Saturday, December 31, 2011

'Tis the season...

...for top ten, five, eleven lists. Best ofs. Worst ofs. Shining moments. Glorious defeats. Trends and tribulations.
Given that I too have, in the past, tried to comment on the happenings of an arbitrary (well there's the science of it all I guess)set of days, I shall not disparage it too much.
I will note though, again, the absence of Yani Tseng.
SheWired did their top five women's sports events of 2011 and did not include Tseng's amazing year. They did not leave out golf, however. They included Lexi Thompson who became the youngest female to win an LPGA event (professional).
OK, sure a record was set with this one win. She won the Dubai Masters on the European Tour as well. So a good year for a 16-year old. I guess if we're looking for events, this qualifies. Tseng's accompishments occurred over the course of a whole year. Maybe she lost out on a technicality?
SheWired notes that Thompson's wins have people wondering if we have a new female Tiger Woods on our hands.
Of course Tseng has five majors on her scorecard--two years before Woods earned his fifth major.
Let's note that Tseng is only 22 (23 in January). She joined the LPGA in 2008 (at age 19) and won in her first year on the tour. In fact her win was the LPGA Championship and it made her the youngest player to win that tournament and the second youngest major winner. She has broken records every year since. Money records and win records and age records.

I guess she isn't really an event--she's a force.
So why no props from the press. Why does Thompson's win warrant a place on the list over Tseng?
Well America has been looking for the next female star. And it seems like they prefer one who is white, speaks English, and is heterosexy. And Thompson seems glamorous far beyond her 16 years. Yet wholesome in that American girl next door way.
Tseng is super cute, in my mind. But not in that American, feminine way. And she's shy. And English is not her first language and the American media (generally) does not make the effort with her.
And thus she has gone missing from many of the lists and awards and accolades she deserves.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Retirement for Ruggiero

I was just thinking about Angela Ruggiero the other day while I was cleaning out my email contacts. (I decided I probably didn't need her email anymore if the one I had was even still valid.) And then I read that she's retiring.
Interesting timing. The national team is in Blaine, MN right now. Well the women who hope to become the national team anyway.
I would hope Ruggiero retired of her own volition and that she didn't get pushed out. I haven't seen her play in a while but she seems good enough to still make it.
I am bummed though. The World Championships happen in April in VT and I was planning on going. I saw her play in the Olympics in 2002 and it would have been nice to see one of the few players who remains from that team.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Big football, bad grades?

Three U of Oregon professors conducted a study on their campus which suggested that big, successful football leads to general decline in students' GPAs.
I was surprised this story made the New York Times because the study is of just one university.
Now I am all about showing the downside to excessive intercollegiate football programs, but I think one study does not really indicate the whole reality. There is a culture created by big-time sports. But there are questions that remain. Is it only football? What about big-time basketball, like at Butler, (I met an alum over Christmas) where enrollment has skyrocketed?
One of the study's authors said "I teach these students. And I know that on Thursdays there’s this subtle distraction in the classroom, and the game isn’t even until Saturday."
Um, yeah. That happens everywhere. Because in college, the weekend starts on Thursdays. Happened at my undergrad university where football was not as big (though not small). Happened at the small liberal arts college I taught at. Happens at community colleges. Fidgety students are everywhere. Football might exacerbate that, but I think you would have to control for other things.
Kudos though to the authors for having a strong qualitative component to this study in addition to just examinng GPAs. Seems a better way to understand campus culture.
See? A quiet place to study amidst the tailgating chaos.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Poetry Friday

Last year I posted "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Poetry Friday.
This year I offer my own version.
Happy Holidays!


Twas the week before Christmas
and all through the house
everything was stirring
especially the  f*&^in’ mouse.

New stockings to be sewn
to show the GF I care.
I put a bird on them
for that Portlandia flair.

The wrapping of presents
was nowhere near done.
Multiple trips to the mall--
this is no holiday fun.

Parties to attend
but more invitations turned down.
Have to finish laundry and packing
before we leave town.

The Solstice Fairy came
and she was divine:
got some music, cool gear,
and a bottle of sparkly wine.

Homemade cookies were delivered
and some chocolates too.
Was up to midnight making truffles;
“easy to make”—um, not so true.

Planning the holiday dinner
for the Boston family.
Looking forward to some red wine
and getting woozy by the tree.

But for now there will be
no temporary reprieve.
No chance for a break
until late Christmas Eve.

I throw back some caffeine
ready to hit more stores;
have to forge ahead
and complete these holiday chores.

So on to the Gap, to Trader Joes,
to Banana Republic I go.
To Target and Dick’s
where the lines are so slow.

On to Whole Foods, to Best Buy
for the last-minutes shopping,
then back to the kitchen
for some vegetable chopping.

I spring to my RAV4
with vim and vigor
praying to the holiday gods
the to-do list won’t grown bigger.

But I take this moment now
to send a "happy holidays!"
May we all survive
the seasonal craze.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wamach wins best athlete

Oh, sorry. Best female athlete of the year--according to the Associated Press.
Still--good job. First individual soccer player to earn that honor and she beat out her nearest competitor--Hope Solo--by many many votes.
Still I was a little surprised that Yani Tseng didn't get more consideration. She was the fourth-highest vote-getter. (Maya Moore was third.) But I don't know what the criteria is. (The article failed to note that.) And if popularity or the creation of a national stir is on the list of considerations, well then it's more understandable.
I guess voters figured that this was Wambach's year--though she will--barring injury--be playing in the Olympics this summer--another potential stage for excitment and "heroics." And I am sure Yani Tseng can win 12 tournaments again, 2 of which were majors (one--the LPGA Championship--which she won by 10 strokes) and 5 of which were LPGA events.  And she did win the United States Sports Academy's female  athlete of the year award, after all. And was the LPGA's Rolex Player of the Year--which I think comes with some $$.

Wambach's award engenders a certain amount of melancholy. The WPS is fighting to stay viable despite the post World Cup excitement. Wambach herself has been shuttled among teams; not because of trade deals but because of teams collapsing. And there is question about how many national team players will commit to a WPS team this year given the forthcoming Olympic Games--further endangering the league.
But lest I be seen as lacking in the appropriate amount of seasonal joy:

Friday, December 16, 2011

What's that about social capital?

Earlier this week I mentioned how fandom of women's sports earns one very little social capital. This point was illustrated by a Yahoo contributor article I read a few days later. The author, a female firefighter, talks about how, in order to get by in a male-dominated field, a woman needs to learn how to talk sports and picks teams and be a fan of men's professional sports. And thus she will fit in and be accepted and have something to talk about with all the men folk.
Alternately, she could wear a cheese bra.

Poetry Friday

Last day of fall semester classes and no feeling of relief. Thus this sentiment has been a prevailing one this week:

Alicia Ostriker

This is ridiculous
said the literary old woman
nobody gives us any respect
the young in one another's arms
are talking on their ipods
the politicians are lying through their teeth
and our husbands are taking a nap

this is ridiculous
said the tulip
all those genetically altered blossoms
those stupid long-lived orchids
that are practically plastic
and those fancy designer grasses
getting more than market share

this is ridiculous
said the dog
now they not only have to walk me
they have to rush up with their
sanitary plastic bags
what is it but old-fashioned

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

WPS gets reprieve (+ being a women's sports fan)

