Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wrapping it up

Don't have any grand thoughts on 2008--or forecasts for 2009. I've seen plenty of articles about top 10 sports stories at local, national, international levels upon which I feel no need to comment.
The Boston Globe has a list of sport figures (including horses) who died in 2008. I had completely forgotten about former figure skater Christopher Bowman who died very early in 2008 of a drug overdose.
I am interested in the Healthy Weight Network's 2008 Worst Diets of the Year. The organization took nominations for their 20th annual Slim Chance Awards. Anyone could nominate bad diets, diet products, and the biggest gimmicks. (I heard a pretty bad radio commercial the other day for a local personal training outfit that harped on one's laziness and lack of self-control and told "gals" they could get slim and trim and guys that they could get six-pack abs and guns. Hello--I want six-pack abs. Just not from these people.)
Anyway, the results were released yesterday and apparently I have not been paying attention because I hadn't even heard of Skineez jeans, which won the gimmick of the year award. Here's a description:
Skineez jeans are impregnated with a so-called “medication” of retinol and chitosan, a shellfish product once claimed to cut fat absorption in the stomach. Friction between the jeans and skin supposedly triggers release of the substance, which goes to work on fat when absorbed through the skin.
And advertisers lure customers with the promise that part of the proceeds are going to...yep, breast cancer research.
So keep your eyes and ears open so you can nominate the worst of the worst next year.

2009 means the 2010 Olympics are not that far away. Crazy! Seems like we were just (barely) watching the 2008 games in Turin. And as winter athletes gear up for the big event, some are still fighting to get in. All Things Considered had a very good piece on the ongoing fight of female ski jumpers to get into the Vancouver Games. One of the group's advocates does a great job dispelling all the excuses the IOC is throwing at the jumpers. Take a listen here.
And finally, related to athlete activism, Dave Zirin provides some history of intercollegiate athletes' activism against the Mormon church's racism in the 60s and 70s. Athletes' boycott of BYU contributed to the Mormon church's change in their belief that black people were, as said Brigham Young, "uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind." But given the pressures from schools--and the IRS!--boom doctrine is changed and suddenly black people are allowed to attain the priesthood.
Zirin is suggesting putting similar pressure on the Mormons given their longstanding anti-gay stance and more recent funneling of millions of dollars into CA to fund the Prop 8 campaign. He seems to think female athletes and those involved in women's athletics are more likely to take up this cause because 1) men's sports have been a bastion of homophobia and 2) women's athletics have been more open to homosexuality. Not sure if I believe this. More open I suppose in that there seem to be more lesbians than gay men playing intercollegiate sports but even as there may be greater acceptance among those in women's athletics, it's a pretty closeted atmosphere. In other words, to answer Zirin's question of whether any female athletes will step up and boycott trips to and games against BYU: probably not. I hear, mostly from reading Pat Griffin's blog, about athletes stepping up and doing great advocacy and activist work, but they are not usually DI athletes who are willing to put their athletic careers on the line. There may be more out athletes in intercollegiate sports, but many of them take advantage of a somewhat more liberal climate where they don't have to and don't want to "make a big deal" of it.
I hope I am wrong. Maybe tomorrow I'll be a little more optimistic!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday tidbits

Title makes it sound like this might be a regular thing, but no, I was just feeling alliterative and I have some small and unrelated things to mention.

1. So, the Elena Delle Donne interview* on Outside the Lines was only so-so. I don't think I realized that even though OtL is scheduled for a 1/2 hour, it's not really a half hour show. Delle Donne, I felt, did a good job explaining things. There wasn't really anything I hadn't already read about on that the interview provided, however. I thought it was quite interesting that her parents were not interviewed for this show. There was footage of her parents from years ago. I guess the one thing that I learned, or perhaps sensed is a more accurate term, is that there is a lot of upheaval in the Delle Donne household over Elena's leave of absence from basketball. She said it was a very tough summer for the family and the absence of her parents from the interview make me think that things are not quite settled yet. And this was surprising given that her parents had seemed to be so supportive of their daughter and her choices. But an interview with a former AAU coach kind of revealed that Delle Donne was perhaps pushed a little harder by her parents than we may have initially been lead to believe. In no way does this situation resemble the horror stories I have seen and heard about sport parents and it does seem like, in the end, Elena's new happiness in her current sport may help.

