Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wrapping it up

Don't have any grand thoughts on 2008--or forecasts for 2009. I've seen plenty of articles about top 10 sports stories at local, national, international levels upon which I feel no need to comment.
The Boston Globe has a list of sport figures (including horses) who died in 2008. I had completely forgotten about former figure skater Christopher Bowman who died very early in 2008 of a drug overdose.
I am interested in the Healthy Weight Network's 2008 Worst Diets of the Year. The organization took nominations for their 20th annual Slim Chance Awards. Anyone could nominate bad diets, diet products, and the biggest gimmicks. (I heard a pretty bad radio commercial the other day for a local personal training outfit that harped on one's laziness and lack of self-control and told "gals" they could get slim and trim and guys that they could get six-pack abs and guns. Hello--I want six-pack abs. Just not from these people.)
Anyway, the results were released yesterday and apparently I have not been paying attention because I hadn't even heard of Skineez jeans, which won the gimmick of the year award. Here's a description:
Skineez jeans are impregnated with a so-called “medication” of retinol and chitosan, a shellfish product once claimed to cut fat absorption in the stomach. Friction between the jeans and skin supposedly triggers release of the substance, which goes to work on fat when absorbed through the skin.
And advertisers lure customers with the promise that part of the proceeds are going to...yep, breast cancer research.
So keep your eyes and ears open so you can nominate the worst of the worst next year.

2009 means the 2010 Olympics are not that far away. Crazy! Seems like we were just (barely) watching the 2008 games in Turin. And as winter athletes gear up for the big event, some are still fighting to get in. All Things Considered had a very good piece on the ongoing fight of female ski jumpers to get into the Vancouver Games. One of the group's advocates does a great job dispelling all the excuses the IOC is throwing at the jumpers. Take a listen here.
And finally, related to athlete activism, Dave Zirin provides some history of intercollegiate athletes' activism against the Mormon church's racism in the 60s and 70s. Athletes' boycott of BYU contributed to the Mormon church's change in their belief that black people were, as said Brigham Young, "uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind." But given the pressures from schools--and the IRS!--boom doctrine is changed and suddenly black people are allowed to attain the priesthood.
Zirin is suggesting putting similar pressure on the Mormons given their longstanding anti-gay stance and more recent funneling of millions of dollars into CA to fund the Prop 8 campaign. He seems to think female athletes and those involved in women's athletics are more likely to take up this cause because 1) men's sports have been a bastion of homophobia and 2) women's athletics have been more open to homosexuality. Not sure if I believe this. More open I suppose in that there seem to be more lesbians than gay men playing intercollegiate sports but even as there may be greater acceptance among those in women's athletics, it's a pretty closeted atmosphere. In other words, to answer Zirin's question of whether any female athletes will step up and boycott trips to and games against BYU: probably not. I hear, mostly from reading Pat Griffin's blog, about athletes stepping up and doing great advocacy and activist work, but they are not usually DI athletes who are willing to put their athletic careers on the line. There may be more out athletes in intercollegiate sports, but many of them take advantage of a somewhat more liberal climate where they don't have to and don't want to "make a big deal" of it.
I hope I am wrong. Maybe tomorrow I'll be a little more optimistic!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday tidbits

Title makes it sound like this might be a regular thing, but no, I was just feeling alliterative and I have some small and unrelated things to mention.

1. So, the Elena Delle Donne interview* on Outside the Lines was only so-so. I don't think I realized that even though OtL is scheduled for a 1/2 hour, it's not really a half hour show. Delle Donne, I felt, did a good job explaining things. There wasn't really anything I hadn't already read about on that the interview provided, however. I thought it was quite interesting that her parents were not interviewed for this show. There was footage of her parents from years ago. I guess the one thing that I learned, or perhaps sensed is a more accurate term, is that there is a lot of upheaval in the Delle Donne household over Elena's leave of absence from basketball. She said it was a very tough summer for the family and the absence of her parents from the interview make me think that things are not quite settled yet. And this was surprising given that her parents had seemed to be so supportive of their daughter and her choices. But an interview with a former AAU coach kind of revealed that Delle Donne was perhaps pushed a little harder by her parents than we may have initially been lead to believe. In no way does this situation resemble the horror stories I have seen and heard about sport parents and it does seem like, in the end, Elena's new happiness in her current sport may help.

2. Got an email the other day from Lucy, a sports apparel website for women. I have previously noted my disappointment with Lucy for carrying Low Beams, an adhesive nipple concealer, but I clearly got over it when I ordered a pair of yoga capris from them the other day. Also they don't seem to carry the product anymore. But the email today tried to entice me to buy their newest cardio pant by promising to send me a pair of pink boxing gloves along with the pants. thanks. Ugh. If one is convinced to order a pair of overpriced workout pants because of pink boxing gloves, she's probably not the type of person to see a problem with pink boxing gloves in the first place.

3. I heard the other night on some sports talk show NOT on ESPN--surprise, surprise--that fighting in the NHL was up 30 percent from last year. Thirty percent! One guy pretended to be concerned, the other said, basically, "who cares?". He finds it entertaining and it gets fans out of their seats, he said. The third guy felt it was a little excessive especially when players are dropping their gloves in the first few minutes of the game--when nothing has really happened yet that might provoke a fight. The amount of fighting in hockey has always been ridiculous. I don't know how to describe a 30 percent increase in it--uber-ridiculous? I get it that hockey is a contact sport, that cheap shots are taken, that tempers flare--but this happens in other sports as well football, soccer. No other sport has the same amount of gratuitous fighting.

* Mechelle Voepel has more on the Delle Donne situation at her blog. I think she's been reading After Atalanta! Because she notes that Auriemma's comments make him sound like a bad coach. She still thinks he's great, others in the comments section of the post definitely see what I see: a coach who is a little out of touch with actual players and very caught up in the recruiting battles and a win-at-all-costs mentality.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pioneer collegiate wrestling program

Jamestown College in North Dakota is making a name for itself with its latest athletic department: women's wrestling.
Because it is one of the few and one of the first programs in the country, Jamestown has been able to recruit from all over the country. The state champion from Hawaii attends! Hawaii to North Dakota. Other schools should take that famous piece of advice from a classic movie: "if you build it..."
It might not be that hard to believe the dominant paradigm of women's wrestling in which people usually envision long hair, bikinis and some kind of viscous substance, is adjustable; but it is a little more difficult to swallow the idea Jamestown AD Lawrie Paulson has that there is no more novelty to women's wrestling. It may be acceptable on that campus now, but broader acceptance is a little more tenuous. Certainly many people attend out of curiosity; what they come away with depends on a myriad of factors--some of which have nothing to do with what they actually saw. Or rather what they see is formed by what they bring in.
One of the 17 first-years on the roster gets that when she notes that people expect to see manly women--large manly women; even if those very same people know that wrestling is divided by weight class. Just like there are large and small men wrestling, there are large and small women.
And most of these wrestlers have had to work against prevailing beliefs about what girls should and should not do and how they should do it.
And lest one think that these wrestlers are coming in as novices--think again. Many started wrestling--despite parental and administrative objections--in middle school!
Women's wrestling is here. It may not be an NCAA emerging sport, but I predict a pretty quick coming out.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Delle Donne ESPN interview

Greg Schultz has this column up at in anticipation of his interview with former b-baller, current University of Delaware volleyballer Elena Delle Donne. The interview airs tomorrow at 9am (EST) on ESPN. [Note to self: record that.]
I find it so hard to believe that people find it so hard to believe that Delle Donne left a sport in which she was a superstar to play something else; that she doesn't miss basketball; that she likes volleyball; that she does not long for the spotlight and adoration playing b-ball would have brought her.
And mostly I am talking to you, Geno Auriemma, who says:
"I don't know how you can play that much basketball and be that good at it and say, 'I hate it since the time I was 13.' To me, those two things don't go together … that you would be that good at something and not enjoy any of it. It's hard for me to come to grips with.
"I'm still not able to see how that makes any sense. I didn't understand it and haven't understood it right from the beginning."
And that is why I do not think Auriemma is a good coach--because he has a very narrow paradigm about what sport is and should be. I don't care about his win-loss record or his recruiting abilities. I care about his self-proclaimed lack of understanding; and his skewing of the situation: Delle Donne never said she hated basketball. She said it wasn't fun anymore. And her very success at the sport was what kept her in it for so long. And the narrow paradigms like those of Auriemma's was what made her constantly question her lack of passion when she was clearly the best.
Auriemma and others have practically pathologized Delle Donne and her decision to leave the best program in the country, to give up what surely would have been a successful and lucrative career in basketball. an opportunity to "write her own ticket."
I don't see why others do not believe burnout happens in successful youth players. It seems that it would be all the more understandable in standouts whose lives are revolving around the sport.
And the thing is is that Delle Donne has not left sport; she has not poo-pooed the value of sport in one's life. And she still has passion for sport. It just happens to be a sport she didn't train her whole life to play; a less high-profile sport; a sport that offers fewer opportunities for (the dominant version of sporting) success.
To me, it all seems pretty sane.
And there are others out there who see what is happening to young athletes. Mechelle Voepel's column this week highlights two other players who had similar but less high-profile departures from premiere collegiate programs. And she talks the Iowa State head coach who certainly gets it as well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A few tidbits

