Friday, January 30, 2009

The coaching controversy

Since I got a little crap the other day for suggesting that Mark Johnson might not be the best choice for the job of head coach of the women's national ice hockey team, I thought I would post today about mixed gender coaching.

I was actually going to do this anyway because I have come across two editorials recently that address the issue. Neither are particularly insightful--or even accurate--but mediocrity often inspires me.

In Oklahoma, in a piece focused on the Big 12, John Klein writes about how there has been a trend toward women coaching women in the last twenty years before which coaching was dominated by men. Well, not exactly. First, prior to the passage of Title IX, women dominated the coaching landscape--think over 90 percent of women as coaches of women's teams. When it became more lucrative men began filling the positions. And this is across the board. Part of the problem with Klein's statements is that they seem to refer only to basketball, where, yes, there are a lot of women coaching. But remember that the latest data show that women as head coaches comprise just less than 43 percent of head coaching positions. In basketball it's 59 percent. Still not a stunning majority and a number that is down from 1977 when women had nearly 80 percent of the head coaching positions in basketball.
Klein also offers us this curious statement:
The idea that men couldn't coach women, or vice versa, seems rather old-fashioned to say the least.
Well not so much if one considers that women are not coaching men and it doesn't seem like that trend is in danger of changing.
Which leads me to problematic editorial number 2 from the Bleacher Report. Not surprisingly this one is written by the same woman who wrote the very problematic piece on transgender athletes. And this one too engages in quite a lot of essentialism and thus makes her (quasi) conclusion that women should be allowed to coach men and might even be successful at it, a little bit less worthy of my enthusiasm.
The way she assigns characteristics to men and women (both as coaches and as athletes) make them seem innate. Women are nurturing, men are hard-asses. Men want to impress women all the time but have issues of taking orders from women. Her essentialist "reasoning" is part of the reason why we don't see women coaching men--because we rely on outdated and/or damaging stereotypes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Questionable choice for USA Hockey

USA Hockey announced that Mark Johnson, current head coach of the University of Wisconsin women's team--a perennial powerhouse, will be the women's national team coach next season. As in the 2010 Olympic season. So Johnson is the new Olympic coach basically. He will take over the Blaine residency program where current national team prospects (who are not committed to college teams) are currently training. And he will coach the team at the next Four Nations Cup in Finland in November.
Johnson certainly has the credentials. He has coached the national team before. He has experience coaching the men's national team and, of course, he was a pivotal part of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team and a former NHLer.
But still the choice surprises me for several reasons. First, when long-time coach Ben Smith left the position of head coach he advocated for a female head coach. Yet Johnson was the first replacement for Smith at the Four Nations Cup in 2006. Also, USA Hockey has been trying out different head coaches since the last Olympics. And these people have had some success. Katey Stone, Harvard's head coach, took the team to a win at the last Four Nations Cup (beating Canada). And Jackie Barto of Ohio State lead the team to a World Championship (beating Canada) last spring--an accomplishment not many others can claim. In other words, these two women have big wins over rival Canada in the very recent past--with teams that will likely contain many of the 2010 players.
But it's possible these positions were never tryouts for the head position. Johnson's Wikipedia entry states that he was always slated to be head coach through the 2010 games.
Still, it's a little disappointing that USA Hockey cannot get behind a female coach.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thanks, bad economy

I thought I was going to be able to avoid talking about the Superbowl all together but this story was just too good and it isn't about the Superbowl directly so...
In case you are not aware--we are in a recession. Things are not good--even for football. Parties have been cancelled; there is far less swag and booze this year according to reports. But who knew the bad economy would help eliminate sexism. Okay, not quite eliminate sexism but it's definitely a step in the right direction that the Lingerie Bowl is no more. At least for this year.
Okay, well it wasn't exactly the economy; more of a red tape fiasco that the producers of Lingerie Bowl VI couldn't get the right permits in time to stage the event (which airs on Pay-per-View during halftime) at their original location. So they were going to put it on at a Caliente, a nudist--I'm sorry--a "clothing optional" resort. Except LB peeps wanted the spectators to be wearing clothes if they attended. Some of the players quit because they were afraid they would have to perform au naturale or at least play in front of naked spectators. Lingerie Bowl officials cited lack of dedication in these women.
So, in the end, sexism (and irony*) are still alive and well. But at least there's no Lingerie Bowl VI this year.

