Sunday, July 30, 2006

More unnecessary cheerleaders

Here I go again, back to that slippery slope of sport: cheerleading. Is it sport? Is it--well not sport I guess?
And yet again I refuse to fully take up the question here. But I do know that cheerleaders in World Team Tennis are wrong--just wrong.
I had never seen cheerleaders at WTT events before--but I haven't watched a lot of WTT so it's possible I have just missed them--though they seem pretty hard to miss. Today's airing of the contest between the Houston Wranglers and the Newport Beach Breakers on OLN (anyone know why OLN is changing its name to Versus? Versus what?) included shots of Houston's cheerleaders. I thought the whole point of WTT was that the fans become cheerleaders of sorts--ringing cowbells, yelling, bopping to music between points, etc. WTT philosophy espouses fan involvement where the fan can eschew the usual decorum associated with professional tennis and just let loose--similar to fan behavior at other professional events
Do we really need the cheerleaders to help us do all this? Does anyone really think the cheerleaders at professional football games influence fan involvement to such an extent that it has the ability to alter the outcome of the contest? No, of course not.
And yet here are the Wranglers hauling out their cheerleaders on the sidelines. (Click here for a peak at this year's "squad.")
My look at the other WTT teams suggests that the cheerleaders are unique to the Wranglers. (What is it about Texas and cheerleaders?) Or if there are other teams with cheerleaders they are certainly not as prominent as the Wranglers' who have a link from the team homepage that includes 2 wallpaper options that feature the cheerleaders.
I applaud Billie Jean King's venture and the idea that tennis should be more fan-friendly but do we really want to adopt completely the customs of more traditional professional sports?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Women's stuff cordoned off

Yes even sport merchandise catalogs warrant scrutiny on this blog. Not that I am seeking out these moments--they just find me. Such was the case this afternoon when I went to check my mail and found in the box a catalog that the former owner of my house receives. It's a biking catalog I had never heard of, Bike Nashbar. It contains everything for cycling--road and mountain--and had some pretty good deals, especially on shoes--not that I need another pair. Anyway as I was flipping through it casually I noticed that in the clothing and shoe sections all the women's merchandise had a little bitty corner of the page. So, for example where there were at least 10 options for men's shoes there were only 3 for women. Also of note, only the women's gear was labeled. So if it wasn't in the little women's box, we had to assume it was men's gear.
This was very interesting to me as I thought about cyclists. Cycling is a male-dominated sport (see for example the Tour de France--all men, no one ever talks about the possibility of women doing it which I continue to find odd). But when you head indoors to indoor cycling classes or "spin" at gyms the majority of participants are women. Some are women who use the classes for a cardio workout but there are many who are using indoor cycling to train for outdoor cycling.
There has to be something going on here with indoor/outdoor::public/private space and who gets to occupy and ultimately (try to) control it in addition to the whole male-dominated sport "base" issue. Especially given that once society got over the whole women ruining their reproductive organs, riding a bicycle was a very feminine pursuit.
Hmmm....seems like a paper waiting to be written--unless someone already has and I just haven't read it yet--which is entirely possible.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I finally cried

MFHP and I left the Gay Games this past Thursday. On our way out of town though we caught water polo--fascinating though very complicated to understand all the rules. And because basketball was right across the hall we went there too. There were several games going on including what seemed to be the feature match in the center of the gymnasium with young guys in intense competition. But on the other side of the gym I caught what I initially thought was a practice. But when I walked closer I saw that it was a three-on-three contest and all the participants were women over 60. And they were good and it was just as intense a contest as the young guys on center court. And MFHP and I started to cry thinking about the opportunities these women didn't have growing up as pre-Title IX athletes.
I had thought I would have cried earlier in the Games--people warned us it would happen. But it hadn't and we thought we would leave without shedding a joyful tear. But these women did it for us.
We have to remember too that they are gay. Gay, pre-Title IX young women. Not exactly an easy position to occupy. Added sympathy too for the team from New Orleans.
It was the perfect event to end our first Gay Games experience. We're looking forward to Germany in 2010. Maybe I'll actually participate this time!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blogging from the Gay Games Day 5

Tonight is my last from the Gay Games. My favorite hockey player (MFHP) lost this evening and will not be playing in the medal rounds that begin tomorrow. That means we are heading back east tomorrow.
But we had fun today anyway. After a productive trip to IKEA, we went to Navy Pier to watch volleyball. Initially we headed to North Beach to watch beach volleyball which was scheduled from 10-5 with today being the last day of play. But when we drove by at 2 it looked like people were clearing out. So we asked some lesbians (from whom there were many to choose) and they said it was all over. Bummer. So we went south to the pier and caught some team volleyball. And we ended up seeing an amazing match between a Chicago team and a Mexican team--who we qucikly adopted as our favorite. Upon initial observation of the players, I thought it would be a fun yet casual match; i.e. not especially skilled, though I never doubted the intensity or desire of the competitors. What I am trying to say not-so-diplomatically is that they didn't look like typical volleyball players--especially the Mexican team that had a few short people, some people carrying extra weight, and a gender queer individual who rocked and was able to knock down more than a few spikes despite not being especially lithe. The Chicago team ended up winning in the third (and deciding) game that usuually goes to 15 but no one could get a margin of 2 until Chicago put it away 27-25.
This match seemed to epitomize one of the missions of the Gay Games which is to show the outside world that gay people can be successful athletes. This is of course something I know in theory and in practice and in personal experience. But the Gay Games, especially today's volleyball and flag football the other day, really reminded me that gay men too--not just lesbians--can be very athletic--no matter their outward appearance.
Not especially astute observations but important reminders. Tomorrow we'll try to hit one more venue (water polo if we're lucky) and then leave the Gay Games behind for another 4 years.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blogging from the Gay Games Day 4

