Saturday, August 30, 2008

US Open Week 1: The Fashion

It's been a while since I have done a fashion review but with the absence of Maria Sharapova I feel some of the fashion discussions have tapered. And since much of this blog is about filling in the gaps (and gaffes) of commentators (though usually on a more political and philosophical level) I figured "why not." Besides it's Saturday.

Jelena Jankovic's yellow dress? Ick. At least when it had the silver belt thing on it. I liked it much better without the adornment which she took off some time during her (2.5 hour) second round match against Sofia Arvidsson.
Arvidsson was wearing the not so pretty-in-pink Adidas outfit that several of the players are sporting this year. Not a fan of the design on the top nor the color.

In other Adidas fashion: I liked Ana Ivanovic's white top and dusty purple skirt. I like the sleeves on the top and the cut of the skirt.

I liked some versions of the taupe/orange combo Adidas has for the women. Patty Schnyder's outfit, for example. But not the dress version Elena Vesnina wore the other night against Serena Williams. The petal skirt wasn't that appealing to me.

But what is up with the men's line? Novak Djokovic's outfit is startling. The shirt, the turquoise shorts--yikes!

Taupe must be the new black because one of Nike's lines incorporates the color as well--paired with red. Roger Federer is wearing the men's line and I have to say a little boring. A little staid. The all taupe version especially so. I like it much better with the red top.
Nike was hit and miss with their colors this season. I really like Serena Williams's red Nike dress. It's a nice cut on her and the matching headband is cute.
But the royal blue outfits I have seen worn by Sam Stosur and some others--not so pretty against the blue of the courts--or generally.

Not so much a fan of Venus's dress which is the black version of her Wimbledon dress. She's always tugging at it, too.

Upset-maker Tatiana Perebiynis (she beat bronze-medal winner Vera Zvonereva) from the Ukraine is wearing Fila. Usually I am not a Fila fan but I saw this dress in the pro shop at the Pilot Pen and took quite a liking to it. Perebiynis wore a white one against Zvonerava but the periwinkle version in her first round.

Sveta Kuznetsova's Fila outfit: not as nice. Cut of the top wasn't great on her. Skirt was okay.

I want to end by talking about underwear. Why doesn't the underwear match anymore? Under both Serena's red dress and her opponent Vesnina's taupe dress: black compression shorts. I find it very off-putting. It's part of the outfit. It should be coordinated.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Olympic ins and outs

Since it seems to be okay to write about the Olympics now that they're over (note that the Paralympics are currently underway; Fat Louie at Women's Sports Blog is doing the best she can--given the dearth of coverage--to blog about them); or at least that's my rationale for writing more after the fact than during.
Besides, this post is about the Olympics generally not specifically Beijing.
There's been discussion all along, as I mentioned recently, about the eliminations of baseball and softball and the attempts to reinstate them--focused mostly on softball. But there's also been some discourse on which sports should be in the Olympics generally.
This Canadian columnist shares his opinions on the matter. He advocates for the inclusion of rugby and cricket, which I wholeheartedly support, assuming both can get some of their historical problems with gender equity in order. I have written about cricket's campaign previously. I don't know anything about cricket but I would love to see American commentators try to explain it. If the Olympics truly are a global sporting event, then it seems right that one of the most popular global sports is included. But this editorial asks that we step back a moment to consider the realities. Not sure about the validity given, again, that I know nothing about the sport. But the author draws a connection to Olympic tennis, which I dislike and think should be taken away. And if it's true that cricketers have bigger, more prestigious prizes and competitions and thus would not take an Olympic berth as seriously then maybe it doesn't belong in the games.
Whether a similar argument can be applied to rugby, I don't know. I, for one, want to see it included in the 2016 games.
A similar argument can be applied (and I have applied it) to golf, which the Canadian editorialist believes should be an Olympic sport. I, of course, do not.
He argues against equestrian events, which I get given that it's largely about the horse's performance. The rider, from what I can see, is like a coach. I realize the historical tradition around equestrian events but have never been one to rely on tradition as some kind of overarching rationale.
I'm pretty much on board with the rest of his suggestions. Include: skateboarding, water skiing, and make sure darts and ultimate fighting never get in.
I'll end with his comments on racewalking, which I never understood and didn't see any of this time around:
Let's also get rid of racewalking. It's easily the dorkiest-looking sport at the Games. It's as if each competitor was forced to drink four litres of water an hour before the start, and then it's a race to see who can reach the bathroom first, only the participants are told they're not allowed to run. So they waddle as fast as they can for 45 kilometres.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