Despite its inability to add another team to the league, US Soccer has granted Women's Professional Soccer another waiver allowing it to remain a Division I league. Division I leagues are required to have eight teams; WPS currently has five. But, in talks with US Soccer, WPS administrators said there was interest out there for the creation of new teams.
In a recent post commenting on the grassroots efforts of the Women Talk Sports Network to get another team in fifteen days (the deadline originally set by US Soccer for the WPS to add a sith team) I mentioned something about the many issues associated with being a women's sports fan and being a women's sport owner. So I'll elaborate.
Regarding being a female fan of women's sports: it's not so easy. Which doesn't mean it's not a worthy endeavor--just that it's not the same as being a fan of men's sports. There's the problem of where to find sports. Most of us become fans of local college and high school teams--which is great. Many of us have to travel to see professional sports, which I will do. But it's time and money-consuming. I live two hours from Boston and I have gone to see one Boston Breakers game since the WPS. (I saw one when the Breakers were in the WUSA.) I have the best intentions every season, but life gets in the way. And my life is one without children, by the way. If a woman has children, it becomes even more difficult to be a fan of women's professional sports for the same time and money reasons. Women have less disposable income and less free time. And thus it is harder to prioritize sports. And we gain little social capital from our support of women's sports either. We don't get rewarded, generally, for being fans of women's sports in the way we would if we were fans of men's sports. (Not that one can't be both at the same time--it's just that one is afforded more value.) And then there's the whole uneasy merging of the normative families with small children and the queer women--the two groups that comprise the majority of the audience.
This has been an issue for owners. I also argue that the lack of social capital--given the huge investment of actual capital--is a deterrent for women who have the ability to be team owners/investors. Sure, there are plenty of men's professional teams that are not earning money. But the owners--mostly men--get something out of their ownership/investment that is not profit. They get prestige, admiration, etc. Women who own women's team get less of that.
In some ways, ownership is more like charity. And I mean charity in a good way. If there is little likelihood of economic gain, then this is a giving endeavor. And maybe it's one that some women want to be part of. There is an argument to be made that women's professional sports are valuable to the greater society.
But--and this might be a little blasphemous--if I was a woman who had the financial ability to own a professional women's sports team, knowing that it would be more like giving to a charity, I probably wouldn't. If I wanted to support sports for women, I would likely just give to youth sports, my alma mater, Olympic sports groups, grassroots groups aimed at bringing physical activity to underserved girls, or my local recreational association.
It's a difficult situation. Women's professional sports are not a priority and in order to become a priority it seems like it is women who need to make the effort; but women have less economic capital, less time, and less social capital to give away in such endeavors. I do believe that smart and business-savvy women within existing women's sports leagues are the best chance at success for such leagues. But it remains a struggle. And these women sacrifice in order to remain in their positions and committed to making women's professional sports more of a national priority.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Poetry Friday

Against Transcendence


Jesus is the reason for the season
Proclaims my neighbor's bow-wrapped door,
Getting it exactly backward again this year,
The winter solstice only weeks away:
Opaque slate skies, a daylong dusk in the drybrush
Of branches blurring in the woods.
Do you worship God or animals? asks a sticker
From the back of his pickup truck.

Cotton Mather, could he look down
From the tomb of heaven, would be pleased
By the granite sky, the cold Old Testament comfort
Of the faith, and by the faithful,
Bedrock, salt-of-the-earth,
Hunkered down and ready for the rapture.


Winter nights enlarge the number of their hours
Wrote a poet with the name of a wildflower—

Of the White Campion, which blooms at night,
And the Starry, petals ascending on slender spines—

The sky filling the frame with its constellations,
The tiny novas flaming like bits of tungsten,

And here below, if the air is dry enough and cold,
There's that taste of metal that comes with snow.


Bare limbs and briars, the crosiers of weeds
Burred with their small spurred seeds.

Robert Gibb

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is the Save the WPS campaign a little, um, off

So I knew the WPS was not in good shape. I retained an unusual amount of optimism about the league's viability throughout the many collapses of teams, losses of coaches, and that whole weird MagicJack fiasco. (OK I started to lose hope during the MagicJack thing, actually.)
So now the league is on the verge of non-existence again. It needs to add a sixth team ASAP or it will lose its Division I league status within US Soccer. (The league is actually supposed to field 8 teams but has gotten waivers in the past.)
So it's crunch time. And though the league had planned on adding a team for the 2013 season there is no telling whether that would have actually happened or if another team would have folded in the meantime.

I kind of buried the lead of the post but here it is:
The Women Talk Sports network--of which I am a (somewhat ambivalent) member--has started a grassroots campaign to save the WPS.
But they aren't asking money from us regular Joanns and Joes. (Smart--because the general public is probably not going to pull together the funds to keep a professional sports team going.)
They are asking for money from Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow, however.

My first thought: creepy.
My second thought: really? That's the plan?

Sure WTSN justified this choice by noting that both Ellen and Rachel covered the Women's World Cup this summer. This makes it seem like anyone who expressed an interest would make a viable owner. Jere Longman of the NYT has a lot of interest in women's soccer and was in Germany writing really great pieces about the World Cup. But they didn't call him out.

And the calling out thing is weird. These are the kind of things that happen behind the scenes. This is professional sport. It is a business. Sure celebrities take ownership stakes in teams all the time. But to publicly call out two women who are not in the business of sport team ownership is weird and not very professional. And, it's unrealistic.

And there's the whole we're-not-going-to-mention-that-they're-gay thing.
Women's professional sports have generally liked to ignore the whole lesbian element thing. I am pretty sure the WPS itself would not have called out these two high-profile gay women. In part, because they are gay. Ellen is pretty innocuous but Maddow says some things that are controversial (for which I am eternally grateful). And she will not get a pass for saying those things like other owners who are white heterosexual men would.
There are many high-powered women out there. Business women. (Remember the Virginia Slims tour was funded by a rich woman Billie Jean King had gone to--personally.) Why not call out some of these women? Well probably because it's not a good business practice to publicly shame people for not buying a sports team. I don't think it's a great idea to call on media personalities. In some ways it becomes a conflict of interest for them.

I don't know Ellen DeGeneres or anyone who knows her. Maybe she would be interested. (Also, since we're picking on high-profile lesbians, why not Rosie O'Donnell? She's actually been spotted at women's sports events.)
But Maddow seems a stretch. One, she is not a millionaire (the campaign letter noted that millionaires need to invest in women's sports). Two, knowing what I know about her, and having talked to a few of her friends in the past 24 hours, I imagine that she thinks this is all a little weird too.
This raises a few more issues about women supporting women's sports and normative versus alternative models of sport and ownership. But I think I will end it here and address those later.
I am embarrassed for the WSN. I hope the campaign does not take off. I think it would be an embarrassment if Rachel Maddow had to respond. Don't punish her for covering the Women's World Cup.
Ahh! You want me to do what?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oklahoma State tragedy

Thoughts go out to the Oklahoma State community--especially the women's basketball team--which lost their head and assistant coaches last week. The coaches were on a recruiting trip when their plane crashed.
Kurk Budke had turned the team around in recent years. Assistant coach Miranda Serna was a former player of Budke's who had been  his assistant for many years.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Poetry Friday

Because so many were lost in our crazy storm a couple of weeks ago. And because whenever I hear the word "birches" I repeat the first lines of this poem (the entirety of which I had memorized when I was 14).


Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

And for...

Saturday Night Live.

And Jon Stewart

I don't think the latest crop of Penn State grads will be getting jobs or internships at the Daily Show or SNL any time soon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thank goodness for Mechelle Voepel

Dr. Pants pointed out that the article I raved about yesterday was posted on ESPNW which receives significantly less traffic than
But Mechelle Voepel's contribution to the discussion of Penn State and the connection of the current situation to the Rene Portland situation did make it to ESPN.
And--as usual--it's very good.
Here's a snippet:
Unfortunately, many universities -- if they're being honest -- need to look at themselves and say, "Do we do all we can to ensure that everyone's compass is directed toward doing what's right, even if that might initially cause some bad publicity for the university or mean sparring with a powerful coach? Do we look out for the powerless? Is our moral code as strong as it needs to be? Where are our true priorities? Who are we most concerned about protecting?"

Those can seem like pie-in-the-sky ideals, and maybe they are. Certainly, they're much easier to commit to in theory than in practice. But if there are lessons to be gained from what's occurred at Penn State, the most important need to be learned by those in the most powerful positions at schools and their athletic departments.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Poetry Friday

from "18 Days Without You"

Anne Sexton

December 18th
Swift boomerang, come get!
I am delicate. You've been gone.
The losing has hurt me some, yet
I must bend for you. See me arch. I'm turned on.
My eyes are lawn-colored, my hair brunette.

Kiss the package, Mr. Bind!
Yes? Would you consider hurling yourself
upon me, rigorous but somehow kind?
I am laid out like paper on your cabin kitchen shelf.
So draw me a breast. I like to be underlined.

Look, lout! Say yes! Draw me like a child. I shall need
merely two round eyes and a small kiss.
A small o. Two earrings would be nice. Then proceed
to the shoulder. You may pause at this.

Catch me. I'm your disease.
Please go slow all along the torso
drawing beads and mouths and trees
and o's, a little graffiti and a small hello for I grab, I nibble, I lift, I please.

