Friday, October 28, 2005

It's hockey season!

Woo-hoo it's hockey season finally. And while there is next to no hockey shown on TV out here in the middle of America, I am still excited to be able to surf the 'net for the latest hockey news.
First, a somewhat reluctant but nonetheless huge shout-out to the BU Terriers who are in their first season in Hockey East and have lost only 1 game; a loss they avenged the other night when they beat Northeastern [which has slid steadily downhill since the loss of team USA goalie Chanda Gunn (graduation) and their former coach (to UConn)]. The reluctance is because it is practically sacrilege for a UNH alum to give props to anything BU. But any supporter of women's athletics, particularly women's hockey, cannot let this pass with comment.
Also, it's almost an Olympic year which means women's international hockey gets a little more recognition (fingers crossed). I have been meaning to check out the potential roster for a while now but keep getting sidetracked by silly things like papers, and teaching, and Judith Butler (not in person, just in the form of her book). So I went to USA Hockey today to see who is in the running to make the roster. Alas I cannot find it, which is not too surprising given that I don't think it is finalized yet (though I can't even find out if that's true or not). So I thought I would get an inkling at least by looking at the roster from the Four Nations Cup that was held in late August/early September. No such luck. And what was even more suprising was that the coverage of the Four Nations Cup was incomplete. There were news stories about team USA's first two games but nothing from the medal rounds. This is just ridiculous. I don't know what's worse: not covering it at all or doing a (literally) half-assed job of it.
USA Hockey's website seems to be even worse than it was when I complained previously about it. They used to at least have rosters for the women's tournaments. Now I can't get those or any kind of up-do-date results.
I hope USA Hockey gets its act together in time for the Games. Hockey is already on pretty shaky ground here in the US; it would be unfortunate if the troubles in the men's game also brings down the women's game which is in a really exciting growth period right now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Whoop Whoop!

Can I get a whoop whoop for Sheryl Swoopes?! Swoopes came out as gay today and not because she was pressured but because she said she was tired of hiding her relationship with her partner. (Of course the partner is not named but I expect her identity will be revealed shortly.)
I was initially wary of the way the article read. Swoopes could be read as being somewhat vague or even exhibiting "apologetic behavior": she says she has not always been gay, that her homosexuality was not the reason for her divorce, that she doesn't want to "throw it in people's faces." This was my initial reaction only because it is not the out and proud and going to get married Rah Rah lesbianism that perhaps many are accustomed to (and afraid of?). But this of course is a good thing, I realized. Swoopes shows us that there are many ways of being gay. She presents the view that is often not voiced: not everyone thinks being gay is an innate characteristic and that just because its not innate does not mean it is any less valid.
These aren't the issues I think will be taken up in the subsequent discussions of this news but I do think (or at least hope) that Swoopes's high visibility and success will allow for those who are less well-known or even WNBA rookies (yeah, you know who I'm talking about) to come out in a more visible way.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The curious nature of mixed gender competition

OK--I am finally going to do it. I am going to bring up the issue of mixed gender competition. Of course I am doing it in a very safe way by focusing on two particular examples I observed this weekend. I don't want to explode this discussion too much so soon.
So there was crap on TV this weekend which actually allowed me to get some work done but still in those moments when I was ready for a break I was flipping through the channels for some salvation (but not the kind found on BCTV). The Travel Channel had a poker tournament on. It was a women's tournament. Why is there women's poker? I have seen some mixed gender poker on ESPN but I am left wondering why, more often than not it seems, there is a separation of the genders in the game of poker. Seems like it plays on a pretty antiquated notion that women are not as smart as men since poker does not involve physical strength (the usual reason for separating the sexes). Is there something I, a non-poker player, am missing here about the nature of the game that would contribute to the need for sex segregation?
I found this especially interesting as it was juxtaposed in my flipping series with a promo for motorcycle drag racing (excuse my lack of proficiency in the drag racing lexicon) which pitted a male rider against a female rider. How is it that mixed gender drag racing is acceptable but mixed gender poker is more anomalous than common?

Friday, October 21, 2005

A little something is being done

Not happy with the response from Penn State administrators, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has decided to sue the university on behalf of former player Jen Harris who was dismissed from the team last March, allegedly because coach Rene (rhymes with weenie) Portland thought she was gay. The suit was actually triggered by Portland's public response to the allegations initially made by the NCLR. Portland launched a character attack against Harris citing her poor basketball performance (she was one of the team's top scorers) and poor grades (she had a 3.0 GPA when she left PSU). I checked out some of the message boards where Penn fans have been posting about this issue. Mostly they all adore the homophobic Portland and think Harris is a whiner out to get some money--though there are some sound minds pointing out that Portland's track record on the issue of lesbians in sport is not pristine. Not surprising responses. Fans like their winning teams and their winning coaches and in the name of winning and this weird conception of "tradition" they will support egregious behaviors that would not be tolerated elsewhere.
There will be some interesting things to watch about this case. One, the NCLR is citing a Title IX violation for the sex discrimination part. I wonder if this will work. Apparently it has been successful at the high school level but untested in collegiate waters. And second, when will PSU administrators reach their breaking point and decide that the negative publicity Portland continually generates and the PR work they have to do as a result is not worth her alleged talent as a coach?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Quick Hurrah!