* Maybe it's just us, but having women who already are playing football in skimpy underwear do so at the Caliente clothing optional resort didn't seem to be much of a stretch.
But Lingerie Football League president Stephon McMillen (and how do you get that job?) told our Emily Nipps that they didn't want to be in a "potentially negative" and "less than comfortable environment that would ultimately jeopardize the mainstream perception and reputation" of their brand.

h/t to Sean from sportsBabel

Monday, January 26, 2009

I wish I was in the classroom

Last year at this time I had just started teaching sport sociology. It's a fine class to teach. So many examples at one's fingertips to illustrate various points. Plus I think students really feel involved in the course when they can draw on their own experiences in sport and on what they see and hear as fans and consumers of a variety of sports.
Last spring was the Lebron James Vogue cover "incident" which was great discussion material even though my students accused me of "reading too much into it."
But I bet those who are teaching sport soc or sport in society are having a great time already.
First there is the ongoing "blowout" saga in a high school basketball game in Texas. I heard this story first on Sunday morning lying in bed listening to NPR. Didn't catch the beginning because, well I was lying in bed just waking up. So all I heard was something about a team that had not won in something like 4 years being blown away by another team and the winning team was being asked to forfeit the game for bad sportsmanship. Then there was a lot of commentary about the lessons of sports and if you really want that 1 in the win column to come from a forfeit, yada, yada, yada. Interesting, I thought, but I had my own sports to worry about that day and so forgot about it.
Then I saw further news that said it was a girls' basketball game and the score was 100-0. And then this morning on Mike and Mike in the Morning (I was looking for the Australian Open--I hate Mike and Mike) there was further news that the winning coach had been fired because he would not apologize and said his players played with integrity. The details have turned into a back and forth so it's difficult to say what really happened. And even if we could how one interrupts what really happened it always variable.
But there is very little talk about the gendered component of this whole thing. There's the Christian angle: Covenant School is a Christian school. Is it Christian-like to beat an opponent 100-0? But I think what people find upsetting is that girls did this--to other girls. Sure, we know that girls can be "catty" because we've seen Mean Girls and heard about the studies and the behaviors. But to beat an opponent--and to want to beat an opponent--by 100 points, you have to be pretty aggressive. I think Americans have some issues with girls being so aggressive. How much press would this story get if it had been boys? I am sure it would have gotten press. But would we have asked boys to forfeit a game? We might have questioned the sportsmanship but probably not the competitive drive.

And then I heard about another basketball incident (there's a video of the incident at this link) where a player from the University of Houston stepped on the face of an Arizona player after a foul had been called and play stopped. The player was ejected from the game but the comments keep on coming from fans who are calling from a suspension for the rest of the season or even a ban from NCAA play. And what people are talking about--or at least invoking--in this story is race. The player doing the stepping: black; the player stepped upon: white. The offender has been called a thug. Some say that if the races were reversed Jesse Jackson would on the scene already. Others remind us that white players have acted equally egregiously against black players with no repercussions.

And if you get through those two topics and still have time left in class (yeah, right!) you can always talk about parental involvement in sports and use as examples: tennis dads. Jelena Dokic is making a great career comeback at the Australian Open having, it seems, finally recovered from the craziness of her father. And then there's Walter Bartoli who is just plain odd. And the way he trains his daughter, Marion, is a little sketchy. Mary Carillo and Mary Jo Fernandez talked about Walter Bartoli's methods and the very hermit-like existence the two have and the implications--none too subtle--were that his tactics border on abuse. And there are plenty of other examples from the sport of near-abuse or actual abuse by parents.

