Category Archives: General derby

PR Nightmare

I’ll be the first to admit that KC Derby Digest does not have a finished, written mission statement. I haven’t bothered (at least so far). I think it’s phenomenally ridiculous that most companies even attempt one, since they always seem to consist of extremely vague, flowery, circular, pseudo-philosophical brainbabble that, I must admit, still sounds more professional than their actual mission, which is always something like, “To make as much money as possible for, you know, me.”

Nevertheless, as KCDD continues to grow and expand its reach beyond the insular inner circle of the roller derby community and out into the public at large, our message continues to reach a larger and larger audience. Because of this, I’ve noticed a certain trepidation on the part of the various skaters, coaches, and officials I’ve spoken with over the last couple of months. And not for no reason — KC Derby Digest is technically “the media,” at least in the same way that bologna is considered “food.”


Sure, you COULD eat it…

I don’t take their caution personally. From a civilian perspective, most people aren’t used to talking to the media, and if they haven’t been appointed an official spokesperson of any kind, I expect a certain level of reticence, particularly when it comes to information that hasn’t been announced yet. I won’t say who, but someone leaked to me a bit early that the Fearleaders were getting a new name — they even told me what it was — even though in their defense, there was some confusion over whether or not it was public information.

So with all this in mind, I’d like to take a moment to clear up a few things that will hopefully make our Sisters (and Brothers) in Derby a bit more comfortable when the paparazzi arrives, flashbulbs ablaze and microphones athrust. That’s not a word, by the way.


1. If it’s not clear that we’re on the record… we’re not on the record.

We are, at KCDD, roller derby fans first and foremost; we are not investigative reporters. But one thing I’ve learned in my travels is that the best way to get something is to ask for it, and as such, we will often ask questions about your league that involve future endeavors, events, and behind-the-scenes information. We do this mainly because we want to know, not because we’re writing an exposè. If you’re not comfortable answering a question, don’t. Direct us to the official PR liaison for your league, and they’ll take it from there.

No one will be quoted on the web site without their advance permission under any circumstances, even if they put it in writing (e-mail, for instance). We also won’t post anything that is clearly rumor or otherwise unofficial. I can sit here and giggle endlessly at the fact that my favorite Dead Girl Derby team is being re-named and re-defined, as long as I don’t post it. And unless we’ve confirmed that it’s official, we will selfishly keep it to ourselves.

We do this because…


2. KC Derby Digest’s goal is to help — never hurt.

If KCDD had a mission statement, it would certainly include something about painting the sport of roller derby with the brightest colors possible because we believe it. That doesn’t mean we’ll never have constructive criticism for anyone — we already have. What it does mean is covering derby-related events and activities in a spirit of cooperation. It doesn’t make any sense to release sensitive, unofficial information too early or try to “scoop” the league out of some bizarre sense of pseudo-journalistic competition. That doesn’t help the league, and if that’s how we roll, eventually, no one’s going to want to talk to us.

KCDD doesn’t purport to represent any league or serve as an official news outlet, but we won’t have much to report at all if word gets out that we can’t be trusted to differentiate between what’s on the record and what’s not — and that applies equally to keeping things quiet that aren’t ready for public consumption. Remember the Fearleaders re-naming snafu that got spilled to the media too early? Of course you don’t — because even though we knew, we kept quiet.

Getting news in advance of its public announcement can help this crack team of derby journalists be prepared for when the news does break; we can post the announcements at roughly the same time the leagues do (but never before), and word can spread more quickly that way. As such, we will do everything we can to earn the trust of the Kansas City leagues, and hopefully build more of a partnership as time goes on. Just puttin’ that out there.

By the way, is anyone else feeling a little nauseated by that fried bologna up there? Yikes.


3. We will post anything that’s already been posted.

Wait, what?

KC Derby Digest will, without asking, post any information that has already been posted on the league’s official web site, official Facebook page/team page, or official Twitter page.

