Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kick Like a Girl on HBO tonight

The documentary Kick Like a Girl will air at 6pm (ET) on HBO. This is the television premiere of the film which I highly recommend. The filmmaker, Jenny Mackenzie, is also one of the "stars" as a mother who coaches her daughter's youth soccer team as they play a season in the boys' league.

WCWS stuff

I love this weekend of the year, so many sports (but unfortunately so much yardwork that takes me away from the television).
Anyway, I have been catching the Women's College World Series and noticed a few things:
1. Will we ever reach a day when women are not called basemen?
2. PAC-10--not so dominant any more. OK mostly it was this guy who noticed that; I don't usually pay attention to such things.
3. There are still a lot of men coaching women's softball.
4. Softball has an inferiority complex: One of the commentators noted the other day that in regulation softball they only play 7 innings. As compared to...? I will say it again: the softball/baseball comparison hurts softball.
5. In last night's elimination game, Alabama was down 2-0 to Arizona State (the reigning champion). The 'Bama coach pulled his senior star player for a first-year lefty pinch hitter with the bases loaded. She hit a grand slam! And it didn't make Sports Center!
6. But Georgia's Briana Heson--the first baseperson--did make Sports Center's Top Ten list. Her diving catch of mis-popped bunt attempt was #2 this morning.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Women's College World Series

The WCWS is upon us. Check out ESPN's Graham Hays for an analysis of what to expect.
I was surprised to see that Washington's Daniel Lawrie was one of the top two pitchers in the country this year. I saw her play in the regionals and opposing teams were definitely hitting off of her. Anyway, looking forward to seeing some of the tournament when I return. (Not big into softball here. But my father did sit next to a young English on the plane who said softball was big in England.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More pics

As promised more pics from my first trip to Roland Garros:

Flavia Penetta

Anna Chakvetadze

Alexa Glatch

Sabine Lisicki

Lucie Safarova

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Roland Garros: Day 2

Hot, hot, hot! Or "il fait chaud." (Actually that means "it is hot" and what I should be saying is "it was hot" but I don't remember the past tense of faire.)

Anyway it was hot at Roland Garros on Monday. And crowded. And one does not realize this when watching on television. One also has a tendency not to perceive the full impact of how long clay-court points are. Sure they are long; we see this on television. But when it's hot and crowded (crowd control is definitely an issue, worse than the US Open in NYC and of course worse than Wimbledon where they are all about the queue) and you are waiting to get into a court to see Agnes Szavay play an Italian player I had never heard of, length of points becomes important. Showed up at 40-15 the game before a changeover. Didn't get in until 20+ minutes later. A guy next to me, who I believe worked for Wilson, said something about 1) how he hated this tournament and 2) how ridiculous it was that the game was going on so long and attributed to "women's tennis." Dude, there's like a zillion other men's matches going on. Plus I attribute men's tennis--or rather the 3 out of 5 format to why I didn't get to see either Patty Schnyder or Radwanska play in the evening. (I was just burned out by 7.) [Turns out I would not have seen Schnyder anyway because they moved the match to court Lenglen.]

But since I am in Paris and it seems kind of ridiculous to complain, I will stop now and say that I saw some good matches, caught glimpses of players I rarely see or hear about.

Here's what I saw:
The aforementioned Szavay beat the Italian. (Oh coaching from the stands is rampant here. The Italian's coach, whom I was sitting right in front of, was constantly talking and she was talking to back to him when she was on our side.)

Saw American Alexa Glatch (picture forthcoming) cream Italian Flavia Pannetta in the first set. When I left to see if the Kirilenko match had started yet (it hadn't) and then came back, it was over. She must have won quickly.

Did see Kirilenko practice though. As well as some of Schnyder's practice. She ended up losing though later in the day to Kateryna Bondarenko. She was also practicing with Anna Lena Groenfeld--not sure if they are doubles partners for this tournament.

Saw Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro win her first set. (She won in 2.) And, yes, she does have a very nice one-handed backhand.

Saw Sabine Lisicki and Lucie Safarova split sets (Safarova went on to win it in 3).(pics forthcoming)
Saw Chazvedatze win her first set and thought she had everything under control. Apparently not. She was upset in 3. (pics forthcoming)

Not too much else to report. Except that pink seems to be the color of the moment. Almost every brand has some in this season's outfits. Some of it is not that attractive.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pimp my golf cart?

