Friday, February 24, 2012

Poetry Friday

A little bit of hockey. A little bit of a love poem.

To A Sad Daughter 
by Michael Ondaatje
All night long the hockey pictures
gaze down at you
sleeping in your tracksuit.
Belligerent goalies are your ideal.
Threats of being traded
cuts and wounds
--all this pleases you.
O my god! you say at breakfast
reading the sports page over the Alpen
as another player breaks his ankle
or assaults the coach.

When I thought of daughters
I wasn't expecting this
but I like this more.
I like all your faults
even your purple moods
when you retreat from everyone
to sit in bed under a quilt.
And when I say 'like'
I mean of course 'love'
but that embarrasses you.
You who feel superior to black and white movies
(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)
though you were moved
by Creature from the Black Lagoon.

One day I'll come swimming
beside your ship or someone will
and if you hear the siren
listen to it. For if you close your ears
only nothing happens. You will never change.

I don't care if you risk
your life to angry goalies
creatures with webbed feet.
You can enter their caves and castles
their glass laboratories. Just
don't be fooled by anyone but yourself.

This is the first lecture I've given you.
You're 'sweet sixteen' you said.
I'd rather be your closest friend
than your father. I'm not good at advice
you know that, but ride
the ceremonies
until they grow dark.

Sometimes you are so busy
discovering your friends
I ache with loss
--but that is greed.
And sometimes I've gone
into my purple world
and lost you.

One afternoon I stepped
into your room. You were sitting
at the desk where I now write this.
Forsythia outside the window
and sun spilled over you
like a thick yellow miracle
as if another planet
was coaxing you out of the house
--all those possible worlds!--
and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.

I cannot look at forsythia now
without loss, or joy for you.
You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
Want everything. If you break
break going out not in.
How you live your life I don't care
but I'll sell my arms for you,
hold your secrets forever.

If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly,
it is without answers.
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.
Don't recall graves.
Memory is permanent.
Remember the afternoon's
yellow suburban annunciation.
Your goalie
in his frightening mask
dreams perhaps
of gentleness.

Female fandom: Another lesson in heterosexism

I, as the perceived target audience (women), received a brief questionnaire about my thoughts on sports memorabilia from a representative of a company that sells such memorabilia. OK. Fine. I understand a company's need to better understand its target demographic. I generally appreciate efforts to include and understand women as consumers of sports-related products and services.
But then I realized rather quickly that the survey wasn't meant for me.
Question one was fine:

Would you purchase sports memorabilia (autographed jerseys, sporting goods, photos etc.) for yourself? If so, what type(s) would you purchase?
Probably not. Not my kind of thing. Though I am currently carrying a vanilla chapstick with Gretchen Bleiler's name on it.

Would you want to receive sports memorabilia as a gift from the man/men in your life?
Wait, what man? My dad? Because I'm a dyke so he's pretty much "the man" in my life. Oh, this survey is for straight women.
While "men" seems to suggest that there is an awareness that men other than significant others can buy women stuff, this remains an odd question. Are they planning on marketing to uncles or male cousins? And, of course, the obvious interpretation of "man in your life" is a male partner or husband. There are plenty of heterosexual women who like sports. There are also plenty of lesbians and queer women who like sports. And they are rarely marketed to. This seems to be another example of that. There is a presumption of heterosexuality, which continues the trend of conveniently forgetting that gay women are sports fans.
And why do the men have to buy the women stuff anyway? Even if I was a heterosexual, why couldn't my sister or mother buy me sports memorabilia? (Dear Family: I will let you know if I suddenly want some sports memorabilia.)

And now, for kicks and giggles--the rest of the questions.
Is there sports memorabilia that you would like to see offered that is not available?
 I don't think so. What might I want that is not currently available that could become available? I'm not sure I understand the question. Maybe a bottle of wine from Amelie Mauresmo's collection? But I don't think she's going to relinquish that.

