Friday, December 31, 2010

Poetry Friday

A Song for New Year's Eve
by William Cullen Bryant

Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay—
Stay till the good old year,
So long companion of our way,
Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong,
Has now no hopes to wake;
Yet one hour more of jest and song
For his familiar sake.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One mirthful hour, and then away.

The kindly year, his liberal hands
Have lavished all his store.
And shall we turn from where he stands,
Because he gives no more?
Oh stay, oh stay,
One grateful hour, and then away.

Days brightly came and calmly went,
While yet he was our guest;
How cheerfully the week was spent!
How sweet the seventh day's rest!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One golden hour, and then away.

Dear friends were with us, some who sleep
Beneath the coffin-lid:
What pleasant memories we keep
Of all they said and did!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One tender hour, and then away.

Even while we sing, he smiles his last,
And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
Oh be the new as kind!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One parting strain, and then away.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Auriemma backlash

Sure, the moment I get on board with some of Geno Auriemma's antics, others turn on him.

There have been some interesting responses to Auriemma's comments about the gendered nature of the streak his team broke last week. gathered the thoughts of its contributors and talked about it on 1st and 10 where one commentator called his comments not-so-nice. They didn't seem particularly mean to me but...

Skip Bayless thinks that Auriemma's characterization of the "miserable bastards" (and why Bayless has a problem using the word bastards is kind of curious to me) is wrong. That men who don't care about women's basketball just don't care enough to be upset about this--that they just ignore women's basketball all together. Probably true to some extent. But it's hard to ignore something that even ESPN is making a big deal about. And the fervent naysayers don't seem to be so zen about the breaking of the streak.

My--hopefully--final thoughts on this: I think the word comparison is problematic. Comparing feats and streaks and accomplishments across sports, eras, players, coaches, programs, etc. is never a fruitful endeavor. It usually only provides a few minutes of fodder on sports shows and the occasional column in a newspaper or magazine. Remember when Pete Sampras was compared to Laver? And now it's Federer versus Sampras and the name Nadal has even snuck into the conversation. Is Chrissie Evert better than Martina because of her clay court streak? Is Graf better than Navratilova because she has more individual Grand Slam titles?
Mary Lou Retton versus Nadia Comaneci?
Such comparisons are utterly subjective. So everyone can stop saying "apples and oranges." We're all aware that fruit comes in different varieties. Streaks are streaks. They all mean the same thing: that someone(s) did something really, really well. Let's just appreciate that.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Poetry: Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Things to know about gender equity in the Olympics

A most excellent piece of writing from Canadian Laura Robinson who details not only the case of the women ski jumpers (ongoing given that the IOC has not deemed them worthy for the 2014 Olympics) but other inequities in the Olympic Games. What we often see/hear is that women are allowed to compete in almost all the same sports as men these days. But the number of events within those sports often vary drastically. Check out her article for the break down.

The Part II

Right, so what I ran out of energy to say yesterday and decided that I couldn't really fold so neatly into the context of that post...
I noticed that the coaches of all four semifinalist teams in the NCAA DI women's volleyball championship are men. Before you scream "femi-nazi" let me note that I don't think men are inherently evil or malicious* and thus not qualified to coach women. I think that various systemic impediments, though, make it easier for men to coach women and these issues are not being well addressed. And really? All four of the best teams in the nation have male coaches?
Volleyball, by the way, is the second most popular women's intercollegiate sport (behind basketball).
Women currently comprise just under 56 percent of the head coaches of women's volleyball (across all divisions). This is almost the lowest percentage since the late 1970s. (All data is from Carpenter and Acosta's longitudinal study of women's intercollegiate athletics.) In DI volleyball the percentage is just under 51.
OK enough with the's not my forte anyway.
So I was kind of disturbed to see former v-baller Karch Kiralyi doing the commentary for the tournament. Kiralyi is a board member of the Fairness in Sports Foundation. Fairness in Sports is dedicated to bringing back the "original intent" of Title IX. Of course the original intent of Title IX was to make sure women were not discriminated against in hiring decisions in educational institutions. But FISF does not like the use of Title IX to "promote" athletics on campuses even though they tout their male board members as working to fight against the elimination of men's athletics. I could go on about how they call themselves Title IX advocates...but another time and probably another place.
Anyway, I don't think ESPN should let people who actively campaign against equitable participation of women in sports, cover women's sports.

OK, now you can say it.

* Some are very good guys in fact. This piece on Penn State coach Russ Rose is a good read.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Basketball, volleyball, coaching, streaks, and some other things

Because Mechelle Voepel so adroitly wrote about the connection between Penn State's volleyball championship this weekend and UConn's streak-tying win over Ohio State yesterday, I thought I would attempt to talk about multiple, somewhat related, things in one Monday morning post.

