Sunday, September 30, 2007

The positive negative?

I didn't see the third place match between the US and Norway this morning but I saw, during halftime of the championship (won by Germany, the first repeat victory in women's world cup history), that Brianna Scurry was in goal for the US. Not that surprising. I suspected she might be "punished" for speaking out against the decision to replace her in the semis and her obvious diss of Scurry.
But then I read that not only was Solo not starting--again--she had been booted from the team. She was not at the game today or yesterday's practice, a move made by Ryan but supported by the team. Ryan has hinted that reconciliation may be possible but Solo's future still remains unclear.
Blogger Megan McArdle has a good post about what kind of message is being sent by such punishment. McArdle argues that this belief that everyone has to be friends to be successful is something embraced by women's teams.
I'm not exactly ready to applaud anyone who caters to either the stereotype that women can't function unless they're all holding each other's hands and singing, or the reality that groups of women generally do demand a level of comity and conformity that can be incredibly brutal on anyone who is too outspoken or otherwise violates the group norms.
I don't know if I agree with McArdle's assessment of the group dynamics of women. And of course no one really knows how Solo's comments would have been received if she was a male athlete.
What we do know is that, for whatever reason, her actions were clearly a foul for this team. We don't know how the other teams operate. Perhaps there isn't the stress on harmonious intrateam relationships on other national teams. Maybe they just come and play. But the US team has clearly established a dynamic they feel works for them. So it's either conform or go home. Solo has gone home. For how long we do not know. She apologized to the team in person and on her My Space page where she specifically apologized to Scurry though in one of those weird backhanded ways that still suggests Scurry is not qualified for the position and that Solo does not feel she did anything truly wrong.
Also up in the air is whether Ryan will be going home with his job. Not if Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain have anything to say about it. They don't have any official power of course, but they did not hold back in their assessment of Ryan's performance in preparation for and during this World Cup.
But back to the title of this post which is meant to stimulate some thought about the effects of all this drama. It will be unfortunate if this situation is presented solely as a cat fight--just some women having it out--especially if it takes away from Ryan's poor coaching. But nothing draws a crowd like a cat fight. Have more people tuned in because of the drama? Will they turn out for the team's pre-Olympic tour? Or for WUSAII in 2009?
But do we even want such "fans"? I guess I still hold out a little bit of hope that once people tune in they'll get turned on to the sport, no matter why they showed up in the first place. It's naive, I know.

10/1 UPDATE: Get out of my head, Philip Hersh. Well Hersh's take on the "soap opera" (I knew a pejorative phrase like this was bound to be applied to this situation) on the US National Team is not exactly the same as my own. He does not problematize the fact that people are only coming to watch because of the drama and that these fans may not last long. USA Today has also trotted out "soap opera" in its coverage of Solo's team suspension noting all the coverage in the media and on blogs that the situation garnered. I'd just like to note that some of us have been blogging about the World Cup since it began noting the then big stories like England's surprise success in the tournament and the rise in the level of international play.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The loss, the aftermath, the commentary

I took yesterday off. Day of mourning. Plus I was tired after getting up early to watch the stunning defeat of the US by an amazing Brazilian team lead by the mind-boggling, dizzying footwork of star Marta. The defeat was actually not all that stunning. I suspected the US might not be able to pull this one off. Certainly not with the way they had been playing thus far (with the possible exception of their match against England).
Do I think the replacement of Hope Solo had an effect. Yes. But I also think a better team, a team with better leadership would have rallied and risen above this change. But they were despondent on that field and everyone knew it.
Julie Foudy was right when she said it was not fair to either Solo or Brianna Scurry. Overall, I thought Foudy did an excellent job in the booth this World Cup. USA Today comments that Foudy, when Shannon Boxx was kicked out of the game on a bad call by the referee, she said the US was playing a man down. She did, but she immediately corrected herself and said a player down. She actually, in earlier games was conscientious about this and would correct herself when she said man-on-man or something similar. All that time hanging out at the Women's Sports Foundation had an influence!
What happens now though? I suspect we will see Solo back in goal Sunday unless Ryan chooses to punish her for speaking out so vehemently against the decision. ESPN columnist Jemele Hill has an excellent piece about the Solo comments. (She said she would have made the saves and basically trashed Scurry for her perforance and Ryan for living in the past and relying on Scurry who Solo implies is a has-been.) I think this situation, and Hill's assessment of it, really shows the intricacies of team sports. You need to bond with your team, be supportive--certainly the US team has touted its closeness over the years--and yet you're often competing with certain team mates for positions and time played.
And this must create tension. There was going to be tension following this decision regardless. But Solo's post-game comments do not help matters. Former coach and current commentator Tony DiCiccio noted earlier in the tournament that team USA's sport psychologist did not travel with them to China. That was probably a mistake. A professional could have helped diffuse some of the strong emotions that emerged from this situation.
What will happen to Greg Ryan is the bigger question for consideration after the tournament. I never thought he was all that and even prior to this goalie decision I thought he was overplaying his starters and not going to his very talented bench enough.
Third place game starts at 5am EST Sunday morning. I need to fins someone with Tivo. But the Brazil-Germany match-up looks to be amazing. Brazil has momentum and Marta and Germany's keeper is like a wall turning back every ball that comes her way.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Please don't call them Ladies

