I think maybe I am glad she doesn't play on my team anymore. Though she was largely responsible for making Martina Navratilova into the amazing player she was (and still is of course) and you just cannot completely condemn a person who has that kind of impact. And she also has pics on her website of her and Martina and other gay icons like Rosie O'Donnell and Billie Jean King.
But last night, when she was commenting on the UNC game, she made several remarks that just made me stop and wonder why the born-again Lieberman even thinks women should be playing such a rough and tumble game as basketball.
First, her co-commentator, was discussing UNC's Ivory Latta and her relative quickness this season after summer knee surgery. He spoke with Latta prior to the game and reported that Latta's weight was only 3 pounds more than what it was last season. In other words, it's not extra poundage slowing her down this year.
Lieberman said, "You never ask a lady about her weight." Apparently Lieberman has missed the ongoing discussions about female basketballers' weight this season. There was the NYT piece that focused on Oklahoma's Courtney Paris in a discussion about issues of eating disorders and public information about weight in women's sports. There was the discussion that followed on air and in print and on the internet of course.
Athletes like Latta and Paris don't seem to mind talking about their weight probably because their bodies are integral to their success. Paris's run of 61 double-double games is due to her talent and how she uses her big body to effectively shut down opponents (even in Oklahoma's loss the other night she managed to pull out a double-double). Latta enjoys flexing her muscles for the crowd.
Lieberman's second made-me-pause moment of the night came when the pictures of the all the candidates for player of the year were shown on the screen. These were head shots of the athletes and so posed and out of uniform.
Lieberman crooned something to the effect of, isn't that nice, noting how much better they all look without all "those headbands." What she is saying is that they look feminine. I didn't get a good look at the pics but I know Sylvia Fowles of LSU and Katie Gearlds of Purdue wear headbands all the time when they play. And they did look different in the head shots. Gearlds especially. She looked like mid-western girl-next door. On the court she looks tough with her hair pulled back and her headband and her athletic socks. She looks like a serious basketball player. Apparently the headbands and such are just a little too butch for Lieberman in her post-gay days. This is somewhat surprising given that Lieberman herself has sported a headband in the past. One of the first images on her homepage is of her playing for the Mercury--in a headband.
And finally, (this one's for you, Diane) Lieberman, but also just about everyone else in sport, can't seem to grasp the incongruity when we all see women playing basketball but are told they are playing man-to-man defense. The only men I see on the court are a couple of guys in white and black stripes. Sports media go through all the trouble of distinguishing the women's game from the men's game--which doesn't even need an adjective--and yet use the same gendered terms to talk about it.