The heat has finally broken here in Chicago. There was a big storm last night and this morning around 10 when we went outside we were pleasantly surprised NOT to feel the air cling to us.
This made our outing to women's soccer in Oak Park much more enjoyable. There was a nice breeze and sitting in the stands was not in the least bit miserable. Oh--the game was pretty good too. We went to support the Thunder Kittens from Madison and they beat a San Francisco team 5-1. Hopefully the Mad City Blades can score a win tonight too at the hockey venue.
Yesterday was good too--besides the insane heat. We checked out flag football which was fascinating. Because the Gay Games accepts gays and straights (a fact all the articles in the Tribune mentions repeatedly) it was initially difficult to tell whether the teams were just here to compete in an event and may have had a few gay members (a la the rowing competition). But continued observation reveals that most of the members--if not all--are in fact queer. Every sexualized comment or queer behavior made us smile and say "we love gay football" but upon further consideration it may not be any more homoerotic that traditional football--just more obvious.
Which leads me to what I did last night. Because this trip is, in part, research-oriented, I attended a NYTimes sponsored talk/panel entitled Brokeback Locker Room. It was pretty good. Richard Lipsyte moderated (not very well I thought cutting people off not to diplomatically and doing a poor job holding people to time limits. Panelists were David Kopay, Helen Carroll, Billy Bean, Esera Tualo, Lee-Ann Naidoo and Tyler Duckworth. Duckworth is the Tyler who is currently starring on MTV's Real World:Key West. He won a gold in open water swim the other day. His story was somewhat compelling, being discriminated against and harassed--by teammates and coaches--at Tufts where he was a swimmer. But the immaturity and solipsism we see him display on the Real World isn't an act.
I really liked Carroll's speech and story. She was a coach then AD and now heads the sports division of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a job she took because she felt education on homophobia in sport was not doing enough. Her new motto, she said, was "educate and litigate." And she is--she is working on the case against Rene Portland (my favorite person to hate) and Penn State on behalf of Jennifer Harris. The case, she believes, will have as much of an impact on collegiate sport as Title IX. That's a bold statement--but I certainly hope it's true.
Tomorrow's plan is to watch my favorite hockey player at the ungodly hour of 8am and then head downtown for beach volleyball at Navy Pier and a choral concert featuring gay choruses from across the country. I love the Gay Games!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Blogging from the Gay Games: Day 2

So I am in Chicago at the Gay Games supporting my favorite hockey player but also doing some pre-dissertation research.
We went to the opening ceremonies last night. They were good--very long and a lot of unnecessary interpretative dance (i.e. the GG were trying to be a little too much like the Olympics) and it was incredibly hot and humid. But it was cool to see a giant rainbow flag made by lights being held by queer athletes on the same field where "manly men" play football, grrr.
Today we drove over an hour from where we are staying to Crystal Lake to see the rowing. Rowing only took place today and it was a very controversial event because the people of Crystal Lake were not too hot on a gaggle of queers invading their fair town. So we felt we should go to support the athletes and make our presence known. We have only ever been to one other regatta but we liked it so we were looking forward to it. Alas it was disappointing. First of all the event was supposed to start at 10 and run to 4ish. We arrived at 12:30 and it had not yet begun. Apparently the program was wrong (or rather the program was printed before someone decided to mess with the schedule which seems to be a common occurrence at the games) and it did not begin until 2pm. The program also reported the event was free which it was in that GG was not charging admission. But the beach where one could view the event did charge. I wouldn't have minded paying if I knew it was going to GG but the money goes to the city of Crystal Lake so we weren't so hot on the conservative city getting our gay dollars.
And then we couldn't really see the race. We only saw the very end and the finish line was not very obvious. I know I sound like a Debbie Downer but in the end it was totally worth going. Many of the spectators were townspeople sporting rainbow ribbons and showing their support for the event and participants. Every boat that crossed the (ambiguous) finish line got a huge ovation. And though there were protesters with signs about homosexuality as a sin and so on, when we walked out a gay liberation group had set up their own banners and people in the "First Amendment protesters" area. (I have a picture I will upload here later).
So all in all we are glad we went. I even got a little tan--okay it's more red right now but I think by morning it will definitely be tan. Tomorrow's agenda includes flag football and softball and a special discussion panel of out athletes in the evening.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Belated "Yea!!!"s

go to Amelie Mauresmo for a spectacular win at Wimbledon and to Annika Sorenstam for her US Open playoff win against Pat Hurst in Newport a few weeks ago.
I have been packing and moving and unpacking and painting during some of the best events of the summer. But I did catch some of Mauresmo's win over a pouty Henin-Hardenne. It was a sweet victory especially given Henin-Hardenne's withdrawal in the championship match of the Australian Open.
I thought Sorenstam's was equally spectacualr given that on the final day of play (which was 36 holes) there were at least 5 contenders going into the final three holes. Sorenstam missed a putt that should have gone in that would have given her the championship. But she came in strong the next day.
Upcoming this summer is the US Open series. To watch for:
1. Will Serena Williams be back (that's the plan) and how well will she do after her "mental break"?
2. Will Venus Williams (who made it to the finals of the mixed at Wimbledon--kudos for that and for sticking around the second week after being upset in the singles) offer a challenge ion the hard courts?
3. How will Hingis hold up on the hard courts?
4. Has Clijsters resigned herself to being a one-Slam wonder, content to make it to the semis and retire in the top 5?
5. Will the Russians reign in the hard court season?
6. Will Lindsay Davenport be healthy enough to play?
So many questions.
No answers for now.
I am off to the Gay Games in Chicago so I expect some good blogging to come out of that. When I get around to it anyway.