Draw me good, draw me warm.
Bring me your raw-boned wrist and your
strange, Mr. Bind, strange stubborn horn.
Darling, bring me this an hour of undulations, for
this is the music for which I was born.

Lock in! Be alert, my acrobat
and I will be soft wood and you the nail
and we will make fiery ovens for Jack Sprat
and you will hurl yourself into my tiny jail
and we will take a supper together and that
will be that.

Thanks, ESPN

I know it's 11-11-11 but this is not some kind of Freaky Friday, opposite-world post. I am genuinely appreciative of ESPN running this piece:
Luke Cyphers has a column at on how there have been other things within PSU athletics that were not quite right--namely the tenure of former women's basketball coach Rene Portland. Glad people in the media are making the connection.

Here is a particularly good snippet:
Meanwhile, when we examine the Portland era and the Sandusky scandal through the same lens, what we see tells us a lot about institutionalized hate and systems that equate winning with morality, both of which flourished for decades in State College. The administration's failure to step in and do the right thing, the moral thing, created a void in which dozens of young lives, from Portland's players to Sandusky's alleged victims, were disrupted and forever scarred.

Read the rest--it's worth it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Whoa--that was fast!

Joe Paterno to retire.
At the end of the season.

Scandal= "retirement"

Scandal = resignation (hmm...)
I may actually watch the game this weekend to see what the atmosphere is like.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Not so surprised by PSU

Of course Penn State was going to cover up the abuse perpetuated by one of its coaches. Of course the institution that sheltered openly homophobic and not-so-openly racist basketball coach Rene Portland for years--years--would cover up for a former assistant football coach who was engaging in sexual acts with young boys. It reminds me of the stories we hear about corruption within police departments. The denial, the looking the other way behaviors, and the active cover-ups meant to protect one of their own. (I heard Michael Chiklis was very good on The Shield, maybe he would be interested in a leading role on The AD. I think he could pull off Tim Curley. He would have to spend some time practicing being on a witness stand, though.)
I read the headlines a few days ago and thought--well, not so shocking that a man would molest little boys or even that a PSU football coach would do so.
Then more got revealed about the seemingly systematic cover-up of the actions of said football coach.
Because, according to the various and myriad charges, athletic director Tim Curley and the VP of Finances knew about some of Jerry Sandusky's "horsing around" with young boys in the program Sandusky founded to help underprivileged youth.
The two men are charged with, among other things, perjury. They may have lied about what they knew to a grand jury when the investigation against Sandusky began several years ago.
They are also charged with not reporting the abuse to the authorities. This is based on the idea that because they are school officials they are mandatory reporters. They might get off on that one because of some details about who reported to whom and the association of the program with the school. They may not be criminally charged with that one--but they're still guilty. Who hears about sexual misconduct with underage youth and does not report it? Come on.
And now it appears that even the most sacred of Penn State figures, the seemingly untouchable Joe Paterno, is going to be touched by this. Charges have not been filed against Paterno who, when told about Sandusky by a graduate student, did report it to Curley and the VP. But:
State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said that although Paterno may have met his legal requirement to report suspected abuse by Sandusky, "somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child."
He added: "I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us."

Will Paterno retire just like Portland did?

Dave Zirin published a very good column about the scandal focusing on how such a revered--by the school, alumni, and the community--football program got away (temporarily) with this behavior. This scandal is soo much worse than the other college football scandals we have heard about recently, Zirin notes, especially because Penn State has always been an "outlaw program." Maybe the football program specifically has not suffered from pay-for-play scandals. But I think it's hard to say that the culture within the Penn State athletic department is healthy or safe for anyone who is a little bit vulnerable. I think the way administrators handled the Portland scandal--and I do believe it rises to the level of scandal--illustrates this.

I am a little bit despondent here. College football is out of control. I would give up on it completely; sit on the sidelines waiting for it to pull a Roman Empire and collapse from within; but it just keeps hurting so many people the bigger it gets.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Promoting the Body Issue

I know I am a little late to the game here but 1) I haven't been checking my After Atalanta email (if anyone knows an easy way to forward gmail to another account please enlighten me) and 2) sick...sick sick sick.
But I did manage to get a copy of ESPN Magazine's third (third, right?) Body issue.
Dr. Pants texted me and informed me that it was a must-see. Dr. Pants is a big Hope Solo fan and Solo did grace one of the covers this year. Me, not so much so I didn't really care much about seeing Solo pseudo nude.
But the article about testicles was too much to pass up. (more on that at a later date)
So I read it. I am getting a little bored of this whole thing actually. (Well except for the testicles article.)
And I wonder if ESPN can sense that the Body Issue just isn't that interesting. That it will never draw the same attention as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Because was what was sent to my After Atalanta gmail:
The only magazine that can possibly trump the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for popularity has to be the 2011 ESPN The Magazine ‘Body Issue.’ Want big stars without clothes? This one is all you. Hope Solo, Alicia Sacramone, Helio Castroneves, Apolo Ohno, Blake Griffin, Jose Reyes and even a professional bowler. The photos would normally be considered NSFW, but chill out, it’s art!

Included in the email were some of the pictures.
It was sent by Stephen Gebhardt, the director of marketing for the COED Media Group, which is some kind of marketing group designed to appeal to college students. I guess that explains why I was told to chill out because it's art. Still not sure why I received this email. Do they assume because I write a blog I am young and hip? I'm not. (I had to look up with NSFW meant.)  And I thought that college kids were, like, so over blogs. It's all about Twitter now, right? (Which reminds me I need to get back to tweeting in an attempt to remain current.)

I can't imagine that this group just randomly chose to promote this issue. That means ESPN must have hired them.
In other words, the "it's art" thing is all tongue in cheek. I think that's a pretty icky thing for ESPN to do. I think it woos some of the athletes and readers with the "it's art, it's classy, it's not the SI Swimsuit Issue." And then it turns around and promotes the product as just the opposite.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I see gendered people

ESPNW has an interview with Mary Wittenberg who is the current president of the New York Road Runners. And by virtue of her position as president and CEO, she is in charge of the NYC Marathon--which happens this weekend. She is the first female president of the organization--this seems to be part of the reason ESPNW chose to interview her. Here is one of the questions:
espnW: When you're negotiating appearance fees for male athletes with male agents, does it ever strike you as significant that you're a woman running a major men's and women's sporting event?

Here is the first line of her response:
No. I don't think a lot about gender at all when thinking about negotiating appearance fees or putting together the strategy for our pro field.

Oh god, I thought to myself when I read this. Another person who doesn't see gender. Everything is gender neutral. But here is how she finished the question:
What I do think about is always ensuring that we have a really strong women's field. We really highlight the women in New York. Our sport globally does pretty well with keeping men and women even, but that hasn't always been the case, so in New York, where I think about it most is in the strategy around the field -- ensuring a super-strong field and equal prize money. One year we even paid the women more, just to make the point of how important the women are. As you may or may not know, women start the race a half hour before the men, and the entire spotlight is on them.

