Friday, March 31, 2006

Trangressions I

I've decided to start compiling incidents of "bad behavior" by and among athletes (and the peeps that surround them, too). I don't know why exactly. I imagine I might I want to draw on them at some later time. I will probably establish some parameters as I go along because if not I would be adding installments every day. For now I am going with things I witness and things that seem to have created a stir. I am not including doping incidents--that's a beast unto itself and amateur already covers it and in a much better way than I ever could.
I imagine I might break these rules and redefine the terms as I go.
But for the first installment I have 2 transgressions:
The first is mentioned over on The Dees Diversions where I also commented. In her win (due to retirement because of injury) over Tatiana Golovin last night at the Nasdaq-100 Tournment in Miami, Maria Sharapova took some very convenient bathroom breaks seemingly in an attempt to disrupt Golovin's concentration. Bathroom breaks are frequently used for this purpose and women can invoke them more often without scrutiny because they used them to change their shirts/dresses. But Sharapova's first break was an "emergency" one that the chair told her she couldn't take but Sharapova went above her to a tournament official aand got permission. I am sure it was an emergency in Sharapova's mind: she was about to lose the second set to Golovin who had climbed out of a 1-5 deficit and was about to serve for the set. How often do these kinds of things happen in tennis? All the time it seems. I could come up with at least half a dozen (recent) examples in less than a minute I would guess. What's interesting is that these transgressions are not frequently reported or in any way problematized. Hence my newfound interest in documenting them.
The second incident is of a much more serious nature. I don't have too much to say about it as the case and investigation are still pending but I feel it's important to report. Members of the Duke lacrosse team have been implicated (DNA evidence is pending) in the rape of a woman the team hired as an exotic dancer. In addition to the gendered violence is the racial violence. The woman, an African-American, has said racial slurs were uttered during the rape--allegedly perpetrated by three of the team members. Many are upset at the university's handling of the incident. A few games were forfeited because of the actual party which adminsitration considered a misconduct but no other actions have been taken yet. The history of violent sexual assault on women by male athletes is long and it seems that people at Duke--and beyond, it's been a hot topic on my women's studies listserv--are looking for some justice and they want it doled out in North Carolina.
The lawyer for the team has said he is certain none of the DNA evidence will implicate any of the team members. But the DA has countered that other evidence exists. We shall see what happens. Though it seems "scandals" such as these are not that uncommon, it rarely seems suitable punishments are meted out by either the criminal justice system or the school administrations.
Sorry to end on such a depressing note, especially for a Friday. Hopefully good things will happen at the first major in women's golf this weekend that I can talk about on Monday.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Not so satisfied anymore (or, The more things change...II)

So I was pretty happy when Ebuz told me our gym was rectifying its former oversight of the NCAA women's basketball tournament by doing a women's bracket this year as well. We filled out our brackets (I am doing fairly well by the way, 3 of my 4 final four picks made it) and turned them in. The men's bracket results were posted the day after round 1 finished. Because the women's round 1 finished a day later I waited to inquire where our results were. When I did, I was told they would be up in a few days. It's over a week later--no results. Neither EBuz nor I have ventured near the front desk again to ask. We're a little bit afraid we are the only ones who filled out a bracket.
Still---I'm pissed. We wonder, when members went to the desk to ask for their bracket, if the staff even bothered to ask "men's or women's?" Because there wasn't a women's bracket last year it's possible very few people even knew it was an option. Certainly the lack of visible results is a sign to members that there isn't one or that it isn't important enough to post.
The argument certainly cannot be made that women aren't interested in sports because a glance at the leaders of the men's bracket show women have done a pretty good job choosing the winners. It does however suggest that there is still little interest in women's sports--even basketball. Guess Candace Parker is going to have to do a lot more dunking before I can convince the gym management (all 4 owners are men in case anyone thinks that matters) that the women's bracket should be posted and even--gasp--promoted.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My Frozen Four Weekend

Just back from the Twin Cities, the site of this year's Frozen Four tournament. It was a great weekend of hockey. Though my beloved Wildcats lost in the semifinals on Friday night, it was a great game and I think this marks the beginning of a few good years of being a contender. They had an amazing season, an incredible 25+ no-loss streak, and really developed their rookies, two of whom started on Friday night.
I was somewhat disappointed in the crowd size. My father, who flew out from MA to meet us there, said there were more people at the UNH-Harvard match-up in the regional game last weekend. This was surprising given that Minnesota, though marked the away team because of their #4 seeding, was UNH's opponent. They had home-team advantage. It was their stadium and not as many MN fans came out to support them as I would have figured. Sunday's championship match-up between the Golden Gophers and Wisconsin however produced a lot more people. Fair weather MN fans perhaps? It's possible. I interviewed a MN native a few years ago who had played with boys for the majority of her career. She said despite the critical mass of female hockey players in the state (MN teams barely need bother recruiting outside the state), women's hockey has, at best, second-class citizenship status, and is often seen as little more than a joke. The people who came this weekend of course probably do not see it as the latter or they wouldn't have bothered showing up. But I would bet that many in attendance Friday night would have eagerly traded the MN women's win over UNH in the semifinals for a reversal of the dismal loss of their men's team to perennial first round loser Holy Cross in the regionals that same night.
I think I had envisioned MN as being the epitome of women's hockey in terms of enthusiasm and overall support, but I now see that we in New England are just as eager to show our support for the women's game. (Of course this is all relative. Women's college hockey in the US has so many strikes against it.)
And on a happy ending note: this morning looking for all the b-ball scores I missed last night driving home from the tournament I saw the ticker had NCAAH and showed not the men's regional scores but the women's final score Wisconson 3, MN 0 (little bit of revenge there). Now if only the ticker would have noted that the 2006Patty Kazmaier winner (announced Saturday night) Sara Bauer was a member of the victorious Badgers. Oh well maybe next year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A clarification for Mr. Kent

