who saw how long that comment was and decided to skip it ... seriously, read it. Really excellent on multiple levels. Best Comment Ever.

Actually, the best comment

Actually, the best comment ever is still "...and Texas is on the ropes."

Thank you's

To Ivanna for saying, so wisely and articulately, what most of us are thinking.

And thank you to DNN for what you do.

As a derby skater and derby fan, I appreciate the littlest things.

For those of you that complain about the video feed (if we are lucky to have it), be grateful that DNN is here to give us score updates, upcoming bouts, previews and recaps. AND DONATE SOME MONEY!!!!

I think some of us have become spoiled...

Awesome post Ivanna! Modern

Awesome post Ivanna!

Modern roller derby as a sport, and not just a game played in many places, is only 4 years old. It's a ground up reboot, winding the clock back to 1940 and starting from there. That leaves a LOT of work to be done.

We'll know we're really on the way when we hear about LOTS of fans betting Jacksons on the outcome of a game.

So torn...

Both Vince and Ivanna have good things to say.

Yes, DIY derby is still in its infancy. Ivanna says look at our skating from five years ago...hell, look at just a year ago and see how different we are! However, even a baby can be dressed up to look good. When Vince talks about production value, he isn't talking out his ass. What he's contributed to the LA Derby Dolls in production value helps the league overall with looking more like a sport than a rinky-dink hobby...which is what DIY derby really still is, is it not? But DAMN, we look good doing it, and are able to justify our ticket prices as a result. And we have returning fans year after year.

In a few years we're going to see where DIY is really headed...it started out as a fun thing for women to do and who were in total control of everything...the training, the venue, advertising, image, etc. If you want to see the latest incarnation of derby on tv, not only would the skating have to get better, but a lot of control that leagues currently enjoy would have to be sacrificed. Are you really ready for that? And for that sacrifice of control to happen, I think the exceedingly democratic setup of current leagues would have to change if anything is able to be voted upon and followed through in anything resembling a timely fashion. Are you really ready for that?

Or, what will happen is that new leagues with a more traditional sports setup with more skaters from a real athletic background will appear and be the ones on tv. Are you really ready for that?

I like DNN because right now it IS for the skaters more than the fans...it's annoying enough to have a clean mouth and typing for this...ESPN would have nothing to do with me! I kinda like the netherworld DIY derby is currently in...it's not as primitive as it used to be a few short years ago, but it isn't the slick televised product that many think they want this to turn in to...and it would *have* to turn into that to survive on tv.

Considering what DNN has has to work with budget-wise, it's amazing what they've brought to all of us...I wish I could budget that well for my own finances! I have no reservations giving money to continue the quest for complete derby coverage.

Tara Armov
LA Derby Dolls

amen

thank you. until we have the derby brats who have been derby skating from the time they're old enough to walk up until they're my age, we aren't going to get paid for doing derby. while it would be nice to get paid for the blood, sweat, and tears put into doing this, i ain't bankin' on it anytime soon. i think the professionalization of the sport will come further down the road when we have kids doing derby their entire lives. this is when the olympic bid will come. derby is pretty awesome as it is, but imagine what it is going to be like when every last one of the contenders have been skating their entire lives in a capacity where they've had professional training at all levels of their skating existence. don't get me wrong, i'm all about helping along people taking us seriously, because we are serious.

however, we're still a baby sport. and we will be for a long while.

My eyes, my eyes

HA! There is so much good stuff in here, and so many points to discuss and debate - the cascading thread view makes it all difficult to read, understand and digest.

While I don't wanna bog down and reply to Ivanna's points one by one (I'll be in SD this weekend, so let's have some Magaritas and argue!)-- I'll make this point--

The Ivanna I know is a pretty modest person, one who I've seen downplay her own talents and achievements--- and this is yet another case of over-modesty, IMHO. I think she really does underestimate the status of things at current. Every sport started with newcomer athletes working side jobs and still presented itself to audiences-- many very successfully. The key is RELATIVE level of competition. Baseball of today is VERY different than the players of the 1930's yet both were very popular and successful-- just because a sport is going to grow doesn't make the competition of today and less worthy of audience attention.

Just because athletes come along and revolutionize sports that have been around for a generation doesn't mean that sport wasn't equally enjoyable previously. The level of competition scales as the level of competitor improves-- and in the end evenly matched players of any skill level are enjoyable to watch. And if these are the best players of THIS MOMENT, they are still the best.

And while one has to be realistic about audiences for female athletics, I think rules are made to be broken: and THOUSANDS of asses in seats all around this country are showing that to be true. The key spark is that every time Derby has managed to plunk itself down in front of audiences: it has made a connection with a surprising percentage of people-- and I don't see that changing. It's an AMAZING magic that I think as an outsider I see much clearer than the skaters...

Thank you!

Wow, I couldn't agree more. I didn't realize how strongly I felt this exact sentiment until I saw Portland vs. Oly at the WWS. I always personally felt guilty asking people to pay to see what amounts to a very serious hobby for me (and I work pretty hard at it). When I saw that game - it made me think that this was something I could show anyone. It was utterly legit and everyone on the track looked... pro. I think we're at least five years out from the time when we're more than cusping at that "pro" look *in terms of actual gameplay* from anyone but the top eight teams or so. *Then* we should maybe talk more about going *real* pro.

**Edit: This comment should be nested under Ivanna's, FYI.**

Lets get real about women's sports coverage for a minute

I just think that someday we're going to have to decide if we're a sport - and then go play it, sweaty and not necessarily cute, whether anyone is watching or not. Leagues like the ones that did RollerJam are going to eventually ride the coat-tails of our groundswell of popularity to capitalize with sexy, no talent, fake ass shit - on TV. TV wants the lowest common denominator. I don't even want that to be us! Really, the RollerJam folks crappy 80s-VHS-porn level production values are the only thing probably standing in the way of THEM being on TV right now, cause you KNOW they will sexy it up to get there. Its not production values standing in our way. Its taste. Its ethics. Its a thousand women who *don't mind* if you think they look cute in their uniform, but ultimately would rather you thought "HOLY SHIT THAT GIRL HITS HARD!" I would rather play roller derby in basketball shorts and a sweaty t-shirt in the park in front of two winos and a disinterested children's soccer team a million times before trying to compete or have anything to do with what it would really take to get on TV.

You really think we can get on TV based on the merit of our sport, without the sexy? Or let's say, with the "incidentally" sexy in our game now? I don't mean to be mean, but I think its naive to think we can do it - after years of trying - based on the value of our sport, which really is just barely developing its value in the first place. Seems more likely to me that the first league on TV is going to have to sexy it up to GET there and sexy it up to STAY there. And I don't think they'll necessarily have to be good at derby, unfortunately. I mean, hopefully its not one or the other. Hopefully we can continue to carve a path down the middle. Hopefully I'm totally wrong and the Ocho will come to WFTDA or the Derby Dolls with a great offer to televise our games any day now. But I do think there's a big chance that "sexy" vs "sport" is one of the contradictions in our community that will come to a head in the next 5 years.

I'm not saying I don't want our sport to grow or evolve or anything like that. I'm just saying there is a logical end to the performance-centric business model we share now, and I'm not sure its what's best for the development of roller derby AS A SPORT. Maybe audiences will keep growing and roller derby as a performance sport will stay popular with the masses. But a world that can't seem to sustain interest in performances of women's basketball (which are largely supported by the insane amount of money men's basketball programs bring in, I hear) or women's soccer (interesting to women but apparently not so much to "sports fans" - ie. men) or any of the established sports played by women (who don't sexy it up) already... I mean, I just think we may have to accept that there is a CHANCE that civilians might have a limited attention span for us. Especially as we move away from hot pants and torn tee shirts and into the land of basketball jerseys and uniforms with full coverage of our asses.

Hopefully I'm wrong. But if I'm not, at least if people's interest fades over time, what's left after the bright lights go off will be thousands of women, men and children playing a sport. Which doesn't seem that awful to me.

Believe it or not I erased paragraphs of shit before posting this. Sigh.

Muchos kudos.

Thank you for writing this.

True ESPN Confessions...

I have hesitated to jump into this thread lest I appear to be tooting my own horn, or overshare things that are confidential WFTDA info. I will proceed with caution, because I think I may know a few things everyone needs to hear.

First, I'm the person who met with an Executive VP of Programming (someone I was told by her inferiors was the gatekeeper, and that nothing got on the air without her say so) at ESPN for WFTDA back in 2007. Second, I'm the person who got and negotiated the Mav TV deal for WFTDA.

As far as ESPN goes, they're interested, but in ways that would make you laugh, and that we won't accept. Why? Two reasons:

1) They can't get good commercial sponsors for "popular" women's sports like soccer, fast-pitch softball and volleyball. They lose money every time they produce something like the women's soccer world cup, but do it because they have a programming directive to promote women's sports. She told me she wasn't even sure how long that programming goal would hold. Until they can get big name soda, car, etc sponsors for the women's sports they have actual viewer numbers for already, they're not going to put any money into producing us. But we're, of course, welcome to do a time buy, just like the Rock, Paper, Scissors Champs, or the Air Guitar Champs. (read: spend a million $ of our own money making on a show, then another million on bying the airtime to run the show on their network)

2) Their other programming directive is live events. She told me even if they were somehow sold on us, all they would ever televise would be the final game of WFTDA (then) Nationals.

The next thing she offered me as a booby prize was a maybe at possibly garnering enough interest to put us into a webcast on their website (if *we* did/paid for the production), or, this cool new thing they were test marketing where some of our highlight video could be shown on tv screens on gas pumps in 2 small New England states. She was very apologetic, and wished us well.

ESPN is not salivating over modern derby, I promise. If they were, WFTDA'd be on it already.

Also, don't get me started on Pay Per View (LADD, feel free to jump in and agree here - I think you've been down that road, too?). Just please take my word when I say PPV is not for us, not now, and probably not ever.

Furthermore, it is not true that we can't have a tv contract without control, because we got one. (Seriously, other tv people I showed that contract to thought we had magical powers and wanted to know how the hell we pulled off what we got in the contract - it was kind of epic as those things go). Granted, it was not on ESPN or even Lifetime (like WNBA), but it was a network willing to invest over a million dollars of production budget into us, and willing to air us like crazy in every market it ran on in the US and 8 other countries. But why did we pursue a tv deal (with Ms. Ivanna S. Pankin, among others, at the helm of WFTDA at that time, mind you) if the sport wasn't fully baked yet? Why did we need tv?

Well, young'uns, back in those days, Rollergirls on A&E had just run, and we were experiencing the first derby explosion of our very short history. The long and short, without revealing too much, is that it was very, very important that Modern, Skater-Owned, Skater-Run Roller Derby be the first presence on tv, in full-length game form, before a David Sams or some kind of shady producer/promoter type brought back the alligator pits and choreography. We felt really certain that this was right around the corner (especially because the writer's strike happened, and lots of us were getting contacted by producers for weird ideas), and we had to get a jump on the public's image of our fledgling sport, before someone did something crazy to it.

There were other reasons that I'm not really at liberty to discuss, and other benefits to the organization, of course. Just know that some really well informed, experienced derby folks (including LADD, I'm sure) have already tested all those waters, and we've all come to the same conclusion (I think):

1) It's not time yet. (For full games on tv on a network many people watch, or watch sports on).

2) TV is not our medium. Hell, in 10 years, it may not be anyone's. (Or necessary for our success as a sport, or to be 'legitimate', or taken seriously).

3) DIY is still the way, and should be until we grow some more.