How could sports memorabilia be marketed better to female consumers?
Maybe you could make everything pink! Or put a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon on it. That seems to fool a lot of people. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fine, I'm a sap

Because I was pretty much unabashedly crying in a coffee shop while listening to Frank Deford this morning on Morning Edition. (Seriously--more so than the story about the softball players who carried their injured opponent around the bases so she could have the only home-run of her career.)
Deford told the story of the college senior Cory Weissman who got playing time in his last collegiate game--his only playing time since suffering a stroke in his freshman year.
Read and listen to it here. (If those Folgers commercials stir something in you, though, I would take precautions before listening: do not listen to while driving, for example.)
I could interrogate some of the finer details, provide some commentary.
But I think I will just stifle the cynicism and take it as the feel-good story of the week.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Poetry Friday: In Memoriam

Wislawa Szymborska died earlier this month. I was introduced to her poetry when I was in an MFA program by a professor who was himself quite a fan. I always liked her work and wished I could read it in the original Polish.
translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice. 

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once. 

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses. 

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent. 

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock? 

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow. 

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Quinnipiac volleyball coach fired

Robin Sparks was fired from both her jobs at Quinnipiac University in New Haven this week. Sparks is probably most well known as the volleyball coach at the school--not because the volleyball team was a perennial contender but because the school attempted to cut it in favor of competitive cheer. A lawsuit followed and in a still widely discussed decision, the judge ruled that QU could not use competitive cheer to meet its Title IX qualifications. This did not mean it had to keep volleyball; schools can choose which teams to field. But it did.
The decision was mostly centered around the viability of cheer as a competitive varsity sport, with volleyball as the collateral damage. Sparks was at the trial but again it was mostly about the merits of cheer.
And now she has been fired--from her job as a professor of public relations as well. The school claims it cannot provide the reasons why. They also added, not surprisingly, that it was not related to the Title IX case (details of the case can be found at the Title IX Blog using the tag Quinnipiac).
Let's note that Sparks's team record was not so good--at any time in her tenure as coach. And coaches get fired for that. Not sure what her record was a professor. Or why she was fired in the middle of the semester. Or why she was escorted off campus.
Escorted off campus!
Sparks is not the first woman involved in a Title IX to be escorted off campus.
Have we not gotten over the historical connection between women and hysteria (thanks a lot, Freud)? All women are going to pitch a fit when told they have been fired? That they might retaliate in some way and so have to lead off the premises under the watchful eyes of the authorities?
The cynic in me says that of course this is retaliation for her involvement in a legal case that made Quinnipiac look very bad (lots were revealed about the athletic department's shady manipulations and the administration's collusion in it all). That they just waited a few years to do it. Of course the dramatic fashion in which they did so seems to work against them doing it quickly and quietly without repercussions.
I am headed down to New Haven tomorrow. Alas I will be at Yale (on the lookout for sexual harassment??). But snooping around QU would be interesting.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Another athlete proud of her body

Alex Morgan is also proud of her teammates' bodies.
And that is why she joined the cadre of other female athletes in proudly showing off her body in a photo shoot.
This is Morgan in a photo USWNT:
And this is a preview of Morgan from the photo shoot she did for the SI Swimsuit Issue.

That's not a bikini, by the way. It's paint.

OK. That is all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Poetry Friday (the return)

I'm back and back in the groove--mostly. So here is the first Poetry Friday of 2012. It's by an Australian poet and it's about travel (or not). This piece is from Aitken's latest book Eighth Habitation published by Giramondo.

