Monday, March 29, 2010

Am I a bad blogger?

Well I haven't blogged in a week even though we are in prime women's sports time with the NCAA basketball tourney, an amazing women's Frozen Four, the beginning of the LPGA season in the the immediate answer is yes.
But the question was actually inspired by the interview with Brittney Griner by ESPN's Holly Rowe that I watched last night after the Oklahoma/Notre Dame game. And it struck me as I watched her speak so well (granted the Baylor PR people probably have been spending a great deal of time with her) about "the incident" that is still practically a child. Granted she's a 6'8" child who is now one of the most-watched and discussed female basketball players in the country. I know she's a legal adult and one who is responsible for her actions. And she has certainly taken responsibility for them--good and bad.
But as someone who is known for a certain acerbic cynicism often directed at athletes, and coaches, and administrators, I paused when I heard Griner's interview. While I myself have never written anything bad about Griner, all this publicity post punch has made me wonder just what kind of responsibility writers, commentators, and bloggers have when discussing college student-athletes. Big-time college sports are all too easily equated with professional sports because of the money involved. And though the athletes are not being paid salaries, they are very much public figures. But too often the media--and by extension public--treatment of them, especially when they do something bad, does not take their amateur status into account. Look at the media eruption last fall when soccer player Elizabeth Lambert was caught on tape engaging in some not-so-nice tactics against BYU players.
Thankfully the Griner situation did not devolve in the same way, largely because Griner was not sexualized in the same way as Lambert was (and we could and probably should talk about why this was--but not now). And Griner's performance in the tournament thus far has gone a long way in mitigating the punch she threw. But things could have gone differently. Again, big-time sports equals big-time media coverage and too many people are not remembering that these athletes are college students. And college students do a lot of stupid things. And yes, they should be held responsible for their actions. But they shouldn't be dragged across the coals by indifferent media folk--bloggers included. So this post serves mostly as a reminder to my own blogging self. Others can take it as they please.
And since Griner was the impetus for this post, here's a great column on her by Dave Zirin. And since I gave Zirin a hard time last year for his gender faux pas in calling UConn the Lady Huskies, I will give him props this year for noting (unquestioned) gendered language in the term freshman. Indeed Griner is not a man though you wouldn't know it by listening to all the commentators talking about players "defending their man" and such. Maybe Zirin will address that in his next column!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Because I didn't comment...

...on the Brittney Griner "incident" here, I thought I would at least point you toward a thoughtful column on the issue of violence in women's sports.

Friday, March 19, 2010

These people at Smuckers are just f&*%^ers

I know that this story is already out there but it deserves more discourse. Plus it allows me to think again about the Olympics which seem so far away now, especially in this very odd 60+ degree pre-spring weather I am experiencing.
So the story is that Johnny Weir was not asked to participate in the Stars on Ice Tour sponsored by Smuckers and the Discover card and organized by Scott Hamilton. Party line is that there is not room for him--which we all know is a crock of [low-quality, sweetened-with-high-fructose-corn-sugar jelly].
The allegedly family-friendly show is more worried about Weir's unabashed flamboyance. Apparently Weir has been trying to get into the show for years, but keeps being turned down. Smuckers denies the allegations which have been taken up by GLADD, too.
Stars on Ice has been deemed one of the more conservative shows as compared to, for example, Champions on Ice, in which openly gay skater Rudy Galindo once performed seemingly without issue.
Note that Weir chooses not to label/reveal/explain his sexuality. Poor guy wants to be postmodern, post-identity politics and he's stuck in one of the most conservative, reactionary sports. I feel the skating powers-that-be so closely police gender because skating has so much potential to be gender-bending. You cannot, if you are a woman, be too feminine, as Tonya Harding knows and, if you are a man, you cannot be too masculine--a paradigm Evan Lysacek has clearly benefited from.
It's all so ridiculous. Smuckers is just another schoolyard bully hiding behind a corporate logo. They are punishing a male-bodied individual for not being masculine (enough). They are sending a message by not including Weir that only certain types of men are acceptable. (I find this somewhat ironic given the fey little boy in their commercials who goes around smelling the fruit.) Also they are affecting his livelihood because he chooses not to conform to certain norms, especially the rigid ones around gender established by the figure skating community. It is well known that Weir provides significant financial support to his family. Now, in what is likely a post-competitive career, Weir will be earning money from events like skating shows. And he should be able to make a boatload because he is extremely popular and an excellent performer--and he has a great agent. But his perceived sexuality and his performance of gender is already clearly having a negative effect. Who's not being family-friendly now?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Do we really have to applaud this?