DNN is doing a beautiful job of pacing it's growth right along side the pace of the growth of derby. Give them props for that. Because we're all the kind of people who can smell someone getting ahead of us, or coming at us with the wrong proposition, for the wrong reasons, and we just don't stand for it. I, for one, am in love with how we are still a *community* growing together, and supporting each other, even in this fledgling media business. I hope we never sell that away.

i definitely think you're onto something

the manner in which we all access derby via the internet is revolutionary in itself. tv isn't the medium by which most of us probably gain any sort of information anymore anyway. so why should we rely upon tv as our way of gauging how successful we are as a sport? i don't look at the tv if i want to know what is going on in the world, and i definitely wouldn't want to *have* to watch ESPN if i wanted to know what is going on in the derby world, especially when they have little to no interest in what our sport is doing and how we're growing. obviously anymore what they even see as a sport is questionable. POKER? really?

i too love the DYI aspect. *we* as skaters are in control of the ways in which *we* are portrayed. we don't have to worry about some producer coming in and adding the alligator pits or making us wear some horrific outfit with boobs spilling out everywhere. we don't have to worry about them casting lindsey lohan as our "lead jammer".

I don't think I need to add much to this

But, I think people need to step back and look at ESPN and what they have. They are without a doubt, the sports leader in the States in TV, in print, on radio, online, pretty much everything you can think of. If they have sporting events paying them a million dollars for an hour of airtime on ESPN2, why would they ever take a risk? They're not going to put any money on the line for an experimental, women's sport. It's just never going to happen, and you can certainly hate them or be annoyed by them for that, but I can't really blame them. As much as I love derby, it has to prove itself before ESPN ever considers putting a cent into it. Your biggest hope for ESPN is to try to get the X-games to give you some space at their event to play some games and then if the crowd likes enough, they MIGHT air a game a few years later.

If derby wants to be on TV, if you have to go after networks like G4, Fuel, or Current.

I guess I wasn't clear enough...

I've also had talks with Fuel and G4, Vs. and several other interested networks. They want lifestyle, fluff programming from derby, not to carry our full-length games, not even the WFTDA Champs. I guess the point I was trying to make is that some of us have been at this for years now, have exhausted many resources, taken many meetings, had many offers, and we still arrive here. TV is not the jam.

TV/Media Coverage

As a die hard fan and spouse of a derby girl (my wife skates for KCRW), I'm all for increased media exposure. However, I question if going after ESPN right off the bat is the best way to go. Think about it; they are the world leader in sports television; why would they give the time of day to something that they consider to be "unproven"? Don't get me wrong, I do not agree with this sentiment, but you have to think like they do. A network that is virtually in bed with a corrupt organization like the BCS in college football isn't going to take roller derby seriously.

Therefore, what about going to a competing network, a smaller network that is looking for a way to gain an advantage on the ESPN's of the world? To me, that network would be Versus. They are the only ones who televise the NHL on a regular basis as well as such events as the Tour de France; i.e, events that other U.S television networks won't touch. Now granted, Versus might be a reach for roller derby as well, but my gut tells me that they would at least have more of an open mind than the folks in Bristol, CT.

Anyway, that's just my two cents. As Dennis Miller would say "that's just my opinion, I could be wrong".

@MercyLess - excellent

@MercyLess - excellent insight into what WFTDA is doing behind the scenes and the difficult if not impossible task of bringing derby to a wider and possibly more mainstream, audience.

Reason number umpteen.

Everyone here is demonstrating yet another reason to donate to DNN: the content and user base are a constant source of thought-provoking discussion about our sport. (With the occasional dose of OUTRAGE, of course.)

One thing that hasn't changed

In 2004 AZRD was approached by the people who ultimately ended up (after a falling out with some of their partners) making "Rollergirls" (the short-lived reality show starring Texas Lonestars). I think they were working on a handful of leagues (there weren't more than a handful, at that time). But we got pretty serious with them, enough to hire a lawyer to review contracts, which I think cost in the neighborhood of $3500, a fortune for us. Ultimately, we declined because we didn't want a reality show - we wanted reality. We wanted our games, not our "antics" on TV. I distinctly remember the conversation - they wanted 10% games and the rest "lifestyle" and we wanted the exact opposite: all games with occasional background info on the players, team or coaching, like televised college sports. No offense to TX for deciding the exposure was fun and worth it - that show drove the first big boom of derby that brought so many people in to play and thanks to them for it.

But 6 years later...

We're a reality show, MAV TV, half dozen mostly lifestyle or coffeetable books and a teen movie down the road and we're well into our 2nd big boom. But we're still surprised when an outsider writes a thoughtful media piece about us that doesn't trip over the same tired "(OMG smart!) teacher by day, (raaowr, sexy vamp) derby girl by night" shite. Our internal coverage of our own scene is the ONLY reliable and consistent method to find out what happened in bouts you can't attend.

Even the crap articles in regular papers or on their websites are still bringing in interest from civilians and driving ticket sales and HUGELY driving recruiting, so I'm not saying its bad (and we're infiltrating by writing our own blogs on their media sites, which is awesome). But the consistently crappy coverage in regular media is what makes us seem like - well, kind of a fad in the civilian world. Something they'll get tired of, eventually. They - the world - isn't likely to take us seriously as a sport this year. Or next. You could say dump the names, the silly outfits, etc, if you want to get taken seriously - but that could hasten the decline of THIS particular iteration of derby - the performance-based iteration, that is. We joke that we bring them in with the names, girls falling, asses out, etc - and keep them with the sport. And I think that is true with many of our *real* fans, but those people are not a big majority of the people I see at games. I am sure every market is different. But I think our PR committee head just said something like her polling said 75% of our fans (at a sold out game, something like 1700 people) came to that bout to see derby for the first time, and heard about us through word of mouth.

I was a party bus host for that bout, and sat next to 5 drunken laddie-mag type dudes that were going to their first bout... and were iphoning up lingerie football while riding there... then started looking on our site for photos of the skaters playing in that bout. There was no transition there... it was all the same to them.

My point is that we love our sport, DNN loves our sport - and we're winning some fans. But I suspect most of the people that come to see us (outside of family members, I mean strangers) come to see cute girls fall down.

Put it this way: Wildfires are a ranked team so are presumably "better" at the sport than the SD Renegades, who are not ranked and don't play as much interleague. Awesome girls, though. I went to a Renegades bout somewhat recently and - super cool girls, but the skating skill was not at a level that I would call super competitive. The audience not only didn't seem to care - they didn't seem to NOTICE. They were having fun and girls were flying in every direction. Everyone was having fun.

Its back to my MMA "gay shorts" theory (recently blown out of the water by a an ass-kicking of epic proportions on a dude wearing the absolute gayest shorts I have ever seen, but that's another story). I don't think most of the civilian audience knows or cares if we're good at our sport, as long as the bodies fly. Which - add in that we don't bring in big money sponsors - makes our SPORT worth nothing to the traditional media, whose business model is completely based on selling shit to those rabid civilians that will pay any amount of money to support their team (ie here its the Chargers, in AZ it was the Suns - whatev). In that sense, Vince is 1000% right, because our spectacle is, to some degree, paying the bills, and LADD has built an amazing show around really outstanding derby. Luckily, we're free to develop our sport because they don't dislike us being skilled, either. I'm just saying - I don't think the audience always knows or cares. We think the sexy is incidental to the skill. But I suspect they think its the exact opposite: the skill (if they recognize it outside the scoreboard results) is incidental to the sexy.

So in the meantime, the only meaningful coverage of the sport that we can count on is from our own community, which thank god includes people like Vince & Bryan and Hurt & Gnosis and Justice.

So that was a lot to say that DNN is worth donating to.

Don't tell anyone I was here again. I need to get this RollerCon work done and it ain't gonna finish itself!!
Excited to get my tee-shirt. :)
Ivanna

Just a few thoughts based upon those great posts by Ivanna and T

ivanna_s_pankin wrote:

In 2004 AZRD was approached by the people who ultimately ended up (after a falling out with some of their partners) making "Rollergirls" (the short-lived reality show starring Texas Lonestars).

I saw that program because roller derby was once an enormous part of my life and I was curious about this revival. I hated it because it was about things I did not care about (the skaters lives and drama) and not what I wanted to see (the games).

That is part of the problem some ladies have learned here already that the overwhelming majority of TV wants to USE roller derby, not help it or promote it. Just like they almost killed it in the 50s with the overexposure. For them, its a show. Real Sport? They see no draw. Sexy outfits and punny names they see a show and lord knows they then want to mess with the programming and make it worse. The sound move is just waiting, like you did for the Mav TV deal, for somebody who is willing to let it work itself out.

ivanna_s_pankin wrote:

I was a party bus host for that bout, and sat next to 5 drunken laddie-mag type dudes that were going to their first bout... and were iphoning up lingerie football while riding there... then started looking on our site for photos of the skaters playing in that bout. There was no transition there... it was all the same to them.

I like women in lingerie. I like football. I have no interest at all in seeing the lingerie football leagues or even the women's football leagues because its crappy football. Six years ago, I saw crappy roller derby. Call it a real sport all you want (and it was) but the skating was atrocious. Today, there is so much talent out there that I truly believe I am seeing top notch derby, even if its not MY derby, and I can enjoy that well. I think that is where the long term survival and exposure lies because the rest of this can be seen as fadish. Of course, I am also one of those rare folks who watches the NCAA softball games and womens college tourney, so my view of women's sports may be a tad skewed.

ivanna_s_pankin wrote:

My point is that we love our sport, DNN loves our sport - and we're winning some fans. But I suspect most of the people that come to see us (outside of family members, I mean strangers) come to see cute girls fall down.

Yep, the violence sells the game. In fact, it was accidental violence that made it in the first place. Though some people think violence between jams is more important than the violence during one (I position I vehemently disagree with)

Someone, I think Tara, mentioned that as this grows and as the professional league possibility gets closer that many sacrifices will get made and that control will get out of the skaters' hands etc. All points I agree with. But the birth of a professional league backed by big money would not mean the end of DIY derby by any means. I have said many times that the smart play for a pro league would be to build relationships with those DIY leagues in much the same way development leagues work with the majors. If anything, it will keep it going. Its a built in base for fans AND most importantly talent.

As for TV, considering there are pro Lacrosse leagues, kickball, and Dodgeball leagues out there without TV, TV is not needed for that. It is far better to be ahead of any curve though (like you did with MAV) because, and I speak for many a classic style derby skater, we would rather see this wave on TV then a David Sams like production.

Derby is a Sport.

I was lucky to start watching Derby when it was getting rolling in Denver.

I am lucky to know a couple of skaters and am willing to donate where I can, buy season passes and pick up some extra merch now and again. I am the odd ball at the office that promotes Derby over any other sport. I was beyond happy when DNN had the capability to stream Nationals last year and will be leveraging BoutCast this weekend.

TV is not my medium anymore. Video capture of a bout on hulu is more my style. BoutCast (register that if not already done :) is excellent even on my phone and even when video quality is grainy I'll have my nose in front of the computer watching every move with a passion I have not had for a sport since I played t-ball.

It's not the rules that make Derby a sport. It's not the validation from other sporting venues that make Derby a sport. It's not some big shot ESPN that makes Derby a sport.

Derby is a sport because of the hearts of the skaters and the hearts of the fans.

DNN helps keep us together and I appreciate all of the hard work by everyone who keeps me, a fan, informed.

Stace

...and Sports are Entertainment.

Now everyone's happy! Or unhappy. I forget which.

Theoretical debate, its like college all over again! :)

First off, Mercy Less, Ivanna_S_Pankin, and Professor Murder = 3 of the smartest people I have met in my life. Period.

A few things.

ESPN = not a good fit.

Do you watch ESPN? Sportscenter covers the NFL, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball, Baseball, and the NBA in depth. Sprinkle in a dash of NHL hockey and the occasion Pro Soccer highlight. The rest of their programing are speciality talking head pundit shows (Rome is Burning, Mike and Mike, Around the Horn, NFL Live, etc.). Other then that its all one off programming such as Pool, Pro Bowling, Arm Wrestling, The WNBA playoffs, etc. IF Roller Derby got covered it would be just like those other sports, without any coverage on Sportscenter and a once in while thing where you wouldn’t get to know the players or the teams.