In general, I have avoided this whole streak thing because it seems like a no-win situation. (Check out One Sports Voice for Dr. Lavoi's oh-so-precient thoughts on how this would be discussed.) But now that it's here... (I was so hoping Baylor would have prevented this moment. Alas, accept and move on.)
Regular readers--including the haters--of this blog might want to sit down. But I agree with (some of) what Auriemma has been saying.
First, on the issue of hyper-media coverage:
"There is way too much attention that is placed upon things and events that the average person, if you used common sense doesn’t really cares about. Do we really need an hour show to figure out where a guy is going to play? Do we need 5 hours on how a guy runs a slant pattern in the red zone? Do we need 5 guys discussing whether a guy is going to take a snap or not? Do we need 7 doctors what his ankle looks like? Really who cares? But that is the culture that we live in."

And on gender:
"I just know there wouldn't be this many people in the room if we were chasing a woman's record. The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men's record, and everybody is all up in arms about it. [...]
All the women are happy as hell and they can't wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that loved women's basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record are all here because they're pissed."

So I've softened a little (I'll still be rooting for Stanford December 30). At least Auriemma has an awareness of the gendered implications of all this.

OK, I think I'll do a Part II about Penn State rather than smush it all in here.
Stay tuned.

Acknowledgment and changes

Last Friday I briefly mentioned the upcoming conference at MIT's business school and the lack of female panelists.
Word on the street--and by street I mean one of the listservs I subscribe to--has it that conference organizers are aware of the dearth of women and trying to rectify it. Hannah Storm has been added to the conference along with the CMO of Gatorade who is a woman. (There are still, as far as I can tell, no women of color on the panels.) But apparently the organizers are open to suggestions for panelists. So please send them via the conference website which can be found here.

Also a little advice to the conference organizers: please fix the website. I would not think an elite business school would want to be represented by such poor web design/execution.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Congrats, Penn State!

Just finished watching the Penn State volleyball team win their fourth consecutive NCAA championship. I only caught the last set. The second one looked close and interesting.
Sports Center came on right afterwards. The story has yet to be mentioned and we're over a half hour in to the show. A team just won its fourth championship and no word--let alone analysis and highlights. I did find out about the latest trades in the NBA though and the football game between Wisconsin-Whitewater and Mount Union.
Good thing we have ESPNW to click over to...
Oh wait, ESPNW is only a website right now. Guess no one told ESPNN (normative) that they can't completely ghettoize women's sports--yet.
Congrats, anyway, Penn State. Don't worry. The print coverage will be better.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who's in charge?

I received a notice about a conference happening this spring at MIT on sports analytics.
The goal of the conference is:
To provide a forum for industry professionals (executives and leading researchers) and students to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the sports industry. MIT Sloan is dedicated to fostering growth in this arena, and the conference enriches opportunities for learning and understanding the sports business world.
Their website is a little wonky right now but the main page scrolls through the list of featured speakers, which is quite impressive. And quite male. When I went initially there were no women scrolling by. Now there is one, ESPN columnist Jackie MacMullan. I don't know if more women were invited and turned down the offer or if more women will be added to the program.
But it's disturbing that this conference is so male- and Caucasian-dominated. (My initial impression is that there are three men of color and one woman.)
Like I said, the website is having issues, so I cannot really figure out what they will be talking about at the conference (the panels and research paper sections are blank). But I am curious and worried. I don't know if women would say anything radically different in a conference like this. Most women who are in business are there because they know how to play the game and not rock the boat. Still, I am having flashbacks to the Blogs with Balls Conference (which I only read about) this past summer that was almost entirely comprised of men and the atmosphere of which was clearly created to appeal to men. Both conferences give the impression that women do not care about these issues and that they are not involved in these businesses.

Friday Poetry


Rita Mae Brown

I took the woman's face
To be the roadmap of her self,
And rode past temples of beauty
through schools of thought
To a soft meadow of kindness
And I would have laid my body there
But from my own green kindness
Instead, I laid my soul.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All about NPR this morning

Well I'm all about NPR every morning, but this was a particularly good morning. Frank Deford's commentary focused on women's team sports versus individual sports. He discusses the way in which women's teams sports are (barely) tolerated and how those women who play with racquets or wear figure skates or put on a bathing suit are more revered in this culture. He has some interesting takes on this phenomenon:
And it's not so simple as the old glass-ceiling analogy. No, it's more emotional: teams represent our city, our college. They represent us –– the old team spirit. So, for many gentlemen, having a team of girls representing us is too much to bear.

And to be frank, female fans have themselves miserably failed their sisters; they've not yet come to support women's teams as men do their own athletes.

But, he notes, the UConn women's basketball team is changing that.

The Huskies force people –– men and women alike –– to at least think about women's teams. The idea. Little girls see UConn and they realize they don't have to pick up a tennis racket or a pair of figure skates. By being so good, UConn has not just transcended its sport, but it's doing a number on tradition. On sexism, too.

