Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Those little things that get into your head and rattle around...


Olympic swimmer and occasional model Amanda Beard evidently will be appearing sans swimsuit in the July issue of Playboy. There is, from our puritanical countrymen and our militaristic feminists, something of an outcry about this.

Dr. Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, told the New York Daily News, “It used to be that female athletes were portrayed as wholesome, All-American girls. Now you get female athletes in GQ, Playboy and the Swimsuit issue. The result of it is coverage that is very damaging—that trivializes and marginalizes women athletes because it does not give them the respect they deserve as competent athletes.”

So it's okay for an athlete to be wholesome, but not sexy? I understand that Dr. Kane wants these athletes to be taken seriously based on their merits as athletes, but no one should get bashed because that person is comfortable in his or her own skin.

Also, it's not like this is the first female athlete to do so - Australian WNBA star Lauren Jackson, Olympic high jumper Amy Acuff, Olympic figure skater Katarina Witt, and world cup soccer player Brandi Chastain have all been photographed sans clothes (to paraphrase Chastain - she worked really hard for her body, is proud of it, and wanted it recorded). This phenomenon is not limited to female athletes - Olympic diver Greg Louganis posed for Playgirl in 1987. NBA star Alan Houston and baseball player Carlos Delgado have also posed nude, but I don't believe that anyone thinks that has detracted from their athletic accomplishments.

Let's face it, we're not talking about Tonya Harding and the homemade porn tape here.

Personally, I think Playboy should be commended when they actually portray a woman with a strong, healthy, athletic body achieved through hard work and sweat rather than surgery.

Coming up sevens...

Let's just say that Josh Beckett is not the same pitcher this year as he was last year. Right now he's 7-0 with a 2.51 ERA and has given up two home runs. Last year? Thirty-three starts, 36 homers.

What a difference a year makes.

People who are worried about how the Dice-man adjusts from Japan to the American majors should take a look at Beckett who struggled last year. All of you who are worried about Matsuzaka - remember the following...he is still getting used to new umpires, new batters, a new strike-zone, and a new ball size. He'll come around, just don't expect him to dominate this year - but do expect to see flashes.

Not much of a fan but...

I'm not much of a basketball fan, as I'm sure regular readers have figured. I don't watch much, I'm not particularly enamored of any team and...since the early 1990's, I just find that the game has evolved into something I just don't care about. I haven't watched a minute of even the playoffs this year, and I'll usually catch a game or two...this year it's just not catching my interest.

There has been speculation in recent years that it has to do with the fact that there are more black players (roughly 75%) there than in any other league (football is roughly 65%) and the fact that they are more visible and easier to see the "thug life" connection in the blatantly displayed tattoos. I can't help but think if this were true, than hockey would rein supreme.

I think it's a different issue.

I think Michael Jordan initiated the advent of a new business model in how to build a team - find one or two superstars and surround those guys with JAGs (just another guys). Who did Allen Iverson ever have playing with him in Philadelphia that was a superstar (at the time he was with Iverson)? Paul Pierce in Boston? Even the Utah Jazz really only had Karl Malone and John Stockton for years.

I'm not even a basketball fan and I can tell you that the Lakers and the Celtics of the early to mid 80's went much deeper than that. Sure the Celtics had their big three in Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, and Kevin McHale, but they also had Dennis Cowens, Danny Ainge, ML Carr, Bill Walton, and Dennis Johnson - several of which were Hall-of-Famers themselves. The Lakers themselves had the likes of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo, Byron Scott, and Kurt Rambis.

Personally I think the problem is that they are trying to sell the game as a team sport and so few of the franchises really play as a team, not to mention the fact that there has been a deterioration in certain important skills such as defense (which is as much a reason why Team America hasn't been able to come home with the gold as anything else).

As for the last point - a lot has been made of the other teams around the world playing day in and day out together. It's interesting how that never affected our dream teams until the most recent generations of players.


sugarshane024 said...

Always a good read. Keep 'em coming.

I agree with the whole basketball. I'm not a fan either. In my opinion, I find it to be too much of an individual's game as you alluded to. You don't see those levels of selfishness in the other major sports. I'm a fan of college hoops, mainly because it is so much more team-oriented and exciting.

Kevin Smith said...

Thanks. I really think that the team sport thing is what makes the difference.

I'm not saying there aren't some racist SOB's out there that wouldn't use race as a reason not to watch, but I really don't think that has as much to do with basketball's recent decline in popularity.

That...and let's face it, as a society we like bloodsport. Boxing has been around for ages, we have the old issue of gladiator games a millenia ago and of course, within the last couple of years we still had jousting, fencing, and now the UFC is just gaining in popularity.

Basketball just doesn't have any of that.