Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Of course tennis isn't her favorite game

Serena Williams said, publicly, in early January, that she doesn't love tennis.
Gordon Smith, USTA executive director and chief operating officer, publicly expressed his disappointment in the comments at a meeting in Atlanta not too long afterwards.
The article made this comment about the situation: "It's not often you hear the USTA speaking candidly about current players."
First, it's not surprising that Smith made an exception for the younger Williams. Serena is continually drawing criticism for her comments--especially when they are not in keeping with the parochial views of the tennis establishment.
Second--of course she doesn't love the game of tennis. It's a hard life. The GF noted, when we were at the Australian Open, sweltering in the stands (which were at least ten degrees cooler than the on-court temperature) that the life of a tennis professional is not all that glamorous. It may look glamorous but it's a lot of travel, a lot of physical challenges and outright physical pain, odd social situations, not a lot of stability, a ton of pressure no matter where you fall in the rankings, crazy heat, separation from family, dealing with the business side of the game, etc.
Serena Williams has had to negotiate all of this--and more--like the racism that still exists in the tennis world, and the world at large, of course. She has not subscribed wholeheartedly to the rhetoric about what and how a professional tennis player's life should be. And I think that ticks people off.
We rarely hear professional athletes discuss--while they are in their playing days--the negatives of their sports and the lifestyles their sports demand. We hear about it afterwards: Andre Agassi went no holds barred in his memoir. Former professional football players have been speaking out about the health issues they have that were and continue to be ignored, for the most part.
Are people worried that Serena is lifting the curtain up and revealing some kind of awful truth about the world of professional sports: that for all the money (if you are one of the best of the best) and the models (if you're Tom Brady) and fame, sometimes it really stinks and it wears on an individual. I don't think she should be called out for saying that out loud.

Monday, January 30, 2012

WPS suspends 2012 season

I'm actually ok with this news. One, it's better than folding altogether. Two, it's an Olympic year so the big names, the women who would bring many fans to the stadiums wouldn't be around anyway. I think it would have been an emotionally and financially distressful season. Third, I am super busy this spring and summer, so pretty much just watching the Olympics was all I was going to be able to commit to. :)
I think WPS execs made a good decision. Well a good decision in response to a not-so-good one to allow magicJack owner Dan Borislow to purchase and move the Washington Freedom. (Is it weird that I always think of that cartoon characters Boris Badenov when I hear Borislow's name??)
No Boston Breakers for me--or anyone else--in 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Australian Open experience

We made it over to Margaret Court Arena and saw no rainbow flags. The first day it was late in the day, though, so maybe the protesters had left. It was really hot both days so maybe they made their point and left. Or maybe they figured they were oppressed enough without the weather conditions and are waiting for cooler temps.
We did, however, get to hear the guys behind us use several derogatory terms for gay people while we were watching a match today. Cheers!
We did see Jelena Jankovic play Brit Laura Robson in Margaret Court. And Kuznetsova. And Gael Monfils.
In Rod Laver, we saw Federer beat a qualifer and Wozniacki easily dismissed Australian Anastasia Rodionova. Saw the battle of the French women with Marion Bartoli taking down compatriot Virginie Razzano.
Robson had too many unforced errors.

Jankovic sporting Fila now. (Other players with new labels: Stosur with Asics, Bartoli with Lotto.)
We've been watching on television at night too. The bummer is that it's Australian coverage, of course, and Jim Courier works for them. Quite annoying!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Shall I bring my rainbow flag?

So I'm in Australia! Got to Melbourne this past weekend after almost a week in Sydney. And today (it's Monday here) we head to the night session at the Australian Open! Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki are on the schedule.
Found out this morning that Australian former player Margaret Court, who has an arena named after her at Melbourne Park, has been making some anti-gay marriage statements lately--in the context of her position as a Pentecostal pastor. Apparently these are views she has always held. But perhaps not so wise to make them again publicly right before the start of the Open and during Melbourne's biggest gay celebration: Midsumma. And, according to some gay men we met yesterday who were civilly unionized in Scotland, gay marriage in Australia is a big issue right now
So in protest, people are headed to Margaret Court Arena with their rainbow flags for a visible, yet peaceful and quiet, protest. We have tix for Rod Laver tonight, but tomorrow we have grounds passes and so will head over to check out the scene.