2. Got an email the other day from Lucy, a sports apparel website for women. I have previously noted my disappointment with Lucy for carrying Low Beams, an adhesive nipple concealer, but I clearly got over it when I ordered a pair of yoga capris from them the other day. Also they don't seem to carry the product anymore. But the email today tried to entice me to buy their newest cardio pant by promising to send me a pair of pink boxing gloves along with the pants. thanks. Ugh. If one is convinced to order a pair of overpriced workout pants because of pink boxing gloves, she's probably not the type of person to see a problem with pink boxing gloves in the first place.

3. I heard the other night on some sports talk show NOT on ESPN--surprise, surprise--that fighting in the NHL was up 30 percent from last year. Thirty percent! One guy pretended to be concerned, the other said, basically, "who cares?". He finds it entertaining and it gets fans out of their seats, he said. The third guy felt it was a little excessive especially when players are dropping their gloves in the first few minutes of the game--when nothing has really happened yet that might provoke a fight. The amount of fighting in hockey has always been ridiculous. I don't know how to describe a 30 percent increase in it--uber-ridiculous? I get it that hockey is a contact sport, that cheap shots are taken, that tempers flare--but this happens in other sports as well football, soccer. No other sport has the same amount of gratuitous fighting.

* Mechelle Voepel has more on the Delle Donne situation at her blog. I think she's been reading After Atalanta! Because she notes that Auriemma's comments make him sound like a bad coach. She still thinks he's great, others in the comments section of the post definitely see what I see: a coach who is a little out of touch with actual players and very caught up in the recruiting battles and a win-at-all-costs mentality.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pioneer collegiate wrestling program

Jamestown College in North Dakota is making a name for itself with its latest athletic department: women's wrestling.
Because it is one of the few and one of the first programs in the country, Jamestown has been able to recruit from all over the country. The state champion from Hawaii attends! Hawaii to North Dakota. Other schools should take that famous piece of advice from a classic movie: "if you build it..."
It might not be that hard to believe the dominant paradigm of women's wrestling in which people usually envision long hair, bikinis and some kind of viscous substance, is adjustable; but it is a little more difficult to swallow the idea Jamestown AD Lawrie Paulson has that there is no more novelty to women's wrestling. It may be acceptable on that campus now, but broader acceptance is a little more tenuous. Certainly many people attend out of curiosity; what they come away with depends on a myriad of factors--some of which have nothing to do with what they actually saw. Or rather what they see is formed by what they bring in.
One of the 17 first-years on the roster gets that when she notes that people expect to see manly women--large manly women; even if those very same people know that wrestling is divided by weight class. Just like there are large and small men wrestling, there are large and small women.
And most of these wrestlers have had to work against prevailing beliefs about what girls should and should not do and how they should do it.
And lest one think that these wrestlers are coming in as novices--think again. Many started wrestling--despite parental and administrative objections--in middle school!
Women's wrestling is here. It may not be an NCAA emerging sport, but I predict a pretty quick coming out.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Delle Donne ESPN interview

Greg Schultz has this column up at in anticipation of his interview with former b-baller, current University of Delaware volleyballer Elena Delle Donne. The interview airs tomorrow at 9am (EST) on ESPN. [Note to self: record that.]
I find it so hard to believe that people find it so hard to believe that Delle Donne left a sport in which she was a superstar to play something else; that she doesn't miss basketball; that she likes volleyball; that she does not long for the spotlight and adoration playing b-ball would have brought her.
And mostly I am talking to you, Geno Auriemma, who says:
"I don't know how you can play that much basketball and be that good at it and say, 'I hate it since the time I was 13.' To me, those two things don't go together … that you would be that good at something and not enjoy any of it. It's hard for me to come to grips with.
"I'm still not able to see how that makes any sense. I didn't understand it and haven't understood it right from the beginning."
And that is why I do not think Auriemma is a good coach--because he has a very narrow paradigm about what sport is and should be. I don't care about his win-loss record or his recruiting abilities. I care about his self-proclaimed lack of understanding; and his skewing of the situation: Delle Donne never said she hated basketball. She said it wasn't fun anymore. And her very success at the sport was what kept her in it for so long. And the narrow paradigms like those of Auriemma's was what made her constantly question her lack of passion when she was clearly the best.
Auriemma and others have practically pathologized Delle Donne and her decision to leave the best program in the country, to give up what surely would have been a successful and lucrative career in basketball. an opportunity to "write her own ticket."
I don't see why others do not believe burnout happens in successful youth players. It seems that it would be all the more understandable in standouts whose lives are revolving around the sport.
And the thing is is that Delle Donne has not left sport; she has not poo-pooed the value of sport in one's life. And she still has passion for sport. It just happens to be a sport she didn't train her whole life to play; a less high-profile sport; a sport that offers fewer opportunities for (the dominant version of sporting) success.
To me, it all seems pretty sane.
And there are others out there who see what is happening to young athletes. Mechelle Voepel's column this week highlights two other players who had similar but less high-profile departures from premiere collegiate programs. And she talks the Iowa State head coach who certainly gets it as well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A few tidbits