So she does think about gender--a lot actually. She very purposefully strategizes about gender it seems.
I don't understand these knee-jerk reactions to questions about gender. As if it is so bad to think about the impact of gender on sports. Like it might make people think you are a feminist!
Thankfully Mary Wittenberg does think about gender and about the specific position her race occupies in the global, gendered sportocracy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Poetry Friday

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

by E. E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

any experience,your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me

though i have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and

my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,

as when the heart of this flower imagines

the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility:whose texture

compels me with the color of its countries,

rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens;only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More skirts

I frequently try to convince people (my students, my girlfriend, random strangers) that the concept of "things are getting better" or "things are better than they used to be" is problematic.
Progress is not one of those straight 45 degree angle lines streaking across a graph. The x and y axes are not so 1) measurable and 2) in sync that we have this perfect progress line.
And this not-so-neat-and-easy "progress" can be applied to sport--women's sports specifically.
Look at the women playing sports! Isn't it great!?
It totally is.
But there has been some backlash--some subtle, some not-so-subtle. There's the obvious crusade against Title IX in the US. There's the rampant, yet largely hush-hush and/or hard-to-prove homophobia. And now there's skirts.
Skirts where none existed before. Skirts in soccer. (Remember the fashion show in 2009 when the WUSA debuted its Puma kit complete with "wraps"?)
Skirts in badminton.
Skirts in running.
And now skirts in....wait for it-----
The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) tried to give out skirts to its female competitors at the World Championships last year because they are trying to "phase in" the new uniform in international competition. Just in time, perhaps, for women's boxing at the London Olympics next year??
It's pretty difficult these days to say--in most parts of the world--that women should not be able to play sports. But that does not mean people still aren't trying to distinguish women's participation in sport. This attempt is through skirts.
It isn't a mandate from the AIBA--though Poland has required skirts as part of its national uniform because it is "elegant" and gives a "womanly impression."
There seems to be a certain amount of ambivalence--even among the various national team leaders/coaches--about women who box. Yes, women hitting each other does seem a little masculine because hitting each other has always been the domain of men--except when they hit women.
But putting a woman in a skirt does not take away from the fact that she is hitting another woman--for sport.
The skirt is not going to convince the naysayers that it's ok for women to box. It's not going to attract more people to the sport--perhaps a few fetishists (not that there's anything wrong with that).
I am just waiting for the next not-a-skirt-sport to insititute skirts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

P.S. one's a lesbian

I've had over a day to sit on this story because of other obligations. This has meant that the highly acerbic tone laced with expletives that I was going to use yesterday has been slightly tempered by time.
I'm still a little irked by ESPNW though. I really haven't seen anything to like about this endeavor yet. Shouldn't we be shooting for more than just mere visibility?
Anyway, what got me all hot and bothered (and not in a good way) yesterday was this article about the different paths Hope Solo and Abby Wambach have taken post World Cup.
In case you haven't heard, Hope Solo is on Dancing with the Stars this season. She was also on (one of) the cover of ESPN Magazine's The Body Issue a few weeks ago. She is racking up endorsements (worth millions of dollars)--and turning down offers for photo shoots in men's magazines. In other words, she's making the most of this (likely) brief spike in the popularity of women's soccer. (Let's note, for the record, that Solo pursued her spot on DWTS. Her agent "mined his contacts at ABC" to get her on the show.)
Her success in doing so is not surprising according to a UMaryland consumer psychologist. Dr. Stephen McDaniel:
"Think how unique Hope Solo is. She's very telegenic, she's attractive, she's successful; she's the kind of person that can translate into a personality."
And what's up with Wambach?
Well here is an assessment of the differences between the two from the president of a company that pairs celebrity endorsers with companies:
"Every time you see Hope Solo, she's pumping her fist and clapping her hands and she's got a really great demeanor and a great smile and everything about it is positive. That's not to say the same thing about Abby. I can't really say where Abby is. Abby is not unattractive, but I don't know what she wants to do."
Yes,  what is it about Wambach? Not unattractive, but....
Oh, yeah. She's gay.
Is she out like Natasha Kai? No. But it's not a secret either. She's not trying to pass as straight.
And she's not clamoring after endorsements like Solo because, according to observers, experts, and Wamabch herself, it just isn't her style. She's more quiet. She's more behind the scenes. (And she's doing good stuff too trying to promote the game.)
She also can't sell heterosexy like Solo. But no one will say that aloud.
So where's the space for someone like Wambach? She can sell lesbosexy. (Check out the comments on photos of her.)
But the woman saved the USWNT from an early exit in the World Cup. She was in a scoring drought and pushed through it and then came through big with the US needed it.
But there's little space for a strong, successful female athlete is not heterosexual (or who does not pass as heterosexual).
Yes, Wambach has been with Nike for almost 10 years now. She endorses Gatorade and both she and Solo are recently signed with Bank of America. (Really, Abby and Hope? You thought signing with one of the most maligned banks in the country right now was a good idea?)
But these different paths they allegedly chose are not necessarily all about free will or radically different personalities. Look at them on the field: they are both clapping their hands actually--they are both intense. They pump up their team not in pleasant Mia Hamm way, but in "let's get our butts in gear" (that's the polite version) kind of way. Neither smiles a whole lot during the game. And let's note that Solo's ESPN Magazine cover. Very intense. A little bit with the crazy eyes too. [My roommate glanced at the cover when it was sitting on the kitchen island and asked me "who's that guy?"]
This is not just about choice. This about market. The choices Wambach makes not to be in the public eye as much as Solo are not entirely unfettered.
And ESPNW looks a little naive in its coverage of these "different paths" especially when one of the sources hints heavily at the whole "lesbian thing."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

WSF Awards

The Women's Sports Foundation held their annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards ceremony last night in NYC.
Abby Wambach won best sportswoman in a team sports; Yani Tseng (I guess people are paying attention to her!) won for individual sport.
The US Women's Ski Jumping team won the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award for their activist work in getting their sport included in the winter olympics.
A theme of the evening was Title IX because the Foundation is gearing up for the 40th anniversary.
It was a little disappointing that the :Billie Jean King Contribution Award, which recognizes an individual or organization that demonstrates a lasting commitment and dedication to the growth of sports, fitness and physical activity for women and girls" was given to Visa. Given the current climate of backlash against corporate America--which began right on the streets of NYC, it didn't seem to be the b est choice. I would have liked to see WSF go a little less corporate.

Like a younger, more hipster Ellen.

 For all my butchie girls: this is how Abby Wambach dresses it up. The pants are a little too hipster for me, but the woman can rock formal wear too it seems.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reform through 5 scholarships

The NCAA in August, during the Presidential Retreat, started talking about some of the ongoing controveries and the need for reform. Everyone else already is, so they should be too.
And they have some ideas, apparently. In September the Resource Allocations Working Group suggested cutting scholarships for FBS (Footbal Bowl Series) teams from 85 to 80. The FCS will have their scholarships reduced from 63 to 60.
They are also considering reducing men's (13 --> 12) and women's (15 --> 13) basketball scholarships.

Yeah. I'm pretty sure that will take care of it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wasn't there supposed to be a movie...

...about the Immaculata College women's basketball team?
Why yes, yes there was.
And apparently there is. It was actually filmed in 2007. But the film, The Mighty Macs, which chronicles the 1971-72 team as it made its ways to the NCAA championships, only recently got a distributor.
The movie stars Carla Gugino (Entourage, Sin City), David Boreanaz (currently of Bones but formally of Buffy the Vampire Slayer--his best role in my opinion), Ellen Burstyn (Ya Ya Sisterhood, Big Love), and Marley Shelton (Uptown Girls. Pleasantville). 
The movie comes out in limited release (1000 theaters) next week.
You can watch the trailer here. It looks good.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Poetry Friday

Like the poem, but I'm thinking the translation could be better. Nevertheless...

Bring me the sunflower

Eugenio Montale

Bring me the sunflower so I may transplant it

in my native soil burnt by the sea-salt,

let it display all day to the mirroring blue spaces

of the sky the anxiety of its yellow face.

Obscure things tend towards clarity,

bodies dissolve themselves in a weightless flow

of colors: these then into music. To vanish

is thus the supreme fate of all fates.

Bring me the plant that points to where

pale transparencies rise to the heights

and life itself evaporates like air;

bring me the sunflower crazed with light.

translated from the Italian by Margaret Brose

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In golf?

I flipped on the Golf Channel, which was airing the LPGA's HanaBank Championship this past weekend. It was background and it was on less than two minutes when I heard the British male commentator say that it would have been a "wussy" move if Yani Tseng hadn't pulled out her driver for her tee shot because her playing partner had just done so.
Really, wussy--in golf?
I mean wussy anywhere is problematic. But in golf it seems all the more weird to use such sexually suggestive slang. And in the context of Yani Tseng? The woman is dominating the LPGA. Never heard of the current number one player who has 9 victories this season and has held the number 1 spot for 34 weeks? Well she's not American and she's not white--which means she isn't getting a lot of attention in the American media.
But at least she's not a wussy after all. She hit an amazing tee shot at that hole--and she won the whole thing.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Poetry Friday

Because I've been teaching transitions in my composition classes...

A Word About Transitions

by Billy Collins

Moreover is not a good way to start a poem
though many begin somewhere in the middle.

Secondly does not belong
at the opening of your second stanza.
Furthermore is to be avoided
no matter how long the poem.

Aforementioned is rarely found
in poems at all, and for good reason.

