I UPSET a colleague last week when I observed that, photogenic as it undoubtedly was, roller derby should not have featured in this newspaper’s sports pages.
I upset him more when I offered the opinion that roller derby is at best a crude amusement.
After the initial anger had subsided he invited me to define sport.
That’s tricky. I can tell you what I consider to be important sports: football (the real one with the round ball), cricket, the rugby codes, tennis and athletics, but then I am happy to acknowledge that in sport, as in many aspects of life, I am a boring traditionalist.
You will notice that these sports combine finely honed skills, finesse, strategy and guile and to excel at them requires a high degree of strength and fitness. I accept without debate that there are many more activities that deserve to be respected as sports, but which don’t hold much interest for me.
Reluctantly I’ll admit that basketball counts, although I’ll argue long and hard that it is a game invented so those who are freakishly tall and ungainly have something to do during PE.
But I digress. Let’s return to the subject of roller derby which my enthusiastic colleague describes as the fastest growing sport in the world. Yeah, right.
As far as I can tell it involves a number of well-built young women in various stages of undress, roller skating with malicious intent. I have no doubt that there is an element of sweaty physicality involved and there might be some tactics employed. But, basically, it looks like an excuse for violence and brutality with a dubious element of perversion thrown in for salacious pleasure.
I concede this spectacle drew a crowd. It’s natural that some people were curious and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some strange men went along to ogle the scantily attired participants in the hope that various bouncy bits might fall free of their inadequate harnesses.
In the end I think that there is one guiding principle to clinch the argument. If it involves wearing fishnet stockings then, however sporty the players might appear, they are not taking part in a sport.
NOTE: The actual article can be found here, if you decide he deserves a click.