English-only, please

In a move that truly indicates just how reactionary and afraid for their image the LPGA tour is, the powers-that-be announced the other day that tour players will all have to speak English within two years or face suspension. Newcomers to the tour get no grace period.
It doesn't seem to be a secret that the new rule is aimed at large contingent of South Koreans (but also other players from Asian countries). Learning English is considered part of a player's "professional development" says an LPGA rep.
The AP story I read this morning in my local paper and the one linked above both quote South Koreans, including Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, saying that the new rule is a good thing for the tour. Though Pak believes players not passing the exam should be fined--not suspended.
I was surprised that no one was registering any complaint. Christina Kim said the policy was a little surprising but that she believes 99 percent of the players support it.
I was able to find, before I went a little crazy thinking I was the only one who thought this was a ridiculous policy, a few dissenters. This columnist from Newsday calls it a public relations nightmare criticizing the policy and the way it was presented to the world (via Golfweek's website). Unfortunately he sees the LPGA as not really engaging in racist or discriminatory behavior and that it's generally a progressive organization because it implemented drug testing before the men's tour (why drug testing is seen as progressive makes no sense) and that they don't make an issue out of anyone's sexual orientation. If what he means by that is they don't kick anyone off the tour or ostracize suspect or out lesbians, I can't really call that progressive either. There's plenty of mention of sexual orientation when that orientation is straight.
This policy is not a blip on an otherwise upstanding organization.
Libba Galloway, the tour's deputy commissioner, called the LPGA an American tour. But last time I checked the United States didn't have an official language.
When American players go abroad to play--which they do--is it expected that they will speak the language of the host country?
Luckily I can always turn to the Canadian media for support. This editorial asks the same question I do above but also notes that the LPGA--the "American" tour--plays in Canada, Mexico, Singapore and even, yes, South Korea.
I think that if the players are going to have to pass oral exams, then so should all commentators and LPGA officials. They should be required to correctly pronounce every active player's name. This might not be as difficult for golf commentators/officials as those in tennis but I think it would be a helpful exercise regardless.

PS. WaPo columnist Leonard Shapiro comes out against the policy. I have some problems with his use of the phrase "proper English" as in his job would be easier if players spoke proper English. But he makes a good point about how this will affect golf's campaign to make it into the Olympics in 2016; also noting that the fact that Augusta National, which still does not allow female members, is on the list of supporting organizations.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Olympic BMX recap has a good article on the debut of BMX racing as an official Olympic sport. Apparently it was a fan favorite and appeals to people from all over the world.
Winter Olympian Gretchen Bleiler was there watching and believes BMX racing will change the Summer Olympics the way snowboarding changed the Winter Games. Not sure if it will have exactly the same impact given that there are a lot of snowboarding events and only a few BMX racing ones. But I think the addition of an "action sport" into the Summer Games is a good thing.
As does this writer from the Vancouver Sun who also offers some good descriptions of what fans of the BMX events were privy to in Beijing.

OK, I'll talk about softball

Every day during the Olympics I saw articles about the exit of softball from the Olympics. I have written about it before here. But I am a little bit tired of the discussion. And I am also feeling a little bit jaded and there's even a little bit of schadenfreude.
But just a little. I am disappointed softball will not be around for London. I like softball. I try to catch collegiate games during the spring. I watch the College World Series every June.
But I have some problems with the image that softball tries to portray. Or more to the point--how they femme it up. Part of this process is the way softball ties itself to baseball. In addition to the fact that several players date or are married to baseball players--which gets a lot of play in the media--softball has positioned itself as the female equivalent of baseball. When asked who their favorite players are, many give the names of professional baseball players.
So when you tie yourself to a men's sport and that men's sport has some issues with the IOC (doping and the release of MLB players for the Olympics) and you get taken down with them, I don't have a whole lot of sympathy. (Well, I have a little, because I am sure many think there wasn't much choice in the whole thing.)
This USA Today article, which features a picture of a quite despondent US team with silver medals around their necks, notes that softball and baseball are working independently to get reinstated for the 2016 games. They may come together to argue that they only need one stadium for both events.
This editorial out of Japan, which now has even more incentive to also fight for reinstatement as the reigning gold medalists, actively blames baseball for bringing down softball and thinks MLB should give money to the International Softball Federation, which will lose a significant amount of its funding when the IOC cuts it off.
I don't have any predictions for how this fight will be resolved. At this point, I think it could go either way for softball. Not much help, though, for most of the silver medalists who, even if the sport returns in 2016, won't be participating.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You go, butch girl!

