* Found a line that somehow missed the cut for one of my newspaper columns two years ago, and (a) I still got a laugh out of it, and (b) it’s by the one writer whose work I can afford:
“I reckon I’ll understand why umpires vote for the Brownlow Medal around the time traffic police get a vote on major awards in the automotive industry.”
* The following is a direct quote from a press release concerning an upcoming tour by a US roller derby troupe.
“After many successful years on television, the popularity of the sport slowly declined and in an effort to reignite the passion the bouts became choreographed productions with elaborate storylines and predetermined results. Sadly, this approach only seemed to alienate audiences further with Roller Derby slowly slipping off the radar of pop-culture.”
Err, yeah, fakery killed the Roller Derby star. In the context of the PR, the time context for this fantasy was post-1948. The reality, or such as can be readily gathered from reliable published history and a certain amount of simple memory for the older folks among us is that Roller Derby was “worked” (i.e. an athletic entertainment along the lines of pro wrestling or a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game, rather than a conventional sporting contest) for many decades, and its popularity rose and fell on a cyclic basis, as did that of its nearest relative, pro wrestling. With two organisations in the early part of the 70s, Roller Derby and Roller Games, it achieved a jolt of mass popularity, and then not so very long afterwards, died pretty much the final death, especially of that era’s incarnation of the sports hybrid (which had a family owned pedigree and continuity going back some decades) other than some fitful, unsuccessful revivals since.
Storylines and predetermined results didn’t kill Roller Derby back then. Roller Derby and Roller Games achieved their strongest mass audience results under those conditions, which continued for decades. (Although roller derby “storylines” by comparison with pro wrestling were relatively rudimentary and tended not to be sustained as long, as I remember it.
Pro wrestling, you’d sell houses and build seasons on feuds between individuals and a good guy’s quest for the championship and tell “stories” like this from the top of the card to at least a few matches down.
Essentially Roller Derby as a live event was a matter of a fan-favourite team (“white shirt” team) and the rough-house team (“red shirt” team). There were skaters who were definite major favourites and others who the fans wanted to see decimated, but it wasn’t as elaborate a deal as pro wrestling.
Anyway, all of this seemed a little rich in a media release in which the, err, ‘legitimate sporting event’ being promoted features the “LA Derby Dolls” v “New York Gotham Girls” (back in the olden days it was the LA Outlaws v San Francisco T-Birds or something along those lines), and featuring such athletic icons as Laguna Beyatch, Fisti Cuffs, Fleetwood Smack, and future role model to a planet’s children, Puss’n’Glutes.