How do you cover a season?

The WFTDA has 78 teams currently and more apprentice leagues coming in. The closest model to to this is Division 1 NCAA Football and Basketball which has 119 teams. When NCAA football is in season there is 1 game on TV every Thursday night, maybe 2 on Friday night, and then maybe 12 games in your market on game day that is being covered on NBC (Notre Dame exclusively), ABC, CBS, and multiple ESPN channels. Even with all that, its impossible to even watch all the teams in your University’s division unless you have something like the Big 10 network and mind you this is making these networks millions of dollars in ad revenue. If Roller Derby did get a time slot, how would you cover all 78 teams or even a quarter of them with 1 time slot once a week?

The next generation.

As others have mentioned in this thread, its going to take something beyond just the sport to get people interested. Its going to take time, younger people playing it and growing up with it. The closest comparison would soccer and lacrosse and they way they have grown in American high schools in the past 20 years.

New sport, new medium.

Yes, other sports webcast, but I can’t think of anyone who has went at it as aggressively as modern roller derby and DNN. Times, sports, and technology are rapidly changing. Roller Derby like this couldn’t have existed in 1995. The internet is what spread this sport via Myspace, youtube, and other social networking sites in the mid 2000’s. With current technology giving us things like HULU and the ability to easily attach your computer to your TV, its not that much of stretch to think that within a decade or so, your living room entertainment set up will become one mass media hub connecting internet and cable together with a laundry lists of online services. The way music was spread via Napster in 1999, we have begun to see something akin to this with Ustream and Justin.tv. The big question of course then becomes, who, what, and how do you turn a profit off this technology?

The bottom line is roller derby does keep growing and while I think the majority of us want to see it become on par with Futbol (soccer) throughout the world in popularity, lets also enjoy the little victories along the way.

Peace,
Tank

right.

Yup, Right.

And, might I add, 'waah waah, woe is derby, why aren't we on television, waah waah waah.' Guess what - no one's falling over themselves to air modern derby bouts as a full sporting event, nor is any major media outlet telling the story everyone here might want told.

Okay, then -- scrap the bitterness; take matters into our own hands. Don't wait around for ESPN to suddenly decide derby is cool and to tell the right story the right way. As Tank said, it's piecing together little victories and continuing to raise consciousness.

In that spirit, here's where the Gotham Girls are heading in NYC:

http://nyc.gov/html/nycmg/nyctvod/html/home/nyclife_spring_2010.html
(Watch out at 1:15 and again at 1:23 -- blink and you'll miss it)

It's a major announcement for GGRD and lets the league tell the stories of its bouts, on its own terms, with the league's announcers, the league's editors, the league's producers. Bout action, mixed with skater profiles, strategy anaylsis, extensive graphics, and instant (uh, post-production) replay. Yes, it's REALLY hard work - but no harder than the work Leo Seltzer's team had to do in the 40s and 50s, or the work Pete Rozelle's team had to do in the 60s..

Full details at
http://www.gothamgirlsrollerderby.com/news/717/gotham-girls-roller-derby...

GGRD has really high hopes for this series and hopes everyone enjoys it and that it brings everything up yet another level. And if it fails to do that, let's all learn from it.

That is sooo awesome!

That is sooo awesome! Congratulations!

blah blah blah

I can't even read all this. It's probably smart but I just can't.

DNN. I want to watch TX vs Colorado this weekend. I'm gonna give you money so I feel like a responsible consumer when I do so. I might also top it off w/ a cup of fair trade coffee.

mmmm coffee

We should find a supplier and hook up a Boutcast Blend as a donation premium.

talk to Minnesota

and whoever did their Rise-n-Shiner blend :)

http://lovelypackage.com/rise-n-shiner-coffee/

Kentucky Dervish's brother

did the awesome Derby In Dairyland coffees, and he uses Fair Trade beans. It was YUM.

small world

wow, that's my brother's web site.
that is all.

Lippy Wrongstockings

that new mexico stuff

Whatever coffee you gave me after I boutcasted the Buttcrack of Dawn "Church of Skatan" bout at WWS with MercyLess...that was good. Get that.

North Star - Peace Coffee

We're all about fair-trade coffee in Minnesota! The North Star Roller Girls hooked up with Peace Coffee to create the Northern Fights Roast:

http://www.peacecoffee.com/order/order.php?ACTION=productDetail&PID=235

You'd think Starbucks and Rat City...

...would team up to create a create a blend; Starbucks kinda owes Rat for copying their logo.

I'm not sure you want the

I'm not sure you want the word "rat" anywhere near a food product.

Speaking only for myself...

Not a skater, or even a female. Just a dedicated hardcore fan and NSO. I'd like to offer my take on the discussions about our sport making it on TV or more "mainstream"...

I LOVE roller derby...absolutely love it. But, there are several things about the sport headed in a way I don't like. General elimination of the penalty wheel tops the list but there are several things about the sport that initially attracted me to it that are gone now.

What made me fall so hard and so fast for this sport is that it WASN'T mainstream. It was underground, it was gritty, it was renegade, it was DIY, and in some ways, even anti-establishment. There wasn't the elitism that plagues almost every other sport. It was like punk was to music or ECW (the Paul Heyman one) was to wrestling.

If the sport ever gets to a point where we're playing in sold-out top-level arenas, we have national TV deals with someone like ESPN, and rollergirls are getting paid and using their real names on the track...I don't think I'd really be interested in derby anymore.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

That was my initial attraction

No, you're not the only one. Speaking as a skater, though, what initially attracted me to the sport were the same things that you like. But it quickly became so much more. It now makes me sick to be asked questions like "What kind of shorts do you wear?" and "Why don't you put spikes on your elbow pads?" (although I usually smile and answer politely). I want people to love the sport the way I love it: Obsessively checking rankings, reciting team records and player statistics to my friends, and arguing over which team/player/strategy is better.

Me too...

Whenever I express my love of derby to an outsider (which is often), I too have to deal with questions like "is it fake?", "Aren't they all lesbians?", or "I used to watch that back in the ", which makes it clear that one of our tasks is to repair the damage that previous incarnations of the sport have done. I too am sickened by most of these questions, but I try my best to be an ambassador of the sport and answer politely. My answer usually ends up being "This ain't your grandma's roller derby".

For what it's worth, I do love the sport the way you love it. :)

There will always be an underground

You're not the only one who feels that way, and there's nothing wrong with being the torchbearer for the underground. I even felt very much the same way about a different scene I was once a part of, so I do understand where you're coming from. But I don't think you need to worry about the subversion of ENTIRE roller derby scene by those leagues which opt to culturally "sell out" in some manner as their priorities change; there will always be an underground for you to feel is special and worthy of remaining involved in.

Five years ago, I, too, was partially drawn in and entertained by the romantically rebellious, larger-than-life, silly, sexy spectacle of it all. But for me, the fun, cleverness, rebelliousness, and entertainment value of the non-athletic side of derby diminished to near-zero a long time ago; the novelty simply wore off. It's now much more about the game, for me. I just don't see anything "renegade" about all 500+ leagues being mostly carbon copies of each other, sticking almost without exception to the cultural blueprint laid out by the original Texas leagues (as filtered through Rollergirls, Whip It, and whatever the league was doing in the next town over).

Rather, I find it endlessly exciting, so non-mainstream for these amazing, local women to be going out there on roller skates (roller skates!), developing and playing an amped-up, high-contact, team sport unlike any other; and they're taking it further and getting better at it every year, despite turnover, league dysfunction and a continuing public perception problem. Roller derby's got built-in edginess; the nature of the game itself essentially runs contrary to all mainstream and quite a few alternative sports, notwithstanding the fact that it's still mainly just women doing it, and mostly on flat tracks.

I love the fact that there are now derby organizations, leagues, and teams which are daring to break the scene's stagnant cultural molds and take the sport in so many new directions, despite the threat of alienation by some players & fans. I only had to watch a couple of those early, somewhat ridiculous bouts and to witness behind-the-scenes tensions between players to realize that derby was about to experience a major schism - first within individual leagues, as more athletic-minded players joined or simply outgrew the campy, attention-seeking kind of derby embraced by their peers; and then between leagues, as those with the most competitive travel teams began to look and play much differently than the more inexperienced or less athletically focused clubs.

That future is now. All of derby is no longer on the same page, not moving in one direction, universally away from the underground/gritty/DIY/rockabilly ethos. We all ought to take comfort in the scene forking in several directions at once, because it's ensuring some form of derby will exist for everyone. There's no need to feel alienated from derby as a whole, because there is no derby as a whole. There are family friendly bouts and there are raunchy, raucous bouts. There are women's leagues, men's leagues, old-school leagues, anything-goes leagues, junior leagues, rec leagues, sporty leagues, showy leagues, leagues with big audiences, leagues with small audiences, leagues playing in big venues, leagues playing in little rinks & gymnasiums, leagues on banked tracks, leagues on flat tracks, leagues advertising by flyers & word-of-mouth, leagues advertising on billboards and TV, leagues happy with by-day/by-night press, and leagues courting serious coverage.

As long as the leagues getting the most exposure aren't the ones doing the worst skating, I'm pretty happy with this situation.

Thanks for the pep-talk

I don't really want to be a torchbearer for the underground, I just long for the derby of five years ago, and would love to see the sport return to that.

Back in '05, derby was lacking of everything I hate about other sports (especially football and boxing). I could make a list of what those things are, but I'd probably crash DNN's server doing so. I'm just afraid that the more "mainstream" we get, the more I'm afraid we'll acquire these unfortunate traits I speak of.

If derby would forever stay exactly like it was back in '06, I'd be OK with that. I guess it's like a marriage. You fall head-over-heels in love with a girl, you court her and marry her. As the marriage gets a few years old, she starts to change. You still love her, and you're not going to leave her, but she changed to the point where many of the qualities about her you fell in love with are gone. I guess that's the situation for me and derby.

Funny this came up now...I just made a Myspace blog entry last week making a list of all the things I miss about roller derby.

Anyway, thanks for letting me vent a little.

Re: Getting real about women's sports coverage

(Long post here. I guess I had a lot on my mind.)

Before I die, I would love to see legit derby on ESPN or Versus or on whatever major channel, live in HD on my TV and given the same production values and seriousness as a basketball or football or hockey game, and knowing enough people are watching it to justify it being on there. I know that's going to take a lot of time no matter what, and the steps to getting there is a place like DNN laying the groundwork for how to cover both a single derby bout and how to cover bouts throughout an entire year. For that, I'm more than happy to plunk down some bucks toward the cause.

However, Ivanna's earlier comment about “getting real about women's sports coverage” made me recall a conversation I had some time ago with some of my sports buddies, and why women's sports are not as popular as men's sports. Simply, men performing at their best are much better athletes then women can ever hope to be. Don't think for a second that's a sexist remark or something silly like that; it's the truth. Men can...

...jump higher (above-the-rim slam dunks in the NBA are flashy and common; in the WNBA you'll maybe get one I-can-barely-reach-the-rim slam dunk a year),
...run faster and harder (men's 100m dash world record: 9.58s; women's: 10.49s … men's marathon world record: 2:03:59; women's: 2:15:25),
...hit harder and do things that require more physical strength (see: football, hockey, wrestling, boxing, UFC, etc),
...and not be out of action for a year when they have kids. You'd think this shouldn't be on this list, but Kobe Bryant or David Beckham or some other ticket-selling star was out of action for a year, but sports-wise it would make a big, big difference competitively and financially.

Before you get the wrong impression about this comment, let me just get straight to my point: The only way that the general public is going to embrace roller derby—and I'm talking on the level like it was in the 60s and early 70s—is if men's derby becomes just as prominent as or more so than women's derby. The reason people watch sports is because they want to see athletic competition at its highest level. They want to see the high-flying antics, the speed, and the physical action. You're never going to see the highest level of any major sport unless men are doing it.

