Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Title IX

Lauren, over at Carte Blanche, has posted a column on the perception of female athletes. Apparently market research is demonstrating that female athletes are mostly measured on their athletic prowess, versus a sexualized appeal. To sum up the sentiment, I'm pulling a quote from Lauren's quote:

Though there are a few notable exceptions — Anna Pornikova, Playboy covergirl/ tennis star Ashley Harkleroad among them — most Olympic caliber women are delightfully unsexualized. Which is not to say that they're not sexy, but that the press about them is about their athletic achievements as opposed to their finely toned backsides.

It is a shame that so few women's sports seem to make a go of entering into a televised professional capacity at the same level as the trinity of football, baseball and basketball. Scratch that: It's a shame that the televised events don't get the same media push that, say, the NFL enjoys. Now, I love the NFL and NCAA football, and I'm not sure if there's a chicken and egg effect... I'm just saying: The WNBA isn't on in prime time.

But... with things kicking off this weekend in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics, it's a firm reminder to us folks in the general public that sport is captivating, not necessarily just the sport of one gender or another. And I think that's something young female AND male athletes need to see. When you get past the marketing and hoopla of pro sports, its about who plays the game well.

If the market researchers are looking for a particular reason why female athletes are being seen as athletes first, I would point to Title IX. We're now 36 years after the institution of Title IX, and into a generation of adults who never knew life without female athletes. And a generation of children who, thankfully, take it for granted that either gender can participate.*

Add in role-model athletes like the US Women's Soccer Team, May-Treanor and Walsh of the beach volleyball circuit, Diana Taurasi or Cheryl Miller of the WNBA, softball players like Cat Osterman... and while the athletes may not be as high profile as Terrell Owens or Shaq, they somehow manage to be just as stunning as athletes as the guys with all the advertising deals.

When the Brandy Chastain's of the world score a World Cup winning goal, it was only the pundits with need of something for the news cycle who missed the celebratory moment for what it was. The rest of us were jumping up and down in our living rooms and screaming at the TV (and, yes, maybe tearing up a little). It was a moment of sport at its finest.

Geez, that team was amazing.

Anyway, it was a moment when those who understood the implications of Title IX seemed at odds with those who sort of think a girl looks like a tramp unless she's got her ankles and wrists covered. And, honestly, there's no damn room for that in sport.

So, yeah. I might make cracks that I'm going to watch Walsh and Treanor-May in the beach Volleyball competition, but that's for teasing Jamie. Have you ever seen those two play? They're inhuman. And that's what I'm looking for in my sports, Olympics or otherwise. I'm looking for my few weeks every four years in which I get to see the most amazing athletes on the planet compete.

Man, now I'm kind of excited about the Olympics.

I just hope I don't spend my time following another doping athlete the way I did the summer Marion Jones was breaking records.


*It's worth noting that the actual Educational Amendment, Title IX, while routinely applied to athletics, was not specifically written about athletics. In fact, the wording is about academic access and discrimination based on gender. This happened to expand out to athletics where the differences in available activities were greatly unequal.


J.S. said...

Jamie could be a Title IX athlete for several different crossword puzzle events or freestyle napping.
(she might also make the U.S. team for synchronized rubber raft floating)

mcsteans said...

Are you offering to be on my floating team?

I'm also three weeks and counting crossword puzzle free, thank you very much.

NTT said...

I'm with you on the point that it's great that Olympic woman athletes are being appreciated for their achievements. That's a great thing.

However, to say that the women's professional leagues weren't promoted or pushed by the media is flat out wrong. The WNBA had the entire marketing of NBC and the NBA behind it when it first debuted. NBC prominently pushed it as they needed to fill in their summer sports schedule. The fact of the matter is that the WNBA has not come close to producing transcendant sports moments yet like the Lakers v. Celtics rivalry. The regular games are kind of boring. Nor has the WNBA provided something different that makes it worthwhile to watch. I tried watching and couldn't take it anymore. The teams seem too diluted of talent, they need to have around 3 superstars on each team in order to have elevated competition. Ok, just rambling now. Don't get me started on women's tennis.

The League said...

I'd be with you on that point, but one summer blitz of marketing obviously wasn't enough.

The WNBA is a curious thing. When I lived in Phoenix, the tickets were so cheap, we could get two tickets and two hot dogs and get phenomenal seats for the cost of 1/2 of one ticket in the uppermost row of a Suns game.

WNBA IS a different game than NBA, and its dishonest to say that the games are played the same (after all, I think there have been less than 5 slam dunks in the history of the WNBA). But that doesn't mean it isn't an interesting game in its own right. It just doesn't match up with expectations set by NCAA and men's pro ball.

I don't think its evil or anything that football, baseball and basketball draw the mass of attention for sport, or that those sports are where the money winds up flowing. The WNBA isn't too much different from minor league baseball in the unsung glory of athletes giving it a go.

If you're looking for a sport that's just fun to watch, regardless of gender (but which seems to be all women at this point), find your local Roller Derby team.

Anonymous said...

Ah..Yes, Women's Beach Volleyball. Best Olympic sport ever.

The League said...

RHPT, I am thinking you missed the point of my post.

Anonymous said...

I was being ironic?

The League said...

I thought that was a bit out of character.