Court says she doesn't hate gay people. And she gave Sam Stosur some advice on playing on her home court.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The benefits of "in your face"?

Yes, that is an extraneous s there.
Well that was pretty blatant, no?
This story about a t-shirt for Alabama fans to wear to New Orleans when the Tide take on LSU later this week has been sent around various circles I find myself in, engendering resignation and disgust and disappointment.
My initial response--what this post was going to be all about before I read "below the fold"--not that I know where the fold is on blog posts (which is where this story was broken)--was about the relief that blatant homophobia can bring.
Paradoxical, I realize. But in my experience of studying discrimination in sport, I have encountered many obstacles in the way of proving such discrimination when it occurs on a more subtle level. Accusations of overanalysis, over sensitivity, over feminism, etc. are frequently levelled at critics of policies and events that have discriminatory effects. Back-tracking and non-apologies along with blatant denial and less-than-rigorous investigations are the norm.
But "Hey Homeauxs" followed by a statement of violence is pretty blatant.
It reveals the homophobia that persists in our culture at large and, in particular, in sports.  It is a teachable moment that most people can understand. I shall use it myself next semester.

There was more to this story. The many who wrote the initial blog post, Kevin Farrell, about the t-shirt found more information about the University's involvement (there was none--they condemned the t-shirt) and the person who was largely responsible for it. And then the blogger published the responsible party's name and contact information. To his credit, the man has apologized profusely and said he did not mean the statement to indicate violence against gay people, rather that is a line in reference to the Alabama fight song. Farrell believes this man but also said that the guy did not understand why homeauxs (sic) was offensive. Let me explain: even when you dress it up in faux French fashion, it is still a derogatory term for gay people when it is used in this (and most) context.
The t-shirt is not being printed. The business owner has asked that his name be removed from Farrell's post because of all the negative attention he is getting from it and because he is genuinely sorry. But Farrell was right in his rationale to keep the information up. If he had not intervened--no one would have. Those t-shirts would have shown up in New Orleans worn by UA fans and students and I would have been writing this blog post from Australia next week, when I have better things to do!
Yes, it's unfortunate that a so-called nice guy is being allegedly punished for his mistake. But it's the 21st century and I hope that the social contract is starting to require accountability for the privilege of ignorance. This is not a legal issue and thus we cannot just look at intent, because there are bigger issues. Good people can act in discriminatory ways and remain ignorant to them. Just like good people can be the victims of such ignorance and discrimination.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Will 2012 be the tipping point?

I believe somewhat in tipping points--the moment in which society says "no way; no more; too much." Of course certain historical moments refute the concept of the tipping point; i.e. the Holocaust (uh-oh did I just lose that argument?).
But it works some times. Like when women's reproductive rights are threatened, there seems to be a feminist resurgence.
So I thought that maybe last year with the growth of lingerie leagues (football and basketball), we might be closing in on that tipping point. The moment where people wake up and see that the sexification of women who play sports is problematic. There was definitely a response to these leagues. Dr. Nicole LaVoi did a great job commenting on these leagues. But league owners were rather brash and unapologetic in their pursuit of dollars. "Sex sells" was repeated with vigor rather than resignation.
So I am not predicting that the latest "le sigh" moment will be the tipping point. Rather I am just hoping.
Dennis Rodman is starting his own topless women's basketball team. An idea he apparently got from someone else--a cabaret owner who thought a topless women's team would cheer up people when it looked like the NBA season would be cancelled.
Women who try out for Rodman's team have to be at least 5'10 but do not need much basketball playing experience.
So why might this NOT be a tipping point? Well for one it's not a large endeavor that is being advertised to the public-at-large. It is happening at/through a gentlemen's club (oh, the irony of that term). And second, this seems more like a fetish and less like an athletic event. Like those wrestling videos of yore. It's not about the athletic prowess and it seems like it isn't even pretending to be about that.
We shall see how much attention this thing gets.