That’s a lot of “official”ness. But there’s a reason for it: anything posted to those official pages will be considered public information, and we will take it upon ourselves to spread the word at that point. We also reserve the right to post, at any point in time, any original photos we take, as well as accounts of that season’s bouts and public activities, such as fundraisers or jumping half nekkid into freezing ass cold water.


Oh yeah. That’s gonna happen.

Bottom line, KC Derby Digest aspires to the same level of integrity — journalistic and otherwise — as the roller derby leagues we so admire. If we can help spread the word about Kansas City roller derby — in a positive way that highlights this incredible sport and its amazing, amazing participants — then that’s what we’ll do for as long as we’re able. It is, after all, the greatest sport in the world.

We’re not eating bologna, though. Noooo, spank you.

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your First Derby Night (From a Fan’s Perspective)

One thing you will quickly discover is that there are few things on earth like your first bout night. The birth of your children will probably surpass this experience, but by that statement you understand how completely serious I am about this, the greatest sport in the world. There is nothing like it. Anywhere.

But you’ll need to be prepared, and there are a handful of things I wish I’d known prior to my first derby night (that occurred on Saturday, March 27, 2010, an event so burned into my memory that I remember the goddamn date). Following these five diamond-studded pieces of advice will ensure you make the most of your very first roller derby experience, and you will probably continue to employ these methods at future games in future seasons.

If you’re not local to Kansas City, a lot of this will still apply, just not the specifics, obviously.


5. Be smart about tickets.

The hell does that mean? Well, it depends on which league you’re seeing, but there is one important thing to remember: don’t use Ticketmaster.

I probably don’t need to explain why — by the time they’re done nickel-and-diming you with fees, fees, fees, they’ve nearly doubled the price of your ticket. So far, KCRW is the only Kansas City league that uses Ticketmaster, but even at that, you’ve still got options.

If you know any, you can contact your favorite derby girl for tickets; as I understand it, that’s the least expensive way to go. Here’s the thing, though: Municipal seats just a shade over 10,000 (including the “non-permanent” seating), and even though KCRW pulls in a pretty respectable crowd of a few thousand per game, they haven’t reached the point where they’re going to sell the place out (yet). And according to the web site, the box office opens two hours before doors on The Day Of. So get there when I do, buy your tickets at the window, and wait with me.


I’m a bit more tactful, promise.

With Dead Girl Derby, you can get tickets from the skaters, and you can also buy online with Brown Paper Tickets. They charge a fee or two, but nothing like Ticketmaster. I wouldn’t recommend buying tickets at the door, though, because they don’t let you until doors open, and well, that segues nicely into my next point…


4. Get there at least 30 minutes early.

Bare. ass. minimum.

And by that, I mean 30 minutes before the doors open, not 30 minutes before game time. Allow yourself extra time to park and walk to the venue, particularly if you’re not familiar with the area.

With KCRW, for instance, the doors open at six, so don’t even think about getting there past 5:30; seating is general admission, and if you get there much later than that, your seats will be crap. My secret? I get there at 5:00, and the place is empty. I’m always first in line.


Of course, you become That Guy, but whatever.

I didn’t do this at my first game, and we wound up standing in a line that snaked around the (rather large) foyer once or twice and finally ended somewhere near Cheshire, Connecticut where they have never even heard of roller derby. I understand they also don’t have rainbows or bacon, but I’ve never been there.

With Dead Girl Derby, the doors open at 5:30, but I’ve found that getting there at 5:00 doesn’t cut it; I get there at 4:30 because the line seems to form earlier. Also, the venue is much smaller, and as such, the good seats disappear more quickly.

And speaking of seating…


3. Sit in the crash zone.

The crash zone, the suicide seats, whatever your league calls them, that’s where you want to sit. Trust me on this. It’s always right next to the track, and everyone has to be over the age of 18 to sit there because you could potentially wind up with a derby girl in your lap. This could be the best reason to sit there.


Ya think?

Actually, the reason you want the crash zone is because, quite simply, that’s where the action is. This is another thing I failed to do at my first bout; we, for some damn reason, decided to sit up in the balcony seats where you can (admittedly) see every inch of the track. You’ve basically got an aerial view of the game the entire time.

