The 3 reasons you read “Journalists miss the real ($50M) roller derby story” — and what needs to be done now

I would have posted sooner, but I caught the flu.


I mean: WOW.

The post “Journalists miss the real ($50M) roller derby story. Every Time” got more than 17,000 hits in one day. … and that’s before it got posted to Derby Life. This probably confirms two things: that the roller derby roster that says there are 39,000 of us is probably right (or an underestimation, as some of you pointed out) and that we do have reach.

I feel like the post deserves a follow. I tried to think — past the mucus, the nausea and the hours upon hours of sleep — about *why* this caught fire. Here are some hypotheses:

1. We feel misrepresented by the media
2. We feel our sport is epic, valuable and growing and deserves recognition as such
3. We know the monetary value of this is meaningful

Those are my top three guesses. As a journalist for the past seven years or so, I know I can’t actually ever pinpoint why people click and share the way they do. But the fact that this article blew up means something and I want to delve into that a little.

1. We feel misrepresented by the media
Cliche (I’m only stopping because I’m bored now.)

In case you don’t want to click through 11 versions of the same story, those are all the by day/by night story. YOURTOWN — By day you are a professional who thinks and talks and is productive, by night you are a roller skating super hero in fishnets with a whacky name!

2. We feel our sport is epic, valuable and growing and deserves recognition as such
– As the people with boots (Riedell, Antik and Bonts, mostly) on the ground, we know this is epic. We witness around us a rise of thousands upon thousands of women coming into this community in a viral way that might be harder to see as an outsider. So, maybe it tiffs us off to not see this represented. It feels epic, it is epic, and no one seems to notice. I think the postings of the article saying “THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN SAYING” point to this.

3. We know the monetary value of this is meaningful
– Some commenters were saying that they will hand out “Journalists miss the real ($50M) roller derby story. Every Time” in their sponsorship packets — or should. And I think that’s a big part of it. We, as committee members and league members, have to sell this sport, literally. And we have not all been given great resources to do so. It’s hard to cite good data and it’s hard to find someone to explain that data in real terms. Sure, WFTDA says skaters spend such and such on each item, but they don’t add it up in a way that is very marketable. Maybe that’s what we were waiting for and excited about. WE know this sport is epic and massive and that translates into dollars … but how??? And my last blog post did not even do a very good job at going into that. It’s a huge underestimation that doesn’t account for most of the derby industry

How many bouts are there each year in America? 3,000? And if each makes a measly $2,000 that’s another $6 million. If there were only 250 leagues — there are way more — and they each spend $600 a month in rent, that’s $1.8 million. What about merch? If each of the 250 or so  WFTDA leagues — not other leagues — sold $1,000 in merch each year that’s another quarter million …. raffles, fundraisers, parties, other related economies …. ).

If 250 leagues each go to six away bouts a year and rent four hotel rooms at $100 a night, that’s more than half a million dollars. Shall I go on? How about just championships? Sending 11 teams to championships is probably more than $50,000 in hotel rooms alone and another $50,000 in flights (if only eight teams have to fly). Not including the food they couldn’t bring on the flight, the fees, the necessities they buy at local stores when they’re there. And there are conventions …Even the tiny NE Derby Con I wrote about is about $150 a person for 500 people, which is $75,000 in tickets, probably more than $20,000 in hotels ….

It adds up. We need someone to add this up.

So that’s why I think this took off. It’s also why I think more research has to be done. More importantly, better marketing MUST be done to show companies, sponsors, communities, Chambers of Commerces, etc the value — the real value of roller derby. Every other industry has a round figure of what they are worth, which gives them more clout to sell themselves. We need that. Desperately, apparently. And it’s sad to say, but the media isn’t going to chase this without derby making the first move. Without numbers laid out for reporters, the job is way way harder — perhaps insurmountable. But we have the power to gather this information. I’d encourage derby governing bodies to consider asking their constituents for some data — not to share on a league-by-league level, that’s private, but to share in a big-scale way so we can have the numbers to put behind us. These numbers would empower us to market the shit out of our industry and show it’s legitimacy as an investment for our sponsors all over the US and the world.


About hsteeves

Hard Dash
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3 Responses to The 3 reasons you read “Journalists miss the real ($50M) roller derby story” — and what needs to be done now

  1. Eenie Meanie says:

    Since moving to Houston, I’ve started writing for about all the leagues and other derby-related things here. My goal is to show by my work how derby should be treated: as a sport. If there are fishnets mentioned, they will have a value to the story and not simply add to the “mom-by-day, sexy-skater-by-night” cliche’.

    But you’re right, it’s very hard to demonstrate the monetary value of derby to the community without hard, detailed numbers. Let’s hope this pushed some of those within the derby world to put this together. I’d volunteer, but I’m crap with numbers.

  2. refelgallo says:

    Great post, as with any other outside view of derby, it’s difficult to break the mold and put the sport of derby on display. First off with skater names and various posts on regarding skater names. As well as my personal view on “league” names, makes a difficult task of showing the true nature of derby. A sport that deserves recognition.

    Next practice a reporter is going to come out and do a segment, I’ve sent him a link to this post and hopefully it will steer the story from “new roller derby team in town/ ‘clean-cut-occupation-by-day fishnet-wearing-skater-by-night’ “

  3. Pingback: How to write about roller derby: A case study with James Dator and Greensboro Roller Derby | The Dashboard

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