Saturday, June 30, 2007

This is what a rain delay looks like

View from Court 6--no rain.

View from Court 6: the covers come off

Given the forecasts we heard, and the flooding in other parts of Great Britain last week, things could have been much worse at Wimbledon, weather-wise, during the first week.

But play is currently suspended across the pond so I thought I would share some pics of the rain delay process. Last Wednesday we experienced two rain delays. One was brief; the other ended play for the day. During the second one when the rain was heavier the grounds crew inflated the covers which takes a while but looks cool while it is going on.

Inflating the covers.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Wimbledon update

Well I am kind of glad we left London yesterday given the bomb scare in the city's theatre district early this morning. Security at Wimbledon was tightened today. The security situation was interesting. Much more thorough searching of bags than at the US Open. They open them and take out things and look in all the pockets. My sister actually had to take the cap off her chapstick! But they let you in with almost anything--including one bottle of wine per person (or two beers).

What was odd though was that we got onto the grounds the first day without tickets because ours we at will call which was located inside the gates. We did have to go through security before getting there, though. Still they seemed to be very on top of some things and quite lax about others.

Anyway, today was probably the most interesting day in terms of match-ups. Jelena Jankovic was challenged by Czech player Lucie Safarova who I saw play Eleni Daniilidou on Tuesday. That was a very good match which I did not get to see end because of the rain that came in the third set. But Safarova has a very hard, flat two-handed backhand. She hits hard, including her serve which is a little surprising given her thin (though tall) frame.

Check out Women Who Serve for more thorough updates. I will add that another upset not yet covered on that blog was Laura Granville's seemingly easy win over Martina Hingis, who I did see walk by after her Tuesday match but I didn't get a pic. Hingis has been out with injuries and that probably factored into the loss.

One of the things I found interesting watching grass court play in person was how at times the surface does not seem to matter. For example, in the best match I saw during my two days, there were times when Elena Dementieva and Natalie Dechy could have been on hard courts the way they were slugging it out--including one rally that was 39 strokes long. (We were sitting right next to the booth where the statisticians were and they told us during the rain delay.) But there were other times when it was obvious that shots were inspired--or necessitated--by the surface. Clever slices and angles and delicate touches.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Title IX!

While I was away on vacation (more pics and discussion of what I saw on my second day of Wimbledon are forthcoming) Title IX celebrated 35 years of mandating gender equity in educational institutions.

Here's what various media outlets had to say about it:

  • (mostly providing links to other stories, especially The Chronicle of Education which is subscription only for most of the Tittle IX tributes)
  • The Honolulu Star Bulletin (Hawaii has a special interest in Title IX because Hawaiian congresswoman Patsy Mink was a major proponent of the legislation; see this article from the Honolulu Advertiser for more background.)
  • Over at The Huffington Post, Rep. Linda Sanchez of California writes not only about sports but equal access to institutes of higher education and professional schools. (And she adds a cute story about being the only woman on the Democrat team in the annual congressional baseball game--her number is IX!)
  • published this press release from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
  • Women's Sports Foundation CEO Donna Lopiano, as a guest columnist for the Seattle PI, has this to say about the anniversary. She also has a column over at
  • At is Mechelle Voepel's column on the 35 year mark.
  • Indymedia of California cites the good and the bad 35 years after the passage of Title IX focusing on California schools.
  • On the other coast, a local Massachusetts paper has a lengthy feature on Title IX's impact on high school sports.
And these are just a fraction of the stories published to mark the 35th anniversary. Though celebratory, many of these articles also point to the need to continue to fight for the rights the legislation guarantees.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jolly good day at SW19

Not a drop of rain! Some of us are headed back tomorrow and probably will not be as lucky with the weather but we're going to persevere.

It was an amazing day. My first time at Wimbledon and I got to see Amelie Mauresmo on Centre Court. It was wonderful. And I got to experience the atmosphere engendered by Tim Henman who has lived to fight another day--tomorrow in fact he is slated to be back on Centre Court.

Navigating Wimbledon was not as easy as the US Open. First, Centre Court tickets only get you into Centre Court and outlying courts. So you miss all matches on Court 1 and can only stand on Court 2. This was disappointing, especially because Jelena Jankovic was playing there this afternoon and we were crammed into standing room space when there were more than half of the ticketed seats empty.