I know everyone's watching college football, or professional football, or the pennant race. Some of us are watching the World Cup. But it's hard not to think about college hockey which is gearing up for season openers.
The Boston Herald ran a brief column today on the Hockey East conference, in which my alma mater UNH plays. Both the men's and women's teams have been voted first in the coaches' pre-season poll. (The men tied with rival BC.)
Alas, reporter John Connolly called the women's team the Lady Wildcats. Grrrr.... I have written previously about the problematic use of the term Lady to designate women's teams and expressed my continued disappointment in Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt for her support of the practice. But at UNH, we don't even use the term. (I would have to look into whether we ever did.) So that means Connolly is just using to distinguish--and by distinguish I mean demean because of course "Ladies" can't play real, manly, aggressive hockey--the women from the real Wildcats, the men.
Excuse me, I have to go write another email to another reporter about his problematic coverage of women's sports. How many times is that this week?

[tip 'o the hat to The Dad for telling me about the story, and the faux pas.]

Tune in tomorrow morning

It will be early, 7:30am EST, but it will be worth it. The US takes on Brazil in the FIFA Women's World Cup in what I predict will be the best game to date in this world cup.
And as excited as I am, I am a little worried. Brazil has not been scored on yet this tournament and they are playing good soccer. The US, on the other hand, is not playing that great--or at least like the #1 team. And the latest news is that starting goalie Hope Solo is being replaced by veteran Brianna Scurry.
It makes sense because 1. Scurry is a good goalie with significant international experience, and 2. she has never lost against Brazil. But Solo is not happy about the change and it seems that this change could shake up some team dynamics in tomorrow's game.
Additionally, as this NY Sun article points out the obvious, the US has not been playing a pretty game and have been relying heavily on forward Abby Wambach. It was no secret coming into the World Cup that Wambach was a key player, that she would likely be the primary goal scorer. But the US team was also touted as having great depth. But we haven't seen that. Perhaps because coach Greg Ryan is reluctant to go to his bench in the second half.
I see the logic in putting Scurry in goal, but if something goes wrong for the US team it will be on Ryan's shoulders and some of the other decisions he has made this tournament will hurt him. Not sure if he would be replaced given that the Summer Olympics are right around the corner but I think a loss in the semifinals will definitely put a lot of pressure on Ryan to perform will in 2008.
I vote for bringing back April Heinrichs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's still not okay

A few days ago I mentioned the Slapshot and Shop women's hockey tournament to take place in Woodstock, VT in November. I emailed the contact name provided on the website to express my displeasure with the marketing of the tournament--particularly the logo that has a hockey stick with a pink purse dangling off it and the website which features what I called a "vampy avatar" who says "shopping is a sport." I got a short but not at all unpleasant reply that said my comments would be passed on to the women's team hosting the event who had designed the logo themselves.
This information was intended to silence my complaints apparently. As if, upon learning this marketing strategy was devised by women and not men, I should have slapped my hand to my forehead and proclaimed, "Well, golly gee; if women created it then it must be just fine."
There seems to be a very big misconception about feminism out there: because there exists in some forms of feminism a rhetoric about "choice,"that anything women choose to do is acceptable. Nay. Women participate in their own oppression all the time. (Check out I Blame the Patriarchy for some stunning examples provided and analysed by Twisty on a regular basis.)
The rationale that because the women's hockey team came up with the concept and design, this is not offensive or oppressive is faulty and it fails to consider the pressure female athletes have on them. To be feminine. To not be lesbians. To be super feminine if you participate in a traditionally male sport like ice hockey. To compensate for "aggressive" behavior on the field or ice by being girly (and going shopping) off of it.
Our "choices" are always limited and constrained by such forces--for women and for men.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I almost got teary... the start of this article in which the author talks about his pre-Title IX mother watching the World Cup:
Mama Lopez watches a ton of sports from her wheelchair.
She loves Steve Nash and Edgerrin James, but there’s a special place in her heart for the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
See, her arthritic knees aren’t the first thing that’s kept her from running.
As a child of the late 1940s and the ’50s, she wanted to run track, play field hockey and other sports, but societal pressure at the time kept her off the field.