So there are--don't be shocked now--lesbians who play professional tennis. And they display various levels of lesbionica. Sure we can kind of tell (well some of us anyway) who they are using our super stealth and highly (over?) developed gaydar. Some are out, some are in the closest, some are in some kind of unacknowledged but out state. But there isn't a whole lot of range no matter their status. Most of them retain some version of acceptable femininity wearing skirts, keeping their hair longer, not mentioning girlfriends or putting them in the players' boxes. Sure Martina Navratilova seemed to get more butch as she grew older--but she was still wearing skirts when she retired. She returned to the tour seemingly more comfortable creating her own terms.
I am not going to get into the whole "choice" debate here, because that's not the point. The point is the lesbians on the tour do not seem to reflect the range of lesbian performance out here in the real world (you know, kind of like The L-Word). But there's a new* butch girl in town and she gave Elena Dementieva, who is considered a favorite to win the US Open, a tough time in the opening round. Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan had three set points against Dementieva in the second set. She couldn't convert but she definitely put some pressure on Dementieva.
Let me say right off (well not exactly right off since I have just spent some time talking about lesbians) that I don't know if Amanmuradova is gay. But she is certainly not conforming to the dominant version of femininity often adhered to in tennis. It was such a contrast to see Dementieva in her halter dress on one side and Amanmuradova in baggy shorts and shirt, hat on backwards a la Hewitt and sunglasses. I loved it. I wasn't listening to the match so I don't know how or if the commentators presented it. The highlights last night were brief and there was no mention of Amanmuradova's appearance--just, of course, the pronunciation of her name.

To me, it doesn't matter if she is gay or out. I know the importance of having out athletes. But I also see a lot of those out athletes engaging in pretty apologetic behavior that can border on self-hating. Amanmuradova showing up on court the way she felt comfortable in defiance of any kind of traditional feminine attire can be just as effective in challenging the dominant gender norms that keep gay athletes in the closest and non-conforming straight athletes having to constantly prove their heterosexuality.
She may be my new favorite player to watch. She's ranked 78 and has had wins this year over Nadia Petrova, Michaella Krajicek, and Agnes Szavay. And at 6'3" she is the tallest player on the WTA tour.

* ok according to her Wikipedia entry she isn't all that new--she's 24; no year listed as to when she joined the tour but she has played a number of Challenger events.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The family rhetoric at the Olympics

In case you missed women's beach volleyball--but really, how could you given the near constant coverage?--let me tell you about some of the discussion centered around Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh. The discourse focused on two things: their dominance and their heterosexuality (with the occasional homoerotic turn when their victory "koala hug" from the previous Olympics--acceptable because it's "hot" and temporary).
There were segments on each of their respective marriages to other male athletes. There was the lost wedding ring incident when Walsh's ring came off during one of the matches and they had to search the sand for it afterwards (a volunteer found it). And there was the discussion of their post-Olympic lives and impending motherhood.
Overall there was a lot of family talk this Olympics. People with kids; athletes with mothers (Debbie Phelps's face is just as recognizable now as her son's size 14 feet); doting husbands and wives; supportive brothers and sisters. There were lots of shots of families in the stands with lots of paraphernalia (flags, apparel, signs) and cameras.
Want to know who was there supporting Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, who delivered an outstanding performance in the men's 10M platform and broke the Chinese's string of gold medals? Yeah, me too. Well I know his male partner was there. But no one spoke about it. Mitcham was one of only 13 out athletes at the games and no one was talking about his support team.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Olympics: The Last Day

