Saturday, February 28, 2009

But the girls say no

Well actually it was a boy who said no (we can have a a discussion another time about the number of men in administration in women's softball). President of the International Softball Federation, Don Porter, has rejected baseball's proposal for a joint bid in the Olympic games.
It was a pretty quick decision. The respective presidents met on Thursday (remember at baseball's urging), Porter said he would think about it and then issues a press release Friday morning saying, "no thanks." (Makes one think the ISF was never really into this plan.)
ISF believes its best chance for reinstatement is to prove to the IOC that they are not baseball. When they were voted out in 2005, members of the IOC thought the two sports were basically the same and had the same governing body.
Softball also wants to stay away from baseball's doping scandals, which have not waned (i.e. Alex Rodriguez) and which will likely keep baseball out of contention.
In short, baseball was hoping softball's good girl image would rub off on them and softball is worried that baseball will keep dragging them down.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Now they want to play with the girls

Softball and baseball both got voted off the Olympic roster at the same time and since that time both have been trying to get back in. Of course they need to overcome whatever (somewhat ambiguous depending on the account) issues the IOC had with them in the first place. They also need to compete with other sports vying to join an already packed list of summer sports.
The two sports had been pursuing separate bids, trying to earn the only two spots available for the 2016 games.
But now the baseball federation has called up the softball federation asking them to consider a joint bid.
Hmmm...why do the boys need the girls all of a sudden? Baseball clearly thinks it will have a better chance of getting back in if it rides softball's coat tails back into the games. Must think it has an image problem. Wonder why.
Softball seems a little wary. But it will be meeting with the baseball peeps to hear what they have to say. We'll have to wait to see what softball says back.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dubai follow-up

I kind of got blogged out with all the Dubai stuff but in my hiatus I missed one of the major stories: Andy Roddick's withdrawal from the men's tournament.
Roddick, who was the defending champion,withdrew in protest over the denial of Peer's visa.
I almost thought this was an Onion-esque joke when I first heard it. Because there doesn't seem to be a lot of cross-gender support in professional tennis--and there never has been: recall the Billie Jean King/ATP riff in the 70s.
If Andy Ram had been denied a visa, one could see perhaps see a little more of a direct connection to Roddick's actions.
I'll admit to not being a Roddick fan. I liked him when he first came on the tour and was coached by Tarik Benhabiles. I liked him when he dated Mandy Moore. But when he hooked up with Brad Gilbert and then Connors, I thought he started to become the stereotypical arrogant male athlete.
But you have to give him credit for this act. There seems to be nothing self-serving in it. He lost a lot of points in the rankings race because he didn't even attempt to defend his title. He likely got a fine for withdrawing from the tournament at the late date and without injury or illness.
And in the end he did more than any of the female players did the week before.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Calhoun clarifications

Looks like I wasn't the only one interested in the financial figures Jim Calhoun put out there the other day.
[Oh, and I was wrong about his salary: it's $1.6 million; not $1.7 million. My bad.]
Also, the $12 million he referenced was not, as I hypothesized, the combined men's and women's revenues. I should have known better than to assume the head of the men's program actually knows or cares about what's going on on the other side (unless of course it negatively affects him).
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (h/t to EBuz), Calhoun's $12 million figure comes from the revenues reported in the Equity in Athletics data Act plus the $5 million from corporate sponsorship.
This reveals some of the issues with the data collected by the Department of Education. Basically, it doesn't tell the whole story. Obviously the $5 million is income but it doesn't get reported under revenues. Also, as Calhoun himself noted, he earns a lot more than $1.6 million because he too gets corporate perks (a la Nike dollars) and money from camps, etc.
The only thing I am left wondering is where the Chronicle got the $6 million in expenses number. My findings still show $2.3 million. But as someone in the comments section of the article (which, for a short piece, was getting a lot of reader attention) noted often the expenses figures do not include things like arena upkeep or debt and other costs associated with facilities.
In short, we have a lot of numbers but nothing that reflects reality.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Coaches as state employees

So here's an interesting twist on the current economic situation--you know, the one that is affecting almost every state budget, including Connecticut. UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun gets paid $1.7 million a year making him the highest paid state employee in Connecticut.
And a reporter called him on it the other day in a post-game press conference and Calhoun was not too pleased with the line of questioning. (See You Tube video below.)