But the tears were kept at bay. Because as much as I sympathize with Ms. Lopez's situation, I have some issues with her son's coverage. Tobias Lopez writes a generally supportive article of the World Cup and women's sports. And Lopez does note the diversity of the US squad this year. This is something no one is talking about, which is surprising given how Americans like to point to sport as an arena of racial harmony and a model of this so-called color blind society. But it might be difficult to do this as we all watch the games in China with the stadium advertising that reads "Just say no to racism." Could create some cognitive dissonance for those folks who think racism in sports just doesn't exist.
Back to the article, though. Lopez mentions the crushing defeat of Argentina by Germany (11-0) referring to Argentina as a great soccer nation but one that needs to develop its women's team. Which made me wonder if you can really call them, or anyone, a great soccer nation if they have a formidable men's team but have not put the resources into a women's national team. It reminded me of the essay by historian Joan Kelly, "Did Women Have a Renaissance?" about how historians have constructed periods or eras of world history based solely on the lives of men. There may have been a Renaissance for men, but the conditions in which women lived could hardly be characterized as a rebirth. Can you be a great sports nation without great female athletes? I don't hear anyone calling the United States a great soccer nation despite the fact that we have the #1-ranked women's team in the world at the moment.
Lopez is correct in noting that US success has to be attributed, in part, to the opportunities afforded to this generation of players by Title IX. But he is entirely mistaken when he says: "Certainly Title IX isn’t perfect because in some cases it cost men’s wrestling or gymnastics teams their existence."
It seems I will have to write Mr. Lopez a note telling him that Title IX has not caused the demise of programs. That the majority of wrestling teams that have been cut went away in the 80s when Title IX was not being enforced. That athletic departments filtering more money into revenue-generating sports such as football and basketball have caused cuts to men's "minor" sports like gymnastics. That the Office of Civil Rights and the NCAA have both said--repeatedly--that enforcement at the expense of opportunities is not the intent nor the desired method of compliance.
And finally, that such misinformation about Title IX threatens future opportunities for girls and women. Does Lopez want his (hypothetical) daughter to have the same (lack of) experience that his mother faced?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is the world abuzz with the World Cup?

There are a lot of stories coming across my Google news alert about the World Cup. Of course none of the ESPN "news" shows that I have seen pay it much attention. I guess they figure just airing the matches for two hours every other morning is enough.
But there has been print coverage of the event across the world. And despite the initial trepidations over the poor timing of the event, it has not gone completely unnoticed. Though, again, television coverage has been minimal.
The coverage that does exist, however, is pretty good. We're even starting to hear the p-word, parity. Yesterday at, columnist Mark Bechtel wrote a piece that suggests he is impressed by the teams in this year's tournament. The level of competition has changed for the better. As Bechtel notes only Brazil has gotten out of the first round of play without a loss.
Teams are getting better coaching and more attention--in the form of funding--from their national associations and this makes for greater depth in talent. Just look at England which seems to be the darling of the tournament so far. They travel now with their own chef (Chinese food messes with their digestion) and a sports psychologist.
Teams that had previously performed poorly in World Cup competition have shown their improvements. Australia has made it to the quarterfinals for the first time. And even though Nigeria lost to the US the other day, commentators were calling it a moral victory for the FIFA ranked 24th team, who held the US to just one goal.
US takes on England tomorrow morning. The US, of course, has a winning record against England, but England has a lot of momentum and while the US has not played the best soccer it is capable of, England is putting it all out there. I expect this to be a good game.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The good and the bad Thursday

Good: Scott Allen, a columnist for the student paper at Sacramento State takes a different tack on women's athletics. (Different from too many other male--and some female--student columnists who complain about how boring women's sports are and why the university is forced to spend money on them and take it away from their precious football teams.) But Allen applauds the women's teams at Sac State and notes that, in general, women's sports deserve more media attention and a home outside of the ESPN2 ghetto. And specifically that at Sac State the women's teams have had greater success than such traditional favorites as football and baseball. Both women's rowing and volleyball are championship winners in the past few years.