Baking and knitting and wrapping and shopping...
...oh, and shovelling and scraping.
Those are my excuses for my lack of posts this week. I saw an interesting story about a transwoman in a long drive (golf) competition that I plan on saying more about later. For now, just a couple things from the news.
First, current South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley (formerly of Temple and of course a US National team member/gold medal winner) has accumulated a few violations in her brief tenure. Doesn't look like anything major, but these things have a way of coming back to haunt coaches--especially the female ones.
A British-based website, Sky Sports, has done a year in review of professional women's tennis. I'm not sure I would agree that Venus Williams is the comeback player of the year because she didn't seem to ever really fall that far. The piece overall was a good reminder of the diverse array of talent that showed itself this year: four different slam winners and the most interesting matches occurring well before the finals.
There's also a men's review with an even more disturbing choice for comeback player: Roger Federer. But I agree with the writer that even though the best player in the world, Nadal, won the Olympic gold medal, tennis in the Olympics is just not quite right.
Over at the Huffington Post there's a piece about female fandom that briefly chastises the pink connection; it's mostly an aside but she mentions it twice.
That's all I've got for now.
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Check out NPR

Last week NPR had some interesting sports stories. On the 16th Fresh Air had a segment in which Dave Davies interviewed former NHLer Willie O'Ree who broke the color barrier in ice hockey about 50 years ago.
Also, last week Bill Littlefield of the Boston NPR station, WBUR did a column on the prospects of the WPS. He doesn't seem very hopeful for success for the new league given the current state of the economy. But, like any women's soccer fan, there's a hint of optimism and a strong yearning for a success against all odds story.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The African river running through women's basketball

I am glad that Graham Hays wrote about--insightfully--the coaching situation for women. He seems to get it: the lack of opportunities for women:
The point is how can anyone possibly suggest it's fair that a man hoping to coach Division I college basketball has more than 600 potential jobs to chase but a woman has half as many opportunities -- and has to compete against twice as many people for them?
And why:
God forbid a woman tells an 18-year-old guy he should have gone over a pick instead of under it.

Others he spoke with seem to be misunderstanding some of the barriers female coaches face. In the end, it does come down to the same sentiment about a woman telling a boy or young man how to play a "man's game." But it extends, of course, further than that to a general belief that women do not belong and the excuse that is frequently given is that they are not good enough.
So when administrators--both male and female--bemoan the lack of female coaches and say there are plenty of opportunities but women are not persistent enough, get easily discouraged, or just aren't interested to begin with.
Let's talk about the lesser salaries and, more importantly, all the crap female coaches have to go through when they work in male-dominated athletic departments. Is it really fair to have to "persist" through harassment, through less funding, poorer facilities, etc.?
Certain persons in athletic departments may think it's lack of character or something of that sort. But juries are starting to see otherwise. Check out the Title IX Blog and you will see the myriad of retaliation lawsuits female coaches are bringing against institutions. And they are winning them--regularly. This past week former volleyball coach at Fresno State Lindy Vivas won a multi-million dollar settlement for retaliation and discrimination. A softball coach at Iowa State, others at Fresno, coaches at Florida Gulf Coast University--they are all winning their cases.
See? These coaches do know what persistence is.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Annika's last tournament

Even though she didn't win the European Tour's Dubai Ladies Masters (another women's sporting event in Dubai--this is very interesting. What is it about Dubai?) Annika Sorenstam ended her competitive career with a very nice putt for birdie on the 18th last weekend. I missed all but the highlights of Sorenstam's day because I tuned in only in time to see the last groups finish the last few holes.
But the Golf Channel had a little Annika segment during their news show right after the coverage ended. And, for once, I was glad that women's sports get the short shrift from the media. Because the half hour news show which provides scores, highlights, etc. did the Annika segment first, which meant I did not have to wait around through all the boring stuff like the little tiff between Tiger Woods's caddy and someone else whose name I don't remember (Phil Mickelson's maybe) caddy. (Good reminder that the term "drama" should not just be applied to women's sports when we're talking interpersonal relations.) Of course, I should also be pissed. I mean we're talking one of the best people to ever play the game; someone who has been an amazing representative of the sport (without selling her soul or her body to do it) despite her clear need for privacy.
Most segments about the retirement of such a person would end a show. They would tease you for the first 20 minutes with what was "coming up" and then finally put it at the end. So it's a bummer Sorenstam didn't get that same treatment. But I was glad to be able to turn off the show and watch my DVR recording of an early L-Word episode. Mixed feelings, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Soccer PS

Must be nice to have job security in these economic times. That must be what Pia Sundhage is thinking. The US Women's National Team coach has had her contract renewed through the 2012 Olympics. That is a loooong contract in sports. And it's pretty impressive that is through both the World Cup and Olympics. Guess the powers-that-be must like what she's doing!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What's happening with the WPS

New year is going to bring the first season of Women's Professional Soccer. I had almost forgotten about it what with hockey and basketball well underway and golf winding down.
But there was this piece in the LA Times about US midfielder Shannon Boxx, who appears to be happier than ever and thus playing better. Boxx says that it has a lot to do with the arrival of Pia Sundhage. Not surprising given the havoc previous coach Greg Ryan wreaked (and I'm not just talking about the Hope Solo incident.
Not so sure about the opening line of the Boxx profile: "Shannon Boxx isn't as scary as she looks." Always a little concerned when black people are referred to as scary. It's a little loaded. Besides it's not her looks that make her scary, it's her playing style and skills that strike fear in her opponents. A big, in my mind, distinction.
Boxx is playing for the LA Sol, who, like the rest of the WPS, will be outfitted in Puma apparel, according to the Wall Street Journal. Players who are currently under contract with other cleat manufacturers will not have to wear the Puma shoes, however.
And as the article states:
That's just the start for Puma, which will have its name and logo on the league's balls, uniforms, goalkeeper equipment, even sports bras.
Apparently they are hoping for a Brandi moment at some point in the season.
So while Marta will be wearing Puma shoes--she's actually already under contract with the company. Players like Abby Wambach, who is with Nike, will not.
Wait, did someone say Abby Wambach? What is up with Abby Wambach?
Hard to say. Her allegedly official website has no injury update. So I have no idea where she is in her recovery. So just watch this You Tune video "Chillin' with Abby Wambach" and enjoy the pre-injured Abby looking pretty nice in her tank top as she makes pasta and discusses her unapologetic snoring.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Varsity versus club sports

There were so many things happening last week that I didn't get a chance to write about the brief article in the NYT about college club sports. I was reminded by the fact that I had to do so by the letters the NYT received about the piece.
First, the actual article. As I said, it was brief but quite interesting. Entitled "Dropped from Varsity Lineup but No Longer Grumbling," it featured athletes and teams that once had varsity status but were now club sports. Come to find out that it actually is not a fate worse than death. In fact, some athletes like it better. Some chose a school with a club program over an opportunity to play on a varsity team.
So refreshing given that so many complain bitterly about how sports are cut--due to Title IX, the argument goes--and this deprives so many students--mostly men--of the great experience of playing sports. First, playing sports is not inherently great. I am sure there are plenty of former athletes who could tell you about some pretty not great experiences. Second, playing varsity sports is not always the greatest experience. Student-athletes make a lot of sacrifices these days--a lot. Is it worth it for some? Absolutely. But this is not a universal feeling.
In other words experiences in sport are variable. Furthermore, I would argue that the experiences in high-profile intercollegiate athletics are not all that great for the majority of the student-athletes.
So it is not surprising that an "alternative" structure (i.e., the club sport model) is being embraced by some--including wrestlers.
Wrestlers, wrestling coaches, and fans of wrestling have been some of the most vocal opponents of Title IX because they believed that the law destroyed their sport. Except that it hasn't.
Jim Guinta, executive director of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, who himself was once a strong opponent of Title IX, said this in the article:
“Everyone was talking about Title IX effects, and I thought those policies might eventually level out, so our goal was to posture ourselves as a bunch of schools that were ready to be brought back. But some of us have come to realize that institutions have been using Title IX as a cop-out. The real reason they are cutting sports is to save money. So we still encourage teams to be reinstated in the N.C.A.A. if they can, but that’s rare. We’ve moved on and have a strong association of thriving wrestling programs.”
Say that again? A strong association of thriving wrestling programs?
So not only do club teams merely survive, or get by, they can actually do well.
The Title IX Blog also wrote about the article and includes, in their post, a critique of the piece.

