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Another brilliant idea from the one-eyed king

by Ogi Overman

Buoyed by the overwhelming response to a recent column that forever cast me as a visionary above reproach, I would hereby like to embellish my renown by gracing the Triad with another ingenious – Shall I say brilliant? – proposal. As far-sighted as my first idea was, this one will without a doubt solidify my position as a once-in-a-generation futurist, a Renaissance Man, a one-eyed king in the land of the blind. Then again, like most thinkers who are ahead of their time, I could get laughed out of town. To briefly recap, before I went on my latest Bush-bashing bonanza, I propositioned that Greensboro’s best chance to increase its sporting profile would be to secure a spot on the Grand Prix racing circuit. I even went so far as to lay out the track, complete with bleachers, vendor areas, pits, garage and Victory Lane. The reader response was beyond my wildest expectations, a full 200 percent above my typical feedback numbers. I average roughly one respondent per column, and this one generated fully three phone calls, all of them positive. So, based on that landslide of public approval, I feel as if I owe it to the town I call home to offer yet another sporting idea, this one even more grandiloquent than the last. I must first confess that it too has been previously proposed by yours truly. But like my Grand Prix idea, it was simply too far ahead of its time to gain wide acceptance. And that, brothers and sisters, is Greensboro’s loss, for in the ensuing years (I’d have to look it up, but I think I did a column in ESP Magazine on it around ’98) the sport is enjoying a renaissance undreamed of when I first proposed it. According to a recent network news report, no fewer than 227 American cities are currently reaping the benefits of this wonderful pastime. And Greensboro, High Point or Winston-Salem is not on that list. But Raleigh, Wilmington, Asheville, Greenville and Myrtle Beach are. In case you haven’t guessed by now, this burgeoning sport is roller derby. Ah, the sport invented in the 1930s by a promoter named Leo Seltzer and made famous in the ’60s by Big Joanie Weston, Charlie O’Connell and the Bay Area Bombers is back with a vengeance. By the mid-’70s it had virtually died out, making an abortive comeback in the late-’90s when TNN (now Spike TV) tweaked it into “Rollerjam,” a post-millennial reinvention. But this time there are significant changes from the redneck, brawling sport we aging boomers remember from our misspent youth. For starters, most of the leagues that have sprung up lately are all-female, which, to be honest, makes sense. Let’s face it: It was okay watching Charlie O’Connell duke it out with Buddy Atkinson, but we were really glued to the tube waiting for Joanie Weston to get back out on the rink and smack some unsuspecting foe silly. Second, most of them are amateur leagues, populated by a new generation of women ranging from college professors to punk rock musicians. Therefore, big TV contracts are not a necessity in this new roller derby environment. Also, most of the leagues use a flat, rather than banked, track, which is cheaper and more easily moved, folded and stored. But no doubt the biggest difference is that the outcomes are not fixed. This is a legit sport, more akin to an X-Games event than a redneck free-for-all. Sure, the women may sport spiked hair, body art, piercings and fishnet stockings, but they are athletes in the truest sense of the word. There is a post-feminist sassiness – and sexiness – to it, but at its core it is an athletic contest with real winners and real losers. So, who’s willing to step up to the plate and bring a roller derby franchise to the Triad? The cost is certainly not prohibitive and, judging by the success all around us (Wikipedia says there are 240 leagues worldwide), it’s an exploding enterprise. Believe it or not, roller derby has become cool; it’s created the buzz necessary for a below-the-radar sport to succeed. It’s what Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, monster truck jams and Greensboro Monarchs hockey used to be. It’s what the Grasshoppers are and arena football is not. It has captured the all-important youth market yet still attracts enough of us old-folks’ boogiers to be viable. Okay, talk to me, Matt Brown. Where are you, Jim Melvin? Spice up that mayoral candidacy, Milton Kern. Come out of retirement, John Horshok. You’re getting ready to have some time on your hands, what about it, Keith Holliday? Get behind it, Jaycees. Yikes, this could be bigger than the Frog Fling. Let’s see, Greensboro Goo Goo Dolls has a nice ring to it, ya think? How about Gate City Glam Jammers? Okay, Smarty Jones, you think of one. Jeez, do I have to do it all?

Ogi may be reached at ogiman100@yahoo.com, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV 48.

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