Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Burn the skirts!

No--just kidding. Don't burn anything. Fire is dangerous.
But at least female badminton players can ditch their skirts if they would rather play in shorts (or pants I would assume).
The Badminton World Federation has nixed its plans to require female athletes to wear skirts in competitions. There was a sizable enough outcry to make it a rule not worth fighting for. But the federation--still concerned with the aesthetic appeal if its female athletes--is urging the women to look as good as possible for the cameras in London. The men, too, though apparently their appeal is not tied to skirts.
Still looking for more appealing and camera-friendly outfits, though, the BWT is working directly with apparel companies in an attempt to get them to offer players better outfits. So, technically, they could encourage these companies to offer mostly skirts and dresses to women while providing just a few shorts options. But they wouldn't do that, would they?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wishy, washy IOC ridiculousness

Has anyone written about the highly problematic tenure of IOC president Jacques Rogge? I want to fast forward to a few decades from now and read about his legacy. I can't imagine it will be favorable.
The inspiration for these frustrations? The IOC, as lead by Rogge, is still trying to work it out with Saudi Arabian officials to get some Saudi women to London in a few months to compete in the Olympics.
The only firm thing: Rogge said Saudi women will not be competing under the (neutral) IOC flag.
The IOC is getting pressure from human rights groups around the globe to sanction the Saudis if they do not allow women to compete in these games. But Rogge is not ready to talk sanctions.
Some of his comments on the situation:
It's not an easy situation.
We're working steadily with them to find a good solution.
There is a commitment. (to what and by whom?)
We are continuing to discuss with them...
Wait and see.
We do not want to enter into any hypothetical questions.

 Good grief. How much longer is this going to continue?

Poetry Friday

A little Shakespeare; a little (melancholy) spring sonnet.

From you have I been absent in the spring... (Sonnet 98)  

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
     Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
     As with your shadow I with these did play.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's nice when a national leader speaks out...

...against the sexualization of female athletes as epitomized by the Lingerie Football League.
It didn;t happen here in the US. But the Australian Minister of Sports had a few choice words for the Lingerie Football League which is trying to expand its brand down under. Those words included: degrading, cheap, and perv(erted).
I am sure if the US had a minister of sport, s/he would speak out against the LFL. And the Lingerie Basketball League. And the new inline Bikini Hockey League.
Maybe we need a Minister of Sport.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tennis Hall of Fame ducking the issue

In 1992 South African Bob Hewitt was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame. It's possible that I was even there that year to see it. (I'd have to ask my dad.)
What very few knew then was that years later women from all over the globe would come forward with charges of sexual abuse against Hewitt, who served as a tennis coach in the US and abroad after his playing career was over. Various entities are investigating the charges, (the statute of limitations has expired in the US for filing criminal charges) but the Hall of Fame is not one of them--despite earlier promises that they would.
Abuse perpetuated by coaches is not an uncommon as we might like to believe. There have been years and years of silence in a myriad of sport: swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, among others. But sport federations and associations are starting to own up to the past and taking actions in the present to try to prove they will not turn a blind eye to sexual abuse.
When the US Gymnastics Hall of Fame found out last year that one of its inductees was accused of sexual abuse, they took him out of the HoF.
But apparently not wanting to get their hands too dirty with messes that happened long ago, the tennis HoF has opted to make a policy. What the policy will be and whether it will be applied only to potential future inductees is unknown because Executive Director Mark Stenning isn't explaining the policy at all.
It's interesting how the tennis powers that be are handling this situation versus other sports governance bodies. News of bad behavior by athletes and coaches emerges all the time. Sometimes it is handled; sometimes it is handled well; sometimes it is swept under the carpet. Sometimes awards and honors and medals are rescinded.
The people in Newport are sweeping this one as furiously as they possibly can under those nicely manicured grass courts. Stan Smith, current president of the HoF, will not comment on the issue.
And what I hadn't really even thought of--until I read the above-linked Boston Globe article--was that this is not new for the tennis HoF. Andre Agassi admitted to lying about illegal drug use (the tennis community was somewhat complicit in this situation, though). Boris Becker was convicted of tax evasion. Vitus Gerulaitis was connected to a plan to sell cocaine. Bill Tilden was convicted of inappropriate sexual contact with minors.
And this year: Jennifer Capriati is the headline inductee. That picture of her after being arrested for shoplifting and in possession of marijuana is hard to forget.
This is not to say that all these people should automatically be expelled or not up for consideration, but rather that the HoF doesn't seem to be considering the situations at all. Merely talking about them will tarnish the image of the sport--is what the HoF seems to be thinking. But failure to do so will have a much more negative effect.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My existential crisis on a bike