But you’re so far removed from the action that you completely miss out on the electricity that comes naturally when you’re that up close and personal with a sport this intense. Why would you pass up a chance to literally feel the wind coming off the track as the skaters fly by, calling your name as their siren songs declare their undying love for you and only you? All right, I imagined that.

There may be actual seats in the crash zone, or you may be sitting on the floor. It matters not. If sitting on the floor hurts you the way it does me, bring one of those sporting event butt-pillows. But sitting anywhere other than the crash zone is a waste, in my opinion.


2. Be sure you have a little cash on you.

You may have to pay to park, and you’ll want souvenirs… t-shirts, buttons, stickers, and what not. Many times, they’ll be able to process plastic right there at the merch table, but you won’t know that until you get there (and it’s too late). Besides that, the lines for merch are kind of nebulous anyway, and you don’t want to spend too much time dallying while your card approves (or doesn’t).


Cat’s cute.

Also, the concession stands at Municipal Auditorium seem to lose their ability to process plastic at random intervals, so if you get hungry and have no cash, you’d better hope you can snatch a stray toe stop before a derby girl notices. I know, gross. So bring some cash with you.


1. Don’t be shy.

As tough as the skaters look — and are — they’re not going to bite your head off if you ask for a picture. In fact, just the opposite. They appreciate the fans and our support for the league, and you will be positively shocked by how accommodating they are when it comes to tooly pseudo-paparazzi like me running around with a camera all night. Just be smart about it.


This probably isn’t the time.

Take all the pictures you want during the games — they won’t know the difference. You’ll see skaters rolling around before, after, and during games in which they’re not competing, and they’re pretty accessible. So if you’re inclined, let them know how much fun you’ve had, get a picture, and be on your way. They love hearing from the fans. Hell, sometimes they even stick around and sign autographs after the game.


Make it out to my Nana, she loves “the rollergames.”

Did I miss anything? What tips would you offer people coming to their first-ever derby night?

Forever Fearleaders

One of the most common questions I get about roller derby from a fan’s perspective is: how do you decide who your “favorite” teams are? I understand cheering for the home team, but aren’t the house teams pretty much all home teams?

Well, yeah… but there’s more to it than that. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for my part, I just let the teams come to me. That’s literally all there is to it — I show up, watch some derby action, and my mind picks my favorites for me. Imagine what that was like at the Show-Me Der-B-Q when two of my favorite teams, Houston and Omaha, faced off on the last day. Minutes into it, I knew my heart was behind Omaha.

I remember perusing the KCRW site about three months before the 2010 season began. I’d never been to a bout before, I didn’t know any of the skaters, and at that point in time, I had no idea where my loyalties might lie. Based on the web site, the team photos, and unfathomably, the uniforms (which can have a remarkable effect on a fan’s psyche), I assumed intuitively that the Victory Vixens would be my favorites. Everything about them screamed, “We’re your team.”


And something about “standing at attention,” but anyway.

March 27, 2010 showed up, and I found that I loved the Vixens, all right… but before the first game was even over, my whole heart belonged to the Black Eye Susans. From an early stage, four little words altered the landscape of my derbytude and laid the foundation for my love of the greatest sport in the world, and those four words are BLACK EYE OR DIE.

With Dead Girl Derby, I thought it would work in much the same way, and for a while it did.

Until it didn’t.

I immediately latched on to the Royal Pains. For one thing, my alma mater’s colors are purple and white, so we’re off to a good start. Throw in strong leaders, skaters, and personalities like Dir-T Diana, Azz Catch-em, Dixie Danger, and top-scoring Poison Evie, and you’ve got America’s all-American midwestern team of all-Americans, America. (I don’t even know what that means.)

Meanwhile, as surely as my favorites reveal themselves over the course of the season, so do the villains — and this league’s villain team was, without question, the Fearleaders. I’ve no idea why; it’s not like any of them were rude, cocky, or showed poor sportsmanship. In fact, they hadn’t done anything. They didn’t even have anything in common with KCRW‘s dyed-in-the-wool villains, the Dreadnought Dorothys; at least the Dorothys’ villainy was justified by their iron-clad un-defeat-ability. By contrast, it seemed that the only team the Fearleaders could beat for the first half of the season was themselves.