Moving on...the brief article resulted in some letters to the sports editor, one on the issue of funding--an important aspect that was overlooked--and the other, not surprisingly from the president of the College Sports Council, who continues to engage in an anti-Title IX rhetoric based on a skewing of the facts. Eric Pearson is correct--there are more varsity teams for women than there are for men. But Title IX does not measure number of teams because teams come in a variety of sizes. Title IX measures opportunities--as in total number of roster spots among all sports. That is why his use of the term "counterparts" when speaking about men's and women's soccer has very little meaning. There is no requirement for fairness among players of a particular sport. Again, opportunity is measured in the aggregate. There are not as many men's soccer teams as there are women's soccer teams because there are other men's sports that have large rosters--i.e. they are taking up the spots. Sure, if I was a male soccer player I might be pissed. But if I was smart, I would be pissed at the 20+ guys on the football team who will never see a minute of actual play--or, more appropriately, at the administrators that think the presence of these non-playing players is okay when there are likely 20 men who would like a chance to play soccer.
Of course, if the NYT article is right, a lot of those soccer players could be having a great time on their club sport team.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

If it's hockey season...

...there must be someone behaving badly.
And it's true. Now that hockey season is in full swing there's news that goes beyond scores and amazing shots.
Last week (or so) I got an email from a listserv member that praised the NHL for suspending one of its players after he called his ex-girlfriend "sloppy seconds because she was dating another (or more than one other) NHL player. There was much excitement because those of us concerned with sport and social and gender justice are frequently disappointed by the response of administrators to bad, often misogynist, behavior.
Alas the email did not mention the parties involved. More research into the story revealed a few caveats.
The player in question is Sean Avery of the Dallas Stars who is a notorious bad boy. And, he's not really performing all that well--at least not well enough to compensate for the controversy he creates. So it's not a huge loss.
And the girlfriend in question is actually girlfriends: actress Elisha Cuthbert and model Rachel Hunter who are both dating other NHLers now.
In other words, don't expect the NHL or even a team to react similarly when it's a more valuable player and the woman is not famous. I could give you countless examples of situations in which organizations stood behind players under pretty sketchy circumstances while the woman in question was vilified. Anyone remember that guy Kobe?
Lest you think I am a Debbie Downer, I am pleased the NHL reacted very quickly and definitively when this situation arose. Maybe if a similar situation, with different characters, arises we can hold the NHL to the standard it set here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What I did this weekend

On Saturday I did a 5K that benefited a local organization that helps women and their families who have been victims of domestic violence. And though there was a snazzy mug designed by cartoonist Hilary Price who writes and draws Rhymes with Orange, I was actually pleased that the proceeds (over $55,000 I heard) went to a local charity and was put together largely by donations from local businesses. So many charity runs spend a lot of money on advertising and prizes/gifts that, in the end, take away from the actual charity.

In the afternoon I managed to catch all of the NBC special on the Paralympics. I thought it was good. A good mix of stories in terms of sports participated in, type of disability, race, age, and "success" at the Beijing Games. Of course the producers could not have known the outcomes when they chose the athletes--not entirely at least--so this may have been more chance than not. There was a good segment on how China has become more aware and accommodating of disability. It even made the Great Wall accessible and there was footage of athletes on the wall. I do wish the show had addressed the barriers various Olympic committees have put up for the Paralympics. But since it was an NBC program and NBC has a contract with the Olympics that it would like to keep, it was not surprising that it would not engage in a critique of Olympic committee decisions that have negatively affected the Paralympics and Paralympians.

In the evening I went to see Tru Loved, a movie about a girl who starts a gay straight alliance at her high school. I didn't think it was going to be about sport really but was surprised by how integral one of the main character's football team experiences were in the plot. There was an evil homophobic coach, a homophobic friend/teammate who had a change of heart at the end, and even a guest appearance by Dave Kopay, who I didn't think actually looked like Dave Kopay (at least how I remembered him from the Chicago Gay Games). But I was assured it was him. It was a cute story. Not great acting overall but some great guest appearances including Jane Lynch who I wish had been more of a presence.

Last night I caught the end of the Del Webb Father/Son Challenge; an annual golf event for professional golfers and their sons. Except that it wasn't just fathers and sons. Arnold Palmer played with his grandson. (Okay not a huge stretch.) Paul Azinger played with Aaron Stewart who is the son of the late Payne Stewart and Fuzzy Zoeller played with his daughter Gretchen. This is all to say that I think they should change the name of the tournament and maybe even let some mothers in! How old are Julie Inkster's children??

Friday, December 05, 2008

Paralympic special

NBC is re-airing tomorrow its 90 minute documentary on the most recent Paralympic Games in Beijing. The special follows the athletes as they train and then in competition in China.
Note that I found the news of the re-airing in the LA Times and am not certain NBC is airing the show in all time zones. In PT it will be on at 1:30 PM. In other words, check your local listings.
I've only read about the show; I have not seen it myself so I cannot say for certain how well it treats the issues. What I am wondering is if the documentary moves beyond or away from the typical two approaches to discussing and presenting differently abled athletes: the super crip stereotype and the victim approach.
I myself will be doing this on Saturday (still time and room to register if you're interested), but am going to try to DVR the show.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The "oy vey" moment of the week

I haven't paid much attention to the Lingerie Bowl that happens every year during halftime at the Superbowl. Not at the Superbowl, of course. That show features actual nudity (i.e. Janet Jackson's breast a few years ago). But for the bargain price of $19.99 you can order from Pay-per-View the Lingerie Bowl in which models play football in their nicely coordinated underwear.
I knew it existed but frankly it's just too obvious for comment: sexploitation of women, women-on-women action for the benefit of men (I don't want to hear about how this possibly might be "beneficial" to lesbians, too); perversion of women's sports, etc. Like most things associated with the Superbowl, I just let it go.
But now there's going to be a Lingerie Football League. Oh, yes; an LFL. It has eight teams.
First, if I was one of the women who played real football, you know with pads, for a league like the Independent Women's Football League, I would be so depressed right now. Like women who play football don't have a tough enough time trying to get legitimate coverage and respect for their athletic endeavors, now they have to deal with models in underwear and garters playing "real football"--you know, because it's with the regular rules and they tackle.
I don't have anything against people becoming involved in new sports as adults. In fact, I encourage it. But these women don't seem like they had a burning desire to play football their entire lives and were purely stymied by a patriarchal sport system that prevented their participation. The LFL is not helping women realize their dreams. It's helping men with theirs.
If you're a parent with a football-playing daughter, my guess is that you're not going to take her to an LFL game. That alone speaks volumes as to the "goals" of this league and the version of entertainment it is purveying.
The people involved better just own their sexploitative ways. But they're a tad defensive about this endeavor. At least president of the Sear Centre Arena, where the Chicago Bliss will be playing, is. The link above includes Jeff Bowen's comments that include how those who are critiquing the league are just holding something against these women because they are attractive.
Yes, that must be it. We all just hate the pretty people and resent them their beauty and are begrudging them their right to play football.
So it's not the LFL that sucks--it's the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Observations on the UConn game

So I am watching the Holy Cross at UConn game. UConn seems to be riding high after their resounding win over #4 Oklahoma last weekend which was aired on ESPN (or ESPN2--I don't remember). I only watched a few minutes of it at the end of the first half before I turned on the penultimate episode of Tru Blood*.
Tonight's game is being aired on Connecticut Public Television which airs a lot of UConn basketball, which is nice. Of course they also use the games as an opportunity for fundraising with pleas for money at every time out and half time. As with most public television fundraising there are incentives for various donations. CPTV is offering the in-demand (the first printing is already gone) media guide. Also there is an auction for a basketball signed by members of the team. In describing these items the CPTV host keeps referring to the players' numbers; as in "featured in the media guide is #31" and "the ball has been signed by #30 who we just saw score 5 points." Seriously none of the players--you know some of the biggest names in women's basketball like Maya Moore and Tina Charles--were mentioned by name. How weird is that. Makes me think the host is not so well informed about the product she is actually trying to sell.
Also not so strange, just disheartening. The pre-second half interview with associate head coach Chris Dailey who referred to her players as "guys" as in "these guys are going to focus on ____ in the second half." Another grrrr moment.
Well UConn is just destroying Holy Cross and since I cannot really root for anyone (don't like Geno, have a policy of not supporting religiously-affiliated schools) and this just isn't interesting in the least, I'm going to go catch up on my episodes of Heroes. Hmmm...there seems to be a pattern to my television viewing.