The day was warm, the hills were long or steep--sometimes both. And as I sped down one such hill--a series actually of downhills--I thought "what's the point?" I had climbed and climbed and climbed all morning. And my reward was these downhills. But they didn't feel like a reward. What's the point of all the climbing, of all the hard work if I'm just going to go downhill at 30 miles an hour? Why bother going uphill at all? It's so easy to go downhill. The hours of work is negated in minutes. It is so easy to lose elevation after fighting so hard to go so high. The downhills--which I usually enjoy--felt like failure.
Maybe it was because the roads were bumpy and every time I hit a particularly egregious bump at 30 miles an hour, I was reminded that I really needed to pee. Maybe I was dehydrated. Maybe I was just having a bad day.
I did snap out of it by the end of the ride. Perhaps it was all the recorded reality I was able to examine post ride: how far, how fast, how high I went; how many calories burned. Or maybe it was just the Twizzlers at the finish.

Femininity and running

Several things have conspired to lead to this post--the most recent being that two minutes ago a woman ran by the cafe I am sitting at grading papers wearing a running skirt--just as I was thinking about running skirts and the reasons women give for wearing.
I was thinking about this because of this article about the growth of female distance runners. This piece focuses on Portland, Oregon. It was a smidge of history. I did learn that Joan Benoit Samuelson would walk when a car drove by her as she was running. The piece overall is an important reminder of how women's participation in distance running does not have a long and rich history.
It has a controversial history, however, as noted by the article sent to me by a friend. If you study sport and sport history, you likely know about the one time the IOC decided to let the women run a little bit longer and then they all collapsed from the exertion of running 800 meters and it was too much for people to bear and so they banned distance events for women until the 1980s.
This piece from Running Times notes the hype around the post-event (somewhat constructed) drama in Amsterdam in 1928. Men were shocked at the "spectacle" and fear--the same fear that had carried over from the 19th century about women being desexed, in fertile, and not so pretty anymore (premature aging was the fear in 1928)--reigned. The reporter from the New York Post wrote that he saw "11 wretched women, 5 of whom dropped out before the finish, while 5 collapsed after reaching the tape."
This was not the most accurate of reporting it turns out. There were only nine runners. All of them finished. Only one "collapsed" after the finish line. Not bad given that it was a hot day, the semifinal heats had been run only 24 hours prior and that the top three finishers came in under world record time.
So fast forward to today. Women run--some are still run off the road when they train, and still leered at sexually; apparel and accessories makers are all over the female market. And now we have running skirts.
So that same fear of defeminization clearly still exists. Except now the discourse has been constructed in such a way that women "choose" to feminize themselves. "It’s kind of fun to look feminine when you're running sometimes" said a female manager at a running store in Portland.
If wearing a skirt is really more comfortable when running (inner thigh chub causes a lot of tugging of shorts--I know!) then wear them. Wear them because it's practical. That's what training gear is supposed to be. But if it's the same as running shorts--why reinvent the wheel? Are you really going to go out, as the above cited manager suggests, after your run, to a place where you need to be wearing a running skirt? Are you going someplace where the spandex skirt will compensate for your sweaty and disheveled look in a way that running shorts will not?
A friend of mine wrote her dissertation about running skirts and the industry around women's running. I hope she turns it into a book! So many issues to explore.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


