Friday, August 31, 2007

My day at the Open

It was hot in NY yesterday--and it was mostly the weather not so much the matches. It was not the best time I have had at the US Open--lack of water fountains, very crowded for the first week, poor match scheduling, having to buy tickets from a scalper (who knew the first week would sell out?). But there were some good things--easy parking, short security line, and the chance to see players I had only ever heard of.
Like Julia Vakulenko who easily beat Jelena Kostanic Tosic.

I had another sighting of Hungarian Agnes Szavay who took out Michaella Krajicek. It will be interesting to see not only how she does for the rest of the Open but in the fall season and beyond.

One of the other good things: shade in the Grandstand. Sure it came with a pole in the middle of the view but I was able to move over an aisle at the next changeover.

Fashion has been a hot topic during the first week. Nicole Vaidisova ditched the swingy dresses she usually wears for a tight tank and skirt combo in black with gold trim--complete with matching black sneakers. It was glam and probably better suited for a night match but Vaidisova does not quite have the status to be in a night match during the first week.

Maria Kirilenko (who sadly beat one of my favorites Katarina Srebotnik despite Srebotnik's cheering section) is still wearing the line Stella McCartney designs for Adidas. It was different from anything everyone else was wearing...

...except of course for Bethanie Mattek whose attire has received considerable press already. I missed her singles match against Peer, which she lost, but caught her doubles match with Sania Mirza against Jankovic and her partner Severine Bremond. I was not a fan of Mattek's outfit. It just didn't seem to fit right. But I also resented the fan in back of me who felt the need to basically call her a whore by saying--more than once--that it looked like Mattek had just gotten off the bus from Atlantic City.

Oh yeah, I saw some men play too. New American sensation John Isner, injured Rafael Nadal practicing, and it's my last US Open Justin Gimelstob playing doubles with another American hope Amer Delic.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bodo's Orientalism

Peter Bodo who writes for TENNIS magazine and has an online column for them as well wrote, in this month's issue, about the mistake the WTA has made moving the year-end championships to Doha, Qatar.
It was pretty easy to see that the move was about money--the money the organizers in Doha will put up for the tournament and the marketing plans of sponsors like Sony. The WTA says it is about bringing tennis to a larger market.
Bodo writes that fans will not travel to Doha like they travel to the Grand Slams. True, but even when the year-end championships were elsewhere they did not get that much attention. I recall that when it was in L.A. there were many open seats. Admittedly Doha does not seem to be in a tennis-friendly region of the world but in November even tennis-friendly cities may not turn out for the championships. For most people, tennis ends after the US Open. Even I have trouble keeping up with autumn tennis. Part of it is lack of coverage but some of it is also my own schedule and interests.
So though I agree, overall, with Bodo, that the move to Doha is not a great one for women's tennis, I have a big problem with one of the last rationales he gives.
"I also don't see how this move is going to advance the cause of equality for women," he writes. Well, I don't remember anyone ever putting forth the idea that it would. But it gets worse: "Somehow, it's hard to see hordes of Middle Eastern women ripping off their burkas and veils in order to get dressed in whatever cocktail-waitress costume Maria Sharapova will be wearing. Come to think of it, Sharapova and her crew might get stoned if the wrong crowd gets a mind to protest this incursion into its way of life."
Wow--how many stereotypes can Bodo employ in just two sentences? Let's see: 1) all Middle Eastern women wear burkas and/or veils and thus they are all oppressed; 2) Middle Eastern women travel in packs (hordes) suggesting that all Middle Eastern women, regardless of religion--and yes there is more than one religion practiced in the Middle East--are members of harems; 3) that stoning is a ubiquitous punishment meted out whenever a "Middle Eastern" woman dares show any skin; 4) Middle Easterners, in the form of the "wrong group" are fanatically opposed to anything "Western."
And of course there is the obvious belief underlying all this rhetoric: that Middle Easterners"--I don't know how we got from the people in Doha to an entire geographical region--are a homogeneous group. Same religion, same politics, same philosophies, same practices, etc.
I would try to make some lemonade out of the lemons Bodo has provided by saying that maybe the tournament's move to Doha will provide a teaching moment; show those unfamiliar with the "Middle East" that it is not a place of stone-throwing, anti-American fanatics. But that would require coverage more enlightened than the stuff that has contributed to the misviews held by Bodo and others.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The benefits of DIII programs has done a series on DIII athletic programs. This part of the series focuses on schools that have one successful DI program that benefits the other DIII sports in the program and the school as a whole.

