Saturday, June 6, 2015

Game Time: Roller Derby (1948)

Vince McMahon may have coined the term, "sports entertainment", to describe his then-World Wrestling Federation (now WWE), but his is not the only form of pre-fabricated athletic competition.

Roller derby has evolved into scripted sport as well, though it wasn't always the case. Leo Selzer's brainchild made its television debut in 1948. By the 70's, perhaps even earlier, roller derby was syndicated as weekend afternoon fare, often coupled with pro wrestling in some cities, as was the case in my home district. In 1973, Jerry Selzer, Leo's son, acted as a color analyst for the syndicated program, then became a figurehead commissioner for later leagues.

Today, roller derby is experiencing a revival, helped along by the 2009 film, "Whip It", starring Ellen Page, just as much as the 70's broadcasts were boosted by the Raquel Welch movie, "Kansas City Bomber". Women's leagues or teams exist across the globe, including two teams in the home area. The stage names of the players suggest a subtle burlesque theme that McMahon can't use now in the PG era of WWE. Coincidentally, the track announcer for the Albany All-Stars, which concluded their home season tonight, has also emceed some burlesque revival shows in the area.

Let's take a trip back in time to 1973 for a meeting between the Chiefs and the Bay Area Bombers from San Francisco:

Modern-day revivals, such as Roller Games (1989) and Rollerjam (1999-2000) adopted a more blatant, wrestling style scripted format, but were short-term successes. The Women's Flat Track Derby Association had a TV deal with Mark Cuban's Mav-TV, but I'm not sure if that still holds.

Rating: B.

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