Bad: I like to advertise adult recreational sporting opportunities, usually teams but I am open to specific events like tournaments. But this hockey tournament for women coming up in Woodstock, Vermont in November makes me cringe. It's being called Slapshot and Shop and the logo has a pink purse hanging from a hockey stick. There's also a sexy avatar in a cropped pink top, mini, and pink high heels who says "shopping is a sport." Oi! Woodstock is a cute place that has typical NE arts and craftsy type shops. But that the tournament organizers marketed their event around shopping is offensive and suggests that women will only show up if they can shop between games. This also has the implication that women do not play as hard. Teams are guaranteed 3 games in this tournament. Three games in one weekend is a lot. Most players I know go back to the hotel and nap between games. But in Woodstock some think that these women are going skate around a little and then shed their pads and head for the shops. You can email Vic Cox at to let him/her (not sure if Vic is short for Victor or Victoria) and the other organizers know they need to take women's hockey seriously just like its players do.

Good: England's recent support of its women's teams. Recent articles and studies I have come across suggest that England has not been supporting women's athletics in a manner similar to other Western countries. Women have far fewer opportunities to play sports and those who do play in relative obscurity. But this article from The Independent might indicate a change in attitude. It begins: "Contrary to what the bloke down the pub has been saying, the England football team is not rubbish. It is, in fact, enjoying a brilliant run, having made it through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup." Also having recent successes are the national rugby, cricket, and rowing teams. [American press is also covering the story as the US faces off against England tomorrow. USA Today comments on the success of this England team. And the article has the extra bonus of letting me know that Twenty20 is cricket.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Last Olympic roster announced

USA Softball announced their national team line-up for the 2008 Olympics. The LA Times story about the announcement is supposed to be about the predominance of Californians on the roster (15 of the 18 are from CA; though 3 people will be cut before the Olympics to bring the roster down to 15 so that stat may change). But since that isn't really a good angle in a story about women's softball, most of the article focuses on 2008 being the last Olympics and the efforts veterans like Lisa Fernandez and Stacy Nuveman (who have both made the preliminary roster) are making to keep softball an Olympic sport.
How successful such efforts are remains to be seen. The decision to take softball off the Olympic schedule along with baseball, in hindsight, seems like a confluence of misunderstandings. The fact does remain, however, that the US dominates the sport internationally with Japan and Australia working hard to catch up. But there are plenty of other sports where one or two countries dominate. But their history is longer and we call these periods of domination "cycles." Keeping softball in the Olympics is the only way to grow the sport internationally and give it the chance of actually having its own cycles.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I've heard of them

I am quite tired of the Nike commercials airing during the World Cup. The commercials themselves are not that bad. They feature The Office star Rainn Wilson playing a PR guy trying to bring some attention to the team. OK, I get it. This is a team without Julie Foudy (though you can always tune into the games and hear her), Mia Hamm, and Brandi Chastain. Some of the name power is gone.
But I think Nike would have been better off with a campaign that actually introduces some of these new and exciting players. Give us some personalities--there are plenty to choose from.
But Nike opted for the tagline: The best team you've never heard of.
Except that some of us have heard of them. Some of us knew Lori Chalupny, who scored the only goal in today's game against Nigeria, and Lindsay Tarpley when they were both stars at UNC and likely national team candidates. And of course some of us have always paid attention to Abby Wambach.
So like this LA Times writer I say to Nike ditch the condescending tagline. You're not doing women's soccer any favors.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Women's athletics on the world stage

A few women's sports news bits from around the world:

1. The Women's World Cup in soccer (or football if you're anyone except an American) is underway but it isn't the only World Cup out there as I reported recently. Women cricketers have their own world cup which will take place in 2009 and be hosted by New South Wales, Australia according to a recent announcement.

2. There's a good article in the Life and Society section of the British paper New Statesman about the state of women's athletics in Britain. Quick summary: not very good. The reasons why are explored in the article. Seems girls are worried about their image if they should engage in athletics including being oversexualized or de-sexualized. There are also very few British women athletes who can serve as role models. There also appears to be little effort to change stereotypes by those in charge of sport in Britain who are content with athletics being male-dominated. And Britain does not have an effective law, like Title IX, that would compel sport administrators to provide more money and opportunities for girls and women.

3. Also regarding the state of sport across the pond...England has not been in a women's World Cup in over a decade and so far, so good this time around. They haven't lost a game yet. But they haven't won one yet either. They tied Japan 2-2 in their first game--which was a disappointment. But they held defending champions Germany scoreless--a good non-win. This article from The Guardian suggests that greater support at the club level for women's football will help tremendously in future World Cup attempts. [England needs to have a two-goal win over Argentina to advance beyond group play and at the time of this posting they were up 2-0 just 11 minutes into the game.]

