Monday, January 31, 2011
Anyway, this piece is out of Boston University, which is currently the home of the number one hockey team in Hockey East. And it's not the men's team. The BU women's team is doing quite well this season. (Far better than my own UNH Wildcats. Sigh.) What's more impressive is that the women's team is new to the Hockey East scene. Not brand new. But less than 5-years old I believe. And they have zipped to the top of the contender list quite quickly. One might argue about depth in the women's game and it's true that other conferences have, in recent history, been stronger than Hockey East for the women, but the DI women are producing some great hockey overall and the names at the top of their respective leagues seem to change every few years as the sport grows at the youth level.
But I digress. The writer of "Girls vs Boys: Is a Goal Still A Goal for a BU Team?" does a good job questioning the lack of popularity of the team at a well known "hockey school." She even dug up attendance stats.
There are a lot of reasons for the lack of attendance. I won't go into all of them. But women's hockey generally does not get good attendance. I never buy tickets to women's games ahead of time. Because I don't have to. Sometimes, like when I go down to UConn to see a game, I don't have to buy tickets at all--it's free.
It's especially hard when it's a new team. UNH women get decent attendance. The hockey fans there are pretty savvy. They know the good rivalries, the history, etc. But the UNH program has a much longer history and has the benefit of being part of a "hockey school."
Promotion is also an issue. I don't know how well or what BU is doing in terms of promoting their women's team. But one could argue that a new team, a new women's team, needs more promotion than the men's team. Everyone knows about the men's team. They fill the seats; they sell out. They are one of the four teams that competes in arguably the most well-known collegiate hockey event, the Beanpot Tournament, every year. (There is a women's Beanpot too, by the way. It does not take place at the TD North Garden.)
My cursory examination of the schedule suggests that the women's ice hockey team is not getting prime time game slots. Most of their games are played mid-afternoon on the weekends. Not as easy to get fans during this time.
But the most disappointing thing that Lisa Dukart's article revealed was the "no comment" from BU women's coach Brian Durocher about the situation. Durocher clearly is an effective coach if you look at what he has done with the program in such a brief amount of time. He is a BU alum, a former assistant coach for the men's team. BU's keeping it in the family, which is fine. But Durocher must be adjusting to seeing a different side of the family dynamics now that he's sitting on the women's bench. It's likely a difficult position. Is he going to speak out against his employer and accuse BU of not offering enough promotional support? But can he really mark success when only a couple hundred people show up for games--at BU? A good coach goes...to the goal (I guess is the appropriate sports analogy here) for his players. Has Durocher done that? At the very least, now that he's part of women's sports, he needs to learn both some history (if he doesn't already know it) and how to answer address the issues that women's sports, women's ice hockey in particular, face.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Yeah, that doesn't apply here. Because I was happy when I found it and furious when it was taken away.
I was quite pleased to turn on Comcast Sports Network to see WBB: Baylor versus Big 12 rival Texas A&M. And it was a good game. And there were only 5 minutes left, which was great for me because I am not a huge basketball fan and I have a lot of stuff to get done this afternoon. But bonus for people are more devoted than me and good for me for exactly what I needed. Plus we all know the last 5 minutes can last--well much longer than that.
And it was close--and it remained close as the seconds ticked away.
And then CSN cut away.
Are you freakin' kidding me? I yelled at the television. (And yes, I did really say freakin' because it's Sunday. This has nothing to do with the lord but with the fact that the new school week starts tomorrow and I need to clean up my potty mouth before entering a classroom. )
And what did I get to see instead? Another game? Another nail biter? No, my friends, the Celtics pre-game show. A pre-scheduled 30 minute show for a game CSN wasn't even airing.
So I went to Baylor's website to listen to the last 3 minutes. Baylor won.
It's such a slap in the face. We all know how little TV time women's sports receive, and we get this game on in the middle of a Sunday afternoon--when there is no football to compete with--and it's a great game between two rival teams ranked in the top 10 nationally. But we don't get to see the end. It is such a startling example of how little networks care about women's sports.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I love Stevie Smith's poems. "Not Waving, But Drowning" is one of my favorites. But it is fairly well known so here is another.
IN MY DREAMS
In my dreams I am always saying goodbye and riding away,
Whither and why I know not nor do I care.
And the parting is sweet and the parting over is sweeter,
And sweetest of all is the night and the rushing air.