Baking and knitting and wrapping and shopping...
...oh, and shovelling and scraping.
Those are my excuses for my lack of posts this week. I saw an interesting story about a transwoman in a long drive (golf) competition that I plan on saying more about later. For now, just a couple things from the news.
First, current South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley (formerly of Temple and of course a US National team member/gold medal winner) has accumulated a few violations in her brief tenure. Doesn't look like anything major, but these things have a way of coming back to haunt coaches--especially the female ones.
A British-based website, Sky Sports, has done a year in review of professional women's tennis. I'm not sure I would agree that Venus Williams is the comeback player of the year because she didn't seem to ever really fall that far. The piece overall was a good reminder of the diverse array of talent that showed itself this year: four different slam winners and the most interesting matches occurring well before the finals.
There's also a men's review with an even more disturbing choice for comeback player: Roger Federer. But I agree with the writer that even though the best player in the world, Nadal, won the Olympic gold medal, tennis in the Olympics is just not quite right.
Over at the Huffington Post there's a piece about female fandom that briefly chastises the pink connection; it's mostly an aside but she mentions it twice.
That's all I've got for now.
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Check out NPR

Last week NPR had some interesting sports stories. On the 16th Fresh Air had a segment in which Dave Davies interviewed former NHLer Willie O'Ree who broke the color barrier in ice hockey about 50 years ago.
Also, last week Bill Littlefield of the Boston NPR station, WBUR did a column on the prospects of the WPS. He doesn't seem very hopeful for success for the new league given the current state of the economy. But, like any women's soccer fan, there's a hint of optimism and a strong yearning for a success against all odds story.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The African river running through women's basketball

I am glad that Graham Hays wrote about--insightfully--the coaching situation for women. He seems to get it: the lack of opportunities for women:
The point is how can anyone possibly suggest it's fair that a man hoping to coach Division I college basketball has more than 600 potential jobs to chase but a woman has half as many opportunities -- and has to compete against twice as many people for them?
And why:
God forbid a woman tells an 18-year-old guy he should have gone over a pick instead of under it.

Others he spoke with seem to be misunderstanding some of the barriers female coaches face. In the end, it does come down to the same sentiment about a woman telling a boy or young man how to play a "man's game." But it extends, of course, further than that to a general belief that women do not belong and the excuse that is frequently given is that they are not good enough.
So when administrators--both male and female--bemoan the lack of female coaches and say there are plenty of opportunities but women are not persistent enough, get easily discouraged, or just aren't interested to begin with.
Let's talk about the lesser salaries and, more importantly, all the crap female coaches have to go through when they work in male-dominated athletic departments. Is it really fair to have to "persist" through harassment, through less funding, poorer facilities, etc.?
Certain persons in athletic departments may think it's lack of character or something of that sort. But juries are starting to see otherwise. Check out the Title IX Blog and you will see the myriad of retaliation lawsuits female coaches are bringing against institutions. And they are winning them--regularly. This past week former volleyball coach at Fresno State Lindy Vivas won a multi-million dollar settlement for retaliation and discrimination. A softball coach at Iowa State, others at Fresno, coaches at Florida Gulf Coast University--they are all winning their cases.
See? These coaches do know what persistence is.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Annika's last tournament

