Friday, December 31, 2010

Poetry Friday

A Song for New Year's Eve
by William Cullen Bryant

Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay—
Stay till the good old year,
So long companion of our way,
Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong,
Has now no hopes to wake;
Yet one hour more of jest and song
For his familiar sake.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One mirthful hour, and then away.

The kindly year, his liberal hands
Have lavished all his store.
And shall we turn from where he stands,
Because he gives no more?
Oh stay, oh stay,
One grateful hour, and then away.

Days brightly came and calmly went,
While yet he was our guest;
How cheerfully the week was spent!
How sweet the seventh day's rest!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One golden hour, and then away.

Dear friends were with us, some who sleep
Beneath the coffin-lid:
What pleasant memories we keep
Of all they said and did!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One tender hour, and then away.

Even while we sing, he smiles his last,
And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
Oh be the new as kind!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One parting strain, and then away.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Auriemma backlash

Sure, the moment I get on board with some of Geno Auriemma's antics, others turn on him.

There have been some interesting responses to Auriemma's comments about the gendered nature of the streak his team broke last week. gathered the thoughts of its contributors and talked about it on 1st and 10 where one commentator called his comments not-so-nice. They didn't seem particularly mean to me but...

Skip Bayless thinks that Auriemma's characterization of the "miserable bastards" (and why Bayless has a problem using the word bastards is kind of curious to me) is wrong. That men who don't care about women's basketball just don't care enough to be upset about this--that they just ignore women's basketball all together. Probably true to some extent. But it's hard to ignore something that even ESPN is making a big deal about. And the fervent naysayers don't seem to be so zen about the breaking of the streak.

My--hopefully--final thoughts on this: I think the word comparison is problematic. Comparing feats and streaks and accomplishments across sports, eras, players, coaches, programs, etc. is never a fruitful endeavor. It usually only provides a few minutes of fodder on sports shows and the occasional column in a newspaper or magazine. Remember when Pete Sampras was compared to Laver? And now it's Federer versus Sampras and the name Nadal has even snuck into the conversation. Is Chrissie Evert better than Martina because of her clay court streak? Is Graf better than Navratilova because she has more individual Grand Slam titles?
Mary Lou Retton versus Nadia Comaneci?
Such comparisons are utterly subjective. So everyone can stop saying "apples and oranges." We're all aware that fruit comes in different varieties. Streaks are streaks. They all mean the same thing: that someone(s) did something really, really well. Let's just appreciate that.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Poetry: Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Things to know about gender equity in the Olympics

A most excellent piece of writing from Canadian Laura Robinson who details not only the case of the women ski jumpers (ongoing given that the IOC has not deemed them worthy for the 2014 Olympics) but other inequities in the Olympic Games. What we often see/hear is that women are allowed to compete in almost all the same sports as men these days. But the number of events within those sports often vary drastically. Check out her article for the break down.

The Part II

Right, so what I ran out of energy to say yesterday and decided that I couldn't really fold so neatly into the context of that post...
I noticed that the coaches of all four semifinalist teams in the NCAA DI women's volleyball championship are men. Before you scream "femi-nazi" let me note that I don't think men are inherently evil or malicious* and thus not qualified to coach women. I think that various systemic impediments, though, make it easier for men to coach women and these issues are not being well addressed. And really? All four of the best teams in the nation have male coaches?
Volleyball, by the way, is the second most popular women's intercollegiate sport (behind basketball).
Women currently comprise just under 56 percent of the head coaches of women's volleyball (across all divisions). This is almost the lowest percentage since the late 1970s. (All data is from Carpenter and Acosta's longitudinal study of women's intercollegiate athletics.) In DI volleyball the percentage is just under 51.
OK enough with the's not my forte anyway.
So I was kind of disturbed to see former v-baller Karch Kiralyi doing the commentary for the tournament. Kiralyi is a board member of the Fairness in Sports Foundation. Fairness in Sports is dedicated to bringing back the "original intent" of Title IX. Of course the original intent of Title IX was to make sure women were not discriminated against in hiring decisions in educational institutions. But FISF does not like the use of Title IX to "promote" athletics on campuses even though they tout their male board members as working to fight against the elimination of men's athletics. I could go on about how they call themselves Title IX advocates...but another time and probably another place.
Anyway, I don't think ESPN should let people who actively campaign against equitable participation of women in sports, cover women's sports.

OK, now you can say it.

* Some are very good guys in fact. This piece on Penn State coach Russ Rose is a good read.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Basketball, volleyball, coaching, streaks, and some other things

Because Mechelle Voepel so adroitly wrote about the connection between Penn State's volleyball championship this weekend and UConn's streak-tying win over Ohio State yesterday, I thought I would attempt to talk about multiple, somewhat related, things in one Monday morning post.

In general, I have avoided this whole streak thing because it seems like a no-win situation. (Check out One Sports Voice for Dr. Lavoi's oh-so-precient thoughts on how this would be discussed.) But now that it's here... (I was so hoping Baylor would have prevented this moment. Alas, accept and move on.)
Regular readers--including the haters--of this blog might want to sit down. But I agree with (some of) what Auriemma has been saying.
First, on the issue of hyper-media coverage:
"There is way too much attention that is placed upon things and events that the average person, if you used common sense doesn’t really cares about. Do we really need an hour show to figure out where a guy is going to play? Do we need 5 hours on how a guy runs a slant pattern in the red zone? Do we need 5 guys discussing whether a guy is going to take a snap or not? Do we need 7 doctors what his ankle looks like? Really who cares? But that is the culture that we live in."

And on gender:
"I just know there wouldn't be this many people in the room if we were chasing a woman's record. The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men's record, and everybody is all up in arms about it. [...]
All the women are happy as hell and they can't wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that loved women's basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record are all here because they're pissed."

So I've softened a little (I'll still be rooting for Stanford December 30). At least Auriemma has an awareness of the gendered implications of all this.

OK, I think I'll do a Part II about Penn State rather than smush it all in here.
Stay tuned.

Acknowledgment and changes

Last Friday I briefly mentioned the upcoming conference at MIT's business school and the lack of female panelists.
Word on the street--and by street I mean one of the listservs I subscribe to--has it that conference organizers are aware of the dearth of women and trying to rectify it. Hannah Storm has been added to the conference along with the CMO of Gatorade who is a woman. (There are still, as far as I can tell, no women of color on the panels.) But apparently the organizers are open to suggestions for panelists. So please send them via the conference website which can be found here.

Also a little advice to the conference organizers: please fix the website. I would not think an elite business school would want to be represented by such poor web design/execution.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Congrats, Penn State!

Just finished watching the Penn State volleyball team win their fourth consecutive NCAA championship. I only caught the last set. The second one looked close and interesting.
Sports Center came on right afterwards. The story has yet to be mentioned and we're over a half hour in to the show. A team just won its fourth championship and no word--let alone analysis and highlights. I did find out about the latest trades in the NBA though and the football game between Wisconsin-Whitewater and Mount Union.
Good thing we have ESPNW to click over to...
Oh wait, ESPNW is only a website right now. Guess no one told ESPNN (normative) that they can't completely ghettoize women's sports--yet.
Congrats, anyway, Penn State. Don't worry. The print coverage will be better.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who's in charge?

I received a notice about a conference happening this spring at MIT on sports analytics.
The goal of the conference is:
To provide a forum for industry professionals (executives and leading researchers) and students to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the sports industry. MIT Sloan is dedicated to fostering growth in this arena, and the conference enriches opportunities for learning and understanding the sports business world.
Their website is a little wonky right now but the main page scrolls through the list of featured speakers, which is quite impressive. And quite male. When I went initially there were no women scrolling by. Now there is one, ESPN columnist Jackie MacMullan. I don't know if more women were invited and turned down the offer or if more women will be added to the program.
But it's disturbing that this conference is so male- and Caucasian-dominated. (My initial impression is that there are three men of color and one woman.)
Like I said, the website is having issues, so I cannot really figure out what they will be talking about at the conference (the panels and research paper sections are blank). But I am curious and worried. I don't know if women would say anything radically different in a conference like this. Most women who are in business are there because they know how to play the game and not rock the boat. Still, I am having flashbacks to the Blogs with Balls Conference (which I only read about) this past summer that was almost entirely comprised of men and the atmosphere of which was clearly created to appeal to men. Both conferences give the impression that women do not care about these issues and that they are not involved in these businesses.