But that was how I liked it, and the Fearleaders maintained their villain status in my mind for the better part of the season. I delighted in their consecutive losses, and much like the Kansas Jayhawks, I felt the irresistible urge to cheer for anyone who was playing against them. This included the Lovely Lethals, who pulled out a last-second win in game three that marked the very last time I ever Thought Pink. I was not necessarily a Lethals fan, but I couldn’t have been happier to see the Fearleaders go home winless yet again, particularly after such a nailbiting ending. Those are the worst.

So what the hell happened? Didn’t I say in a previous post that I wound up on their side? What the hell happened?

Well… they beat my favorite team. Wait, what?

I went into game five knowing there was no way the winless Fearleaders were going to beat my Azz-catching team of All-Americans. Regardless of the fight they’d put up against the powerful Lethals, an entire season (thus far) of coming up short would have to take its toll. And beyond that, I was pretty confident about the Pains’ ability to take them down, since they’d done it already.

But that’s not how it went. To their credit, the Fearleaders brought it to the track and left it on the track — and by the time it was over, they’d scored their first win of the season against Their Highnesses, the Purple Passion, the one team in Dead Girl Derby I’d give my left skate for, the Royal Pains. I was incredulous. Throw in the Deadly Sirens‘ first-ever loss at the hands of the Lethals that same night, and I went home less than enthused with roller derby for the first time ever. That’s because I’m a bad sport, you see.


Pictured: the opposite of me.

One of the good things about being “just” a fan is that strictly speaking, you’re not under any real obligation to show good sportsmanship. It’s a bit hypocritical, since sportsmanship is something I value so highly in a derby league, but since I’m a paying customer, I’ll cheer for (and against) anyone I want. And I wasn’t about to lose any sleep over the Fearleaders‘ win, but I was certainly in no mood to congratulate them on accomplishing what I’d considered impossible only three hours earlier.

The next morning, though, it was all I could think about. Twelve hours prior, I’d watched two dedicated, hard-hitting teams slugging it out on the track, but only one was really fighting for its dignity in the face of an entire season of losses; you can’t really overstate that part. Once they’d pulled out the win, all four teams were out on the track, hugging and butt-slapping (ok, I made that up) and congratulating the Fearleaders on their very first-ever hard-earned win. The level of camaraderie and straight-up friendship on display that night showed me, the Most Important Fan Ever, exactly what this league was made of: integrity, grit, guts, and massive… massive ladyballs. It takes a great deal of character to congratulate the underdog who just beat you 30 seconds earlier; the Dead Girls are certainly made of finer stuff than I.

As proud as I was of the Royal Pains for their extraordinary show of character, I was finally realizing that the Fearleaders, with their endless tenacity, dedication, and competitive spirit, were setting up shop in my heart whether I liked it or not. If the entire league could stand up in front of everyone and congratulate them on getting over that hump, then there’s no reason that shouldn’t be good enough for me. The Fearleaders didn’t lose another goddamn game all year, and I’ve been right behind them, cheering them on every inch of the way ever since — even at the Zombie Apocalypse, when they faced off (once again) against the Royal Pains, this time for third place. It was the first time Their Highnesses didn’t have me in their corner.

If you had told me six months ago that I’d be cheering for the Fearleaders against the Royal Pains before the season was over, I’d have said you were smokin’ banana peels. All things being equal, though, you may never see me at another Dead Girl Derby game wearing anything but the black and grey.

3 Ridiculous Things You Probably Believe About Roller Derby

Who among us has been to a WFTDA or OSDA bout and didn’t love absolutely every moment of it? And for those who raised their hands, how many of you also delight in the deaths of puppies and baby woodland animals?

