"You may think Roller Derby is a joke," shot back the new czar, "but a lot of people attend their competitions and many of those skaters make a lot of money."
"This is an idea whose time has come," said Bert Nelson, acting as peacemaker. "I think we should give it a chance."
If it is to have a chance, O'Hara will have to be a strong leader in his position of owner/czar. He needs some superlative miles from his biggest drawing card, Ryun, and, given Ryun's history of self-doubt, allergies and bad luck in the last couple of years, that might not be easy. Ex-Kansas mile star Wes San-tee remembers well the kind of race ITA can't afford to have.
There was a barely promoted exhibition race in Lawrence, Kans. in August as a kind of tune-up for Ryun. He was running against George Young and Canada's Grant McLaren in a two-mile. The twilight race drew about 3,500 people at $1 apiece.
"If Ryun had put out," said Santee, "if he hadn't fooled around and quit competing after a couple of laps, he and the other two could have toured around the country and drawn crowds everywhere.... To succeed, professional track will have to have the big names, but it will also have to have competition in every race."
Just in case the pot of gold at the end of the races is not enough incentive for Ryun and the others, or an athlete disappoints for any reason, O'Hara has retained the right to replace anybody who does not run, jump, throw or behave up to "ITA standards," whatever they turn out to be. Underneath his winning salesman's manner, he seems tough enough to wield the ax.
O'Hara is a tenacious competitor who hates to lose in business even more than in paddle tennis at his beach club. Recently he was chatting with some of the current volleyball stars when the subject of a beach tournament came up. It seems that on a Sunday evening when it was getting dark, cold and foggy at Santa Cruz and the finalists were exhausted from a long weekend of diving and leaping in the sand, they agreed to flip a coin to decide the winner and then go home. O'Hara listened and became visibly disgusted. He obviously despised the idea that athletes would not keep playing until they cramped up into human beach balls. He walked away, saying, "That's a bad story. Please don't ever tell it again."