Friday Poetry


Rita Mae Brown

I took the woman's face
To be the roadmap of her self,
And rode past temples of beauty
through schools of thought
To a soft meadow of kindness
And I would have laid my body there
But from my own green kindness
Instead, I laid my soul.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All about NPR this morning

Well I'm all about NPR every morning, but this was a particularly good morning. Frank Deford's commentary focused on women's team sports versus individual sports. He discusses the way in which women's teams sports are (barely) tolerated and how those women who play with racquets or wear figure skates or put on a bathing suit are more revered in this culture. He has some interesting takes on this phenomenon:
And it's not so simple as the old glass-ceiling analogy. No, it's more emotional: teams represent our city, our college. They represent us –– the old team spirit. So, for many gentlemen, having a team of girls representing us is too much to bear.

And to be frank, female fans have themselves miserably failed their sisters; they've not yet come to support women's teams as men do their own athletes.

But, he notes, the UConn women's basketball team is changing that.

The Huskies force people –– men and women alike –– to at least think about women's teams. The idea. Little girls see UConn and they realize they don't have to pick up a tennis racket or a pair of figure skates. By being so good, UConn has not just transcended its sport, but it's doing a number on tradition. On sexism, too.

I don't know if little girls are so unaware of team sports. I think a lot of little girls play sports like soccer and ice hockey and basketball and baseball and softball. I think the issue comes as they get older and they realize their participation in these sports is--at best--not highly valued and, more nefariously, creates questions about their femininity and sexuality.

But on to the second NPR moment of the morning: a feature on professional women's ice hockey. I was quite pleased to find out, earlier this fall, that Boston now has a team. I almost made it to a game in November, but my car conked out. But definitely in the new year I plan to see the Boston Blades, the team that was featured on Morning Edition. The Blades play at various New England sports including Harvard, where Blades defense person Angela Ruggiero is an alum. And also at UNH where defense person Kacey Bellamy, forwards Sam Faber, Michaela Long, and Shannon Sisk (and me!!) are alums. Also, they have a game schedule at Wesleyan next month. Check out the story that aired this morning. And then check out the Canadian Women's Hockey League.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Poetry Friday

From the Books of Bokonon:

On the creation of Bokononism

I wanted all things
To seem to make some sense,
So we could all be happy, yes,
Instead of tense.
And I made up lies
So that they all fit nice,
And I made this sad world
A par-a-dise.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fired soccer coach draws protests

News out of Belmont State in Tennessee last week included the announcement that women's soccer coach, Lisa Howe, resigned under pressure from university administration.* The impetus?Howe's same-sex partner is pregnant. The issue of "can they do this?" is complicated by the fact that Belmont is a private Christian university. So we shall have to see what--if anything--comes in terms of legal action.
Meanwhile, Howe's situation has sparked some action. Students at Belmont have staged a sit-in at the university president's office. They are urging the university to stop discriminating against gay people. Of course the university and Howe say that Howe's departure had nothing to do with sexuality. Hmmm...
Despite this argument, the university faculty senate, in the wake of Howe's departure, passed a resolution stating that gay and lesbian faculty and students should be welcome at the university.
We shall see what more comes of this...

* A new statement says that Howe was neither fired nor resigned but that she and the university officials came to the decision that her leaving the university would be mutually beneficial.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Poetry Friday

The last two lines...

Amy Lowell

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


So, as somewhat expected, the LPGA players voted to eliminate the organization's "female at birth" participation policy. Yesterday the group decided, prompted by the recent lawsuit by Lana Lawless, to change its ways.
So, yea!
I don't have much more to say on this one. I recommend everyone take a look at Pat Griffin's blog where she has posted an open letter to the LPGA commending their actions and urging them to carefully consider what the new rules will look like, i.e. she asks them to consider a policy other than the Stockholm Consensus, the IOC's policy which mandates surgery.

The Ivies really do try harder

Thought this column at the Huffington Post last week was quite interesting. Apparently Jonathan Cole's piece on recruited student-athletes in the Ivy League is the third in a series, but I missed the first two. Nevertheless, this one was enlightening.
While I knew that the Ivies do not give out athletic scholarships, I did know that many recruited student-athletes are "taken care of." What Cole notes is the high attrition rate on teams. After being recruited and accepted and maybe playing a year (or not) some athletes decide to stop playing sports and focus their attention elsewhere. Because there are no scholarships or aid given based on athletic team participation, they do not experience a financial loss. I am not saying--and I don't think Cole was implying this either--that these students are working the system; getting into an elite school based on their athletic abilities and then ditching athletics for a great education. And Cole also notes that while some athletes have SAT scores lower than their class average, they are still higher than scores at other DI schools.
What was really surprising was that roughly 20 percent of any class is comprised of recruited student-athletes. Compare this figure to Pac-10 schools where only 5 percent of the entering class is recruited for athletics.
Cole offers other eye-opening facts and then offers some suggestions, like leaving only a few elite sports to compete at DI and dropping others down to DIII, cutting ties with the NCAA, reducing the number of recruited athletes, and cutting sports. The Ivies carry significantly more teams than other schools. Even after making cuts this past year, Harvard has over 30 intercollegiate teams.
Cole correctly notes that teams do not make money for the schools and that alums who are former athletes are not any more likely to donate money to their alma maters (though they are more likely to make a lot of noise when teams get cut). But he also notes that the reasons athletics were established and valued at the Ivies were because of that whole sound mind/sound body philosophy. So does it matter how much teams cost? It should matter only how athletics are being executed at these schools (and all schools, I would argue). And Cole's suggestions for managing intercollegiate athletics are good. (Though I don' think the Ivies would be able to so easily bid adieu to the NCCA--especially if they want to keep a couple of their sports at the elite level).
But definitely some good information and points to ponder--you know as the college bowl season is upon us and coaches' contracts are up for negotiation and next year's first years are being actively recruited...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More on gender and sport in the not-so-binary system

USA Today ran this piece focusing on Lana Lawless, or rather leading with the golfer's story, but extending the discussion to gender in sport, i.e. when gender is not so neatly packaged. The LPGA was scheduled to gather for a players' meeting in which they would consider the "female by birth" rule that excludes Lawless and other transgender athletes from competing on the tour. But the USA Today article cites other cases--like GW b-baller Kye Allums--as well as some of my favorite people, Helen Carroll of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Dr. Heather Sykes of University of Toronto. There was also the seemingly obligatory call to Dr. Renee Richards who as a male-to-female transsexual sued for the right to play on the women's tennis tour in the 1970s. Richards, who is not exactly a vocal champion for transgender rights, simply said "It's a conundrum."
Sykes kind of summed it up well, I thought:
"The gender boundaries have never been clear, and sport is under an illusion that they can police or contain it."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What will become of this?

Little story I ran across--or that ran across me (my email anyway).
Seems that several countries have a problem with Equatorial Guinea's national women's football (soccer) team and have let Africa's football governing body know. The Nigerian Football Federation made it official in a complaint citing two specific players on the Equatorial Guinea team who they believe are men.
I wonder how little this story is...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Coming out, being queer--and sport, of course

Oh gender and sexual identity, how you confound me! But in that good way I so enjoy.

Three things--but one thing--but kind of three.
Where to begin?
Well I've been thinking about queerness and homonormativity and voice and visibility of late. And not always in the context of sport. But all very applicable to sport.
This video has been bopping around Facebook this past week.