Do you agree that roller derby is a sport, and that its competitors are athletes? If so, don't you want to see it eventually played at its most highest possible level? Only when we get to that point do I believe the public in general will be willing to take an interest in roller derby enough for a national TV network to really throw their financial support behind it. I believe the only way roller derby can be played at its highest possible level is if the men are on the track, either primarily or alternating periods with the women like they used to back in the day.

MercyLess made the comment earlier that ESPN is committed to showing more women's sports (and good for them), but financially it doesn't make sense without sponsor dollars to help. But realistically, if there aren't that many people watching in the first place, how could anyone justify spending the sponsorship dollars on a small audience? My buddies and I came to this conclusion: The casual sports fan wants to watch faster, stronger, and harder-hitting sports, because they are ultimately more entertaining. The TV ratings and cash flow pretty much proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Again, about what Ivanna was saying earlier: “getting real about women's sports coverage.” Is roller derby a women's sport, or is roller derby a sport, period? If we were to limit roller derby to just a ladies' game, I think there is a very, very little chance of it sustaining itself for the long-term. Part of the appeal of roller derby as it is right now, and most leagues will admit this readily, is that it's girls in skirts and hot pants with funny names hitting the crap out of each other on roller skates. Once they see a bout live, though, the intense competition and legitimacy that roller derby is takes precedence, and most of them fall in love with it right away. That's good, but can that be something to rely on forever? As I see it, unless people understand the sport of roller derby first and foremost, and love it for the sport first like I do, there's no chance, and no reason, for it to gain enough prominence for it to go truly mainstream.

During Spring Roll, I was pretty much exclusively watching the men's track games. Not because I'm a chauvinist, but because I love derby and want to see it played at its highest level. Granted, the men's teams are not as organized as the women's teams are at this point, but the men can skate faster, accelerate and change direction faster, jump higher (one male jammer literally jumped THREE FEET high in the air when jump-cutting the inside), and hit harder (ask Justice Feelgood about his last jam during the 3rd/4th place game), I saw more things in three men's bouts that the I would assume the casual sports fan could get into then in a whole slate of women's bouts, talking strictly from a sporting perspective.

This is no knock on the women, of course...I'll tell someone to go to an LA Derby Dolls game in a heartbeat (and also help them park) just because they need to see derby. But that's really only because there is no men's alternative 'round these parts yet. In other words, if you wanted to introduce someone to the game of basketball, either an NBA game or a WNBA game would do since the rules are the same. However, which one would you take them to on a regular basis if you wanted to get them hooked on the game and make them come back to see more of it? You may have your personal opinions about that, but just take a look at where the sponsorship, advertising, TV ratings and popularity lies.

While I think it's great that derby folk have been talking with people like ESPN and other networks here and there, I think it's still going to take a very, very long time for anything concrete to happen on that front. Hence, DNN is our savior. I'm very grateful (and broke) because of DNN and roller derby in general, because for as long as I can remember I have loved roller derby. Just this weekend's games made me glad we have free access to such quality derby from all over the country (and holy shit, Australia!), in both flat and banked track forms. The quality of derby has been improving at such a good rate and since we can watch all the good games online via DNN, we can all see how much better everyone has been getting, and how much derby is continuing to improve. DNN has been and will continue to be a major force in expanding derby here and internationally. Seeing a full-blown DNN cable TV network would a pretty cool thing, too...

I would dispute this.

This is a particularly narrow interpretation of sports excellence. In many cases, women's sports are more technically proficient than men's sports. There is a higher reliance on passing and playmaking in both basketball and hockey and when watching from afar, I can't tell the difference between men's and women's soccer. Watching women's skiing, diving, swimming and track and field in the olympics is fantastic

Sure men, might be bigger, stronger, and faster, but that doesn't mean that they're the best. This goes for men's sports as well. The smarter athletes (sportswise, not necessarily bookwise) tend to be better than the brutes. That's why so many fireballers aren't good pitchers. They're big and strong, and they throw fast, but they don't know how to pitch. It make be that way in football, but not in all sports.

As far as derby goes, any decent female player is better than the vast majority of male skaters (sorry boys). There are some exceptions, but the women play a much more precise game that is (for the most part) far more aesthetically pleasing than watching the men beat the crap out of each other as they careen around the track.

Maybe in the future, men will compete with more skill, but that takes time, practice and a higher level of competition and that isn't available yet. I would also question whether the track dimensions are optimal for a male game.

So for the foreseeable future, the most highly skilled athletes and the ones who present the best display of derby are female. And if they're the best, they're the ones that should be on teev!

I probably shouldn't even be posting about this...

Both of the previous posts are using gross generalizations that I'm not a fan of.

Anyone who's seen Bonnie Thunders, Atomatrix, Shenita Stretcher or any of the amazing skaters on the top WFTDA teams wouldn't argue that men are just better athletes. Women are virtuosic in different ways then men, and we need to get away from terming the male type of athleticism as "better." Also, there are other pressures there that act on both sexes from the time they're children that make that seem so, but we've seen the gap close over the years, even in basketball, look at Brittney Griner. It seems like women aren't told they can be great athletes from a young age like men are. Also, as a male skater who's had the pleasure of skating with some great women in practices, I'm not about to discount their skill or athleticism at all.

D-Train, how many men's bouts have you been to recently? I haven't seen you at any of ours. Although the development of men's derby is behind that of women's derby, I would say that the experienced teams play with the same strategies as the women, and it's gotten away from simply watching "men beat the crap out of each other as they careen around the track." Even the announcer at Eastern Regionals, who saw our bout, (Chip Queso, I believe) who hadn't been exposed to men's derby before, stated that we were playing more or less the same game. I do agree that the best derby to watch is played at the top levels of the WFTDA.

I don't feel like any of these generalizations do anyone any good.

Pardon my blathering, but those two comments got my Irish up this morning.

Young Girls Playing Sports

Filthy brings up a VERY important point. As women, we are for the most part not encouraged to play sports at any real competitive level and I speak as one of the generations they've studied after Title IX went into affect. They've proven that women coming out of high school and college maybe in the past 15 years or so have reaped the benefits of any kind of encouragement in the athletic world. They have a better percentage of finishing high school, avoiding teenage pregnancy, going to college etc.

You can't shake over a 100 years of boys being encouraged as athletes with a shakily followed mandate over the past 30. Things need time to actually take hold.
Two of the best skaters on my team were both high school athletes, I don't think that's a coincidence.

Cheers

Fawkes
CTRG/CTDQ

I was at Eastern Regionals

I was at eastern regionals, but I haven't been to any bouts since. I tried to make the long island bout but wasn't able to; I'm keeping tabs on things from the shadows...

i think coffee just came of my nose

quote: "You're never going to see the highest level of any major sport unless men are doing it."

wow. just. wow.

I totally just voted this guy off my island.

For real. Off my damn island.
Into the sea. With the jellyfish.

no

One of the big differences with derby compared to say basketball is that it's not an off shoot of a guys sport. It's the exact opposite. I mean how many years head start did the NBA have over the WNBA? And you wonder why the women's game is not as popular? It's not the level of athleticism, it's the fact that it was relegated to the back seat from the start making it seem like the weaker stepchild.

Derby has flipped that scenario on it's head. It's now the dudes who are second fiddle and I can't help but wonder if deep down that bugs some of the guys.

Ding!

Darth Garfunkel wrote:

One of the big differences with derby compared to say basketball is that it's not an off shoot of a guys sport. It's the exact opposite. I mean how many years head start did the NBA have over the WNBA? And you wonder why the women's game is not as popular? It's not the level of athleticism, it's the fact that it was relegated to the back seat from the start making it seem like the weaker stepchild.

Derby has flipped that scenario on it's head. It's now the dudes who are second fiddle and I can't help but wonder if deep down that bugs some of the guys.

I think you've hit the nail on the head.

Even "back in the day", it seems that the women were the draw to derby, not the dudes. When I hear people talking about derby back then, they are wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy more likely to mention women like Joanie Weston, not the guys.

As a side note, it's interesting to look at the few other sports where women are the focus, not the men. Gymnastics, beach volleyball...maybe ice skating? The focus on those sports isn't brute force, and that isn't the focus in derby. Coincidence? The women also all wear non-baggy clothes...coincidence?

Things that make you go hmmmm...

Back in the day...

Tara Armov wrote:

Even "back in the day", it seems that the women were the draw to derby, not the dudes. When I hear people talking about derby back then, they are wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy more likely to mention women like Joanie Weston, not the guys.

This is true, though the saying goes that the women brought them in the door and the men kept them there. When I'm watching the 1959-1960 games I have, I'll sometimes fast forward past the women's periods (unless Loretta's in the game). When it's something like 1989 WRF, the women's periods barely interest me.

In general, the men in classic derby were the better skaters. But keep in mind that VERY FEW women would try out for the sport back then. As such the talent pool was smaller on the women's side, which may have sometimes meant they could be somewhat choosier on the men's side. Nowadays the situation is reversed, derby is perceived as a "women's sport" and with men having so many other sports options, men's leagues oft have trouble filling out a team.

It's true now as then that women are the larger draw (check the WFTDA poll results). It's also true that roller derby on average draws in a few more female fans than males. This has been true since BEFORE it by and large became a women's sport. Back in those days, it was just about the only sport women were involved in on a professional level. Did you know that Joanie Weston out-earned Billie Jean King back in the day? No shit.

Anyways, I'm cool with both genders skating derby, and I'm perplexed at anyone who says the sport can't succeed without men skating. Uh, hmmm... do fans ever walk out on your local bouts because there's only women?

Non-participation is Freedom

Darth Garfunkel wrote:

It's now the dudes who are second fiddle and I can't help but wonder if deep down that bugs some of the guys.

Doesn't bug me; i suck at all sports and this removes the burden of personal incompetence from my viewing enjoyment.

Personally...

...I regard the whole "faster, stronger, more aggressive" thing is men's derby's achilles heel as well as being its USP. Yes, the dudes who play it do super hard hits and can jump the whole curve (and tall buildings, speeding locomotives etc etc etc) with a single bound, but a lot of the subtlety and split-second tactical play that really makes derby stand out as a sport is potentially lost if the players tend to solve every situation, every tricky pack navigation and so on, with either raw speed or brute force.

I may be in the minority saying this, but I appreciate the skill of someone elegantly using a positional block or a little nudge out of bounds to dominate the opposition jammer with the minimum of effort just as much (if not more) than the huge wrecking-ball hits that knock people clean out of their skates.

Being on wheels is a great physical leveller - size on the track is almost immaterial, as large and small people alike can compete on equal terms, and their competition is predicated on skill, not brawn. This is a sport in which it takes very little to knock someone over, or to be knocked over yourself - it really doesn't need the testosterone frenzy red mist battle rage that a lot of primarily male-centric sports require to compete effectively. As a rugby player since the age of 11, and with not-so-fond memories of team-mates and opponents alike psyching themselves up for games by literally punching themselves in the face, I love that derby is all about the sang-froid, being able to think in an instant and solve physical problems with brain power rather than by outmuscling someone. This is why I love watching players like, say, Teflon Donna, who is ice cool and so smart, both as a jammer and a blocker.

However, I will say that of course there is a place for men's derby, and not just as some sort of 'freakshow' undercard to women's bouts, and given time there is no reason why both genders' representation in the sport couldn't be on an equal level. Even now, with the tactical and organisational side of the men's game being in its relative infancy, I love watching both. But to suggest that merby has to be included to sustain or capture mass appeal for the sport is to do the ladies' game an enormous disservice, and also misses the point that derby shouldn't need to change just so that the misogynistic, phallocentric viewpoint of society (particularly in reference to athletic endeavours) is appeased. The problem is theirs, not ours - derby is a fascinating, enthralling, exciting, compelling and utterly absorbing game, regardless of the gender of the participants.

