Julia Mancuso, why are you doing this tiara thing? It is pretty lame. And Apolo Ohno, what are you trying to say with that bandana and soul patch?
I've been addicted to the Winter Olympics for the past 14-ish days, making my couch into a bed and falling asleep and waking up to the Olympics. I have watched more Today than I ever thought possible, in hopes of glimpsing interviews with and profiles of my favorite Olympians. And in this time, I have grown to really enjoy Julia Mancuso and Apolo Ohno and their incredible, badass skiing and skating skills.
What I don't understand is why a grown-ass lady with such amazing athletic ability has to paint a tiara on her helmet and put on a glittery crown when she gets medals. Or why Apolo Ohno can't time warp out of 2002 and ditch the rap-rock bandana and facial hair.
For better or worse, high-profile athletes are role models. So lucky for us ladies, when we are confused about what to do with our own bodies, we don't have to think for ourselves any more! We can just ask college football star and '07 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
Or, rather, we can have Tim Tebow--and his mom, who did not abort him, praise Jesus! Thankyouthankyouthankyou, Jesus! Also, Jesus!--tell us what to do in their upcoming, much-publicized anti-choice Super Bowl commercial sponsored by right-wing Evangelical Christian coalition of misogynist, homophobic nutbags Focus on the Family. I know that "Tim Tebow's mom didn't have an abortion that one time" is maybe the best reason I can think of to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
"I know some people won't agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe," Tebow said. "I've always been very convicted of it (his views on abortion) because that's the reason I'm here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it."
No, Tim Tebow, I cannot at least respect that you stand up for what you believe. Why?
If ladies' gymnastics doesn't have enough face-punching for you, you're in luck with the 2012 olympics: as we mentioned last week, women's boxing is now officially an olympic sport. Of course, throwing a big face-punching party is not quite in order ... and not just because a sport that centers around actually trying to injure someone else is, maybe, suspect for either or any gender. Seems the weight classes for women's boxing are participant-limiting at best and eating disorder-inducing at worst.
There are three weight classes. Flyweights, which are at around 106-112 pounds, lightweight at 123-132 pounds and middleweight, 152-165 pounds. Surely, you see where we're going with this. The Women's Rights blog at Change.org frames the dilemma thusly:
The problem with this structure lies not just in the number of women
that will be excluded from participation because their weight ranges
fall above or below the limitations, but also in the large gaps between
each class. A woman weighing 140 pounds, for example, would be required
to either gain 12 pounds or lose 8 in order to be able to participate
in any of the designated weight classes. This presents a situation that
could promote unhealthy eating or exercise habits among women who
desire to participate in Olympic boxing, but whose natural body
structures render them ineligible.
One need not be a boxing expert to realize that, say, a 120 lb woman probably has an advantage if she loses eight pounds to be on the heavy end of the flyweight division rather than gaining a few pounds to be on the low end of lightweight.
I'm not sure if I'm quite ready to hop on the alarm-sounding bandwagon; we're talking about a loss or gain of 8, 10 pounds. Athletes are already in touch with their bodies and interested in keeping them in tippy-top shape. Starving oneself may make one lighter, but most any athlete could tell you that it's unlikely to make you much stronger. And in a sport where you need to be as strong as possible (again with the face-punching) I can't see too much rampant weight-hand-wringing. Should there be a heavyweight category? Absolutely. Should there be more continuity in the categories? Perhaps. Do we have to lose our shit about these athletes wasting away just yet? Nah.
If ever there were a prime candidate to be a women's sports fan, it's this gal right here. Not only did I spend much of my childhood playing a variety of sports, from soccer to basketball, to softball to volleyball, I genuinely look forward to events like the Final Four, Super Bowl, etc. I follow my favorite teams--OK, I really just follow anything that comes out of my hometown of Dallas--and know more about Tony Romo than Jessica Simpson. No, I don't track statistics and rarely follow off-season happenings that don't involve felonies, but when it comes to sporty things, I can hang.
Trouble is, I talk a big game when it comes to women's sports, because I rarely follow them unless something record-breaking happens. And when it comes to tennis and golf, which are probably the best publicized of any women's sports, well, they're just downright boring to me, no matter what sex is playing. But soccer--which I learned to love while living in England--and basketball, which is fast-paced and holler-worthy almost every time, ought to be great entry points for a potential ladysports fan like myself. So why don't women like me--and male sports fans, generally--follow women's sports?
That's a question asked by Mark Starr in the GlobalPost this weekend. The headline, "What's wrong with women's sports?" almost got my blood a-boiling. Because the last thing I need to read is some wanky male sports reporter talking about how women's sports deserve every ounce of non-attention they get because they're slow, boring, untalented, not surrounded by titty-beer commercials, etc. Instead, Starr makes the argument that it's not the athletes who are to blame, but the spectator culture (or lack thereof) surrounding them, which results in a lack of funding:
While women's sports boast an abundance of talent, they still lack a
broad fan base. Too many male sports fans, still by far the dominant
force in sports consumerism, regard women's sports as a marginal
entertainment. Perhaps even more of a problem, the sports spectator
culture among women hasn't kept pace with the participatory one.
Women don't seem to embrace the "couch potato" traditions -- and
certainly not the label -- as readily as male fans. And though women
attend sporting events in increasing numbers, girls' night out isn't as
likely to include a women's soccer game or basketball game as boys'
night out is a baseball or basketball game (and perhaps a second late
game on the pub TV afterwards).
Indeed, I think I buy Starr's argument, at least on the surface (there are a number of mitigating factors, not least poor coverage of women's sports and underfunded programs). But the spectator question is key; even though I was always encouraged both to play and to watch sports as a kid, most girls I know were not.