In my dreams they are always waving their hands and saying goodbye,
And they give me the stirrup cup and I smile as I drink,
I am glad the journey is set, I am glad I am going,
I am glad, I am glad, that my friends don't know what I think.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova last week in Melbourne and nursing an elbow injury she has had since Wimbledon last summer was apparently enough to make Henin reconsider this unretirement. I've never been a huge fan of Henin's, but her comeback was a little bit interesting--if only momentarily. I thought it--along with the comebacks of Clijsters, Hingis, and Davenport (with their respective and varying levels of success)--spoke more to the issues with the tour and women and professional sports more generally.
What will I remember about Henin?
The first time I saw her. US Open playing Anna Kournikova, whom she beat. She wore Le Coq Sportif back then (I have this weird memory for sports fashion) and had on a hat (which she continued to sport throughout her career). She was not as powerful and polished back then. But the one-handed backhand stuck out.
The French Open hand incident against Serena Williams--which I think the press made a little too much of for a little too long. Though it was not a shining example of sportspersonship and the perception of her as a little bit devious continues to inform my impressions of her.
And her throwing in the towel against Amelie Mauresmo at the Australian Open, which I think the press did not make enough of. That pretty much cemented my anti-Henin feelings. And the defenses of her behavior and demeanor that were explained by the perpetual discussions (not in her control I realize) of her bad childhood made me think that therapy would be more beneficial than sympathy.
In short, I'm not going to miss her.
Oh yeah. Rennae Stubbs announced her retirement as well. Though I couldn't find any news coverage of it. The Australian doubles specialist has been playing only doubles for some time now. She turns 40 March 26 (we share a birthday!! Though I will NOT be turning 40, for the record). Stubbs is out as a lesbian, though that never seemed to be mentioned much--at least not the way it makes news with other players (King, Navratilova, Mauresmo). Perhaps that has something to do with her affinity and success in doubles and not singles. She, like other players, was also kind of stealth about it. But apparently she has come to "embrace" her sexuality even though she is adamant that being gay is not a choice because no one would ever choose to be gay. I find the choice rhetoric problematic, but I hate the "no one would choose this" line--especially when it comes from someone as privileged as Stubbs.
I know reflections on retirement are supposed to be a little more positive. But I can't muster a whole lot of good words right now.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
But apparently there was discontent from the start.
Like Elena Delle Donne (though, yes slightly different, I know), Walker thought she didn't just want to play basketball any more--or at least that is what she told people last fall. But also like Delle Donne, turns out she just doesn't want to play for UConn allegedly because of the pressure and scrutiny. It seems that UConn was her mother's dream. Walker is headed to Kentucky where she will be eligible to play in spring 2012. She has already made the move to Kentucky and is a matriculated student. She will be practicing with the team.
Obviously Auriemma has spoken about the situation as have some unnamed sources. But we'll never really know what happened, in part because it likely remains pretty confusing for those involved, including Walker. It's unfortunate that Walker seems to come off as a petulant teenager. I can't imagine the pressure of having to play in such a spotlight when you're basically just a kid, especially when the spotlight wasn't one of your own choosing. This situation should not be put solely on the individual, or on UConn (you're shocked, I know). What kind of industry has emerged here where tenth graders are deciding they just aren't interested in basketball anymore even as they are receiving letters from DI schools? When parents are urging their kids to go to schools they might be comfortable at just because they are good basketball schools?
Moving on...a the larger problem arguably is that UConn could be looking under the cushions of all those dorm couches for some extra change--$3million worth. Major donor Richard Burton is asking for his money back--the money that went to building the on-campus facility where the football players train and play. It's the one that bears his name--a (purchased) honor he no longer desires.
What could be causing all the strife? Burton's input on the new football coach apparently was not given enough consideration. He apparently does like the choice of the former Syracuse coach, whom Burton's own son played for years ago. (Is this some kind of high-powered revenge scheme/pissing contest?) Burton wrote a letter to UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway expressing his discontent and presenting his demands. But it's not really common practice to let donors, well, take over the decision-making process after they have donated.
I guess we should be talking about petulant middle-aged white guys. In part of the letter (the entirety of which can be found here) Burton (who is the football program's number one donor a fact he mentions at least four times) writes:
“Your lack of response on either of these requests [to discuss the search] tells me that you do not respect my point of view or value my opinion.”
Welcome to capitalism, Mr. Burton, where often respect lasts until the ink on the check dries. I am pretty sure it's a system you have helped perpetuate and benefit immensely from.
Burton has sought legal counsel and has outlined his 8-point plan for taking money away from the football program.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
We all know by know the dress controversy and the controversy over the controversy.
Owens points out that part of the problem is that we (women's sports fans, sports fans generally, maybe even society generally) are so stuck on a few faces that it becomes a problem when one of the faces makes an early exit--a la Venus Williams after her leg injury to that muscle that so few of us even knew we had. Of course Owens could be accused of being a little American-centric here. After all Kim Clijsters is still around and any follower of women's tennis knows her face and story.
