Unique Sports Advent Calendar – December 7: Roller Derby

At the moment, I’m actually in a bit of trouble, since I’m running out of sports to do! If you know a sport, and you’d like me to do it, then you can send it into me via Twitter.

I’ve actually seen today’s sport. When I was eight or so, my mum’s friend from university took us all to a matchup for this, and I thought it was pretty awesome.

Introducing roller derby.

History

Roller derby originates with roller skating, and endurance races were organized as early as 1884, with evidence being an article from the Chicago Daily Tribune of April 13, 1884.

roller-derby-article
That $25 is worth $623 today using the Consumer Price Index (however, there are other measures).

The popularity of these roller skating events continued onwards, and an article from the New York Times in 1914 noted that fans enjoyed sudden sprints and spills during preliminary races for a 24-hour marathon. The Tribune also coined the term derby for these races in 1922.

Leo Seltzer, a film publicist, came up with the idea for Transcontinental Roller Derby in 1935. At the Chicago Coliseum, 25 two-person teams would circle a banked track thousands of times, skating 11½ hours a day to cover 3,000 miles, the distance across the United States. Teams were disqualified if both members were off the track. Nine of the teams finished, and it was a great success.

Damon Runyon, a sportswriter, suggested to Seltzer that he enhance the physical contact aspect of the sport, adding in elbowing and slamming into the outer rail. Seltzer agreed to the experiment, and the fans loved it.

In the Depression years, others began enhancing the competitive aspect, giving people points for lapping their opponents, and the teams became larger, five a side. This is the main format of roller derby to this day.

Roller Derby became more and more popular, but it began to fail in the 1970s, partly due to the 1973 oil crisis making teams unable to crash. Also, there were high overheads, and Leo Seltzer (who had succeeded his father’s roller derby leadership) shut down the league in that year.

The revival began in 2000, when Daniel Eduardo Policarpo recruited women to skate in a circus-like roller derby spectacle. The women split ways with him, however, and formed their own organisation and teams. The first public match was in mid-2002 and the number of leagues steadily grew from then on, with 425 amateur leagues as of mid-2009.

How to Play

Get five people with rollerskates. Come up with humorous nicknames. (This is actually a pretty big part of the sport.)

You’ll need a track about the size of the image below.

Roller_derby_track.pngDesignate one person to be the jammer (give them a helmet with a star on it) and another to be a pivot (their helmet has a stripe). The other three are blockers.

The jammer needs to lap as many of the opposition players as she can in one jam. That’s basically it. (I’m sorry I didn’t get more information, but I got distracted and I had to go off to cricket training).

More Information

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