* I have not seen the last episode that has already aired. Please don't tell me what happens.

Why I love Annika

It's true, I haven't been paying a lot of attention to women's golf lately. I think I have been slightly deflated since Annika Sorenstam announced her retirement earlier this year. I couldn't even bring myself to watch the championships last week when I realized she was not going to make it to weekend play.

I have always admired that she balances so well her public life and her private life. That she has never needed to reveal details of her personal life in order to promote and be an excellent representative of her sport. Such balance is especially difficult in women's sports when the media are constantly trying to bring out the "other side" of female athletes in ways that can be exploitative and not frequently seen in the coverage of male athletes.

So when I get the LPGA's entertainment report that mentions its "Quick 18" (18 questions) with Annika Sorenstam in which we can learn more about her likes and dislikes and personal life, I get a little annoyed.

But I have to admit that I enjoyed it. They're all pretty much innocuous questions. And I realized that me and Annika--we have a lot in common. OK not the neat freak thing. But the relationship to dessert and calories for example. We don't count them and we eat dessert when we feel like it. It's unfortunate that she doesn't like celery but it's not a staple of my diet so I think we can work around that and even though she doesn't like clothes shopping, we both love Whole Foods. And Annika is coming out with a wine, a syrah. I don't like syrah--but maybe she'll do a nice pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon next.

And though I probably won't be buying the new Annika fragrance when it comes out in the spring (unless it smells like freshly cut grass and an ocean breeze--which I think would be appropriate), I'm still going to miss seeing Annika in tournaments.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

NOT subsidizing professional sports

Perhaps yesterday I should have noted that all the sponsorship dollars being subsidized by tax payer dollars are going to men's sports.
The companies who had various forms of sponsorship with the Houston Comets are off the hook. The franchise has folded in the midst of looking for new ownership. But no one would spend the money, it seems.
Women's Hoops Blog has some coverage of the Comets' exit from the WNBA.
And Mechelle Voepel has a very good column about how this does NOT mean the WNBA is in trouble.
Read them both for a more intelligent analysis of money and women's sports than I could possibly offer.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Subsidizing professional sports

So now that we're officially in a recession, let's talk sports!
There's been rumblings here and there about how sports might be affected by the then "bad economy." The NCAA has asked schools that need to cut teams because of crunched budgets NOT to blame Title IX in the process. Some are wondering if attendance at events might be affected--probably given that the rise in costs associated with attending a sporting event have risen well above the rate of inflation.
But let's talk corporate for a sec. All this bailout money to all these corporate giants has many people pissed--to say the least. What might piss you off more? If there is any tightening of belts--it isn't happening in the area of corporate sponsorship.
Citibank has no plans to get out of its 20-year naming rights contract with the NY Mets. The in-big-trouble financial institution is paying the Mets $400 million so they will call the field Citi Field. And insurance company AIG continues to pay Manchester United to put the AIG logo on the team's uniforms.
GM though did dump the quite expensive Tiger Woods from its roster of celebrity endorsers, in an attempt to cut costs. Maybe NOT getting bailout money IS a good thing. Certainly made GM cut some fat.
The efficacy of sponsorship and naming rights has always been questionable and now, more than ever, these practices are coming under increasing scrutiny.

Friday, November 28, 2008

We're not north of the Mason-Dixon line anymore

So yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I did this Turkey Trot thing--in Florida. How nice, you must be thinking. Running in Florida. Not so much. It was cold. Seriously. People were dressed the way I would dress at home for a run.
Whatever, I was a little chilly during the run and freezing afterwards when I was waiting in an enormous line of other Turkey Trotters at the local Einstein Bagels.
Sometimes I forget Florida is the south. I don't know why--maybe because Disneyworld is here. (Which should actually corroborate things, but you know, childhood memories and all.) But it was hard to forget yesterday when 1) I had to listen to someone sing--live--the national anthem (of the US) as I hopped around trying to stay warm before the gun went off for the 5K. The national anthem before a 5K fun run? Strange. It reminded me of a post by Michael Butterworth at The Agon about the overt patriotism in baseball. I believe some of the sentiments are applicable even though Butterworth is talking about the God Bless America ritual. I swear I saw an editorial once that addressed the national anthem specifically. But I can't find it now.
The national anthem thing wasn't that surprising. I was a little shocked when, waiting at the finish line for others in my party, I saw a woman come across the line wearing a University of Florida sweatshirt complete with offensive logo (again not that surprising given my location). But as she crossed she did the Seminole chop! At a Turkey Trot fun run. Interesting manifestation of school pride.
Today I'm golfing. We'll how that works out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From around the blogosphere

I started this post forever ago because I was looking for a quick post to dash off before I headed to Denver for a conference. But compiling information actually takes longer than one might think. And now I am on pseudo-vacation so I thought I would revisit it. Some of the information is old but I haven't heard much coverage of some of the stories so I don't feel too bad putting them out there now.

  • I have been a fan of Ashley Fiolek's since I first read about the motcross star last summer. I voted for her in the recent WSF Athlete of the Year Awards (she lost to Nastia Liukin, which I am still getting over). But even if WSF voters did not recognize Fiolek's accomplishments and contributions, others have. The editors at TransWorld Motcross magazine have. According to the story at Because I Played Sports, Fiolek will be the first woman to appear on the cover of the magazine. She also has a regular column in the publication called Silence in which she talks about her deafness.

  • Also another follow-up type story from Women's Sports Blog, Christine Daniels, a writer for the LA Times, has decided to detransition. Daniels announced in April of 2007, writing as Mike Penner, would be transitioning from a man to a woman. Penner wrote a column about his decision and his coming-out process, and as I noted seemed very excited about and supported in his transition. Penner has not revealed why he will be detransitioning but there is a very good column linked to in the WSB post that explain the realities of transitioning and detransitioning.
  • Diane at Women Who Serve has a great Top 10 list and commentary of the 2008 season on the WTA.
  • How the economic downturn (that's putting it mildly, right?) is affecting sports is a hot topic these days. (I may actually devote a longer post to it at some point.) The Title IX Blog has a couple of posts about how intercollegiate sports might (or are) deal with economics and Title IX.
  • Also in the area of year-end lists, Pat Griffin at It Takes a Team comments on OUT magazine's top 100 influential people in the GLBT community. The skinny: very few athletes and an underrepresentation of women and people of color. Pat's planning on writing to OUT and making some suggestions regarding some of these absences. You can too!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Co-ed rec sports

I think a lot about co-ed sports. Okay not a lot a lot--I do have a life. But I find them particularly interesting in all their various manifestations. I myself have played co-ed softball and mixed doubles. Quite different, of course, but definitely sharing some similarities. Because most co-ed sports share similarities and that is because they all adopt a similar paradigm: the need to make adjustments to accommodate the skills of women. And the implication, of course, is that those skills are inferior.
And that paradigm manifests itself in more ways than just the gendered batting order or the mandate that women serve to women on the deciding point of a game. Jennifer Doyle, a rec soccer player, talks about her experiences playing with men at her blog From a Left Wing (another new blog to add to the list!) and the thoughts such experiences have created in her.
Also, the UCLA student newspaper The Daily Bruin, has an article about co-rec sports on its campus. They are quite popular, according to sources. Unfortunately, the rule changes, again made in the name of accommodating women, result in statements like this:
"It’s less physical, but you can’t do much about that,” second-year prebusiness economics student Charles Liu said.
“Girls can really surprise you about how good they are at football. ... It’s still a lot of fun."
If Liu really wanted a physical game, why doesn't he just play men's flag football? It just could be, maybe, that there are men out there that enjoy this version of the game(s) as well. In other words, the accommodations, I would bet, aren't just for women. They provide an alternative for everyone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Do you Zumba?

I never, never jump into the latest fitness trends. It took me years to get into both Step and indoor cycling.

But for some reason I tried Zumba a couple of weeks ago and have been twice now. Not sure how long Zumba has been around (wait--according to the website it came to the US in the early 2000s), but it just came to my gym. Zumba is--this my description--a dance aerobics class. The foundations of the movements are in Latin dance.

Here is what the Zumba website has to say about its product:

Zumba® fuses hypnotic latin rhythms and easy to follow moves to create a dynamic fitness program that will blow you away. Our goal is simple: We want you to want to work out, to love working out, to get hooked. Zumba® Fanatics achieve long term benefits while experiencing an absolute blast in one exhilarating hour of caloric-burning, body-energizing, awe-inspiring movements meant to engage and captivate for life!

(The rest of the description is here.)