(am I first person to use the word 'phallocentric' in a DNN comment?)

Exactly

Duncan Disorderly wrote:

a lot of the subtlety and split-second tactical play that really makes derby stand out as a sport is potentially lost if the players tend to solve every situation, every tricky pack navigation and so on, with either raw speed or brute force.

Exactly why women's derby, volleyball, and tennis are more interesting to watch. I'm not saying that those sports are super popular and getting a ton of airtime, but those two women's games are more popular than on the men's side and are on TV more. Tennis might be pretty even (TV-wise) but how much bigger are the women's stars? Point being that not all sports are about bigger and faster. It's completely about the entertainment factor and some sports are more entertaining with a finesse game. (Same reason why I enjoy watching softball way more than baseball which has pissed off many-a-dudes. Home runs are boring. "Wow. look at the ball fly far and some out-of-shape dude jog around the bases." Laying down a bunt and beating the throw to first is exciting.)

Girlz & Boyz

WindyMan wrote:

Granted, the men's teams are not as organized as the women's teams are at this point, but the men can skate faster, accelerate and change direction faster, jump higher (one male jammer literally jumped THREE FEET high in the air when jump-cutting the inside), and hit harder (ask Justice Feelgood about his last jam during the 3rd/4th place game)

Well, since you asked, I've definitely been hit harder than that by a female skater -- as I have been saying for years, Bullet Tooth Tracy is still #1 in my book for hardest hit. Plus, her hit was legal :)

I'll leave the lengthy responses to your post to other people, but I've been on the track with a lot of different men's and women's teams of wildly different skill levels, and I really believe the differences are not as stark as you (and some others in this thread) make them out to be. If you want this illustrated, try to catch a co-ed scrimmage sometime where both teams really know what they're doing. It'll quickly become obvious that different players play to the strength of their body types, and there's a really intriguing overlap there where some of the bigger girls are playing a power / hitting game while some of the smaller guys are playing a finesse / agility game. It's my favorite kind of derby to both play and watch, hands down (though I feel we're a long, long, LONG way from the point where your average sports fan is going to be ok with any sport that involves males hitting females.)

re: Girlz & Boyz

The three biggest hits I've taken (in chronological order) are from Killian Destroy during a Cincinnati Rollergirls practice, from Jonathan R during the Dark Side vs. Light Side scrimmage at Men's Derby Conference, and from Dahmernatrix at RollerCon09 during the Team Awesome vs. Team SeXY game (that Team SeXY won, by the way, Ivanna) . I wasn't conscious enough after any of three hits to differentiate between them. I just know they all put my lights out briefly and I was seeing spots for the rest of the jam. All three hits were legal and took me out of the play.

men's derby

Yes, men tend to be bigger, faster, and stronger than women. But roller derby has developed to be about so much more than brute force that those things are mostly irrelevant. Did you see the Windy City vs. Denver bout from 2009 Nationals? I would estimate that the individual Windy City skaters were (on average) bigger, faster, and stronger than the individual Denver skaters. And then there's the Denver vs. Oly bout from March '09 when Denver lost by 2 points. I don't think anyone would dispute that Oly is much bigger, faster, and stronger than Denver. I love that roller derby has become more brains over brawn.

We had a double header featuring both men's and women's derby at our season championship in Denver last year. The feedback that we got from the fans (including first-time fans) about the men's derby was mostly negative. They thought that the women were much better skaters. And this was a bout that did not feature our top 12-or-so skaters, who were resting up for Nationals. From my personal perspective, the men who were the most effective players skated more like women, using their agility and quick thinking to their advantage.

Also, men seem to have a hard time giving hip checks! ;)

Mens Teams Have Less Experience, Less Opportunities.....

yinan wrote:

.We had a double header featuring both men's and women's derby at our season championship in Denver last year. The feedback that we got from the fans (including first-time fans) about the men's derby was mostly negative. They thought that the women were much better skaters. And this was a bout that did not feature our top 12-or-so skaters, who were resting up for Nationals. From my personal perspective, the men who were the most effective players skated more like women, using their agility and quick thinking to their advantage.

Also, men seem to have a hard time giving hip checks! ;)

While this is changing as more mens teams pop up throughout the country and some type of organization is being attempted (Mens Derby Coalition - http://www.mensderbycoalition.com/) - for the most part men do not have as much time and opportunity to develop their skills as women. As its been said many times Mens Derby is years behind Womens Derby so the performance and skill level is going to be years behind that of Womens derby. I think if you took the allstars from each mens team throughout the country and put them up against one another you would see some amazing Roller Derby.

In Denver you had a mens team from Tuscon that had only skated a few bouts ever before that experience and had many skaters who hadn't bouted before. From Baltimore we only had seven guys and we certainly are always in a place where we could learn more as a team and continue to develop our skills. I agree, that game wasn't the best representation of mens derby as it was pretty one sided with Baltimore having more experienced skaters and thus providing a lop sided win. So hopefully you and your fans don't look at that as the definition of mens derby. There is not as much interest from men to play roller derby as there has been from women, so pretty much our only option to play is on a travel team. So when we travel its not like we are bringing our allstars, thats our team. Its just like an inter-league team. We may have some standout players and we may have some not so great ones, but we play with who shows up. Hopefully as the sport continues to grow this will change and we can develop inter-league play and travel with teams that provide a higher skill set and level of play. Regardless, we were very appreciative of the opportunity to skate in Denver and had an amazing time.

And I agree, the thing we stress constantly at practice is to avoid the big hits. Positional blocking, smart play, playing penalties - thats what wins the game. Unfortunately being top heavy brutes the positional blocking is the hardest part for us so its going to take the longest to develop in skaters. We don't have the large rumps and center of gravity that women do - so its a different learning process. Getting a hip check that takes out your legs is a hell of a lot more painful than some dude 50 pounds heavier than me slamming me to the ground.

I didn't mean to rag on men's derby...

I know that that bout was an inexperienced team playing a more experienced team. I definitely do not look at that as the definition of men's derby. I don't know about the fans though. If they are unfamiliar with the background or history of the teams they saw, they might. Not sure how to remedy that, though. The only thing I can think of is to bring in another men's team to play against our third place team in the consolation bout in October (I believe that is the only spot we haven't filled for this season).

But the women's derby bout that fans were comparing it to was also definitely not the highest caliber derby that there is. It was an intraleague bout featuring many new skaters, minus our 12-or-so best skaters.

My point is that there is nothing about men (or big women, or little women, or really fast women) that good strategy and teamwork can't overcome. Sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings about men's derby!

*jumps up and down, waving hand*

yinan wrote:

The only thing I can think of is to bring in another men's team to play against our third place team in the consolation bout in October (I believe that is the only spot we haven't filled for this season).

Is. That. So. I might be able to help with that :)

please contact

our interleague person, Angela Death.

This is starting to sound like a great idea. I would love to play against men! Now to sabotage my own team's efforts so that we end up as the third place team...

Feedback

yinan wrote:

The feedback that we got from the fans (including first-time fans) about the men's derby was mostly negative.

Interesting. This is not what the people who run the league told me. Are they lying to me?

um

Looks like I have spoken for the league when I meant to only speak for myself. Sorry, what I meant to say was that the feedback that I (not we) got from fans (at the afterparty, at work the next day, at home) was that they were not impressed. I should mention that most of these fans were men, if you can draw any conclusions from that.

Clarified

yinan wrote:

...the feedback that I (not we) got from fans (at the afterparty, at work the next day, at home) was that they were not impressed.

Understood. Thank you.

For what it's worth

My wife was able to make that bout, and she really enjoyed watching the men skate -- particularly the acrobatics of Justice and Virginia Slim...

Maybe you just like watching men? ha

WindyMan wrote:

During Spring Roll, I was pretty much exclusively watching the men's track games. Not because I'm a chauvinist, but because I love derby and want to see it played at its highest level. Granted, the men's teams are not as organized as the women's teams are at this point, but the men can skate faster, accelerate and change direction faster, jump higher (one male jammer literally jumped THREE FEET high in the air when jump-cutting the inside), and hit harder (ask Justice Feelgood about his last jam during the 3rd/4th place game), I saw more things in three men's bouts that the I would assume the casual sports fan could get into then in a whole slate of women's bouts, talking strictly from a sporting perspective.

Team Awesome and Team Sexy have gone head to head several times in extremely competitive games. The boys won once, Awesome a few times. I think that's notable in reference to your post, mainly because Awesome is a pickup team of mostly middle level ranked players. A quick glance shows most of us are from teams that hang around in the 20s on DNN (tho the team did pre-date the DNN rankings). In comparison to other women's teams, Team Awesome got our asses handed to us effortlessly by FSOP last ECE, so there are certainly far better players & teams, including "real" travel teams out there (and FSOP was *mostly* 1st string players from top 5 teams - so no surprise there). So first, to say men are better at derby is a real stretch. To say you enjoy watching them more is your prerogative, but I don't think even they'd say they're better athletes than us yet.

I think there is a chance you're seeing what you expect to see and missing some things because of it. For example, I know you were at Ventura and Kiki Diazz jumped the apex three times during the Wildfires bouts - effortlessly and at top speed, and knowing both jammers, I would have a hard time comparing Justice's skill and speed to hers. In fact, they went head to head in December and not only did the women win, but Kiki was - by far - the highest point scorer of all the jammers. She's also clocking 22mph on Trish's radar gun pretty regularly. You're welcome to your opinion, but in derby as in life, there is so much going on at all times that you should know that there's a really good chance your expectations are coloring your ability to observe.

I haven't read the rest of the posts yet, so if I'm echoing something someone already said (probably justice, who is fairly modest), sorry.

Calling you out, Ivanna!

ivanna_s_pankin wrote:

Team Awesome and Team Sexy have gone head to head several times in extremely competitive games. The boys won once, Awesome a few times.

The Team SeXY / Team Awesome series stands at one win for each team :)

mens derby in a womens derby world...

i am going to 100% disagree with WindyMan's post above, and if you ask anyone in men's derby, i am a huge advocat for it and have been playing for almost 3 years now for the Dallas Deception. the ONE and ONLY reason i play is plain and simple, its FUN!!! i have skated for 12+ years and this is the most exciting thing i've ever been involved in, as far as skating goes. i really wish people with narrow minded views such as the above posted one, would "zip their lip" that is the kind of negative publicity we DONT want. 90% of the mens skaters are some how involved with women's derby, coach, bench manager, trainers, refs, stats, ect.... we are all doing our part through the girls teams to build this sport.

i think one of the only thing any mens derby player is looking for is a chance to enjoy the sport, i'd bet its safe to say that ever derby skater, male or female, would love to say they are national champions of something, and everyone would LOVE to play derby and then go home and see themselves on ESPN!!! now as far as the comment about not making it to ESPN without men, i agree and disagree.
its hard to think any sport can make it very far without both sexes involved, and getting time on ESPN would be tough without both sexes represented. will it still happen? damn straight, look how far womens roller derby has come, they will probably be able to see the end result they want with or without mens derby, and i can promise you at least 90% of the mens derby players out there will be there to support womens derby WHEN they make it to national television. now, being truthful, of course i'd like to follow womens roller derby and be able to have something like WFTDA for mens roller derby, but the fact is, that really isnt the main concern, for the past 3 years my team, Dallas Deception, have just made our rounds of playing different teams in different areas of the united states for fun, nothing more than that....most of us(the 90% i stated are somehow involved with womens derby) aren't trying to steal the spotlight/thunder/ect from ANY women, and the statements about us being better and more fun to watch is BOGUS. we just want the opportunity to play the game also, thats all. yes we skate faster, yes we may hit harder, but at the same time i can promise anyone that although we use a lot of strategy it will never be on the level with your top 5 WFTDA teams, this is because women are patient and they play very cohesive in packs. guys arent that patient and we tend to play more solo.

all in all i just don't want anyone to get the idea that WindyMan's view is EVERYONE in mens derby's view, because it is FAR FROM THE TRUTH! we want to enjoy the game that you women so graciously brought back into the world, and for what its worth, i thank all of you women that were founders in this sport and the ones behind the scenes that keep this sport alive..... without you all, we wouldn't even know anything about this amazing sport or how its played...

thanks!