So, in short, there's plenty of food for thought coming from the world of sports these days.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday soccer news, the PS edition

The Boston Globe had an interview with Tony DiCicco, former national team coach and the current coach of the newly revised Boston Breakers.
Fairly innocuous. Interesting to me reminded that the Breakers will be the only professional women's sport in Massachusetts. As a Mass resident, I actually forget that because I seem to go to a lot of sporting events that involve women. There are the Boston Lobsters of World Team Tennis but it's a mixed gender team. There's also semi-professional football. And there used to be fast-pitch softball in Lowell, MA--but I'm not sure it's there anymore.
DiCicco is confident the Breakers will do well in Boston noting that the Breakers of the WUSA came very close to turning a profit last time around. Also, he thinks the WPS will so better because of a myriad of business-type reasons, because women's soccer is played Americans want sport to be played, and finally because "they have this girl-next-door-type demographics." I'm not sure exactly what that means but it seems pretty heteronormative to me. Seems like we might, once again, be ignoring a certain demographic that shows up in large numbers to these games. Which reminds me once again: buy season tickets!

Sunday soccer news

Brandi Chastain, who's 40 now (!), has been drafted by the F.C. Gold Pride in the Bay Area of California. She was the 45th draft pick.
I'm not really a Chastain fan (and it has nothing to do with the "bra incident") and so her going late(ish) in the draft and her inability to even get into tryouts for the national team this past year has brought to the surface a little teensy bit of schadenfraude. After all, Chastain made it to the national team initially as a scab. When national team players went on strike prior to the 1996 games, Chastain happily joined up to play, after previously being shunned. (I also think it's kind of funny that Chastain's Wikipedia entry calls her a "former soccer player." She might want to go in and edit that herself now.) This is all to say "karma's a bitch."
Briana Scurry went to the Washington Freedom in the fifth round. It looks like she may get the start because the Freedom's other goalie, a Canadian, tore her ACL at the Olympics and will not be ready to go until the summer.
Chicago's Kate Markgraf won't be playing right away either. She's pregnant--again. Seems like she just came back from being pregnant. Not good timing. She was one of the Red Stars' headliners and now she's missing the WPS's first season.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kay Yow: 1942-2009

The basketball world and the larger world of women's athletics lost a great leader today. NC State women's basketball coach Kay Yow, who earlier this season said she would not be returning to the bench for the remainder of the 2008-09 season, lost her long battle with breast cancer this morning. Condolences to the NC State community.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New cabinet post: Sports czar

Writer Sally Jenkins has an open letter to new prez Barack Obama calling for some changes in the world of American sport--including, though how seriously I cannot really gauge--the appointment of a sports czar.
She is correct though in noting that "it will be equally important to remake the play of America, because games are a reflection of a nation's health and ours could do with some reform."
So she has 10 suggestions. I am not going to go through all of them. The Title IX Blog mentioned today the ones relevant to them, I am going to touch on some others.
Reform of the BCS has been on Obama's agenda and there are a lot of complications and people on both sides who talk about true champions and purity of the game and yadda, yadda, yadda. But Jenkins gets to the crux--or what should be the crux--of the issue when she says:
The bowls no longer serve any discernable educational purpose -- the participating teams often have graduations rates worse than 50 percent, for which they are rewarded with extravagance. Players in this year's BCS bowls received gifts such as Tourneau watches, Apple iPods and $300 worth of Sony electronics.
Number 5 on Jenkins's list is to insist on an in-tune version of the national anthem at sporting events. I would rather see the elimination of the national anthem. Sports, even the ones played in the US, are such an international affair these days. Welcome to the globalized sportocracy, folks. Stop playing the anthem. In addition to being out of tune, it's tacky and ridiculous when one sees all those Canadians shuffling their skates as they--and most of the other athletes--simply play along with the overt display of meaningless nationalism.
Number 6 is "Save tennis." I concur though I think the whole "where are the Americans, where are the Americans?" whining is a little ridiculous. See above about globalized sports. It would be nice to make recreational tennis more accessible.
Here is the entirety of #9 with which I wholeheartedly agree:
9. Pardon Marion Jones. It's a despicable fact that a black woman is the only person in the Balco steroids investigations to serve any significant time in prison. A martinet of a judge gave Jones six months for lying to investigators. Meanwhile, the lowlife Balco chemist got half her sentence and baseball drug dealer Kirk Radomski got only probation. That's vengeance, not justice. Make it right, Mr. President.
Good to see that some have not forgotten about Marion Jones.
Finally Jenkins suggests that Obama intervene and try to improve the Washington Redskins. First, my guess is that he's probably going to stay pretty loyal to his Chicago teams. Second, the big reform regarding the Redskins should be their name. First black president in office, cries of our color-blind society and the realization of MLK's dream--yet we still have rampant racism in sport--as evidenced by the belief that's it's just fine to use Native American names, imagery, and symbolism in sport. It shouldn't have to fall on the first black president to abolish the use of an offensive nickname from the capital's professional football team, but it's as good a time as any--better if you truly believe all the hope and change rhetoric.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Engendering controversy: transgender athletes and "where they belong"