But we did see some good outside court matches. Sam Stosur beat American Kristina Brandi. Megan Shaughnessy lost badly to a player I had never heard of before.

Hopefully there will be some doubles up tomorrow.

Here are some pics of the day's matches.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Greetings from London!

Internet access at the flat went on the fritz this weekend so I am posting from a neighbourhood pub where we just successfully purchased seats for Centre Court for tomorrow's matches. Hurrah! Fingers crossed about the weather which has been lousy.

Here's a sport-related picture from the British Museum (it's a replica, not the real thing) to tide you over until more exciting pics and stories can be relayed.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Collegiate Women Sports Awards

As previously noted, as part of their week-long celebration of women's sports and commemoration of Title IX, CSTV will be airing the Collegiate Women Sports Awards. The five finalists for Women Athlete of the Year were announced recently. The five were taken from a larger list that is comprised of an outstanding athlete in each sport. Oddly I did not see a representative from ice hockey. Not sure what sports get counted. There was no bowling or water polo either.
Tennessee has two of the five finalists in b-baller Candace Parker and softball pitcher Monica Abbott. The winner will be announced June 25.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Raymond writes on Wimbledon

I made it. No problems. And there's wi-fi at the flat! Let the vacation blogging commence!

Lisa Raymond, who has been writing a column at, previews the Championships, Wimbledon this week. Her top pick is Henin with Serena Williams running a close second. She talks about doubles as well but oddly writes about herself in the third person as a contender for the women's doubles title.

Her column is only so-so, but she does try to convey the aura of Wimbledon during the fortnight and a good job describing the scene. It makes me very excited to head over the village.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

ken goes to London!

Yep--I'm leavin' on a jet plane tonight and arriving in London at 6:30AM (their time--1:30 mine--uck).

And yes, I am going to see Wimbledon when it starts next week. I'll be queuing up and all that.

I have a brand new digital camera that has sport mode and hyper sport mode to take fast action shots--like Amelie Mauresmo's beautiful topspin backhand. And I will bring my computer and hopefully find some wi-fi and try to load pics and details as often as I can.

That being said, it is vacation so my entries will not as regular as usual.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Television network celebrates 35 years of Title IX

CSTV which is an obscure station that very few people have access to--and those who do may not even know they have it--is calling the week of June 25th The Women's Movement on CSTV. They are airing stories about female athletes and those connected to women's athletics to mark the 35th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. CSTV claims it broadcasts more women's sports than any other station. This could well be true except that, again, so few of us have access to the station that it kind of becomes an "if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there..." situation.
There has been a lot of press about the 35th anniversary already--some good, some "questioning the value of the legislation," and of course, some downright hostile. So it's good that CSTV is devoting next week to celebrating women's sports. But I am reminded of a Guerrilla Girls poster that reads: "Q: If February is Black History Month and March is Women's History Month, what happens the rest of the year? A: Discrimination."
When the 35th anniversary celebrations are over who will still be left talking about women's sports?

Monday, June 18, 2007

More on Beard

I don't want to dwell on this Amanda Beard posing for Playboy thing but I just read an editorial by a former male swimmer which, although not that well-written, raises some interesting points. Most of the male writers and commenters I have come across wholeheartedly embrace Beard's "right to choose" to display her "healthy body." This writer, however, questions whether her posing actually diminishes the view of swimming most average Americans hold. Writer/former swimmer bemoans the lack of attention and respect he and his fellow swimmers received for the amount of work they put into their sport.
But he backtracks a bit saying that maybe Beard has brought some otherwise uninterested spectators to swimming. (Probably not if you consider the results of Mary Jo Kane's study.)
What I found interesting though was that the author thought that men and women would have diametrically opposed views on this issue and wondering why more women "have not expressed more outrage." Well, first, some of us have, and second, the author clearly has no grasp of the power of patriarchy. Has he not seen or heard about Girls Gone Wild and other such spectacles? Women collude in this oppression. Though, I don't let men off the hook as easily as the author does when he writes that "no man held a gun to Beard's head and said you must strip for us." In the end he puts the blame squarely back on Beard's naked shoulders--and those of other naked posing athletes and says they deserve whatever mistreatment comes their way afterwards. He takes no responsibility himself as part of the media--the sports media specifically--for not giving these athletes any attention until they take off their clothes.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Race and women's golf