Matomic
Vanilla Derby
Dallas Deception

ckeck out ESPN mag

ESPN magazine, the body issue, came out a couple months ago and had a great article on the double standard of mens vs womens sports. I cant find a link for it but you can still buy it in stores it focused on adverisers and how they use sex to sell both women and mens sports. Unfortunately the women used by advertisers are often not the best in their sport but the most "commercial" I found it very interesting that when they interviewed women at the top of their sport and asked them how they felt about losing out on sponsorship money to a less skilled but more attractive athlete, many of them tried to look at the positive side saying that although they are disapointed, they are happy to bring attention to their sport. They point out how sex has been used to sell WNBA, volleyball, tennis, golf..etc..we are not alone in our struggles. Although I don't think its fair and wish things were different, I have to look at it like the women interviewed and say if fishnets get fans or advertisers interested in us then I'm ok with that because it is our athletisism and exciting game play that will keep them coming back. Sex sells, period. This is an advantage we have over the men so why not use it to our advantage. We are just as exciting and hard hitting as men, that is not even an issue and to say different is not even worth the argument to me. But if we want our sport televised it just seems that we are going to have to figure out a way to embrace the sexiness of our sport and show people that we can have both and don't really have to chose between being a women and an athlete. Am I happy playing derby with no crowd, yep I just want to play but like it or not derby is becoming more mainstream and we are going to have to figure out a way to deal with it. There are many more interesting points and examples of how womens sports are viewed but I don't have it with me and can't think of them all now, but definitely keep an eye out for the magazine and pick it up.

Why TV?

I think if you are playing this sport with the idea of eventually being on TV and living the Rock Star life you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Derby wouldn't be where it is if it wasn't for people with a passion to be involved in something that in the end reaps way more rewards than any sort of stardom would provide. And the day Derby does make it to ESPN is the day Derby is no longer an exciting non exclusive DIY sport. Perhaps the downfall of sports in general isn't the male/female divide, but money. For the most part I can't stand sports and do not watch them. The thought of someone making millions of dollars to play a game is ridiculous. Perhaps crowds in the thousands packing stadiums across the country are already the beginning of that, but I still feel it has an air of being DIY. As to the men/women argument - if the men's teams were full of chauvinistic jerks they wouldn't be able to survive. I am pretty sure all of us respect, appreciate, and support Roller Derby of any gender 100%. If there is any sort of gender discrimination going on it comes form the women's teams that do not like the idea of Mens Derby and create rule structures that make it difficult for men and women to skate at the same event, ref, etc. In the end its all derby.

I was afraid of this...

Thanks for the feedback on my post, but I fear the point I was trying to make was missed for the most part. I guess I was playing with fire when I posted my comment, so it's not surprising. Let me rephrase things.

The reason why I was making the NBA/WNBA comparison is because it's the only major pro sport that has both men's and women's versions. In fact, it's controlled by the same organization. Same game, same rules...different popularity. Pick your reasons why the WNBA isn’t as popular as the NBA, but that’s not the point I was really trying to make. This was the point:

MercyLess wrote:

[ESPN] can't get good commercial sponsors for "popular" women's sports like soccer, fast-pitch softball and volleyball. They lose money every time they produce something like the women's soccer world cup, but do it because they have a programming directive to promote women's sports. She told me she wasn't even sure how long that programming goal would hold. Until they can get big name soda, car, etc sponsors for the women's sports they have actual viewer numbers for already, they're not going to put any money into producing us.

What I was ultimately trying to get across is that given the men’s version of a sport and a women’s version of a sport, in general, the men’s version is almost exclusively going to be easier to get TV coverage and sponsorship money for, because more people want to watch it, for whatever reason. Name your sport, and it’s true for just about all of them. If even then more “popular” women’s sports have trouble staying on ESPN, even when ESPN is trying to keep women’s sports relevant, what does that tell you about the perceived popularity of women’s sports?

For me, personally, I love sports. I love competition. It doesn’t matter if it’s men, women, or badgers doing it. If I can find the time for it, I’ll watch a good sporting competition. Specifically, I love watching women’s soccer (because I love soccer), women’s volleyball (because I love volleyball) and women’s tennis (because I like watching tennis). I even watch the occasional WNBA game because there are star players I recognize and know are very good basketball players (Lisa Leslie, Diana Taurasi, and soon Marion Jones). I know that women’s sports are entertaining in their own right because sport is sport regardless of who’s playing it. If that's the case, why aren't women's sports in general just as popular as men's sports?

This is exactly why I love roller derby. Men and women can play the game, play it well, and make it entertaining. Even during the big-time worked derby era, men and women played on the same teams, during the same game. Then again, if you do a YouTube search for Joan Weston or Ann Calvello, you're going to get more videos of them getting in catfights then you are of their skating abilities. This has always been a point of frustration with me. "Why don't you just get rid of the fake shit and just skate?" Old time derby made me long for legit derby. Rollergames in the 80s made me long for legit derby. Rollerjam in the 90s made me long for legit derby. Now that we actually have it in the 21st century, I'm still asking myself the same question. Sure, the skater names are cool and the skirts and makeup are fun. (That was supposed to also be the case for the XFL...) But why can't we get rid of this fantasy shit and just play the real sport of roller derby? Team Legit and Denver are quickly becoming some of my favorite all-star teams for this very reason.

I just want to see roller derby be popular again to the point when Madison Square Garden sells out, or 22,000 people filled up the Oakland Colleseum stadium, to see roller derby. But I want people to go for the sport of it, not the spectacle of it. As much as Texas and LA and all the other 500+ leagues around the world are helping to get back in that direction, there's only so much the women can do on their own. The guys are going to need to do just as much or more for roller derby to be the all-american sport Jerry Seltzer meant for it to be. (It was freakin' awesome to see him at the Texas/Rocky Mtn game, btw.)

I make these comments from being a fan of pretty much all sports, not just roller derby. I didn't grow up skating like a lot of you guys and gals did, but I did grow up a sports fan who has always loved roller derby. I want to do my part to get it where I want it to be just as much as all of you do. Please understand that.

the future

WindyMan wrote:

What I was ultimately trying to get across is that given the men’s version of a sport and a women’s version of a sport, in general, the men’s version is almost exclusively going to be easier to get TV coverage and sponsorship money for, because more people want to watch it, for whatever reason. Name your sport, and it’s true for just about all of them. If even then more “popular” women’s sports have trouble staying on ESPN, even when ESPN is trying to keep women’s sports relevant, what does that tell you about the perceived popularity of women’s sports?

I gotta hand it to you for guts. I don't want to pile on but coming on to a women's sport website to say that women aren't going to be able to get it to the next level takes balls, in more ways than one. If you haven't been paying attention, women have consistently gotten the sport to the "next level" for the past eight years and the sky seems to be the limit.

You can talk all you want about how men have made this or that sport popular in the past. This is the future, dude.

Just to reiterate...

*my* point was after spending a couple years dealing with many tv networks, producers, programmers, and alternative internet broadcast people, I am convinced that TV is not only NOT a mark of success for us, but not our medium, or something for us to aspire to. Opinions, assholes, etc. but seriously, I spent a few years of my life on this, and feel like I speak from more experience than just about anyone in derby on the subject.

I am a huge supporter of men's derby, and I feel like they've been treated like second class citizens for years now in a way that is not really becoming of empowered women. It comes off more like spiteful women. To me it's been especially shameful considering most of the men who play men's derby are the same ones we could not have built our leagues without - our head refs, our coaches, etc. I am happy to see them claim their own space in derby, and be able to enjoy what they are as passionate about as we are. I hope their growth will continue to be more and more supported in the future. They are organized, are skilled, and may have more work to do, but shouldn't be dismissed. (Side note - don't have hurt feelings over a few fan opinions, boys - I think lots of us know you are amazing, and still growing, and do not dismiss your accomplishments).

The only place I feel like men's derby being encouraged is a tactical solution to accomplish a goal will be in trying to make derby an Olympic sport. If that is ever our goal. I'm pretty sure (not an expert) that there are no women's-only Olympic sports, and they will want to know where our men's division is. If derby is shooting for the Olympics, we might need to learn to care about equality more. (Totally not saying that is a goal of anyone's, by the way).

We've been lucky to be surrounded by what some of my friends would call 'conscious men' for the most part in derby through the years. We are more spoiled by them and their reverence and respect for us than we may realize. As our leagues grow into other parts of the country and the world, though, different types of people will be our fans and want to be involved. People who love derby and think their hearts are in the right place.

One fan's opinion doesn't mean we won't keep doing what we've been doing all along - doing things our way. We've yet to let some outsider derby fan come lately tell us how to fix our sport before - why would we start now? Those of us who've been around for more than a little while know how much success we've already created for ourselves, and WE determine what success means to us (men's and women's derby).

The female programming exec I met with at ESPN is, yes, very frustrated that women's fast pitch softball champs 2007 had better viewer numbers than the hockey champs that year, and she still can't get better sponsors for them. She did not say that meant they'd be programming men's softball instead, or that they'd take another meeting with us about derby when we had men playing. I think that's an odd correlation coming from someone armchair tv producing, and not anywhere near the reality of how things work there, or in sports television in general.

But hey, I'm just the girl who's actually talked to every network some dude fan in this thread suggested derby needed to be on...scroll up, *yes* I talked to Versus, too. *sigh* Keep suggesting some other network you think we just haven't thought of, and I'll tell you the story of my meeting or phone conferences with them. Not the point. TV does not = success or legitimacy. Ask WNBA how much their airtime on major network sports and then Lifetime has made them a success. Most of their franchises have pretty poor ticket sales, and they are amazing pro athletes.

Quick example: in 2007, the New York Times called women's flat track roller derby the "fastest growing sport in the US." In 2008 I had to stop saying that to people in press interviews because we were eclipsed by MMA. MMA is financially the fastest growing sport in the world, and athlete/fan numbers-wise also the fastest growing sport in the world, statistically. How much MMA are you watching on ESPN? Fox Sports? NBC sports? Are they letting old models of sports media define their success or growth? Is MMA in the Olympics yet? How old is MMA? If you asked the owners and athletes whether or not MMA is a success, or a real sport, I bet they'd say yes.

Thinking outside the box and inventing our own solutions has always been our way, and we get to define success and legitimacy on our own terms. Lots of things might be nice one day, but in the meantime: Viva DNN!

One Man's Opinion

I am going to do my best to try to remain reasonable and constructive regarding WindyMan's "opinion" of roller derby.

WindyMan's comments are embarassing to me, to say the least. They DO NOT reflect the views of the majority of men that I know who play derby. I don't know whether WindyMan is a casual fan or a participant, but it's a sad reflection of one man's very narrow view of sports.

I'm a man in the modern derby revival that was pioneered mainly by women, so I've done a lot of soul-searching and critical thinking about the enterprise that has completely (and satisfyingly) consumed my life for the past four years. I have watched, officiated, coached and played an awful lot of derby in an awful lot of places with both men and women. While I do think "men's derby" looks a little different than "women's derby" (and coed derby looks different than either of those) I really don't find one superior to the other... at all. I've seen bad derby played by men and women. I've seen excellent derby played by men and women. I don't find a need to compartmentalize the sport, or assign it a value based on gender.