The article points to the value of such a configuration within the athletic department and there are definitely good things to be said for running one or two big programs. You're only a little bit into the craziness of big-time programs; a little less influenced by alumni dollars; a little less likely to compromise the welfare of your student-athletes and the reputation of your school for the sake of a win.

But some of the bonuses the article cites include greater diversity because the larger programs will recruit across the nation and sometimes in foreign countries. What is meant by diversity is ambiguous. If your big program is hockey your foreign recruits are most likely Canadians and sometimes Scandinavians. These players bring a certain amount of cultural diversity but they all were raised in the Western world. Second, how much these players actually interact with the general student body is also debatable. Student-athletes can lead pretty sheltered lives.

The article also mentions a DIII school with a DI program, like Johns Hopkins, can draw players because of their academic reputations. I think this is true for the non-DI programs (so anything but lacrosse at JHU). But, and I am trying to avoid reifying the dumb jock stereotype, but I don't think it is any secret that schools with very high academic standards will lower them for key athletes they want in their major program(s). I am not necessarily suggesting this is inherently evil. But I wonder how this affects the overall dynamic within the school. A hockey player I knew who went to Yale noted that the athletes did not socialize with non-athletes.

On the other hand, a successful program can bring a campus community together. I imagine that at Clarkson where hockey rules, and JHU where the lacrosse team is a perennial success, that games themselves become social events in themselves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More adult opportunities

I was vacationing in NH a couple of weeks ago and visited with a friend who bemoaned the lack of sport opportunities for adult women. She did mention the Wolfeboro She-Wolves, a local hockey team for adult women at any level of play. I found and have added the website to the side bar. It looks like a strong program with 75 women participating.
This also gave me renewed sense of purpose to find and list such opportunities.
And if you leave in Eugene, Oregon you are in luck. It looks like there are a few options for adults who want to participate in rec sports according to the community notices posted in yesterday's Register-Guard. There's women's volleyball (no age restrictions listed, both co-ed and women-only), flag football, ice hockey and ice skating (no ages mentioned), bowling, and rugby.
As always email or post in the comments any opportunities you know about.

UPDATE: It looks like the rugby club in Eugene is men only. But I found the Eugene Rec Department offers soccer, disc golf, softball, and ultimate frisbee in addition to volleyball.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Nike tries again

Nike unleashed its new ad campaign aimed at women on Saturday. It's called ATHLETE and features world-class athletes talking about what being an athlete means to them. The new campaign that consists of television commercials, an internet component, print ads, and billboards was created after Nike found out that female athletes are tired of not being taken seriously because they are women. To address the problem the modifier "women" is absent.

Sounds good, eh? Sure. It addresses a major problem in the discourse on women's sports where unmodified "athlete" equals male in most written and spoken coverage.

But like other Nike campaigns (i.e. If You Let Me Play), this one falls short of anything that might engender change. Because Nike is selling a false empowerment; an image of equality that doesn't come near addressing actual inequality in sport.

A forthcoming billboard that features Serena Williams with her arms crossed wearing a t-shirt that says ATHLETE (reproduced in the Times article) has the caption: are you looking at my titles? Well, no, you're positioned in such a way and along with the tagline it's impossible not to look at your breasts.

So Nike is still selling sex appeal. Not surprising--a previous campaign that featured only women's body parts also was selling sex under the guise of empowerment and self-love.

But this campaign fails to address what real inequality is. There is no mention about the fewer number of opportunities women have in comparison with men; how much less they receive in scholarship dollars; the amenities they do not receive that their male counterparts do; and of course the lack of coverage of women's sports.

Taking away "women" from women athletes and pretending that we're all the same--that it is just about skill as Alvina Carroll says in her portion of the ad--simply erases the problems. Language is crucial in these discussions, of course, but Nike and some of the athletes participating in the campaign, use it in such a way that the difference between male and female athletes is made obvious but there is no space in which to talk about how the difference has been constructed and used against athletic women and why.

