Saturday, March 31, 2012

Push coming to shove at Augusta?

Shoving does not happen at Augusta National, of course. But the management does find itself in a tight spot these days. IBM--a sponsor of the Masters, and one of the few that returned after television sponsorship of the prestigious major was halted amid the no-woman controversy--just voted in a new CEO. And it's a she. Traditionally Augusta National has invited the CEO to become a member.
What to do? What to do?
Since the early 2000s when Martha Burk started her protest of Augusta for its failure to admit women as members (guests only!), the club has refused to talk about the issue saying it does not discuss membership. IBM never took a stand on the issue. As I said, the company chose to renew its sponsorship of the Masters, even when other companies took the opportunity to get out.
If Augusta does not extend an invite, what will IBM do?
Burk has been on various national media outlets talking about the current quandary. And is that a little bit of schadenfreude I detect in her comments? She certainly cannot be faulted for it. She was the center of a largely unpopular protest in which she was much maligned.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Tribute to Adrienne Rich

As many know, Adrienne Rich, noted poet, essayist, activist, died this week at the age of 82.
I knew of Adrienne Rich before college, but in college she became my "coming out" poet--kind of like the Indigo Girls were the coming out band of so many lesbians of my generation. While I moved beyond the Indigo Girls, I have always come back--again and again--to Adrienne Rich. When celebrities and other well-known types whom I have admired die, I usually have a feeling of "oh, that's too bad." But I feel a little more melancholy about the passing of Rich.
I know it's been done in many of the tributes and obituaries this week, but here is her poem, "Final Notations."


it will not be simple, it will not be long
it will take little time, it will take all your thought
it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
it will be short, it will not be simple

it will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
it will not be long, it will occupy your thought
as a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
it will take all your flesh, it will not be simple

you are coming into us who cannot withstand you
you are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
you are taking parts of us into places never planned
you are going far away with pieces of our lives

it will be short, it will take all your breath
it will not be simple, it will become your will

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

You don't have to wear a bikini to play volleyball

So says the sport's international governing body. *
Out of respect for cultures and for women who like more clothing when playing sports, the International Volleyball Federation has said that participants in the Olympics can wear shorts and long-sleeve shirts.
Cultures in which female athletes "choose" to reveal more skin while playing competitive sports are welcome to continue to do so in London this summer.

Just out of curiosity--what are the collegiate sand volleyball players wearing? Are there uniform regulations for this sport yet?

*check out the photo accompanying the article. Kerri Walsh and Misty May Treanor look a little odd--and freezing--next to the other women on the podium who are wearing full body suits.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Griner's dunk and the rest of women's basketball

Brittney Griner's dunk last week in the NCAA tournament made a lot of noise--media noise that is--despite the fact that she's 1) done it before in competition, 2) does it all the time in warm-up, and 3) is the second--not the first to dunk in the women's tournament. (Though, as I believe I noted before, Candace Parker's dunks were not all that exciting.)
Some of the press is centered around whether Griner is the gateway dunker. Will more female dunkers follow?
Questions have been raised: is the women's game evolving?
I would ask: evolving into what? Though I believe the implication is that it is evolving into a game/style that more closely resembles what the men play.
Of course, critics of the men's game suggest (often with a healthy amount of racial prejudice) that there is too much showboating and not enough fundamentals on display.

This columnist is one of the "where are the fundamentals" types while also asking why the women aren't leaping around.
Here are my theories:
1) Women are not encouraged to leap. Heck, I was a dancer in the formative years of my life--where leaping is necessary--and you want to know what my vertical leap is now? No, neither do I. Girls and women are not often placed in situations where leaping and jumping is necessary and/or encouraged. So the so-called natural leaping ability that apparently men have, isn't developed in the same way.
2) It isn't required in the women's game. Of course it isn't required in the men's game either. But it isn't as expected. It remains a novelty and, as noted above, dunking in a double-edged sword. Get accused of being a show-off? Of not being a team player? Of not having basketball's fundamentals? Of trying to be like a man? It's fraught.
3) Fright-inducing reports (and re-reports) that comprise a chorus of cautions: women have weak ACLs. The stats thrown at us about how many basketball-playing women have torn their ACLs landing awkwardly from a jump are certainly damaging to endeavors to leap higher. Of course, as the columnist I refer to above notes, women leap and jump all the time in sports like volleyball and gymnastics. Gymnastics has a very high rate of injury. Why is that sport not targeted the way women's basketball is? ACL tears are also quite common in skiing. Also, not a target. Maybe it is not a matter of leaping higher, at all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Look what made it to the jumbotron