I could have blogged incessantly about the Olympics and all the issues about gender (and I do still have a few things to say--but later), but I had some issues about giving the Olympics too much attention given all the controversies over the games. I'm disappointed that the American media failed to address the issues of human rights and animal abuse once the games began; as well as the things that went largely undiscussed--how the government made sure there was enough water in Beijing by taking it from the country, greatly affecting the people who live there. I share the concern by some that once the media and tourists vacate, seeing that it got away with little protest the things it got away with, that the government will continue to engage in abusive behavior.
I would say, "we shall see." But we probably won't.
I have heard that the coverage provided by other nations was a little more attentive but in some respects those media are preaching to the choir given the seemingly greater awareness of such issues that many non-Americans have.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bringin' sexy back to table tennis

Well I guess the title is somewhat misleading in that the table tennis powers-that-be don't believe sexy was ever part of table tennis. Wait, let me clarify. They don't believe it was ever a part of women's table tennis. Not sure whether men's table tennis is sexy, whether the level of sex appeal is a concern, and whether the men's version is so popular they just don't have to think about these things.
Anyway, I have written about this before briefly, but there is, a year later, a renewed call to sex up women's table tennis by encouraging them to wear skirts and dresses. And it's not even subtle. It's a blatant if you wear skirts/dresses you will be more sexy, the sport will be more sexy, and it will attract fans argument. First, it's probably not true. Sexifying athletes has not been proven to draw in more fans.
And second, I think that while athletics and athletes are erotic, I don't think they are universally so. It's silly to say, well we just shouldn't talk about it because sex appeal doesn't belong in sports. It is in sports because bodies, and I would argue especially bodies in motion, are erotic. I, for one, do not find table tennis all that erotic. But I watch it--when it's on, of course, which is a whole 'nother conversation. And I will watch it whether or not people are wearing skirts. Actually I might not watch it in protest over the "encouragement" of skirts--we shall see. But eroticism is also a cultural construct and subject to individual tastes. I am sure there are fans who already find the game erotic and sexy. And they might even be people who would not find it as appealing with the donning of skirts. In other words, skirt does not always equal sexy.
Here are some interesting comments from fans who are not so fanatical about the idea (the second comment is supposed to be ironic, of course it trades in some heterosexism):
  • ...I'm not in favor of them being pushed or coerced into wearing outfits they aren't comfortable to play in. And how about the men? Why not bring in compulsory lycra bike pants instead of the baggy shorts many men wear currently?
  • I'm sure our female audience would appreciate it. And don't forget the umpires and referees - a little black and white striped skintight number with sequins would surely boost ratings."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

'Cause I don't wanna blog about the Olympics today...

...I offer a brief observation from my day.
I was walking by a daycare/activity program in my progressive little city* today with children who looked to be about 6 and 7 playing outside. One of the supervisors was a high school age young man. He was organizing and participating in some playground football. All boys. The girls were off to the side at a picnic table in the shade doing some arts and crafts-y type thing. Supervisor threw the football and a younger boy missed it and it landed amidst the girls who squealed as if it someone had chucked a half dead squid on their glitter pinwheels.
It seems like, if we can teach girls to be afraid of a football, we should be just as able to teach them not to be. And to perhaps even throw and catch one. And while we're at it how about extolling the virtues of a little glitter in a boy's life?

*Well they like to think they are progressive anyway. I would say people here are more liberal than progressive. The other day my realtor, speaking about people we know in common, wondered aloud if they had a "sick little threesome" going on. In other words, there's lots of judgment under it all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pretty good showing for field hockey

US women's field hockey will not be advancing to the medal round in Beijing. Needing a win (and some help) against Great Britain the other day, they only managed a (scoreless) tie. The team actually only got one win, against New Zealand over the weekend. I saw some of it and I have to say that, having very little knowledge of field hockey and very little experience watching it, I really enjoyed it. It's a fast and very strategic game.

Can't get enough water polo

I just love NPR. They are all about women's water polo. Today they covered the team's win over Australia that put them into the gold medal round. And it wasn't just a brief score with two sentences of description. There were actually splashing sounds in the background. They were there--well someone was there. They had an interview with a player. They provided history of the team and recounted the team's road to the gold medal game--a little rocky but successful nonetheless.
Makes me glad I donated twice this year.*

*OK the second time was motivated by the desire to win the $2500 gift certificate to a bike store, still I like to think that that extra donation maybe paid for the extra bag of checked luggage the reporter had to take to Beijing or maybe a few drinks on the plane.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Where are the suspects?

