Monthly Archives: November 2007

Disorderly Conduct 101

I just had to wait for things to simmer down. To allow the NFL to muddle through some sort of excuse for allowing the Neanderthal behavior to continue along Concourse_d Concourse D during New York Jets games. To see what other thoughtless statements would hemorrhage from the security forces in charge of keeping the peace at Giant Stadium (the stadium is shared by two football teams, the NY Giants and the Jets). But, now, it’s been almost a week since the New York Times broke the story. At this point, I’m doubtful that I can be appeased on this front. I wonder if I ever could have been satisfied.

Now, those of you who know us, know that Jackie and I are no prudes. But I don’t think you have to be a prude to not like getting groped by strangers. I don’t care who you are, it’s happened to all of us. Some of you can say that these women should have stayed away from Concourse D if they didn’t want to be subjected (or subjugated?) to the halftime ritual where men line up and yell for women to lift up their shirts. You think women have to go to places like Concourse D to get groped? How naïve! Those who oblige the mass of men are rewarded with cheers “You’re not uptight like those other girls!” “One of the Nfl_ball gang!” “Dude, your girlfriend is hot!” Those women who do not participate are sometimes spit upon and jeered. Now, some guy might say, “Hey, you want to grope my package, it’s OK with me!” Even better if the voices of a hundred women are screaming for you to show them the money (or the loose change or whatever you’ve got)!  We know that men and women, as a group, think of these things differently. Those hundred voices booming through the concourse?  Taunts.  Bullying.  Shivers go up the spine. “Loosen up! Have fun! Lift up your shirt!” Are you the hunter or the hunted?

Apart from society’s ills, I am irked about how the NFL positioned itself as some forward-thinking league when it comes to marketing to women. Baloney, say I. Why so cynical? Because it is a load of crock when it becomes clear that the league as a whole has done the minimum to show its women fan base it cares so that they can feed the fuzzy story to the media. I could go on, but Jackie would probably prefer that I don’t cuss in our blog. I have bills to pay, too, you know. I’m happy to keep it clean.

It was three years ago that Jackie and I went to a Seattle Seahawks game together. We were working for a local charity outside the stadium for the first part of the game and were allowed to go watch the game for the final quarter or so. It was a great game but, without official seats, Jackie and I were left to wonder, looking for a place to watch the waning minutes. We found a good standing-room only spot. That was until some BIG PLAY happened. It wasn’t the drunken sustained roar that erupted from the stands that was unsettling. It was the physicality of it all. We were pushed, jolted and jostled. We’re pretty strong women standing in a perfectly legal spot and, honestly, we felt waaaay uneasy with what was going on. With all the guys looming and screaming around us, we were the only women in sight. It wasn’t a good scene and it’s a reminder that, Manning_jersey basically, there are Concourse Ds everywhere. Even in Seattle, believe it or not.

The NFL has made some visible and newsworthy strides to reach women fans. Merchandising. Good start.  Offering NFL 101 clinics so women can become better acquainted with the game. Excellent move. Grouping.  Harassing.  Spitting at and throwing bottles at women who don’t bare their breasts at games. At best, questionable strategy. Unless, of course, that turning a blind eye to such things is a necessary component of lip service. Let the guys be guys and let’s make sure that the women have some more feminine shirts to wear to the games and call it “reaching out to women.”

We all know that drinking beer in excess and excessive behavior is part of many sports – not just football. So why come down hard on the NFL?  Really, maybe it’s only one team’s bad scene. Loosen up! Regardless, I expect better. Call me a prude.

When the story broke last week, it was Big News. Security guards said dumb stuff, executives said dumb stuff. “The problem is,” said the VP of security, “you got to watch four or five hundred people …What do we do, arrest everybody that starts chanting?” If necessary, yes, arrest everyone. But you should lose your job if you think that’s the only solution. Another executive, this one a little higher up and who is retiring next week, said that there was little to do about drunken crowds, other than trying to reason with them. See how far that got you guys?  When was it time to try Plan B? Instead of dispersing the riotous crowd, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, security approached a woman after she’d answered the cry from above and showed her *****. She was informed about public indecency laws and released. Awwww.  How charitable. I’d like to see if senior security guards pull rank to cover the beat on Concourse D.

There was no Jets game this week.  But the forces were out for the Giants game, where there has been no problem of this kind reported. According to the Times, there was a maze of event staff and police in the offending area. The quotes were ready, though. Outgoing security dude remarked about the increased security and undercover operations planned for the upcoming Dec. 6 Jets game, their next at Giant Stadium: “We will do this until we nip the problem in the bud.” How appropriate. And about four years too late, according to my calculation.

So, I’m still steaming. But I can live with it. Hopefully, with regard to combating harassment, wherever it goes on, things will never simmer down. The Concourse Ds of the world pop up in the most unlikely places, you know.

Photo credits: Concourse D (NY Times); NFL ball (fitnessvillage.com); Manning jersey (footlocker.com)

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SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT?