Ok this doesn't have anything to do with golf carts (not really anyway) but I had to use the word pimp in the title, because that it what seems to be happening with these female golfers for hire.
A company started by a female golfer (who never quite made it to the LPGA), allows men, or companies runs by men apparently, to hire female golfers for outings, large and small, bachelor parties, or just to pretty things up on the course. Better Golf Designs has a website where interested parties can peruse the offerings. Shots of the golfers in sexy clothes (not golf clothes) are featured.
All of the golfers are professionals--golf professionals that is. Some are members of the Futures Tour supplementing their income.
Most of the arguments (pro and con) are provided in the article linked above. But I have to add that I don't think this helps women's golf generally. And it certainly does nothing to diminish the old boys club aspect to golf. It only adds elements of the strip club (i.e., the sexualization and devaluation of women).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

NPR on Iraqi handball

Weekend Edition Saturday aired a feature about a group of Iraqi women in the Anbar province who have been playing team handball in secret for several years. Despite lousy conditions and restrictions on their access to sport generally, these women are trying to play in the national championships.
I haven't listened to the piece yet myself, but I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Au revoir!

I am off to France this afternoon!
Needless to say, posting will be sporadic while I am gone. I should be at the French Open Monday and Thursday and hopefully I will get some pics up.
Please send good wishes for nice weather.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Show me the money!

Athletic departments, with their non-traditional accounting practices, may have a little more 'splainin to do about where their monies are going. Congress is looking at the tax-exempt status athletic departments, because they are part of educational institutions, receive. Are they really using football and basketball revenues to subsidize non-revenue sports as we so frequently hear yelled from the anti-Title IX rafters? Congress wants to know. 'Cause if they are not being used thusly or in support of an institution's educational mission, well all those millions of tax-free dollars may have to be reconsidered. (Government needs money, in case you hadn't heard.)
So the Congressional Budget Office has been looking at things and will issue a report on the matter. They were not too pleased, though, that the data they used had to come from the Indianapolis Star's investigation into the issue earlier. They obtained their data from a Freedom of Information request. In other words, there are certain transparency issues involved.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Campaign against Saudi women working out

What had been passive (aggressive) resistance to women in Saudi Arabia working out has become a little more active.
A campaign, currently in the form of posters, has appeared in the capital of Riyadh that is discouraging of women working out in sports clubs. Since the rash of closing of clubs because of lack of licenses, there has been movement toward women-run clubs and a concerted effort on the part of some Saudi women to retain their opportunities for physical activity. But this campaign seems to be aimed at stopping such activism.
A poster with a picture of a soccer ball with an X through it is featured on a large poster found in an area of the city where women and men can be found walking for exercise. The slogan reads: No to women's clubs.
The person or persons behind the posters remains anonymous.

Monday, May 18, 2009

News-y things

I don't know what my problem is with finding things to blog about lately. But I am headed to s different country later this week so hopefully that will provide some information.
It's not as if there has not been things going on. After all, the women's college world series is nearly upon us. I went to a regional game this past weekend and had a very enjoyable time.
WPS is in full-swing. Though I have been a little bitter since the Abby Wambach suspension decision. But I am building a bridge and trying to get over it.

So here are just some tidbits to tide--well, mostly me, over--until I find my blog-jo again.
Lots and lots of Title IX stuff happening these days. With the recession has come a lot of cuts in sports programs and when cutting programs schools must consider from whom they are taking away opportunities.
Also making news is the case being brought by the axed volleyball team at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. The volleyball players and coach are alleging that the university cannot cut the team because it is not in compliance. Thus the university is taking away more opportunities from the group that already has fewer. [See the Title IX Blog for all these stories and more!]

You might have noticed the banner off to your left that says "Women Talk Sports." This is a new website that serves as one-stop shopping for female sports bloggers. Megan Hueter of Because I Played Sports is behind this initiative. So check it out.
Also check out one of the newer blogs on the block, One Sport Voice (also part of the Women Talk Sports network). One Sport Voice is authored by Dr. Nicole LaVoi of University of Minnesota (and affiliated with the school's Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports which is run by Dr. Mary Jo Kane).