Roller derby is one of the few sports that just about anyone can enjoy. It’s fast-paced, exciting, easy to follow once you’ve learned a few basics (just like any other sport), and it is, in my opinion, one of the most affordable sporting experiences available today, dollar-for-dollar. That’s referring to tickets, mind you; by the time the bouts are over, you’ll want so many t-shirts, stickers, patches, hoodies, caps, and key chains that you’ll probably wonder where the “affordable” part went.

But it’s also one of the least-understood sports in the country, and given the flamboyant history of roller derby dating back to the wild and crazy 70s, it’s no wonder. Those who were around then can remember the spectacle, and even those who weren’t have probably seen the footage. Here, then, are four of the silliest misconceptions making the rounds today about women’s flat track roller derby.


Myth #1: The games are staged, and the outcomes are pre-determined.

The reality:
The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is nothing like the roller derby of the 70s, when Raquel Welch dazzled us in Kansas City Bomber. Obvious differences aside — like the presence of a flat track instead of the banked track Welch skated on — the games (and fights) actually were staged back then and the outcomes decided in advance, much like present-day professional wrestling. But those days are long gone.


Yeah, no.

Likewise, the Old School Derby Association (OSDA) skates under a slightly different set of rules, but the parallels remain: even though there is an element of spectacle and the skaters adopt tough, almost cartoonish monikers under which they compete, the fact remains that the roller derby of today is a real sport.

The official WFTDA rule book is a quarter-inch thick (and costs eight dollars to buy), complete with penalties, parameters for ejection, and “zones of engagement,” which I still haven’t figured out. It can take years of experience to really grasp the minutiae of the game, and by then, the rules have been revised slightly and there’s more to learn. But the point is, anyone who’s afraid they’re in for a WWE-style fake-fest is in for a shock, because there are games to be won — and believe me, these girls are in it to win it. Best get out the way.


Myth #2: The players make good money doing this.

The reality:
Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

The WFTDA is a not-for-profit international governing body of women’s flat track roller derby; none of the skaters get paid for their participation. Players must pay for their own equipment, medical treatment (when necessary), travel expenses, and all incidentals related thereto including meals, hotels, and so forth. They pay monthly dues to the league and are required to participate in committees that organize fundraisers, event planning, rulebook changes, marketing, and merchandising — all without a paycheck. It can (and often does) amount to an enormous time commitment, but there’s hardly a one in the bunch who would say it isn’t worth it.

The women who participate have full-time jobs, families, spouses/partners, children, and bills to pay just like all of us. The fact that they’re infinitely more bad ass than we are doesn’t mean the electric company just looks the other way. Although I would, if I worked there. Who wants to incur the wrath of a derby girl?


Go ahead and count me out.


Myth #3: It’s basically a fight on wheels.

The reality:
Did I mention there’s an actual game being played? As rough as the game of roller derby can be, some of you would be positively shocked by the kinds of physical contact they can’t make: elbows, punching, tripping, kicking, even shoving. All of the above would likely result in an ejection from the game on the basis of gross misconduct. The rulebook is very specific on the kinds of blocking allowed, the body parts players can block with, and the legal target zones, i.e. the parts of opposing players’ bodies you can hit. If you’re still stuck on the similarities between roller derby and pro wrestling, you may just want to get it out of your system now:

Now that you’ve seen that (fun) mess, go to our YouTube page at www.youtube.com/kcderbydigest and compare it to any one of our game videos. Except that you can’t, because there is no comparison.

The level of sportsmanship displayed by players in the WFTDA is unparalleled. I’ve seen fights in baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, and even tennis, but I have never, ever seen a fight at a WFTDA bout — and I’ve seen bouts in Kansas City, Los Angeles, Omaha, Des Moines, and Houston. That kind of sportsmanship is pretty extraordinary when you consider the level of physical contact and competition these ladies experience on the track. Unsportsmanlike conduct that leads to violence is so rare in this particular league that when it does happen, fans give it a name like “The Punch Heard ‘Round the Derby World,” or something equally cheesy. Because it just doesn’t happen.

And so on. And so on. On top of everything else, every event is billed “family-friendly,” and I regularly see kids of every age at the games. If that doesn’t change your mind, we probably can’t help you anyway.