Not much news about the sex testing labs in Beijing since the initial news broke a few weeks ago. This editorialist, though, notes that as egregious as such testing is, in the US we have our own version of such testing. They're based on appropriate demonstrations of femininity and adherence to hegemonic beauty standards. And many female athletes--she only cites a few--get in line for fear of being deemed a lesbian.
Here's an excerpt about both the challenges and potential in sport:
Sports programs are a particular challenge when attempting to make schools, playgrounds, and locker rooms safe for our LGBTQ children. And as long as young women will be stigmatized as lesbian, that stigma will control women’s participation. But sports can also provide innumerable opportunities to teach valuable life lessons and can be a powerful influence in addressing myriad social issues. And eliminating lesbian-baiting can be one of them.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Torres inspires

Dara Torres took the fastest time in qualifying for tonight/today/tomorrow's (?) 50 meter free final. The 41-year old's chances not only at a medal, but for a gold are looking good. She could set a record no one will ever beat: oldest swimmer to earn an Olympic medal. So as we wait for the final here's a cute piece about some of the effects Dara Torres's return to international competition. It focuses on three women over the age of 40 who have gotten back into a healthier lifestyle that includes a return to exercise.

It's kind of a happy happy fluff piece, but it does point out that some of the recent focus on these fabulous women over 40 (Halle Berry, Kim Catrall, Nicole Kidman) really does not resonate with most women. But people look at Torres, who became a mother in her late 30s, hear her talk about achieving balance in her life and though they may never get her amazing abs and shoulders, they do know they can get into the pool or start being active again no matter how old they are.
Of course it fails to note that some women will never be able to find that balance because they don't have the economic privilege to make time or pay for a facility no matter how much of a "can-do attitude" they have.
We'll see how far Torres's attitude (oh, and all that hard work) takes her tonight.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Live blogging--sort of--of US soccer

So I slept in this morning, came downstairs, flipped on the television and what to my wondering eyes did appear? US women's soccer--LIVE! They are playing Canada. Loser goes home.
Apparently there was a weather delay: lightning. Good for me. I saw almost the entire second half and am now watching the extra time. There will be 30 minutes of extra time and if there is no winner...penalty kicks!
So, what's happening:
  • Natasha Kai was put in as a sub for extra time. She's had a few touches but nothing---
  • Oh Oh Oh--score--by Natasha Kai. Disregard the start of that last bullet. She headed it in. Beautiful. Nice dance too. By the way, I hear she is single, ladies.
  • They play on because this is not sudden death over time.
  • The pressure the US started putting on Canada in the last quarter of the game has clearly carried over. The US just got another nice scoring opportunity.
  • When Kai came on the field at the start of extra time commentator 9i forget his name) noted the presence of her tattoos and how she was a different kind of player. Brandi Chastain, who is the other half of the commentating team, said something you might tell a 5-year old about how every player on the field is unique and brings something special to the team.
  • Brief break now. Extra time is divided into two 15-minute segments.
  • By the way, what happened to Julie Foudy as a commentator? I am not a Brandi Chastain fan.
  • US's last sub: Lauren Cheney for Jennifer Rodriguez. Hmm...I actually agree with Chastain that this is an odd substitution. Cheney is Abby Wambach's replacement and Rodriguez has been playing well. Though I would imagine she is quite tired. And, when you're up already, why put in another offensive player. Well Cheney just got yellow carded. Ooo--she just missed the goal off a pass from Kai.
  • So Chastain noted the tired factor for both teams at the start of extra time and the inability to grab some energy--i.e. food. They have water. But I found this curious. First, I would assume they drink Gatorade or something similar. But why don't they consume fast energy like Goo or Shot Blox?
  • Less than three minutes in extra time.
  • Poor Heather Mitts. Chastain chastises her for taking a shot so close to the end of the game rather than keeping the ball and running out the clock. She's a defender. She never gets a chance to shoot on goal. Cut her some slack.
  • In stoppage time.
  • It's over. US wins 2-1 in extra time.
  • US plays winner of Japan and China.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