Last weekend, I was a guest of Jackie’s to the northwest chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).  It was a great day and it was nice to see some of the guys that I hadn’t seen since Jackie and I made a presentation about Cheeleading our project two years ago. All of the attendees are welcoming, kind and interesting. They clearly spend a good deal of time preparing for their presentations, one of which was the road trip two of them took to the College World Series in Omaha, NE. Beth Bollinger (the “other woman” present, aside from me and Jackie) came over from Spokane and read from her book.

It was the first slide of the first presentation that compelled me to go home and read back through articles filed away during the past couple years. The slide said something along the lines of “How the University of Oregon Lost the Wrestling Program and Gained a Competitive Cheering Program.” That may not be verbatim, but pretty close to the spirit. It was simply one slide out of a few dozen about the trip to Omaha to see Oregon State ultimately win its second back-to-back College World Series. And it was simply one poke out of millions at the perceived negative impact of Title IX on men’s college aWrestling thletics.

It is no secret to those keeping score that wrestling has taken a pounding since President Nixon signed Title IX into law in June 1972 – interestingly, this was the same month that the Supreme Court shot down Curt Flood’s battle for free agency AND thugs from Nixon’s reelection campaign combed through documents at Watergate.

All told, 452 collegiate wrestling programs have been cut since that fateful month, though a handful have been reinstated. Oregon’s was the tenth program lost in the state (California leads the pack w/ a total of 81 wrestling programs canned).

However, as tempting as it is to tie everything into how Title IX compliance led to a program’s demise, the real question is why schools opt to discontinue programs instead of redirect funds and reassess budgets. You know, get smart. Cutting programs is sometimes sound budgeting but it often the laziest solution and one regularly applied. Instead of pointing fingers at Title IX and feminists, in general, maybe fans of a doomed sport should be asking what other options the school considered.

And maybe the boosters will find out that it was all about money. Sure, wrestling was cut at Oregon. That’s a bummer. But men’s baseball was reinstated after a 25-year hiatus. (Competitive cheer and its 3.5 scholarships isn’t an NCAA-certified sport). No doubt the Oregon athletic department looked down the highway to see their Beaver buddies in Corvallis counting the cash from a highly successful baseball program – one that is paying for upgrades to the baseball grandstand and who knows what else? Right now, the Oregon baseball team doesn’t even have a stadium to call its own. So, when it comes to cutting sports, Swiimming it’s less likely that you can blame Title IX and more likely that you can thank the repressed financial creativity of athletic directors. Or an unwillingness. Or political pressure.

"It became very, very clear that we needed to make some changes," Oregon’s athletic director Pat Kilkenny said in a July press conference. See, it’s another non-secret that Portland reached out to the Florida Marlins about moving the franchise to Portland so the city can realize the city’s dream of having its own MLB franchise. The Legislature in 2003 passed a $150 million measure for a stadium. They’ll need to find about another $350 million but it’s a start. And a powerful sentiment. The city wants baseball! No need to wait for MLB (because it’ll be a loooooong wait). Why not just get one on the local university campus at less expense and less red tape. Sorry, wrestling.

There is nothing new about the controversy surrounding Title IX and how federally funded K-12 schools and colleges mangle things in an apparent effort to comply with the 1972 statute. Emotions run high when men’s programs are cancelled under the auspices of fulfilling the mandate of Title IX. Incidentally, women’s programs are hacked, too. It’s just that such a move rarely warrants pickets or, more pointedly, headlines. Missouri State discontinued women’s tennis. Slippery Rock University cut women’s field hockey, water polo and lacrosse. The bloodshed at James Madison University was worse. The list goes on.

Title IX doesn’t discriminate. It picks on girls, too! Feel better?

But all this focus on sports gets us away from the topic at hand: Title IX. Athletics was only one of ten educational areas that the law was intended to cover. The statue granted both genders equal access to all “programs and activities” at schools accepting federal funds. Now, some decry Title IX as a “quota” system. Others use the hyped-up buzz phrase “affirmative action,” which is silly, silly, silly. And you thought athletic directors weren’t creative? All of this hoopla because of Title IX?  Come on.

I want to take a look at other things that happened in the last 35 years “because of” Title IX. But, first, it’s important to take a look at the decades before Title IX.

My mother and Jackie’s mother were teachers. Like them, college-bound women in the 1940s and 1950s were steered into education and nursing. Sure, some Bra women pushed the established boundaries and became doctors, scientists and electricians, but millions more lacked the desire, energy or courage to fight the status quo. And that is for the small percentage encouraged to attend college. Did you ever wonder how things changed? Did you think it was because of all the bra burning? Close. While bras brought attention to a mounting societal problem, you can thank Title IX for forcing the issue.

