While the very real 21st century version of roller derby has veered from its former “sports entertainment” relative of professional wrestling, they share one key similarity in the announcing realm: The practice of “putting over,” or or using the mic to promote participants.
In pro wrestling (and it should scare you I know this stuff), announcers can be faces (aligned with the good guys) or heels (in with the bad guys), but a key part of their job is selling the bravery, purity and worthiness of the heroes and/or the vile virtues of the villains. The face announcer will tell what a noble struggle the face wrestler carries on in the face of adversity and underhanded opponents; the heel announcer may have praise for the face wrestler, but will also support the rights of the heel to do whatever necessary to win. With pro wrestling, I’ve tended to find the announcing more entertaining than the action.
Modern roller derby doesn’t generally have heroes and villains, just casts of characters and a sport that announcers happily promote to the audience. A big part of our job, as I see it, involves providing praise for opponents as well as our skaters. We want to point out the great things any skater does, especially if this helps the audience better understand the sport. It can be something as spectacular as a flying-waitress star pass or as unglamorous yet crucial as a good three-person wall that prevents the other jammer from getting through.
If you watched the WFTDA regionals and nationals, you likely saw announcers sometimes criticizing players and strategies. It’s fair game at that level, sure, but nothing I’d want to do. Come into any Oz Roller Girls practice and you’ll see how hard they work to improve their skills, solidify teamwork and prepare to entertain the fans. They’re volunteers who endure grueling practice sessions twice a week throughout the year. They — and the leagues we play — most certainly deserve the praise. They deserve anything we, the announcers, can do to put them over to the fans.