Saturday, December 31, 2011

'Tis the season...

...for top ten, five, eleven lists. Best ofs. Worst ofs. Shining moments. Glorious defeats. Trends and tribulations.
Given that I too have, in the past, tried to comment on the happenings of an arbitrary (well there's the science of it all I guess)set of days, I shall not disparage it too much.
I will note though, again, the absence of Yani Tseng.
SheWired did their top five women's sports events of 2011 and did not include Tseng's amazing year. They did not leave out golf, however. They included Lexi Thompson who became the youngest female to win an LPGA event (professional).
OK, sure a record was set with this one win. She won the Dubai Masters on the European Tour as well. So a good year for a 16-year old. I guess if we're looking for events, this qualifies. Tseng's accompishments occurred over the course of a whole year. Maybe she lost out on a technicality?
SheWired notes that Thompson's wins have people wondering if we have a new female Tiger Woods on our hands.
Of course Tseng has five majors on her scorecard--two years before Woods earned his fifth major.
Let's note that Tseng is only 22 (23 in January). She joined the LPGA in 2008 (at age 19) and won in her first year on the tour. In fact her win was the LPGA Championship and it made her the youngest player to win that tournament and the second youngest major winner. She has broken records every year since. Money records and win records and age records.

I guess she isn't really an event--she's a force.
So why no props from the press. Why does Thompson's win warrant a place on the list over Tseng?
Well America has been looking for the next female star. And it seems like they prefer one who is white, speaks English, and is heterosexy. And Thompson seems glamorous far beyond her 16 years. Yet wholesome in that American girl next door way.
Tseng is super cute, in my mind. But not in that American, feminine way. And she's shy. And English is not her first language and the American media (generally) does not make the effort with her.
And thus she has gone missing from many of the lists and awards and accolades she deserves.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Retirement for Ruggiero

I was just thinking about Angela Ruggiero the other day while I was cleaning out my email contacts. (I decided I probably didn't need her email anymore if the one I had was even still valid.) And then I read that she's retiring.
Interesting timing. The national team is in Blaine, MN right now. Well the women who hope to become the national team anyway.
I would hope Ruggiero retired of her own volition and that she didn't get pushed out. I haven't seen her play in a while but she seems good enough to still make it.
I am bummed though. The World Championships happen in April in VT and I was planning on going. I saw her play in the Olympics in 2002 and it would have been nice to see one of the few players who remains from that team.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Big football, bad grades?

Three U of Oregon professors conducted a study on their campus which suggested that big, successful football leads to general decline in students' GPAs.
I was surprised this story made the New York Times because the study is of just one university.
Now I am all about showing the downside to excessive intercollegiate football programs, but I think one study does not really indicate the whole reality. There is a culture created by big-time sports. But there are questions that remain. Is it only football? What about big-time basketball, like at Butler, (I met an alum over Christmas) where enrollment has skyrocketed?
One of the study's authors said "I teach these students. And I know that on Thursdays there’s this subtle distraction in the classroom, and the game isn’t even until Saturday."
Um, yeah. That happens everywhere. Because in college, the weekend starts on Thursdays. Happened at my undergrad university where football was not as big (though not small). Happened at the small liberal arts college I taught at. Happens at community colleges. Fidgety students are everywhere. Football might exacerbate that, but I think you would have to control for other things.
Kudos though to the authors for having a strong qualitative component to this study in addition to just examinng GPAs. Seems a better way to understand campus culture.
See? A quiet place to study amidst the tailgating chaos.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Poetry Friday

Last year I posted "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Poetry Friday.
This year I offer my own version.
Happy Holidays!


Twas the week before Christmas
and all through the house
everything was stirring
especially the  f*&^in’ mouse.

New stockings to be sewn
to show the GF I care.
I put a bird on them
for that Portlandia flair.

The wrapping of presents
was nowhere near done.
Multiple trips to the mall--
this is no holiday fun.

Parties to attend
but more invitations turned down.
Have to finish laundry and packing
before we leave town.

The Solstice Fairy came
and she was divine:
got some music, cool gear,
and a bottle of sparkly wine.

Homemade cookies were delivered
and some chocolates too.
Was up to midnight making truffles;
“easy to make”—um, not so true.

Planning the holiday dinner
for the Boston family.
Looking forward to some red wine
and getting woozy by the tree.

But for now there will be
no temporary reprieve.
No chance for a break
until late Christmas Eve.

I throw back some caffeine
ready to hit more stores;
have to forge ahead
and complete these holiday chores.

So on to the Gap, to Trader Joes,
to Banana Republic I go.
To Target and Dick’s
where the lines are so slow.

On to Whole Foods, to Best Buy
for the last-minutes shopping,
then back to the kitchen
for some vegetable chopping.

I spring to my RAV4
with vim and vigor
praying to the holiday gods
the to-do list won’t grown bigger.

But I take this moment now
to send a "happy holidays!"
May we all survive
the seasonal craze.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wamach wins best athlete

Oh, sorry. Best female athlete of the year--according to the Associated Press.
Still--good job. First individual soccer player to earn that honor and she beat out her nearest competitor--Hope Solo--by many many votes.
Still I was a little surprised that Yani Tseng didn't get more consideration. She was the fourth-highest vote-getter. (Maya Moore was third.) But I don't know what the criteria is. (The article failed to note that.) And if popularity or the creation of a national stir is on the list of considerations, well then it's more understandable.
I guess voters figured that this was Wambach's year--though she will--barring injury--be playing in the Olympics this summer--another potential stage for excitment and "heroics." And I am sure Yani Tseng can win 12 tournaments again, 2 of which were majors (one--the LPGA Championship--which she won by 10 strokes) and 5 of which were LPGA events.  And she did win the United States Sports Academy's female  athlete of the year award, after all. And was the LPGA's Rolex Player of the Year--which I think comes with some $$.