But her overall argument is on target. So few female athletes get any kind of star billing and when they do, they stay there. Good for them, not so good for women's sports. The newcomers and now-players aren't put in the spotlight in women's sports the way they are with men's sports. If Alex Morgan were a guy, she'd be getting a lot more press right now. (Yes, I am going to make you Google Alex Morgan just to prove my--or Owens's--point.)
This is one of the saddest moments in the piece, in my opinion:
Candace Parker is the biggest name in American women's pro sports today to Dr. Phillips freshman basketball guard Taryn Griffey.
Griffey, the daughter of Cincinnati Reds great Ken Griffey Jr., dreams of competing on Parker's level one day and she's on the right track so far. She leads the No. 1 ranked Panthers in scoring and rebounding – an impressive feat considering she is just 5-feet-5.
I asked Griffey to name other recognizable faces in women's pro sports besides Parker. her first pick.
"I can't think of anybody," Griffey said after a long pause.
Two points about this exchange.
One, who you were taught to look up to and exposed to matters. Griffey comes from a pretty privileged background in terms of access to sports. She clearly could have been exposed to women's sports, but she wasn't.
Also, still sad that so many female athletes take on--almost exclusively--male athletes as role models. I don't quite understand how Griffey (I don't mean to pick on her, I feel like I am using her more as a concept in this moment) can admire Candace Parker but not know any of her teammates or rivals.
I guess this goes deeper than just some press about a dress.
Monday, January 24, 2011
There's this good post about how tennis player Caroline Wozniacki turned--in a very humorous and playful way--on the press after she was criticized for being boring in her press conferences. I have long waited for players who called the press on their inane questions. Wozniacki did it brilliantly without coming across as spiteful or arrogant.
But the post that really made me feel like Leeks and I could be besties was this one: Australian Open Drinking Game.
Highlights from the game:
- Take two drinks each time Kim Clijsters’ child is mentioned
- Take five drinks when Jim Courier makes a sexist remark about his wife, someone else’s wife or one of the female players. (I didn't know JC got married. So much for my theory that is gay.)
- Have a drink when Andy Roddick touches himself
- Have a drink when Rafael Nadal picks his bum
- Have a little sip when Lleyton Hewitt yells C'mon (I don't want you to pass out before you get the satisfaction of seeing Lleyton get beaten)
- Take a drink when the commentators mention a female tennis player’s outfit.
I mean someone who sees Courier's sexism, the male players' little touching tics, the commentators' annoying behaviors, and who dislikes Hewitt too! Looking forward to reading more on Off the Court. (I just need to figure out what it means to skull one's drink.)
Friday, January 21, 2011
Evelyn Scott (1893-1963)
Black brooms of trees sweep the sky clean;
Sweep the house fronts,
And heave them bleak in sleep.
High up the empty moon
Spills her vacuity.
My long black shadow
Weaves an invisible pattern of pain.
Is embroidered with my happiness.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
But the commentators love to talk about them and whether they are inappropriate and/or ill-fitting. Glam Gal posted the commentators' discussion:
John McEnroe: "I think that dress has distracted [Venus]."
Dick Enberg: "It’s distracting you."
McEnroe: "That’s a fair point."
Enberg: "It sounds like it might be a distraction to her opponent."
McEnroe: "Well, she’s tugging at it. She’s uncomfortable with it."
Mary Carillo: "She uses that fabric a lot in her designs, John. And for the last couple of years we’ve seen her have to correct her outfit after every point."
As Carillo notes, Venus has been tugging on her clothes for a long time. I can recall when she was still with Reebok and wore that blue and black top at the US Open one year that a keyhole in the front that she was always tugging up.
A few points. One, Venus still manages to win matches, Grand Slams even--throughout her tugging phases. Amazing! In other words, this isn't really an issue for anyone other than the commentators looking to construct a story.
Two, those short shorts that people seem so concerned about--even though they are black this time and not nude as they were in France and NYC last year--they look remarkably similar to the short shorts that female intercollegiate volleyball players wear--and sometimes tug at. So if you think Venus is a bad role model because she's showing a lot of leg, well someone should talk to whomever is mandating the uniforms in intercollegiate volleyball, not to mention the aptly named butt-huggers that female runners wear in competition. (Note that the men in both of these respective sports wear shorts that are longer.)
