Friday, April 11, 2008

I won't say things are getting "better"...

...because that 1) might not be true, 2) seems to be a little too optimistic for a cynic like me, and 3) goes against my extreme suspicion of progress narratives.

But no sooner was I discussing in my sport sociology class the dearth of coverage of (dis)abled athletes than I came across three stories about (dis)abled athletes.*

The first was in last month's TENNIS which contained a pretty lengthy feature of Canadian quad wheelchair player Sarah Hunter. [The link is actually not to the article which only exists in hard copy in the April issue.] I thought it was a fairly well-done article. It doesn't depict her as some kind of amazing hero or pity her for her injury. It mentioned her female partner and their child to whom Hunter gave birth two years ago without presenting either of these things as somehow unusual for a person in a wheelchair.

Then I saw two articles about women's national team wheelchair basketball. There's this one on, Sports Illustrated is covering wheelchair basketball--about the US team. It's short and focuses on how members of the national team were at the women's Final Four this past weekend giving others the opportunity to test their basketball skills from a wheelchair. It was certainly a promotional effort but one of the national team participants noted that more coverage of the sport is needed.

And there was this article about the women's national wheelchair basketball team in Canada. It talks about the Canadian team which is the current world champion; how competition for making the team has increased in recent years; and how level of disability is taken into consideration. It also illustrates the national pride involved in competing--something my students seem to think is exclusive to the able-bodied. Someone actually said that the Paralympics didn't involve any nationalism because the athletes don't really think about how they're competing for their country. Oh well, I can't turn them all in just one semester.

* The discussion continued today when they pondered a suggestion that the Paralympics and the Olympics be held simultaneously rather than the Paralympics following the Olympics. Most agreed that it would increase the coverage. And some, and this was one of those "oh, I'm getting through to them" moments, said that they would worry though the coverage would be condescending or stereotypical. I mentioned that at least if there was coverage we could start critiquing the discourse but right now we have nothing. There were head nods. It was a good morning.

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