I like it. Because I like things that are thoughtful queer.
But I wonder what does it mean to not come out? As someone who passes in some situations, I wonder if I have a greater obligation to come out. I understand the rationale that not coming out means that the definition of normal has shifted. But does not coming out actually help in shifting the normative bar? I am all for questioning normativity. But do I reinforce normal by not coming out? And in what instances? And in this binary world we live in, can we even say normative without acknowledging that there must be a non-normative? (Questions left unanswered.)
I have taken a dislike to the "I don't like labels" and "I'm just the way I am so I don't need to come out" rhetorics when I believe there is not a lot of consciousness behind them.
Which leads me to sport. But first to Alison Bechdel.
In one of Bechdel's strips (from Dykes to Watch Out For) one of the characters says (something to the effect of--I don't have it in front of me) "Every time you don't come out, you let people think they don't know any gay people."
I don't know if this is true so much in the 21st century--at least in everyday life. (But perhaps I assume too much and am guilty of a middle-class (sub)urban conception of queerness.)
But then I thought about it in a sport context. If the queer me thinks, at least thinks she thinks, that coming out should--theoretically--be irrelevant, then why does queer me get so pissed when athletes don't come out?
Well, queer me still doesn't buy the they're out, they just didn't make an announcement because they don't need to argument. I call that the neoliberal closet.
And I just don't believe that the mainstream sport world is queer. So when an athlete doesn't come out s/he lets people go on thinking both/either that gay people don't play sports and that being gay is still something to hide or that it is some separate part of the self that does not exist on a playing field.
That's all I have right now.

The First Poetry Friday

I figure if other people can post pictures of their babies, cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, food, etc. on Fridays, I can post poems. Poems that may or may not have anything to do with gender and sport. Because I kind of miss my intimate relationship with poetry.
So here goes.

I found this poem by Italian Patrizia Cavalli when I was a senior in college doing my honors thesis on American and Italian feminist poets. It is untitled and I am not sure who translated it.

I was told
there's no way
my poems will change the world.

Yes I say
my poems
in no way will change the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holy crap!

Well I take back all my previous criticisms of the LPGA.
Ok, I don't exactly take them back. But I give the organization--now under new leadership--major props, praise, and applause.
It appears that the recent lawsuit brought by golfer Lana Lawless challenging the organization's "female by birth" participation policy has inspired LPGA leadership to consider an amendment to its constitution.
The membership will address the potential change on November 30. Leadership is encouraging the members to make the change.
From the Golf Channel:

In a special “one-agenda item” meeting at the Hana Bank Championship in South Korea at the end of October, LPGA players were briefed on the upcoming vote and the vital nature of it. According to sources familiar with the meeting, LPGA players were told the “female at birth” provision was created “in a different time” and would be a significant challenge to defend legally today. Players were also informed that the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Golf Association, the Ladies European Tour and the British Ladies Golf Union are among sports organizations that have already amended their bylaws to allow transgender participation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A little piece of my feminist heart died (or Why it's so hard to be a women's b-ball fan)

Perhaps not upsetting news to some of you.

But seriously, sitting in the XL Center last night*, I cringed every time I heard the announcer boldly exclaim Lady Bears. Lady Bears? Sounds like a bad children's book.

And yet I rooted for them. Well I clapped whenever they scored and raised my arm up whenever Brittney Griner sank one of her free throws (note that my arms are not tired this morning. Never forget: Free throws win ball games!). I avoided the glares, as best as possible, from the nearly rabid UConn fans surrounding me. (I mean, yea! that women's basketball is popular in Connecticut, but seriously, little scary down there. The woman next to me did not come back to her seat after halftime. And I was being very good.)

I rooted for them knowing that Baylor is a Baptist school and their anti-homosexuality policy. Knowing that it has driven at least one successful player from the team, and wondering the circumstances under which star senior guard Kelli Griffin left right before the season began. Knowing that coach Kim Mulkey might herself be harboring some homophobia.

And what forced this feminist conundrum? Pretty much my utter distaste for all things Geno Auriemma--which I will not rehash here. This isn't news after all. I know. I sound bitter. But it's not because I lose the March Madness pool every year because I just refuse to put UConn in that winner's spot. It's something deeper. Something about...that guy. Someday. Someday the world will know what I and Pat Summitt and few select others know.

Until then, enjoy this pic from the game last night. In case you couldn't spot her--that's Kim Mulkey in the very gold blazer down there.

* Dear Mechelle Voepel, I really like and respect you. But if you could please set an example for other media and reporters out there and not use the term "Lady," even when the team does, that would be great.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How do we talk about, him....or is it her?

I guess I should be okay with the fact that the worst (that we've heard of) that has happened to George Washington's Kye Allums after his announcement of his gender change is that the media doesn't quite know how to talk about him.
Nevertheless, confusion within the media likely reflects confusion in society generally over gender identity and its intersection (or not) with sexual identity.
This article out of Minnesota, Allums's home state, was a little problematic. In addition to the offensive lead ("Kye Allums just looked like one of the gals Saturday afternoon" *le sigh*), the writer basically gave Allums a sex change halfway through the article.
Allums was referred to as a she for several paragraphs: "she dipped her shoulder;" "her season debut;" "she looked stylish."
And then magically she became a he.
Allums is a man. He made the announcement. He came out as transgender; explained the situation; explained his name change and pronoun preference. Just respect it and use it.
This also goes out to GWU coach Mike Bozeman who was very supportive of Allums when the announcement was made a couple of weeks ago. But Bozeman continued to refer to Allums as a she when he gave interviews this past weekend in Minnesota where GWU was competing in a tournament.
Actually others who played with or coaches Allums in Minnesota continue to refer to Kye as a she.
I know it takes a smidge of getting used to. But it's an interview about your transgender friend--not a casual conversation. A little bit of deliberate thought combined with respect for Allums's decision should result in proper pronoun use.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Women's soccer: Damned if you cruise, damned if you lose

I promised Dr. Pants I would write something about the calamity/catastrophe (depending on which source you read) in Cancun otherwise known as the US Women's National Team's loss to Mexico last weekend. The team placed third in the CONCACAF tournament (Canada won earning a berth in the World Cup next summer) which means they must play on in order to get to Germany themselves.
I watched the third-place game on ESPN3, after the fact, mostly because I was interested in the commentary. Pretty much the first words from commentators: "It is literally do or die" for the American women. No; because literally do or die means someone dies. I know Abby Wambach has a bunch of stitches in her head from the game against Mexico, but no one is dying.
And of course, it didn't matter because the US soundly beat Costa Rica 3-0. It will play Italy in Italy and then in Chicago (who chooses Chicago in late fall?). Most goals goes to Germany.
The US has strong competition whenever it plays in a tournament, i.e. it is never a guarantee that they will win the whole thing. But often I hear commentary about how the game isn't interesting or worth watching because the US dominates.
But things get interesting when the US loses a game they were supposed to win. So interesting that ESPN opted to actually cover this game against Costa Rica. According to the television schedule, they weren't even going to carry the final--which again, the US was expected to be in. Of course I am glad that ESPN aired it.
But calamity in Cancun? Do or die? Not airing a final of a World Cup qualifying tournament?
Such a rhetorical commotion amidst ESPN's practice of virtually ignoring women's soccer.
Also found this little blip about how FIFA officials once predicted women's soccer was the future of the game and yet shares so very little about the women's game on their very own website.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Great timing!

I am in San Diego getting ready to give a presentation on genderqueer athletes playing women's sports--just two days after news that Kye Allums, who plays on George Washington University's women's basketball team, has just come out as transgender. The news broke earlier this week on smaller websites--or at least those are the links that friends sent me with the "what do you think about this?" messages.
But now the story has gone national. I was in the hotel fitness center this morning and CNN had a teaser and then story about Kye Allums's recent announcement that he is transgender and will continue to play on the GWU team with the support of his coach and teammates and the approval of the NCAA (because Allums has not started hormone therapy yet).
From what I have read, the comments on some of the posted stories about Allums's gender identity have been pretty disgusting (though I have not read them myself--just heard second hand).
So Allums's announcement comes not only right before my own presentation, but on the heels of the report issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Women's Sports Foundation about the participation of trans athletes in high school and intercollegiate sports.
I don't think I have too much to say about this actually. I think it's a great thing. I hope Allums continues to be supported by his team, school, and the NCAA.
I will note, though, that the CNN teaser this morning continued to call Allums a she. "Her decision" to transition...yada yada yada. It will be interesting to see 1) how long the coverage continues, 2) if any other angles are introduced and 3) who, and how, and in what arena the next trans person will come out. Because I know we are not done talking about this issue.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What do women ruggers want?