Even though she didn't win the European Tour's Dubai Ladies Masters (another women's sporting event in Dubai--this is very interesting. What is it about Dubai?) Annika Sorenstam ended her competitive career with a very nice putt for birdie on the 18th last weekend. I missed all but the highlights of Sorenstam's day because I tuned in only in time to see the last groups finish the last few holes.
But the Golf Channel had a little Annika segment during their news show right after the coverage ended. And, for once, I was glad that women's sports get the short shrift from the media. Because the half hour news show which provides scores, highlights, etc. did the Annika segment first, which meant I did not have to wait around through all the boring stuff like the little tiff between Tiger Woods's caddy and someone else whose name I don't remember (Phil Mickelson's maybe) caddy. (Good reminder that the term "drama" should not just be applied to women's sports when we're talking interpersonal relations.) Of course, I should also be pissed. I mean we're talking one of the best people to ever play the game; someone who has been an amazing representative of the sport (without selling her soul or her body to do it) despite her clear need for privacy.
Most segments about the retirement of such a person would end a show. They would tease you for the first 20 minutes with what was "coming up" and then finally put it at the end. So it's a bummer Sorenstam didn't get that same treatment. But I was glad to be able to turn off the show and watch my DVR recording of an early L-Word episode. Mixed feelings, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Soccer PS

Must be nice to have job security in these economic times. That must be what Pia Sundhage is thinking. The US Women's National Team coach has had her contract renewed through the 2012 Olympics. That is a loooong contract in sports. And it's pretty impressive that is through both the World Cup and Olympics. Guess the powers-that-be must like what she's doing!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What's happening with the WPS

New year is going to bring the first season of Women's Professional Soccer. I had almost forgotten about it what with hockey and basketball well underway and golf winding down.
But there was this piece in the LA Times about US midfielder Shannon Boxx, who appears to be happier than ever and thus playing better. Boxx says that it has a lot to do with the arrival of Pia Sundhage. Not surprising given the havoc previous coach Greg Ryan wreaked (and I'm not just talking about the Hope Solo incident.
Not so sure about the opening line of the Boxx profile: "Shannon Boxx isn't as scary as she looks." Always a little concerned when black people are referred to as scary. It's a little loaded. Besides it's not her looks that make her scary, it's her playing style and skills that strike fear in her opponents. A big, in my mind, distinction.
Boxx is playing for the LA Sol, who, like the rest of the WPS, will be outfitted in Puma apparel, according to the Wall Street Journal. Players who are currently under contract with other cleat manufacturers will not have to wear the Puma shoes, however.
And as the article states:
That's just the start for Puma, which will have its name and logo on the league's balls, uniforms, goalkeeper equipment, even sports bras.
Apparently they are hoping for a Brandi moment at some point in the season.
So while Marta will be wearing Puma shoes--she's actually already under contract with the company. Players like Abby Wambach, who is with Nike, will not.
Wait, did someone say Abby Wambach? What is up with Abby Wambach?
Hard to say. Her allegedly official website has no injury update. So I have no idea where she is in her recovery. So just watch this You Tune video "Chillin' with Abby Wambach" and enjoy the pre-injured Abby looking pretty nice in her tank top as she makes pasta and discusses her unapologetic snoring.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Varsity versus club sports

There were so many things happening last week that I didn't get a chance to write about the brief article in the NYT about college club sports. I was reminded by the fact that I had to do so by the letters the NYT received about the piece.
First, the actual article. As I said, it was brief but quite interesting. Entitled "Dropped from Varsity Lineup but No Longer Grumbling," it featured athletes and teams that once had varsity status but were now club sports. Come to find out that it actually is not a fate worse than death. In fact, some athletes like it better. Some chose a school with a club program over an opportunity to play on a varsity team.
So refreshing given that so many complain bitterly about how sports are cut--due to Title IX, the argument goes--and this deprives so many students--mostly men--of the great experience of playing sports. First, playing sports is not inherently great. I am sure there are plenty of former athletes who could tell you about some pretty not great experiences. Second, playing varsity sports is not always the greatest experience. Student-athletes make a lot of sacrifices these days--a lot. Is it worth it for some? Absolutely. But this is not a universal feeling.
In other words experiences in sport are variable. Furthermore, I would argue that the experiences in high-profile intercollegiate athletics are not all that great for the majority of the student-athletes.
So it is not surprising that an "alternative" structure (i.e., the club sport model) is being embraced by some--including wrestlers.
Wrestlers, wrestling coaches, and fans of wrestling have been some of the most vocal opponents of Title IX because they believed that the law destroyed their sport. Except that it hasn't.
Jim Guinta, executive director of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, who himself was once a strong opponent of Title IX, said this in the article:
“Everyone was talking about Title IX effects, and I thought those policies might eventually level out, so our goal was to posture ourselves as a bunch of schools that were ready to be brought back. But some of us have come to realize that institutions have been using Title IX as a cop-out. The real reason they are cutting sports is to save money. So we still encourage teams to be reinstated in the N.C.A.A. if they can, but that’s rare. We’ve moved on and have a strong association of thriving wrestling programs.”
Say that again? A strong association of thriving wrestling programs?
So not only do club teams merely survive, or get by, they can actually do well.
The Title IX Blog also wrote about the article and includes, in their post, a critique of the piece.