Stories about the lesbians being kicked out of professional sports games for smooching in the stands and "offending" nearby families with small children or being denied appearances on kiss cams always irk me. Do I personally want my face magnified on a screen so I can kiss my GF while thousands of people watch? Not so much. I even try to avoid sitting near groups of small children at games because the cameras always pan to them during dance breaks and best fan contests.
But you know, visibility. And as problematic as some types of visibility are--and all that underlying liberalism--(yes, I am going to address Sports babel's comments about merchandising), if you want to gay kiss on the camera at a WNBA game, I think you should be able to.
So this story was kind of cute.
And notably--it happened in Canada.
A woman proposed to her girlfriend on the ice during the intermission of an NFL game. And the fans cheered. Check out the video.(And thanks Dr. Pants for the story.)
She said yes, eh?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday fun

I know we in the US are in the midst of basketball madness, but I thought I would share this pic from a friend.
It's from Preston, England, 1920, and features the captains of two women's football (US soccer) teams greeting each other with a kiss. Not sure how historically accurate it is (those seem like pretty short shorts--even for the roaring 20s!) or whether this was truly a tradition. Friend send it to the GF because she plays soccer in a league that was some sports(wo)manship issues and to me because, well I like women's sport history.

Captains' kissing tradition (?)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Uh-uh, Syracuse

Wish I had known about the trouble at Syracuse before I made my bracket picks! Oh well.
I mean I knew about the assistant coach as sex predator issue. But not the steroids. And now the curious and ill-timed and unspecified suspension of the star forward? I didn't have them going all the way, anyway. And it doesn't seem that they will. Which team will take advantage of their weakened state??

The not so shocking grad rate stats

WaPo published an article about the disparate graduation rates between the men's and women's teams in this year's NCAA tournament. The women have a 89 percent graduation rate; the men are at 67 percent. Also the disparity in grad rates, on the women's side, between white and African American players is much smaller. On the women's side: 8 percent. On the men's side: 28 percent.
These disparities are not new. But the numbers on the men's side are improving. There is hope that the NCAA will further raise its standards for the academic performance. Last year the organization decided to ban from the tournament teams with a graduation rate of less then 50 percent.
But Dr. Richard Lapchick of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (he's the one the collects all this data and issues "report cards" on the status of intercollegiate and professional sports, and sports media) says the NCAA could probably easily raise the standard to 55 or 60 percent.

Monday, March 12, 2012

LSU football trying out a female kicker

Several men in my life* have sent me word of a former female soccer player at LSU who is trying out to be a kicker on the football team.
Obviously this is not soooo out of the ordinary. Many people know of the story of Katie Hnida, who actually entered college with intentions of being a kicker on the football team. After a troubling (to put it mildly) time at Colorado, Hnida went to New Mexico where she became the first woman to put points on the scoreboard in a DI football game.
So Mo Isom is not going to have that "first" opportunity. But it seems that she has a lot more support than Hnida received (at least when she was at Colorado). LSU coach Les Miles is giving her a fair shot at a spot on the team. She has had access to LSU football staff as she goes through the tryout process.
What I find interesting is the reporting on the story.
This is the headline from one of the links I received. It is from The Advocate, which seems to be a local paper out of Baton Rouge.
LSU Homecoming Queen to try out for football team
Despite the headline, the article starts out with Isom's accomplishments on the soccer field. She was the team's goalkeeper and has been involved in national team development programs. Isom acknowledges that there may be some naysayers. And the comments sections of the above article supports that view. Several comments have been removed for violation of the site's commenting policies. But, reading other responses to said comments, it appears they were pretty misogynist and reactionary.
In short, despite the headline and some talk of her homecoming queen title, the article pretty much focuses on her athletic abilities and history as well as her personal history and overcoming physical challenges (she was in a traumatic car accident).
The second link I received was to a Yahoo sports column where the headline focuses on the coach:
Les Miles has 'no reservations' playing female kicker Mo Isom
Good that Isom's name is in the headline, at least. Obviously the reaction of the coach is huge in a situation like this--especially given Hnida's history with Gary Barnett. The photo accompanying the story is of her as homecoming queen rather than as a student-athlete. But the mention of her reign is later in the story--as it was in the previous link. Also included is an embedded You Tube video of Isom scoring a goal (in soccer) as a keeper from 90 yards out--a feat that earned her a lot of internet attention at the time.
The comments section has a range of responses. General sexism and misogyny and then some sexually violent responses about how she will last until the team hits the showers for the first time. Nice. Also comments on how letting a woman play would turn the SEC into a sissy conference.