This feature about LPGA golfer LaRee Sugg is very good at chronicling her experience on the tour while also highlighting the absence of black women in the game of golf. Oddly (or maybe not) little attention seems to be paid to the lack of black women playing on the LPGA. There are many women of color playing golf given the international composition of the tour. We see women of color playing and winning and contending in every tournament: Se Ri Pak, Lorena Ochoa, Birdie Kim, and many more. There is the appearance of diversity. And to some extent there is diversity on the tour--a certain kind of diversity.
Why aren't there more African-American women on the tour? Because class also plays a factor. When we look at socioeconomic factors alongside race and gender we see the black women in the United States have fewer opportunities to even access the means necessary to play the game, let alone be encouraged to play it. (This was actually not the situation Sugg was in as a youngster. Her grandfather was a college dean and golf coach and when she expressed interest in the game, he mentored her.)
I see, in the promotionals for the development programs the LPGA runs during tournaments, that there are young black girls who are learning the game. The question is, how long will development programs support them?* There are golf scholarships for women, Sugg got one to UCLA. But after college? It costs a lot to qualify and play on the LPGA between travel, coaching, and equipment. Sugg herself said that in her best years she probably only earned $15,000. This could lead us into a discussion of the pay disparity that exists between women's and men's golf but I will save that topic for another time.

*Or do development programs support them at all? Here is the LPGA-USGA's site for a national girls' golf program and I haven't been able to find any information about costs.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Vanderbilt experiment

SEC talk two days in a row. What I should have added to yesterday's post about gender equity is that the SEC school tied with Tennessee for the highest mark (B+) in the recent Women's Sports Foundation study is Vanderbilt. Pretty darn good considering they don't even have an athletic department!

Let me repeat that: Vanderbilt University does not have an athletic department. They eliminated it four years ago and moved control of intercollegiate athletics to their department of student life. I remember hearing about this, but that was pre-blog days for me so I hadn't thought about it since. But last week Sports Illustrated published a column on the university and the success they have seen since the change. Once seen as the most lackluster school, in terms of athletics, in the SEC, Vandy teams have had enormous success (over half of the teams made it their respective tournaments this past year). And the athletes have had success off the field too, which was one of the main reasons for the change, according to Chancellor Gordon Gee, who made the controversial and much lambasted decision four years ago.

Gee wanted to make the term student-athlete a reality rather than rhetoric and the structural changes have certainly produced student-athletes who get involved in other activities in the university; socialize with non-athletes; and even travel abroad. And the average student-athlete GPA has risen a bit as well.

And, when many thought it would cost Vandy quality recruits, this system seems to actually appeal to recruits as evidenced by the outstanding athletes they have gotten to come to the school in the past few years, some of whom with continue in the professional ranks.

We talk about alternative models of sport a lot in sport studies disciplines but mostly at the level of recreational sport. And in general there is a lot of commentary about the corporatization of intercollegiate athletics. Vandy is an excellent example--at least it appears to be--of a different way of doing things. And yet no other institution has attempted anything similar.

[Thanks to The Dad for telling me about the SI story.]

Thursday, June 14, 2007

SEC football as benefactor?

The other night during game one of the championship series of the WCWS (Arizona won the third game, by the way, to give them back to back titles) commentator Beth Mowins noted the growing depth of women's intercollegiate softball. No California team made it to Oklahoma City this year, for example. Mowins also noted that the SEC, of which Tennessee is a member school, has grown increasingly stronger in the past five years or so.

SEC softball has been the beneficiary of SEC football, Mowins said almost in passing during this inter-inning chat.

Wait, what? Did she just basically say that football pays for women's softball in the SEC. This is the kind of argument that gets thrown back at women's sport advocates when we kindly point out that football teams are too large and usurp far too much of the athletic budget. "But football pays for women's sports," we hear over and over again. And over and over again we must say "No, the majority of schools with football programs do not make a profit off of football. Most don't even break even."

Of course some SEC schools are football powerhouses; football culture is deeply entrenched and thus draws many fans who would like to believe that football is a benevolent benefactor. But still I would think a sports commentator--of women's sports no less--would know better. It is next to impossible to trace the monies associated with football in the larger athletic department budget but schools do report expenses and profits, and other gender equity data. (If you have a subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education you can check out the data there or here at the department of education site.) Also, coincidentally enough, the Women's Sports Foundation came out this week with a report that graded schools based on their performance in the area of gender equity.