Moving on...the brief article resulted in some letters to the sports editor, one on the issue of funding--an important aspect that was overlooked--and the other, not surprisingly from the president of the College Sports Council, who continues to engage in an anti-Title IX rhetoric based on a skewing of the facts. Eric Pearson is correct--there are more varsity teams for women than there are for men. But Title IX does not measure number of teams because teams come in a variety of sizes. Title IX measures opportunities--as in total number of roster spots among all sports. That is why his use of the term "counterparts" when speaking about men's and women's soccer has very little meaning. There is no requirement for fairness among players of a particular sport. Again, opportunity is measured in the aggregate. There are not as many men's soccer teams as there are women's soccer teams because there are other men's sports that have large rosters--i.e. they are taking up the spots. Sure, if I was a male soccer player I might be pissed. But if I was smart, I would be pissed at the 20+ guys on the football team who will never see a minute of actual play--or, more appropriately, at the administrators that think the presence of these non-playing players is okay when there are likely 20 men who would like a chance to play soccer.
Of course, if the NYT article is right, a lot of those soccer players could be having a great time on their club sport team.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

If it's hockey season...

...there must be someone behaving badly.
And it's true. Now that hockey season is in full swing there's news that goes beyond scores and amazing shots.
Last week (or so) I got an email from a listserv member that praised the NHL for suspending one of its players after he called his ex-girlfriend "sloppy seconds because she was dating another (or more than one other) NHL player. There was much excitement because those of us concerned with sport and social and gender justice are frequently disappointed by the response of administrators to bad, often misogynist, behavior.
Alas the email did not mention the parties involved. More research into the story revealed a few caveats.
The player in question is Sean Avery of the Dallas Stars who is a notorious bad boy. And, he's not really performing all that well--at least not well enough to compensate for the controversy he creates. So it's not a huge loss.
And the girlfriend in question is actually girlfriends: actress Elisha Cuthbert and model Rachel Hunter who are both dating other NHLers now.
In other words, don't expect the NHL or even a team to react similarly when it's a more valuable player and the woman is not famous. I could give you countless examples of situations in which organizations stood behind players under pretty sketchy circumstances while the woman in question was vilified. Anyone remember that guy Kobe?
Lest you think I am a Debbie Downer, I am pleased the NHL reacted very quickly and definitively when this situation arose. Maybe if a similar situation, with different characters, arises we can hold the NHL to the standard it set here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What I did this weekend

On Saturday I did a 5K that benefited a local organization that helps women and their families who have been victims of domestic violence. And though there was a snazzy mug designed by cartoonist Hilary Price who writes and draws Rhymes with Orange, I was actually pleased that the proceeds (over $55,000 I heard) went to a local charity and was put together largely by donations from local businesses. So many charity runs spend a lot of money on advertising and prizes/gifts that, in the end, take away from the actual charity.

In the afternoon I managed to catch all of the NBC special on the Paralympics. I thought it was good. A good mix of stories in terms of sports participated in, type of disability, race, age, and "success" at the Beijing Games. Of course the producers could not have known the outcomes when they chose the athletes--not entirely at least--so this may have been more chance than not. There was a good segment on how China has become more aware and accommodating of disability. It even made the Great Wall accessible and there was footage of athletes on the wall. I do wish the show had addressed the barriers various Olympic committees have put up for the Paralympics. But since it was an NBC program and NBC has a contract with the Olympics that it would like to keep, it was not surprising that it would not engage in a critique of Olympic committee decisions that have negatively affected the Paralympics and Paralympians.