I was particularly disappointed in former pro volleyball player Gabrielle Reece's piece which begins: “Are boys bigger, stronger, faster? Yes." She goes on to say that this is not all that matters in sport. But the first part of her statement is damaging in that she presents this as an unequivocal truth and makes it seem that all boys are stronger, faster, and bigger than all girls. Yet Reece herself is bigger, stronger, and faster than many boys--and men!

The Times article only showed and reported on some of the comments made by the athletes for the campaign. I am interested in hearing and seeing what others have said and done.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Last one standing

Svetlana Kuznetsova just won the Pilot Pen, the last stop before the US Open. I didn't get to see the match but I saw the final score: 4-6, 3-0 (ret). I haven't seen any news (the Pilot Pen site is lousy; no match recaps or stories anywhere that I can find) but I wonder if Szavay had issues with the heat and humidity. It had been cool all week and she had the benefit of playing the night match in the semis whereas Kuznetsova played Dementieva in her semi during the heat of the day. Kuznetsova certainly battled in her matches during some rounds of the tournament but she undoubtedly benefited from three straight retirements by her opponents.

It must give her some confidence going into the Open the site of her only Grand Slam title to date.
UPDATE: Szavay retired after aggravating a back injury at the end of the first set.

Introducing Agnes Szavay

Agnes Szavay will play in today's Pilot Pen final against Svetlana Kuznetsova.

I saw Szavay on Wednesday in her first set against Hantuchova (I had to get over to the grandstand to see the Raymond/Davenport doubles match) and it was the first I had seen her play or even heard of her. (The big question is what is the correct pronunciation of her name. She was introduced as Agnes Szavay with a pronunciation like the French ca va but with the last syllable accented and a long a sound: ca VAY. But on ESPN--which I have no faith in for pronunciation of players' name--they are saying something like CHA-vay.)

She's good and I was surprised I had not heard of her given that she is in the top 50. And last night she took out Eleni Danillidou who I watched in an amazing comeback against Sybille Bammer on Wednesday.

I hope the players who have been making strides in the US Open Series have a good showing at the Open this coming week.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Kia Vaughn sues, Part II: The reaction

Some, like the posters at Sports Law Blog, have chosen to discuss Kia Vaughn's lawsuit rationally, talking about the facts of the case, the reality of the law, etc.

Others have not been so kind. At Bob Parks says that Vaughn is coming close to the real definition of a "ho," as defined by Snoop Dogg in the wake of the Imus scandal. Parks "translates" Snoop Dogg's definition apparently for his privileged white readers who just can't decipher the original statement. "We're talking about women that are in the neighborhood who are not gainfully employed and are latching onto men for support." Not considering that 1) Vaughn is a student and basketball player who will likely play in the WNBA and abroad, i.e. job security, and 2) that the lawsuit is not about money but about making a statement.
Scott Soshnick over at Bloomberg News jumps on the Vaughn-is-money-hungry bandwagon and seems to feel personally wounded that Vaughn has betrayed the feelings he had of her as a funny, compassionate person. So when she was oppressed and wounded, that was okay, but when she gets assertive and demands greater discourse and accountability then she is just a money-grubbing--well he didn't say the "h" word but the implication is there.
Jason Ivanitz in Crookston, MN called her a golddigger. The moniker so fitting, he says, because Vaughn picked the day Imus settled with CBS to file the lawsuit. He sees such timing as bad and revealing of her true intentions--money. I see it as good timing: a way to keep the American public aware of what Imus is as he attempts to get back on the airwaves.
What's interesting is that all of these columns mention, at some point, the "fact" that no one knows who Kia Vaughn is. I realize they do this to prove that Vaughn could not have been subject to slander and defamation because she is not famous enough.
Like others, I do not see this going to trial. But if it did I think it would be an interesting argument about what makes someone famous. She is a prominent player on a highly-ranked team. She has received national media attention. She played in a national championship that was on national television. The discussion about the level of attention women athletes receive would be fruitful. But that discussion is unlikely to happen in a climate that sees Kia Vaughn as a martyr when she is wounded and a victim but as greedy (and there are certainly racial undertones to all the adjectives that dance around stereotypes of Black women as lazy and money-grubbing) when she refuses to let the issue lie.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lindsay Davenport's return

The rain in New Haven actually worked to my advantage this week. I went to the Pilot Pen--the last stop of the US Open Series--Tuesday when the Lindsay Davenport debut was scheduled for the stadium court but during the night session. Alas no tennis was played Tuesday which resulted in a lot of driving for me but it was worth it when I returned Wednesday to find out the Davenport/Raymond versus Black/Huber match was to be played that afternoon.