Most steer clear of notwithstanding,
and the same goes for

nevertheless, however,
as a consequence, in any event,
and as we have seen in the previous chapters.

The appearance of finally
in your final stanza will be of no help.

All of which suggests (another no-no)
that poems don't need to tell us where we are

or what is soon to come.
For example, the white bowl of lemons

on a table by a window
can go anywhere all by itself

and, in conclusion, so can
seven elephants standing in the rain.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Um, yeah, no kidding

Did anyone really believe that Reebok's special Easytone sneakers were going to firm legs, thighs, and butts? Well if you did--congratulations, you may be getting some money.
Reebok has settled a class action lawsuit for $25 million. A Federal Trade Commission investigation found that claims of what the sneakers could do were slightly exaggerated--as in they couldn't be proven.
I knew though sneakers were trouble from the start. I mean, did anyone else note the irony? In order to get a hot ass, you have to wear ugly shoes. That seems wrong. Also, the commercials were particularly egregious in terms of the sexualization of the female body.
But it's kind of too late now. Those rocker shoes are all over the place. Sketchers has their own version. Not sure if Sketchers will be on the hook as well. It's possible they aren't making the same kind of claims about what the shoes can do. They have chosen not to comment on the settlement.
Reebok is standing behind its shoes though. The settlement does not require them to take back their previous claims; they just can't keep making them--the claims. I think they will keep making the shoes.
No study has found that the shoes make any difference. My surprise was that there was no evidence the shoes do damage. Anecdotal evidence that I have not-so-painstakingly gathered suggests that people who wear the shoes end up with hips and knee and foot pain.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Poetry Friday

I am teaching an article this morning on the reluctance to talk about racism and the cultural transmission of racism through the lack of exposure to racial minorities. It reminded me of a poem I read by Countee Cullen when I was in high school. But I couldn't find that one. So I am posting this one instead.

To Certain Critics

By Countee Cullen
Then call me traitor if you must,   
Shout treason and default!
Say I betray a sacred trust
Aching beyond this vault.
I’ll bear your censure as your praise,   
For never shall the clan
Confine my singing to its ways
Beyond the ways of man.

No racial option narrows grief,
Pain is no patriot,
And sorrow plaits her dismal leaf   
For all as lief as not.
With blind sheep groping every hill,   
Searching an oriflamme,
How shall the shepherd heart then thrill   
To only the darker lamb?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


That was in the subject line of the email I received from JB (minus the exclamation point--I added that myself). There was a link to an article about how the IAAF is changing the rules on what races women can earn world records in.

This is the article I saw initially. Here is what went down: the IAAF decided that women could not set world records in mixed gender races because of issues over being paced by men. They can only set "world bests." (P.S. The rule is retroactive!) This seems to be an issue primarily in road races, especially marathons. And various marathon organizations have come out in opposition to the IAAF's rule, which is scheduled to go into effect in January. But even their collective stance is less than ideal. They suggest having two world records--one for mixed gender races and the other for single sex races. They do argue though that the IAAF's new rule does not, among other things, "respect the history of [the] sport."
Right? Road running is a sport that can be done in a mixed gender group. And the IAAF is now implying that the practice of mixed gender racing and pacing is somehow akin to cheating. But don't men pace off of others? So it's not the pacing; it's the pacing off someone who does not have the same genitalia that is the problem, it appears. Will this mentality spread to other sport governing bodies? Will Danica Patrick be barred from drafting off of her male competitors?
And what about the men who pace off of women in races? Will their wins in their respective categories (age or weight) be disregarded because they employed opposite gender pacing?
It began in idiocy and ends in ridiculousness!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My poor neglected blog...

I promise I will post more this week.
On the docket:
  1. more on the Atlantic article, including commentary on the concept of amateurism, and the socialism no one wants to talk about
  2. the ridiculousness of the new rules governing records (past and future) set by female runners

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Speaking of shame

So I've been thinking and discoursing a lot about this Atlantic article about the "shame" of college sports. And I have a lot more to say--it's forthcoming (I think).

Since it seems like the corporatization of college sports isn't going anywhere and given the desire of so many corporations to put their names on everything--including just regular, non-post-season, non-bowl games--my father and I decided that one contest in particular needed such a sponsorship.

This weekend's game between Ohio State and Miami: The Scandal Bowl. Sponsored by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

We're open to other sponsors too. Enron? Goldman Sachs? Bank of America?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another season of scandals--and now what?

Intercollegiate sports are played all year round--except for a couple of those "summer" months where there are no official contests--but it's always around September, or probably more accurately, mid-August, that the talk of misdeeds among college athletics comes to the fore. Why? Because it's football season.
So we get to hear about the suspensions issued at the end of last season or in the off-season (a la the Ohio State) and then whatever findings were made during off-season investigations into various programs (a la Miami). That is what stays the same--the perpetual/annual misdoings.
Here's what seems to be different. And note that I am not a longtime close observer of college football--I'm more of a foul weather observe; like a tornado chaser--but less thrilling, more disgust-inducing. So I might not be the best person the make these observations. But here's what I think I have seen.
There is more widespread attention to the athletic programs as a whole and to the institutional structures as well when scandals occur. This is in contrast to the attention paid and the wrist-slappings given to individual offenders, i.e. the student-athletes. On one hand it is good that there is recognition that these individuals do not act in a vacuum. But what seems to be happening over on the other hand though is that these scandals--assessed in the aggregate--are being used as fairly convincing fodder that student-athletes should be paid. Because, the argument goes, corporations are paying universities billions of dollars every year to be associated with a school's athletic department and an athletic department is only marketable because it has successful programs, and successful programs are created by successful coaches who recruit successful athletes. Took a long time to get down to the athletes, no? Which is part of the problem. Also, the bigger problem is that educational institutions will lose their tax-exempt status if they start paying athletes. Despite the people who claim it is Title IX and us feminists who will prevent the play-for-pay athlete, I don't why it. Losing tax-exempt status because you want to pay a student to play a game for you so you can get Nike to give you lots of money has pretty large implications--financial, moral, and philosophical.
Some of these issues are discussed in the latest cover story (also a change from the past--very credible, non-sport centered major publications are running feature pieces about these issues) in The Atlantic. I've only gotten through a third of it at this point, but it's pretty interesting and the online version includes videos with the writer about what he learned while investigating and writing the story.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Poetry Friday

At Summer's End, Persephone

parted the overgrown hedge.
There stood the tree she remembered—
still on its last limbs and still "self-pruning,"
as the tree-surgeon called it—
still the largest sweet gum in the underworld.

From the dogwood, berries dripped,
bright as blood. A frog called out
for company. The owl that hunted it
rowed the deepening dark with muffled wing.
Clinging to the front door of the house,

a moth tried to disguise itself as wood.
How had the gecko guarding the porch light
missed a last mouthful of dust?
Under its pale otherworldly skin,
throbbed a blue semiprecious stone.

In ancient gowns the months
Persephone had lost to the upper world
leaned down from heaven's porches.
There on her own porch, in the rocking chair
where no one ever rocked,

sat the dead weight of September,
the chair ever so faintly ashudder.

Debora Greger

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

(More on) Why I don't watch ESPN

I was getting ready for my day Tuesday morning and multitasking. I wanted to find out the score of the Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova match because I had fallen asleep Monday night in the second set.

So I turned on ESPN. And while I was waiting I heard Stuart Scott issue an opinion on the Peyton Manning injury story and whether Manning would play Sunday. But he hedged his bets when he remarked "but what do I know? I'm wearing makeup."
Because apparently makeup has some kind of mystical effect in which the wearer lacks sports knowledge. Now, who else wears makeup? Hmmm...
Seriously. What a ridiculous statement.

[In case you were wondering, Wozniacki won. I had to go look on the internet, because I shut off the television in disgust--and rushed to an appointment. ]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sad news

I know everyone is posting about this, but I would be remiss not to at least post a link.
The concept that her diagnosis is not going to affect her, though, as some quoted in certain articles seems to suggest, is a little optimistic. Even if she can temper the disease medically, I am sure it will significantly affect her ability to recruit. Because it is uncertain how long she will be able to continue, I would imagine recruits and their families would be hesitant to commit. Of course, when and if she leaves, there will be a long line of excellent prospects waiting for that position.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What have I been saying?