Carbs. Some funky spandex. And maybe a smidge of recognition.
This article in WaPo did a great job describing the situation of many collegiate women's rugby teams. Most of them are club teams. That means they provide (or seek out through fundraising or non-athletic department institutional sources) most of the funding for participation. This is despite the fact that the NCAA has listed women's rugby as an emerging sport. That means that schools could elevate their women's rugby teams to varsity status and perhaps deal with some lingering Title IX issues by doing so. Rugby teams are large. Not as large as crew teams--but also not as expensive. And it's a growing sport, actually the fastest growing women's sport at American colleges.
But only four schools have elevated women's rugby to varsity status.
Because while it might help with Title IX numbers, there is some (legitimate) concern that NCAA and institutional oversight of rugby isn't really what the sport needs. Rugby has a pretty unique culture that includes, as the article states, hanging out with your opponents after games. Not that this would be impossible as a varsity sport, but it seems many of the traditions of the game just do not fit with athletic department mentality.
But others in the sport think elevation to varsity status would be helpful for the visibility of the sport, women's sports generally (having another women's contact sport on the program would be good!), and of course financial support from the athletic department.
I am pretty sure that women's rugby, though, will be taken off the list of emerging sports if more intercollegiate teams are not created--soon. So it may not be an issue much longer...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Australian women's sports club targeted

This story crossed my desktop earlier this month: A women's sports club in Darebin, Victoria, Australia has been (it seems) targeted by vandals and thieves for about a year now. The club has been broken into and graffitied. Money has been stolen (along with alcohol). And once, the windows were broken by marbles tossed at the Darebin Women's Sports Club.
I couldn't find much info in this article but I was surprised that the tone of the short piece was on the calm side, even as interviewees expressed concern over the repeated attacks. Some were thinking it might be because it is a women's club, but the fact that graffiti has been described as "fairly derogatory to women" (though no examples were shared) makes it more than likely. I do not know that much about the climate for women's sports in Australia. I do know that interest or adeptness in men's sports like rugby and football are nearly essential components of Australian masculinity. But I know there does seem to be support for women's national teams like basketball and softball. Not knowing much about the structure of women's sports in the country, I assume that a women's sports club is more of a recreational or semi-professional establishment. And perhaps these establishments are not as welcome.
Obviously I am doing a lot surmising here and waiting for anyone with more information to help me out. I still think it's troubling--whatever the status of these clubs or women's sports generally--that the space in which female athletes gather and train is being attacked.

PS. A little research goes a long way...
So the Darebin Women's Sports Club was founded in 1990. It provides its members (one has to pay annual dues to be a member) opportunities to play Australian rules football, soccer, and other sports (there is a picture of someone playing cricket on the website). Here is the club's statement of purpose.
a) to promote and encourage the development and participation of women in sport.
b) to promote awareness and encourage the games of Australian Rules football,
soccer and other sports as sports for women.
c) to provide women with the opportunity to participate in organised sports as
players, coaches and officials.
d) to promote the development of skills and fitness relevant to Australian Rules
Football, soccer and other sports.
e) to provide women with the opportunity to play Australian Rules football, soccer
and other sports in competitive teams.
f) to promote friendly sporting behaviour.
g) to assist other organisations in the promotion, encouragement and organisation
of women's football and soccer.
h) to provide women with the opportunity to participate in the organisation,
development and management of a sporting club.
i) to provide a friendly and harmonious environment in Associations premises and
at Associations social events.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Because Mexico makes you think winter...

...the IOC is meeting in Acapulco for the next several days to consider, among other things, which sports it will add to winter games program starting in 2014 when the games will be in Sochi, Russia.
One might think that with all the bad press the IOC received for the past two years over not allowed women's ski jumping into the Vancouver games, it would be an automatic in. But apparently not. Early word from IOC officials suggests that women's ski jumping may be added on a conditional basis. The IOC would then review the quality of the 2011 Women's World Championships and decide if it's worthy, I suppose. Talk about pressure to perform!
Other sports/events under consideration: ski and snowboard slopestyle, ski halfpipe, Alpine team skiing (head-to-head racing), and a team skating event.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Abby Wambach get air time on ESPN but...

...she's talking about hot dogs.

My friend, Dr. Pants, was kind enough to share this link with me. (I tried to embed the video but it kept shutting down my browser.)

So Abby Wambach gets some air time on Sports Center to talk about World Cup qualifying. But she ends up talking about the hot dog incident. The hot dog incident occurred when Wambach missed the goal and sent the ball into the stands while taking warm-up shots before a game against China. She hit a fan who was returning to his seat, hot dog and other items in hand. Said hot dog was knocked out of his hand when the ball hit him in the side/back. You can check out the videos of Wambach looking sheepish. But she was later told that the hot dogs were $10, which apparently adds something to this story. Not quite sure what though. Not sure why this is a story actually. It did make Sports Center's Top Ten.* Interviewer thought it should have been higher than the 8 or 9 sport it earned. (Someone needs to explain to the Sports Center interviewer why the word gypped should not be used.)

It's sad that when women's soccer gets any attention on ESPN (which as you will note does not cover anything that has to do with the WPS--not even scores on the ticker!!) it's around a hot dog! Wonder if ESPNW* will do a better job when it gets the opportunity?

* I'm not sure if Sports Center reported the score of the actual game or offered any highlights/commentary.

** Yes, I will likely write something more on the advent of ESPNW. And the Body Issue! Just haven't gotten through it/to it yet.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Olympic pricing: Equality? Economics? Gender?

What equality is remains contextual and questionable. I don't know much about economics. And gender continues to present so many interesting issues with which to contend.
Hence all the questions in the title of this post.
But what I really want to talk about (though I am actually still a little hesitant about talking about it) is the recent news that the organizers of the 2012 London Olympics have priced the tickets for men's and women's events differently. In many cases, tickets for men's events are more expensive--sometimes significantly so.
The IOC (though it does not set the ticket prices--the organizers do) is taking most of the flak for this decision. Critics contend that the pricing undervalues women's sports and sends a message that women's sports are just not as good as men's sports.
I agree that that message is being sent and that it is not good. But I do not see the pricing differential as entirely bad.
First, the difference reinforces prevailing beliefs about the status of women's sports. It did not create the difference. Will it turn anyone who did not have any thoughts on the differences between men's and women's sports? Not likely. Again, I do believe it has potential damaging effects. I don't know if the damage is new and/or severe.
Second, fans of women's sports benefit economically from this decision. I'm just guessing here but I wouldn't be surprised if fans of women's sports, as a whole, have less disposable income than those who are--exclusively--fans of men's sports. It's expensive to go to sporting events. It's expensive to go to the Olympics. I went to the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 and saw women's hockey--which was pretty expensive in itself--but not as expensive as going to a men's game.
I go more often to women's intercollegiate hockey games than men's games. I like both, but it's cheaper to see the women play, especially when I consider costs of travel. When I was in college, I saw many families at women's hockey games. It was cheaper to take a whole family (and easier to get tickets--a somewhat related issue).
And this brings me to my final point. You might actually get more people into the events that are cheaper. The families at these hockey games had both male and female children. So these children had the opportunity to see women play hockey. They grow up with access. They see in person what they will not see on television or in the newspapers; they have a greater likelihood of becoming fans of women's sports. This is their exposure to women's sports and a large part of that exposure is because of the fact that ticket prices are lower. It is possible that lower prices will bring people into the venues; people who might not be able to afford to bring a family of four (or more) to the Olympics.
Most men's sports already have an audience. I do not want to see half-empty stadiums because people won't pay the same (high) prices to see women's sports. I would rather make this compromise and see butts in the seats. And I am not trying to undervalue the very devote women's sports fans out there. But I know I wouldn't be able to go to as many women's events if the ticket prices were the same as those of men's events.
I am not completely ignorant of economics, of course. I am well aware of basic capitalist principles; and thus I know that higher prices signal (or are supposed to) higher demand. Do I wish women's sports were in greater demand? Yes! Until they are I am (somewhat) okay with what I am calling the economic incentives offered to women's sports fans.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No transfolk on the LPGA

Not sure why I thought the LPGA was allowing MTFs play on the tour. The USGA has adopted a policy governing the participation of transgender people, as has other international golf organizations. Mianne Bagger, a woman who was born a biological male, plays on the Australian and European Tours. I probably should have questioned why she was not playing in the United States and given the LPGA's fairly conservative philosophies (except when it comes to posing its tour members in bathing suits on golf courses in an attempt to gain some publicity), I should not have been so surprised.

