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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Girls in boys' sports

There have been a number of online articles recently about girls who have competed in boys' sports leagues. There was a female wrestler who competed at the Iowa state wrestling championships, who won her initial bout in a forfeit after the boy she was scheduled to compete against refused to compete against her. There was a girl who actually won a state title in wrestling in Vermont, where there are few competitors in wrestling.

Then, this morning, there was an article on Yahoo Sports about two female pitchers who faced each other in a high school baseball tournament in Southern California. An excerpt:

Ghazaleh Sailors couldn’t believe what she was reading.

It was a story in the newspaper about a girl breaking barriers in the game of baseball.

A girl fighting to stay in the game past Little League -– when most are forced to make the transition to softball. A girl surviving and thriving on the pitcher’s mound –- using guts and guile to record outs, even strikeouts. A girl proving that baseball could be a co-ed sport.

It was the story of her life.

Except the story wasn’t about her.

Unbeknownst to Sailors, Marti Sementelli was growing up just a few hours away from her in Southern California, going through the same ups and downs.

“It was incredible to see it,” Sailors says. “We share the same story and have followed a similar path since childhood.”

The two connected on Facebook, then met in person for the first time last summer while playing on the U.S. Women’s National Baseball Team.

Saturday they made history.

When Sailors and her San Marcos High teammates traveled from Santa Barbara to Van Nuys to take on Sementelli and Birmingham High, it marked the first time that a varsity high school baseball game features two female starting pitchers.

Sementelli got the better of Sailors, throwing a complete game and allowing only five hits in a 6-1 win. 

But they blazed a trail together.

“I think we have a really cool story -– one a lot of girls don’t know about,” she says. “It’s something me and Ghaz share. But we want to spread the word and get it out and get more girls playing.”

The story goes on in similar breathless fashion to describe what brave pioneers these girls are. The stories about the female wrestlers, both of which -- unsurprisingly -- got a lot of play in the New York Times, had a similar ecstatic tone.

I'm sure all of the young women involved are perfectly fine people. I'm sure each loves her sport, is a dedicated athlete, and works hard to achieve whatever success she can. And I'm glad that each has been afforded the opportunity to compete in her chosen sport, since those particular sports were not otherwise available to them. (Most high schools have girls' softball teams rather than baseball teams, and no high schools have girls' wrestling.)

I'm certainly not the kind of guy who would suggest that those female wrestlers stick to mud wrestling. (Well, at least not on this blog.) And in the sports I follow most closely, swimming and track, I am as big a fan of the women as the men.

But I can't help but be annoyed by the implications of all these articles, which is that if girls were only afforded more opportunity in sports, they could compete on an equal basis with men across a wider range of sports -- and that only crusty old hidebound traditionalists unwilling to acknowledge any female athletic ability somehow prevent this from happening.

The articles do everything but cry out, "Women rule! Girl Power! Anything a man can do, a woman can do better!" Sure -- now that the floodgates have opened, girls will be dominating boys' sports team across the nation. 

This is just utter silliness. There's just a huge, yawning gap between the average girl's athletic ability and the average boy's. And that elephant in the room is always studiously ignored in these articles.

In fairness to the authors, none of them ever spelled out what they were implying. I doubt any of them actually believe their own implications, either. And a local sportswriter's job is essentially to be a hometown cheerleader. But talking about broken barriers is simply misleading. 

Are we supposed to think that Ghazaleh and Marti are somehow the equivalent of Jackie Robinson being allowed into the Major Leagues, or of Jesse Owens refuting theories of Aryan superiority in Berlin in 1936? As anyone with a modicum of common sense will admit, blacks are, at the top levels, simply better than whites at many sports. (Since the 1984 Olympics, to take one example, there have been exactly 56 finalists in the men's 100 meter dash; exactly zero of them have been any race other than black. Coincidence? You tell me.) In any case, the rules that held blacks back sixty years ago were unquestionably unfair.

But for those who like to imply that women are being held back similarly, I have a suggestion. From now on, let's practice full integration in sports -- sexual as well as racial. No more men's and women's teams -- let's just allow them to compete directly with each other in all sports.

That should make the feminists happy -- no more artificial barriers.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know where else to post this, But Ii saw this in my schools mewspaper today and immediately thought of you.

-David Jackson, a friend of John and Taylor

John Craig said...

David --
Thank you -- that woman is actually to the right of me (always reassuring to see).

BTW, when I told Taylor that a friend of his had commented earlier and corrected me about the speed of light, he immediately guessed it was you.

John Craig said...

Anyone who reads the above comments--

You don't have to know me, directly or indirectly, as David seems to, or have to identify yourself, to feel free to post comments.

A couple days ago I got an anonymous comment on an old post in which I was called "insanely idiotic." I posted it, just grateful to have gotten another comment.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear taylor knows me that well!

And please excuse the horrible typos. That was posted from my phone.

-Dave Jackson

John Craig said...

David --
All typos excused. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Its the same sort of thinking that has driven the courts to inappropriately apply the wording of Title IX, written in 1972: "No person in the US shall on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal assistance.... ".

The courts have decided that all varsity athletics must have the same female / male percentage as there is in the overall student body. Football upsets the applecart. Since there is no major female sport to offset football, universities choose to cut men's 'minor' sports to balance the ratio. So men's wrestling, swimming, etc. are cut. As a swim fan, its hard to see men's varsity swimming opportunities dwindling.

But if we go back to the original wording of Title IX, if a college offers women's varsity swimming but has cut men's, then a man who wishes to compete in varsity swimming is being excluded from participation, denied the benefits of, (and) subject to discrimination on the basis of his gender - a direct violation of the original wording of the Title IX law.