The Anti-travel Travel Poem
by Adam Aitken
The anti-travel travel poem suggests the road
romance & regrets
the endless paperwork we left behind
I dreamed of walking boots that wouldn’t lace
anti-travellers can never get lost
in a swamp of Choice we must take
the American grid pattern endless
military runways, the borders
of Empire, take-off zone & rabbit fence
keeping peace at the ruined city gate
where crows consider life in a decommissioned bomber
the line I have lain too long on the beach
staring at the awesome winter surf

is prelude to destruction & creation
the anti-travel travel poem does not
ask for directions on a road no one’s taken
it is time arrested at six-ways crossroad
where cremation crews put shoulder to the Prince’s corpse
malicious hangers-on decide its time to quit
and humans go on burning quietly
find shelf space in a Singapore of metaphysics
in food halls where no one’s lost,
no one’s found, no one needs directions
each well meant instruction (go straight
through the cemetery, turn left – or was it right)
leads to the wilderness of whole new forests
wholly dedicated to paper (Show us your ID, Mr Death!).
Sure not everyone’s perfectly matched.
Even the President preferred golf,
the curve & arrow of ball and club, the flagged
plantation we thought abolished
inter-island piracy forever, & snakes
that hide in elephant grass all know
how dangerous the sedentary life
being cute & poisonous at the same time
exiles mistaken for natives
non-travellers who decide to stay
feral & primitive, go loose, develop the local accent
camp on the edge of what they know best:
abandoned village with Pepsi sign
a dog dozing in a broken down truck
in the mountain’s two thousand metre air
the sign on a frog statue:
hasn’t changed since Eisenhower,
a red stop sign marks disused
industrial estate no one but a film crew stops at
checkpoints for the apprentice guide
and even the ICBM stalls
on a one way track to Krakatoa
with human maps it cannot read.
Rivers stop, flow back, released
from the burden of their own
meanderings, the drunk boatmen, Ophelias overgrown
bloated with silt, good for growing moss
from that moment a bird dropped seed
of grass & trees on no-where-in-particular’s
shady undergrowth & the poem’s farms & gardens
revert to shaggy Edens where no-one is a stranger
in a Kingdom of minute-by-minute ritual
where we know belonging, we know how.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Delle Donne lives on

Well obviously. In case you stopped caring about the former #1 high school recruit was doing after she abruptly and amid great controversy left UConn several years ago without ever playing a game for the Huskies--here's an update.
She's doing fine. Perhaps even great? She enrolled at Delaware. Played volleyball for the Blue Hens for one season and then joined the basketball team where she has had quite an effect--to put it mildly.
And the media has not quite forgotten about her. This morning Frank Deford's weekly commentary focused on Delle Donne and her time at Delaware, the team's outstanding record, and her relationship with her family--specifically her sister who suffers from cerebal palsy and cannot see or hear. Many cite--along with extreme burnout--her relationship with her sister as the reason why Delle Donne could not commit to an intercollegiate career at UConn. He frames the decision as a noble one based on sacrifice.* (He also says that she is the best player in the country--a title I am sure Brittney Griner is taking issue with. Perhaps he is trying to subtly let all those ESPN commentators know that Delle Donne still exists.)
I think it was just a matter of priorities and finding the best way to have everything she wanted. She gets to play the game she loves--and she got the opportunity to learn to love the game again (I'm assuming that she does or she would have stuck with volleyball) and she gets to be near her family. I hope these things in addition to the extreme pressure and burnout that comes when one is recruited from the age of 13 silence critics like former UConn player Kara Wolters who was a little harsh in her comments on Delle Donne: "What a waste. It's the most bizarre thing I've ever heard. To have an opportunity like that to play, obviously, at the best college women's program in the world ... and she threw it away."
Given the success Delle Donne has achieved (in multiple sports) maybe Wolters should send Delle Donne a little apology note and recognize that not everyone has the same aspirations as she did.

Maybe Elena Delle Donne won't win a national championship. OK--she will most likely not win a national championship. But Delaware is nationally ranked and currently undefeated in its conference and likely to earn a trip the tournament. It will give me great pleasure to pick the Blue Hens for a few rounds of upsets.

* He gets a little too feel goody at times; I mean, note the title "Sweetness and Light."