I don't know if little girls are so unaware of team sports. I think a lot of little girls play sports like soccer and ice hockey and basketball and baseball and softball. I think the issue comes as they get older and they realize their participation in these sports is--at best--not highly valued and, more nefariously, creates questions about their femininity and sexuality.

But on to the second NPR moment of the morning: a feature on professional women's ice hockey. I was quite pleased to find out, earlier this fall, that Boston now has a team. I almost made it to a game in November, but my car conked out. But definitely in the new year I plan to see the Boston Blades, the team that was featured on Morning Edition. The Blades play at various New England sports including Harvard, where Blades defense person Angela Ruggiero is an alum. And also at UNH where defense person Kacey Bellamy, forwards Sam Faber, Michaela Long, and Shannon Sisk (and me!!) are alums. Also, they have a game schedule at Wesleyan next month. Check out the story that aired this morning. And then check out the Canadian Women's Hockey League.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Poetry Friday

From the Books of Bokonon:

On the creation of Bokononism

I wanted all things
To seem to make some sense,
So we could all be happy, yes,
Instead of tense.
And I made up lies
So that they all fit nice,
And I made this sad world
A par-a-dise.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fired soccer coach draws protests

News out of Belmont State in Tennessee last week included the announcement that women's soccer coach, Lisa Howe, resigned under pressure from university administration.* The impetus?Howe's same-sex partner is pregnant. The issue of "can they do this?" is complicated by the fact that Belmont is a private Christian university. So we shall have to see what--if anything--comes in terms of legal action.
Meanwhile, Howe's situation has sparked some action. Students at Belmont have staged a sit-in at the university president's office. They are urging the university to stop discriminating against gay people. Of course the university and Howe say that Howe's departure had nothing to do with sexuality. Hmmm...
Despite this argument, the university faculty senate, in the wake of Howe's departure, passed a resolution stating that gay and lesbian faculty and students should be welcome at the university.
We shall see what more comes of this...

* A new statement says that Howe was neither fired nor resigned but that she and the university officials came to the decision that her leaving the university would be mutually beneficial.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Poetry Friday

The last two lines...

Amy Lowell

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


So, as somewhat expected, the LPGA players voted to eliminate the organization's "female at birth" participation policy. Yesterday the group decided, prompted by the recent lawsuit by Lana Lawless, to change its ways.
So, yea!
I don't have much more to say on this one. I recommend everyone take a look at Pat Griffin's blog where she has posted an open letter to the LPGA commending their actions and urging them to carefully consider what the new rules will look like, i.e. she asks them to consider a policy other than the Stockholm Consensus, the IOC's policy which mandates surgery.

The Ivies really do try harder

Thought this column at the Huffington Post last week was quite interesting. Apparently Jonathan Cole's piece on recruited student-athletes in the Ivy League is the third in a series, but I missed the first two. Nevertheless, this one was enlightening.
While I knew that the Ivies do not give out athletic scholarships, I did know that many recruited student-athletes are "taken care of." What Cole notes is the high attrition rate on teams. After being recruited and accepted and maybe playing a year (or not) some athletes decide to stop playing sports and focus their attention elsewhere. Because there are no scholarships or aid given based on athletic team participation, they do not experience a financial loss. I am not saying--and I don't think Cole was implying this either--that these students are working the system; getting into an elite school based on their athletic abilities and then ditching athletics for a great education. And Cole also notes that while some athletes have SAT scores lower than their class average, they are still higher than scores at other DI schools.
What was really surprising was that roughly 20 percent of any class is comprised of recruited student-athletes. Compare this figure to Pac-10 schools where only 5 percent of the entering class is recruited for athletics.
Cole offers other eye-opening facts and then offers some suggestions, like leaving only a few elite sports to compete at DI and dropping others down to DIII, cutting ties with the NCAA, reducing the number of recruited athletes, and cutting sports. The Ivies carry significantly more teams than other schools. Even after making cuts this past year, Harvard has over 30 intercollegiate teams.
Cole correctly notes that teams do not make money for the schools and that alums who are former athletes are not any more likely to donate money to their alma maters (though they are more likely to make a lot of noise when teams get cut). But he also notes that the reasons athletics were established and valued at the Ivies were because of that whole sound mind/sound body philosophy. So does it matter how much teams cost? It should matter only how athletics are being executed at these schools (and all schools, I would argue). And Cole's suggestions for managing intercollegiate athletics are good. (Though I don' think the Ivies would be able to so easily bid adieu to the NCCA--especially if they want to keep a couple of their sports at the elite level).
But definitely some good information and points to ponder--you know as the college bowl season is upon us and coaches' contracts are up for negotiation and next year's first years are being actively recruited...