So I thought I would take a look to see how SEC schools did.
University of Alabama: D+, with a 16.7 proportionality* gap (% of women as undergrads minus percentage of female athletes)
University of Tennessee: B+, 4.1 gap
University of Arkansas: B-, 9.2 gap
University of Florida: B-, 8.7 gap
University of Georgia: C+, 10 gap
University of Kentucky: C, 12.4 gap
University of Mississippi: D, 19.7 gap
University of South Carolina-Columbia: C, 12.6 gap
Vanderbilt University: B+, 4.6 gap
Auburn University: B, 6.1 gap
Louisiana State University: C, 13.3 gap
Mississippi State: B, 7 gap

I think it is important to note the the school tied for the highest grade in the conference was the most successful school in this year's WCWS and the winner of the women's NCAA basketball tournament. I don't think it is a coincidence that a school committed to providing women equitable opportunities has had that kind of success.

* proportionality is not the only measure of Title IX compliance in the area of opportunities but the WSF was not measuring Title IX compliance but how many opportunities women had to play.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reaction to Amanda Beard in Playboy

Amanda Beard's photo spread in Playboy has been in the works for a while but the issue must be hitting newsstands soon [UPDATE: it came out June 7] because it seems there has been a surge in press coverage of the issue--and not just the actual magazine issue but the issue of female athletes posing nude or near nude for alleged publicity.
Out of the Canadian sports media we get this compelling question I pass on to you:
American swimmer Amanda Beard recently posed nude for the July 2007 edition of Playboy Magazine. The 26-year-old, three-time Olympian's decision to drop her drawers comes at a time when women's sports look to be on the rise in terms of both visibility and popularity. Is this bold move a step in the wrong direction for women's sports, or is it simply an athlete marketing themselves and their sport to a broader range of fans?
The question, for some of us was answered a long time ago with our answer confirmed by the Mary Jo Kane study I wrote about some time ago. But the emergence of Beard's photos brings the debate to a wider audience, I suppose, than an academic study.
But Ethan Todras-Whitehill at the Huffington Post has a different take on Beard's Playboy spread saying that the feminists who judge Beard for taking off her clothes and essentially cashing in on her looks while she still can are out of line. Why? Well in part because even if female athletes got together and made a pact not to take off their clothes, Todras-Whitehill argues, they wouldn't change the status quo that exists in sports where women are either sex objects or lesbians (he doesn't say lesbians--he says men). He advocates for the Jackie Robinson approach where you wait patiently winning over fans and once you are in good standing start to change things from within. Unfortunately, taking off your clothes doesn't really get you into the establishment as a person who will ultimately have the power to effect change. And we know from the Kane study that it does not win over people who were not already fans. And finally, Todras-Whitehill assumes that women athletes who do cash in on their sex appeal really are out to make change anyway. Part of the change we are trying to effect is the desexualization of female athletes by the media and, by extension, challenging the hegemonic femininity that imposes the sex object/lesbian binary. I don't really see Beard leading that charge.
I can't possibly comment on all the commentary out there so I'll just post some links for anyone to check out:
  • Gene Wojciechowski of Also at the site is an ESPN interview with Beard
  • The Bleacher Report out of California that pits Amanda Beard against "the feminists."
  • From not only support for Beard's "choice" but a poll so you can weigh in on what other female athletes you think should pose for Playboy.

Of course any blog search will bring you countless posts and numerous comments. What's interesting is that some commenters talk about how ugly she is and refer to her as a he/she which just confirms the idea that no matter what female athletes do--even the ones presumably deemed hot enough to appear in Playboy, they will always have detractors who will work whatever angle is required to devalue athletic women.

Monday, June 11, 2007

NCAA prez concerned about dwindling female coaches

NCAA president Myles Brand went to the Women's College World Series for the first time this year where he was able to observe firsthand the continuing decrease in women's head coaches. It's happening in all women's sports and was quite evident at this year's tournament where half of the head coaches of the eight teams were men--plus Ralph Weekly of Tennessee who is a co-head coach with his wife, Karen. Ten years ago there was only one: Arizona's Mike Candrea.