In 1977, 25 percent of all doctoral degrees went to women; now, about half do. Specifically, medical schools and law schools have embraced Title IX.  Also half of the medical degrees and law degrees are awarded to women, compared with the 1977 figures of 9% and 7%, respectively. Guys, when your wives have the option of choosing a female gynecologist or when you can hire a female divorce attorney to show the female judge you’re really a cool, enlightened guy, you can thank Title IX.

And these figures don’t touch on the fact that participation in athletics contributes to women’s health, overall. Studies show that there is are lower incidents of teenage pregnancies among high school girls that participate in sports than those who do not play sports. And one sports-minded male friend told me the other day that he thought that women who participated in team sports worked better as part of a team when they got to the workforce. Not entirely scientific, but a weighty perception.

I recall telling him that I was too old to have reaped the benefits of overhauled athletic departments – I played on a boy’s soccer team in 3rd grade and a hastily assembled women’s college team, years later. But what I did benefit from was a liberal college experience. I was encouraged by professors to be an intellectual. To thing big. So I considered law school. Fortunately, I had a mentor thinking really big and gently directed me to reconsider. Nor did I ever become an intellectual.  But I was free. It was years later that I married a progressive guy and was supported when I went into business with my friend and wrote a baseball book. It’s title? It Takes More than Balls. You can thank Title IX for all that, too.

Or maybe that gives you more reason to hate Title IX. One way or the other, if you’re not completely satisfied after reading our book, Jackie will buy you a picket sign. And likely ask you to hit me over the head with it.

photo credits:Ilion High School Cheerleaders, Denver Wrestling, Human Events.com (swimming), Fashion Era (bra)

BASEBALL WORLD CUP . . . CLASSIC

The blush of the baseball season may have faded but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of baseball going on.  In fact, when Jackie and I talked to some I_am_baseball former and present General Managers during the research for our book, they said what the fans consider the “off season” is really their busiest time of the year. There are GM meetings, marketing meetings, owner meetings, jostling over trade bait and free agents. This year, the early line shows that instant replay could be in the game sooner than later future. I’ll write about that next week. But the point is that when Opening Day finally arrives in April (or March, this year) the suits can relax. Sort of.

While the front office people work their tails off in sexy meetings, there is baseball to be played.  TODAY!  That’s right. The Baseball World Cup is going on through November 18th in Taiwan. Haven’t heard of it? Ok, join the club. Mind you, The World Cup is no Johnny Come Lately tournament. The World Cup is in its 37th year. It started in Great Britain, of all places, in 1938. Cuba has won 25 gold medals; Team USA won twice.

When Major League Baseball created the World Baseball Classic, first held in March 2006, some sportswriters called it Baseball’s World Cup.  Hmmm. One of these things is not like the other. And in so many ways. One difference is that, since the “Classic” is a MLB-sanctioned event, major leaguers are allowed – natch encouraged – to play. Now, that is a first for the international baseball theater. The World Cup may have been around for 70 years but doesn’t have the kind of pull that makes it such that MLB players would join in the fun, even though it’s David_and_goliath during the off season. Therefore the World Cup pulls its American talent from Team USA, which is made up of promising minor leaguers. This is the same Team USA that qualified for a spot in the 2008 Bejing Olympics, baseball’s last for a while pending appeals. The Olympics don’t feature major leaguers because the Games happen smack dab in the middle of the baseball season — playoff runs for some lucky teams. Well, that’s the party line.

Maybe some reporters forgot that there was a Baseball World Cup because the United States hadn’t hosted the tournament since 1974, one of the two years that the Americans won (the other year they won was 1973, in Nicaragua).  When Japan beat Cuba in a dramatic 10-6 final on March 20, 2006, the WBC website said that “Baseball fans around the globe have long been clamoring for an authentic world champion, and now they have one.”  They act as if there really was no World Cup. That Cuba never won 25 World Cups. What a total dis.

The slick WBC is next scheduled for 2009. The host country is up for grabs but could go to either Japan, the 2006 champ, the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. It, no doubt, will be a huge media frenzy, as it was in 2006. Jackie and I were there! In an effort to keep players healthy for the regular MLB season there are rules about how often a pitcher can pitch, when he gets pulled out of a game (65 to 95 pitches, depending on how far the team goes in the tournament); and a smear rule that calls the game if one team is just being picked apart by the other.

The 2006 WBC article, written at the conclusion of the tournament by MLB.com’s Barry Bloom, went on to say that “…now, baseball is not only spoken here, it is spoken everywhere.” All hail the WBC! Now, the motto of the International Baseball Federation, organizers of the World Cup, is “I Am Baseball.” Their website says that “baseball is global.” Not Cuban. Not American. Not Japanese. Sure, that’s what MLB wants, especially if they want baseball to get back into the Olympics. (Baseball was tossed aside by the London 2012 committee because, among other things, of a lack of commitment to the Games from MLB.) But MLB would get behind only their own tournament. “I Am Baseball.” How quaint. The WBC motto could then be “When We Say You Are.”

photos: International Baseball Federation and www.Picture-book.com