Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Different For Girls

While America fixates, and loses wads of money, upon the NCAA Men's' Tournament, the female of the species is also toiling away in relative obscurity in its Regionals all across the country.

The women's game has come a long way since I have been a fan. When I was a kid, they played 3 on 3 half court with only certain players being allowed to cross the center line. Not that they let the girls play in Central Arkansas was I was coming up. I guess girl's sports were considered something practiced by Little Rock's hick counterparts. All of that has changed and for the better. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought equal access to educational programs and activities without regard to sex. Since that time women's and schoolgirl sports have proliferated.

DI women's hoops is not appreciably different than the men except for this: The men come down with it on offense, make 2 passes and then somebody does something stupid. The women come down on offense, make 5 passes and set 3 screens before somebody does something stupid.

There is something terribly different between the women's game and the men. In the men's game you have negative recruiting. In the women's game you have negative recruiting about concerning how "gay friendly" a particular program might be. I can say without fear of contradiction that there isn't a single "gay-friendly' program in the men's game.

God knows there are gay women in women's basketball, golf, tennis and softball. There just are. And if we were to be fair, according to the laws of statistics, there would have to be gay athletes over on the men's side. Would have to be. But women's basketball has a lesbian constituency that just cannot be denied. I can take you to certain high school games and the stands are full of female couples. Indeed, the WNBA has a marketing strategy for its gay fans. And there's not one damn thing wrong with that. Except that Athletic Directors tend to be tightassed male types whose gaze is never far off the bottom line. Some people out there, people with money, are offended by that sort of thing. That and I would be willing to bet that the Pokey Chapman situation did not exactly help the employment prospects for single women at the DI level.

If you have never heard of Chapman let me fill you in. Chapman resigned as the women's head basketball coach at LSU after another coach made an allegation about her having what the politicians would refer to as an "inappropriate relationship" with a player. The story is that she was considering suing LSU for wrongful termination but evidently thought better of it.

Now, according to a recent episode of ESPN's excellent "Behind the Lines" recruiters tend to bring up certain questions about certain programs "atmosphere" which is code talk for "too many dikes." And this is an issue for some parents and players who don't want to be involved with that. So you get grandfatherly types like Van Chancellor, LSU's new coach getting jobs that used to go to women just to avoid this "atmosphere" problem.

Which should make women who aspire to coaching-be they straight or gay- want to strangle Chapman whose foolish behavior perpetrated the myth that gay people are out to have sex with kids or to "recruit" them into the sorority. Thanks a lot, Pokey!

Let me make a modest proposal although I know that same will not be heeded. Let us strive to be free of bias in our hiring practices. A person's sexual orientation is absolutely nobody's business. Outlaw the use of the "atmosphere" card in negative recruiting. Conversely, all colleges should make as a condition of their contracts of employment with their coaches-male and female-that any sexual contact with a player or student is grounds for immediate termination. Take "gay or straight" out of the equation and focus on the conduct. Sex with a player in your charge is wrong. Period.

But that would require people to be honest. Some gay folks are interested in athletics just like some straight folks. Straights need to realize that this a fact. Gay people shouldn't make a martyr out of Pokey Chapman. Pokey's not a martyr. If she did what she is accused of doing, she's an idiot who deserves everything that got dropped on her. Period.

Focus on conduct instead of labels. Sex with a player is wrong. Doesn't matter who does it.


1 comment:

Pat Griffin said...

Thanks for the thoughtful blog post on lesbian athletes and homophobia in sport. I invite readers to also check out A project of the Women's Sports Foundation dedicated to ending homophobia in men's and women's sport.