WPS announced that it is folding. Not a surprise. Something most of us have been bracing for.
Tough week. Lost Donna Summers (did my little tribute to her in spin class this morning) and the WPS.
This column lays out the sitch including the role that the former owner of MagicJack had in the league's demise. And it offers some hope to fans of women's soccer.
Don't forget--there are still two semi-professional teams. The Boston Breakers still exist, for example. And it includes premier players.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My weekly "oh my" moment brought to you by...

...the Bikini Hockey League.

One of the first things one teaches in a Sport Sociology course is how to define a sport and the various criteria that have been used at various times in various cultures.
It might be time to add to that conversation about definitions. This league obviously isn't meant to be sport. The tryouts aren't even tryouts. It's a casting call--with no requirement that a potential "player" mention anything about her hockey skills.
And the press release reveals that this is all about creating a reality show--not an actual hockey league.
Sex it up and dumb it down (for audiences) I guess is the motto of this production.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's not an Onion story

A story about the baseball team from Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows Academy forfeiting a state championship because there was a girl playing on the opposing team.
I thought it was a farce.
It is ridiculous--but it is true.
The academy, located in Arizona, is founded and adheres to the principles of the Society of Saint Pius X, a separatist branch of the Catholic Church. One of these tenets is the separate teaching of boys and girls--which extends to sports.
Perpetual Sorrows is a regular season opponent of Mesa Prep--the state winner, by default--but the players in questions, second baseperson Paige Sultzbach had voluntarily sat out of previous encounters. But she didn't think it was fair to forfeit her own rightful place as a player in a state championship. So Perpetual Sorrows opted not to compete.
It's their right to do so of course.  But I wonder what lessons their students are learning from this?

Opting out is not new. Stories about male wrestlers "choosing" not to wrestle female competitors abound. Some have invoke Christianity--i.e., it's not Christian for men to use force against women. I guess it is Christian-like then for women to use force against men? Or for men to use brute, disabling force against other men--like all those Christian-identified football players?
And other St. Pius X schools have either opted out or mandated that people play by their rules. St. Mary's Academy in Kansas successfully (kind of) prevented a female from referring their boys' basketball game. Well, once, at least. The secular high school sports governance body in the state did not seem to condone this. The same school also refused to let its football team play another school whose team had a female student-athlete.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

...and they were convincing

As I mentioned yesterday, the critiques of professional football have trickled down--and created new critiques of both college  and high school and even youth football.
In a public debate on college football, Buzz Bissinger reiterated his argument about the economic and educational costs of college football. On his side of the debate was writer Malcolm Gladwell who focused on the injuries incurred. On the other side of the debate, held on Tuesday night at NYU, were former NFL player and current broadcaster Tim Green and Fox Sports commentator Jason Whitlock.
Polls were taken before the debate, sponsored by Slate and Intelligence Squared, and then afterwards. Bissinger and Gladwell had a solid majority and seemed to have swayed the most people with their arguments. Green and Whitlock pointed out things like the lack of long-term studies on brain injuries, the camaraderie of the game, and that it teaches diversity, tolerance, and cooperation. (My guess is that gay men probably didn't have that universal experience of tolerance and respect for diversity.) They also promoted the connection to patriotism. Probably not the best argument to sway a Slate-reading, NYU-attending audience.
Anyway, the coverage of the debate is worth checking out. What comes of it is worthy of many, many more debates.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Glad someone said it