In the evening I went to see Tru Loved, a movie about a girl who starts a gay straight alliance at her high school. I didn't think it was going to be about sport really but was surprised by how integral one of the main character's football team experiences were in the plot. There was an evil homophobic coach, a homophobic friend/teammate who had a change of heart at the end, and even a guest appearance by Dave Kopay, who I didn't think actually looked like Dave Kopay (at least how I remembered him from the Chicago Gay Games). But I was assured it was him. It was a cute story. Not great acting overall but some great guest appearances including Jane Lynch who I wish had been more of a presence.

Last night I caught the end of the Del Webb Father/Son Challenge; an annual golf event for professional golfers and their sons. Except that it wasn't just fathers and sons. Arnold Palmer played with his grandson. (Okay not a huge stretch.) Paul Azinger played with Aaron Stewart who is the son of the late Payne Stewart and Fuzzy Zoeller played with his daughter Gretchen. This is all to say that I think they should change the name of the tournament and maybe even let some mothers in! How old are Julie Inkster's children??

Friday, December 05, 2008

Paralympic special

NBC is re-airing tomorrow its 90 minute documentary on the most recent Paralympic Games in Beijing. The special follows the athletes as they train and then in competition in China.
Note that I found the news of the re-airing in the LA Times and am not certain NBC is airing the show in all time zones. In PT it will be on at 1:30 PM. In other words, check your local listings.
I've only read about the show; I have not seen it myself so I cannot say for certain how well it treats the issues. What I am wondering is if the documentary moves beyond or away from the typical two approaches to discussing and presenting differently abled athletes: the super crip stereotype and the victim approach.
I myself will be doing this on Saturday (still time and room to register if you're interested), but am going to try to DVR the show.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The "oy vey" moment of the week

I haven't paid much attention to the Lingerie Bowl that happens every year during halftime at the Superbowl. Not at the Superbowl, of course. That show features actual nudity (i.e. Janet Jackson's breast a few years ago). But for the bargain price of $19.99 you can order from Pay-per-View the Lingerie Bowl in which models play football in their nicely coordinated underwear.
I knew it existed but frankly it's just too obvious for comment: sexploitation of women, women-on-women action for the benefit of men (I don't want to hear about how this possibly might be "beneficial" to lesbians, too); perversion of women's sports, etc. Like most things associated with the Superbowl, I just let it go.
But now there's going to be a Lingerie Football League. Oh, yes; an LFL. It has eight teams.
First, if I was one of the women who played real football, you know with pads, for a league like the Independent Women's Football League, I would be so depressed right now. Like women who play football don't have a tough enough time trying to get legitimate coverage and respect for their athletic endeavors, now they have to deal with models in underwear and garters playing "real football"--you know, because it's with the regular rules and they tackle.
I don't have anything against people becoming involved in new sports as adults. In fact, I encourage it. But these women don't seem like they had a burning desire to play football their entire lives and were purely stymied by a patriarchal sport system that prevented their participation. The LFL is not helping women realize their dreams. It's helping men with theirs.
If you're a parent with a football-playing daughter, my guess is that you're not going to take her to an LFL game. That alone speaks volumes as to the "goals" of this league and the version of entertainment it is purveying.
The people involved better just own their sexploitative ways. But they're a tad defensive about this endeavor. At least president of the Sear Centre Arena, where the Chicago Bliss will be playing, is. The link above includes Jeff Bowen's comments that include how those who are critiquing the league are just holding something against these women because they are attractive.
Yes, that must be it. We all just hate the pretty people and resent them their beauty and are begrudging them their right to play football.
So it's not the LFL that sucks--it's the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Observations on the UConn game