Women's intercollegiate basketball is not that far away, my friends. And given my current status as a resident of western Massachusetts, I hear about the progress of the UMass-Amherst Minutewomen all the time. And I cringe every time. Because what exactly is a Minutewoman??
Looks like I am not alone in my questioning of the name, its history, and its effects.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Poetry Friday

August Peonies

Lallygagging on bent stems, late
this year because of the snow
in May, their rag-tag magenta
cluster-heads freshen the still heat
like a rush of wind in the leaves
or the cool brush of deep sea
crinolines as the ripple kiss
of a breeze opens their bunched petals
just enough to let them breathe
before they ease back
into light repose, poised
at the edge of time-lapse
attention, like us, who lose
momentum in the heavy air
rich with the scent of ripening
wheat that drifts in from the fields
over the slow-moving river
as the afternoon nods and lengthens
into shade, into thoughtfulness,
and the sky deploys an argosy
of softly tinted clouds, fresh
blooms without stems
that sail where we cannot
go, all the way to the edge
of everything where daylight looks
back, once, then disappears.

George Amabile

Monday, August 08, 2011's cold in here...

...there must be some sexism in the atmosphere.

I think I perhaps knew something about scantily clad young women (note that they are always referred to as girls) on ice skates who come out during NHL games for various reasons. But I don't watch much professional hockey anymore opting to engage in slightly less cognitive dissonance by watching intercollegiate hockey. So I guess I chose not to think about how hockey--like so many other sports these days--is bringing out the babes to arouse the crowd--and shovel some ice chips.
This article with accompanying video--which is mandatory viewing because the article so doesn't tell the whole story--is about the tryouts the Penguins held recently for the 2011-12 Ice Crew.
Tell me--what do you envision when someone says ice crew in the context of professional hockey. I think mostly men--college age dudes and/or older guys with bellies--shuffling out on the ice in their black sneakers, khakis, and nylon team jackets during the period breaks to take the nets off their posts as the zamboni goes round and round. Then they shovel the ice remnants into the tunnel. And then if there's an ice emergency, they shuffle a little faster out on the ice with buckets of water and various small hand tools to fix large chips or other ice deformities.
I do not think of 20-something women in tight spandex-y pants or short, short skirts and midriff tops, tummies tanned, large smiles on their faces, skating round and round--and then shoveling some ice.
But this is what the Ice Crew for the Penguins is. And it's a highly prized job. Over 50 women tried out this year. Only seven make the crew.
And it's a really hard job. Just listen to one of the women who made the crew who feels "truly blessed" to be on the other side of tryouts which were:
"so nerve-wracking. You're thinking about technique and the words you say, how you portray yourself, and posture. It's a lot to think about."
Lest one thinks this is all about looks--it's not. These women have to go out into the "community." They are hired out for events. Not sure what kind of events. So the words they say are important. Also, they are tested on their ice sweeping skills during tryouts. So maintaining good posture while moving that broom around the cones could indeed be nerve-wracking.
There's just so much going on here.

Let me point out that if you're trying to find out the exact purpose of the ice crew--most often referred to as "ice girls"--you will hard pressed to do so. It seems that most NHL teams have them these days. But I can't seem to find a list of duties or required skills. Some history about the the position and how it came to be? Good luck. You have to wade through pages of search results that are all about showing you their cleavage, their legs, their asses, their tan bellies, how "hot" they look holding shovels, and how they never stop smiling.
They have been equated with cheerleaders. These women must be far more skilled though. Because they have to arouse the crowd without the choreographed dance routines and without ever saying a word. How DO they do it?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Poetry Friday returns

...with this poem from Matthew Zapruder's 2010 collection Come All Your Ghosts.


Come on all you ghosts.
Bring me your lucky numbers
that failed you, bring me

your boots made of the skin
of placid animals
who stood for a while in the snow.

Bring me your books
made of blue sky
stitched together with thread

made of the memory
of how warm
even the most terrible

among us has felt
the skin of his or her beloved
in the morning to be.

Come on all you ghosts,
try to make me forget
one summer lost

in a reservoir and another
I keep in my chest.
Come on all you ghosts,

try to make me repeat
the most terrible thing I said
to someone and I will

if the mind of that someone
could ever be eased.
Come on let’s vote

for no one in the election
of who is next to die.
Come on all you ghosts,

I know you can hear me,
I know you are here,
I have heard you cough

and sigh when I pretend
I do not believe
I have to say something important.

Probably no one will die
of anything I say.
Probably no one will live

even a second longer.
Is that true?
Come on all you ghosts,

you can tell me now,
I have seen one of you becoming
and I am no longer afraid,

just sad for everyone
but also happy this morning I woke
next to the warm skin

of my beloved. I do not know
what terrible marvels
tomorrow will bring

but ghosts if I must join you
you and I know
I have done my best to leave

behind this machine
anyone with a mind
who cares can enter.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Lingerie--not just for football players anymore

While I certainly do not support the concept and execution of the Lingerie Football League, I see why it exists. It plays on a variety of sexual fetishes and, of course, makes these female athletes far less threatening because of the sexualization and because what they are doing doesn't look like "real" football. Again, not a fan. Wish it would go away. Will write letters or engage in other methods of discouragement to get that to happen.
What did genuinely surprise (ever so cynical) me is the news that there is now a Lingerie Basketball League. I found out about it on some mom blog. Said mom does not seem too upset, after her initial questioning, that the league exists because, once you get past the uniforms, you can see (there's a video) that they are skilled.
Yes. They are skilled. But there are a lot of women who are skilled basketball players. They play at all levels: high school, college, professionally, recreationally, in the pick-up games at my gym. They don't wear bras, and ass-cheek revealing butt huggers, garter belts, and some kind of ribbons that are laced up their legs. In other words, it's kind of hard to get past the uniforms. In fact, I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to "get past" the uniforms. After all, the league's reason for existence is the uniform. Why else would it be called the Lingerie Basketball League? And though the writer tries to argue that the uniforms are similar to--if not less revealing--than those worn by beach volleyball players, I'm not buying it. Yes, those uniforms are skimpy--arguably unnecessarily so--but they fit the sport, which is played on a beach.
Other problems with the league:
1) Sure, players have to be good; but they also have to be pretty. They have to fit a type. They are not large forwards planted under the basket ready for the pass or the rebound. As one player said: "we play hard and we look doing it." A prescribed and mandatory looking good.
2) The players are constantly referred to as girls. (Watch the video.)
3) The coverage highlights the pushing and shoving. A "reporter" asks one of the players if the other girls are just too tough for her because she is tiny and so demure. She's also Asian playing with a majority of black woman.
The league seems to be in its infancy. And indeed it's very infantilizing. I hope it goes away before it reaches the Terrible Twos.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

In case you didn't believe me...

...Dr. Mary Jo Kane has a piece in The Nation about the yes-we're-still-talking-about-this debate over whether sex sells women's sports. The answer, as I've noted before, using Kane's research, is no.
Kane opens with a quote from an article by Wendy Parker. While the quote--about a female soccer player who seems non-plussed by her status as Playboy's third sexiest soccer player--is apt, do we really need to support Wendy Parker in her ongoing recovery from feminism and paradoxical support of women's sports?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

WPS making a concerted effort

There have been many, many article about the potential effects of the Women's World Cup on the WPS. I haven't even bothered to blog about them or to even read all of them. They basically boil down to: 1) the WPS will benefit from the very exciting WWC, 2) cautious optimism about the benefits, 3) Americans still don't like soccer and they certainly aren't interested in watching women play it. There may be other categories or subcategories that I am unaware of.
But it seems like attendance at games post-WWC is up. Way up in some venues. Yay!
And it also appears that the WPS is not just pleasantly riding this wave of popularity. They are working that wave.
I just hung up with someone from the Boston Breakers asking me if I am coming to Harvard stadium for the last two home games. I explained that I cannot because I am busy those days. And I was a little curious as to how they got my cell phone number...But good for them for making personal phone calls. I am sure some poor intern gets that job but talk about good experience being in the publicity trenches. And in the end I didn't really care that they had my number (so long as they don't sell it to other less desirable entities!). After all it's better than getting those pre-recorded, pre-election calls from Susan Sarandon, Hilary Clinton, Obama "himself," or some other celeb-like entity.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Inactivity: It's not just for British women anymore

Is it possible? Are American women's life spans going to dip below those of our mothers' because we don't work out?