You'd barely know it from watching ESPN's YouTube channel coverage of the X Games (I don't have television, we've already been over this) but there are women competing in the alt sports event. This year, Lyn-z Adams Hawkins, Karen Jonz and Gaby Ponce, all completed something called a "kickflip indy," making it the first time three women have done the trick in one event. From what this square non-skater can gather, that's when you kick the board, flip it over and grab the board in the air before you land. What you just read there was the dorkiest attempt at writing about something cool, ever.
Lyn-z (it's so much more fun to call her that than "Hawkins") took home the gold medal for her kickflip indy and attempt at a couple of McTwists. But, from what I can tell, the only ESPN video of her skating (embedding disabled by UGH) at this year's X Games contains neither kickflip indy nor McTwist attempt. Did they not even film the women's vert? Then again, it was just yesterday, so maybe they've not gotten around to it yet. Fingers McCrossed.
The lack of ladies' X Games coverage continues to disappoint. There are zero videos of vert medalists Jonz or Ponce on ESPN. These are the top women skaters in a pretty-fun-to-watch event, and ESPN can't be bothered to throw something up on the Internet about it? It's not like they'd be taking sweet advertising time away from Gatorade Sponsoring More Dudes Jumping Over Stuff And Crashing.
Until women's sports are given more than token coverage, female athletes (and aspiring athletes) will lack the motivation and role models needed to push them to a professional level of competition. Oftentimes I hear sports fans complaining that women's events are boring or less athletically intense than men's events, but it never seems to occur to folks that this is an effect, rather than a cause, of undercoverage and underappreciation.
An intrepid Wall Street Journal reporter writing a story about the 25th anniversary of the first ever dunk in women's NCAA history has finally managed to find the only tape of the historic slam. It was kept under wraps for years by a coach who apparently had his panties in the biggest wad ever over the incident.
ESPN has a profile today of Georgann Wells, who, at nearly 6' 7" tall, played for the University of West Virginia in the 80's. The dunk came in a game against the University of Charleston team, whose coach sat his jealous ass on the tape, which was found after his death in '99.
Footage of the dunk comes around 3:55. It's fuzzy and far away, but you can totally see Wells owning it.
If the New York Times can be condescending about how fashionable and trendy it is to be blue collar and broke, I feel as though HeartlessDoll can be cheerleady about how badass bowling, long a working class pastime, actually is.
Right now--like, right this minute--the USBC women's bowling championships are taking place in ... wait for it ... Reno! Reno! Of course the women's bowling championships are in Reno. While some may see Reno as the sad little sister of Vegas and HQ to a pack of the world's most incompetent cops, it's currently improving in my eyes by being the home of begloved ladies throwing big balls around.
I can't find any web video of the current championships, but here's the 2007 Malaysian team kicking ass to some very, very tense music.
The madness: it is here, and it is March. I hate getting my heart broken, so I wait for the final (seconds) before I pick a team. I am never disappointed, and I never have to buy some bragging schmuck-friend a pitcher. But as much as I love college sports, I find it hard to like the lax academia that often comes along with it. So I was pleased--and not in the least surprised--to read today that women college sports players perform way, way better academically than the guys. Yayuh, laydeez:
Four teams in the women's round of 16 had perfect graduation rates,
while five of the remaining men's teams graduated 50 percent or fewer
of their players, according to a study released Wednesday. The
report from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that
top-seeded Connecticut, Ohio State, Stanford and Vanderbilt gave
diplomas to 100 percent of their women's players during a six-year
period. Seven other teams still alive had higher graduation success
rates than the two top men's teams.
What I don't understand is the apparent surprise from the researchers:
"The fact that there were so many women's teams that were higher than
the top men's team was a little startling," said Richard Lapchick, who
heads the institute at the University of Central Florida.
A lot of players on NCAA sweet sixteen teams are probably looking toward playing professionally, if they didn't abandon the idea of college altogether, that is. Considering there's a hell of a lot more money and prestige in the NBA than the WNBA, how can it possibly be surprising that the women are concentrating more on their studies than their three-point shots?
Last week I was waiting in line to buy a couple of textbooks at my local university co-op, which is endowed with fancy things like flat screen televisions thanks, in no small part, to our badass athletics program. (Hey, did you guys hear Texas beat Oklahoma? Never forget.) It was, I think, mid-afternoon and a women's basketball game played on the screen. Dude behind me could not abide it: "What the fuck are they playing this shit for? Nobody cares." He says this to his buddy, who grunts. I thought about the kind of argument I would have with a dude who describes women's sports as "this shit," and I decided I'd just pay for my books and leave.
Attitudes like this--from apparent sports fans, nonetheless--will make it hard enough to launch Women's Professional Soccer, a new pro league that hopes not to suffer the same fate as the Women's United Soccer Association, which died a swift death in three seasons. But then there's also this teeny tiny recession thing going on, where even big pro leagues and teams are suffering. Today's Washington Post article about the WPS' struggles kicks off (YSWIDT?) the discussion:
"If you look at the marketplace -- for everyone, not just the women's
league -- it is really strained right now," said David Carter, who runs
the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute.
"It's incredibly unfortunate [for WPS] because it looks as though they
have corrected their business model, and you just hope they can take it
for a credible spin. It's just bad timing."
Obviously this economy is more than terrible and unpredictable, but the WPS biz model sounds pretty reasonable: players have six-month contracts and work other soccer-related jobs for the other half of the year. Smaller venues are being booked and conservative spending might mean more longevity. What, you mean throwing tons of money at something that may not be profitable isn't a good idea? Gosh, where did we learn that recently ... hrm.