Unfortunately the organizers put it on the grandstand which is significantly smaller. The place was packed but I thought the crowd was a little subdued considering how many people I heard talking about the match and making sure they got seats. Maybe it's a Connecticut thing.

It was a good match--besides the no-ad scoring which was quite disconcerting to watch. I don't like the third set 10 point super tiebreaker but I have accepted it. The no-ad thing is ridiculous.

I did think Davenport and Raymond had a really good shot but it was obvious at times that they just didn't have the experience together to beat Black and Huber. But to us recreational players it was nice to know that even the pros will let a ball down the middle go thinking the other person has it.

It was hard to tell just where Davenport's game is at. I haven't seen her play a lot of doubles (because networks refuse to show it, grr) but I was surprised that the only high balls she takes out of the air are floaters she can take full swings at. I thought she could have have ended more points by taking a closer step in and angling it rather than just overpowering it. Black and Huber had the time and of course the experience to read some of those balls and get them back in play.

There was no equipment on the court to read serve speed but her serve looked good and she doesn't seem to have lost a lot of pace and power on her ground strokes.

More later on the other matches I saw in New Haven.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another curious coach resignation

News came out last week that head coach of the Minnesota women's hockey team has resigned. Laura Halldorson has led the Golden Gophers to three NCAA titles and MN is always a contender in the Frozen Four.
It seems strange for someone so successful to retire at such an odd time of the year and with no stated plans of where she will go.
She has, though, been coaching for 20 years so maybe she truly is just tired of the "daily demands" of the position.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Introducing Coach Osterman

National team pitcher Cat Osterman, who is preparing for the 2008 summer Olympics, just took a position as a permanent, full-time assistant coach at DePaul. And the people at DePaul are psyched to have her. And she is pretty happy about being there, too. She said she was looking for a change after living in Texas her life. She pitched in a Chicago suburb in the professional fast-pitch league this past summer and has relatives in the area. She said she hadn't really been out of Texas much besides her travel with the national team. I think it's always a good idea to get out of Texas, and Chicago should offer her a different perspective on life.

What I like about this ESPN column on Osterman's new position is the opening:

Imagine Tim Duncan signing on as a full-time assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh to impart some wisdom to the post players, or LaDainian Tomlinson joining the coaching staff at West Virginia to tutor the running backs.
That's exactly the kind of coup Big East softball power DePaul scored last week when it announced Cat Osterman had joined coach Eugene Lenti's staff as a full-time assistant, expected to serve as the team's pitching coach.

Writer Graham Hays recognizes Osterman's status in the sport, educates readers who are unaware, and gives the story the attention it deserves.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Kia Vaughn sues, Part I

Kia Vaughn of the Rutgers basketball team has filed a lawsuit against Don Imus and CBS citing slander in regards to Imus's comments following the Rutgers loss to Tennessee in the NCAA championship last spring.
Most do not consider the lawsuit to be viable. Sports Law Blog posted this immediately after knowledge of the lawsuit became public. Michael McCann does not see the charge of slander holding up in court but also predicts a settlement because of the further damage a lawsuit might do. (Remember, Imus is looking to land another job and CBS has put in his former slot another questionable character.) A follow-up post by Howard Wasserman on morality and the law notes that despite the lack of moral judgement on Imus's part, it is not a situation that can be remedied by the judicial system.
McCann did an interview with discussing the merits of the suit. He does an excellent job explaining what slander is, the standards Vaughn's representation will have to meet to prove slander, and the defense Imus might offer. He reiterates his belief that there will be a settlement and adds that the lawsuit may put broadcasters on notice and encourage them to develop standards for radio personalities.
In a sense, this seems to counter what Wasserman has said about the inability of the judicial system to remedy an individual's lack of morality. A court (judge and/or jury) may not find her claim viable but she has engaged the judicial system in an attempt to redress the harm that was brought to her.
I see similarities actually, to the Jennifer Harris versus Rene Portland/Penn State case. The closed settlement was disappointing, initially, to many of us. But upon further reflection it is possible to see that settlement was a way to make demands (like specific actions the institution would have to take) that would not have been possible had the case gone to court when it would have been only about remedying the situation Harris faced. Harris and her lawyers, after the settlement, said they were satisfied that something like this would not happen in the future to other players and that outcome was part of their goal all along.
McCann, though he has not likened the situation to Harris's, does seem to think that the lawsuit is an attempt to engender change. It is not, he says, about how much money Vaughn can get from Imus and CBS. Others are not seeing it the same way. In Part II I plan to look at the response to Vaughn's lawsuit.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More reviews of Chak de! India

