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ROLLER DERBY, POLITICS, and the NBA by Gene Myers

Article Posted: 03/02/2020
Article Views: 1389
Articles Written: 209
Word Count: 1785
Article Votes: 12
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This essay is about quality, or rather about the disintegration of quality in certain aspects of my life, much of it occurring since the end of the 1980s. I admit “quality” is in the perception of the beholder; that is, it varies from person to person. However, no matter how you cut it, QUALITY has two aspects.

The first aspect is CONFORMANCE TO REQUIREMENTS; that is, whatever the product or service is; it must conform to whatever standards one requires as an individual or customer. To fall short of one’s expectations is to NOT have “quality”. The second aspect is DESIGN FEATURES. These are little extras provided; extras one couldn’t have imagined or requested—pleasant surprises. As an example, think of an early 1950s automobile. Design features that came along were automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, brakes, and windows, etc. People were delighted, and gladly paid more for them. They soon became the buyer’s new requirements, and morphed back to the first aspect of quality. Quality is how the “market” becomes satisfied, whether by features society requests (market pull) or features researchers anticipate (technology push).

With that in mind, those of you who have read my previous essays probably realize I’m an opinionated chap for which I make no apology. I’ve got to be me.

For me, roller derby started quality on its downward spiral in the 1960s. You see, after World War II, and into the following decade, roller derby was considered a legitimate sport with regular newspaper and television coverage. Hollywood even jumped on the bandwagon with “Roller Derby Girl” in 1949 starring Jean Porter and Midge Brasuhn; and “The Fireball” in 1950 starring Mickey Rooney with a brief appearance by Marilyn Monroe. Those were the days when wrestling was at least semi-legitimate; that is, before it became a WWE scripted spectacle called “rasslin’”.

One of the stars of roller derby was the aforementioned Midge Brasuhn, born Theresa Brasuhn Monte. Friends called her Midge (for midget) because the 150-pound fireplug stood only 4’11”. As captain of the Brooklyn Red Devils, her roller derby moniker was Toughie Brasuhn, and she was famous for kneeing opponents in the head. In 1950, the Sportswriters of America named her one of the Top 10 Female Athletes, and she was later inducted into the Roller Derby Hall of Fame.

Then things went downhill. Taking their cue from rasslin’, roller derby became a sport of choreographed fights and knocking people over the rail out of the ramped, oval rink and into the paying customers. The Los Angeles Thunderbirds (L.A. T-birds) claimed they outdrew the city’s NHL Kings and NBA Lakers, but I have to throw the BS flag on that.

First of all, the T-Birds played in the drafty, ratty, smelly, old Olympic Auditorium built for the 1932 Olympic Games. The arena, which has since gone the way of Brigadoon, was used mainly for boxing; and was the venue where a San Fernando Valley State University (now Cal State Northridge) baseball coach named Dick Enberg made his sports casting debut. Inebriated fans threw beer cups filled with urine off the balcony, and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon had to wear a hard hat to keep from getting beaned with coins. It was the kind of place where you had to go to the Men’s Room to get a breath of fresh air.

The T-Birds were on L. A. television every week, and always seemed to be playing home games against the hated San Francisco Bay Bombers starring a butt-kicking jammer—the very same Toughie Brasuhn battling with T-Bird hardnose, Shirley Hardman. Week-after-week the T-Birds were down the equivalent of five touchdowns going into the final period; and week-after-week they pulled out an improbable, amazing, and miraculous victory in the final seconds. We used to watch it for the phony fights, Brasuhn’s antics, the fake scripted comebacks—and mainly to laugh at the outlandish spectacle. Lesson learned: When you don’t respect the game, and start hoking it up for “entertainment”, the end is near. Roller derby died. The “entertainment” became stale.

One could argue that politics has always been worse than roller derby going back to the Roman Senators punching holes in Julius Caesar. Then there were numerous beheadings during the so-called age of chivalry, Leon Trotsky ending up with an axe in his head, and too many other assassinations to count, which included the Kennedy brothers.

The modern iteration of “Roller Derby” in US politics began about 1992 with the election of Bill Clinton. The jammer was Ross Perot who led the polls in June of that year only to drop out or the race then pop back in again months later. By then his lead had disappeared, but his presence on the ballot siphoned off 18-percent of the vote, the vast majority which would have gone to incumbent George H. W. Bush, thus handing Clinton the election. The process “normalized” again until 2000 with the hanging chads controversy in Florida, which awarded George W. Bush the election over the wooden Al Gore, Jr.