There is talk every once in a while (usually around the time that a new million dollar plus contract gets negotiated) about the amount of money coaches make but this seems to be a new lens through which to look at the situation.
Not a lens Calhoun was interested in a taking a look through. After he got over his initial lackluster defense (just shut up!) he noted that they bring in $12 million to the university. Of course he meant the combined basketball program. Men's basketball brings in $7.3 million. And its expenses are $2.3 million. In other words, it earns it place.
But is that really the debate? Because Calhoun's program brings in more than it costs, does that merit his salary? After all, a university is supposed to be a non-profit. That philosophy would seem to suggest that it shouldn't matter how much a program earns. After all when a student or students come to the university specifically to study under a certain professor, that professor doesn't go about saying "look how much I make for the university."
Of course athletics lives by different rules and that is what this debate really centers on; the different standards and, of course, the different expectations.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Conferences of interest?

I don't know why I haven't posted about conferences of interest before. But better late than never.
In less than a month in Ithaca, NY, Ithaca College is hosting a conference on sport and sexuality. It's too late to submit an abstract, but not too late to attend.

The graduate students in the Department of Kinesiology at University of Maryland are hosting their second annual Physical Cultural Studies Student Conference this spring. The theme this year is The Body, Health, and Society. Abstracts for the April 24 conference are due March 15.

I know I have received word of others, and if I can find the info, I will certainly post it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Some politics must have been played

Looks like Andy Ram, a tennis player from Israel, will be allowed to play in Dubai next week. There was question over whether he would also be denied a visa into the United Arab Emirates as his countrywoman, Shahar Peer was this past week thus preventing her from playing in the Barclay's Dubai Women's Championship.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Another victim of the economy

The not-that-old (9 months) Sports Museum of America, home of the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center, has closed. The for-profit museum apparently wasn't making much profit and the owners are seeking a buyer--it could be a steal for $10 million, if you're interested.
Apparently you would need to come up with a new marketing plan though; the lack of effective marketing is the reason given for the museum's closure.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Equality in London

Been talking a lot about gender equality in the winter Olympics with the ongoing fight by female ski jumpers* to get their event into the 2010 Vancouver games.

But this column is talking about equality in London 2012 (which is slated to be the last Olympics for women's softball). Nothing too startling or nuanced but a reminder that in this alleged age of equality, post-feminism and all that there are still only 124 events in the summer games compared to 164 for men.

Also, the Title IX Blog has a post today about a recently published law review article that considers applying Title IX standards to the Olympics. It's an interesting proposition.

* I did go to the ski jumping event last weekend and took pictures but I am still waiting for my computer to get fixed so I can upload them.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Old story, good outcome

So this is literally an old story--this letter from the superintendent of Gill-Montague School District in Massachusetts--was released at the end of 2008. And it's an old story too in that schools with "traditions" involving the degradation of Native Americans are usually loathe to abandon them.
But Superintendent Ken Rocke has suspended the district's use--specifically the high school (Turners Falls High school)--of the fight song and accompanying tomahawk chop.
Rocke, at his first football game as superintendent, was a little surprised to see the chop and hear the fight song. And since that time he convened a group of students, teachers, and community members, including Native Americans, to discuss the use of the song and chop.
Rocke does an excellent job if explaining the reasoning behind the decision without overtly shaming anyone. But it is clear from the way he so carefully goes through the argument point by point that he has gotten a bit a of crap for the decision.
At a public forum in January it seemed like most people--including students--understood why the song and chop were being taken away. Although one student tried to downplay the violence by saying that the song unites the athletes, the students and the fans and that they are not thinking about violence when the band plays it. She was the drum major. As a former drum major, I have to say I am disappointed. But given that most of the students understand why it is offensive and have learned about the history behind the violence and oppression against various Native American nations, it seems like Turners Fall High School sees that the right decision was made. Hopefully they will move on and build community around the creation of a new song and new traditions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The more I read, the less I know

So this article about the Dubai tournament does not cite boycott as the primary reason for Peer's visa denial, but one of several reasons. It seems that the main concern was security--as in fear of violence. Not the same thing as a boycott. If no one shows up, there wouldn't be much need for security, eh?
Attention though has now been turned to the pending Andy Ram situation with the ATP already stepping in asking the UAE do "do the right thing."

A boycott?

As Diane at Women Who Serve noted yesterday, the reason for Shahar Peer's visa denial by the United Arab Emirates was because tournament organizers feared a boycott by fans.
I was a little surprised by this revelation because I didn't think tennis was all that popular in the United Arab Emirates in the first place. And given Islamic rules on the presence of women in not a lot of clothing, I would think it just wouldn't be a huge issue because not a lot of people would turn up anyway.
Weren't all these issues raised when the announcement about WTA tournaments in the Middle East (Qatar and UAE) was made?
To me it seems the issue would not be losing a lot of fans, but of finding a lot of people gathering in protest.
As has been reported elsewhere, next week Israeli Andy Ram, who is arguably less well-know than Peer, is slated to play in Dubai. No word on how that situation is playing out.