This review from an Indian paper explains the plot of the movie Chak de! India in great detail. I have heard the plot is fairly predictable but if you are interested in preserving some mystery you might want to skip this one. But the review does actually talk about the flaws of the film which is something I haven't seen yet. The reviewer is particularly displeased that the film places the blame for the decline in (field) hockey's popularity with the surge in cricket's popularity.
And of course it also lists the high points including its adherence to the reality of the state of women's sports in India where even national teams have to contend with sub-par facilities.
And good news for me: I found the movie showing in a theater 35 minutes away. I think it may be worth the trip.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Imus's replacement

CBS must think that the general public has short-term memory. The spot left blank after they fired shock jock Don Imus for his disparaging, racist, homophobic and sexist comments about the Rutgers basketball team is going to be filled by Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason. Carton is one half of the New Jersey duo Jersey Guys and his track record is not much better than Imus's--his comments have just been limited to the Jersey area.

This article details his past indiscretions that include offensive remarks and actions towards women, Hispanics, and Asians. Lovely.

CBS does not think it will be a problem, however, because Carton and Esiason are doing a sports show. Dan Mason, president of CBS Radio said "this show is not as much about controversy as it is about sports."

Because there is no controversy in sports which has always been open to and accepting of and equal in its treatment of non-white peoples, gays, and women.

And in case anyone was worried about Imus, he and CBS have settled their disputes--no details except that Imus will not speak disparagingly of his former employers and the breach of contract suit he brought against CBS is now over. And there are rumors he may have a new job. Though not a done deal, WABC may be willing to risk public outrage by putting Imus back on the air.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Who's your hero?

I caught some of the semifinal game in the Little League Softball World Series last night. First my obligatory women's sports gets less coverage than men's sports comment: while the Little League Baseball World Series has been on the ESPN networks fairly frequently with coverage around the country of the regional games, I have only seen the softball once and it was after the teams had arrived in Portland, Oregon--no regional game coverage.
As part of the coverage each member of the team introduces herself. Last night Tennessee played Connecticut and the Tennessee players all gave their names and positions and the name of their favorite player. It was refreshing to hear them all give the names of softball players like Monica Abbott and India Chiles and Caitlin Lowe. When the Connecticut team did the same they gave names like Derek Jeter and A-Rod. But the questions were not the same: The TN team was asked who their favorite player was where the CT team was asked who their favorite athlete was. So despite the fact that these girls clearly follow softball and admire the players they still default to men as their athletic heroes. Except for one CT player who said her favorite athletes were her three sisters--you go, girl!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thanks, Donna Lopiano

Women's Sports Foundation CEO Donna Lopiano, who has held the position for fifteen years, announced she was stepping down at the end of last week. No word on her replacement or definite future plans. She said she may return to the academy (she was director of women's athletics at University of Texas). She is definitely eager to undertake a new project.
WSF has begin searching for a new CEO and Lopiano has agreed to serve as a consultant for another 3 years. So her amazing influence will not be entirely lost. And I, for one, am eager to see where she directs her energies next and the change she will surely bring about wherever she goes.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Indian film addresses women's sport

A new film about women's hockey (field hockey for Americans) in India is scheduled for release soon. Not sure when it will be hitting American movie theaters but keep an eye out for Chak de India which director Shimit Amin calls a "sister" film to movies Bend it Like Beckham and A League of their Own.
Amin spoke of the importance of bringing attention to women's sports which receive hardly any attention in India but also highlighting hockey, a national sport that receives second billing to cricket. Amin hopes the film will stir up some patriotism and some admiration for female athletes.
The article gives no indication of a plot but Amin promises there will be a lot of sports action and thinks it will do well outside of India because of the Western world's obsession with sports and their extreme fandom.