Brand expressed concern over the attrition rate of female coaches; that many women begin as assistant coaches but do not stick around long enough to get promoted. Brand said the NCAA will be developing programs to help with the issue of retention of assistant coaches in the hopes of getting more female head coach role models. No specifics on what such programs would entail or who they will be targeting.
It seems to me that an effective program would have to address everyone who is in charge of assistant coaches rather than the young women themselves who probably quit because of the sexism, homophobia, and racism in intercollegiate programs. It's not surprising to see fewer female head coaches in softball as the game becomes more popular. Softball has always had the "lesbian stigma" attached to it. Hiring male coaches makes it look a little more hetero. And male head coaches hire male assistants often--except for the pitching coach who is usually female because she has actual experience playing the game. I didn't do a thorough study of the tournament teams but I did note that Arizona's Mike Candrea has as his second-in-command a man who will actually take over head coaching duties when Candrea takes next year off to coach the national team. Baylor's head coach, Glenn Moore also has a male associate head coach who had to take over when Moore got booted for "arguing a call" in Baylor's loss to Northwestern. Women though are helping each other out. Northwestern's staff is all-female as is Texas A&M's.
The Drohans of Northwestern. Assistant coach Caryl (l) and head coach Kate (r).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday tidbits

  • Justine Henin and Raphael Nadal are the women's and men's 2007 French Open singles champions. It's a three-peat for them both. Browsing through stories about Henin's win I found that the American media focused on two things: Henin's reunion with her estranged family members--all her siblings were at the final; and Ivanovic's nerves. The non-Americna media actually wrote about Henin's play and success. Despite the gushing over Henin's family situation, some commentators still take issue with her behavior. Mary Carillo, during today's men's final, chided her for not attending the International Tennis Federation Awards this past week.

  • Check out Women Who Serve for an interesting story about the special presentation to the men's winner and the lack of anything special for the women--a situation remedied by Martina Navratilova. Navratilova and a Slovak artist are making art using paint soaked tennis balls. Pieces were given to the women's singles and doubles winners.

  • Forgot to follow up on the WCWS. Arizona won. I had predicted a very close game three similar to game two. And though both teams went out and focused on how to hit the opposing pitcher's pitches, Arizona was the team that executed. They scored five runs in one inning. That's back-to-back titles for Arizona who will rely again next year on pitcher Taryne Mowatt. Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott is off to the national team presumably. Cutting down the pitching staff for the Beijing Olympics will be tough with stars like Abbott, Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman, Alicia Hollowell and maybe even Lisa Fernandez (not sure if she is intending on going out for the team). I was surprised to hear no one mention the cutting of softball from the Olympics. Last year there was some mention of the campaign to get Olympic softball back f0r 2016. Nothing this year. I wonder if they've just given up hope.

  • I came across more condemnation of the WNBA's letter-writing campaign meant to encourage media outlets to cover the WNBA. It's a female sportswriter discussing how "desperate" this makes the WNBA seem. Hello? They are desperate; the WNBA operates in a patriarchal sports-crazed culture that judges all things based on a male-created standard.

  • The LPGA Championship is in its final round as I write. I think I am going to miss the end (I have tix to see Kate Clinton!) which looks to be amazing given that there are about 5 people that are in contention right now. [UPDATE: Suzann Pettersen won by a shot. It's her first major championship and she, even though she is young, was due after a disastrous finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship where she squandered the lead.]

  • No more regular season women's basketball games between Connecticut and Tennessee. For some as-yet-unknown reason Tennessee has decided not to renew the deal for two regular season meetings between the perennial powerhouses. It's a big mystery given that these games are two of the most popular in women's basketball. One is covered by ESPN and the other CBS. Connecticut has made a deal with LSU to take over Tennessee's spot.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The reviews are coming in

I haven't gotten a chance to see Gracie because no cinema in my area is playing it yet. (Shrek III and Pirates of the Caribbean (also in its third installment) are monopolizing the theaters.)

But reviews and other articles about the film are trickling in. This review of the movie in which a high school girl tries to make the boys' soccer team (it's pre- or early Title IX years) to honor the memory of her dead soccer superstar brother is not so hot on the movie. [Sorry, I lost the link. I will post it when I find it.]