Whether the LPGA will be able to keep its no-trans policy is the question inspired by a lawsuit by Lana Lawless. I have blogged about Lawless before. She won, in 2008, the women's world championship in the long drive. The competition is run by Long Drivers of America which did not have a female-at-birth policy at the time which meant Lawless, who was born a male but had sex reassignment surgery in 2005, could participate. But no longer. The LDA changed its rules to mirror those of the LPGA, which do not allow women who were not born women.

Lawless has also been interested in playing in LPGA qualifying tournaments but has been told she would be turned down.

The lawsuit also includes the LDA and some of the sponsors of the championship including Dick's Sports and CVS and requests an injunction against the LPGA from holding tournaments in California so long as it continues to discriminate against trans people.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Student-athletes and anti-bullying efforts

Given the homophobia that has--historically--swirled around sport, as well as the recent spate of high-profile anti-gay bullying incidents around the country, this article was very welcome.
At University of Michigan student-athletes have stepped up to support their student body president, Chris Armstrong.
Armstrong has been targeted by Andrew Shirvell, an assistant district attorney in Michigan, for his allegedly radical homosexual agenda. Shirvell has followed Armstrong around protesting his politics and--seemingly--his sexual identity. Armstrong is currently seeking a restraining order against Shirvell. Shirvell has been making his feelings about Armstrong's politics known since Armstrong, the first openly gay SBP at Michigan, ran for the position last spring. Shirvell has also used his blog, Chris Armstrong Watch, to attack Armstrong. One post contained a swastika. I won't get into a discussion of free speech versus threatening speech, but I will note that it's kind of curious that a state official is taking such an interest in the politics of a student body president.
The student body, including student-athletes, have rallied around Armstrong. At the above link you can see photos of student-athletes sporting tee shirts that read:
Elected by us. Respected by us. I expect respect for myself and my community. When one member of our community is targeted, we are all attacked.
Good work, Wolverines!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Student-athletes and domestic violence

Saw a very good article today by Jerome Solomon in the Houston Chronicle about the spate of alleged and actual violence perpetrated by male student-athletes against women. It was inspired by the allegations against Baylor student and basketball player LaceDarius Dunn. Dunn allegedly punched his girlfriend, with whom he has a child, in the face possibly breaking her jaw. Solomon notes that while the justice system, in such a case, might see this as a misdemeanor and issue a fine and/or community service, Baylor has an opportunity to send a message about what it thinks about domestic violence and suspend Dunn for the season. I'm a little doubtful the administration (and, hello? when did Ken Starr become president of a university???) will take such a (what I am sure they see as a) drastic step.
Solomon reminds us that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I know, you probably forgot what with every woman on Facebook telling you where she likes it in an attempt (I guess?) to titillate men into caring that it is Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention Month.
It would be a good time for Baylor to step up and make a statement. What Solomon does not mention, that I will, is that Baylor University is a Christian university. Not so Christian-like to hit someone last I checked. This is the same university that is not so down with gay people. If Baylor fails to harshly reprimand Dunn for his actions, it would be like saying (t0 me) that it's okay to hit people but it's not okay to have same-sex relations. Hmmm....non-procreative sex between consenting people in an overpopulated world versus hitting someone. It's a tough call.
Guess I'm going to have to wait to read the latest version on the Starr report on this one.

Monday, October 04, 2010

What and who counts: Another defense of Title IX

I have not been surprised by the renewed calls to abolish/reform Title IX in the wake of University of California Berkeley's announcement that it is cutting five intercollegiate sports.

Yes, it's lousy that this happened. But California is not in good financial shape--as we all know. So it's not surprising that a department in one of its state schools--a department that has been running a $10-13 million annual deficit*--has been forced to tighten the belt.

And some are saying that the men are paying for this financial mismanagement more than women because more male athletes are affected by the cuts than women--because of Title IX.


And yes, I do think that it is fair that the gender that has more opportunities should bear more of the cuts.

But The publisher of Forbes, Richard Karlgaard, does not. This is an attack of excellence, he says, because we are putting equality above excellence. I will just state right away that in intercollegiate athletics, I will always choose equality over excellence. In part this is because I measure excellence and merit a little differently than Mr. Karlgaard. But I will get to that in just a moment.

Karlgaard is upset that two successful Cal teams, baseball and rugby, got cut. I kind of have an argument about the popularity of college baseball and the international influence on this so-called American game, but I that is kind of a post in itself.

So let's talk rugby, a sport I find interesting, a sport at which the Cal men excel. They have won the national championship 25 times since 1980. But it isn't an NCAA championship. Because the NCAA does not sponsor men's rugby. Most colleges have men's rugby as a club sport. I do not believe this diminishes the accomplishments of Cal's teams. But it does explain, in part, why it was cut. Cal was funding as a varsity team a sport that other colleges do not and one that the NCAA does not govern.

Also, the rugby team gets a lot of money from outside of the school. The coach himself has said the program is largely self-sufficient due to private donations. And rugby hasn't been cut the way the other sports has. It has been given some new category: varsity club status. I personally think Cal is going to get itself into trouble with this one, but that's just my preliminary hypothesis. But according to administrators, the team will still have access to school facilities and medical personnel. I have read conflicting reports about whether the team will have to pay something for this access.
In other words, it does not look like that much is changing for Cal rugby except for its status as a varsity sport. And since it competes against teams that also are not varsity sports, I don't understand what the big deal is. The coach has said that varsity status athletically validates the team. Again, very few other schools (if any?) have men's rugby as a varsity sport. Isn't the arms race in intercollegiate sports bad enough already? Do we have to create one out of nothing? The coach also has gone to battle with the administration to reinstate the team and has said the university could add women's rugby to balance things out. Good idea--except for that whole money thing that prompted the cuts in the first place.
Back to the meritocracy thing. Karlgaard thinks it's just "sick" that teams that have been successful are being cut (rugby, baseball) while less successful teams have been retained. He picks on women's track and field specifically noting that their times are not good enough to beat some high school track teams. This all breeds mediocrity, he says.
He values winning over participation. I do not. Not in intercollegiate athletics, anyway. I think it's pretty impressive for any young person to try to balance academically rigorous coursework and DI athletics and the general life issues that arise for 18-22 year olds. I think that's success. I think just getting out there and doing the training and competing is success. And I am not some kumbaya-singing, hand-holding, let's all share person either (not that there's anything wrong with that). I believe in healthy competition. I believe you learn from wins and losses and challenges and having to make choices.

But what really got my attention--and why I chose to address Mr. Karlgaard's piece in particular--was his opening line:
This [the cuts] is one of the saddest stories you'll read--and all the sadder because it has received so little attention across the country.

Let's get a little perspective and drop the hyperbole. In a week when a young man at Rutgers killed himself because his roommates outted him--on the internet--as gay, I think it's pretty hard to say that the Cal cuts are the saddest thing in the news and that the country isn't paying attention. Excuse the soapbox aside but...we have been ignoring sexuality-based bullying for far too long.

* I've seen a range of figures.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quinnipiac adds rugby

A friend and colleague sent me the link the You Tube video (below) promoting women's rugby at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. QU added women's rugby in an attempt to come into Title IX compliance, after it was told, by a federal judge, that it could not--at this time--count competitive cheerleading as a sport. It also added women's golf and kept--per the judge's order--women's volleyball. You may recall that QU tried to cut its women's volleyball team, but because it was not providing equitable opportunities to women, it elevated competitive cheer to varsity status to compensate for the cut. But it was also revealed that there had been some roster doctoring going on.
So, as said friend noted, it was kind of interesting that the promo video stressed--repeatedly--opportunity. Seems to be a word they only recently learned. And you know how it goes. You learn a new word and you just want to use it over and over again.
I also found it kind of amusing that the video uses the de facto gay anthem as its background music. I would guess that that was not intentional but, hey, it could be effective. Today's recruits are probably more astute than the PR people in QU's athletics department.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Harassment follow up and the Patriots versus the Jets