I haven't decided exactly how I feel about it from a workout sense. It is indeed fun and the music is good. How intense the cardio is--for me--is still up in the air. [But I usually play tennis immediately after class so I'm not that worried about that for now. And yes, I am getting into the moves and not holding back.]

Not sure how true the "easy to follow moves" really are. But unlike Step and other aerobics classes, getting all the moves down and in the "right" order, etc. isn't all that important in Zumba, as far as I can tell. And my instructor certainly reinforces that idea. The other night someone asked a more technical question about how to switch feet and she said "well I go like this" and demonstrated "but you can do whatever you want to get there" and kind of did a little awkward shuffle thing. And she will say throughout the class "do whatever feels good" and offer different options for arms and other movements. But that may be an individual instructor thing. I certainly like my instructor for this reason and because, on day 1 she was extolling the virutes of Zumba and said something about how many calories you could burn in the hour but quickly added "not that that should matter to you."

Zumba has certainly created some chatter. There's a lot of chattering in class and there is a LOT of chatter in the locker room after class. And that's because people--99.5 percent women (there was one man in class the other night)--are a little self-conscious about how they move their bodies.
Because is undeniably erotic. Yep, I said it. It's sexual. It's based on Latin dance. Just because you put it in a suburban gym filled mostly with white, middle-class women does not mean the sexiness--well it actually does go away a little when you see some people doing it--more on that in a sec. The other night two women who were quite...well...stiff in class were "joking" about how they couldn't Zumba and how one was going to tell her husband she was doing erotic dance moves at the gym. These two women who are running and training buddies and in, by all accounts, great shape kept saying over and over "we don't Zumba." Really, over and over. Not sure why. They clearly felt some awkwardness over not being able to do this. Or rather not being able to execute the moves in a way that reflects a sort of flowing or natural movement. Because it's pretty easy to compensate for a lack of knowledge about the steps by just going with the flow. But so many women do not.
How out of touch with our bodies are we? My sister (who Zumbas at a different gym) and I both think that how well one Zumbas--in terms of getting into it and really moving, not knowing the steps--is likely a reflection on one's sexual life. Which is also sometimes a reflection of how in touch we are with our bodies.
Or maybe people just don't want to be sexual in the gym and so hold back. If so, why not? The gym's a pretty sexual place. Look around. Bodies, muscles, sweat, steaminess, skin, grunting, flexing, tensing. Maybe Zumba is just more overt in showing us what's already there. And maybe that's why some people just seem so awkward about it all.
The You Tube clip below is from a TODAY show segment from a little over a year ago. Poor Ann Curry always getting dragged into doing these things when she clearly does not want to.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Canada, hockey, and sexuality: What a movie!

I had heard about this movie that was going to be about a gay NHL player so long ago I practically forgot about it. Okay, I did forget about it--until last week when I got an email (see, sometimes being on listservs really does pay off!) saying that Breakfast with Scot was screening in my area on Saturday.
But it's no wonder I had forgotten about it. I blogged about the production, which had just started, two years ago. Here's some of what I said then: do we even know the film will do a good job in its treatment of homosexuality? Will it rely on stereotypes and poor parodies? Will it do enough and do well enough to actually engender changes in opinion?
I can be pretty harsh (shocker, I know) on media generally and movies in particular about their treatments of homosexuality. And so I was pleasantly surprised to leave the screening Saturday evening saying "yeah, that was a good movie." And then I wondered if I wasn't being too uncritical or in some kind of odd happy mood, or just really hungry and anxious about getting consensus for a dinner plan. So I stopped and thought about it a little more.
And, yes, it was a good movie. I didn't find it stereotypical. I thought it truly represented a range of gay people and dealt with issues of gender identification. I was not jarred by the change in attitude of the main character about his own sexuality or that of the child he winds up parenting. I have found other movies far more reductionist in their treatment of how a child just lights up one's life. I found the reluctance and ambivalence about parenting a non-relative, gender-bending child refreshing. And sure there was a happy ending with few loose endings but I didn't have expectations of anything else, so I was not disappointed.
There are sooooo many bad gay movies out there. I think many of us have come to expect mediocrity, that our standards have been lowered. But this was a good movie--by most standards. So if it comes to your neck of the woods--see it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Check it out in Boston

Donna Lopiano and historian Susan Ware are co-presenting a talk on Billie Jean King and second-wave feminism tomorrow night at Harvard, 6pm.
Sounds interesting.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making their cases

Yesterday, seven sports made their cases to an IOC committee about why they should be included in the 2016 Olympics. Softball and baseball, of course, were two of the seven, making separate arguments to the program commission which is comprised of 16 IOC members.
Long day for the commission with each sport making a one-hour pitch.
Also pleading for inclusion: golf (we know how I feel about that); karate (still surprised it isn't in already); rugby (I'm in support--far more supportive of it than baseball certainly); roller sports (not really sure what this would look like and am doubtful they have garnered enough support to get it over the other high-profile sports); and squash (ambivalent).
In June the commission will issue its recommendations and the full 100-member IOC board will vote next year at a meeting in Coopenhagen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Concussions in female hockey players

The hype (hysteria?) over women and their ACLs must be waning. Looks like the new focus* is on concussions. I've actually read a little about concussions in women's sports. The injury just doesn't receive nearly as much attention and "concern." This is likely because no one seems to be suggesting that there is something about a woman's physiology that predisposes her to concussions whereas that argument has been proffered to explain the higher rate of ACL injuries in women.
Oh, but wait. This article does seem to fluctuate between the rate as a trend versus an effect of physiology. Also, the data that suggest women are receiving concussions at a much higher rate are from an NCAA study of a relatively small sample. The NCAA's data do not reflect other research that has examined concussions rates in male and female hockey players. The article does mention other possibilities:
...reasons are varied, ranging from what sounds like sexist science – that women are more willing to consult medical staff than men – to weaker neck muscles to rigid, upright skating positions that compromise their balance. In a similar trend, the NCAA study also found female basketball and soccer players sustained concussion rates higher than those of their male counterparts, but less than those of female hockey players.
The article moves between challenging and reifying stereotypes about women in sports as it addresses issues such as how hard women play, level of aggression, muscle strength, skills and abilities, and ability to deal with injury/pain. I do sense though a bias toward female athletes as somehow innately inferior and certainly there are patronizing moments in it. My favorite was this:
Balmer is one of hockey's broken daughters, a growing group of players who are sustaining concussions in a virtual vacuum...
Nice prose, but a little hyperbolic and certainly condescending. "Broken daughters"? Nothing like invoking the image of a small, helpless girl child in need of protection from a father(-figure).

(h/t to Sean from Sportsbabel for sending the article my way.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

She doesn't have a penis! *

Yes, the title is a little crude. But frankly, I am so exasperated at women being called men I just don't know how else to draw attention to this issue.
Because Hope Solo, is a woman and thus cannot be your Sportsman of the Year. It's interesting that this column by George Dohmann is titled Hope Solo: Sportsman of the Year (the dissonance that creates...) but Dohmann himself refers to the award as Sportsperson. Glad that some of SI's writers are smarter than their copy editors.

*Just for the record, I do not believe that genitals make someone a man or a woman. And actually many governing bodies of sport these days are not relying on genital identification either. So while I admit the title is somewhat reductionist--I think it makes the point.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More tirade opportunities

My letter to the recreation director and the mayor of Michigan City were polite but strongly worded. My post to a student columnist's anti-Title IX piece in the U of Illinois's Daily Illini was a little more harsh. I'm not really surprised that a university at which so many people thought that their use of a Native American mascot was just fine would produce such a misinformed piece. But I'm feeling feisty and annoyed--a bad combination.
I have copied my post below. The first line is in a response to this post:
Finally someone has the courage to write an article on this subject. No doubt he will be criticized by the activists within a few hours.