The Barrack Obama elections of 2008 and 2012 were fairly mundane thanks to two vapid opponents, John McCain and Mitt Romney, who (being full-fledged RINOs) both waged half-hearted, limp-wristed campaigns. The Republicans adopted a strategy of not taking any responsibility so they couldn’t be blamed for anything while, mainly, enriching their individual PACs. They even opposed, but voted for a terribly flawed Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) to (they said) let it fail. Zero intellectual honesty from that crew, but after all they are self-serving career politicians. What do we expect?

Events went well for the GOP until Donald Trump entered and upset their apple cart. This was the same Trump that Hillary Clinton said in 2013 would make a good president—I have video. The GOP tried mightily to get rid of the brash nuisance, but he won the nomination anyway. The Democrats compounded the problem by fixing their primaries for Hillary Clinton thereby running a candidate with the least amount of charisma in my lifetime—that is, none, nada, zero. She didn’t even prepare a consolation speech, and her minions rioted a la Mexico elections. The mob was the equivalent of roller derby jammers on the streets not even sparing Hillary endorsers, Bank of America and Starbucks. She won the popular vote by about two million thanks to two to three million illegals voting in California—not even the State disputes that—and a two million popular vote edge from the five counties that comprise New York City. Trump won the state count 31 to 19. Trump also brought something new into politics—a street fighter mentality. His Democrat opponents vowed to take the high ground, but have fallen into the trap of trying to duke it out with him. More roller derby.

More recently, Mini-Mike Bloomberg said to hell with the Democratic Primaries, and set out to prove he can buy the nomination and maybe the presidency. He can spend a billion and still have enough left to have five times as much as Trump. His way means he can pay Obama a load of cash for an endorsement, put out a bunch of hit ads on Trump, and sit back never having to answer any questions. He is banking on the Dems pathological hatred of Trump to eventually back him. If he can pull it off, it would be the great roller derby move. Mini-Mike has also hinted that he’ll have either Hillary or Michelle Obama as a running mate. He may want to rethink the former to avoid being (what?) the sixtieth or so accidental / suicide victim connected to the Clintons. HOWEVER; Bloomberg is a very successful capitalist who I believe is pulling a rope-a-dope on the Dems radical leftwing faction. If elected, I would not be at all surprised if he becomes Trump 2.0, which would be the ultimate roller derby move in US politics.

Meanwhile, an uneducated, ignorant, polarized US public continues to behave like rasslin’, South American soccer, and (well) roller derby fans. Watch the boat sink (sigh).

Roller derby mentality also started the takeover of the NBA in the early 1990s. In the 1970s, the league was struggling, but the advent of Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird in the 1980s basically saved the league. The NBA got the hint especially when Michael Jordan followed Johnson and Bird. If an opposing player breathed or looked cross-eyed at any of the three, the saviors were on the foul line. Wilt Chamberlain lamented that the NBA did everything in the book to limit him, but that the opposite was true when it came to Jordan.

Flash forward to today. Traveling, carrying the ball, three-seconds in the lane are rarely called—especially on the so-called stars—because the NBA claims their product is no longer sports, but “entertainment”. Many of the athletes are tatted-up so they look like carnival workers, some with ridiculous hair styles. (I know, I know…it’s “art”.) After a basket (maybe a dunk) or defensive play (maybe a block), there is self-promoting chest thumping and screaming look-at-me antics. Rasslin’! Roller derby!

I was a season ticket holder in the Laker-days of Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, and announcer Chick Hearn. I loved watching Bill Russell’s Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain’s Warriors. When the Chicago Bulls came to town, I admired the play of Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lear—two hardnosed guards. The players, coaches, team management, and fans respected the game. Later, Magic and Kareem; and Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish carried on the tradition, but in their twilight the game started to turn into the circus that it is today.

I no longer watch the NBA. I refuse to watch a great game full of outstanding athletes continue the Rasslin’ and Roller Derby journey to Palookaville because the administrators don’t respect the game. What’s next? Maybe a Rick Mahorn Annual Trophy for the guy with the most fights, technical fouls, and ejections? Worse is the NBA all-star game—same as the NFL Pro-Bowl. I get it that the players don’t want to play defense or exert themselves since they may sustain an injury. So why not discontinue the travesty? It’s like the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals except both sides are the Globetrotters on offense and the Generals on defense.

I am probably in the minority. Many people still love and watch the league; however, many people also adore the WWE rasslin’ spectacle. They know it’s phony, but don’t care. It’s entertainment (I guess). Those who love the NBA all-star game are easily amused—BUT I wonder how many act that way because they think they are supposed to.

Me? I like real.

By Gene Myers, quality evangelist and fork lift driver in training

Related Articles - quality, Toughie Brasuhn, Olympic Auditorium, L.A. T-Birds, Ross Perot, Barrack Obama, Donald Trump, Mike Bloomberg, Michael Jordon, WWE,

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