The Derby is moribund now, a fact that distressed Seltzer greatly. He always hoped that his creation, which like pro wrestling tended to be more show biz than sport, would thrive as a legitimate athletic contest. Seltzer was a superb, dispassionate businessman, a successful land developer and a partner in the Roller Derby Skate Co., with $30 million in annual sales, but his family constantly had to talk him out of selling out and investing the works in a new, legit Roller Derby League. One of the last calls he made was to Sonny Werblin, an old show biz pal who is the new head of Madison Square Garden, urging Werblin to join with him in starting a 100% honest Derby League.
In a sense, Leo Seltzer suffered the only Naismith complex in history. It was never enough that his neat little game entertained millions of people. The hokier—and more successful—it grew, the more he despised what he had wrought. He longed to leave the world a real sport.
HOCKEY STILL SLIDING
There is a move afoot to change the format of the National Hockey League All-Star Game from a contest between the two divisions to a three-game series between a team of NHL stars and a Soviet team. The hope is that such a series will attract the network TV contract the league desperately needs.
That's O.K., but rather than dwelling on the All-Star Game, which matters to hardly anyone, hockey might do better to have a face-off with its more pressing problems. Games between the six good teams and 12 bad ones lead to mismatches and reduced attendance. Also. NHL scheduling ignores its traditional and geographic rivalries. The underlying problem is a lack of cohesiveness. The 18 NHL owners are taking 18 separate paths—and this is not the road to television money.