From what I have heard about the movie, which despite my interest in the subject matter, seems fairly predictable, the review is probably not too far off.

More of the back story about the movie is emerging. I learned from the above linked review that the "based on a true story" is actually based on Elisabeth Shue's, who plays the mother, own childhood. [And a sidenote on the note: according to this month's TENNIS magazine, Elisabeth Shue is trying, at the age of 43, to become a tennis professional. We'll have to see where this goes.]

But this story that centers on an interview with Andrew Shue (Elisabeth's brother and a producer of Gracie) reveals the vagueness of the phrase "true story." Elisabeth was actually 9 when she fought for a spot on the boys' team; not a teenager; and there doesn't appear to be a tragedy involved that made her want to join, though the Shues did have a brother who died. Oh, and it wasn't really a fight because the coach let her play. I think "based on real-life events" is a stretch.

But the interview with Shue shows he is up on his Title IX. He says: "...and there's still controversy today. People get up in front of Congress saying they're taking away from guy sports. You go 'Yeah, I guess it is because there's so much money for football, basketball that it's still hard to get all the sports you want.' But it's been a crucial law that has enabled the growth of girl's (sic) sports."

I did also come across a good review that calls the movie "an inspirational sports drama."

Friday, June 08, 2007

How did I miss this?

Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy writes about the pornification of high school pole vaulter, Allison Stokke, that all started when a sports blog, With Leather, posted a picture of her and entitled a post "Pole Vaulting is Sexy, Barely Legal" in early May. (Actually where and when it started seems to be under debate; there were other blogs and websites posting pictures of her during her high school career. But it definitely exploded with this sports blogger's post, though.)

The Washington Post and many other news outlets have covered the story which includes the extent of the internet fanaticism around this high school athlete. Above-linked sports blogger tries to keep saying that he wouldn't be interested in her at all if she wasn't so darn good at pole vaulting. I don't recall Lebron James, when he was an outstanding high school athlete, being sexualized at all--let alone at the level of intensity and perversity that Allison Stokke has faced.

Despite the problems with the Post story, which Twisty adeptly points out, it seems that it has gotten some people to bow their heads in shame. The Unofficial Allison Stokke Fan Page is now defunct and Facebook has removed the page falsely created under Stokke's name.

But some of the other meatheads out there are taking credit for Stokke's fame and asking, basically, for thanks because they have made her so popular. They predict calendars, and commercials and, at the very least, the fact that she will marry well because they have been gracious enough to post every possible picture of her they can find. And they say Stokke's steps to publicize the controversy--so as to let people know how she feels violated and unsafe--have only made them search harder for postable pics.

The most perverse part of this whole story: the local photographer who took most of the pics at Stokke's meets originally threatened With Leather because he had posted the pictures in violation of copyright. When he realized he could make money off them, however, the complaints were dropped. Now the Orange County Register which is Stokke's local paper and where most of the photos originate, is putting her pictures on mugs, mouse pads, Christmas ornaments, and the like and selling them through the company Pictopia!

You can write to the paper at and tell them exactly what you think of their exploitation of a teenage athlete.

See also posts by Ann Bartow and Ann Friedman about the irony of how Stokke's father, a criminal defense attorney, makes his cases.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Heelys: Not just an annoyance...

...but a danger to kids. Heelys is the brand name of the popular roller shoes--sneakers with wheels built into the heels that pop out when kids shift their weight back. So obviously this post is not about organized sport but it does fall broadly under the category of physical activity so I am going to write about. And also because when I saw kids whipping around on sidewalks and in the malls and in the grocery store, I knew that it would not be long before these things caused injuries or even death. (I saw one kid wheeling down the aisle of the grocery store pushing his baby sister's stroller and just rolled my eyes.) In other words, this is my "I told you so" moment even though I didn't really tell anyone.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission initially reported 64 known injuries and one death due to the shoes--which are starting to be banned in certain places I have noticed--in a 15-month period that ended in December 2006--the month where I am sure many more kids received the shoes as holiday gifts. But the number has been bumped up--way up--to 1,600 after taking another more thorough look at the data. Not sure exactly how 1,536 injuries were overlooked and then found in a week's time but 64 injuries seemed low given that most of the time kids are wearing these as regular shoes, walking about, and then just start rolling randomly--no protective gear at all.