Last year I noted, probably more than once, that President Obama neglected to fill out a women's bracket. I wrote about how problematic that was at the time.
This year he has done both brackets. And Christine Brennan is practically drooling in her congratulations to the president. [OK that was slightly exaggerated, but I have been forced to watch a lot of ESPN lately so I am trending more toward hyperbole. I will try to tone it down. But sometimes Brennan's happy happy just makes me crazy crazy.]
I mean, come on, he should have done it last year. He should have at least admitted, perhaps as he congratulated the Huskies and played pick-up with them at the White House, that he made an error in judgment and participated and perpetuated the general societal ignorance of American women's sport. But no. I heard no such things. [Happy to be corrected, of course.]
So good for you President Obama, for doing the right thing that should have been the automatic thing if you really believed all you said about gender equity.

By the way, I've filled out three women's brackets this year, and two of them are for women tourney pools only. I have to compensate for all the people who only fill out men's brackets.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Paralympics

Did you know the Paralympic Games began in Vancouver last Friday? OK, I forgot too. Though I knew they were forthcoming.
On March 7, the Globe Magazine ran a Q&A column about American sled hockey player and UNH student (woo-hoo!) Taylor Chance, who plays for team USA.
I haven't seen where there might be television coverage of any of the Paralympic events, but if you know of any, please share.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

If it's March that must mean...

...we're going to get a lot of lip service about gender equity in sports. Yes, if you're an intercollegiate basketball fan, it's a good time of the year. If you're a basketball fan (or a quasi one like myself) and a fan of gender equity, it's kind of frustrating.
The good news is that ESPN changed its ticker (a while ago) to NCAAM and NCAAW. The bad news of course that goes uncommented on during the tournament is that it is nearly impossible to find coverage of women's basketball on ESPN during the regular season. I'm not talking about game coverage. They do air games on a semi-regular basis. But on highlight shows such as Sports Center. There is no conversation about the games when the games stop airing.
But this is just ESPN who has to make an effort because they actually air all of the women's tournament. The men's tournament is on CBS and ESPN.
Other media outlets do not have the same commitment. This I realized once again today when I tried to figure out when the selection shows were airing. I knew one was today and one was tomorrow. So I googled.
And what I found most prominently were articles about Selection Sunday. And thus I knew that Selection Sunday was the men's selection show. Because there was no adjective involved. And there was alliteration. Men get alliteration; women get adjectives and Monday time slots.

Then add to all this the discourse about UConn's streak accompanied by all those serious faces and pursed commentator lips about whether this is good or bad for the women's game and there's going to have to be a lot of index finger action this tournament--pressing the mute button.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is: Because it's boring?

That's the Jeopardy version of the answer posed by MSNBC columnist Mike Celizic who asked "Why no buzz about UConn women's reign?"
UConn demolished the University of West Virginia last night. UWV stayed close throughout the first half and a little bit into the second, then I turned my head away for a minute or two and it was pretty much over. I kept the game on for background noise as I finished my dinner. Then I turned on a rerun of the season finale of Glee wwhich was still more interesting but shared one similarity with the game: I knew how both were going to end.
The Big East tournament was pretty much in my backyard and I didn't go because I didn't want to see UConn demolish everyone in its path. (Well I almost went to see Rutgers play Saturday because C. Vivian is my favorite!--but I was tired and cranky.)
Absolutely the lack of interest reflects the sexist culture we live in. And while there has been some media coverage of the streak most of it implies--or outright states--that the women's game lacks depth. It's a half-feted attempt (Ha!).
Notice the similarity to another recent "controversy" in women's sports? Yep kind of like all the attention the Canadian and US women's hockey teams received during the Olympics. Same debate, different week.
And again UConn is under no obligation to back off. And I am sure they wouldn't given who their coach is. (Another reason why I think perhaps the streak is not that covered--Geno Auriemma just isn't well nice or media-friendly or humble.) But everyone should look at why, given the popularity of basketball in this country, there isn't more parity in the women's game at this point.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Bringing a Dinah to the Final Four?