What the WTA is going to do

Well give WTA officials some credit. They are seriously talking about taking the Barclay's Dubai Championships off the tournament schedule because of the recent controversy over the visa denied to Israeli player Shahar Peer.
Unfortunately, the reason given by WTA head Larry Scott is because the actions of the united Arab Emirates goes against the principle that sports and politics should not mix. Ironic given that pulling WTA support for the tournament will be a political act by a sports organization.
Peer herself is espousing the "party line":
I think a red line has been crossed here that could harm the purity of the sport and other sports. I have always believed that politics and sports should not be mixed.”
This kind of reasoning is why athletes are so unlikely to take a stand against an act like this. This is why no player would dream of supporting Peer by, say, withdrawing from the tournament. Peer is lucky this time that the WTA is on her side. But if it wasn't, she would be on her own--no organizational support, no peer (pun slightly intended) support.
Support is also coming from media outlets. The Tennis Channel has opted not to broadcast the tournament this weekend. But it's also sticking to the no politics in sports line.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What will the WTA do?

I like to talk about activism and political stances taken (or not taken) by athletes. But I don't talk too much about organizations or governing bodies. Once upon a time governing bodies in a variety of sports refused entry to South African athletes because of apartheid.
But there hasn't been such a concerted effort to make a statement about a country's politics since. Perhaps that is because global politics are a tad more complex now. Or maybe it's because no one has the courage to do so anymore. There was, of course, a lot of attention paid last summer to China's complicity in Darfur but, in the end, no country, no athlete refused to go.
There was some talk last summer in England about keeping Zimbabwe's teams and athletes out of various competitions. But that never materialized either.
So it's not all that surprising that the WTA has kind of just brushed to the side the issue of Shaheer Peer's denial into the United Arab Emirates to play a tournament. Peer was supposed to play in Dubai this week at the Barclay's Dubai Championships, but the UAE would not grant Peer, who is Israeli, a visa. This, of course, could be seen as a sanction against Israel for its recent actions in Gaza. But it was not an announced policy decision by a governing body; not a formal sanction. It appears to be a country taking action against one athlete.
The WTA has a policy of not holding tournaments in countries which would deny a player who has legitimately qualified for a tournament entry. And yet here we are in Dubai--the tournament goes on--seemingly without any protest by players or tour administrators. The WTA has said that it's going to review the situation.
Part of that review will likely be of finances. The tournaments in Dubai, despite their lack of crowd appeal, are lucrative deals for the WTA and the players. We shall see how the issues of politic, economics, and ethics play out here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What "women athletes" are good for

So I thought this article was going to talk about how the presence of female athletes in the SI swimsuit issue which can out last week diminishes the accomplishments and skills of female athletes. But it only seems to allude to the presence of female athletes in the swimsuit issue while praising female athletes for not being swimsuit models:
Marantz (a sportswriter) believes women athletes appeal to men because they work hard. They combine form with function. On the other hand, he thinks swimsuit models appeal to men because they appear never to work, they have no function other than to shill.
He believes men who find women athletes sexy are more apt to accept women in all their dimensions.
"Athletic women sweat; they blow snot from their noses, spit, grunt and lose their temper."

But the way this piece positions "women athletes" (note that no one ever writes "men athletes") it is as if they are there solely for the benefit of men. Some men like athletes, some men like models. Good thing there are different types of women out there to please all those men with differing tastes. Also this Marantz guy seems to think that women's sports appeal to men because men can relate to their skill level. As in "oh, I can do that" versus men's professional sports where mere mortal men cannot possibly hope to accomplish those feats. Because, you know, I am sure most men watching at home can run up and down a soccer field and head balls just like Abby Wambach.
And then Marantz thinks that some men like women who know and do sports so they can take these women to sports bars on a Sunday afternoon.
Good thing there are female athletes out there for those men who are interested.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Upcoming events

So in addition to the totally cool ski jumping event happening this weekend, there are other interesting events coming to New England in February.
Nest week, Jenny Mackenzie, who did the documentary "Kick Like a Girl" is coming to the area. She will be screening the film and speaking at UConn on Tuesday the 17th at 7.
The next day, the 18th, the film will be in Northampton, MA for KidsBest Fest, a children's film festival. (Not sure if Mackenzie herself will be there as well.)
The movie will also be screened at the Brattleboro (VT) Women's Film Festival in March.