A while ago I said I was going to blog about the golfer who won the women's long drive competition this past year and the controversy over her win because she is a post-operative transsexual. But I never did. Seems like a good time to do so given this recent piece in the Bleacher Report.
It is so poorly written and so blatantly and unapologetically ignorant that it's offensive. The author admits to knowing nothing about transsexuality and to not having done any research on it and only knowing about one case of transsexuality in sports: Renee Richards. Very basic questions are posed that rely on essentialism and binary thinking. For example, the writer asks what advantages a MTF would have and what disadvantages an FTM would have in sports. Because apparently all men are always better at everything to do with sports. There are no easy answers when it comes to gender and sport. But they are far better questions than the ones this writer asks. And there is great work being done on a policy level and in academia about sport and transsexuality. One might avail oneself of it before writing an article on it.
Which brings me to Lana Lawless who is now the reigning Women's Long Drive World Champion, a title she won in October when she bested the former champ by 4 yards. Golf* has been addressing the presence of transsexuals in the sport for a while now. The USGA instituted a policy several years ago that allows post-operative transsexual to participate in events in their reassigned sex. And Lawless has participated in competitions prior to her win in 2008. There might--and there is--be some grumbling. But she's allowed to be there and there doesn't seem to be too much outright hostility. Guess that's one plus of a genteel sport. The article does a lot of reinforcing of gender norms--like how Lawless cried, like the normal girl she always wanted to be--when she lost in the semifinals in the 2007 competition. I don't think being a woman gave her the ability to cry--it just provided a more acceptable body in which to do it.
Thought I would end with a recommendation. There's a lot of information out there about transsexuality and sport but one of the best pieces I have ever seen that covers the issues and tells one athlete's story in the process is 100 Percent Woman about a Canadian mountain biker who encounters a lot of resistance to her presence on the tour despite the governing body's sanctioning of transsexuals in the sport.

*The author believes golf is a sport without controversy. Curious statement. Just because it's been a very mild-mannered sport catering to the upper classes does not mean it is without controversy. Look at the recent attempt of the LPGA to institute an English-only policy on the tour. Or the "worries" that erupt when women want to play with men. Or all the racist and sexist policies--some of which still exist--perpetuated by private golf clubs.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dear FOX news:

I know your article about the BCS wasn't really about gender equity or Title IX but when you invoke it--even as a comparison--please get it right.
The federal government did not force the NCAA to comply with Title IX by mandating the NCAA given women equal money.
It's actually athletic departments that do most of the doling out of the money. And, furthermore, Title IX does not require equal spending on men's and women's sports. It requires equitable treatment.
Some fact checkers might be helpful or maybe sports writers that know something about women's sports and how they are funded and treated.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Follies

The NCAA has been meeting this week. They decided that 7th graders are now officially "prospects." Only in basketball and only boys; but still. The organization was concerned that college coaches were attending camps for elite 7th and 8th graders, something the NCAA could not monitor or regulate because the former cutoff for a prospect was 9th grade. The DI Legislative Chairman noted that it was "just a sign of the times." What times? Apocalyptic ones? Okay, that's slightly hyperbolic. But, come on--7th grade? This seems almost like the futile performance enhancers war. Someone finds a loophole, an administrative body addresses it, then there's another loophole, another rule and so on and so on. And all the while we do nothing to address the underlying problem(s). Have we learned nothing from the Elena Delle Donne situation?