He will be criticized by the activists because he fails miserably in his understanding of Title IX. (Also, it doesn't take much courage at all to be anti-woman in a patriarchal society and, in particular, a historically misogynist venue: sport.)The prongs measure only one of 13 different areas of compliance with Title IX. They address only the issue of participation opportunities. And, by the way, it was men who, in 1979, came up with the prong system, because it benefitted them at the time because a higher proportion of men attended colleges and universities. Neither the prongs nor Title IX generally mandates equal funding. It asks for equitable funding, opportunities, and access. The law was designed to accomodate the fact that different sports cost different amounts (uniforms, travel, equipment, etc.). Additionally, perhaps the biggest misconception lies in the "equal number of sports" argument. It is not the number of sports--it is the total number of opportunities. Rosters differ significantly among sports. Even between baseball and softball, two allegedly similar sports; softball keeps a much smaller roster because it does not require carrying such a large pitching staff. This leads to this activist's final point. If you want men's soccer and swimming/diving, hockey, etc.--cut football. The over 100 participation opportunities for men through football could easily field 4 men's teams. Also, the money you save from football's excesses could fund these teams--and then some. Because, with a few exceptions like Ohio State, football does not make money. Stop blaming Title IX--start looking at the facts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Please register your concern

I so enjoy sending a strongly worded note of concern over some egregious act perpetuated by some knowing persons. Letters to the editor, letters to journalists, letters to television execs, letters to administrators--things of that sort. Haven't done it in a while. Thankfully Pat Griffin over at the It Takes a Team blog has provided me and others like me a new opportunity. She had previously reported on the suspension of two volunteer coaches of youth baseball in Michigan City, IN after they not only condoned the use of anti-gay slurs against a 12-year old boy, but participated in the harassment and proceeded to defend their actions and those of the other harassers. They were suspended from coaching for one year. A slap on the wrist if ever there was one.
Now, though, it's a slap in the face to the victim and his supporters: the recreation department has overturned the suspension of said coaches.
Please read more of the story at It Takes a Team where there are also links to the original stories. And then email or call the head of the recreation board and the mayor of Michigan City. Contact info is below and at Griffin's blog.

Jeremy Kienitz Recreation Director
voice: (219) 873-1524

Mayor Chuck Oberlie
Office of the Mayor 100 East Michigan Boulevard
Michigan City, Indiana 46360

Monday, November 10, 2008

Women, fandom, and consumerism

The title makes it seem like I am going to say something truly profound about these issues. But not really. 'Cause I've said a lot of it before. But it's Monday; I just got back from Denver, and I'm feeling blog-lazy. So I'll just repeat my basic rant that is always engendered by articles such as this one that report--always with a hint of surprise--that female fans of men's professional sports comprise a pretty significant portion of the consumer base for apparel and other fan gear/accessories.
Yes, sales of women's NFL jerseys are up and appear to be equal to those of men's and youth.
I get the different fit for women--though I'm not so sure some men wouldn't benefit from different fits either. Women are not the only ones with prominent breasts these days. Ideally I would like, at the very least, a gender-neutral sizing system. Why I am a men's small but a women's large kind of confounds me. Anyway, cut is one thing--color is another:
Also helping the sales of NFL sports apparel are the pink NFL jerseys that are also a relatively new phenomenon. Women who acknowledge their feminine side while watching the NFL's brutes knock each other around on Sundays are also buying the pink jerseys of their favorite NFL stars in part to show support for the fight against breast cancer. Many NFL teams tie in awareness events with pink NFL apparel including the most popular jerseys of players like Tony Romo and Brett Favre.
I do this great sound effect that is a cross between an extended sigh and grrrr...that comes from the back of my throat. That's what I am doing right now. Seriously, I am so over this pink crap. I think that manufacturers realized that the pink for women thing might not last and so became attached to breast cancer causes. But if all these teams and apparel companies really supported breast cancer awareness/research/etc. they would 1) probably not have enough social conscience not to have their products produced in sweat shops, 2) would not tie their donation amounts to sales of jerseys and 3) would market to men, too. All these male athletes and execs are allegedly concerned with breast cancer, yet none of them are sporting pink jerseys. Hmmm....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dear Larry Scott, Please pick one side of your mouth

The work Billie Jean King is doing promoting the women's year-end championship in Qatar is the focus of this AP article. She discusses her desire to bring the sport to the Middle East and to bring sport to middle eastern women.
It also notes some of the challenges such as advertising the event in public in ways that do not offend the Muslim culture there. In other words--no picture of players in their skirts and tanks. But WTA head Larry Scott said he doesn't really want to look at any contradictions with the values of the WTA and such concessions. Probably because Scott isn't able to see contradictions generally so it could be a difficult task for him. I'm not even sure he knows what a contradiction is based on his comments:
"Our role is not to discuss concerns we have about society."
But then:
"We are here to build sport, and as a supporting organisation we believe we are a catalyst for change.... Sport is a reflection of society. This event could not have taken place ten years ago, so this is very significant. It will promote more understanding and tolerance and different ways of looking at things. Our athletes are playing a very significant role but we don't have a political and social agenda."

Yeah, I can't really figure it out either.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thoughts (not mine) on women and hockey

I have plenty of thoughts about women and hockey, and it's good to know that others feel similarly. Damien Cox at has a very good editorial about the continued gender discrimination perpetuated by the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Again this year there were no female nominees. Cox notes that this is despite the fact that both the International Hockey Federation HoF and the US HoF recently broke the gender barrier and enshrined female players. It has basically become a pissing contest Cox says with the HHoF seeing how long it can hold out, refusing to change its procedures and reveal how the process really works (beyond our basic understandings of typical old boys' networks).
He also takes to the task some of excuses proffered by HoF officials like "there isn't enough of a women's hockey history yet" (been around just as long as the men's game--just because looks different doesn't mean it isn't there) and that female players' accomplishments do not compare to those of male players.
Cox believes some day the HHoF will give in but right now they seem pretty wedded to their position (of privilege).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day post

Try as I have to remain stoic throughout this whole election thing, I keep getting sucked in.
So here it is, my election day post brought about by a comparison between Title IX and Proposition 8 by those opposed to the latter.
How did they possibility do that, you ask. Here's how:
...under California domestic partnership laws, same-sex couples already have all of the legal rights that heterosexual married couples do, just not the name "marriage." Unlike same-sex "marriage," women's suffrage did not change the definition of the word "vote." Title IX didn't change the definition of "sports." Same-sex "marriage," on the other hand, radically redefines the very term "marriage" -- what it means at its very core.
It's a lousy analogy, especially because 1) the definition of sport is always being debated and 2) because Title IX did have an effect on our understanding of sport--who gets to play and how and in what contexts. If did not change some of our fundamental understandings about sport--and gender--then it wouldn't be so threatening to so many. That is the connection between Prop 8 and Title IX: they both effect change many do not want to see because they want to keep certain institutions exclusive, in these cases marriage and sport respectively.
Okay, that's it. I have to go vote now.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Now they want to be separate

I've said this before but I'm saying it now again in light of this story out of Canada about the International Softball Federation, when you're a women's sport and you attach yourself to a men's sport in an attempt to garner attention and support, you will frequently find yourself screwed. The most obvious example of this at the moment is international softball which has found itself out of the Olympics along with baseball which was not, many see it, a coincidence. Softball didn't have enough of its own reputation, its own presence to withstand the scandals in baseball. This theory has been around since the voting to eliminate the sports took place, but not the ISF is taking more formal steps to separate from baseball asking all its national bodies to become independent from baseball if they have not done so already.
Now if we can only get the softball commentators to stop making so many baseball references!

Both baseball and softball are applying for reinstatement and a vote will take place in October of 2009.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Equal prize money at X Games

Winter X Games 13 is approaching and I guess I just assumed that the prize money was already equal--but apparently not. How naive of me. My assumption that an alternative sporting event that began in the Title IX era (not so alternative anymore, I realize) would actually start from a premise of equality clearly lacked some critical thinking.
Anyway, organizers have promised equal prize money for men and women this winter after discussions with various organizations including the Women's Sports Foundation. Rationale is slightly irksome though.
According to the PR person for the games Katie Moses Swope "Really, over recent years, with the recent successes in women's sport, we decided to recognize their talent with an equal purse."
Um, is that a compliment? So what you're saying to those women who competed in the first X Games over a decade ago was that they just were not good enough.
Or that any woman who ever played sports until just a few year ago didn't deserve equal compensation.
This rhetoric was used recently when the first women were inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame. It's a "they're ready now" rationale that puts it all on the women and their alleged past inferior performance rather than the system that still values men's sports over women's and generally will not reward women's sports (monetarily and in other ways such as media coverage and serious consideration of their sports) in the same way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I want to see this

WaPo has a piece on a new art exhibit currently showing in LA (bummer for me). It's called Hard Targets: Masculinity and Sports, and it sounds fascinating. It's in LA until the start of 2009. Can't find where it may be headed next but I am hoping it is somewhere on the east coast.
The article details the various installments. I, personally, am quite intrigued by this one:
Feminism and race intersect in Mark Bradford's basketball video "Practice." Bradford, who is tall and black, enacts an absurdist ballet about race-based assumptions -- you should play basketball -- by shooting hoops in a dress made with a massive, awkward bustle (conspicuously fashioned in L.A. Lakers-like gold and purple). Struggling to find his shot while literally wrestling his outfit, Bradford speaks to the history of constricting women's wear and, metaphorically, women's roles, even as he speaks to similar constraints of race.

If you're interested in reading more about the intersection of art and sport, check out what Sean Smith has been doing over at sportsBabel.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Marie Tuite P.S.