The fact is that males and females don't have the same interest in college varsity sport. Just as there is a huge disparity in male / female enrollment in engineering and early childhood development. These disparities are due to inherent differences in the interests of men and women. If it makes sense to force outcomes by denying men opportunity in college varsity sport, then it would also make sense to force enrollment in engineering and early childhood development in direct proportion to the overall male / female ratio of the university.

As an entertaining aside, of the few males taking early childhood development classes – their main interest might be driven by the rich potential for dating the women in those classes rather than the course subject matter. At least that was the word when I was in college.

On a different note on the same general subject - there was an article in either Swimming World or Swimming Technique in the 90's, I think, that drew breathless conclusions that women were going to equal men in distance swimming events. Janet Evans had smashed the women's distance records, and the article wrongly drew a linear projection to recent trends, rather than doing a curve fit for the full record progression over the history of swimming. That projection hasn't worked out too well. On 1988 the 1500 LCM world records were: Janet Evans 15:52.10, Vladimir Salnikov 14:54.76; the ratio of the female to male time - .9398. In 2011 the records are Kate Zeigler 15:42.54 (tech suit aided), Grant Hackett 14:34.56; ratio of female to male time .9279. The female record has lost ground, not gained.

In the US we must live the lie that outside the undeniable physical differences between men and women, we are the same. Forcing the lie results in unfairness like that produced by Title IX.

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
Thank you. You've just touched on the essence of liberalism -- that we must all live the lie that we are all the same, and there are not innate group differences in interest, aptitude, or accomplishment of any sort.

Steven said...

Hey, I was just looking at female 100m world records. Most of the sub 11s were set by East Germans in the 70's, which is kind of funny. Juicing much? There are a couple of Americans who have done it more recently, no doubt black women.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, the E. Germans still hold the 400 record, though the 100 and 200 meter records have been held by Florence Griffith Joyner since 1988, and pretty much everybody accepts that she was a doper. And most females you see breaking 11 seconds these days are dopers as well.

Steven said...

11 seconds is still very very fast. Any idea what you can or could run it in? I remember your 200 time being quite fast.

I think I could run it in 15 seconds when I was 14, which wasn't particularly fast so I'm guessing I could do it in about 12-14 seconds, prob 13 or 14.

(There were 3 black kids in my school year (grade) out of about 230. One of them was the fastest runner, another one the best long distance runner.)

John Craig said...

Steven --
When I was 23 or 24, I timed myself in 11.8, but that really wasn't legit. I did do an official 200 in 24.4 (at a meet) and an unofficial one in 24.18 when I was 39.

Of those three black kids, I bet the fastest one was of West African descent, and the fastest distance runner was of East African.

Steven said...

Why wasn't it legit? So you competed in athletics as well as swimming? Sounds like you were quite the athlete. Is sub 12 seconds normal in amateur athletics?

Ever done a marathon?

The sprinter kid was west African, of Ghanaian descent. This kid was a bit light skinned but he had unbelievable muscle definition.

I cant remember the other kids face clearly and I didn't know him. I just remember his bouncy gait and his very elasticy legs when he ran around on the play ground.

Steven said...

* the second 100 is run faster than the first, right? cos ur already going? or not?

If so, that would imply you were running the first in more than 12, judging by the 200m.

John Craig said...

Steven --
The 11.8 wasn't legit because I probably got a rolling start and it was only one watch, my own, that was timing me. And who knows if I hit the button early or something. Those 200's had other people timing me.

Thanks, no, never ran a marathon. And I wasn't so much an all-around athlete as just a fitness buff. I have absolutely no skill with a tennis racket, football, basketball, gold club, etc. Those sports just never appealed to me. And no, never done a marathon. (Too vain: have you ever seen how most marathoners are built?)

West Africans are definitely built for speed. I remember Houston McTear, who basically fell out of bed one day when he was in eleventh grade and found that he had incredible speed, and actually won the national championship in the 100 yard dash that year (back when the US still had nationals with the 100 yard distance.)

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, the second 100 is run faster than the first, because you're already going at full speed, but when you look at the breakdowns in world class 200's, it's misleading, because the first 100 is also run around a curve, which is by its nature slower.

When Michael Johnson ran his WR of 19.32 in 1996, his first 100 was a 10.12, his second 100 was 9.20. That difference wasn't just a matter of the start.

Steven said...

That's a great point about the curve. If we want to find out what's the fastest a person can do various distances, surely they should be ran straight!

Muscular guys run marathons too, they're just not as good as they would be without the muscles. So what's the furthest you've ran?

John Craig said...

Steven --
I've never run for distance, just to see how far I could go. I did run cross country the fall of my ninth grade, so I supposed I must have run three or four miles at a time then. I"m not that muscular naturally, I'm sort of a natural ectomorph who has transformed himself into a semi-mesomorph by dint of effort, but it would be easy for me to slip back into an ectomorphic state. (So, I avoid marathons.)

Steven said...

My goal is to run 10 miles as well as the 100 push ups and 20 pull ups.

The running wont eat up muscle, will it?

I would have thought you could build muscle at the same time as jogging...

I'm surprised you haven't done much jogging as a kind of fitness fanatic. Isn't that the main way to improve cardiovascular and lung fitness? i kind o thought that was fitness. All boxers jog to be fit in the ring.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Those are all good goals. The running won't "eat up" upper body muscle, but if you train too frequently with the running, you can end up with skinny legs (look at marathoners). There are all sorts of fitness, and some of them conflict. Otherwise, 100 meter sprinter would be good at the marathon, and vice versa. But ten miles, 20 pul-ups, and 100 pushups would be a great marker for overall fitness.

Steven said...

Maybe they weren't muscular to start with. If they were, the muscle has been used up by the body as fuel, no?

I see you are right about 'fitness'. I've always understood it as cardio-lung type of fitness you get from running. cheers