US women's water polo update

Not that I have actually seen any women's water polo. I saw a clip of a match in which someone got punched in the nose. Bloody mess!
But the NPR story a few weeks ago has engendered a curiousity in the sport and the team. That's why I found this USA Today piece interesting. It offers a few more details about the history of the team and two of its veteran players who are competing in their third Olympic games.
The team is doing well, by the way. They have already qualified for the quarterfinals. They tied with defending gold medalists Italy and have no losses on their record yet. They play Russia tomorrow. The outcome will only affect the group standings (US and Italy are tied for the top spot) as the US is already moving on and Russia is not.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Only slightly better: US Hockey Hall of Fame

Thanks to reader and commenter jfb I found out, in the wake of new knowledge that the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto currently contains no female inductees, that the US Hockey Hall of Fame in Minnesota does not either. But it plans on rectifying the situation this fall when it will honor four new inductees including the first ever woman, Cammi Granato--who has already been inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in a class that also included the first ever female inductees.
Good I guess. Still, what have they been waiting for?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Go American women's field hockey!

Last time the US fielded a field hockey team at the Olympics was in Atlanta--and that's because they, as home team, didn't have to qualify. But a good friend of mine who tried out for the team said the US was not really competitive internationally.
Things may be changing. Having qualified for the Beijing games, the US has made a little bit of noise by tying Argentina in the first round of play. Argentina is ranked 2nd internationally.
This is just a guess but I am thinking that the emergence of intercollegiate field hockey, due largely to Title IX, may have something to do with the strengthening of the the US in world play.
Looking at the US roster it is easy to see which schools are field hockey powerhouses. I was actually surprised there wasn't a little more regional diversity.
Stay tuned for more potential (near) upsets,

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hockey Hall of Fame: No women allowed

Sure, it's August and some of you are like what are you talking about ice hockey for? Well some of us are always thinking about hockey--I'm not actually one of them. Once college hockey season ends I move on.
But those Canadians, they think about hockey ALL THE TIME, as evidenced by this editorial in the Edmonton Journal. It seems that the Hockey Hall of Fame has never inducted a female player. They have an exhibit on women's hockey but no inductees. Hmmm...curious. Well not really if you're paying any attention at all so I guess such a fact then is just plain disturbing/annoying/irksome--insert your adjective of choice.
The writer does a fairly good job with the history of women's hockey and the the arguments/excuses levied against women's participation.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Golf: Clearly a man's game

So it's official. I have taken up golf. I bought my own putter the other day. But my initial hesitation about all the patriarchal, classist, misogynist aspects of the game have not quite dissipated. (Not that most other sports don't have those same issues--different manifestations. After all I have played tennis since as long as I can remember.)
But I had some interesting experiences the other day. The first was more benign, a little annoying. I bought golf balls in a store and when the cashier rang them up the store code that comes up is prefaced by "men's" as in men's department. Not sport or miscellaneous. Maybe that's why I lost two of them when playing the other day. The balls, realizing they were sold to the wrong gender, simply took a dive into the water.
The more egregious of the incidents happened when I was actually playing. The foursome of men behind us called the pro shop, had the pro come out in a golf cart and ask my playing partner and I to let them play through. How rude! For several reasons. First, we had waved them through already--they didn't see us. Two, we weren't playing that slow. There were only two of us and we had a cart! And three, after they passed us, we weren't that far behind them. They saw two women; possibly two lesbians depending on how closely they looked, and they didn't want any part of us. So they called the pro and tattled basically. Grrr...I was assured that such behavior was rare, but I don't know.

By the way, several golf organizations have come together in a campaign to include golf in the summer Olympics. I am not in support of this idea. I think the sport and its athletes have plenty of opportunity for international success and recognition.
I do not think the inclusion of tennis has been all that successful. Though many players want the opportunity to play for Olympic medals, it just doesn't seem to mean as much to them. And it's because they already have four major events that hold more prestige. These are what they train for. The Olympics they just fit in, most of them, to their schedule. I see golfers existing in a similar paradigm. And there are plenty of other sports that deserve a spot more. But golf has the economic and social capital--more so then other spots--to make a persuasive pitch.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Olympics Day 2: A Debbie Downer editorial to ponder