So I am watching the Holy Cross at UConn game. UConn seems to be riding high after their resounding win over #4 Oklahoma last weekend which was aired on ESPN (or ESPN2--I don't remember). I only watched a few minutes of it at the end of the first half before I turned on the penultimate episode of Tru Blood*.
Tonight's game is being aired on Connecticut Public Television which airs a lot of UConn basketball, which is nice. Of course they also use the games as an opportunity for fundraising with pleas for money at every time out and half time. As with most public television fundraising there are incentives for various donations. CPTV is offering the in-demand (the first printing is already gone) media guide. Also there is an auction for a basketball signed by members of the team. In describing these items the CPTV host keeps referring to the players' numbers; as in "featured in the media guide is #31" and "the ball has been signed by #30 who we just saw score 5 points." Seriously none of the players--you know some of the biggest names in women's basketball like Maya Moore and Tina Charles--were mentioned by name. How weird is that. Makes me think the host is not so well informed about the product she is actually trying to sell.
Also not so strange, just disheartening. The pre-second half interview with associate head coach Chris Dailey who referred to her players as "guys" as in "these guys are going to focus on ____ in the second half." Another grrrr moment.
Well UConn is just destroying Holy Cross and since I cannot really root for anyone (don't like Geno, have a policy of not supporting religiously-affiliated schools) and this just isn't interesting in the least, I'm going to go catch up on my episodes of Heroes. Hmmm...there seems to be a pattern to my television viewing.

* I have not seen the last episode that has already aired. Please don't tell me what happens.

Why I love Annika

It's true, I haven't been paying a lot of attention to women's golf lately. I think I have been slightly deflated since Annika Sorenstam announced her retirement earlier this year. I couldn't even bring myself to watch the championships last week when I realized she was not going to make it to weekend play.

I have always admired that she balances so well her public life and her private life. That she has never needed to reveal details of her personal life in order to promote and be an excellent representative of her sport. Such balance is especially difficult in women's sports when the media are constantly trying to bring out the "other side" of female athletes in ways that can be exploitative and not frequently seen in the coverage of male athletes.

So when I get the LPGA's entertainment report that mentions its "Quick 18" (18 questions) with Annika Sorenstam in which we can learn more about her likes and dislikes and personal life, I get a little annoyed.

But I have to admit that I enjoyed it. They're all pretty much innocuous questions. And I realized that me and Annika--we have a lot in common. OK not the neat freak thing. But the relationship to dessert and calories for example. We don't count them and we eat dessert when we feel like it. It's unfortunate that she doesn't like celery but it's not a staple of my diet so I think we can work around that and even though she doesn't like clothes shopping, we both love Whole Foods. And Annika is coming out with a wine, a syrah. I don't like syrah--but maybe she'll do a nice pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon next.

And though I probably won't be buying the new Annika fragrance when it comes out in the spring (unless it smells like freshly cut grass and an ocean breeze--which I think would be appropriate), I'm still going to miss seeing Annika in tournaments.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

NOT subsidizing professional sports

Perhaps yesterday I should have noted that all the sponsorship dollars being subsidized by tax payer dollars are going to men's sports.
The companies who had various forms of sponsorship with the Houston Comets are off the hook. The franchise has folded in the midst of looking for new ownership. But no one would spend the money, it seems.
Women's Hoops Blog has some coverage of the Comets' exit from the WNBA.
And Mechelle Voepel has a very good column about how this does NOT mean the WNBA is in trouble.
Read them both for a more intelligent analysis of money and women's sports than I could possibly offer.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Subsidizing professional sports

So now that we're officially in a recession, let's talk sports!
There's been rumblings here and there about how sports might be affected by the then "bad economy." The NCAA has asked schools that need to cut teams because of crunched budgets NOT to blame Title IX in the process. Some are wondering if attendance at events might be affected--probably given that the rise in costs associated with attending a sporting event have risen well above the rate of inflation.
But let's talk corporate for a sec. All this bailout money to all these corporate giants has many people pissed--to say the least. What might piss you off more? If there is any tightening of belts--it isn't happening in the area of corporate sponsorship.
Citibank has no plans to get out of its 20-year naming rights contract with the NY Mets. The in-big-trouble financial institution is paying the Mets $400 million so they will call the field Citi Field. And insurance company AIG continues to pay Manchester United to put the AIG logo on the team's uniforms.
GM though did dump the quite expensive Tiger Woods from its roster of celebrity endorsers, in an attempt to cut costs. Maybe NOT getting bailout money IS a good thing. Certainly made GM cut some fat.
The efficacy of sponsorship and naming rights has always been questionable and now, more than ever, these practices are coming under increasing scrutiny.