Heelys claims the shoes are safer than skateboarding which is probably true at the moment. But one also takes on a certain known risk when one skateboards. (In fact skateboarding injuries have taken on a perverse war wound type status. See MTV's Scarred--if you can stomach it.) When a child uses Heelys, the risk is not considered. After all the child is not out to perform tricks with them. (Of course that is changing too. Check out the Heelys website where you can see if you have what it takes to join the pro team.) And most parents probably see them as a way to get kids active.

Heelys does say, on their website, what while protective gear is not required (by whom?) it is recommended and conveniently enough they sell it and tell you how to size it.

I think the increasing number of injuries due to the shoes (which Heelys waves off as simply a matter of the increase in sales--as if that mattered) will start to turn "heeling" into a sport/activity like skateboarding with restrictions on where it can be done and a concurrent emergence of a Heely (sub?)culture.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Women's College World Series: A must-see

I was up late last night watching a very tight game two of the WCWS championship series. Tennessee had won the first game and so this was an elimination game for Arizona. Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott was on and though a few Arizona batters got hits off her, she was able to keep her no runs against streak going through regulation. She has not allowed one run in the entire world series. Arizona pitcher Taryne Mowatt doesn't have Abbott's velocity, but she does have a very effective change-up. And she, and her defense, got out of some sticky situations including a bases-loaded, one out, inning late in the game.

Tennessee had more chances in extra innings (of which there were 3) to get a run across the plate and take home the championship--the first in school history. But they just couldn't do it before Arizona finally was able to execute their small ball game plan and use their speed on the base pads to get a runner across home plate.

This is all to say that Game 3 is tonight on ESPN2* and if it's anything like last night, it should be very exciting. I am not rooting for one team over the other. Tennessee has a female coach but she is a co-head coach with her husband and of course Tennessee insists on sticking with their ridiculous Lady Vols nickname. And Arizona's staff is predominantly male and the women on the team are very femme-y and talk about doing their hair and make-up before games. But both teams are very talented and have members that will be on the Olympic team next year.

*Actual viewing of the game on ESPN2 got annoying, though because there were constant problems with the audio and video that made it cut out or stutter. Most of the tension I felt was not over who would win but if I would actually get to see the winning play. So I emailed ESPN and complained noting that technical difficulties that appear during other coverage--say that of Major League Baseball games--seem to get remedied almost immediately. No response yet.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New BC coach

Boston College announced at the end of May that former assistant coach Katie King would take over as head coach for the Eagles' women's ice hockey team.
It seemed a no-brainer for BC--and probably more like a necessity. King, as an assistant, does a lot of recruiting and when former coach Tom Mutch left because of inappropriate relations with a current player my guess is that she spent a lot of time on the phone reassuring parents of future and current players. The situation has already left BC without a current player who chose to transfer and a recruit who only had a verbal agreement. She chose to go to Mercyhurst. It's probably not a coincidence that she played at Lawrence Academy for Mutch's wife, Laurie Mutch. That feeder system is probably over.
As a three-time Olympian King also has a lot of respect in the hockey community which will continue to help her bring good players to BC.
It's very exciting that there is another woman coach in Hockey East. But that was likely part of the BC decision as well. King is probably seen as less likely to get involved in a relationship with her players because she is neither a man nor a gay woman; though she isn't married so her hetero status is not as solid as the system would like it to be but she has been (and may currently be) in relationships with men which her players know.
It will be interesting to see if King keeps the all-female staff. The two assistant coaches are very young but include Sarah Carlson, who you will know if you ever watch ESPN. She's one of the profiled "going pro in something other than sport" athletes. She is the ER nurse.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Never too much women's ice hockey

Syracuse University announced the other day that they are adding women's ice hockey to their list of intercollegiate sports. They plan to start in 2008 and are still looking at which conference to join. Unfortunately they are cutting men's and women's swimming and diving which both have long histories (men's team began in 1915 and the women's in the mid-70s). This article off the AP makes it sound like a purely financial decision. The swimming facilities at SU are in disrepair and new natatorium would cost the university $35 million. Swimming isn't a huge sport in the Big East and Syracuse has had limited success in the pool. Women's ice hockey is an emerging sport and it is popular in that area of the country and Syracuse will have plenty of nearby opponents. Facilities will remain an issue, though. Syracuse does not have a men's team and thus no rink. Of course because hockey is so popular, there are rinks in the area. The university is looking into where the team will practice and play games.

