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Roller Retro-tainment

The Recipe for RollerJam — a pinch of Roller Derby and a dash of professional wrestling — is Causing Quite a Stir

by John Gettings

Back when the golden age of Roller Derby reached its peak, sometime around 1970, the sport was a much different creature than today's re-incarnated RollerJam, which debuted on The Nashville Network last month.

Back then big, brutish men with tattoos and goatees and curvy women with blonde hair fluttering from under plastic helmets and tucked in tight uniforms skated in a circle and used brawn and trickery to knock each other silly. There were "good" teams and "bad" teams that were always one lap away from a fight that the referees could never quite control. Oh, wait... nothing's changed.

Television executives are using a '90s version of the same formula, substituting new "in-line" skates for the old "quad-style" relics, to rekindle the excitement with today's teenage crowd - many of whom have never seen or heard of Roller Derby.

And so far it's working. RollerJam's debut on TNN January 15 drew more than 2.9 million viewers, and was the most watched cable show during its time period (Friday at 8 p.m.) among men 12-34.

Even the executives running the new league haven't changed. Jerry Seltzer, the World Skating League's new commissioner, inherited the original Roller Derby from his father Leo in 1958 and guided it until its demise in 1973.






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