Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thwarted by a string

I know the margin of victory in track and field events is often minuscule. People win by a proverbial hair or nose or something.
But losing by a string?
Or rather losing because one was wearing a string, in the form of a friendship bracelet? And not just losing the event, but losing the meet and thus the championship for one's team.
Oh yeah, and losing because the opposing team pointed out your "jewelry" which required your disqualification and gave the tattle tale coach's team the victory--by default. That's rough.
And that's what happened in California a couple of weeks ago when pole vaulter Robin Laird successfully cleared a height that gave her team the win in the meet and the league title. She was wearing a friendship bracelet when she jumped, an infraction (because it is considered jewelry), that cost her team the aforementioned accolades when the opposing team coach, let's call him Coach Machiavelli (since I just finished reading The Prince), pointed out said jewelry.
There is some question as to whether Coach Machiavelli saw the bracelet when Laird was preparing to jump, which she did twice because she stopped herself in her first attempt down the runway only to return to the start, compose herself, and clear the bar on her first attempt of the day.
After she landed and started walking away amidst cheers, Coach M pointed to his wrist and Laird was disqualified.
Where do we start with this one? The perversion of youth sports? The weird messages young athletes are receiving not from professional athletes with suspect morals and problematic relationships to the term "role model" but from their own coaches??
And how about gender? Yep, I'm going there. Not sure whether a female coach would have responded any differently. Women want to win, too. And we are not exempt from Machiavellian tendencies. Some coaches may even embrace them in order to remain in the profession. But would there have been a different tone on a female-coached team that would have said, yes, a rule was broken, but we don't want to win this way? Would there have been more space for even a discussion of the incident rather than that provided by Coach M who pointed to a piece of string and said "we win" subjecting his entire team to his decision to enforce this rule. And please don't come back to me with a "rules are rules" rationale. Everyone knows the "rules" are created by a certain body of people with certain privileges and are applied differently to other groups and individuals based on a whole 'nother set of factors.
This story isn't astounding. No one got physically hurt--or worse. There were no parents yelling or attacking coaches, refs, each other. No athletes behaving badly. But it makes me a little melancholy nonetheless.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Somewhere in those rules, "jewelry" should be defined. If it isn't, that is a big oversight. And if all "jewelry" is defined to be, or assumed to be, forbidden, that doesn't seem quite right, either.

Also, why is jewelry forbidden in the first place? Do you have to remove a tiny piercing from your eyebrow? And who is going to know if a player has a pierced navel?

I am a "rules are rules" person, but the rules have to make sense, and they have to be very well defined.