I obviously have not read all the media coverage about this story. But what I saw was pretty decent. The comments, however, reveal what is at stake when the masculinity produced and enforced by football culture becomes a little less secure.

* Oh, I guess I do have men in my life! Still--please don't buy me sports memorabilia.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Lavender Letter

A couple of weeks ago the Columbus Dispatch ran what I am sure they thought was a cute story about a new motivational system being employed the coaching staff at Ohio State.  The coaching staff as you will recall is new and is using the colored shirt system as a way to reward and/or punish/stigmatize players during their off-season workouts.
Lavender--the exact word used by the coach to describe the color--was the "leftover" color and assigned to players who were loafers, i.e. the weakest link.  The jersey allegedly was to be worn at practices, in the weight room, classroom. OSU's version of the Scarlet Letter.  The weakest links wear lavender.
An OSU law student blogged about it--quite astutely.
First, and the focus of my concern, while being masked as a tool to build a competitive team environment, forcing a player to wear a lavender jersey as punishment is patently homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, etc.  It takes a color that is feminine—and regularly associated with either women or the gay community—and assigns it to weakness, lack of commitment, or failure to work hard.  It is then used to demean and humiliate, you know, because the color is capable of emasculating even the manliest of men.
And, of course, has been attacked for doing so.
(This story has eerie similarities to the pink locker room upheaval at University of Iowa.)
 And according to explanations offered by administrators after they realized that not everyone thought that the story was cute, lavender--which is apparently, in reality, purple in practice--was the only color left after the system was put in place.
The color has since been changed. (Iowa, last I heard, still has its pink locker room.)  The discussion about the seemingly unquestioned homophobia in football though continues. The OSU law school, in fact, is trying to organize a one-day conference about the issue.
I am glad the lavender shirt issue was resolved quickly with apologies all around. I find it interesting though this use of a color coding system. It seems to have some historical precedence. Wasn't there some other homosocial environment where men wore specific colors to designate their performance habits to others?

Friday, March 02, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Epithalamium

Oh my goodness. No sport-related posts this week. Oh well--here's some poetry.

I like epithalamiums. Well--I like ironic epithalamiums. So I wrote one as part of my MFA thesis. And then I found another ironic one by Monica Ferrell that was published in the Missouri Review but can be found here. Ferrell's is succinct. Mine is not.


Night creaked about them like a game of chairs;
They looked for safety and again and again
Clung to the eroding island of each other.

Pale blue, their shipwreck eyes beseeched us
Like eyes of Christian martyrs at the circus—
Still, no one wanted to talk to the newlyweds.


The morning of my wedding day, 
May and it’s raining in
suburbia. An hour ago
I tugged on the dress found

in the dumpster behind the welfare
hotel in East Boston
where a homicidal fiancé
killed his bride-to-be last

week.  That case wasn’t mine – I got
the one next door – unemployed
mom, 5 kids and several deadbeat
dads we can’t find. I wait

in the rain now.  The blood stain by
the left breast did not come
out with Woolite and gets deeper
and wetter but never

runs.  I woke at 6, went for
a jog, then tried to fix
the rip in the bodice; could’ve covered
it with white sequins and pearls

and looked all girly-girl—used my
staple gun instead. No
veil—nothing to shield my face ‘til
that very last moment

of no turning back.  My father
left before I was born. 
If I find him in the next 5
minutes I could be his

to give away. Just a sports bra
and white cotton panties
beneath – no sexy underthings.
There’s the garter holding

my .38.  Water streaks down
my face.  I’m concentrating
hard on forgetting my last name:
how it sounds when the guys

at the station call out asking
if I watched the Red Sox
last night or if I’ll play shortstop
at Saturday’s softball

game against the Roxbury squad.
Tenants of my condo
complex peer out through paned windows
with strange stares. Quite a crowd

gathers for the ceremony.
And as I turn to walk
toward the rest of my life, they throw
Uncle Ben’s boxes on me.