Paperback heroes - the derby flyer

Beside me is a tower of loose, colourful A5-sized booklets resting precariously upon each other. It's a tower of history - bright, eye-catching pages dancing a story of noise, of victory, of... smells. Some are creased, torn or weathered by history itself. Some, like history, have been walked over by drunk bastards, rolled over by giants who are the heroes of some and the nemeses of others. Most have been casually defaced by a loafing quack of a journalist.

I love the roller derby flyer.

This snappy and convenient hand-out is a brilliant invention and I thank the enterprising individual who came up with the idea. The flyer contains the sort of information that you just can't dredge out of a Facebook event page. Here are some of the things I find the most useful about the derby flyer, in no particular order:

A list of skaters who'll be bouting.

Obviously. For a writer who does bout recaps, this is a gold mine, especially when the skater number is listed, too. (My notes tend to just scribble the skater number, with the odd exception).

It also forms a useful stimulating exercise. Since the list is never, ever an accurate depiction of who's actually on the track, this consistent use of evasive misinformation means the list can be used as a brainteaser for the reader to solve during half-time or while in the queue for the only two toilets at the venue. The player list is the veritable Sudoku of derby.

Occasionally a brief explanation of the rules

is on the back of the flyer, or page 2. Whenever this is missing, I hear spectators wistfully wishing they understood what the beejeebus was going on. I was one of them at my first bout - but that wasn't helped by the fact that I'd forgotten to get a flyer in the first place. This didn't stop me trying to explain the sport to others. Badly.

A brief recap of recent events

if the league has travelled or had some other sort of momentous event. That sort of info is useful for writers who can then pretend they know what's been going on lately, but it also makes the regulars feel they're a part of a journey. Isn't that nice?

A mention of upcoming events and dates

such as try-outs, bootcamps, tournaments and upcoming home bouts. A great idea - you may as well use this bout to plant the seed of an idea in your fans to come back for the next, or to sign up!

Yes, very little upsets me about the derby flyer, other than when it doesn't exist. The only other exception might be vague dates (or complete lack thereof), such as 'Sunday the 5th' or 'Umpteenth of Whatsitember'. Pretty much every flyer features this latter travesty. What year?? Derby is getting older. This sort of thing might be significant one day - these flyers might be worth something, like old baseball or basketball cards. Or get me on an episode of Antiques Roadshow.

Things I think could be put on flyers that aren't (or rarely are):

Cut-out vouchers or 'show this flyer to X Y or Z stalls or sponsors to get N% off products'. A bit of mutual co-operation between stallholders and leagues, and incentive for spectators.

QR codes that link to the league's Facebook, Twitter or website. People use mobile devices - they could scan these directly at the event and sign up for try-outs. I have seen QR codes used in Sydney league flyers and this is where I am shamelessly taking this idea from.

Derby Trivia! Work with me here. Leagues could build this into a half-time or between-bout competition like a raffle. An answer sheet could be torn off and handed back to a league rep, at which point a winner (with the right answer) is randomly drawn from a hat. (I don't know, don't ask me about the logistics of this idea! I just write things down.) The thrill of this transaction stops 20 people from sticking something sharp into their eye after the 15th official time-out during the first 10 minutes. It's probably also a good way to identify and alert the authorities about the slightly alarming diehards who know way too much about the league than what is healthy (did you know that Angry McStripeson only jam-reffed bouts on odd days of the month this year, and in each of those bouts, Betty McToughsome scored over 25 points in a power jam during the second half?).

What do you like (or dislike) about the derby flyer? Do you call them 'pamphlets' or 'leaflets' and want to criticise me for my use of American language? Which league gives out the best flyers? Which 2013 flyer is/was the best? Troll away!