Sunday, September 16, 2007

No support, even for winners

A student columnist for Arizona State wrote a piece at the end of August called "WNBA go away" in which he groans about all the "Mercury fever" in the air as the team readied itself to go into the playoffs. This brief mention in itself seems to contradict the writer's later sentiments that no one pays attention to the WNBA.
He compares the league to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as he explains that, as some little girls look up to WNBAers, he looked up to and wanted to be the TMNTs. But when the turtles started losing money they went away which is exactly what he thinks should happen to the decade-old league.
To prove he is "not a sexist pig," he goes through all the reasons why the WNBA and women's professional sports should exist but in the end looks only at numbers--specifically the ones that follow this sign: $. Even if it is all about money--which it isn't, or shouldn't be--he fails to consider two big issues. One, men's sports have had centuries to build a fan base. Women's sports have had decades, if that. And two, men's sports have always had the support of the media--not coincidentally, also male-dominated. And coverage of men's sports--good coverage--brings in more fans. When commentators, broadcasters, and writers get psyched about a sport or a team or a player people go to games/contests. The same enthusiasm has not been proffered to women's sports.
The student columnist is part of this problem. And it's a little sad that he can't even get excited for the hometown team who also, as of this evening, are the reigning WNBA Champions.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Don't forget about the other sports, Part II

Diane reminds me that Fed Cup finals are this weekend in Moscow. Tennis Channel is airing the matches. I usually don't get TC but am a guest in a home with satellite TV this weekend so I may catch some of it. Last night they had the match-up between the US and Russia on featuring the match with Lisa Raymond and Venus Williams. I was surprised to see that Williams is not a great doubles player. She doesn't have that doubles court sense.
Anyway, The Guardian has a column asking if there are too many world cups. I thought it would be a good follow-up to my post yesterday about the multiple women's sporting events happening this weekend (and beyond). But it's not. It's a misogynist racist diatribe. But I linked to it anyway so you can judge for yourself and so maybe someone will read it and let me know what Twenty20 is.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Don't forget the other sports

The Women's World Cup is not the only women's sport underway this weekend.
The World Cup of Rugby began this week as well and is being held in Paris where apparently people are pretty excited about the six-week tournament. And though rugby is even less popular with American audiences than soccer, maybe we should start paying attention. The NCAA has sanctioned women's rugby and it's likely that many of the over-300 club teams that exist at American colleges and universities will consider trying for varsity status.
Also, the US Open of Women's Bowling will be taking place over the next several weeks and ESPN is airing the competition on Sunday afternoons. This information is posted on a blog at which I link to largely because blogger Ace14 has included a clip from Grease2 (the superior Grease movie of the series in my opinion) where the Pink Ladies and T-birds bowl and sing and dance--at the same time!
Don't forget the Solheim Cup which pits a US team of golfers against a European team. Hosted by Sweden this year it looks to be a good competition even though, as I watch while typing (turn on the Golf Channel if you have it--they're offering live coverage), it looks like lousy weather over in Sweden. I am a little turned off by the US team's matchy-matchy look that includes ridiculous infantilizing red hair ribbons (except for Pat Hurst). But whether anyone will actually see the uniforms and judge for themselves is a questions mark. Because like the soccer World Cup, the scheduling for the Solheim Cup is lousy. In addition to conflicting with non-golf events like the Red Sox/Yankees series, the event also coincides with the Tour Championships.
If I missed anything, let me know and I will add the necessary information.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Did you find what you were looking for?