Also new--well not even quite in existence yet--is a magazine for female cyclists. Not a great time for print publications, but a magazine devoted to female cyclists is long overdue. There needs to be more awareness that yes, women do bike; even if they don't let us do it in that big race over in France. The mag is called She Pedals and will make its debut in September. The project of veteran cyclist Dena Eaton, the magazine will have something for every cyclist--all abilities, all ages. It will be a quarterly publication.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

NYT is all about international sports this week

So first there was the profile of Carla Suarez-Navarro, a lesser-known Spanish tennis player and now I see an article about team handball and why it should come to the US.
These efforts by the NYT to diversify its sports coverage is quite refreshing, especially given the crazy emphasis right now on men's baseball, men's hockey, and men's basketball--especially because I live close enough to Boston to have to hear about all three--all the time.
But this team handball article was quite interesting. I, too, like many others caught some of the Olympic matches that were shown last summer from Beijing. I have always thought of handball as a game played on the playground at recess, but these athletes were clearly not playing the same game I had pictured in my mind.
And the Olympic coverage of the sport intrigued other Americans apparently. Handball has always been seen as a European sport but, according to the other and likely the biggest American fan, it has all the elements American like in their sports: a ball, running, hitting, throwing hard, and jumping. Maybe we just need to get over the fact that it looks a little like a game you played in gym--oops, sorry, Physical Education. But, hey, we all loved (or hated--there wasn't much in between, I suppose) dodgeball and this has some of the same components--except you aim the ball at a net. But it does have a person in it trying to stop you!
And Americans do indeed play the sport. The national club championships were held last week and the US does have a national team but neither the men nor the women have qualified for the Olympic games in quite a while.
Maybe things will change.
Regardless, kudos to the NYT for even doing a story on a "non-American" sport.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Covering international tennis

A frequent complaint of mine is how American-centric the American coverage of professional tennis remains despite the international appeal of many top players. And with the French Open coming up soon, soon, soon (I board a plane in a week for France to go see it!) I was gearing up for another post on how the American media just can't seem to do right by international players.
There's no telling what ESPN will do with its coverage. Whether we will see replay of some American's match during every rain delay (please cross your fingers that there will be no rain on the first Monday and Thursday of the tournament--thank you)--or whether we may actually get to see an interesting match with lesser-knowns. And remember that the less-knowns are only lesser known to Americans largely because of the lousy job ESPN and other outlets do in covering tennis.
But I was pleased to see the NYT do a feature on Carla Suarez-Navarro. The article focused on Suarez-Navarro as the best hope for Spanish women right now. Spanish men, of course, led by Rafael Nadal, are doing quite well. But Spain has not had a female star since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez were in their heydays.
Of course print media is very different from television. But maybe the folks at ESPN caught a glimpse of the article or even of Suarez-Navarro herself; she is a top-20 player after all and has one of the few one-handed backhands in the game (something else most television commentators fail to realize--Mauresmo is not the only one). And her game is different from the extreme power of other players. I, personally, am going to make a point of finding her in Paris in a few weeks!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Waiting at the top of a steep slope...

...or waiting for a court decision. Which is scarier if you are a female ski jumper? Probably the latter. The female jumpers that sued the Vancouver Olympic Committee in an attempt to gain entry into the 2010 games are now waiting for a decision from a judge in British Columbia. There is no telling when the decision will arrive. At least when you are on the that thin board at the top of the icy, steep slope you know eventually you will be given the chance to jump.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Michelle Obama invited to WPS

The Washington Freedom has invited Michelle Obama and her daughters to a game this season. No word on whether not the female members of the first family will attend, but Freedom players, especially Abby Wambach, is excited by the possibility. They believe it will generate some good press (not they are getting bad press--they just are not getting any national press) and set an example for other fans.

Not sure why they didn't invite the president himself to join his wife and daughter. After all it is the president that believes women can be seen playing sports on television all the time (false) and who apparently was not aware that one could fill out a bracket for the women's NCAA b-ball tourney. Maybe he could learn a thing or two about women's sports from attending a game.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

WPS major faux pas

Abby Wambach's tackle that resulted in Athletica star Daniela's injury last week has also resulted in Wambach's one-game suspension. A suspension not handed down by the WPS disciplinary committee that reviewed the game, including the many egregious fouls by Athletica defenders on Wambach. (See the video posted on Women's Sports Nation.)
WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci reviewed the game footage and issued one-game suspensions to both Wambach and Athletica defender Kia McNeill. Which is all basically crap. If the refs had done their job and issued yellow cards for those fouls, it would have sent a message that they were watching. But the game got out of control. Wambach's challenge to Daniela was clearly yellow-card worthy but not suspension worthy. The disciplinary committee thought so. That Antonucci gets to overrule is a little problematic.
Injuries happen. As I mentioned, Wambach herself was the victim of a foul-worthy challenge that took her out of the last World Cup competition.
Plus the one-game suspension comes in Boston next week. Guess who has just decided not to make the trip to see a Wambach-less Freedom take on the Breakers?