So many times since I started this blog have I wanted to title a post "You big stupid head"--except that's the cleaned up version. Happened again the other day when I read a response/defense by a sports writer of the inequitable coverage of local girls' and boys sports. And it all comes down, in a very reductionist way, to "what fans want." But he uses national stats to convey what fans want and the fact that he only recently got a complaint about coverage from one of his own readers as indicative of what fans want. And even in this process he makes a mistake about the presence of women's professional sports:
There is no female pro football, no professional women's softball league and the WNBA is still low on the media radar because fans aren't flocking to it.
Because, yes, there is professional women's football and softball. And you what, there's going to be women's professional soccer (in the US) again very very soon. And there has been, for a very long time, women's professional tennis and golf. So please don't tell me that there are not professional sports out there. If a sports writer doesn't even know about them--how can they possibly know to cover them let alone what the fans want. And the WNBA is not low on the media radar. Everyone knows it exists. So please, enough with excuses.

Was skimming through an older issue of TENNIS that I hadn't yet read. It was the year in review issue and had a short column on line calls and the percentage of missed calls that are mistakenly called in versus mistakenly called out. So someone(s) ran some stats and it was pretty interesting. But I thought it was kind of amazing that they were able to find data only on the performance of linesmen. Didn't know they kept track of the calls of men and women linespersons. Guess the women must not be making any mistakes!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More economic talk

If you're sick of hearing or depressed about the economy and the myriad of effects--stop reading here. Because there has been a lot of talk about how the recession is affecting sports. I've already mentioned it here. But it seems sports and the economy are the hot topic so I thought I would run down what I have seen so far.
Schools, of course, are going through budget cuts (though doesn't it seem that public schools are always in a budget crunch?) and some of the cuts are in athletics. Title IX Blog has a post about how parents are ensuring that female athletes do not receive the brunt of those cuts.
USA Today has a piece about the problems non-major sports are having and includes: some concern over how the WPS will fare in this economy; news of Arena Football's suspension; and the loss of the Houston Comets. Of course not everyone is suffering. Men's professional soccer in North America is expanding. The National Lacrosse League had a soldout crowd at it's championship game and has kept fans coming in by pricing tickets on the lower side (also a tactic the WPS will take) and giving fans access to players. And, of course, the Yankees' deep pockets don't seem to getting any shallower: their new stadium is a $1.3 billion facility (I'm not sure, but I would assume at least some of that cost is being subsidized by tax dollars--I haven't looked into the specifics) and the team will spend over $423 million on free agents in the off season.
Another USA Today article from earlier in the week talks specifically about the problems bobsledding is having. Bobsledding! Guess it really is a sport, after all. The national federation, which also governs skeleton (why not luge, too??) can only send one sled over to Europe for world cup events. That means a lot of top American bobsledders are staying home and training for the world championships that will take place in Lake Placid but without the benefit of world competition.
Bobsled and other Olympic sports will be hurt by the end of Home Depot's sponsorship which includes the end of their jobs for athletes program that offered athletes flexible hours, full time pay and benefits while they trained.
And even in light of all this, people are still asking a question I am so sick of: should student-athletes get paid? This post from the Bleacher Report asks more questions than it answers all to conclude that this issue isn't going anywhere. I don't have the energy to go through the piece and address all the issues. But I find it incredible that the issue is being raised even as athletic departments are trying to find ways to cut costs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's all about Marta!

So, yes, indeed--Marta is going to LA. It's probably the best place for her given that soccer may have more a following in CA. According to this article, she drew an average of 10,000 fans when she played in Sweden. She has signed a three-year contract. Most of us fans are crossing our fingers that the WPS lasts three years. Which should serve as a reminder that we need to get season tickets! (Okay, mostly it's a reminder to me.)
Marta's national team teammate, Cristiane, has been drafted and intends to sign a contract with the Chicago team.
Marta also just won the FIFA World Player of the Year Award. Probably pretty ho-hum for her--it's the third time--in a row!
The US Women's National Team got a special shout out when the Presidential Award was given to women's soccer. Can't really figure out what the Presidential Award is or why women's soccer generally received it. Guess it wasn't important enough for any media outlet to explain what with all the ink they gave Ronaldo, the men's World Player winner.
I found this on FIFA's web page about the award which was given to women's soccer because, according to the FIFA president, "We are delighted with the progress which has been made so far in the women's game. Whether in terms of technique, physical fitness or tactics, women's football is experiencing continuous development around the world."
American Heather O'Reilly accepted the award on behalf of the entirety of women's soccer, I guess.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday happenings

1. Where international players will go in the WPS still remains up in the air though things are getting settled. Looks like Marta will head to LA to play for the Sol. No contract yet so don't count on it. But it appears that anywhere she goes, she will be the top-paid player--in the whole league. The WPS is planning to market the heck out of her. Interesting. First game of the season will be the Sol versus the Washington Freedom. So Marta versus Abby Wambach. Nothing like starting out with a bang!