Apparently it is possible, according to a study out of the University of Washington.

Not good news for American women. This study follows a report out of Britain a few years ago which showed a dearth of sporting activity among girls and women.

So what's it all about? According to this article, time and money. Because even while we promote Title IX and advocate for equal opportunities for girls, when adulthood hits, exercise is one of the first things to go. Assuming it was ever there at all. But this article says that even adult women who were once quite active, sacrifice exercise when things (i.e. motherhood plus work plus domestic duties plus attempt at salvaging a social life) get busy.
And then when mid-life hits, the effects of a less active life really come into play.
While I sympathize with the issue of making time for exercise when a woman becomes a mother and has even more to juggle, I wasn't too pleased at the way this article presented the issue.
Though the issue of class and access to exercise was mentioned, the woman who was interviewed as being the epitome of this problem (active early in adulthood but then had two kids and a husband) seemed pretty privileged. That she had her second child at age 41 and was married and working suggests a lot of things. She was financially secure. She had good health care. She had control over her reproduction. She had access to exercise, but she chose not to prioritize it. While I agree that prioritizing exercise can be difficult, it is a privilege to have the ability to even consider it as an option.
The article talks about how this lack of physical activity marks a reversal of progress in public health. But it doesn't talk about which groups of women are most affected by this reversal. It is not the white, middle-class mother who is suffering the most. White, middle-class women with two or more children are all over my white, middle-class gym.
Obesity is an issue of class. Poverty means less access: to nutritious food, to exercise (through gyms or recreational sports), to time (because of lack of affordable child care and working more hours for less pay), to healthcare.
I do not think it is the soccer moms, as the article implies, that are at the greatest risk here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I'm not the only one...

...who has some reservations about how this WWC is going to dramatically change the women's sports landscape in the US.
WaPo columnist Petula Dvorak talks to some of my favorite people, Mike Messner and Nancy Hogshead-Makar, about how and why the surge in fan interest in women's soccer post '99 and for women's professional sports generall kind of petered out.
The difference, for soccer, is that the WUSA started 2 years after that world cup ended. Too much lag time. The WPS is already in place this time. Hopefully, this will make a difference.
But I too have been skeptical about all the rah-rahing. Some of us have been following women's soccer all along, in the so-called down time--you know when the US won the Olympic gold medal. I worry about fair weather fans. But I worry about no fans at all, too. Boston Breakers 2009

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wow, ESPNW has some weight issues

I've been lukewarm on ESPNW since its inception for many reasons.
Now I have one more: this article about how fat baseball players are. Well, not exactly an article. It is listed as an opinion piece. Still...
So in light of MLB's All-Star Game and based on some observations, writer Amanda Rykoff is pointing out how large some baseball players are--as in overweight. An additional motivation, as stated in the opening paragraph is "to laugh and poke fun at some absurdities in the sports world."
Let me just own up to the fact that I was observing a young guy in the gym the other day who has clearly bulked up in the last year. He was wearing a UMass Baseball t-shirt. And it made me think "is he too big to play baseball effectively?" Of course he could simply be a fan and not a player. And he isn't fat--just bulky. Still, I thought about how/why larger players can and are prized in baseball. I have theories about the focus on home runs and some masculinity issues, that I won't explore here. But in the end, I just thought that it must be more difficult--if you don't hit the home run--to get around the bases when you are carrying more weight--whether that weight is muscle or fat.
But of course different sports--and different positions within any one sport--require different physiques. As Rykoff herself notes, larger pitchers have been found to be more effective than smaller ones. Unfortunately she kind of presents it in a Barbie-I don't-really-know-what-this-science-thing means way:
"We won't get into the physics of it, and frankly we're not even sure why it's true."
It's problematic that she is implicating all of ESPNW and saying that these women basically don't know what they're talking about here.
Which, in the end, makes the piece look even cattier. While there may be overweight players, their performance cannot be so hampered by their weight that they are grossly ineffective. This is professional sports, people. They aren't paying these men millions to play poorly. If this is a commentary on baseball--that it's a game where overweight people can be successful--then say that.
But you can't say that, right? Because there are plenty of sports where being bigger is an asset--a necessity even. And there are sports where slimming down helps performance even when the sport requires a larger physique.* And there are always trade-offs.
Even as Rykoff keeps a light tone and tries to present this opinion piece as just a little jab at fat baseball players, she is potentially implying so many other things. Fat is gross. We don't want to see it. No athlete should have fat. Having fat makes you less of an athlete and fat athletes reflect poorly on and bring down their sport.
Here's the thing, though. I kind of get it. Even knowing that successful athletes are required to come in all different shapes and sizes, I think it still stinks that male athletes get away with being overweight in a way that female athletes do not. And by get away with, I mean they are criticized far less. That criticism about their weight, when it comes, is made in relation to performance and not aesthetics.
I'm not a proponent of equal opportunity bad behavior, but Rykoff is doing what countless writers and commentators have done to female athletes. It's not right. But if fat is "gross" on a female athlete, and it isn't viewed similarly--or as similarly--on male athletes, well...double standard.
But, unfortunately, this is not the point Rykoff makes. She doesn't even come close to it. It's just a jab. It doesn't make the larger point about how overweight female athletes are treated differently--are less prized--ignored even.
And that is one of my big problems with ESPNW. They aren't doing the hard work. They're taking pot shots and leaving the bigger issues unaddressed. And I think it makes them look bad.

* I saw, last week, an MTV True Life about former high school football player Holly Mangold who is now trying to become an Olympic weight lifter. She slimmed down, which helped her performance, but is still a large woman. I plan on writing more about her and the show later.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Brief WWC comments

Finally got to watch the Brazil v. US match this morning. I knew the general outcome because the second I got back across the border (from Canada) and had my data plan back, I checked Facebook. I also got the hint that it was a dramatic game, though I refused to check for a score or details.
Even knowing the outcome, it was a pretty enthralling game. So here are my thoughts (in case you were wondering):
1. When you watch a recorded soccer match and fast forward through some of it in the interest of time and getting on with your work day, the ball looks like a ping-pong ball, which just makes you appreciate the distance it travels and the abilities of the players to control it.
2. Abby Wambach: still super cute and now with some goals under her cleats. (Because those uniforms don't have belts--thankfully. Though I'm not sure it would make them any worse.)
3. And speaking of Wambach...the Girlfriend noted this morning "that those short-haired girls are making things really interesting." It's true. Wambach finally scores this tournament and of course gets the tying goal in the last seconds of over-overtime. And it is served in so beautifully (seriously--watch the replay over and over again and be awed) by Megan Rapinoe who is sporting a bleached blond short style. And then there is Amy LePeilbet who made things interesting in that not-so-good way in the game against Sweden. But she redeemed herself against Brazil.
So we asked ourselves: in the context of international women's soccer, is a US player who sports a short haircut (in the present day) tacitly revealing her homosexuality? And before I get charged with being a crazy stereotyping self-hating dyke let me acknowledge that, of course, I don't believe that 1) all lesbians have short hair or 2) that all women with short hair are lesbians or have lesbian tendencies and that 3) there are a range of femininities across the range of sexualities.
OK, but I am talking very specifically about US women's soccer in the early 21st century. None of those three women are explicitly out though there is a lot of chatter amongst those in the know and apparently on Twitter by some of the players themselves. Natasha Kai (with her longer hair) is the only out player (who was not chosen for this national team) and coach Pia Sundhage has also previously come out in an interview. So is the short hair the sign? In a still-homophobic and apologetic athletic culture, does the short hair tell us what we may or may not already know? Their short styles are cute and I would argue cooler and, in those ways, reflect in no way on their sexuality. But if you have ever seen any soccer trophies with the cheap gold figures on the top...those figures have ponytails. The former fan group for women's professional soccer in the US was called the Ponytail Posse. The logos for women's soccer contain ponytailed silhouettes. In other words, short hair is not the women's soccer norm. Sure, they could be non-normative straight women. But even (especially?) straight female athletes feel the pressure to conform to feminine ideals through appearance or behavior (i.e. talking about male partners and boyfriends).
I obviously don't have an answer, just these ramblings musings.
4. Drawing on the apologetic and the construction of hegemonic gender in sports...there are a lot of men on the field at the WWC. I find this constant reference to being "a man down" and playing with "only ten men" particularly interesting/problematic in a tournament where some people have actually been accused of being men.
5. There actually are no men on the field this WWC because all the refs are women too this time. I knew, I knew, I knew this was going to turn bad. I knew that any bad calls, and especially a series of bad calls, would create a backlash. I saw it happen when one of the Women's Hockey World Championships used only female refs and bad calls engendered the quality over equality cries. Just like now. I haven't watch the MWC so I can't compare the quality of referring as it pertains to gender. But I have seen plenty of male umpires and linespeople in tennis mess up some pretty big calls--in both the men's and women's game.
Yes, there were so many bad calls in the US/Brazil game and elsewhere. But I think it's dangerous to say that it's because women just can't handle the pressure of these international games. Is it any different from a minor league ump who gets moved up to the big leagues? If this is a lack of training, then so be it. Hold FIFA responsible for trying to compensate for past discrimination with a too-easy, too-soon remedy.

