Many roller derby fans have been clamoring for big-time television networks to showcase roller derby to a wider audience. Your pleas have been heard—sort of.
The MeTV Network has acquired episodes of Roller Derby telecasts from 1972, and has started to make them available to watch for free exclusively on the MeTV Network website. MeTV specializes in reruns of syndicated TV shows more than three or four decades old. Decades-old roller derby fits right in to its lineup.
Roller Derby regularly filmed games and distributed them to affiliated TV stations around the country, using them as vehicles to advertise and generate interest in upcoming live games. Instead of showing full games, as we would expect in the modern sports environment, the tapes were edited down to show one half of a game within a one-hour broadcast window.
Videotapes were routinely reused and taped over back in those days, so it’s a delight that some of these broadcasts have survived into the digital era. At the moment there are just two episodes available for viewing, the 1st and 2nd half of a rare interleague game between Roller Derby’s Midwest Pioneers and the Western Renegades of Roller Games.
As was typical back in the day, there seems to be just as much, uh, physical play as there is roller derby skating. Jerry Seltzer, owner of old Roller Derby and self-proclaimed “commissioner” of modern roller derby, commented on Facebook about the game that he was commentating in, some 40 years later, in a funny full-circle moment. “[It was] really a bad game as it is interleague (Derby vs Rollergames) and way too much fighting, foolishness, and not enough skating. Better games are coming.”1
Future games offered by MeTV should have roller derby that was more typical of the era, with a better balance of derby skating with a better-proportioned amount of “color” for the show. If you’re interested in seeing what “The Sport of the ’70s” looked like from days gone by, this is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to check it out.
It’s also a fascinating look into the history of roller derby, quite literally—the opening of each episode shows a brief, rare glimpse at the 50,000+ fans that packed into Chicago’s old Comiskey Park to be a part of the largest crowd in the game’s history.
MeTV will add a new episode to its Roller Derby streaming library every Monday. To watch the latest show or catch up on previously showcased games, click here.