Fourth and Long

Published 3:02 pm Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I was listening to ESPN radio on the way from work the other day and someone posed an interesting question. Why is there such a double standard in sports as it relates to women?

Women reading this will tell you the reason is because women are treated differently than men everywhere else and it would only make sense that sports be no different.

I always considered sports to be more evolved than society. Baseball and football were far ahead of society in regards to racial integration. Did it take too long – of course it did – however both sports were ahead of the curve when compared to the remainder of the country. Baseball still integrated before the public swimming pool did.

Despite all of the efforts by society and our government to ensure that women have as many opportunities as men do to excel in athletics, sports fans do reflect society and remind us that we still have a long way to go.

Title IX is a wonderful concept, but most athletic directors of schools with football programs will tell you that it is incredibly unfair and quite costly to their respective institutions. Football for most Division I schools is their only profitable sport and tends to “pay the bills” for other sports such as diving and volleyball.

Football requires as many as 80-100 players at big time programs and Title IX requires that for every football scholarship given to a male that another scholarship is awarded to a female. The problem with that of course is that there are little to no profitable female sports around the country and none require anywhere near as many players to field a team.

It is really is a good concept, but one that requires some tweaking. The question must be asked however, why are the female sports not more popular, thus profitable? The truth is I don’t know.

I know that I for one don’t always enjoy some women’s athletics as much as I do men’s, from a spectator point of view at least. I have been to women’s basketball games that rival any men’s game I have ever witnessed in regards to competitiveness and excitement.

I have also been to women’s basketball games that made me want to go to sleep and on a least one occasion I actually did. The home team should be able to score more than 8 points in one half of college basketball, just saying.

Another theory I have on why men view women’s athletics differently is because men tend to be a bit more protective over women. We can have a hard time appreciating and encouraging their competitive and sometimes violent nature, the very things many of us men love about athletics.

Take the recent run the USA’s women’s world cup team made in Germany. Viewer ratings for the World Cup final against Japan were 1/5 of what they were for the men’s early exit from World Cup play last year.

The men were not nearly as competitive against the rest of the world, yet American interest in the women’s play obviously didn’t come close to comparing.

It’s a shame too. The women’s run through World Cup play this year was wonderful and anyone that watched the final against Japan saw one heck of a soccer match. Much better than anything the men’s team provided for us.

I for one have decided to start being a better fan of women’s athletics. I will immediately begin treating them with the same respect I give their male counterparts.

Having said that, I cannot fairly close this column without expressing my frustration over the way we choked in extra time against Japan. We missed a lot of opportunities in the first half and while we should have capitalized more, sometimes that’s the way futbol goes.

I was very disappointed, however, in the selfish and individual play of our midfielders and forwards and their insistence in using their “ball handling skills” to advance versus a Japanese defense that played very good team ball as the match progressed.

Extra time was just two good soccer teams playing hard, but our struggles to find the back of the net during penalty kicks with the World Cup on the line was inexcusable and demands a change, either in coaching or player personnel.

How’s that for equality?

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publishing. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at