On Tuesday the 24th, the Boston Breakers coach and former national team coach Tony DiCicco will be speaking about "positive sports coaching" at Masconoment High School in Boxford, Massachusetts. Too bad there has to be a special talk on positive coaching--one would thinking the coaching should always be positive but, of course, most of us know this not to be the case.

That's what I've got for now. Happy to post events whenever I hear about them so let me know if there's one that I should advertise.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Right in my backyard!

Who's going to VT this weekend? Me! Wanna know why??
'Cause there's a ski jumping competition there--with women competing.
I am usually never this fortunate but who knew Brattleboro, VT had one of only 6 regulation ski jumps in the US. Not me.
There's a competition at Harris Hill this weekend, the 14th and 15th (I'm going Sunday afternoon) and there will be women competing.
This is quite exciting for me as I have been following the female ski jumpers' attempts to get into the 2010 Olympics. (Here is one of the most recent stories about the campaign--though, as far as I can tell, it does not report any new news.)
And I've actually never seen ski jumping in person. I saw the jump when I was in Salt Lake City in 2002 but the competition had ended by the time I got there (to see luge which shared the mountainside venue).
Here is info on Harris Hill and here is the competition schedule.
Hopefully I will have pictures next week!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Swimsuits are on the way

The dead of winter. It's cold, it's dark. It's time for the SI Swimsuit Issue to help guys make it through the coming months.
And three female (redundant?) professional tennis players. Following the footprints of the sand of players such as Venus and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchova, Tatiana Golovin, and Maria Kirilenko will all appear in this year's issue.
All three have done modeling gigs/shoots before so it seems odd that Hantuchova would say that she was pleased by this opportunity to have people see her in a different light--off the court. Because frolicking on a beach in a bikini (maybe not even the whole thing as SI is infamous for those oh-so natural poses of women placing their hands over their breasts--'cause we do that all the time, you know) is a great way to show your fans who you really are.
Golovin thinks it's an honor.
Guess we'll have to wait until the issue comes out to see what sides of these players we are really seeing and how honorable it all is.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exploitation, expenses and exercises in legislation

I usually do not care all that much about the exploitation of athletes. Sounds harsh, I know. But I operate from the basic premise that many athletes are exploited, that the level of consciousness of such exploitation is variable, and that those who are aware have done their own cost-benefit analysis. Of course there are plenty of discussions just waiting in those three statements--but they aren't happening now.
In light of NCAA president Myles Brand's recent statements about commercialism and the exploitation of athletes and a radio commercial I heard not too long, I thought I would at least comment briefly on commercialism and intercollegiate sport. Note that it's not an area I am particularly well-versed in beyond the basics.
That said, Myles Brand has some concerns over the current economic hardships. At the recent NCAA annual meeting (at which he was absent because of cancer treatments) his state of the organization address (delivered by proxy) touched on the troubling times. He had previously, in a statement, addressed the economic hardships and warned schools who needed to cut teams not to blame Title IX for the budget woes. But this most recent speech warned athletic departments to watch out for exploitation in their attempts to increase marketing and thus revenues.
This is a touchy subject because what one is marketing when one markets college sports is a team comprised of amateurs--student-athletes to be precise. People who are not getting paid (in the traditional way) for their efforts. So a school engages in a campaign to bolster revenues by advertising its assets--its teams and often the stars of those teams--the All-Americans, the leading scorers, the current players on streaks. And hence the potential for exploitation.
The other day I heard, from my local DI institution, a radio ad from their alumni department seeking alumni support and they used their teams as the selling point. Help the school help the student-athletes who become ambassadors for the school. Help sell the school; help the school; help the student-athletes. It becomes a little confusing about who is being helped by whom but it's clear that you are supposed to support the school because of the work by student-athletes. Again, work for which they don't get paid.
But this isn't exactly what Brand is concerned about. Though he is concerned. His address announced the formation of a committee that will focus on issues of commercialization. The worry right now seems to stem from outside entities--like networks--making money off of the promotion of individual student-athletes. But, of course, the committee will likely have to address other aspects of commercialization at some point--because they are so numerous: merchandise (like jerseys with players' names/numbers); ads in stadiums; etc. And maybe even alumni association solicitations--eventually!
But the only plan to address the potential exploitation is NCAA legislation. More rules. More chapters in the handbook (how big is this thing now?). More meetings about the rules. They all seem like little fingers in the big capitalist dyke. I sure wouldn't want to be an athletic administrator right now.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Caring to compare