Ebuz over at the Title IX Blog was nice enough to inform me that indeed the departure of Marie Tuite from the University of Washington athletic department was no big loss. Apparently during the scandals involving the football players and sexual assault and other crimes, Tuite was part of the community-wide cover up/downplaying of these events. She recommended community service instead of suspension for one of the offending players who committed sexual assault. And was generally dismissive of a female student who reported sexual assault against her by a player.
I don't think Tuite has much of a case for keeping her job.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More new blogs

So I found Because I Played Sports the other day and was pleased. And now I keep finding more blogs that I never knew about.

First, there's Women Like Sports. Blogger Apryl Delancey blogs about her own fandom. Unfortunately from what I have seen she blogs mostly about men's sports. Though Delancey does appear to be a regular reader of Because I Played Sports and links to the blog and highlights the stories there.

Then there's Girls Dig Sports. It's a little slicker looking than most of the blogs on women's sports and, again, the content seems to be focused on men's sports. So these two will not make it on the blogroll just yet. I really hope both cover more women's sports, because it would be pretty disappointing if when we talk about women liking sports, we're only talking about men's sports.

A little more to my liking is Women Play Sports, though it has not been updated since the beginning of September. Hopefully Dr. Oh No Romo will get back on track.

Also looking promising is Athletic Women Blog that highlights various stories both mainstream and now. I find it heartening when a sports blog uses "feminism" as a tag for entries.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Kicker gets to kick

So a high school girl, Kacy Stuart, down in Georgia wanted to play football for her high school. But they wouldn't let her. Then her mother advocated on her daughter's behalf (i.e., raised some hell) and now Stuart is playing. Other schools are not so happy about this and Bible verses have been uttered in defense of all-boy football.
Because I Played Sports chronicles the story so I won't go into further detail that you can find there. No word yet on what exactly compelled the school to allow Stuart to kick. It wasn't Title IX because it does not apply to contact sports. Maybe they just didn't like the publicity--of which they were receiving a lot.
But here's the thing...Stuart plays for New Creation Center Crusaders. It's a private, Christian school. It is, according to its website, "non-denominational." When someone says they are Christina non-denominational that is usually code for Pentecostal. This may not be the case at New Creation Center, but even if it's not, Stuart is trying to play a traditionally masculine game at a Christian school--in the south. Its non-discrimination policy does not include gender. Let me repeat that: the school's non-discrimination policy (which covers things like athletics) does not include gender.
I am glad the Stuarts won their fight against the school and that Kacy is playing football, but I don't have much sympathy for them generally. If you want your female child to have equal opportunities try sending her to a school that actually believes in gender equality.

Friday, October 24, 2008

New (to me) blog

Check out Because I Played Sports, I blog I recently found (via Women's Sports Blog). Because I Played, run by former b-baller Megan Hueter, attempts to fill some of the void on the internet about women's sports.
She has some of my favorite blogs on her blogroll. Unfortunately this one is not one them, but maybe someday my little blog will be up there, too.
Tomorrow (or some time in the near future) I will comment on a story Because I Played has been following about a female placekicker on a GA high school football team.

Probably not so curious after all

I wrote recently about the dismissal of the senior women's athletic administrator at University of Washington and wondered if there might be something amiss in the firing and if we might see a lawsuit for wrongful termination, perhaps with a Title IX angle.
But it appears that it was just a cleaning house move. UW athletics has had a not so good time of it lately mired in some controversy and apparently bad leadership. The new AD Scott Woodward hired a new SWA, Stephanie Rempe who is replacing the apparently resigned (there is some confusion over whether she was fired) Marie Tuite, who had been at UW for more than a decade. Rempe, from University of Oklahoma, takes over in about a month.
Of course it's still possible that Tuite could file a retaliation suit. The only potential dirt I could find on her was that she may or may not have ignored a situation of drug abuse on the softball team a few years back. I mean if you can win a multi-million dollar retaliation judgment after you have taken vicodin from your own players, you should be able to get something even if you turned a blind eye to drug use among student-athletes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thoughts from the "feminist left"

Greta van Susteren of FOX News interviewed former MA governor Jayne Swift about Sarah Palin and the attacks on her by the "feminist left." That same feminist left that has allegedly hijacked feminism. Note though that some feminists from various chapters of NOW and a former Ms. magazine editor have supported Palin and those are feminists who, at least once upon a time, would have been considered part of the feminist left. Hard to believe that some women left NOW in the 60s and 70s because it was considered too radical in its stance on abortion and reproductive rights.
So Swift gets on van Susteren's show to say how feminists exist at all points on the political spectrum and all feminists believe in fairness in a campaign, yada, yada. So van Susteren asks her well, "what is a feminist" and Swift replies:
I think a feminist is someone who believes that women should have equal opportunity to men. I think it is someone who understands that Title IX allowed girls to participate in athletics and compete at the same level and in the same numbers that boys do. And I think that it is someone like me, like Governor Palin, who hopes that our daughters, if they work hard and play by the rules, can do virtually anything they want to in their life.
[You had been waiting for when I would get to the sport stuff, I bet.]
The Sarah Palin/Title IX connection has been nauseating. (Title IX Blog has done some blogging on it as has the Huffington Post.) Palin was a point guard in high school and she attributes her success in leadership to her athletic experiences.
Not sure if Swift played/plays sports but she doesn't quite have her Title IX facts down, which is disturbing since I think "feminists" should know what they're talking about when they invoke Title IX. The fact that she discusses Title IX in the past tense is worrisome. To me it signals that Swift and other "feminists" like her would weaken the legislation given the opportunity.
Because Title IX has certainly created more opportunities--but not equal opportunities and women are not competing at the same level if we consider that women are found in fewer numbers in professional and Olympic competition. (Title IX, of course, does not apply to these levels but there is a belief that if there are more collegiate female athletes then there should be more opportunities for them after graduation.)
Also problematic and applicable to sport is Swift's "feminist" belief that if you play by the rules, you should be able to succeed. But the rules are created by men. You are playing a man's game--literally and figuratively depending on the venue. This is an issue feminists in sport have grappled with how to incorporate, challenge, or shun men's games. And it's a discussion more feminists in general should be having.
If there's any hijacking of feminism going on, it's from the right who uses it when they need it (like when they nominate a female for VP) and then ignore it when it's not so useful (like when they challenge Title IX).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't speak that name

Reader JB informed me of an interesting--but not entirely surprising--double standard in the world of sport journalism.
At the beginning of the summer ESPN columnist Jemele Hill, a young black woman, was suspended from her job after likening rooting for the Celtics to thinking Hitler was a victim. She apologized and served her suspension.
Last weekend, Lou Holtz, older white guy, also working for ESPN made a comment during a conversation about the not-so-hot record of Michigan's football coach saying something about Hitler was a good leader too. I assume facetiously though another commentator said "you mean, bad leader" and he said yeah, yeah, bad.
Holtz was made to apologize--that's it.
The racist and gendered double standard just smacks one across the face. Holtz just made himself sound stupid. Hill's analogy I cannot quite understand because I don't have the whole context (ESPN took down the column).
But here's the thing, I guess I'm not sure when just mentioning Hitler became inherently problematic. Hitler references are hackneyed and often dehistoricized especially when used in sport. They lack a certain sensitivity, but just mentioning the name Hitler is not anti-Semitic. I find the anti-Semitic slang words far more offensive. Neither Hill nor Holtz actually called anyone Hitler or Hitler-esque.
Let me be clear: I don't think this is political correctness run amok. I think it's actually another example of double (or some other number) standard. Because words like fascist and communist are thrown about all the time. Would there be the same uproar if someone invoked Stalin? (Maybe, who knows.) And, as a self-identified feminist, people of my political persuasion are frequently called femi-nazis because we, horror upon horrors, believe in things like reproductive freedom and the end of domestic violence and sexual assault. I have yet to see a big condemnation of that term.
I am willing to be convinced that Hitler is a dirty word. But if it is, people better start cleaning up other parts of their speech too. Because the mention of a historical figure--as awful as he was--does not seem to be as malicious as calling someone a nazi or a fascist--in any context.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More model behavior

I don't think I have it in me to complain every year about the use of female models as ball persons at the Madrid Masters event in Spain. It's just not that interesting anymore. It doesn't appear anything is going to change unless tournament organizers begin to believe that the use of the models is driving people away from the tournament. (I still find the rationale that they bring in spectators both suspect and creepy.)
But this article out of the UK caught my attention, especially the picture of an awkward-looking Andy Murray surrounded by said models/ballpersons. Murray, who won the event, tries so hard to be so bad-ass and he walks around thinking he's all that (probably all that time he spent with Brad Gilbert who had a similar, I believe, influence on Andy Roddick).
It's mostly just a snarky piece about how other sports in other countries--namely Britain--might sex up their sports by trimming down some outfits and revealing a little more skin. And I just love snarky pieces about sexism and sport.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Female fandom: Women like the NFL?!?