And finally, the tugging. Andy Roddick tugs at his shirt sleeve after every point. Every point. No one is calling that distracting to him or others. No one is suggesting--besides me and, I think, my mother--that he get a better-fitting shirt. And of course there is Nadal's tugging at the back of his shorts, aka picking his wedge. Has anyone suggested--aloud on television--that he get bigger shorts? (And if someone has, PLEASE let me know because I want to track that down.) Even if someone has mentioned it, we're not talking about it every time Nadal shows up in a new outfit at a Grand Slam. And, of course, the most infamous of all the tugging: Jimmy Connors tugging at his crotch after (nearly) every point. Should we go back, watch some old matches and count how often Connors touched his junk???
So the white men can tug wherever and however much they want without constant critique but not a black woman apparently.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The Gazette January 17, 2011 Re: "Pivotal year for Sharapova" (Gazette, Jan. 14).
No sooner is the engagement ring on her finger and already we're wondering if this will somehow compromise Maria Sharapova's ability to play tennis? Not to mention the commentary on Kim Clijsters's talent remaining intact since she got married.
I don't recall this concern surfacing when Mike Comrie of the Edmonton Oilers married Hilary Duff, or when Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators tied the knot with Carrie Underwood. No one wondered what effect the change in marital status would have on their hockey skill and capability. As well, it doesn't look like anyone is wondering if sporting a wedding band will affect Sasha's Vujacic's ability to play basketball.
When will we ever get over the silliness of such double standards?
Maria Algeri Pierrefonds
Monday, January 17, 2011
The Women's Basketball Coaches Association is responding to the findings by establishing an ethics committee that will examine the compliance rules around coaches' behaviors and players' experiences.
Isn't this kind of exactly what female physical educators and administrators were worrying about in the 70s and 80s when women's sports were being brought into the NCAA model? Not an especially satisfying "I told you so moment."
Oh, yeah, it also seems that student-athletes, especially DI football players (bowl subdivision), are devoting too much time to their sports. Football players are spending more than twice the amount of time on their sport allowed by NCAA rules. Baseball, men's basketball, and women's basketball are also exceeding the 20 hours per week rule. This is not shocking. Similar data were discovered four years ago.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Being Young and Green, I said in love's despite:
Never in the world will I to living wight
Give over, air my mind
Hang out its ancient secrets in the strong wind
To be shredded and faded—
Oh, me, invaded
And sacked by the wind and the sun!
Thursday, January 13, 2011
And that is the key to this announcement. These women have decided as a group to make this move. It was not Mendoza on her own. Or just two or three of them. It is Mendoza, Caitlin Lowe, Cat Osterman, Monica Abbott, Natasha Watley, Lauren Lappin, Andrea Duran, and Vicky Galindo and the rest of the current national team.
So here are my curiosities. What's the story behind this story? All the players who blogged about this discussed it being a very difficult--if not the most difficult--decision. They clearly were forced to make it. But by whom? Where's the schism? Why isn't there more conversation and support between the professional and amateur sides of the sport--given that everyone talks about the need for the sport to stay viable at the national and international level?
Second, who's going to be on the national team this year? Who will take the positions? Is this going to be another moment like the US National Soccer Team experienced in the 90s where other scab-like people come in? Does such a tension exist in this situation? Is a younger, in experienced national team a good thing? Is this part of the growth?
Last, Mendoza's blog link came across my Google alerts as ESPN (blog) but the link takes you not to ESPN but to ESPNW. ESPN has a short AP story on its site under Olympic sports. I had to do a search to find it. Softball isn't even a category on ESPN.
Friday, January 07, 2011
from 21 Love Poems
by Adrienne Rich
Your small hands, precisely equal to my own—
only the thumb is larger, longer—in these hands
I could trust the world, or in many hands like these,
handling power-tools or steering-wheel
or touching a human face… Such hands could turn
the unborn child rightways in the birth canal
or pilot the exploratory rescue-ship
through icebergs, or piece together
the fine, needle-like sherds of a great krater-cup
bearing on its sides
figures of ecstatic women striding
to the sibyl’s den or the Eleusinian cave—
such hands might carry out an unavoidable violence
with such restraint, with such a grasp
of the range and limits of violence
that violence ever after would be obsolete.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Cheers from some on this matter. Jeers from others. Some (anonymous commenters) say ESPN is "to (sic) PC" and that Franklin is a far better reporter than little known Edwards who apparently needs bigger breasts in order for any of this to matter. (Seriously, there is nothing better for checking one's gag reflex than reading the comments on some of these stories. These are all from the above link.)