Addendum: I found the Times review which 1) gave more info on the plot--it actually has one and it looks interesting and 2) that the film opened in the U.S. yesterday, August 10. If anyone has seen it playing near them please leave a note in the comments. I'd be interested to see how wide of a release it had.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What's a family?

I found this feature in the Florida Times Union that profiles women it feel are, as the title shows, "Leading sports forward" in the state of Florida--or who are from Florida and making a national impact. I think they did a good job showing women at all levels of sports from Donna Orender, WNBA president, to local high school athletic directors, to the president of the Let us play! Foundation.

Each profile gives the woman's background, education, current occupation and thoughts on something related to women in sports. And they also have a category labelled "Family." So in the entry on law professor, former Olympic swimmer, and Title IX advocate Nancy Hogshead-Makar we can read that she has a husband and the names and ages of her kids. Some of the other women have "Single" written next to Family. I don't think it is a stretch to say that these women probably are not all single but are gay. Single does not equal gay. I know this and I know that it is a problem in women's sports when single women are assumed to be gay. But I also know that this is the code that operates in sport, especially in sports media.

The term family as it is employed here effectively erases any form of a same-sex partnership and even co-parenting arrangements. And in tandem with the term single it devalues such relationships which has consequences that extend far beyond sports.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sports for all

I thought I had already posted about this article on disabled athletes but apparently I have not. So here it is. It features athletes with varying abilities who participate in all levels of sport from the Paralympics to recreational.

Without romanticizing or dismissing the struggles these athletes face, I have to say that many of them challenge the ways we think about sports participation. When the goal of sport is participation, rules and formats that some might see as "creative" or "alternative" become the norm. And I think that "able-bodied" sport could learn a lot from that.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Tennis district drama

I just got back from USTA districts. It was my first districts experience and I have to say it was very interesting.
First of all, it was very suburban hetero. Most of the teams had matching outfits down to their pink Under Armour wristbands. I saw a lot of Coach purses and flowery tennis bags. Our team is about half lesbian and we were the only queer women there. Someone from another team asked one of our non-gay, divorced players where we were from and when she found out we weren't local and had stayed 2 nights in a hotel she said, "God bless your husbands!" Team member replied, "I don't have a husband." Only two players on our team have husbands actually. Non-husbanded women must be an anomaly in the world of these women.
So it was an interesting examination of middle-class white women (I saw maybe two women of color the whole weekend) and how they participate in recreational sport.
But the big drama of the weekend happened when the captains of my team attempted to stack our last regulation match (everyone plays 3 regulation matches; best results mean you get to play on Sunday). Stacking is when the line-up gets shifted so that weaker players play in the higher spots. We play 2 singles matches and 3 doubles and your best players are supposed to play in that order. But teams stack by putting better players down lower in the line-up so they have a better chance of a win.
It does constitute cheating. If other teams think you are stacking they can challenge the results. I didn't find out about this change to the line-up until I was on my way to the match. So when I got there I expressed my discomfort with this change noting that in addition to it being just wrong, it wasn't fair to the players who become the sacrificial lambs. They came, like everyone else on the team, to play competitive matches and stacking takes away that opportunity. Apparently others expressed displeasure with these changes as well. In the end we had a long team meeting and were able to change the line-up back the way it was supposed to be. But the captains were not pleased. They said they felt under appreciated. We said we appreciated them but that this was a matter that affected everyone on the team and would reflect poorly on us. One captain felt that the opponents would not have succeeded in a challenge, which, of course, is not the point. They would know (they had seen us playing all weekend) we were cheating and we would know we were cheating. Same captain also noted that everyone does this at districts. And again the point is that it is still wrong. If it wasn't, the USTA wouldn't have a rule about it.
I thought it reflected adherence to hegemonic sport in which winning is valued above all else. And I found this surprising given that my team, and these captains in particular, had made a concerted effort to get everyone to play in a certain number of matches throughout the season. Better players played more often but everyone played multiple times. We even went to districts guaranteeing that everyone who went would play 2 matches even though this meant weaker line-ups. And we made it to Sunday with this philosophy.
And by Sunday everyone seemed okay with what had happened, largely because the team had never made it to Sunday before. But I still left wondering what's going to happen next season.