This press release from the university does mention Title IX though. The addition of ice hockey is presented as part of a larger, long-term restructuring of the department that will "enhance" gender equity. Currently the university operates under prong two, history and continuing practice of expansion (they added three women's sports between 1996-2000). But according to athletic department administrators, the addition of ice hockey will bring about proportionality in the 2008-2009 season.

There is a pretty vocal swimming community that has some issues with Title IX because they see it as responsible for the cuts of teams and they have vigorously campaigned against and bemoaned the cutting of teams at JMU and Rutgers. It will be interesting to see what comes from these cuts. Swimming World Magazine online has already started collecting comments about the cuts. None of the comments to date have blamed Title IX.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Trans athlete follow-up

The other day when I wrote briefly about trans athletes and gender norms I forgot to mention that there is a documentary about mountain biker Michelle Dumaresq called 100% Woman. It follows Dumaresq's early career in the sport and the issues she faced when people, competitors specifically, found out she "used to be a man." Though she very easily got a license to race from the Canadian cycling body, her participation and wins were contested by competitors who appear and speak candidly in the documentary. It was filmed before the infamous winners' podium event where another biker wore a t-shirt, given to her by her boyfriend, that said 100% Pure Woman Champ 2006, so there is no footage of that event, that included taunts from the crowd, and how Dumaresq and others reacted to it.
You can see most of the documentary at (I had problems loading some of the parts but even what I was able to see was very good.) There's a very good piece showing Dumaresq chatting with with U.S. mountain biker Missy Giove who is openly gay and was one of the best bikers in the world before her 2003 retirement.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Weekend miscellany

1. Reminder: Sports Center will air fired Missouri lacrosse coach Kyle Hawkins's story tomorrow (Sunday) night at 9pm (eastern).

2. Bad news: Amelie Mauresmo is out of the French Open. I didn't see the match which is probably a good thing. I really didn't think she was going to win given her history of shaky performances at Roland Garros combined with her recovery time off due to appendicitis. Still I had hoped she would make it to the second week and at least lose to a higher ranked player.

3. It's a big weekend for Annika Sorenstam. She's hosting her first tournament, the Ginn Tribute in Charleston, South Carolina, and it's her first weekend back after taking time off to recover from a serious back injury. She made the cut and though she won't be in the hunt for the title on Sunday, she has held her own and is currently 1 over. Final round airs Sunday on NBC at 4pm (eastern).

4. Women's College World Series is in its championship weekend and this year's tournament is really good. There were a couple of surprise teams in this year's final eight including Baylor and DePaul. And this big news is that no California team made it through the super regionals but two Chicago area teams (DePaul and Northwestern) did. It's also good to see some young female coaches at the helm. ESPN is airing all the action this weekend and into early next week.

5. Also, I forgot to mention in my previous post about the French Open that there was a minor controversy over Venus Williams's sneakers. Apparently a referee came to look at them because they had pimples on them similar to the ones found on grass court sneakers. The pimples provide better grip (hence why they are used on the slippery grass) but grass court sneakers are not allowed at Roland Garros. The ref ruled the shoes were ok. But I can't find any more about the incident or pictures that would indicate what made the shoes suspect in the first place.

Friday, June 01, 2007

ESPN covers the Hawkins case

Greg Garber at has written a column on the firing of Missouri's club lacrosse coach Kyle Hawkins. It includes a video clip of Hawkins. The column is a pretty in-depth and provides a lot of details of Hawkins's coming out process including how his parents essentially disowned him. (He was removed from the family trust fund and they haven't spoken since he told them he is gay.) There are also repeated assertions from players, the team's faculty advisor, and even Cyd Zeigler of that Hawkins's firing was not related to his homosexuality. Again, I believe them when they say the issue was not brought up in discussions. I even believe that they believe it had nothing to do with the decision. But I do not believe that the alleged negative coaching style was a recent development or that the concern over his poor representation of the university at away games was not influenced by his homosexuality.

According Garber's column, which was written a week ago, Hawkins has some offers at other club teams and is attracted to Div. III schools and is looking at a position at the English Lacrosse Association.

Hawkins's story will air on Sports Center Sunday night at 9pm (eastern).