The article about the validity of Candace Parker's two dunks and their effect on the game (and its naysayers) included an interesting--yet brief--comment about the audience of women's basketball. Here is the paragraph from Milton Kent's article:
Truth be told, there's a market for women's ball, namely families with
young children, older fans, African-American families, that may not be the
standard, listen-to-talk-radio, live-for-SportsCenter sports fan.
Um--Mr. Kent--you forgot the lesbians. Lesbians form a significant portion of the fan base for women's basketball. I know you know that--the WNBA knows it. It's just that no one wants to talk about it. Did Swoopes's (whom Kent mentions in the article) coming-out this year do nothing to show that it's ok to talk about lesbians and basketball? Apparently.
It's disappointing. Sure all of us with toasters know the score--know the high numbers of closeted players and recognize one another in the stands. It's time for the Others to provide that nod of recognition too.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Two dunks toward equity?

In the first round of the NCAA tournament Tennessee wiped the court with first-time tournament participant Army. The highlight of the game though--at leat according to every commentator and story that followed--was the two-dunk performance of Candace Parker. Indeed, it was a history-making performance--the first woman to do it in the tournament and she did it twice. What I kept wondering what it all means. Before I begin my musings I want to say that in no way do I think that Parker or any other woman shouldn't be dunking.
So that being said--what does the emergence of a female dunker say about the women's game? Certainly it is a sign that more women will follow. The proverbial bar has been raised. Seems like good news. But on the other hand, I frequently hear people say they appreciate or enjoy the women's game because it doesn't have players doing flashy dunks ever other shot--that the women's game is more strategic, more thoughtful, etc. (Note this is also the argument many proponents of no-checking women's hockey use as well and to some extent I have bought this version.) But I also hear the people who poo-poo women's basketball complain that it isn't as exciting as the mens's game. Of course, and I seem to side here to some extent with Baltimore Sun writer Milton Kent who notes that if the poo-pooers aren't there yet--a few dunks won't bring them over.
In fact those people might read all this hoop-la (no pun intended) and say "One girl (and they would say girl--not woman) two dunks. Big deal." And they might be right. Two dunks do not make a game--they don't even win a game. Parker probably took the shots because Tennessee was in no danger of losing. Can you imagine if she had attempted them and missed? Talk about hoop-la. I predict we won't see many more dunks in this year's tournament from Parker or anyone else because with second round almost over the stakes are getting higher.
I will be interested to see what next year (and the year after that and so on and so on) brings though in terms of the women's game. Certainly there are no dunk restrictions (like no checking in hockey) that prevents women from developing the skill. It could be a welcome addition to an already exciting game. We shall see...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Still lukewarm on Hingis

After Martina Hingis's upset of Lindsay Davenport the other day, she fell in straight sets to Maria Sharapova in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open. The 6-3, 6-3 match was allegedly closer than the score indicates and writers and commentators hail Hingis's comeback efforts. Indeed, kudos for Hingis for putting in the time and incredible effort than has allowed her to rise rapidly up the rankings. One article I read noted though that Hingis is still without a title in her post-comeback. Well seriously--she's only been back since January--there are plenty of people ranked above her who are without a title too. But it reminded me of how Hingis went out--no not with ankle and foot problems but with a consistency (arguably brought about by her determination and excellent strokes) that kept her in tournaments until the quarters or semis. So pretty much the same place she is in now. She can beat almost every time those ranked below her but can beat only some of the time those ranked above her. In other words--sure she has improved most of her shots and her fitness and has kept that mental edge she has always had but that has--in this much more powerful, aggressive version of the women's game--basically placed her in the same place she was when the game first started to turn. I had very few expectations for Hingis when she came back but I wonder what her own expectations truly are. I am still doubtful she will ever reign over women's tennis again. But then again I am doubtful any one woman will ever dominate the game as in days of yore.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The more things change...