Well the US Open is over which means far fewer people are looking for Agnes Szavay's breasts (I think they are still on her upper torso for anyone still searching).
  1. But Bethanie Mattek's breasts remain the inspiration for several searches.
  2. And now that we're in the middle of the Women's World Cup of Soccer the intensity over the need to know Abby Wambach's sexuality has increased. Interesting that that is what people are looking for despite Wambach's 3 goals in two games performance and her collision in the game against North Korea which had her on the ground and bleeding from the head. She was taken off the field for about 10 minutes and stitched up returning with blood on her shirt. (The whole thing only made me love her more.) But no one cares about these things apparently.
  3. Daniela Hantuchova's belly button, though, seems to rank up there in importance.
  4. Unusual search of the week is a tie: "large hoop earrings and the middle eastern women." Is this a fashion question? And "tournaments mythology sacrifice king year crops" which I interpret as "do/did some societies sacrifice their king at sports tournaments to ensure good crops?" Makes the job of king not all that appealing, I would think, which is just my way of saying I don't know. I am not a historian of the ancient world. It's possible that Varda Burstyn's Rites of Menmay address this or one of Allen Guttmann's books on the history of sports.
  5. So I never found out where one can buy those very popular, very glittery headbands sported by softball players this year. But I can help the person who wants to purchase the outfits tennis player Maria Kirilenko has been wearing. Go to adidas by Stella McCartney.
  6. A history question I can answer: "who wrote Atalanta"? Well, like all myths, the story of Atalanta likely began as a story passed down orally and thus it has different versions. Hesiod recorded a version as did Ovid in Metamorphoses. But the version I like the best is Marlo Thomas's on Free to be You and Me because, unlike in the other versions of the race Atalanta undertakes against potential suitors, she isn't tricked into marriage because she got distracted by Aphrodite's shiny apples.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Misbehavin' at Purdue

The Purdue's women's basketball team, a frequent contender in the NCAA tournament, might have some of its momentum stymied by sanctions as a result of a cheating incident.

An assistant coach with the team was found to have written papers for a player. The NCAA has penalized the team by taking away two of their 15 scholarships this year and has placed them on probation for two years. The assistant coach, Katrina Merriweather will have to go in front of an NCAA infractions committee if she hopes to remain in intercollegiate coaching. The player, Cherelle George is not likely to place college ball ever again.

The incident occurred under former head coach Kristy Curry's tenure. Curry knew about the allegations and did her own looking into them but thought it was an issue of bad blood between assistant coaches.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blame Teddy Roosevelt*...

...for all this football madness. I don't know how I missed hearing about this story when it happened in June but it's being retold now, perhaps because college football season has begun.
It's obvious to even the casual observer that superiority in football is equivalent to superior masculinity. And this extends to fans. Masculinity is proved in the stands by the guy who can yell the loudest or stand the longest bare-chested in 20 degree weather.
But Oklahoma fan Allen Beckett proved his masculinity by emasculating--literally--a Texas Longhorns fan, Brian Thomas, in an Oklahoma bar. Well almost literally. Beckett did not quite succeed in castrating Thomas but pulled hard enough at his crotch to leave Thomas's testicles hanging outside of his body. Sixty stitches were required to put them back.
The events leading up to the near-castration are in dispute but there was trash talking going on.
Some interesting points to note:
1. Neither man actually attended the school he supported so fervently.
2. Beckett is a deacon in his church. I guess he must believe Jesus is a Sooners fan.
3. Beckett is also an Army veteran. Emasculation as a tactical maneuver is starting to seem like the military's only game plan.

*When college football was in danger of being eliminated by school administrators and some Christians concerned about the violence and vice associated with the game, Roosevelt stepped in to support the game as an excellent means of producing manly men. He, of course, is not solely responsible for saving the game from extinction, but his influence was great.

Let's go cruisin'

I am not a cruiser, in any sense of the word, but I would definitely sign up for this boat trip. Olivia cruises is honoring Billie Jean King with the first Olivia Ovation Award and commemorating her Battle of the Sexes win over Bobby Riggs (and not coincidentally, Olivia's own 35-year anniversary). The award will be given in October 2008 when Olivia sets sail from San Diego on the first ever Women in Sports Cruise. No firm line-up of who will be on board but the press release says WNBA players and other athletes will attend a Breakfast of Champions.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Welcome to the World Cup!

The World Cup starts today in China. You can head over to The Sports Network for previews of all the times plus the latest news and schedules of the matches.
But as Christine Brennan wrote this past week, the timing couldn't be worse with both college and professional football in full swing and the penant race in baseball heating up. I don't really care about these things and am excited that the event is beginning just as the US Open ends. Another sporting event to delay my full acquiescence to the fall semester routine. But Brennan makes good points. The event is barely on the radar screen and ask almost any average Jane or Joe on the street and my guess is she/he will not know a major women's sporting event is occurring right now. Brennan fully blames FIFA for the bad scheduling wondering why, after the success in 1999 which put women's soccer into the public imagination, they opted to "bury" the event in one of the busiest sports months of the year. And it will overlap with the a couple of the games in the WNBA finals so we have two major women's sporting events competing with one another.
On a happier note, this WaPo feature is all about Abby Wambach and her new role as team leader. Abby Wambach is my favorite soccer player. I know someone who played against her in high school and said she used her strength to push off defenders using a tricky little move the refs did not pick up on. She seems to have a confidence that could be interpreted as arrogance--well in a woman, anyway; a man could probably get away with it. But I don't care. I love her. I would watch women's soccer anyway because it deserves support and recognition; because I think it is, in a way, a pioneer, in terms of women's equality in sport. But Abby Wambach makes watching it so much more interesting. I have never met her (I actually have no desire to meet any of the celebs I admire for fear of disappointment--I think that was the theme of a Silver Spoons episode that I internalized), but I love the way she plays. I love her unapologetic aggression on the field and the way she is constantly targeted, shoved, double-teamed and tackled but always getting up and going hard like it never even happened.