Friday, August 03, 2007

For(e)tunate women?

The women's British Open is in progress and the big news of course is...well, the course. The women are playing at the famed Old Course at St. Andrews. This is the first professional women's event at the course where women are usually forbidden. Yes, this weekend marks the first time women will be allowed into the clubhouse. In the past the men-only establishment made sure everyone knew who was permitted entry by posting the sign "No dogs, no women." Lovely.

Anyone upset at the fact that every other weekend of the year even if the sign isn't there the effect is the same? Seems not. All the women interviewed see it as this wonderful thing for women's golf. From Annika Sorenstam (who was tied for 4th in the second round at the time of this posting) and Paula Creamer to officials of the Ladies' Golf Union all see this weekend's event as a sign that the times are changing, that women's golf is getting greater respect.

It's possible to read this weekend as a sign that the keepers of one of the oldest golf courses has a modicum of respect for the best female golfers in the world. But they have not come out and said they plan on changing their male-only entrance policy. They get a lot of good publicity for doing very little.

I thought at least a few of the LPGA players would mention something about what the club members think of women generally (not to mention people of color and those who cannot even fathom the outrageous fees). But no. The only dissatisfaction seems to be from players who are frustrated by the course and the weather in England.

Someone send Billie Jean King over there to give these women a little consciousness raising. She could start by reminding them that the winner of the tournament makes $300,000 (US). The winner of the men's British Open* this year got $1.5 million.

*Prize money is not dependent on the course but reflects the larger golf culture which values the men's game more than the women's, as evidenced by St. Andrews' sex-specific entrance requirement.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Out and about early

More good news this week about positive trends in sports. Some colleges have dropped the "Lady" from their nicknames of women's teams, and now, it seems, young athletes are coming out as gay in high school and college and not getting the crap beat out of them.

The LA Times features the stories of a handful of young athletes who chose not to hide their homosexual identity and to continue to play sports. The article is not especially well-written, jumping from one athlete's story to the next with little transition, but it is important in that it showcases athletes who are challenging the norms set by sport and society about sexuality, gender, and athletic ability.

I actually disagreed with a GLADD rep, a former football player himself, who said that he thinks a superstar will come out eventually (I guess he thinks of superstars as men given that Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Amelie Mauresmo, and Sheryl Swoopes all came out during their playing careers and have some pretty superstar-like qualities). But he added that it will not create "enormous change." I don't know if enormous is the right adjective but I think it will create change. Sport certainly reflects society--we see things like traditional gender roles being played out in sport; but it also has the ability to change society--like expanding gender roles. When we're talking about homophobia and acceptance of members of the GLBT community I definitely see sport as a potential medium to effect great change in the larger society on these issues.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bye, bye, "Lady"

It may just be the latest trend in women's sports. Nope, not the new Under Armour line for women. Not glitter headbands on softball players either.

The dropping of the term "lady" from team nicknames. Athletic Business reports that more and more schools that formerly called their teams the Lady _____ are giving up the lady. The most recent converts have been Cameron University in Oklahoma and Indiana University Southbend who used the term to refer to their women's basketball team.

Of course there are still holdouts. Pat Summitt of Tennessee said during the 2007 NCAA tournament that she couldn't imagine ever separating the Lady from the Vols. And of course there are the Lady Lions of Penn State.

There are a lot of ridiculous maneuvers that are made to distinguish men's and women's sports and naming practices have been one of the oldest. Any type of naming that seeks to differentiate based on traditional notions of men as dominant in sports and women athletes as weaker and less important is problematic. But the lengths some schools have gone to show just how afraid some are of equality for women. Kentucky State for example has the Thorobreds and the Thorobrettes.