The Monday morning quarterbacking was all about the Patriots' second half demise yesterday. Nothing about the battle of the locker room bullies. (That I saw. If there was any kind of comment--please send me the link!!) Apparently I was the only one who saw the intrigue in having one team whose harassment of a female reporter made national news twenty years ago take on another team whose harassment of a female reporter made national news just last week.
I guess karma really isn't a bitch.
Anyway, that's not really what I want to be talking about.
I wanted to go back to the Erin Andrews/Ines Sainz comparisons made in the aftermath of Sainz's statements that she had been subject to inappropriate comments in the Jets locker room. The discourse was about whether Sainz was more self-sexualizing than Andrews. And I come down on the "it so doesn't matter"side of the debate. Why? Because our culture is doing a fantabulous job sexualizing these women all on its own.
Here was my highly refined sociological experiment: I googled each of them.
The results on the basic Google search include a series of thumbnail photos that one can click on for the larger version and original location.
The thumbnail photos are eerily similar. Both include shots of the respective reporters posed on bikinis. Both have shots in which the women's chests are clearly supposed to be the eye-catcher. And both searches contain respective ass shots: no heads; just backsides and both are from when these women were on the sidelines DOING THEIR JOBS. Most of the photos--outside of the bikini poses--were taken when Sainz and Andrews were working. So what if Erin Andrews is wearing a sweater that doesn't reveal as much skin as some of Sainz's tops?--the photos are focused in on the same body part. The intent is the same.
So let's stop with the whole "who's more pure" discussion and start looking at the purity level of the photographers, media outlets, and viewers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another story I didn't want to talk about

Not sure why I am so averse to discussing the more hyped stories. I guess I like discovering the little ones and sharing them.
But some are just unavoidable and it seems the harassment of a female reporter by some Jets players last weekend is going to be one of those stories. In this case, I think I resent that we are still having these conversations; that people think things are fine and dandy because "progress" has been made and then shock and outrage occurs when such an incident is revealed. I, myself, was called out a few months ago for noting that female sports reporters are still subject to harassment. I could do the I-told-you-so dance, but I have no desire to dance over such a situation.
In case you have no idea what I am talking about, sports reporter Ines Sainz has said that she was subjected to offensive comments in the Jets locker room while covering the team's practice last Saturday. The response from the Jets and NFL was swift, investigating and apologizing for the conduct of the Jets. [I'm just going to let it go that the Jets owner is Woody Johnson.]
But wow has this story exploded far beyond the actual alleged incidents. The two paths taken: women in the locker room and how Sainz presents herself.
First, more than one NFL player has come out and said that women should not be in their locker rooms. Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears said in an interview that female reporters should not be in locker rooms--apparently despite the fact that they have the legal right to be there and the NFL reiterated that it grants equal access to male and female journalists. OK, kind of a retro attitude that we should take issue with--but not nearly as bad as statements by Clinton Portis of that team in Washington whose name I refuse to write. Portis thinks that these women just want to get into the locker rooms so they can scan the 53 packages to see what might "spark [their] interest."
Why do men think their packages are all that attractive anyway? Power of the phallus and all that stuff but aesthetically speaking...I mean we all have different aesthetics, but if I'm looking at an elite professional athlete it's not the genitalia I find most attractive.
There have been other stories in this vein.
The second angle this story has taken is the "she was asking for it" response. Again, a discourse with which we are quite familiar. Pictures abound showing Sainz in various tight-fitting clothes. There have been the comparisons with Erin Andrews--also a victim of harassment. Anderson has been painted as pure and innocent and Sainz as--well, not. Commentators claim that Sainz's outfit was not appropriate, that she knew what she was going to get wearing clothes like that, that she has a history of using her sex appeal.
So society tells women to be sexy and attractive; billion dollar industries thrive on making women feel they could/should be sexier, but if you do anything more than stand your sexy self still you're accused of being manipulative. I am sure it doesn't hurt that Sainz fits the heteronormative standards of female attractiveness. Andrews does too--most women on television do. They are playing the game. I wish the game rules were different. I haven't stopped trying to change them in my own little ways--but you can only put so much blame on people trying to succeed by living up to standards they did not create who are subsequently punished for adhering too well.
And when someone like Jenn Sterger comes out and criticizes Ines Sainz for essentially crying wolf, I start to think apocalyptic thoughts.
So the missing angle in this story is race. Not surprising. One of the differences between Andrews and Sainz is that Andrews is Caucasian and Sainz is a Latina. The age-old virgin/whore dichotomy is affected by the race of the respective women. The sexy Latina must be asking for it. The white woman who dresses conservatively according to commentators did nothing but be pretty. I don't expect a whole lot of discourse to emerge on this aspect of the story. But it should not be ignored.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The cheerleaders are fighting!

Yes, I went for the cheap titillation with the not-so-accurate headline. But I am so very amused at the way this whole cheerleading; sport or not? thing has gone down since the ruling earlier in the summer in the Quinnipiac case. Every week since the ruling (that said only that the Quinnipiac competitive cheer team could not be counted as a sport for the purpose of Title IX) I have seen many, many stories, editorials, rants and tears about whether cheerleading is or is not a sport.
Thankfully this week there are new headlines, like this one from the NYT: Group to Create Sport of Stunt. It's just a blurb about how USA Cheer is working in collaboration with 15 college cheer programs to create the sport of stunt. This announcement, the blurb notes, comes just a week after USA Gymnastics announced it was partnering with the 6 current varsity intercollegiate cheer teams to create team acrobatics and tumbling. Oh, but there has to be more to this than the blurb is letting on, I said to myself.
Indeed. According to the more extensive AP article, USA Gymnastics is working with the organization that was created right around the time that Quinnipiac created intercollegiate competitive cheer--coincidence I am told. The National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association, whose governing board includes the QU athletic director according to his own testimony in the trial, joined forces with USA Gymnastics to create sanctioned events (following USA Gymnastics rules and regs) in an attempt to get the NCAA to recognize them as an emerging sport which would, they hope, allow schools to count it toward Title IX participation requirements.
And now NCATA is pissed that USA Cheer which, through its many subsidiaries and/or parent organizations/corporations, has its hand in everything cheerleading in this country has decided to create stunt. USA Cheer is working with competitive cheer club teams--not teams that have varsity status at their institution.
Looks like the format of the competitions will be similar. There will be a championship in both sports. (I assume there are two sports being created here since they have different names and all!)
But if I was part of the USA Cheer efforts*--like if I was a competitive cheerleader at one of the 15 schools involved--I would be ticked by this statement from NCATA president Renee Baumgartner (also Senior Women's Administrator at University of Oregon):
"Those club cheerleading teams are cheerleaders, and our young athletes are athletes, gymnasts, and there is a big difference between the two. There is a right way to do this and a wrong way. Perhaps some of these institutions are being misled."
Oh, snap--did she just call cheerleaders, just cheerleaders!
Let the schisming begin!
I'll be sitting on the sidelines for this one--commentating--not cheering.

* And if you heard any of the QU trial testimony--as I was lucky enough to--by cheerleading expert Jeff Webb, who sits on USA Cheer's board of directors, you would know that USA Cheer was indeed going to be making many efforts to get into this move to varsity cheerleading. There was no way they were going to sit back and let the NCATA move in on its (very profitable) territory.
Part of my amusement stems from NCATA's outrage that a for-profit association--or an association that is affiliated with a for-profit entity, Varsity Brands, is trying to get in on this cheerleading as sport action. Give me a break. Chik-fil-A just sponsored a kick-off game--kick-off game, not even a bowl game--between LSU and UNC. Capital One has created a trophy for the best performing DI school during one academic year. Corporate money is all over collegiate sport so ditch the holier-than-thou attitude. Cheerleading, or stunt, or tumbling and acrobatics will not be immune.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

In case you missed it... I did. The Women's World Baseball Cup was held last month in Venezuela. The tournament gained attention (again not mine--I missed this whole thing; though I did read that there was very little media coverage; regular Sports Center watchers might be able to report whether the WWBC got any air time in the US) because of a shooting that occurred in the first few days of the tournament, held every other year. A South Koren player was hit by a stray bullet* in the leg. She was treated and is fine, though the team pulled out of the tournament.
Japan seemed to dominate most of its competition throughout the tourney and came away with the gold. They beat Australia in the gold medal game. The US team won the bronze medal game against home team Venezuela. Two Americans were named tournament all-stars.