Which is why when she got tackled twice by the same person in the same collision during a game against Norway and had to come off the field, I--and everyone else who was thinking World Cup--panicked. But she seems to be fine.

Also in light of the World Cup is a very nice piece on former national team member Julie Foudy who will be covering the World Cup for ESPN. But Foudy has also been doing other broadcast work on subjects not related to soccer and she is doing a great job. Unfortunately the increasing business in her schedule has meant she has had to stop working for the Women's Sports Foundation which I think is a real loss.

PS to everyone who comes here wondering is "abby wambach gay" you are not going to find any news here that doesn't exist elsewhere as speculation. Actually you aren't going to find any speculation at all here. Wambach has never said whether she is gay or straight. I don't suspect she will at this point in her career. None of the US players talk a lot about their personal lives. Kristine Lilly never revealed her sexuality. But her recent marriage seems to indicate she is a practicing heterosexual.
PSS The USA's first game is against Korea tomorrow.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Trans reporter returns to work

Last April I wrote about Mike Penner, a sports journalist at the LA Times who had decided to transition to a woman. Now back at work, Christine Daniels is the focus osf this NPR segment. It aired in mid-August and is worth a listen--or a read, the transcript is there, too.

Daniels is also blogging about the transition for the LA Times.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Did you find what you were looking for?: 10,000 hits

I reached 10,000 hits on Tuesday thanks, in part, to Agnes Szavay. More on that later. But until this week it had been rather slow. Only a few people looking for those glitter headbands or Abby Wambach's sexuality. So some of these are old.

1. I heard Lindy Vivas, the former Fresno State volleyball coach who recently won a hefty settlement [UPDATE: Fresno State just filed a motion for a new trial but they won't release on what grounds yet], on the radio last month talking about gender discrimination. She mentioned that there is an obsessive interest in female coaches' sexuality. No kidding. There have been lots of searches for "(coach's name) gay." And of course there's interest in the sexuality of athletes. And lest we think this is just an American phenomenon, note that some people in Malaysia have found After Atalanta by searching for "Azalina lesbian." Azalina is the woman I wrote about a while ago because she won an award for advancing the cause of women's athletics in the country.

2. Brings a smile to my face search: "oblivious men." I wonder exactly what the searcher was looking for.

3. There is a lot of interest in Ana Ivanovic. Not searches for "Ana Ivanovic's backhand" or "Ana Ivanovic's serve"--searches about Ivanovic's body--and not how in shape it is. The latest incarnation is "will Ana Ivanovic pose for for SI swimsuit issue." Ivanovic, from what I have seen, is pretty shy. But I wouldn't be surprised if she followed in the footsteps of other female tennis players who have posed for the issue: Steffi Graf, Kournikova, the Williams sisters, and Sharapova. At least it's not Playboy.

4. So what seems to have put After Atalanta over the 10,000 hits mark is, ironically, the sexualization of female athletes. Specifically the breasts of Bethanie Mattek and Agnes Szavay. Unfortuantely the sign that Agnes Szavay has made it is that people are ogling her body and want pictures of it. I guess that's why my hit count is way up but the average time spent is down to under a minute. No breasts here, people.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thoughts on the press conference

I saw the match between Justine Henin and Serena Williams and I was a little surprised at the second set score. Obviously Henin had momentum after controlling the first set tiebreaker but if anyone can break an opponent's momentum it's Serena Williams.
And I am sure people wanted to know what happened. But Serena's post-match press conference was not that enlightening in terms of insight into the match. As many know by now, Williams was not exactly a happy camper at the press conference; not many match losers are, but Williams's comment that she played poorly and Henin made lucky shots has everyone talking about lack of class and grace, etc.
I, too, was disappointed to hear about the comment (I have not seen the press conference yet). I heard both Serena and Venus mention in on-court post-match interviews the strength of their opponents and how they made them win the matches. I suppose it is easier to be gracious in victory, but remember that Serena did credit Henin's good play after their Wimbledon match. And it should be noted that Williams did start the comment by saying "She played better." The media uproar and the general feeling that Serena is without class or grace is a little bit much. I think the post-match conference is a sign that talk about the hatchet being buried between Henin and Williams was a little premature.
I don't think the comment and her behavior at the conference was professional but in the big picture of athletes behaving badly this is nothing. And second, we have to think about why it is we expect women, and especially women of color, to be more gracious in defeat than others.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Swoopes talks about her coming out