And finally, a PS. Why are there so many commercials for men's Rogaine airing during the coverage? Does this mean that, defying all previous research and amateur chatter about men's lack of interest in women's sports, that men are watching the WWC this time around? Or are they appealing to straight women to buy the balding men in their lives the product?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

WWC Schtuff

I've been accumulating thoughts about the WWC as I watch--just haven't gotten a chance to get it down.

So I saw--last week--Equatorial Guinea's first game of the tournament. Kudos to the commentators on ESPN for actually mentioning the allegations that several players for the team are men. I have heard other media outlets (NPR's Only a Game, for example) also talk about it. So that's good. Alas one of the ESPN guys, after noting in the pre-game commentary that two of the three accused players were not playing this tournament, urged us all to put that all aside to think about the soccer.
There were other interesting moments in that pre-game; and they seem to involve Brandi Chastain. First, on the shallower and more catty side of things, what's up with the hair? Someone needs to start a blog that deconstructs all of the Chastain's hair-dos this tournament. During this pre-game: several French braids ending in a long ponytail. She looked like a high school softball player. Who is doing this to her? Why does ESPN have such a difficult time with clothing and coiffing female commentators?

But her hair had nothing to do with her seemingly racist comment about how Equatorial Guinea, like of all Africa, is undisciplined. Not all African soccer players--just all of Africa--the whole continent. Probably not what she meant--but that's what she said. The Equatorial Guinea controversy is all tinged with racism, sexism, and colonialism. Doesn't look like the team will make it out of group play, though so I guess things will quiet down for a few years.
Follow up on Nigeria: the overt homophobia is getting a decent amount of press coverage, mostly centering on the coach who has continued to make comments about her amazing ability to purge lesbians from her team.
And FIFA just couldn't ignore it anymore, I imagine. They issued a pretty benign statement about Uche's comments:
"FIFA is against all forms of discrimination," Tatjana Haenni, FIFA's head of women's competitions, told German television channel ARD."We are here at a FIFA event and will point out that it would be best to express oneself neutrally."
Apparently Uche is going to get a talking-to and be reminded of FIFA's official anti-discrimination stance. I hope--though I have my doubts--that this little chat will be more effective than Penn State's little chats with former women's basketball coach Rene Portland, who also had a public no-lesbians policy.

Seems that some of the prominent stars of this World Cup are getting a lot of flack. The USA's Abby Wambach is in a scoring drought--which we hear about ad nauseum. But her place on the team is secure. Even with all the (successful) jockeying of line-ups by coach Pia Sundhage, Wambach has retained her prominent place up front. Germany's Birgit Prinz has not been so lucky. Her slump has resulted in much discussion in the German media and lead to her being taken out of the game against Nigeria in the second half. A theory has been posited by a German scholar that Prinz's performance has been the center of attention because the star's personal life has been kept very personal. As in--no one knows a lot about the team's star. Interestingly it sounds a lot like Wambach. We know about her large family and growing up in Rochester, NY. But not much more. Surprising that rumors about lesbianism float around these so-called private players? Not so much. Surprising that they remain private amidst these rumors? Nope. They are likely going to get criticism for their play regardless. I don't imagine adding aspects of their off-field life to those critiques is an especially appealing prospect.

And finally, an Iranian reporter and photojournalist has been taken into government custody. Maryam Majd was headed to cover the WWC but never made it. The Intelligence Ministry apparently searched her home and took some of her possessions and is currently holding her at an unknown location. Majd is one of the only Iranians to cover women's sports and is also a women's sports advocate. I have not yet heard of a campaign to free Majd or what actions the public might be able to take to help. If I do, I will post them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not live blogging the WWC: US v. North Korea

OK. So I know the outcome of the US's game against North Kore in that I know who wins. I do not know the score. But I had to get work done while the game was airing live and while I would ESPN3ed it while at the coffee shop, ESPN3 was having technical difficulties. So here I sit watching the recorded version. But I made the mistake of going on Facebook during the game. And since I am friends with Dr. Pants, well...I got the gist of it.
No matter. There is plenty to say.
The Girlfriend keeps trying to fast forward through the commentary. But then realized that all the good blog fodder comes in the commentary. So she lets me rewind--and offers her own commentary as well.

So first things first. Holy crap Abby Wambach! Sorry. But I haircut. She is looking hot. And I had thought I was over my Abby Wambach deeps-sighs-of-longing crush. But it's back. Interesting this more butch look to Wambach. Kind of resembles Amy LePeilbet's hair. She hasn't seemed to have an issue with the semi-butch look post college. Guess we're going to have to get more of those young Germans to pose in Playboy to counter this.

And speaking of semi-butch. Or de-butched. What have they done to Brianna Scurry? Pink plunging neckline dress and straightened hair. She is doing some commentary for ESPN, but she was clearly brought on today to talk about the Hope Solo affair. There was a little human interest piece about Solo and of course the 2007 controversy when she spoke out after being pulled from the game against Brazil saying that she would have made those saves. She reiterated that it was directed at the poor decision of the coach and not Scurry. But it's clear that Scurry has not gotten over it, even though she is a general manager of Solo's WPS team, which kind of shows that it is about talent and not always about the nicey-nice stuff. But Scurry continues to say--as do others--that the best teams are the ones on which everyone is friends. Tony DiCiccio, who noted that he has made a lot of mistakes coaching women, said he agreed with the friend theory. One of the other commentators asked if this was just an expectation on women's teams. Um, yes it is.
Game time!
Hope Solo looks like an eggplant. But I guess her uniform should be just as bad as the rest of the team's outfits. I mean, whoever wrote that these home outfits have that naughty nurse look to them...quite right. Except not that naughty. Actually not naughty at all. Quite staid in fact.

So all the US players wear heart rate monitors Julie Foudy announced. Apparently their conditioning coach is monitoring them at all times. Interesting. There has to be something there about cyborgs and machines and surveillance. Working too hard? Not hard enough?

Play thus far in the first half has not been so good for the US. North Korea is getting a lot more shots on goal and getting away with a lot of fouls. The Girlfriend's theory is that people feel bad for the North Koreans because of their totalitarian government, famine-stricken homeland, and the fact that if they lose, they get sent to the rock quarries. Seriously.

Halftime. No score. Though I suppose zero to zero is a score. Let's put it this way: no one has scored.
Halftime comments.
Um, Brandi Chastain, are you reliving your 80s childhood? What's up with the hair? The side French braid ponytail--not a good look.

Second half. More aggressive play from the US.

And finally a goal by Lauren Cheney. Good things happen when you don't send the ball right to the keeper--5 times. But yay!

And now Buehler. Julie Foudy is very excited by the defensive back's goal. It was a good one.
Whoa--Megan Rapinoe's hair is very blond. No sneak attack by this striker--whose starting position was taken by Lauren Cheney.
Oh, too bad about her goal being recalled.
And it's over. The Girlfriend says she has to root for the US but is worried about the fate of the North Korean players--most of whom are teenagers.
Interesting that there has not been much talk about the treatment of North Korean athletes. I am surprised actually given past international outrage about South Africa and, more recently, China's involvement in Darfur. I don't know about FIFA. No word on homophobia and nothing on North Korea's treatment of its own citizens and athletes.