2. Changing the conversation completely...the 2010 Olympics are only 13 months away! Writer Philip Hersh of the LA Times reminds us of that fact. Then he runs down what's happening in winter sports. Nice to see sports that are rarely covered (luge, speed skating) get some ink (or pixels I guess). Unfortunately he does not mention hockey, not that there is that much happening on the national front. Though it would have been nice for him to note that the US women's national team has had some success recently against rival and hockey powerhouse Canada. Also, short track skating? What's up with Apollo Anton Ohno?

3. Candace Parker is pregnant! So looking forward to how this story gets covered. Will the WNBA play up the mommy thing like they did with Swoopes and Susie McConnell Serio (whose whiteness was also a big--yet unmentioned--part of that campaign)? Will Parker become another example of mommy athletes? Is it going to have that yucky liberal tinge to it? The women can do everything they want--including professional sports--and still reproduce; and indeed they should! Does anyone else think she's really young both in age and in her career to have a baby? I am sure this will not be the last mention of this story.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

What I learned today

It's not even 10 and I keep find out new things.
First, hadn't heard of the recent controversy in college football where USC player Rey Maualuga who had just helped his team win the Rose Bowl did a little victory sex simulation in back of sports reporter Erin Andrews on his way out of the stadium. Of course, it got caught on You Tube.

Some people cheered. Some people booed (Donna Lopiano, former head of the Women's Sports Foundation), some people booed the booers with the typical backlash rhetoric. The player apologized. Ta-da! End of story.
In other words, I don't expect to hear anything more about this. But out of curiosity I wanted to learn more about Andrews. According to this blog she laughed the whole thing off. But really, what choice did she have? She's been sexualized since she first appeared on the scene. Playboy named her the sexiest sportscaster. She doesn't seem to speak out against the sexualization, but that's no excuse for Maualuga's conduct.
In the process of this research I found out something else: there's a website out there called Chickipedia. I kid you not! Chickipedia is described as "the world's largest web-based, women-based, wiki-based database of hot chicks on the planet." Note they have less than 1,000 entries right now. Maybe it will just die out.
Andrews's entry includes her measurements, her assets ("big rack" and knowledge of football), oh yeah, and her career achievements--at the bottom, which includes the dubious honor Playboy bestowed upon her in 2007.
How much Andrews participates in her own sexualization remains debatable, but it's clear that how men in sports treat her is very different from how they treat male reporters as evidenced by this interview with Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl, who patted down or shook (it's hard to tell) Andrews during a halftime interview.

Can't imagine him doing that to a man, nor do I imagine Maualuga would have been inspired to simulate fornication by the backside of say John Madden.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Transfer fever?

As came up during the recent discussion of Elena Delle Donne's transfer from UConn, it's not as if this kind of thing hadn't happened before. And it certainly wasn't the last incident--even of the 2008-2009 season. LSU announced that first-year guard Crystal Riley will be granted a full release so she can pursue the sport at another university. Riley was not exactly a benchwarmer. She played in six games already this season.
Maybe some of my colleagues at Women's Hoops Blog can fill in some blanks??

Monday, January 05, 2009

What's a real sport?