This month's It Takes a Team newsletter contains a short piece on Sheryl Swoopes who provides a little more information on how and when she decided to publicly come out as a lesbian.

There is also a good feature on a Canadian wheelchair basketball player who is an out lesbian. Danielle Peers, who has muscular dystrophy but does not always use a wheelchair, has played on both men's and women's team as well as in the only professional wheelchair basketball league. She is also a frequent speaker on issues of disability and queerness and is getting a degree in disability and queer studies.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

High school girl plays football

Holley Mangold, an Ohio high school senior, made an appearance on the TODAY show this morning, interviewed by Meredith Vieira. There are other girls who have played high school football--I think there's even a based-on-true-events movie that plays on Lifetime from time to time about a female quarterback played by Helen Hunt. So I am not sure exactly why Mangold is getting national attention. Perhaps because, unlike kicker Katie Hnida who also received a hefty amount of publicity when she was in high school, Mangold is a linebacker. (Also her brother is a center for the New York Jets.) And it should be noted that Mangold has been receiving attention for a while in the national media like the Times.
This marks the start of her senior year and she has received from interest from colleges. She still has not earned a starting position on the team and she was quite honest this morning about her lack of speed.
I was disappointed though in Mangold's response to Vieira's inquiry about the potential discrimination or even danger Mangold could face playing in college, a la Hnida who was raped and faced sexual harassment. Mangold brushed it off by alluding to the fact that women have to know how not to put themselves in certain situations. First of all unless you choose to remove yourself from the world entirely by never leaving your residence, then you cannot protect yourself from experiencing sexual harassment, even if you do fight it. And suggesting that Hnida put herself in a compromising position is more blame-the victim rhetoric.
Mangold said she knows boys, has grown up around them, and knows how to avoid getting into such situations. I am not sure if it is high school naivete or a bravado gained from playing football, but I hope that she doesn't have to learn--the way Hnida learned--that just because you know boys can do bad things doesn't mean you cannot fall victim to them.

Monday, September 03, 2007

No earrings=athlete?

Bruce Jenkins offers the most ridiculous assessment of the true athlete in his column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He takes some of the female players to task for their "garish dresses and odd hairstyles"but sweeps the criticism aside because such things are a matter of choice. Jeez, thanks Bruce. In addition to being quite a strange comment, it's condescending. I don't think any of the outfits this year could be considered garish and I am not sure what Jenkins is thinking of with odd hairstyle. Oh wait--is he referring to the beaded cornrows Venus and Serena Williams wore a decade ago? If so he's both living in the past and being a racist.

But what's most obvious from the column is that he is being sexist.
Because the real issue he has, the thing that makes these women not real athletes is all in their head--or rather on their head--specifically their ears. Yes, the large earrings sported by Sharapova and Williams (those are the two he mentions) make them not true athletes. The younger "legitimate" players apparently have more sense than to don 4-inch earrings. This isn't exactly true, though. Julia Vakulenko (just beaten by Agnes Szavay) was wearing large hoops during her match on Thursday. Bethanie Mattek has been known to wear large earrings as well.

I personally don't know how they play with them swinging all around like that, but they seem to have mastered it, so I don't question it too much. And why does Jenkins pick on the earrings? I always wonder how some of these women with the long, long ponytails and braids manage them swinging around and hitting them in the face when they whip a open-stance forehand crosscourt. (It should be noted that Anna Chakvetadze did get her braid stuck in her racket during one of the summer tournaments.)

Jenkins's argument is not that different from those who claim figure skating is not a sport because of the costumes and the performance aspect of it. Of course in tennis the outfits that have now become fashion are still a choice to some extent so it goes then that those who choose to treat the clothes they play in as fashion, according to Jenkins, are just not as serious.

We also have to consider that some sports are just not conducive to displays of personal style. Team sports require homogeneity and of course some of them, like soccer, prohibit jewelry because of the potential danger. But that doesn't mean female soccer players deserve to be called athletes any more than hoop-wearing tennis players.