Regardless of gender, there are always athletes who are bigger, faster, better-condidtioned and/or more agile than others. This weekend, I played at Spring Roll on the men's track. My team played a MUCH bigger team. I felt like a midget lining up in the pack with four dudes that outweighed me by, at minimum, twenty-five pounds. (And, my bruises can attest that it was mostly muscle weight.) These guys were HUGE compared to most of the guys on my team.

My team lost, but size was not our downfall. We made more mistakes than our opponents. Our opponents fully capitalized on our mistakes and minimized the damage when they made mistakes. That's what derby almost ALWAYS comes down to. If both teams can skate, regardless of size, then the team that plays better usually wins.

When you say that men can jump higher, run faster, and hit harder, I think you need to consider that this sport isn't played in running shoes. It's played on wheels. Your stamina, agility, balance, control and speed ON WHEELs is what matters most physically. Frankly, playing the game the right way by avoiding mental mistakes and taking advantage of opportunities is what will matter most on the scoreboard in the end.

Men and women can compete at the same level of excellence in roller derby, which is one of the many things that distinguishes roller derby from more traditional sports. The playing field is level (even when the track happens to be banked). Because of the wheels on your feet, because of the amount of coordination it takes to roller skate well, and because of the amount of mental fortitude it takes to understand the momentum and game dynamics of a rolling sport, derby is a great equalizer.

Those things that make derby unique are the things that draw people to this sport. Unique is good. Stop, please, stop homogenizing our sport. Derby will grow on its own merits or it will suffer the fate so many other failed hybrids of sport and spectacle that have gone the way of the alligator pit. Good ideas batardized for easy consumption. Sports that prosper are the sports that do so on their own terms in their own time. Gender has got NOTHING to do with that.

Whether you like it or not, WindyMan, your comments are extremely sexist (by literal definition) and there is nothing "silly" about them. They are beligerent, offensive, narrow-minded and just plain wrong. They also perpetuate the mistrust and animosity that a number of reasonable people have towards men's derby. Because of that, I have to come on DNN and defend myself and the other men who play derby against insensitive and careless comments like this.

Since, what you're saying SOUNDS reasonable (at least to you) and since it plays on the fears and insecurities of a lot of people who are sensitive to the issue, you're going to get some play. You'll probably continue to think you're a realist telling it like it is, that you're not a sexist and that the world is overly P.C. and that is the problem. Right? That's fine. I don't want to change your mind. I want to tell the people you are insulting that you do not speak for me or the great majority of men who play derby.

The great majority of men who play derby greatly admire and look up to the women who play derby. The great majority of men who play derby view the women who play derby as peers.

QUOTE: "Part of the appeal of roller derby as it is right now, and most leagues will admit this readily, is that it's girls in skirts and hot pants with funny names hitting the crap out of each other on roller skates."

I am a coach for a WFTDA team. That team packs in around 3000 people per game. The fans don't cheer for the hot pants and funny names. (We've actually had some complaints about visiting teams' "skimpy costumes" in the past.) Our fans cheer LOUDLY for the sport.

When the hometown jammer jukes the last blocker and gets out of the pack, they roar. When a hometown pivot hits the breaks and forces an out-of-bounds jammer to fall all the way to back of the pack, they roar. When the hometown jammer catches the opposing lead jammer and forces her to call it off without scoring, they go nuts.

They aren't cheering for just the big hits or just the flashy acrobatics or just the funny names. They are cheering for the sport at times appropriate to the gameplay itself. The fans have learned and understand the sport. (They even corner me after games to talk about all the stuff we did wrong...LOL!)

Finally, MORE people are flocking to games because they enjoy the game and the players playing it. News media is covering it MORE now because it is a legitimate sport with a dedicated fan base. Sure, in the early days, you used the spectacle to get them in the door, and then "hopefully" they'd catch on that there was a sport happening. Things have changed. When it's done right, derby is successful on its own merits. The spectacle and production are still "part of the show," but I can say for certain that our fans come to see the hometown team WIN THE GAME. They love the women who play it. They love that these women are representing their city while they're kicking butt.

By way of comparison, the Friday night before our first game, a men's indoor football team debuted at the same venue we play in. They drew 2000 people! The following night, the Rollergirls drew over 3000 people. Since then, the men's indoor football team has fallen off considerably, while the Rollergirls has remained consistent. The fans are saying the main reason why they'd rather spend their money on Rollergirls is because the team is better and the production is more entertaining. Girls playing roller derby is soundly out-performing men playing football. (Fit that into your narrow world view.)

Seriously, let me explain this again: roller derby done the right way--whether its played by men or women--prospers based on its own inherent merits. Gender doesn't have anything to do with it.

I really wish I didn't have to keep making this argument to derby people. I understand that our culture marginalizes men and women and that sports is one of the forums where that is most clearly evident. (Our culture raises boys to be competitive and play sports, lest they be labelled unmanly wimps, while raising girls to exercise and look pretty, lest they be labelled ugly spectacles. Athletic men are admired. Athletic women are scrutinized.) But, importantly, we're not talking about other sports. We're talking about derby. This stereotype does not belong in derby, because it is not true in derby. Derby specifically disproves this stereotype.

The mistake derby people seem make on both sides of this issue is they buy into constructed gender differences to make a point. Claiming the sport is best played by one gender or another, that men should be this or women should be that creates a dicotomy that, in the first place, doesn't really exist, and, in the second place, only serves to bolster the very argument you're usually trying to refute.

Perhaps the most beautiful and satisfying thing about being involved with roller derby right now is that it breaks down so many of these long-standing barriers. Derby belongs to all of us, and the ideas that unite us are the very ideas that will make derby successful and revolutionary. I just wish that more people in the derby community would take the time to understand how important these cultural benchmarks are in the wider view.

Let's not cut off our nose to spite our face. Derby can succeed because of its distinctiveness in the short term (historically speaking). We don't have to sell our soul to succeed, and we shouldn't because derby can also help to unravel myths about gender differences in the long term. It's an incredible sport and a it's a cultural revolution. How cool is that?

After our home games fans come down on the track to talk to the Rollergirls and get autographs. There are always a ton of kids who want autographs. That interaction really separates our team from other sports teams in the city. Time and again our fans have told us how the Rollergirls have inspired their kids. "My son thinks the Rollergirls are rock stars. He was too shy to ask for an autograph at the last game, could you send him one?" "My wife had to drag me to the game, but now I'm addicted. The Rollergirls are bad ass!" "My daughter wants to be a rollergirl when she grows up! I'm so excited that she wants to be an athlete!"

That's the stuff that makes me a true believer. That's the stuff that destroys stereotypes and bigotry and makes the world a better place to live in. Believe it.

Quick question

Just a quick question here, what do you mean by:

"Seriously, let me explain this again: roller derby done the right way--whether its played by men or women--prospers based on its own inherent merits."

What is "the right way"?

I ask, because that seems to be the biggest grey area in all of roller derby.

WindyMan

From a completely business point of view, I understood your point perfectly the first time. It was intelligent and articulate.
Also, it is not the first time that I have heard this argument. I have heard it several times and not necessarily from 'derby' people. Actually, I have heard it from 'TV' people.
Just wanted you to know that the shit storm that you are enjoying is not in vein.

To quad almighty

Looks like you were typing out your response while I posted mine before you. I don't know if your opinion is going to change but I hope I clarified a few things for you. To some of your comments, I'm ecstatic that derby currently is drawing the crowds that it is, and is starting to populate big-time arenas (Rat City, Denver, etc.). Derby girls are awesome athletes. (Definitely way more awesome than me currently.) At no point did I ever say that they were not. The point I trying to make was more financial than gender-specific, and my original comment was just bringing up a point some of my sports friends were talking about in why men's sports are more popular then women's sports. Women's sports are great, but the numbers don't lie.

Still, when you say this:

quad.almighty wrote:

I am a coach for a WFTDA team. That team packs in around 3000 people per game. The fans don't cheer for the hot pants and funny names. (We've actually had some complaints about visiting teams' "skimpy costumes" in the past.) Our fans cheer LOUDLY for the sport.

I know they cheer for the sport. Roller derby is awesome like that. But if the sport of roller derby is to be taken legitimately in the long run, why do the girls have fake names and (sometimes) wear skimpy outfits? You don't see that in soccer, basketball, or any other legit women's sport. I feel derby in general will eventually have to grow out of that if we're wanting to be on ESPN one day.

Pitchit wrote:

From a completely business point of view, I understood your point perfectly the first time. It was intelligent and articulate.
Also, it is not the first time that I have heard this argument. I have heard it several times and not necessarily from 'derby' people. Actually, I have heard it from 'TV' people.
Just wanted you to know that the shit storm that you are enjoying is not in vein.

Yes, thanks. I knew this was going to be a touchy subject, but I decided to go with it anyway. It's hard sometimes to see things about a sport if you're on the inside of it. You need views from the outside to grow, too.

Darth Garfunkel wrote:

I gotta hand it to you for guts. I don't want to pile on but coming on to a women's sport website to say that women aren't going to be able to get it to the next level takes balls, in more ways than one. If you haven't been paying attention, women have consistently gotten the sport to the "next level" for the past eight years and the sky seems to be the limit.

You can talk all you want about how men have made this or that sport popular in the past. This is the future, dude.

Roller derby is not a women's sport. Roller derby is a sport. Any sport can have men and women play it. Just because the women have a four-year head start on things doesn't change that. Please stop limiting the sport's potential to half of the population.

Agreed, but...

WindyMan wrote:

Roller derby is not a women's sport. Roller derby is a sport. Any sport can have men and women play it. Just because the women have a four-year head start on things doesn't change that. Please stop limiting the sport's potential to half of the population.

Agreed, but this site is 99% women's derby making it by default primarily a women's sport site.

My point is you need to stop limiting the sport's potential to essentially "the men will take from here, ladies".

Anyways, it's just my opinion.

Irony

WindyMan wrote:

Roller derby is not a women's sport. Roller derby is a sport. Any sport can have men and women play it. Just because the women have a four-year head start on things doesn't change that. Please stop limiting the sport's potential to half of the population.

Well, when you said above, "Simply, men performing at their best are much better athletes then women can ever hope to be. Don't think for a second that's a sexist remark or something silly like that; it's the truth." -- who's limiting the sport's potential to half of the population?

The difference in the future

Brad.Example wrote:

Well, when you said above, "Simply, men performing at their best are much better athletes then women can ever hope to be. Don't think for a second that's a sexist remark or something silly like that; it's the truth." -- who's limiting the sport's potential to half of the population?

People who call roller derby a "women's sport". It's no more a women's sport than it is a men's sport. It's a sport. Seems a bit selfish and limiting to call it a women's sport, not that there's nothing wrong with that currently considering all the ladies currently have all the derby experience and the organization going. I want to play it too!

But, I'm also curious to see what will happen with roller derby when the men's teams have experience and organization equal to those of the women's teams currently. Will they exist in harmony like men's and women's derby was back in the day, or will there a noticeable gap between them, like the difference between men's hockey and women's hockey? And will that really make a difference?

The world is upside down.

WindyMan wrote:

But, I'm also curious to see what will happen with roller derby when the men's teams have experience and organization equal to those of the women's teams currently. Will they exist in harmony like men's and women's derby was back in the day, or will there a noticeable gap between them, like the difference between men's hockey and women's hockey? And will that really make a difference?

You think it existed "in harmony" back in the day? Honestly, I don't know that it actually did. If you're defining "in harmony" as in more or less on equal footing.

Fact: Back in the days of co-ed roller derby dominance there were far more male skaters heading to the training schools than there were women. This meant better skating on the men's side, on average. There's a quote from "Five Strides on the Banked Track" where Buddy Atkinson Sr basically suggests taking all of the women skaters in his training school, putting them into a bag and dropping them into the ocean. Sounds like hyperbole to me, but what I think he was getting at is that in that day and age it was harder to find athletic women to fill out the teams.