*What exactly makes a bullet stray anyway? It's an odd phrasing, no? As if bullets just are randomly flying around like trash that people toss out their car windows. Completely erases the fact that there was a shooter.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Biology, motherhood, and female athletes

Note the staid title. It's because "you're f*&^ing kidding me" kept running through my head after reading this NYT piece and I couldn't get past that most basic but not very telling sentiment long enough to come up with a witty/snarky title.
So Gigi Fernandez, former professional tennis player, decided rather late (relatively) in life to have children. And becoming pregnant was quite difficult for her. Not surprising because fertility rates in women do decline as we age. Fernandez and her partner, former pro golfer Jane Geddes, made the decision when Fernandez, who was to be the bearer, in her 40s. After many rounds of in vitro fertilization that did not take, Fernandez had the eggs of a personal friend inseminated and implanted in her.* And now she and Jane have twins.
Before I get to the problematic aspects of this story, I just want to say "good for them!" It sounds like they went through a lot during this long process.
But the messages Fernandez are sending are worrisome. First, she talks about waiting too long to have kids and regretting being so focused on tennis when she was younger that she was not thinking about parenthood. This is one in a series of articles by the NYT about female athletes and the decisions they make about becoming parents and raising children. The series seems to be called (based on the heading on my internet window) "Female Athletes Risk Deferring Dream of Parenthood too Long."
Such a slippery slope, no? Don't play sports too long (or too hard as is suggested in the article) because you won't be able to bear children later on. But let's note that Fernandez retired at the age of 33 and met her partner that same year. But she didn't make her decision to have kids until about 10 years later. That had nothing to do with tennis.
The whole choose to have kids or choose your career (sports or otherwise) ultimatum is really, well, lousy for lack of a more articulate explanation.
And it ignores the possibility of not bearing children at all but adopting or fostering. The children Fernandez bore are not biologically related to her or her partner. Biology does not create a family, of course. But why go through what both women relate was a hellish process of hormones and mood swings (plus subject a good friend to the same in order to harvest her eggs for implantation) when you could adopt? Why are adopted children less desirable than the ones that come from your own womb? What is up with this hierarchy that seems to exist in the realm of how one becomes a parent?

* Let's also note the great expense of fertility treatments, likely made possible, in this case, by the professional athletic careers of the two women.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

More on roller derby

In that sometimes coincidental way that things converge in one's life, yesterday morning on NPR there was a story on roller derby. Learned a little more history like that it was originally a sport created for men. And then during the depression the man credited with creating the sport thought it would draw more people if he used women and they were wearing sexy outfits. Ta-da!The sport died out a bit, had a resurgence in the 70s, waned again and now is back!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Who's the opening act?

Not too long ago, one of the Title IX bloggers (those women just rock, don't they?), wrote about the issue of double headers in intercollegiate sports. Not two games played back-to-back by the same team, but back-to-back games by a women's team and a men's team. This seems to happen most frequently in basketball. The home team hosts both the men's and women's teams from a particular institution in one night. The issue has been that often the women's games are played first making it seem like they are the opening act; the warm-up for the men's game.
Title IX is involved because the law requires equity in the scheduling of games and promotion both of which are at issue when scheduling men's games in primetime slots and relegating women to opening act status.
Some conferences have dealt with this already by switching the order of games either at some point during the season or every year.

What got me thinking about this was roller derby. Not an intercollegiate sport (wouldn't that be interesting, though?!) so it doesn't haven't to adhere to Title IX. It is also an historically women-only sport--or maybe women-dominated sport would be more appropriate.

Anyway (and I totally buried the lead here) I went to roller derby last night. This is my second time this summer and my third overall, which is odd since I am not in love with the sport, though I find it fascinating from a sociological perspective (plus it was the thing to do in town last night apparently). And since the sociocultural was foremost on my mind last night I was thinking about opening acts and sports.

Because in my neck of the woods there is both women's and men's roller derby. And both local teams were competing at the bouts I saw this summer. And the men always go first. In fact, knowing this, I opted to grab dinner and be late for the derby because I knew the men would be on first and I was more interested in seeing the women. I did see some of the men's bout and all of the women's. Not sure what the crowd thought. A lot of people left at intermission after seeing both one men's and one women's round so there wasn't seemingly a gender-based exodus or entrance as is feared will (or maybe does) happen when you put women on after men in a doubleheader set up. There were a lot of derby newbies in the crowd so maybe it was just a general fascination that kept people in their seats rather than who was competing.

There is, as I mentioned, the perception that roller derby is a women's sport and I think some newbies were surprised to see men playing. Men's participation does seem to take away some of the problematic voyeurism that has accompanied the sport.

Roller derby is ripe for analysis--and it does seem to be taken up as a hot new topic, so I think think there will be plenty more opportunities to discuss things like femininity, feminism, empowerment, sexuality, queerness, and more. This was just one not-quite-clear post about popularity, perception, and positioning.

And a good excuse to post some roller derby pics I took earlier in the summer.

PS My favorite roller derby name from last night: Bloodbath and Beyond. She was a most excellent jammer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another reason to dislike John McEnroe*

In case you needed another--I don't personally--but here's one for the holdouts**:
John McEnroe thinks that the women just are not capable of enduring the 10-month season so changes need to be made. Note that he also thinks the men's season needs to be shortened as well but he didn't apply the same incapability rationale.
"I think that it's asking too much of the women. They shouldn't be playing as many events as the men. . . . The women have it better in tennis than in any other sport, thanks to Billie Jean King [a founder of the Women's Tennis Association and pioneer for equal prize money for women]. But you shouldn't push them to play more than they're capable of."
This pedantic statement illustrates how either absolutely clueless or especially nefarious McEnroe is. To invoke BJK in a statement that says how inferior female tennis players are is just--well clueless or nefarious.
Mary Carillo, who will now have to refrain from slapping McEnroe upside the head as she sits next to him in the booth for the next two weeks, thinks it's not about the physical--it's the mental. She believes that champions in the past were tougher mentally.
I don't think it's so easy to pinpoint a reason. There isn't, actually, just one reason. (There never is, you know.) But I have to believe that a large part of it is the increase in physicality. Might make it more fun and exciting to watch but not so fun to play, I would imagine. It's tough on the body--even for us recreational players. But we're not hitting 85+ mph serves or blasting backhand after backhand in practice every day of the week. Plus there's the racket and string technology--and don't forget coaching philosophies combined with the predominant boom-boom style of today's game. It just might not be possible to play for as long as someone like Chris Evert did (note that she took mini-breaks). And maybe the desire isn't there either. I mean it seems exciting to travel the world and play tennis everywhere. But there are clear downsides. Why would you want to do it year after year after year?
I don't think it's wrong not to have that desire for 10 plus years. I don't think it's wrong to lose that desire and then get it back and make another go.

So all this is in light of the draw for next week's US Open which is missing star Serena Williams (foot surgery) and has more than a few top players with injuries or in various states of recovery from earlier summer injuries. Let's note though that defending men's champion, Juan Martin del Potro is out--and has been out for some time--recovering from wrist surgery. And that last year (2009) Nadal couldn't defend his Wimbledon title because of injury. I would be surprised if Nadal's career lasts as long as Federer has--desire or no. Former #1 Leyton Hewitt has had chronic hip problems. Andre Agassi--even with his few hiatuses--had some pretty bad injuries throughout his career.
I'm just a little bit tired of all this weak women stuff--weak knees, weak bodies, weak skulls, weak minds--as if it has nothing to do with training and learned behaviors.