I imagine this post could have future follow-ups: Female fandom II, III, etc. (All with a catchy post-colon phrase, of course.)
This post is about an article I came across earlier this month and nearly forgot about. It's all about female NFL fans. And it kind of reads like an older anthropological piece. You know the one in which the white guy goes looking for something unusual amongst the primitive. Because the whole angle is basically "women like football, and they really get into it. How 'interesting.'" And you know the tone "interesting" has here. It details the rituals female fans engage in from organizing parties to donning their favorite team's gear.
The article makes minor mention of the pinkification of fandom with lots of shirts, hats, etc. that resembles Pepto Bismal and produces the kind of effect that makes you want some--Pepto Bismal--not pink gear. Luckily a hardcore Steelers fan pipes up that pink has no place in her version of fandom. Nor do cheerleaders.
I was not surprised by the isn't-this-novel-and-interesting approach to the subject of female fans. I was kind of shocked to see the alleged increase in female fandom attributed to Title IX. Wait, the legislation that allowed more women to play sports has created more fans of men's professional sports?? Wouldn't one think that Title IX would have created more fans of women's sports? Men's sports have always been there--and women have always been fans. Check out some histories of the early days of intercollegiate football. Plus many of the women interviewed for the article who are of the pre-IX generation attributed their fandom to family influence, regardless of their own athletic participation in sports.
Generally this article contributes to the "wait, women like sports!?" attitude that has historically impeded participation. Glad these women feel free to express their fandom by joining clubs and wearing t-shirts--I think. Now I am waiting for the articles on whether female fandom is going to start to resemble some of the violent, masculinist aspects of historically male fandom. Here's hoping those pieces are a little more nuanced.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Delle Donne feature

The Washington Post has a very good feature on what former hoopster Elene Delle Donne is doing now. After leaving UConn at the start of the summer and then turning down her scholarship in August, Delle Donne went to Delaware where she is nowing playing volleyball. And it sounds like she is having a really great time. Not surprising. I mean she gets to play a sport that she seemingly likes, for a female coach who is happy to have to her, at a school not stuck in the middle of nowhere and where she can actually mingle with other students as a regular student-athlete. Makes sense to me.
I hope this article and Delle Donne's story reaches parents and other young athletes. Specialization is not a good thing. Delle Donne said she was burnt out on basketball by age 14 or 15. And her parents weren't even pushing her into the sport. Perhaps that is why she was able to walk away. And she may walk back some day. But at least it will be on her terms.

Friday, October 17, 2008

WSF awards

Earlier this week the Women's Sports Foundation held their annual awards dinner in NYC. Nastia Liukin won the 2008 Sportswoman of the Year Award (individual) and Jessica Mendoza won it for a female athlete competing in a team sport. Of course, gymnastics could be considered a team sport as well though there is the individual component of it unlike in softball and other team sports.
I was kind of bummed at the choice of recipients. I do like Mendoza and believe she is a good athlete and a good person very much involved in using sport to make change within and outside of sport, but she gets a lot of publicity already. Liukin doesn't really do anything for me and she doesn't appear to have done much outside of gymnastics. The thing most of the articles about the award if touting is Liukin's upcoming guest appearance on Gossip Girl.
I myself voted for Ashley Fiolek, the teenager who races motocross (a very male dominated field). And Patty Cisneros for Team Sportswoman of the year. Cisneros has been a major force on the US wheelchair basketball team for almost ten years.
Also given out was the Billie Jean King Contribution Award which went to the WTA Tour earned for achieving equitable prize money at all the Grand Slams. (This one I found curious because in all the coverage I read of the move to equal prize money I never really heard that the WTA played a huge role in the decision-making process.) And the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award was given to Texas Tech pitcher and All-American Patience Knight, who overcame cancer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hockey coach on hockey mom

In honor of tonight's debate a political post--in the sense that it is about the political system rather than everything else I write which is political in the more general sense. Since I am so disgusted and divorced from the political system and thus refuse to watch any of the debates, I figure this will be my contribution.

Sometimes it's kind of frustrating being a feminist who likes and studies and plays sports--especially women's sports. In addition to the ways in which women's sports are marginalized in the popular culture, there are the continual frustrations with so many female athletes who conform to the norms set for them by malestream sport. So many of us truly believe in the potential of women's sports to poke holes in hegemonic sport and gender roles. And thus when female athletes--like so many women in general (I have no expectations that female athletes should somehow be more likely to be feminists than women in the population at large)--kind of just capitulate or hide anything that might be construed as feminist, radical, or even non-feminine it just makes me want to find the nearest wall and start banging my head.
Thankfully there are wonderful moments like the one I had when I read an editorial by Michelle McAteer, an out assistant coach of the women's hockey team at Minnesota-Duluth. McAteer takes on the "hockey mom" rhetoric that Sarah Palin has made so ubiquitous in the last couple of months. You must read the whole thing because it's wonderfully written. I would have her guest blog for me any day because she's smart and witty and she's so right about how Palin is using hockey yet has no concept of what women who actually play hockey face.
But pit-bull Palin doesn't seem to understand the complexities of women in the women's hockey world. It's safe to say she wasn't trying to associate herself with me, my community, or my experiences. I'd also wager that the large subset of gay women in the hockey world never crossed Palin's mind as she branded herself part of the hockey minority. At the collegiate level, though, lesbians are a visible part of game.
Hockey will not benefit from Palin the way Palin has benefited from her version of hockey. And that's just fine with McAteer who doesn't think Palin's attention is any benefit to the sport at all.
So tonight while the presidential candidates are debating, I will be doing something truly political: attending a women's hockey game. Because I think the game needs support from people who really care about women's hockey.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New study on sport, children. and families

Last week the Women's Sports Foundation released its study of the effects of sports and physical activity on children and families, including who is playing (i.e. who has access and "interest"). A downloadable version of the report can be found here--this link also includes a summary of the findings.
There has been a relatively decent amount of media coverage of the report (see here, here, here and here) but I have been somewhat reluctant to talk about it. It could be, perhaps, that I was part of this research in its infancy and so the findings that, for example, girls in urban locales have significantly less access to sports than their male peers and that this is also dependent on race and class, really are not that surprising to me. I also have some hesitations because I question not necessarily the goals of the research--to bring more opportunities to girls--but the reasons behind the goals. In other words, I think we should question a little more the idea that sports and physical activity are inherently great and that more young people should be involved. Certainly the results that show girls of color have less access is a result of the systemic discrimination in our country and thus are important for consideration and addressing.
And the goal of engendering healthy lifestyles should be lauded. But we should also look at the fact that PepsiCo sponsored much of the study...
There's also the common rhetoric of sport producing quality leaders and engendering a sense of fair play. I am not so sure that organized sport is doing those things anymore. The increasingly competitive nature of organized sport--at all levels--seems to be detracting from some of the alleged good sport is said to produce. (This was not a focus of the study but rather something that is frequently unproblematically listed as a benefit of sport participation.)
Something I found quite interesting and worthy of a mention: lack of facilities in urban areas. The study's authors note that this is a reason why there is less participation among children living in urban areas versus suburban locations. There was a specific mention of the differences between say a community like Green Bay and New York City. But there are a lot of sport facilities in NYC--they just serve the needs of professional sports. But they shouldn't be used so exclusively. After all, tax dollars went to build most of these stadiums. And despite how it sometimes feels like pro seasons are interminable, there are such things as off-seasons. And many who live in the communities around such facilities do no benefit from them. They are often priced out of attending and do not see economic benefits from a stadium in their neighborhood. Maybe instead of hosting rock concerts in the off-season, these facilities could be used to actually benefit the communities around them by, say, hosting sports clinics for kids or even regular games and other youth events.
The study overall, though, is important. In part because it was quite comprehensive. Here is a blurb from the WSF article on the results:
The central focus is on how the intersections among families, schools and communities are related to children’s involvement and interest in athletics and physical activity. Some of the personal and social benefits associated with children’s athletic participation are also identified and discussed. The athletic interests and involvements of girls and boys are examined from childhood through late adolescence, including entry into sport as well as drop-out patterns.
Also important was that the study looked at immigrant families and families with children with disabilities. One of the study's authors, sport sociologist and former WSF board member, Don Sabo, has said these to demographics will be the focus of further studies, which is a very good thing. Immigrant families are, of course, often invisible when we discuss family life in America. And though, in some ways, disability and sport has become a more discussed topic we don't actually see a lot of disabled athletes and when we do they are adults.