Sports and the Derby

      When you think of a “derby,” your first thought is probably the annual Kentucky Derby horserace, or maybe roller derbies. This cultural definition of “derby” makes the term into a kind of description of a race, whether between people or animals. However, that is not all a derby is.

      Technically speaking, “derby” is defined as any kind of sporting contest open to the public Though this statement is broad and widely nonspecific, that’s part of the beauty of it. A “derby” can be anything you want it to be.

      There are all kinds of derbies, from fishing derbies to soccer derbies, any kind of sport can become a derby!

      One derby is particularly famous among cub scouts. This event is called the “pinewood derby,” which is an event that takes place once a year. Cub scouts get the opportunity to craft their own cars made out of pine, and then race them against one another. The event sprung out of another, older cub scout tradition, called the Soap Box derby.

      Soap Box derbies required cub scouts to build vehicles out of soap boxes and create vehicles out of them. The scouts would then race their creations against one another in order to see which team had built the superior car. Then, in 1953, a Cub Scout leader decided to make an alternative version of the competition. In this version, scouts did the same thing but on a smaller scale. They built miniature cars and raced them against one another on a small-scale track.

      Roller derbies began in 1930 and was originally played on a banked track. The sport lost popularity around 1970 but made a comeback in the early 2000s in Austin Texas. Then, modern roller derby emerged and was played on a flat track. Leagues were formed and operated by the athletes, and the sport snowballed into recognition. Though it was originally known for the fake fights and staged drama, but now it is recognized and played as a legitimate sport. Roller derby, though not often thought of as a traditional sport, is a complicated and engaging game, so much so, that there are now several hundred roller derby leagues to exist all over the world.

     The Kentucky Derby is a nationally recognized equestrian event. The race is so well-known, it has been featured in many films such as Secretariat. The event is intended to host the country’s finest race horses and allow them to compete against one another. These horses are bred, groomed and trained for the event for their whole lives. The event has occurred annually since 1875, even during the Great Depression and both World Wars. It is known to be the longest running sports event in American history and stands as a symbol of the South and traditional Americana. The first derby hosted fifteen thoroughbred, three-year-old horses who ran a mile and a half. Over the years the event has changed in some significant ways. Crowds have grown significantly over the years, and the tradition of draping the winning horses in roses became a staple of the event.

     A fishing derby is an event where local fisherman gather together at a fishing hold to compete. All the participants gather around the body of water and race to see who can catch a particular breed of fish. Within the time limit, the competitors must do their best to reel in the best fish in the pond. After the time limit expires and all the participants have caught their prizes, the catches are ranked best to worst by weight. Whoever has caught the heaviest fish often wins a large cash prize. However, competitors in the sport argue that the event is about more than the prize. They say that the main goal of fish derbies is to foster a sense of community and create awareness for the health of the lake. Some competitions use fishing derbies as a way to rid the water of an invasive species, or even just to educate the local fishermen about how to best protect the water’s ecological system. Some competitions are even more accessible and allow people all throughout any given area to participate through photos and hashtags posted to social media.

    Derbies are a well-established form of competition that can take shape in many ways. Whether its soapbox cars, fishing or roller-skates, there is a derby for everyone.

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