The summer brings warm weather (finally!), outdoor activities, and lots of sports news. What's new in the world of shrinking of pinking since my last installment? Here are some female-centered sports stories that I've been thinking about this past month.
1) Did you see this excellent piece in The New York Times about Babe? No, not Babe Ruth-- Babe Didrikson Zaharias. I remember reading a biography of Babe as a young, unathletic girl and being amazed by her accomplishments. Though she died young-- at age 45-- she accomplished much, including winning multiple Olympic golds in track and field, being an All-American basketball player, and a golf champion (she helped found the LPGA). It's not an overstatement to say she may be the most well-rounded and accomplished female athlete of all time. But she's largely forgotten today, despite being a trailblazer. Today's female athletes should remember that Babe Didrikson Zaharias helped pave the way for all of them, long before Title IX came along.
2) Another story from the annals of sports history offers a slightly different lesson-- one young, female athletes today shouldn't imitate. Did you see the Sports Illustrated story on Kathryn Johnston Massar? Massar is credited as being the first girl to play Little League baseball. But there's one problem. She was actually too old to play Little League "legally" since she was fourteen at the time of her ground-breaking season in 1950 in upstate New York. While it's clear to me Massar shouldn't be recognized as the first female to play Little League-- that the honor should go to Maria Pepe for pitching as a 12-year-old in 1972-- Massar's case raises interesting questions about when boys and girls play together and if the same rules should apply. Given that boys tend to be bigger than girls around puberty, should we allow "older" girls to play with "younger" boys?
3) Then again, Marti Semetelli shows that some girls can hang with the boys, regardless of age. This female pitching phenom will play on the boys' baseball team at Montreat College in North Carolina. At only 5'2" Marti is a force to be reckoned with while on the mound. It will be interesting to see how her collegiate career develops. I think Babe (maybe both Babes?) would be happy to see a female collegiate pitcher take the mound.
4) While some girls can play with some boys, there's a move in Massachusetts to prevent too many boys from playing with the girls. Because there simply aren't enough boys who play field hockey in high school, boys are allowed to play on girls' teams (the reverse of girls wrestling on boys' teams, which I've written about before). But these boys tend to be bigger and play more aggressively. This article in The Boston Globe details the serious concussion one female player sustained at the hands of a male field hockey player. After incidents like this one, coaches petitioned to prevent more than two boys at a time from playing on the field, playing in the area just around the goal, and from playing goalkeeper. Some oppose these changes, saying they discriminate against boys-- though I can see that they are meant to protect everyone on the field. Hopefully soon there will be enough boys interested in field hockey that all-male teams can be fielded.
5) Another rule change, though this one separates men from women. No longer will men and women (competitively) eat against one another. Now there will be separate competitions to crown male and female victors. As this article explains, "'Serena Williams didn’t have to beat Roger Federer to win the Wimbledon title, and we don’t think Sonya Thomas should have to beat Joey Chestnut,' said master of ceremonies George Shea." In case you don't know who Sonya Thomas is, she's "The Black Widow" of competitive eating (at only 105 pounds she once ate 41 hot dogs in 10 minutes); Joey Chestnut, also known as "Jaws," ate 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes. While there is currently controversy over the men's competitive eating world champion, no one seems dismayed that women now get their own title and competition, as the move is expected to give women more attention. Do you think having separate-sex championships (they do the same thing, somewhat controversially, for women in chess) will help women, or hurt them?
More importantly, what would the great Babe Didrikson Zaharias think of competitive eating as a sport?