Friday, May 08, 2009

The steroid double standard

Luckily I am not a member of Red Sox Nation currently overflowing with schadenfraude nor am a disillusioned fan of baseball with hopes for some return to a state of purity in the sport. So the Manny Ramirez revelation (on top of the A-Rod thing and the Mitchell Report) was not really a surprise--except for the utter stupidity of it.
But what I was surprised by was the lack of jokes around the whole thing. Everyone is treating it with such utter seriousness. The man was taking fertility drugs! Fertility drugs! No, "he's due after playoffs?" no "he's been trying for so long" type riffs. Not even stuff about the drug's off-label use to restimulate testosterone after a round of steroids.
When women take steroids there is no shortage of commentary about manliness, man hands, growing balls, etc. Let's not forget the still on-going jokes about the female Olympians of the 70s and 80s who competed for Iron Curtain countries and were doused--without their knowing, and this excuse is probably the last time it was true--with steroids.
But a man's masculinity remains sacred--especially in baseball. No shrivelled gonad jokes, no high-pitched voice audio clips, no hair removal comments.
This is not meant to make light of steroid use. It's just to note that some people get away with it and some people don't. (And I don't mean game suspensions and fines; I mean reputation and dignity.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

ESPN pays WPS some attention

I was pleased to see (well, pleased in that, I'm-not-quite-sure-how-I-feel-about-this way) that ESPN online had a column about the WPS. I have not gone back into the ESPN archives to view their previous coverage (I don't even know if there is any). But this article focused on the event of the week. It's not a convincing win, a great shootout, or an amazing goal. It's Abby Wambach's yellow-carded challenge/foul on Athletica star Daniela that resulted in torn ligaments and a broken tibia.
Should Wambach receive further disciplinary action? Most people think no; though the issue remains under review by WPS peeps.
It raises issues of whether Wambach plays "too tough." But Wambach herself was on the receiving end of a challenge that resulted in two broken bones in her leg and took her out of the last World Cup. And she gets a lot of physical play against her. Some argue she takes falls and plays up these moments of physical contact. But you cannot deny that she is a target. Following the Daniela incident Wambach was the target of at least two Athletica defenders who never received yellow cards for their overly aggressive play.
So this whole thing raises several issues: what's too tough? how much contact do we want to see or should we be seeing in soccer? are our standards gendered?
Most agree that the ref did a poor job keeping this game in check.
And I have spoken with other "big girl" athletes who are placed in a similar bind to Wambach. They become targets because of their size, and because of their size they are able to often defend themselves using greater force than was exerted on them. No one seems to be able to figure out what is fair, what is the proper use of force or truly distinguish the opinions/decisions we (the public) and officials are making based on beliefs about size, strength, power, and gender norms.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Head Wall Ouch

The NCAA's announcement that sand volleyball (we all know it as beach volleyball) will become the latest "emerging sport" has generated some news. Several schools are actively considering the addition which is being touted as cheap and fairly easy to implement, especially if schools already have an indoor team (the thought is that there could be player and even coaching overlap).
But this dude in Utah thinks this is just another of the evil implementations of Title IX. Because sand volleyball is only being offered for women. He calls the move an attempt to "inflate" the numbers of women playing intercollegiate athletics (implying of course that their interest isn't real, or that the sport is somehow inferior) just like when those "silly NCAA-sponsored crew teams" were sanctioned. Mr. Robinson, I wouldn't mess with female rowers if I were you. They're fierce--in the best way!
He bemoans the lack of scholarships for male athletes--well for non-football-playing male athletes anyway. Because "excluding" football there are more female athletes than male athletes. Well why are you excluding football? It's not the fault of women--who are interested in sports by the way--that more men are interested in never playing in a real football game but remaining "part of the team."
And by the way, that 1979 OCR interpretation you mention. Well first you got it wrong. It did not establish strict proportionality as the only way to meet the interests and abilities of women. It established a three-prong test to do so. And this interpretation was proffered and supported by male coaches and administrators. (Because it happened when more men were attending college than women--something else Title IX helped change.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

What's wrong with being a cause?