She did it. Pat Summitt got her 1,000 career victory last night.
There was a lot of hype as the numbers of wins starting creeping toward 1,000. It was/is good for women's basketball--all the attention. ESPN was on high alert.
Unfortunately some people thought that comparing Summitt to male coaches of men's teams wasn't quite fair. (You know I was in a good mood until I read this piece--now I am testy again.)
Because this local sports writer feels that it's just not right that Summitt be deemed the best ever over other coaches--other coaches who happen to be men:
What irks me is ESPN is giving me the impression that Summitt is the best college basketball coach of all-time because her victory total is greater than John Wooden, Dean Smith and Bobby Knight — reinforcing it by having Knight sit next to Summitt and telling her how great she is.
ESPN is doing this on purpose to get people like me riled and create controversy, therefore creating better ratings for women's basketball since women's hoops is not always a ratings bonanza. This is wrong, because it is not fair to compare Summitt to men's basketball coaches.

Yes, it's a big conspiracy to play on the insecurities of men like you.
The actual controversy in bringing in Bobby Knight is comparing a good coach like Summitt--not in terms of wins, but leadership--to a coach with, let's call them, questionable tactics. Writes Mechelle Voepel:
Oh, great. They’re bringing in - to broadcast what could be a historic win in women’s hoops - a former coach who once put a tampon in one of his player’s lockers in an attempt to shame him into playing better.”
Because, of course, what could more clearly convey “you’re weak and pathetic” to a man than suggesting he’s like a woman? What could possibly be more humiliating than to be a woman, right?

In the end, I don't know if Pat Summitt is the best coach evah (as we like to say in MA). What are we judging by? Well the standards keep changing. People who say she is not are often people who like to tally the number of wins and equate that with being the best. Yet, they won't apply that standard to Summitt for a myriad of reasons such as her age (22) when she started coaching. The implication there that becoming a coach of women's basketball when she did was easier, less competitive. Maybe, but it was also harder because there was very little institutional support.
Best ever is always going to be a matter of opinion and of values. I don't think Bobby Knight should ever be deemed best ever because, well he's a jerk (that's my euphemism for the day) and personality and leadership style counts. Make a rubric, make a standard. It will always be up for debate.
Too bad Pat Summitt's achievement is being marred by yucky comparisons and pettiness.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

How do we celebrate?

Yesterday was National Girls and Women in Sport Day and I had not planned to address it mostly because all the stories about the day focused on local events. I am glad that such events were so widespread and many involved university/college outreach to their local communities.

But I must be feeling a bit testy, a tad radical or just a little like an advocate with horns, tail, and a pitchfork. Because I saw this list on the website of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance and wasn't quite sure I could get on board with all ten suggestions for how to celebrate. Some of them are great--yes, please buy sports equipment for girls. I love seeing tiny baseball gloves in homes of small girls--even though I cringe when they are pink--at least they are there.
I wasn't quite so sure about the watch a women's sporting event on television and then call the station to thank them for carrying the event. It just seemed a little...well...desperate--and girly. Oh thank you, thank you--how can we ever repay you for giving us what you should be doing anyway!! I understand the point behind it--we need to let media outlets know that we are paying attention to women's sports. But it seems kind of ridiculous that we have to call up the television station.

And, sure, buy merchandise of your favorite women's teams. But note that sometimes it's hard to find stuff--at the intercollegiate level anyway--that specifically says "women's" on it. And there's usually only one option. So let whoever carries this merchandise know you want more of it. And second, make sure the merchandise isn't from a sweatshop. Don't support women's sports at the expense of other women.

Those are my only specifics. Everything else makes sense. It just all sounded a little too goody-goody. It sounded a little apologetic and passive. We still have to be nice to the merchandisers, and the television stations, and the newspapers, and the sponsors so they throw us a bone in the form of the occasional airing of a basketball game featuring two well-known teams; or give us a sweatshirt; or maybe three inches in the middle of the sports section. It's all so frustrating.
Okay, that's it. I'll be less testy tomorrow--maybe.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Disturbing news from NC

File this under the category of "if you thought we don't need feminism anymore..." The memorial dedicated to Kay Yow on the campus of NC State was defaced last weekend. The mural that featured a portrait of Yow had a blue mustache painted over it and the words "cancer rules." Lovely. It's kind of scary that a woman, even in death, is such a threat to those who fear women in power.
No word on who the vandals may have been but some blame fans of UNC who were playing the men's basketball team at NC State that day.
The mural has since been fixed.