Wednesday, July 02, 2008

USA Today covers the non-traditional

I was pleased with some recent media coverage. (I know, I know; it happens so infrequently.) USA Today ran some pieces on some non-traditional women's sports a few weeks ago.

The first was a feature on one of the leading female motocross riders, 17-year old Ashley Fiolek. Fiolek is heading to the X Games next month where she will participate as one of ten riders in the first women's motocross, which consists of 10 laps around a x-country course set up in the Staples Center in LA. I wasn't too excited about how both the article and Fiolek herself (girls are more hesitant to make an aggressive pass on the track, she said) set up how this is such a masculine sport. But I did like that they mentioned Fiolek's (dis)ability--she's deaf--and how she has had to train to take that into account. They did not posit her as a hero or as someone working against insurmountable odds. One might even be able to argue that her gender was more of an obstacle than her hearing loss.

A few days after the Fiolek article, the paper covered the upcoming US Olympic trials for women's wrestling--only the second ever trials for the women. The article focuses on two women, one of whom won silver in Athens (or rather lost the gold) and another who failed to qualify after being bumped up a weight class. Despite their experience as women in their late 20s who have been on the international wrestling scene for almost a decade, their spots on the team were not at all assured, both having lost early at the national championships this past spring. Though the writers do not come out and explicitly say this, I take it as a sign of depth in the emerging (though not by NCAA standards) sport.

Of course the benefit of being a procrastiblogger is that the trials have already taken place. Neither of the veteran women USA Today featured made the team. It was odd how all the articles I found mentioned that Kristie Marano, the most decorated female American wrestler despite never qualifying for an Olympics, is a single mother. There seems to be some implications about class, gender, and sport going on here.

And finally, there was an article about a week later about roller derby. It was in the Lifestyle section versus Sports where women's sports and physical activity tends to mysteriously (well not really) get relegated. Why roller derby is constructed as a lifestyle issue where figure skating or tennis or rugby qualify as sports is an annoyance. I found it curious that the writers kept referring to it as all-female roller derby. I though roller derby--though men do participate, has always been associated with women--though, I realize, not always in the most helpful way.

Some claim it is the fastest-growing sport in the nation and the article anecdotally corroborates this by pointing out that Drew Barrymore is directing a film about roller derby (this simultaneously intrigues and worries me) which will star Ellen Page (of Juno). So, of course, I will go see it. (It's only in pre-production; don't start heading to the theatres just yet.)

And it may mean I have to give roller derby another shot. I just hope I can find an event where the punk music isn't so loud that it drowns out the announcer's play-by-play. I know I sound like such a fuddy-duddy but you have to remember I was raised in the very quiet, etiquette-driven world of tennis. I have only recently accepted the playing of music at the US Open.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am only familiar with the current state of roller derby as it exists here, in South Carolina. (amateur, not pros) I haven't seen media coverage of it, at all, except for what the teams generate themselves. And it would be hard to take it too seriously, as the players/teams don't present themselves as serious athletes. The matches are fun and showcase some impressive ability, but the uniforms are homemade and vaguely ridiculous and everyone plays under silly assumed names. So around here, anyway, it's more spectacle than sport. And it wouldn't surprise me to see THAT in "lifestyle" instead of sports.