What Grinds My Gears Photo: Andy Frye

Published on September 11th, 2013 | by Andy Frye


Photo: Andy Frye

How to Make Derby a Real Sport

Last summer, I parted with a couple hundred bucks to buy my first pair of quad skates. Upon joining the Chicago Bruise Brothers, I had derby on the brain, and once mentioned derby off-the-cuff at a family gathering.

“Roller derby? That’s not a real sport,” blurted a clueless relative. I hadn’t let on to anyone in the room yet that I had bought skates, much less joined a team. But as I argued about the commitment and athleticism the sport demands, I found myself grinding my mind about that subject, “Is Derby a Real Sport?”

I started to obsess about this, thinking how the big four sports –Football, Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey—made it big, building big superstars, big arenas and big time hype. And I got worried that derby might not, by this measure, be a “real sport” after all.

Lucky for me, I had a sudden revelation. And, in keeping with the traditions of major sports I came up with a few things we can add to derby to keep us up with other real sports, and how to ensure someday that we’ve made it.


Unruly Roller Derby Fans

If you’ve seen a Philadelphia Phillies game recently, you’ve gotten a glimpse of random pro sports mayhem. Citizens Bank Park has seen everything from drunks running onto the diamond, to fans throwing food and 9-volt batteries, to one guy running around the outfield dressed as a red condom. Most of these fools end up getting tasered by security.  Topping that, last year a soccer fan in Newcastle, England, ran onto the field to handcuff himself to the goal post, later getting arrested, but not before postponing the internationally-televised match for 30 minutes in front of 52,000 fans.

Roller derby people like to think themselves as wild and creative. But if derby is ever going to make it, we’d better spice up the downtime during timeouts with some real major sports hooliganism. Streakers are one way to go.

In this day and age face paint just isn’t going to cut it to keep fans engaged. Just imagine how fans at your rink would dig a little bonus entertainment for their $10 admission, while streakers fill the lulls between jams. Don’t worry, streakers need not be on skates like players. Besides, it only takes a couple of NSOs to tackle a drunk, streaking roller derby fan.


Venues with Bold, Unessential Stuff

Did you know that Kaufmann Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals has a waterfall in it? No?

Well, the Water Spectacular is not only the signature feature of the Royals’ $362 million stadium, it is also the largest privately-funded waterfall in the world. Of course, you might wonder to yourself, “Who the hell needs a waterfall in a baseball stadium.” I might reply with another question, “Have you seen how bad the Royals are lately?”

Sure, a waterfall belongs in a baseball stadium as much as rodeo spurs belong on your skates. But once you go “big time” you need to decorate to keep up with the Joneses. If derby is really ever going to grow, it’s time for us to stock our rinks and civic centers with fancy show-off stuff. Marble columns, indoor waterfalls, ivy-clad walls, and retractable roofs could be a great start. Plus, thanks to major sports clubs we know bankrupting our cities and sports teams is no big deal. Never mind that waterfalls look stupid in roller rinks too.


Derby Stars Getting Arrested

Last month when New England Patriots’ star Aaron Hernandez got rapped for murder charges, his #81 Patriots jersey sold at all-time highs, suddenly fetching $2000 a pop on eBay, according to Reuters News.

While no one in the derby community endorses violent crime of any sort, getting arrested is so popular and commonplace among high profile athletes that it’s almost a requirement. There is even an online arrest database just for NFL players. So why not boost your derby league’s bad boy / bad girl rep with a trip to the clink? At the least, if you’re a good player you’ll get a press conference out of the deal.


Everything Is Overpriced                                                                                      

Some sports venues like Miller Park in Milwaukee, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, have, to their credit, really stepped up the offering of quality ball park foods. And as a Cubs fan, I can say the same about The Cell, home of the Chicago White Sox and the world’s most uncomfortable seats. But that’s not the norm. Take the NFL for instance.

Last year at a Chicago Bears pre-season game against the Buffalo Bills, I got to pay $46 to park, en route to my $75 pre-season seats to watch the both second-strings barely move the ball. To stay fresh, it only cost me $16 for a hot dog and a large drink (with free extra ice). Better yet, if I came back for the playoffs I could pay double while freezing my butt off in 5-degree weather.

Good news is that the fans always come back for the 5-degree weather, and they’ll probably buy a $50 t-shirt too.


Fantasy Derby!

The start of March Madness is often called the least productive workday all year. As soon as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament kicks off, the whole country has one concern only:  “How’s my bracket doing?”

Derby should get in on the action. Imagine the fun and countless hours wasted at work with Fantasy Roller Derby on Yahoo! Besides, it’s not just basketball. All the other sports are doing it.

Sorry to change the subject but… Anybody willing to trade me two draft picks, my bench coach and Frank Broosevelt for Bonnie Thunders? C’mon, you know Bonnie’s past her prime anyway; that’s what the rumors say. Seriously, let’s make a trade. I need a jammer…

Anyhow, friends, I’m extremely concerned. Until roller derby can work up a little excess, a little fan mayhem, some high-profile arrests and a lot of hype, I’m not convinced we’ll make it. After all, we want roller derby to be just like real sports, don’t we?

The following two tabs change content below.
Andy Frye writes about derby for Fiveonfive and has written for a variety of other sports publications. As LeBron Shames, he skates with the Chicago Bruise Brothers.

Latest posts by Andy Frye (see all)


About the Author

Andy Frye writes about derby for Fiveonfive and has written for a variety of other sports publications. As LeBron Shames, he skates with the Chicago Bruise Brothers.

  • James Ramsay

    By Jove, Andy, you’re on to something!

    • Andy Frye


  • Raw Heidi

    I think London Rollergirls had the first roller derby streaker back when I first started playing about 5 or 6 years ago. Watching the refs then including Ballistic trying to catch him was hilarity in itself. TICK. Unfortunately we never let him come back to another bout, not that anyone recognised him with his clothes anyway.

    • Demi Lition

      I remember that! Was Brawling v Blitz Dames and Brawl Saints v Leeds. Was the first bout my dad watched – I don’t think he’s been back since!

    • Andy Frye

      I wholeheartedly endorse wardrobe minimalism. I minored in it in college…

  • Bob Ueckerlele

    I’m just waiting for the part where someone skips reading the article just to post a comment about how THIS IS SO, HUH, A REAL SPORT!

Back to Top ↑