Bryan Hollister of the Bleacher Report has a "humor" column this week in which he lists and explains the top 15 sports that are not sports. I'm not going to get super uptight about this list. But I do have some things to say about his choices.
First, though, it should be noted that the definition of sport is always up for debate--and this is the way it should be. Because a sport does not always involve "blood, sweat, and tears shed through hours of workouts, practices, scrimmages, successes, and failures." Or at least not all those elements all the time. It's a pretty naive definition of a sport, but it's the only one that Hollister offers.
I'm not going to comment on all 15 of Hollister's offerings. Check them out for yourself. Here are just some of my thoughts on some of his.
Winter sports seem to be especially heavy hit, curling, bobsled, and luge. And if Hollister really thinks that no one has ever said about luge "that's what I want to do when I grow up" he's never met Ebuz from the Title IX Blog. Ask her about her lost childhood dream and wasted luging talent. The point is that there are a lot of people who do dream of doing these sports. I wanted to be in the first Olympics to offer 4-women bobsled. I had the thighs for it!
If Hollister does not think sailing is not a sport, he has never seen the long-lost Jennifer Grey/Matthew Modine film, Wind. And if he thinks that something is not a sport if it is not affordable to the general population, he's going to have to add a lot more sports to his list--a lot.
Okay, I am not a fan of synchronized swimming either. But there's no way I can sustain myself under water, upside down for a few minutes doing fancy leg tricks and throwing other women out of the water. The costumes, the hair, the make-up is all a little much. But I think it kinda stinks that any sport that has an overt aesthetic element (I would argue that all sports are aesthetic of course) is dismissed. Also if another of Hollister's rapidly mounting criteria is that there's isn't a version for the other sex--men in this case; he might be due for a history lesson.
It's also problematic that some of sports on the list like badminton, cricket, and ping-pong are dominated by non-Americans and/or non-white people.
Weird that diving--not a sport--but gymnastics is because there are more apparatuses in gymnastics and the "floor doesn't have much give." One, gymnastic floors do have some give to them--they are spring floors. Not that doing all those moves over and over feels great. Also, water, when you hit it at a high velocity and from a distance like, say, 10 meters, doesn't tickle either. Someone give this guy a physics lesson.
Rowing? Really?
I might be convinced that pool is not a sport, but the fact that he used a photo of one of the best pool players in the world who happens to be an Asian woman who exudes a certain amount of sex appeal, makes me a little nauseous, especially because Hollister enjoyed inserting random pics of "hot" female athletes in his slideshow.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The growth of women's hockey

There's a very good article in the Boston Globe about the growth of women's hockey, with specific focus on high school programs in Massachusetts. The state of Minnesota still has the highest number of girls playing ice hockey, but MA is in second place (distant second).
The article does a generational sort of tracking noting how players in the game experienced very different versions of women's hockey depending on when they graduated in the last 20 years. For example in the late 80s and 90s there weren't that many public schools with girls' programs which meant that girls who played the sport either went to private school, tried to join boys' teams (rare), or played on club teams.
Twenty years isn't really a whole lot of time. But it's been long enough to create the kind of depth in the sport that means even the top scorer at one of the better private high school programs is attending a DIII school--the best DIII school, but still. It illustrates that there is a lot of talent out there.
The article also made me think about what is happening at the top levels of the sport. Fat Louie at Women's Sports Blog did a post not too long ago about the new training regimen of the US National Team which is currently in Minnesota preparing for the 2010 Vancouver games. OK she posted a link but it was the linked comment that got me thinking. I love her snarkiness and yes it seems demeaning that the best female players in the world are playing against real estate agents and other young male professionals in a rec league. But these guys are good players--former collegiate players themselves. And the type of game they play--aggressive but no checking--is what happens in the international women's game. The national team will play the college teams but they usually just kill them. It's great PR for the sport--not great training. It's similar to when the national softball team did their college tour prior to Beijing. Fun for fans--not so rewarding for players.
This is to say that yes it would be great if there was enough depth in the women's game so that the national team could get the kind of practice it needed without having to play high school boys (that one seemed a little ridiculous). But there isn't a huge women's professional league that offers that kind of regular competition. And those who do not make the Olympic team are not sticking around to be practice players because there is no funding. Most of these women are already making economic sacrifices to play at this level.
But I think it would also be great if it didn't really matter who the team was playing against. In other words, if elite men playing against--or even with--elite women wasn't a novelty and did not engender a belief that female hockey players are just plain inferior.
Hopefully as the sport continues to grow at the high school (and younger) level (big if given the hit sports programs are likely to take in the recessions--especially public school programs) the options for play at the highest levels of the game will not be so limited.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Changed my mind

Okay, so I said I cared very little about all these year in review type columns, but I liked this one by San Fransisco's Bay Area Reporter and besides, it's the first day of the year, there's fresh snow so I am headed out to try my new skis.
So check out the BAR and their month-by-month recap of all things gay in the world of sports.