I was having deep discussions with my collaborator just yesterday about how to make changes in intercollegiate athletics that benefit both women and racial minorities. Football always seems like this monstrous blockade to potential solutions.
It's hard to simply say "nix football."
But someone has. The writer of Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger, has written a column for the Wall Street Journal saying that football serves no purpose in colleges and universities--causing more harm than good. He focuses mostly on the economic harms and the false promises football makes.
He doesn't even mention the physical harm to players, an issue that has become even more salient since Junior Seau's suicide last week.
Frank Deford does though in his weekly NPR piece. He notes that even as former NFL players pursue their class action suit against the league over safety issues, that the lower levels of the game should also be concerned. According to Deford, 5 million teens play youth or high school football and half of them have had concussions. A third of them have had multiples.
When do we, as a society, start engaging in a reasonable cost-benefit analysis regarding the role of football in our schools and as a favored mode of entertainment?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Poetry Friday

I'm hanging out at Yale today so I thought I would put up a poem by an alum. J.D. McClatchy earned his PhD here in the 70s. I like this poem--perhaps even more so because I don't relate to it all. Have no experience of being a middle aged man with a boggy prostrate. But I still it's a great piece of (good) nostalgia, longing, reluctance.


It's over, love.  Look at me pushing fifty now,
   Hair like grave-grass growing in both ears,
The piles and boggy prostate, the crooked penis,
   The sour taste of each day's first lie,

And that recurrent dream of years ago pulling
   A swaying bead-chain of moonlight,
Of slipping between the cool sheets of dark
   Along a body like my own, but blameless.

What good's my cut-glass conversation now, 
   Now I'm so effortlessly vulgar and sad?
You get from life what you can shake from it?
   For me, it's g and t's all day and CNN.  

Try the blond boychick lawyer, entry level
   At eighty grand, who pouts about the overtime, 
Keeps Evian and a beeper in his locker at the gym, 
   And hash in tinfoil under the office fern.  

There's your hound from heaven, with buccaneer 
   Curls and perfumed war-paint on his nipples.  
His answering machine always has room for one more 
   Slurred, embarrassed call from you-know-who.  

Some nights I've laughed so hard the tears 
   Won't stop.  Look at me now.  Why now?  
I long ago gave up pretending to believe 
   Anyone's memory will give as good as it gets.  

So why these stubborn tears?  And why do I dream 
   Almost every night of holding you again, 
Or at least of diving after you, my long-gone, 
   Through the bruised unbalanced waves?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Would they be sexy if they wore pink?

I know I'm a slacker blogger whenever Dr. Pants sends me a link to a blogworthy story/article/column.
This one is especially good because it's about female fandom, soccer, and sex objects--and people who say dumb things. 
This time is was an employee of Major League Soccer (MLS) who disparaged avid female soccer fans basically by calling them unsexy. A few issues about this statement:
First, as the author of this opinion piece on Bust Magazine's blog notes, women do not exist for the sole purpose of being sexy for men.
Second, can soccer in the US really afford to be disparaging fans? Haven't we heard over and over how unpopular soccer is in this country?
Third, a question: so what's this all about?
I haven't seen or heard of similar critiques of female fans in other sports. And there are some pretty avid fans out there of, for example, various NFL teams. Is it because these avid soccer fans are wearing team or country colors and not pink, deep V-neck, tight-fitting shirts?? The media I have read about female fans of men's professional sports has been positive--well in terms of being supported and even advocated for by league officials and administrators. A "new" fan base that we can make and sell products to? Great--bring em on! Though this guy does speak for MLS in that he said these things about unsexy avid fans on a podcast in his position as a representative of MLS--it does not necessarily mean he speaks for the entire organization. If and how MLS responds to this remains to be seen.
So, then, is this a territory thing? Are only men allowed to be avid fans, painting their faces, buying team gear? Are women as fans a threat somehow? The guy said that it would be a turnoff to guys if a woman got all geared up and listened to podcasts about soccer all the time. Why? Because that's a man's job? It's very curious to me. I thought one of the complaints that heterosexual men had was that their female partners did not understand their obsession with sports. These women seem to understand--and embrace--avid fandom. So why isn't the MLS embracing them?