Fact: In one game in the 60s where the women's team arrived way late, a large portion of the crowd had already walked out by the time they'd arrived. Women were the larger draw. At least for casual fans. Leo Seltzer wanted to axe women's derby (where more of the "heat" and histrionics took place) in order to legitimize the sport and gain it wider acceptance (I believe his thinking was that women in a contact sport was barring it from mainstream acceptance). But he didn't do so. Probably because the sport would've died without the "girls?"

Anyways, one big point that I think folks on all sides of this argument are missing is that the greatest opposition towards men's derby comes from (presumably male?) derby fans. I can say this based upon things I've personally heard them say, and I can say it based upon the survey results. After that I'd probably say female derby skaters who don't have a men's derby league in their area. They may have misconceptions that the men are trying to "take over" or whatever. Female derby skaters with a men's league in their area tend to be more accepting of it, probably because it's THEIR men who are skating it. Their refs, their coaches, their derby widowers.

Anyways, Tim Patten (of all people) spoke prophetically about TV back in the late 1990s. "TV is about to get bitch-slapped by the internet." He was right, he was just off by a decade or so. Some kind of pay model needs to shake out (Hulu seems to be working on that) that either charges "micropayments" or is ad supported.

To WindyMan

"why do the girls have fake names":

1. Historicallly, it's an homage to roller derby nicknames of the past
2. For the same reason I love MY derby name, it's fun
3. Because derby is not other sports.

Again, the things that make our sport unique are what draw people to it.

And, you can have a "silly" nickname and still be a great athlete: Chad OchoCinco, Magic Johnson, Dr. J., Satchel Page, Babe Ruth.

"...and (sometimes) wear skimpy outfits?":

The team I'm talking about does not wear skimpy outfits. Other teams do. Have you watched women's volleyball, women's or men's beach volleyball, gymnastics, or men's basketball in the early eighties... "Bird wears short shorts"?

"I feel derby in general will eventually have to grow out of that if we're wanting to be on ESPN one day."

I feel differently. If ESPN doesn't want our derby on our terms, I don't feel the need to compromise to make it happen. (Actually, by the way, ESPN has done a story on derby on our terms, featuring a skater on the team I coach.) I have faith that the public will come around without needing us to water it down. I think if someone does water it down to make a buck, that'd be a crime... literally... it's not yours to sell.

Also, "growing out of it" implies that it is currently something inherently childish or silly. I don't see it that way. I see it as something not mainstream. It's a subculture.

I don't get why the people who "LOVE" derby are always wanting to change derby into something more "mainstream" in order to "save" derby. You love derby like it is. You fell in love with derby like it is. Why change it to impress some dudes in suits you've never met who don't love derby just to make a quick buck?

Change

Quad, you make some completely valid points. I'm not here to argue all that, I'm just saying the way I think it is, so if you're saying that the way you think it is, let's just take our opinions separate ways and leave it at that for now. Except for this last bit...

quad.almighty wrote:

I don't get why the people who "LOVE" derby are always wanting to change derby into something more "mainstream" in order to "save" derby. You love derby like it is. You fell in love with derby like it is. Why change it to impress some dudes in suits you've never met who don't love derby just to make a quick buck?

Derby is going to change as the years go by, just like derby has changed in the years gone by. We know how fast it's grown nationally and internationally. Even though I want to see bigger and better things for roller derby in the future, if it stays the way that it is for as long as I live, I'm just thankful real roller derby is being played like it oughtta be.

But in the future, and I'm talking 5, 10, 20 years down the road, there are going to be new variables that modern roller derby hasn't yet needed to deal with. Can DIY derby really sustain itself when larger crowds and bigger arenas come into play? Will DNN spearhead a new form of Internet broadcasting that catches on? (Note about that one: ESPN and Fox at least are already doing broadband-exclusive networks, so I think DNN is hitting the wave at the right time here.) Will men's leagues complement, compete against, or snuff out women's leagues? How will the recovering economy affect sponsorships and growing leagues? What about what David Sams is working on, how will that affect home-grown derby if he gets a new made-for-TV product off the ground?

Roller derby is going to change in the future, because everything changes over time. I'm curious to see how it will change, and hope it will be for the better every step of the way.

Now you must be joking...

WindyMan wrote:

What about what David Sams is working on, how will that affect home-grown derby if he gets a new made-for-TV product off the ground?

I don't think even David Sams believes that show is ever going to happen. What work has he actually done on it? None that's in any way apparent. A year or two ago he popped up on roller_girls and if people wouldn't have already been suspicious of a guy whose mainly known for introducing "gator skaters" to roller derby, the way he presented himself kind of sent the wrong message.

In any case, "pro derby" only seems to work where there's recent memory of it and a pool of existing (aging) skaters from IRSL or Roller Games. S.F. and L.A., basically. The last pro game held outside of one of those two cities (by one of the new promoters pushing the idea on Facebook) drew about 150 fans to a game last year. Imagine your tag line being "It *IS* your grandmother's roller derby!"

You need to have a healthy bit of skepticism towards anyone trying to bring it back. Regardless of whether it's "right or wrong" to bring it back, it does not have a functional business model, and basically hasn't since 1973. There's fewer asses sitting on couches divided between hundreds more channels than the four (rabbit ears and VHF hoop) to eight choices (areal) one had in 1972.

Who's limiting who?

WindyMan wrote:

Roller derby is not a women's sport. Roller derby is a sport. Any sport can have men and women play it. Just because the women have a four-year head start on things doesn't change that. Please stop limiting the sport's potential to half of the population.

Then will you stop limiting the growth and potential future directions modern derby can take by alienating the slightly-more-than-half population in favor of the slightly-less-than-half population?

As it's been said over and over and over again...modern derby isn't about sheer brute force, penises and making money hand-over-fist. If it were, it'd already be a very different animal than it is right now. Isn't modern derby's appeal being that it is what it IS now, as opposed to what it ever was in the past or speculating what it will be in the future?

I'm kinda sad that you don't enjoy what I and thousands of other women have. I'm enjoying it very much. The guys who enjoy this along with the women who participate in this sport at this time are apparently a more rare breed than we thought.

Hey now

Tara Armov wrote:

I'm kinda sad that you don't enjoy what I and thousands of other women have. I'm enjoying it very much. The guys who enjoy this along with the women who participate in this sport at this time are apparently a more rare breed than we thought.

I don't think that last sentence is justified by the way this thread has played out. We've got one dude espousing WindyMan's viewpoint (which I do not think is 100 percent wrong, but definitely has some analysis that I greatly disagree with) and a whole lot of dudes taking exception to it. I wouldn't take his point of view to be representative of the general dudely opinion.

I do want to echo what Matomic said elsewhere in the thread: while it's easy (oh so easy) to go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about the sociological, financial and political ramifications of Balls In Derby, what it really boils down to for me, at least, is simple:

1. Playing derby is hella fun
2. I like to do hella fun things
3. I like to play derby.

Because it's my party, that's why.

"I know they cheer for the sport. Roller derby is awesome like that. But if the sport of roller derby is to be taken legitimately in the long run, why do the girls have fake names and (sometimes) wear skimpy outfits? You don't see that in soccer, basketball, or any other legit women's sport. I feel derby in general will eventually have to grow out of that if we're wanting to be on ESPN one day."

Because I can. Because I, like a lot of other folks on the board, helped invent its current incarnation. Because the only way I'm changing my derby name is if I lose an arm in an accident and decide to skate under the name "One Arm Bandit." Because basketball was boring as shit. Because so long as I am skating I will fight to keep derby weird and therefore fun for me. So there.

As for the skimpy outfit comment (SNORRRE.....ZZZZZZZZ), I will re-direct you to Google where you can find a bunch of arguments againts this totally fake made-up contradiction within feminist discussion circles.

Tho justice does rule!

I just finished reading everything everyone said, including my own post, and its totally not clear how much I respect Justice's skill as a player. He was the first boy to really, really hit me hard (at the first year we had co-ed scrimmages at RollerCon) and I have always loved him for it.

And I am a big supporter of dangle derby. I did a bad job of saying what other people said better later. But I did want to chime back in to say Justice is an amazing skater!!

... and that STILL don't think tv is the "next level"
ha.

Ivanna

justice DOES rule.

gah! he's so squirrely and fast. i have massive amounts of respect for his derby skillz! he's a hard one to block!

Oh, keep your pants on

... justice. I have no head for details and we really haven't had a true test yet with full rosters on both teams. Hopefully soon!

WAIT!

Speaking of details, I don't know that I've ever seen you IN pants. Hm.

Tara :(

Tara Armov wrote:

I'm kinda sad that you don't enjoy what I and thousands of other women have. I'm enjoying it very much. The guys who enjoy this along with the women who participate in this sport at this time are apparently a more rare breed than we thought.

Don't be ridiculous! I love all of you girls to death. In case you didn't realize this already, I'm a full-season LADD season ticket holder AND part of the DD Army (doing parking duties on Saturday), which means I'm paying for games I get into for free anyway. Then I blow $20 a game on drinks and FB's cookies and go home happy every time. This is on top of the multiple contributions I've made to DNN before the before and including the spring funding drive. I also went down to SD for Sirens vs. Swarm, and will be going down there again for BotB III (for my birthday!) and the next VBs/Swarm game later in the year. I'm 1000% grateful for the fact that you guys are doing roller debry on the banked track, which is how I've always remember loved watching it. As soon as I have the time and gas money to do it, I'm going to try to get into Derby Por Vida and eventually put my ass out there just like everyone else.

Phhht, TV is obsolete medium

Phhht, TV is obsolete medium that is gradually being replaced by the internet. I am all for DIY internet coverage, bout/text casts, live streaming, derby blogs, etc. If we keep it under our terms, we will show the rest how it is done as derby continues to grow sport and popularity wise.

amen

go interwebs

Dont know how you do it, guys!

We all know how time consuming it can be to deal with our own teams within our own leagues. How you guys keep on top of so many cities, so many players, the histories, the developments, random factoids, news on injuries and changes in rosters...well, it's unbelievable!!!! amazing!!! Kudos to all hours of devoted work and bringing us all a little closer, no matter how geographically separate, through text and boutcasts!

It's very interesting to see

It's very interesting to see the undercurrent that has been brewing finally explode in a blaze of heartfelt opinion.

The future of derby... DIY vs "Professional", real names vs Derby names, "oufits" vs "Uniforms", these battles are already being waged in leagues all over the country (Nashville has two skaters who use their real names, our travel team uniforms look like a women's collegiate vollyball team). I'll hold my opinons until I have more time, but this battle for what derby will become in the next decade is just starting.

DONATE!!!!

Just do it, the funding drive is almost over and they are ~$8000 short of their goal. Let's rally in the final days and continue to support the awesomeness that is DNN!!!

My t.v is the web

at first i was like.... money.oh oh oh oh i like money.... somebody please pay for something so i can get a a discount on playing this sport.... and than.... i realized something.... i had never been able to do this before....

I watched the first day of the western regionals today in HD on my television live.

and... this is because

1) i paid the money and am so happy i did because its awesome.
2) my computer is hooked into my t.v

Ya see i cant afford to squander money on cable..that tries to sell me stuff all day and night on top of what i pay for internet.. i have an antenna and its good enough..anything important i stream off the web.. this is how i afford to play derby.. no cable at 100 bucks a month allows me to do derby stuff, buy derby stuff and train to play more derby stuff i invested in a 36 inch HD tv a computer a mouse and a keyboard. without DNN i wouldnt have anywhere to go to find scores or bouts or other crazy women like myself. sooo im going to go donate right now as the guilt is getting to me.. thanks DNN for the derby connection.

I am a huge derby fan and I'm

I am a huge derby fan and I'm hoping to find some derby matches on the local chickasawtv. It's frustrating when you have a huge following for a sport and the cable stations and local stations won't televise. I just don't get it.