Because I complain so bitterly at times about the lack of media coverage of women's sport, I thought I would say something positive. Of course I can only say something positive when something positive has occurred and it has. Checking my Yahoo sports page this morning I noticed that they top three stories listed under the category College Hockey were all about women's games from this past weekend. OK--so two were about the same game--but they were different articles which just goes to show that more than one media outlet actually covered the game. So I think it's a win-win all around (unless you are the UVM Catamounts who lost two game to the Badgers this weekend both 5-0. Don't give up, Catamounts--it's only your first season playing in the big leagues. Things will get better!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Will something finally be done...

about Penn State basketball coach Rene Portland? Have almost three decades of anti-gay recruiting policies and various levels of subtle and not-so-subtle harassment finally caught up to her? We shall see. The National Center for Lesbian Rights has demanded the Penn State president look into the allegations after the latest incident of harassment forced one of the Lions best players off the team and to another school. The former player, Jennifer Harris, allegedly isn't even gay. Of course this is her mother saying this and denial, especially publicly, of homosexuality isn't exactly a foreign concept in women's sports.
Of course what actually comes of this remains to be seen. We should note that while the NCLR is a worthy group, usually we hear about organizations such as Lambda or even the ACLU intervening in cases such as this. While Harris does have a lawyer, I have not heard of any actual suits being brought yet. And we must also remember that Portland has not been subtle all these years about her anti-gay beliefs. She has been quoted saying she does not want lesbians on her team. And the university does nothing besides point to their policy about discrimination as if to say "well she can't possibily be discriminating because we have an anti-discrimination policy." Seems similar to the same kind of administrative blind eye that allows pink visiting team locker rooms in football stadiums to go unaccounted for.
It is time--no it is way past time--that Portland be called on what she has been doing and continues to do. Because I just can't deal with having to choose who to root against if the Lions play Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in the NCAA tourney again this year.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Transexuals go old school?

In honor of National Coming Out Day I have decided to write about some famous sport icons who faced intense coming out processes while playing.
OK--the coming out day thing is a pretext. I thought of the idea before I realized it was coming out day. No matter. (And Happy Coming Out Day to all those for whom that is relevant. Woo-hoo, Go Gay!)
So back to the icons. I am speaking of Rene Richards and Martina Navratilova. What inspires this entry is some recent light reading I have been doing where they were mentioned--deparately, but in ways which disappoint me.
Richards first. So Richards is a transexual, MTF, who played as a woman for a but on the women's tennis tour. Obviously with some controversy--including legal battles. In the most recent issue of Bitch, Richards comments on the presence of MTFs in sport. (The article was about golfer Mianne Bagger.) Richards believes they should not be allowed to play--even after completion of reassignment surgery and hormone treatment--which makes MTFs considerably weaker. Something about some things can never be changed. What would that be, Rene? No details are provided. I just find it so disappointing that someone like Richards who has been through the ordeal of having to fight for the right to play the sport she loves in the gender she feels she belongs to would say such a thing.
Which leads me to Martina. This issue is admittedly not nearly as serious but still disappointment courses through my veins. Martina, I read in Curve, does not like The L-Word. She wishes there were fewer dysfunctional relationships and more solid monogamous ones. Let me say that I do respect the work on and off the court that Martina has done throughout her life but sometimes I just don't know what she's talking about. Is this the same woman who lived with her "coach" Nancy Lieberman--a woman who despite her gay beginnings is now born-again? And anyone who has read Rita Mae Brown's book, Sudden Death, which was based on her relationship with Navratilova, knows that it was not all that functional at times. And didn't Martina's former lover, the Texas beauty queen Martina converted, sue her in a palimony suit? Seems like Martina's love life would fit right in on The L-Word.
Interesting how both these "radicals" are getting pretty conservative these days. I know the memory goes as we get older but it seems unlikely that these two especially would forget all the obstacles they had to overcome in and out of sport and then not support those who continue to fight.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sport, Feminism and Breast Cancer

