Saturday, August 14, 2010

Men's v. women's sports

Sports in the United States is almost uniquely driven by allegiance to the jersey. You are a Yankees fan regardless of who is wearing the uniform, even former adversaries (it cut Red Sox fans to the core to see Wade Boggs win his first World Series title in pinstripes).

In fact, our attitude toward national squads in any sport is almost totally contrarian to the rest of the world (which made the nation’s embracing of the U.S. World Cup soccer squad astonishing when U.S. pro leagues have suffered constantly with poor live stadium attendance). Thus how we approach athletics, in terms of support and viewers, cannot be properly compared to the rest of the world.
Yes, in Europe and Asia, women’s sports matter more (and the pay scale reflects that). In South Korea, 2010 figure skating gold medalist Kim Yu-na is a national hero, as is Cathy Freeman of Australia for her 2000 Olympic victory. In those nations, these people remain emblematic stars while in the U.S. (with rare exceptions), it’s a “15-minutes of fame” accomplishment. You’d be hard pressed to name most of the gold medalists from the Vancouver Winter Games, aside by Evan Lysacek, and that’s because he was seen by more people on “Dancing with the Stars” than his actual noteworthy accomplishment.
It is also unfair to compare men’s and women’s team sports leagues because of the physical challenges. The NBA is dominated by its size, foot speed and jumping prowess, the repetitiveness of slam dunks, fast breaks and high-rising rebounders. Women simply cannot do that but shouldn’t be penalized for it. But tenacity and skills should not be discounted when UConn and Tennessee play one another in a collegiate championship; it’s as good as it gets (and probably better than many NCAA men’s tournament contests).
In my 30 years of covering sports (along with news), the BEST overall basketball player I ever saw was a woman (playing among girls as it turned out). I witnessed the emergence of Tamika Catchings in her senior year at Duncanville (Texas) High School and knew she would revolutionize the sport. She was long, tall (6-2) and could outrun and outjump almost every student in her school (male or female). The daughter of a former NBA player, she was the best shooter in the school (period) and could handle the basketball better than the point guard on the boys team.
As a junior, she led her volleyball squad to a state title (just to prove she could do it) and then, in her senior year, went undefeated in winning the state 5A basketball title, placing her on the same level as the greatest players in state history (joining the likes of Sheryl Swoopes). She went to Tennessee and did exactly what I knew she would – changing the traditional college game as a frontcourt player of size who could double as a backcourt player.
Team sports are driven by tradition; you are a “fan” regardless of roster and a “die hard” fan regardless of record. In the realm, male tradition will always dominate. But in individual sports, female athletes can emerge as popular as any male star and, in some cases, go further. Billie Jean King changed the world’s attitude toward women and tennis; Mary Lou Retton changed the world’s attitude toward women and gymnastics; Annika Sorenstam changed the world’s attitude toward women and golf; Jennie Finch changed the world’s attitude toward women and softball.
The real sadness has been the lack of replacement for these icons. In basketball, Kobe Bryant has followed Michael Jordan who followed Magic Johnson who followed Wilt Chamberlain, etc. As I said, when both Williams sisters retire, there is no foreseeable replacement to excite the public about women’s tennis; it’s simply hard to watch interchangeable young blonde Russian girls hitting tennis balls back and forth every week.
Female athletic accomplishments should be allowed to be judged on their own merits; not compared to the male team/individual model. And, yes, if a league cannot sustain itself through adequate fan support, it should probably depart from the sporting scene (including men’s soccer and the WNBA).
But do not downgrade the ability or effort of women for the inability to properly market and promote. If it were up to me, I’d cancel ALL NFL games because of everlasting boredom. They ARE good at self-promotion and over-hype.
I guess women’s sports need a Jerry Jones to get everyone’s attention, and to quote the late great Jimmy Durante, “What a revoltin’ development.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Holy shit!

What else can you say?
Here's the Associated Press story, word-for-word:
Manager: Levi Johnston to run for city office in Alaska

The Associated Press
Monday, August 9, 2010; 10:57 PM
JUNEAU, Alaska -- Levi Johnston may be following in Sarah Palin's footsteps.

Johnston's manager, Tank Jones, on Monday confirmed a report on Variety magazine's website that Johnston is planning to run for city office in his hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, as part of a reality TV show.
Wasilla is where Palin got her start in politics, moving up from City Council to mayor before winning election as Alaska's governor in 2006.
Jones said Johnston is serious about a run, either for mayor or City Council.
"Let me put it to you like this: If you live in a town and things are happening in that town, and you're displeased with it, what do you do? You try to change those things," Jones said.
He declined to give specifics on what Johnston wants to change but insisted the run is real. "This is not a spoof. This is not a joke," Jones said.
According to the Wasilla city clerk, the next mayoral election is in 2011. The candidate filing period for council elections this October closed July 30. Johnston isn't listed among those candidates.
Wasilla's outspoken current mayor, Verne Rupright, was at a meeting Monday and didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
Johnston, 20, is the father of Palin's grandson, Tripp, and the recently off-again flame to her daughter Bristol. He has seemingly come to embrace the spotlight since first being thrust into it in 2008, amid Palin's bid for vice president, when he and Bristol were unwed teenagers expecting a child together.
Since then, he's gone on to pose for Playgirl and appear with Kathy Griffin on her reality show. On Sunday, he walked the red carpet at the Teen Choice Awards with singer Brittani Senser, with whom he agreed to shoot a music video.
Asked whether he believed people would take Johnston's run for office seriously, with TV cameras rolling, Jones said: "People questioned Jesus Christ, so I definitely don't care about these mere mortals questioning Levi Johnston.
"People can question whatever they want. I mean, he's going to keep on doing his thing," he said. "He was going to do this, even if this wasn't a reality show."

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sign of the (past and future present) times

Perhaps this is the entrance sign to the city of Plano, Texas, that really reflects the peoples' attitudes - a heartless, cruel, cold and unsympathetic community. Sadly, too many of its citizens exude non-"Christian" values toward their fellow man, woman and children.
Damn, I wish we could move...