Wambach's award engenders a certain amount of melancholy. The WPS is fighting to stay viable despite the post World Cup excitement. Wambach herself has been shuttled among teams; not because of trade deals but because of teams collapsing. And there is question about how many national team players will commit to a WPS team this year given the forthcoming Olympic Games--further endangering the league.
But lest I be seen as lacking in the appropriate amount of seasonal joy:

Friday, December 16, 2011

What's that about social capital?

Earlier this week I mentioned how fandom of women's sports earns one very little social capital. This point was illustrated by a Yahoo contributor article I read a few days later. The author, a female firefighter, talks about how, in order to get by in a male-dominated field, a woman needs to learn how to talk sports and picks teams and be a fan of men's professional sports. And thus she will fit in and be accepted and have something to talk about with all the men folk.
Alternately, she could wear a cheese bra.

Poetry Friday

Last day of fall semester classes and no feeling of relief. Thus this sentiment has been a prevailing one this week:

Alicia Ostriker

This is ridiculous
said the literary old woman
nobody gives us any respect
the young in one another's arms
are talking on their ipods
the politicians are lying through their teeth
and our husbands are taking a nap

this is ridiculous
said the tulip
all those genetically altered blossoms
those stupid long-lived orchids
that are practically plastic
and those fancy designer grasses
getting more than market share

this is ridiculous
said the dog
now they not only have to walk me
they have to rush up with their
sanitary plastic bags
what is it but old-fashioned

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

WPS gets reprieve (+ being a women's sports fan)

Despite its inability to add another team to the league, US Soccer has granted Women's Professional Soccer another waiver allowing it to remain a Division I league. Division I leagues are required to have eight teams; WPS currently has five. But, in talks with US Soccer, WPS administrators said there was interest out there for the creation of new teams.
In a recent post commenting on the grassroots efforts of the Women Talk Sports Network to get another team in fifteen days (the deadline originally set by US Soccer for the WPS to add a sith team) I mentioned something about the many issues associated with being a women's sports fan and being a women's sport owner. So I'll elaborate.
Regarding being a female fan of women's sports: it's not so easy. Which doesn't mean it's not a worthy endeavor--just that it's not the same as being a fan of men's sports. There's the problem of where to find sports. Most of us become fans of local college and high school teams--which is great. Many of us have to travel to see professional sports, which I will do. But it's time and money-consuming. I live two hours from Boston and I have gone to see one Boston Breakers game since the WPS. (I saw one when the Breakers were in the WUSA.) I have the best intentions every season, but life gets in the way. And my life is one without children, by the way. If a woman has children, it becomes even more difficult to be a fan of women's professional sports for the same time and money reasons. Women have less disposable income and less free time. And thus it is harder to prioritize sports. And we gain little social capital from our support of women's sports either. We don't get rewarded, generally, for being fans of women's sports in the way we would if we were fans of men's sports. (Not that one can't be both at the same time--it's just that one is afforded more value.) And then there's the whole uneasy merging of the normative families with small children and the queer women--the two groups that comprise the majority of the audience.
This has been an issue for owners. I also argue that the lack of social capital--given the huge investment of actual capital--is a deterrent for women who have the ability to be team owners/investors. Sure, there are plenty of men's professional teams that are not earning money. But the owners--mostly men--get something out of their ownership/investment that is not profit. They get prestige, admiration, etc. Women who own women's team get less of that.
In some ways, ownership is more like charity. And I mean charity in a good way. If there is little likelihood of economic gain, then this is a giving endeavor. And maybe it's one that some women want to be part of. There is an argument to be made that women's professional sports are valuable to the greater society.
But--and this might be a little blasphemous--if I was a woman who had the financial ability to own a professional women's sports team, knowing that it would be more like giving to a charity, I probably wouldn't. If I wanted to support sports for women, I would likely just give to youth sports, my alma mater, Olympic sports groups, grassroots groups aimed at bringing physical activity to underserved girls, or my local recreational association.
It's a difficult situation. Women's professional sports are not a priority and in order to become a priority it seems like it is women who need to make the effort; but women have less economic capital, less time, and less social capital to give away in such endeavors. I do believe that smart and business-savvy women within existing women's sports leagues are the best chance at success for such leagues. But it remains a struggle. And these women sacrifice in order to remain in their positions and committed to making women's professional sports more of a national priority.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Poetry Friday

Against Transcendence


Jesus is the reason for the season
Proclaims my neighbor's bow-wrapped door,
Getting it exactly backward again this year,
The winter solstice only weeks away:
Opaque slate skies, a daylong dusk in the drybrush
Of branches blurring in the woods.
Do you worship God or animals? asks a sticker
From the back of his pickup truck.

Cotton Mather, could he look down
From the tomb of heaven, would be pleased
By the granite sky, the cold Old Testament comfort
Of the faith, and by the faithful,
Bedrock, salt-of-the-earth,
Hunkered down and ready for the rapture.


Winter nights enlarge the number of their hours
Wrote a poet with the name of a wildflower—

Of the White Campion, which blooms at night,
And the Starry, petals ascending on slender spines—

The sky filling the frame with its constellations,
The tiny novas flaming like bits of tungsten,

And here below, if the air is dry enough and cold,
There's that taste of metal that comes with snow.


Bare limbs and briars, the crosiers of weeds
Burred with their small spurred seeds.

Robert Gibb