Where to even begin with Dana Vollmer? Not only is she one of the best swimmers in the world, she's been in the elite ranks since she was a pre-teen. That's right: Vollmer was 12 (!) when she competed in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. The Texas native failed to make the team that year but, as usual, she moved fast: she won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics as part of the 4x200 freestyle relay team that broke a world record that had stood for seventeen years.It is not, however, all smooth sailing (smooth swimming?) for Vollmer. In 2003--the year before she would win her gold medal--Vollmer had heart surgery for a medical condition that nearly kept her out of the pool for good.
Matt Schmitt offers a love letter to Title IX--and the social transformation it ignited, far beyond what was originally envisioned. Schmitt's eight-year-old daughter catches on a Little League baseball team; she's the only girl on the team, she was voted Most Valuable Catcher by her coach last year, and she wants to play for the Major League someday. Because, she just discovered, there's not actually any rule or law to keep women from playing pro baseball. It just hasn't happened yet.
Since 1954, Sports Illustrated has honored the "Sportsman of the Year." Roger Bannister, the man who broke the four-minute mile, was the first Sportsman cover boy; Michael Phelps was the most recent one. In fifty-four years, the only female athletes honored have been the U.S. Women's Soccer Team (1999); runner Mary Decker (1983); and tennis player Chris Evert (1976). Three others shared the honor with men: tennis legend Billie Jean King with John Wooden (1972); gymnast Mary Lou Retten with Edwin Moses (1984); and speedskater Bonnie Blair with Johann Olav Koss (1994).
Total count: Two female standalone athletes and one team were honored, while three others were honored alongside a male sports figure, for a total of six times out of fifty-four opportunities that Sports Illustrated has celebrated the accomplishments of women athletes with its most prestigious yearly title. (I am leaving aside the time that the amorphous, "Athletes Who Care" were named Sportsman of the Year in 1987).
It begs the question: what's the deal, yo? Not enough female athletic talent out there?
Back in the day, Carly Welch was told to "take it down a notch." Then eight-years-old, she was playing on a recreational softball league with coaches who advised her to not throw or hit as hard as she could. The concern? She might hurt someone.I can see it.
Believe it: pro sports just got more inclusive. Laura Ricketts is now an owner of the Chicago Cubs. She is also an out lesbian who serves on the board of Lambda Legal, which is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and people living with HIV/AIDS.
This means that the Cubs have the first openly gay owner in Major League Baseball's 140-year history. What's more: Ricketts is the first openly gay owner of any professional sports team in the United States--football, basketball, hockey, and soccer included.
I get quite a bit of surprised responses when folks find out that I'm an avid sports fan. An incredulous "You really know your shit," says someone, or maybe, more derisively, "Where did that come from?" Or else, I get a well-meaning affirmation that I'll make some guy very lucky (presumably because the guy will get to share his presumed sports fandom with his girlfriend).
These are the reactions that come from folks who simply don't expect females to know much about sports. But there's another kind of surprised response that I get from progressive friends who don't buy into sports and, especially, sports culture. They will point out that the sports world is saturated with macho posturing. It frequently excuses the bad behavior of its heroes; it celebrates brute force; it's history is poisoned by cheating and drug-use; and it is often actively and explicitly hostile to women.How, these friends wonder, can I get into it? How could I possibly reconcile my feminism with it?Well, folks, I do, and quite passionately so. (Though of course I have my eyes wide open; it is because of my love of sports that I intend to not ever justify the worst of it).Why that love? Consider ...