...well you know the rest of that cliche--one that I found to be very appropriate yesterday when I was casually reading the sport section of the Chicago paper (I don't remember which one however) while waiting for lunch at my favorite downtown wrap establishment. With March Madness upon us (it even got a reference in last night's episode of ER!) I expect I will hear--as I do every year--about the increasing depth of the women's game. And a hearty Rah! Rah! Rah! to that. This year it seems any one of the number 1 or 2 seeds could take the whole thing--though it seems fewer upsets are likely (I may be eating those words after this weekend of course which I would be more than happy to do). But back to Chicago--or rather their sport section--the growing depth and popularity (marked by--if nothing else--the cost of a first round ticket $60!) does not seem to translate into better media coverage--or print coverage since that was the medium I observed yesterday. The paper had 5 pages on the NCAA Tournament (the heading at the top of each page); they included the bracket (which at least said Men's Bracket) but all of the stories were about the men's tournament. I realize that yesterday kicked off the men's tournament with the women's not starting until tomorrow but there was nary a mention of the women's tournament. With the heading--NCAA Tournament--so boldly displayed every time one turned the page the impression that one got was that this was the only game in town worth mentioning--at length. I suppose in all fairness I should check out today or tomorrow's Chicago paper (if I can figure out which one it was) to see if they give the women similar treatment. Of course given that the men's tournament has already started there is no way there will be exclusive coverage (5 pages worth) of the women's tournament. I guess that's what happens when you're always playing second fiddle.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cinderellas and Handsome Princes

The other day as I was reading a post over on sports babel about Cinderella stories in sport. Of course I had heard the fairy tale reference applied to sport before--most recently the movie Cinderella Man--but I hadn't really pondered the reference until now. (Why now--who knows.) Admittedly I have not gone searching out the etymology of the phrase. Maybe I will later but right now--untainted by actualy research--I am curious as to how such a very feminine reference came to be used favorably in men's sports. Usually anything feminine is used in a disparaging way in men's sports (and some of this has carried over to women's sports now too--yeah progress?!) For example, I frequently hear and hear about coaches calling players "girls" or "sissies" and other misogynist and homophobic lovelies. So has Cinderella been so well-received or at least never questioned? Like I said, I don't the answer because I don't know the history of how it came into being. (Though my guess is some commentator at some point used it and it stuck.)
This all lead me to wonder how this applies to women's sports. We still use the term--I assume though I can't recall a specific moment when I heard it--to speak of women's teams. I am sure it will get thrown around as March Madness begins this weekend. What does it mean to take such a gendered term that has been used (uncritically?) in men's sports and apply it women's sports. I am saying that it is wrong. I am just wondering what the implications are for this application. Usually it seems like despite the many similarities we like to keep men's and women's sports separate using various strategies (like calling female teams the Lady ____ or the ____ettes) but I haven't ever heard female come from behind teams called the Handsome Princes. I watched last year's tournament where the Liberty made a good run and no one ever said "Wow--what a handsome prince story this is." I wonder what Liberty founder Jerry Falwell would have thought of that!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Well my gym came through and did a bracket for the women's tournament. Of course I found out that my girlfriend had written a note on the comment sheet a week or so ago imploring them to do so. But I guess it's good that they listen to members.
So now I actually have to fill it out! All my planning had been how to get them to do a bracket in the first place--I hadn't really thought about who to pick.
Anyone have any good tips?

Monday, March 13, 2006

And so begins the madness

March madness that is. I am not really a basketball fan. I know next to nothing about the game but being at a Big Ten university one has to acclimate. So we have been going to women's b-ball games for a while now and even before coming here paid some attention to the women's tournament. So I am pretty excited that the women's selection gets its own night tonight on ESPN rather than playing second fiddle to the men's.
The big question though is whether my local gym will have a draw sheet for those of us wanting to do picks. There is a sign up that says to pick up your draw sheets today--the 13th--of course the women's wouldn't be ready until tomorrow. Last year we asked and they didn't have the women's tourney at all. We were aghast. I mean women's basketball has been a tradition around here since (to use my students' common phrasing about anything historical) "way back in the day." At the high school level, it has been more popular than the boys' game most of the time.
So I have reason to believe my gym won't come through with a draw sheet for the women's tournament (though I will wait until tomorrow morning to ask about it) and now I just have to consider how much of a stink to raise about it and how to go about it. Suggestions??

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sport movies

In honor of the Oscars I thought I would take a survey of 1) your favorite sport movie and 2) the movie you want to see made.
I realize the first part isn't really a new concept. You can check out E!Online's top ten here.
Or Sports Illustrated (organized by sport) and ESPN's respective countdowns here and here.
My favs do not fall on these lists though. Not suprising considering how testosterone-filled these lists are. My list also includes documentaries, though.
Here are my top picks. I'll get back to you about the best sport movie not-yet-made (right after I pitch it to Paramount!)
ken's favorite sport movies (in no particular order)
1. A Hero for Daisy: an amazing documentary about the early days of Title IX.
2. Hockey Mom--a little known but very sweet Canadian movie about female hockey players.
3. Girl Wrestler: documentary that follows one teenage girl as she attempts to enter the male-dominated sport of wrestling in the very patriarchal state of Texas.
4. Love and Basketball: I could watch this movie every day--ok maybe not every day but at least once a week.