So usually I am the scrooge of exciting sport moments, but Selena Roberts at has a pretty depressing column on the state of female sport stars.
She notes something I have failed to notice, but mostly because I thought I just wasn't paying attention: female superstars have no longevity anymore. Do you remember who the stars of the last Olympics were? Have they endured in our collective memory? Misty May and Kerri Walsh are likely the most memorable (besides the now retired stars of the women's soccer team who had earned their status before Athens). But they also have the advantage of playing a sport that gets some recognition in non-Olympic years.
Roberts attributes this to doping, a sort of Marion Jones effect. We thought she was so pure and great and now she's in jail. Doping, Roberts says, has tainted our views and made us suspicious of these women. But I'm not buying that entirely. Doping has been far more pervasive--if not in practice at least in terms of media attention--among male athletes. People still watch cycling (OK maybe not many Americans but others). Americans are still all about baseball.
If Roberts's hypothesis is even a little bit correct then it means we have another example of the proverbial double standard and double bind that exists for women in sport. Men, as a whole (individuals are punished of course) are excused for doping. Some women dope and all female athletes suffer? Women dope so they can, in part, perform better to get more recognition--the recognition that is harder for them to receive because they are women playing sport--and then they get caught and allegedly taint the whole of women's sports. It's a little bit nutty and quite frustrating.

Friday, August 08, 2008

More nationalism, patriotism mullarkey

Today marks the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beiijing.

Bring on the excessive national pride and the blind faith in some kind of pure version of sport that the Olympics allegedly represents.

Such cynicism, I know. But frankly, I am feeling kind of cynical about these Olympics. There's the immense political controversy over the host, there's the apolitical reaction by most athletes, in part, I believe, because of their need to believe in some pure version of sport that has been peddled to most Americans much of our lives. And then there is the problem of losing some of that blissful ignorance the more you begin to find out about what really happens within the IOC and other sport governing bodies.

I don't want to rant or moan about some of the systemic and institutional problems, though. (Well I do but that would take a lot of time.) I do want to expand on a controversy I wrote about earlier this week: American "traitors."

Seems like China's softball coach Michael Bastian is not the only one who went overseas for an Olympic opportunity. The WNBA's Becky Hammon is playing for Russia. (The article linked here is not that great but it does contain the relevant points.) And her decision to do so is not being received very well. I wonder if this is about playing for the "commies" or just not playing for America. Of course Hammon, according to sources, was never even considered for team USA despite the fact that her stats stack up very well against the other point guards who did make the team.

The fact that she could make some money out of it--if Russia medals--also has some people's panties in a wad. Of course WNBA players are professionals who make very little money, comparatively. There will be plenty of Olympians making money during and after Beijing depending on how well they do. Think Michael Phelps is going to be hurting for cash when he comes back stateside?

The people who find Hammon's participation on team Russia egregious should take a step back to see the larger picture of commercialism, nationalism, globalization, and the Olympics.

Worried, P.S.

So the article I read yesterday about the US soccer team's loss to Norway neglected to mention that defender Lori Chalupny, in trying to defend the ball--to no avail--was punched in the jaw by Hope Solo and then landed on her face. She was substituted out less than 15 minutes later and is listed as day-to-day because of blurred vision and dizziness.
But she too is ringing the optimism bell saying that 1) it's not Solo's fault, and 2) that she is confident she will be ready for the squad's next game against Japan. I hope so. I like Chalupny a lot. She's a versatile player who quietly gets it done on the field. And I am kind of drawn to her red hair.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Underneath that optimism--they're worried

Not a good start to the defense of their Olympic gold. The US women's soccer team lost their opener to Norway the other day, 2-0. Major bummer. The two goals came in the first 5 minutes of the game off two defensive errors. Despite the pressure on the new coach, the noticeable absence of Abby Wambach, and this early blow, the team is optimistic saying things like the "glass is half full" and these are just "timing issues" they need to work out.
I don't quite buy the brave face they're putting on--not that they have much of a choice.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New website and the state of women's sport in Britain

I am actually not sure how new this website is--it's new to me. I found out about it from a reader.
It's called Sportsister and is out of Great Britain. It has an array of features and topics. I have been impressed so far at the range. There are features on Olympians, professional, Paralympians. Articles on recreational sports and fitness and what to put in your kit (loose translation: gym bag). They report on breaking news as well.
It looks to be an important site given the problematic relationship between women and sports in the country that I have talked about before and that will now be addressesd formally by the newly formed Commission on the Future of Women in Sport. This editorial by the commission's chair, former Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, that lays out some of the problems with encouraging participation in and excitment for women's sport, is eerily familiar to things we have heard in this country. Same issues, different continent. Though it seems that, in terms of participation, fewer British women are participating in sport and physical activity on a regular basis. But when we're talking about coverage of women's sports, the same old tired argument is being used across the pond: media outlets won't cover women's sports because they say there is no interest; but it's pretty hard to build interest when there is no coverage.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Op-ed on gender testing