* I was going to title this "You cannot be serious, John McEnroe!" but I thought it might be a little hackneyed and I don't like giving his bad-boy catch phrase more credibility.
** Please do not call me or leave me a message about why McEnroe might possibly be redeemable.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oh the tyranny of Red Sox Nation

Having lived in Red Sox Nation* for the greater portion of my life and never having an interest in professional baseball, I have to say, I'm not quite sure of the way this manifestation of fandom works.
Now I don't live in dark cave nor am I visually impaired; I've seen the anti-Yankees stuff. The Yankees Suck t-shirts. The Calvin peeing on a Yankees cap car decal. I'm aware of the rivalry. I'm also aware of the generally high level of fanaticism among Boston/New England fans.
But I was pretty shocked to see a guy wearing a t-shirt that said "A-Rod slaps balls". I wonder how he explained that to his young son who was shopping with him. "You see, son, slaps balls is a double entendre meant to convey the Alex Rodriguez likes playing with men's genitals which means he is gay, which makes him less of a man and thus less of a ball player even though he just set that record. Because all the people we don't like are gay. Even if they aren't, we call them gay. Because no one likes gay people. Get it?"
Given the largely unchecked name-calling and bullying based on anti-gay sentiments that happens in schools these days it's possible the son doesn't need any explanation.
Then when I was googling to see if I could find the t-shirt, I found other anti-Yankees slogans like this one: "Derek Jeter drinks wine coolers". I'm going to skip the sarcastic, fictionalized conversation for this one. I think we all get it.
The fan board I was on (it was a Yankees site) had one fan reporting that he had seen a t-shirt that said "Derek Jeter has AIDS". If that shirt really exists...well I don't think I even have the words if it does. The first one is bad enough. The second one is beyond the most basic level of decency.
Here's a slogan for you:
Homophobia and misogyny: As American as baseball and apple pie.

*TANGENT: Isn't it interesting how we recognize the nationhood of a group of sports fans but fail to recognize the nationhood of people like, say, American Indians. I realize that we aren't talking about laws and sovereignty here but the fandom~nationalism connection and how language is used to construct fandom is interesting.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where did Lady Vols come from?

Well it came from a lady. Gloria Ray. She was the first female athletic director of women's sports at the University of Tennessee; a position she took over in 1977 after coaching women's tennis at UT. Here is what she said about creating the Lady Vols brand:
"It was fun being in on the very beginning and coming up with the name, 'Lady Vols' which at that time was controversial. I came up with a bumper sticker that said, 'Lady Vols, too.' There was a fear that a women's team would hurt the football team, so we wanted to put out the message that it's Lady Vols, too, in addition to the men, not in place of the men."
Still controversial--well maybe just among the people I hang with--but for different reasons of course. Then it was the mere existence of women's sports that was controversial, today it's having to differentiate them arguably in a way the makes them seem inferior.
And as we all know now--nothing has hurt big-time football, certainly not women's sports.
[I'm going tangential here so hang on...]
I have this theory that like the Roman Empire, football will get too big for itself and will implode. In other words--it's only hurting itself.
(Note the metaphor is based on my vague memory of ninth grade world history.)
I still find it hard to believe that people in the 70s really thought women's sports were going to replace men's sports. I think I want to go back to that time when people were actually a little bit afraid of feminism.

Another good Semenya column

It bolsters my faith in the media and humanity generally to read pieces like Gregg Doyel's column on the negative responses to Caster Semenya this past weekend. Doyel, writing for CBS Sports starts:

Someday soon, Caster Semenya could become the fastest half-miler of all time. I'm positive she's fast enough.

I hope she's tough enough.

Because some of us won't be classy enough.

And he goes on to defend Semenya's participation and chastise the poor losers and admonish the media and hope for the best--though he, like myself, fears the worst. Let's hope we're both wrong.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Response to the Semenya response

So in response to the comments of athletes, notably a female runner from Canada, about the recent performances of Caster Semenya, another Canadian, bike racer Kristen Worley, has made some very insightful comments.
Worley is is male to female transsexual who competes internationally. She called her fellow Canadian, Diane Cummins, to task for her comments that running against Semenya was the same as running against a man. Worley, who co-founded Coalition of Athletes for Inclusion in Sport, worked behind the scenes on Semena's behalf during the whole ordeal, which she describes like this:
“But when a woman does it [excels like Usain Bolt], [a woman] who didn’t actually set a world record (in winning at the Berlin worlds last year), who (more than 10) women have run faster than..., who didn’t set a meet record, we throw her into stirrups and virtually rape her. We did that because of the way her face looks and her voice.”
I was a little concerned that Worley revealed Semenya's condition, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, during the interview with a Canadian newspaper. As far as I knew that was being kept under wraps. Not sure if it will make things better or worse now that it's out.
But Worley clearly sees that this is more than just science and medicine:
“Anything we don’t understand, we fear. So when it comes to gender differences which are normal, it hits to the very core of us as human beings, it puts each one of us into question. That’s the challenge. (IOC president) Jacques Rogge said to me a couple of years ago from his office in Lausanne ‘Kristen, this is a medical problem.’ I said ‘Mr. Rogge, this is a social problem."

Monday, August 23, 2010

New racing categories?

Dear track and field athletes: Hope you like needles, because we're going to test your testosterone levels before every competition and enter you into the appropriate category the day of your race. Sure this will cost us millions and millions of dollars but since you all want things fair and fair seems to be based on the level of testosterone these days based on responses to Caster Semenya's latest race win, let's just do it.
It will be exciting, right? For us: we'll get to watch multiple race finals instead of just one. I mean you'll have no idea who your competition is until the race. You'll have no idea which category you'll be in until that race. This testing system will not only take care of people "on the very fringe of the normal athlete female biological composition" but those who get advantages from being at certain points in their menstrual cycle. And we won't have those silly labels like "fastest woman in the world"; we can just go with "fastest human with T level ____."
So raise your hand if you want fairness. And while it's up there we'll just draw a small amount of blood so we can see just how fringe you are or are not.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I did it!

The summit of Mt. Greylock! Probably looks the same whether you drive or pedal up. But it's more satisfying after the latter. And not as painful as I thought.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In spite of all the damage we do...

I am an athlete.
I think. I've been having this conversation a lot this summer: what is an athlete? Seems to be going along with lots of conversations, internal and external, about identity--self and otherwise. So since I am being so contemplative and self-reflexive these days, I thought I would post about whether I should ride my bike up a mountain tomorrow. It's all related, trust me.
So this summer I was diagnosed with Achilles tendinitis. It's been a major bummer that I initially (in April) had a good attitude about. I haven't been able to play tennis, but I also have not had to deal with all the drama that seems to come from playing tennis in a women's league. I couldn't run the bases in softball, but I could hit and do some fielding. I also, apparently, have a high pain tolerance which helped me push through activities like biking and spinning.
But my good attitude is turning bad. And there's nothing worse than an athlete with a bad attitude. Let's also note that this is my first major injury. And even though I am a very good sick person--seriously, I once made a witty comment when I came to after fainting on the bathroom floor from the flu. I am not a good injured person.
Round two of physical therapy seems to be promising but it just started and thus the scheduled bike ride up the mountain will likely be painful and potentially damaging. I haven't done extensive hill training this summer. And injury plus dissertation has resulted in less outdoor riding time generally.
But I'm tired of being injured and I have trouble avoiding a challenge I would otherwise tackle head on and feel fairly confident in being successful at. I've been told I could start up the mountain and just turn around if I don't make.
IF I DON'T MAKE IT! Um, no. I have to make it.
Let me state for the record that I am not someone who played sports with any great intensity--certainly nothing that rivals what I see today--as a child and young adult. I hear about coaches pushing athletes to play hurt. I know someone who was forced to have the nerve to a tendon cut before hockey season so she would be able to play her last year in college. She was threatened--by her coach--with never being able to get a job in the coaching if she didn't have this procedure.
Of course athletes push themselves too--for a variety of reasons. But where is the line? How do we weigh participation--and the joy that brings (me, at least and in this case specifically)--with potential damage and further injury? Is it more important for me to ride up a mountain and potentially delay my return to other sports in the fall? Will my frustration at the inactivity and lack of control over my own body outweigh any kind of reason tomorrow morning? Am I being unreasonable?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Canada, hockey, women and the Hall of Fame

Been in Canada this week--hence the lack of posts. (Always an excuse, I know!)
Saw some very good tennis Tuesday at the Rogers Cup. (I've included a few photos below.)

Last night at the hotel bar, where I was watching a most excellent match between Kim Clijsters and Bethanie Matteks-Sands but drinking an only so-so sidecar, I saw a commercial for the hockey hall of fame. No sound so I am not sure what the exact nature of the commercial was but I was pleased, pleased, pleased to note that two of the first three images flashed onscreen were of women. The first was Cammi Granato with the gold around her neck in Nagano and the third featured members from the Canadian women's team.
Since I get accused of being a Debbie Downer so often, I just thought I would take this moment to point out the good that I do have the capacity to see.

Enjoy the pics!