Women and sports

I read a short opinion piece today that listed a number reasons why women’s sports are not as successful as men’s sports. I am unable to find that article, but this very similar article lists the points:

  • Men form the core of sports fans and they are not watching women’s sports.
  • Women also do not watch.
  • When young, women do not receive enough support and encouragement from friends and family.
  • There is little media coverage.
  • Culture discourages women from entering sports.

The one point that is severely missed here is the most obvious: On the whole, men are better at sports. And people want to watch the best of the best.

I raised this point in an all-female environment and the most prominent counter-argument was that men and women cannot be fairly compared. But of course they can. I can compare any group to any other group if my point is to see which performs better at sports. Ten year olds versus twelve year olds at baseball? The older kids are going to be better on average – they’re bigger, stronger, and faster.

If a woman is able to perform at the level required to play at the professional level of the NHL, MLB, NFL, or NBA, then of course she is going to be signed in a minute. Those leagues are about the sports for the fan, but for the owners, it’s all just a business. If a woman can hit .300, run, throw, and catch, she is going to be playing for an MLB team sooner than later. That’s going to bring in a whole lot of cash.

We’ve seen women break or attempt to break into big time male-dominated sports. Danica Patrick has had a successful career as a driver (though, for the record, neither she nor any of her male colleagues are athletes). Michelle Wie certainly wasn’t stopped from attempting to move from women’s golf to men’s. She got into one men’s tournament and failed to qualify for the PGA tour, but our culture, her past encouragement, a lack of viewers, media coverage, etc, had nothing to do with her inability to compete. The fact is, she is at a competitive disadvantage to men. This is all the more true for sports like football and hockey.

The barrier here is in physical ability, on the whole. We see individual women sometimes succeed because some women can be better than most men at sports – but most men are still better than most women. And more importantly, the top male athletes are better than the top female athletes. Even if we could get rid of all the things that make women less likely to go into sports than men, men are still going to be the top performers because speed, agility, strength, and size are all greatly increased by higher testosterone levels.

I just wish we could all be a little honest. Men, on the whole, are better at sports than women, on the whole. We have these systems that rely on the ability to perform to a certain level – most runs, most points, most goals. And the best male athletes are going to be able to reach these levels better than the best female athletes. This is a big reason why women’s sports flounder. Is this so wrong? I really have no desire to watch a basketball league where it is big news that one of its players managed to actually dunk. (This really was big news for the WNBA a year or two ago.) So we can’t just give a blanket blame to society and culture and biases and discrimination, even if all those things might play a role. Sports are about top performance. If a woman can compete with the best men, great. But she’s the exception, not the rule.

Screw you, NBA

I was angry with the NHL for helping Refuffalo against the Bruins. Fortunately, the Bruins still won their series because, well, Ryan Miller can’t do it all, even with the men in stripes helping his team. Then I was even more angry when Refadelphia was given the right to not take penalty minutes despite deserving them. But at least they lost to a better term in the end. And at home. Fuck you, Philly fans. You are the worst fans in sports. (You’re still number 2, New York.)

But none of that represented a fundamental problem with the NHL. This was an issue of terrible reffing in two series I watched closely. And, sure, the reffing was pretty bad throughout the playoffs besides where the Bruins were involved. It wasn’t as bad as the two Bruins series, but it was bad. But again, that isn’t typical. There isn’t a fundamental issue with the rules or reffing in general in the NHL. It’s still the most exciting sport there is.

And until now I thought soccer was on the exact other end of the spectrum. Take this video for instance.

I don’t care enough to look up the names of those involved, but basically the Nigerian player (green) went to kick the ball as the Greek (white) player picked it up after it went out of bounds. It was obviously just a reflex: “Hey, a soccer ball! Kick it!” It doesn’t appear he made much contact, if any, but that doesn’t matter. Soccer is filled with a bunch of divers, so the Greek player hammed it up, falling to the ground like he tore 11 ACLs. (Yes, 11.) This got the Nigerian player a Red Card, kicking him out of the game. And all because soccer is such a mamma’s boy sport.

If someone tries to get a call in hockey and overdoes it like that, he may well get the call, but he’ll also be given 2 minutes for diving. The NHL doesn’t accept this weak, hamming-it-up play that soccer embraces.

But as it turns out, that isn’t the other end of the spectrum. The NBA is nothing but feather-touch penalties. Brush a guy with the ball? Foul. Make contact with the ball and maybe touch a loose jersey? Foul. Look at a guy wrong? Foul. That’s all it was last night during the final 45 minutes of Game 7. (And by 45 minutes, I mean 7:30 minutes of actual clock time.)

It seemed like the entire game rested on who could make the most free throws. And in order to do that the NBA has made virtually everything a foul. Not that the players don’t embellish or ham it up. They do. But the NBA and people like David Stern (the worst commissioner in sports – don’t worry, Goodell, you’re a close number 2), hold most of the blame. And it is blame. Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals was perhaps the worst sporting event I have ever watched, worse than the 2006 World Series where the ‘Champion’ Cardinals didn’t win anything (the Tigers just lost, is all).

NBA basketball is the antithesis of what a good sport, such as hockey, should be.

In the interest of full disclosure, everyone who reads this blog knows I’m a Boston/New England sports fan. But my interest in basketball, especially the NBA’s nancy-variety, is extremely limited. I wanted the Celtics to win by default, but I’m far from torn up over their loss. What bugs me more is that I wasted so much time watching such a terrible, terrible sport.

Thought of the day

More sports.

There’s that old joke “I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out”. Har. I’ve got one better, especially during playoffs.

“I was watching a ton of commercials and an NBA game broke out.”

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