I sure do like Jennifer Finney Boylan. So I am glad she weighed in on the recent news that the Beijing organizers are instituting a sex verification center to test "suspect" female athletes.
There was a lot of good stuff in her NYT op-ed Sunday. She spent a lot of time giving the history of the testing, which I mostly just skimmed. I thought she could have trimmed that down a bit, but the good stuff did come.
Here is some of it:
...gender is malleable and elusive, and we need to become comfortable with this fact, rather than afraid of it.
Most efforts to rigidly quantify the sexes are bound to fail. For every supposedly unmovable gender marker, there is an exception. There are women with androgen insensitivity, who have Y chromosomes. There are women who have had hysterectomies, women who cannot become pregnant, women who hate makeup, women whose object of affection is other women.
So what makes someone female then? If it’s not chromosomes, or a uterus, or the ability to get pregnant, or femininity, or being attracted to men, then what is it, and how can you possibly test for it?
The only dependable test for gender is the truth of a person’s life, the lives we live each day. Surely the best judge of a person’s gender is not a degrading, questionable examination. The best judge of a person’s gender is what lies within her, or his, heart.

I wasn't too psyched that Boylan herself reified the gender binary with the her or his heart comment.
But she ends well:
...Olympic officials [may] have to learn to live with ambiguity, and make peace with a world in which things are not always quantifiable and clear.
That, if you ask me, would be a good thing, not just for Olympians, but for us all.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Softball, the Olympics, and nationalism

The Olympics, in case you have not heard, are coming. There are stories every day from every possible angle imaginable. And one of the big stories, that has been big for a while now, is that this is the last Olympics for softball.
The most common reason for the elimination of softball from the Olympic roster is that the sport does not have enough international depth. I have wondered for a while how much of a real reason this is versus what it might be covering. Since I don't have access to the inner workings of the IOC, I cannot really say for sure. But I am pretty sure there was not just one reason.
Anyway, I find this all interesting in light of this story about the American, Michael Bastian, who is coaching the Chinese team and the bridges he has burned in doing so. Apparently USA Softball is not too keen on coaches going overseas.
Wait, but wouldn't quality coaching--like the kind offered by USA Softball--exported to other countries help increase the depth of the sport? So players like Jennie Finch and Jessica Mendoza are running around trying to save softball and the organization they advocate on behalf of is in a pissing contest with those coaches who see opportunities overseas and take them.
This weirdness also flies in the face of most of the norms of sport. There is no loyalty anymore (I am not saying this in a judgy way--it's neither here nor there for the moment). Players go where the money is. Coaches go where the money is or where someone doesn't seem to care about their previous scandals (think Rick Neuheisel). But Bastian is somehow a traitor.
I know this is the Olympics and everyone's nationalism is about to reach a fever pitch, but look around. Countries import not only coaches but athletes. There will be a lot of Olympians representing countries that they were not born in, but became citizens of. And there is a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment out there about such athletes--until or unless those athletes become medal winners. If they add to the medal count then they receive a temporary reprieve.
Look at the US Olympic team. Who is coaching the women's soccer team? Not an American. No one seems to be complaining about that. (Well I am sure they will if the team loses.) Do you really think Sweden is complaining about her loyalty? And there are over 30 what are being called foreign-born Olympians headed to (or already in) Beijing.
USA Softball better get over itself because if it doesn't it isn't going to have an international presence or influence.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


I haven't been paying as much attention to the LPGA this year--in terms of actual watching; I have been reading the news.
So just when I try (and have time) to mend my ways, I find out that the Women's British Open (anyone else disappointed that it is the Ricoh and not the Weetabix anymore?) has very limited television coverage. 90 minutes today on ABC. 90 minutes! And they happen to be 90 minutes that I have to be at my tennis match--which isn't ABC or the LPGA's fault--but the minimal coverage is. Tomorrow, the final day of play, warrants only 2 hours of coverage.
Should we go back and add up all the hours of coverage the Men's British Open received this year? Should be include all the special preview shows, etc?