I don't even know why it took this long for someone to turn one of the other lesbian-fan dominated events into a big lesboganza. But this year in San Antonio where the women's Final Four is being held, an enterprising lesbian from San Diego is hosting a big par-tay for all the women loving women out there. And it's being hosted by Curve and (a website for female fans of women's sports). And the honorary chair is the only truly out coach, Portland State's It's called the Final Four Fling and promoter Jody Sims is hoping to make the Final Four a Dinah Shore-esque event.
So now the only question is which group is more queasy about being associated with lesbians: women's golf or women's intercollegiate basketball?
Doesn't matter, really. Throw them a party (loosely) affiliated with a sporting event, and they will come.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

So many issues, so little... You thought I was going to say time, right? But no, this column from the Toronto Star highlighting the 10 hottest "babes" of the Vancouver Olympics raises so many issues and I just don't have the energy to address all the hackneyed arguments about why it's so ok to run these types of columns.
So just two things.
The author, Rosie DiManno, makes a point of noting her gender in the introduction saying that political correctness landed this column topic in her lap over those of her male colleagues. I've said it before, and now I must say it again, just because you're a female sports journalist does not mean you have any kind of commitment to women's sports or an inherent progressive (not that decent equitable coverage is an especially progressive notion) feminist philosophy. One of the arguments about why there is such poor coverage of women's sports is that sports media is a man's world.
Adding more women, some argue, would make things better. Not so much, I think. Rosie DiManno certainly isn't doing women's sport any favors here. To get ahead in the business of sport journalism and broadcasting as a woman you have to play by the rules and be better at the games that men invented. You can't be a feminist! Or at least you can't let on that you might be. You have to do your job better than most of the men and you still get criticized about your looks, a la Hannah Storm last week, or people become so obsessed with your looks that they film you naked through peep holes a la Erin Andrews.

The second thing from the column was Hannah Teter's defense of her photos in SI. "I was really amped up to do that because I don't believe in the criminalization of bodies and women having to be ashamed of their bodies. That's so wrong." [Note though that Teter didn't actually make the top ten.] I guess I was particularly disappointed because Teter is touted (I just have to note the beautiful alliteration there) as an activist. For example part of the proceeds from her underwear go to helping Doctors Without Borders working in Haiti.
I wish my panties could help save the world.

h/t to Sean for sending me this lovely piece of sport journalism.

You can and you should... keeping pressure on the NCAA to keep itself disentangled from Focus on the Family. As noted last week, the ads on have been removed but there is still the possibility that television ads will run during the men's NCAA tournament on CBS which has an advertising deal with Focus on the Family.
Here's a video explaining the situation in greater detail. It also includes, at the end, how you can (and should!) contact the NCAA to voice your concern.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Bullying, gender expression, sexuality and Johnny Weir

I've been thinking a lot about bullying lately. I live in an area under intense scrutiny for a recent bullying event that lead to a suicide in a local school. It is the second such incident in about a year in my area. The film Straightlaced about teens who do not observe conventional gender norms and often confront bullying because of it is being shown at a local theater this weekend, partly in response to these incidents.
And these things have made me think about Johnny Weir. He was pretty much overlooked in Vancouver. This was not surprising. The US Skating Federation has never really appreciated his outspoken ways and neither have other conservative factions of the international skating community. This was his last Olympic games. His style of skating is not rewarded under the current scoring system (which is desperately in need of another overhaul I think. Curling is easier to understand than how jumps and spins and footwork elements are scored!)
I have been watching Johnny Weir's reality show on Sundance which is a continuation of the documentary Pop Star on Ice which I saw at the Provincetown Film Festival last summer and LOVED! So I am clearly someone who appreciates Weir's style and personality. Others do not. And that's fine. But the remarks being made publicly by commentators are getting out of hand.
And it happened again in Vancouver when two male Canadian commentators launched into a discussion of his costumes and skating style that devolved into them suggesting he take a gender test and maybe even skate in the women's event.
And you may not like Johnny Weir but he handled that situation better than pretty much anyone else I can think of would have. He didn't ask for an apology; he said they were entitled to their opinion. And then he made them--and hopefully anyone else who has ever said such things--feel really bad. He said he hoped that they would think next time before they opened their mouths to talk about such things. Not think about him and his potential hurt feelings, after all Weir noted that he's "heard worse in bathrooms and whatnot" about himself. But about children who, like himself, do not conform to normative gender standards. Because many of those children have not had the benefit of supportive parents who raise them to be strong and who love their children no matter how they express themselves. Weir notes the good fortune he has had in having such parents.
So while it is clear that Johnny Weir experienced various forms of bullying--some on a public stage--he was able to get through it because of a strong sense of self that was nurtured at a very young age by his family. But he is right to call out those public figures, like commentators, who are contributing to a homophobic, misogynist culture in which children not as fortunate as Johnny Weir, suffer great emotional and often physical harm because of who they are or who they want to be.
I think it's wrong that Weir was pushed aside in Vancouver. But I am glad that some media outlets are recognizing his fabulousness that manifests in more than just his costumes.