Almost passed over yet another article about the bad economy and the effects on women's sports. You know, the one that invokes almost immediately the folding of the Houston Comets and the shaky pitch the WPS finds itself on.
Though much later in the article it is noted that the WPS needed to average 4,000 attendees per game to remain sustainable and in the first weeks of the season is averaging 6,000.
It is the LPGA actually that seems to be hit the hardest among women's sports and that is probably because they appeal to a different clientele. The hope among other women's sports is that the low cost of attending a game, tournament, or competition will draw people who are no longer willing to spend well over $100 for a family of 4 to attend a baseball game. The LPGA does not have those same advantages. And professional golf has always relied on high-end sponsorship because it is said to appeal to higher end customers--hence sponsorships by Rolex, Cadillac, etc. But in tough economic times those sponsors are not going to cut back on sponsorships where they do not feel they are getting the full bang for their buck. And women's golf falls into the category.
So most women's sports are holding their breath and crossing their fingers. Well so are a lot of people these days. And most agree that women's sports will get through this recession and certainly in better shape than if it had come a decade ago.
So yeah the growth of women's sports! This is certainly the sentiment expressed by Women's Sports Foundation CEO Karen Durkin. But she thinks it's because women's sports are not seen as part of the larger women's movement:
"We're no longer being positioned as a cause. That's very symbolic for the next frontier of women's sports."'re the head of an organization that was created in the heyday of the Second Wave and your goal is make people forget that women's sports has anything to do with feminism. That's problematic. Especially because there is no future, no frontier in site that does not include patriarchy and thus a need for feminism. One might even be able to argue that women's sports needs feminism more than other venues. Or that a more obvious collaboration between feminist organizations and women's sports organizations could benefit both.
Do you have to identify as a feminist to enjoy women's sports? No. But it would be really nice if you did. (Especially if you are head of an activist organization that has "women" in the title.)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday blues

I must be in a slump because I don't have that much to say.
Sure I could complain about how the WPS is in full swing and I have yet to see any scores or highlights on ESPN. (Of course I don't watch ESPN has much as others so please, please let me know if I am wrong. I will happily tune in to see coverage.) But I have already done that. More than once probably.
I could say my slump is part of my depression over flipping through the gazillion channels on my girlfriend's HDTV getting excited when I see softball, women's soccer, and women's tennis listed in the guide and then being let down because none of these channels are part of her cable package--which is not that basic, people. I know WPS peeps did a major celebratory dance when they negotiated a deal with Fox Soccer Channel but how many people have access to this?

I could talk about Nike's announcement last week of the Nike Gamechangers award winners. Nike worked with Changemakers, an organization dedicated to bringing about innovative social change all over the world, on this competition which sought out organizations dedicated to effecting change for women in sports. Could mention that the award was a measly $5,000 for each of the three winning organizations. Could wonder what kind of change $5,000 a year for all those women working in Nike's overseas factories might engender.* Could go home and burn all my Nike dri-fit tops.
Hopefully there will be more interesting news tomorrow.

*This is not to say that the work these organizations are doing is not valuable or worthy of the award and recognition. They all are. Many of them are trying to improve the economic situations of women in non-Western countries and women in poverty everywhere.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Is Ultimate a model for gender equality?

I have no idea but the recent NYT article on Ultimate (as in Ultimate Frisbee) suggests that there may be some connection to the rapid growth of women in the sport and the way the governing body equally promotes its men's and women's teams. Also the prevalence of co-ed teams and the belief that men and women can be equally good at throwing a Frisbee are a factor. Ultimate is becoming more and more ubiquitous but there seems to be some hesitation about whether it is really a sport. It does have a world championships. But even the NYT piece was in the Fashion and Style section under Fitness.
I have heard talk about Ultimate wants in on the Olympics, but I do not believe they have ever made a bid.
But the sport is all over college campuses. If Ultimate was smart it would head to the NCAA and push for it to be named an emerging sport. If it can get varsity status among intercollegiate sports, it would have a better shot at becoming an Olympic sport.
This is all assuming, of course, that Ultimate wants these things. It does have, as the article explains, a hippie-ish past. Perhaps they like their alternative status. Though I do know Ultimate players who would like their sport to become a little more mainstream.