A more thoughtful piece of writing came from Lori Heine at News Real Blog. Given that Ms. Heine describes herself as a recovering leftist, I knew what was coming. And, not surprisingly, I heartily disagree. But at least she doesn't think Ms. Edwards needs bigger breasts to get over this whole thing. She does think that she--and by extension, all women--should just stop caring about these things men say. We're not sweet babies, but cry babies, according to Heine.
I don't know why others might care about this; but I care, because it matters. And if we don't care about what matters...well then, what are we here for? Not to get all existentialist or anything but, seriously. What I am supposed to care about? What do people who aren't feminists or concerned with social justice and equality care about? A lot of them seem to care about what the feminists and liberals are crying about, I've found.
I don't think Edwards was crying. I think she was caring; about how she was treated, and the respect she deserves and hopefully, though not necessarily, how other colleagues--especially female colleagues--are treated and (dis)respected.
Heine thinks that crying is weak. Men don't cry and they don't care, says Heine. I think if you care, you can't help the crying. And let's just note that one of the theories about why men die, on average, five years earlier than women is because they don't care: about their health, taking risks, and alcohol, nicotine and drug consumption. And let me also note that some of current economic and political conundrums are because a lot of people just didn't care--except about themselves.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
But once again we have a top ten list and it includes a horse. A top ten list of the best moments in women's sports from 2010, specifically. Number 4 is the amazing career of Zenyatta, who retired this year with a record of 19-1 (after losing her last race).
The list was compiled by new kid on the block ESPNW. I am not taking this as a good sign. Have to say, thus far, not too impressed by ESPNW.
Turns out, I was not the only one to notice the presence of a horse. Jennifer Doyle at The Guardian had some issues with the Zenyatta story making the list as well. And it's not because we don't think horses are athletes or don't deserve to have their accomplishments recognized. As Doyle states:
"While one should embrace species diversity and celebrate the unique character of our equine friends, it is jarring to see an animal appear in a top ten list of women's sports stories – with so little "real estate" allotted to the woman athletes, it's frustrating to see that space taken up by horse, magnificent as she may be."
But more interestingly, Doyle does an excellent job noting how this highlights the trouble major sports outlets (and probably most people generally) have with talking about female athletes:
Like many women in sports, Zenyatta was working in a male-dominated field. As is the case for many women athletes, the fact that she won 19 races in a row was nearly as big a story as the fact that she is female – her gender is presumed to be a handicap. Fans wonder if she is the best horse or the best mare.
I can see how the editors at espnW got confused. University of Connecticut's unprecedented 90-game winning streak has been framed in the same way. Are they the best basketball team? Or the best women's basketball team? And Zenyatta is not the only horse to be mistaken for a woman: in 2000, Sports Illustrated for Women listed the filly Ruffian as one of the 20th century's "greatest sportswomen". (She was listed No 53, just above basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw.)
It's nothing against horses, but what does ESPNW have against women?
Monday, January 03, 2011
And it's selling out! Not surprising. A little surprising that the women of the Old Boys University rugby team thought it wouldn't be popular, though, and only printed 1,000 copies.
At first I thought this was a joke. Not because I am surprised that female athletes would pose naked, but that there is a place called Old Boys University. But indeed there is. It's not a university though--or at least not what Americans think of when we say university. It's a rugby club--co-ed now. Since 1991 I believe.
Miss March, Bekki Abernethy is "blown away by the coverage. I walked into the local dairy and saw that my buttocks made the front page of The Dominion Post. And I choked when I saw myself on the South African Sports Illustrated site."
Though she acknowledges that there has been controversy, she said even the negative responses bring attention to the sport.
Just like all of Natalie Gulbis's risque photo shoots and calendars has really made women's golf take off in popularity.
I was curious about the following statement by Abernethy:
"It is about breaking down the stereotypes and encouraging potential women players to see that you don't have to be a certain size, temperament or demeanor to play."
Oh, well that seems good, I thought to myself.
But then I read this about where the proceeds from the calendars will be going:
"At the moment we play in the boys' hand-me-downs," Abernethy said. "They were skin tight and fitted on them but on us they're like parachutes in the wind. However, right now it looks like we'll have expenses covered for a few decades so we're looking into giving a portion to a charity."
Good for the charity donations, but ALL the boys' shirts are too big? Makes me wonder what "certain size " actually means. And temperament and demeanor? Could it be that what Abernethy was saying is that women who play rugby do not have to be big, and aggressive, and dyke-y? All true, of course. But what's wrong with being large and aggressive and maybe even a lesbian? It's not as if size is a detriment in rugby. Or aggression for that matter. And lesbianism doesn't seem to have a performance-enhancing effect--at least on the pitch.
Anyway, if you want a calendar--you may be too late. They are on back order. Maybe next year.