Many thanks to amateur for pointing me to this fascinating blog entry by sportsbabel about his experience running in a recent breast cancer charity event. Here are his very interesting observations as he questions if such events are really "feminist" (noting that there are many types of feminism of course):
"1. There is a bounty of sponsor-provided free food offered to the runners after the race is completed, while Toronto's homeless peer in through the semi-enclosure or sleep on grates nearby.
2. After the post-race refuelling is finished, there do not appear to be temporary recycling facilities anywhere to collect what will be thousands of plastics and tetra boxes.
3. Men can get breast cancer as well, yet I could only find this nugget of information buried away on the web site's Breast Cancer Statistics page. Saying so out loud must confuse the "Think Pink" message.
4. In the ultimate irony of "Thinking Pink," there is predominantly pinkish skin in attendance at the event held in what is purportedly the most multicultural city in the world. One presumes that the minimum requirement of $150 in pledges or a paid $40 registration fee places real economic pressure on those (particularly minorities) who would like to contribute their efforts as runners, rather than as volunteers."
Point 1 about the homeless is well-taken, but as someone who teaches women's studies and continually hears from her students about the multitude of issues out there I can unserstand that every event cannot address every issue. So long as the charity event did no harm to the nearby homeless, I do not think they can be faulted. But I do hope others noticed the situation and were perhaps moved to consider ways to address this issue as well.
Point 2 about recycling is quite surprising. Because it's in the purview of the event, organizers should have had recycling bins. And participants should complain about their absence.
Point 3 is somewhat contentious. While men do get breast cancer, they get it much less frequently--which does not mean that they should be ignored. But grassroots movements by women fought so hard for so long to get recognition for and research on this disease, and I don't truly believe they have an obligation to place men at the center of the discourse alongside women.
Point 4 is particularly compelling to me given the recent stats I have heard about the increase in cancer among African-Americans. I understand the need to have a registration fee for these events because too many people would just run it as part of a larger training regimen. But I do think there needs to be a sliding scale for these events. Will this draw more people of color to the event? I don't know. Like the original women's movement of the 70s, breast cancer activism has a very white movement and it might take a lot more purposeful outreach to change that dynamic.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Calling all snowboarders

I have decided to write my cultural studies paper about subculture on snowboarders. Though I was intrigued by wrestling, I cannot pursue it because the assignment calls for analysis of a youth subculture and while youths watch pro wrestling they are not actual participants.
So, I have never been a snowboarder and was only a fair-weather (almost literally) skier so I have not spent a lot of time observing the habits of snowboarders. And now that I am out here in the flatlands I can't jaunt off to a ski resort to do some ethnographic data.
So I am asking snowboarders to give me some details. Please, please comment.
Here's what I am interested in:
1. style: the fashion, is there one style? do you have to wear certain clothes to be accepted? are there identifying clothes both on and off the slopes (i.e. can you pick out fairly easily a fellow snowboarder)?
2. class/economic issues: what socioeconomic class do most snowboarders come from? are they adhering to their class status or trying to shun it? why and how? do snowboarders have part-time jobs to support their habit or do they rely on mom and dad for funds? is working (or not) a part of snowboarder culture?
3. gender: are there differences in how male and female teenagers do snowboarder subculture? what are the gender relations that exist in this subculture?
I think that's the basics for now. Thanks!!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Male Fans

Despite the title of this entry I am not going to make sweeping generalizations about male fans. because sweeping generalizations are bad--very bad. Instead I am going to relate an incident I observed this past weekend and offer a brief analysis.
I went to a women's Big Ten volleyball match. Not a big crowd but very enthusiastic. Arriving shortly after the first serve (is there a volleyball equivalent to tip-off or faceoff?) were two men I had seen at women's softball games the previous spring. Both were wearing rather offensive (sexist/homophobic t-shirts) which initially made me wonder why they support women's sports at all--an incongruity to analyze another time. Both cheered but one was cheering in a different sort of way. He was, essentially, coaching. He would tell players, by calling out their numbers, what they needed to do: "Number 5 you need to set up the pass." Most obnoxious was that whenever a home team player went to the line to serve he yelled where she should serve: "Go short left" and "Hit deep middle."
Umm...they have a coach, dude. Do you really think they are going to listen to you yelling from the crowd in such a manner that everyone--including the receiving team--can hear? No--they are going to follow the covert, behind-the-clipboard signals made by their coach. I should note here that it is a female head c0ach. Perhaps the fan thought he could do a much better job.
Why couldn't he have just cheered when things went well or groaned when points were lost like the rest of us? Why the need to dictate (but not really) play? Is this a way for men to exert control (whether real or illusional) over women's sports since it is pretty clear they can't get rid of them? I don't want to be a separatist but if this is the way some men (yes only some--not all) are going to support women's athletics then maybe they shouldn't be there at all.