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Book Review: Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts

04 February 2020

Abrams, Rapinoe, and Bird, oh my!

Yup...The fabulous Stacey Abrams, along with badass couple Megan Rapinoe & Sue Bird join HBO's THE SHOP: UNINTERRUPTED to chat about the state of the world. Also joining the conversation is EGOT Whoopi Goldberg, Malcolm Jenkins, And Hasan Minhaj.

By the look of the trailer this is gonna be a great conversation. Check it out on Friday, February 7 (9:30-10:00 p.m. ET/PT) or later on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and partners’ streaming platforms.

30 September 2019

Real Sports: On the Basis of Sex: Girls' Baseball

I needed to log into HBO GO to catch an episode of Real Sports that I missed about girls and baseball.

The topic is fascinating for me. I played softball in high school and still play in a league - of course, Chicago 16" softball though. But as you know, I love baseball too. I did play Little League and never felt comfortable there.

But you need to watch this episode. It goes through the history of Maria Pepe who sued Little League USA for the right to play baseball. They fought her for 2 years. And after she won, Little League started softball.

I love both sports. And it breaks my heart each time I reflect on softball's role in discrimination against girls and women.

It infuriates me to watch the clip of men giving bullshit excuses why girls shouldn't play baseball including:
  • Dental injuries will make girls less attractive
  • Getting hit in the chest will lead to breast cancer (isn't it FASCINATING how people who don't want women to do something will find a way to link it to breast cancer?)  
  • No one wants a girl to be hurt by a boy (I was on La Vida Baseball a few weeks again and we were discussing women playing in men's leagues. Another panelist brought up this issue as to why he couldn't support women playing in men's leagues.)
  • Some fathers didn't want boys to tag their daughters on the butt or chest. Because apparently everything is sexual, especially at the Little League age. Good lessons there, dads!
It's a great segment and will lead to some great conversations.  Watch the trailer below then log into your HBO account!

20 April 2019

Book Review: Wolfpack by Abby Wambach


Less than a year ago, Abby Wambach took the stage at Barnard's commencement and gave a speech that shook many, including myself, to the core. Her speech went viral and I made the above image in order to share the highlights of her speech. Earlier this month Abby released the speech in book form.

Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game is short (less than 100 pages) but is much more than just her speech. You get a peek into how the speech came together and why she said everything. And because the book is short and is an expanded speech, it moves quickly. I feel that it moves with the same ferocity that Abby use to move down a soccer field. And you might find yourself cheering as she takes you through the story.

Abby has always been one of my favorite players. The way she ran amok on the pitch was exactly the way I felt I played sports. Never caring how you looked and giving it your all. Leaving it all on the field. When she retired from soccer, international and US soccer were looking for their next leaders. I was sure that the way Abby talked about gender issues that she would head off to an Ivy League school, get her MBA, and come back to run US Soccer. I'm still hoping that will happen one day. US Soccer needs her fire and someone to give attention to the girls program. But after retiring from soccer, Abby appeared to struggle with reentry into ordinary life. Her arrest for driving while under the influence was her public low-point. In her memoir, Forward, she is honest with her struggles with addiction and other ghosts in her life. Perhaps speaking her truth allowed her to exorcise the demons and restart her life. She has even started her own leadership training program, Wolfpack Endeavor.

I finished the book the same day I received it (Monday) and immediately assigned it to my 15-year-old-soccer-playing daughter.  Now I did this while she was on Spring Break and needed to finish a research paper. "It's less than a 100 pages, it reads quickly, and you will have it done by Friday." She had it done by Thursday.

If you are burned out on leadership or inspirational books, I strongly suggest you pick up "Wolfpack." Not only is it a quick read, but it distills so much of what great leadership looks like without fluff. Is that ain't quintessential Abby Wambach, I don't know what else it is. There are citations, there are studies quoted, but Abby gets right to the point and moves on. Us powerful majestic goddesses do not have time to read 300 pages of why we need to have demand the fucking ball. So get yourself a copy and maybe even one for your BFF, daughter, or goddess-in-training.

Please purchase your own copy of Wolfpack from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.  

16 May 2017

The Battle of the Sexes trailer is out!

Battle of the Sexes is a new movie that depicts the legendary tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. The trailer was released today and it looks pretty awesome.

I gotta say that I think Steve Carell NAILS Bobby. Normally I want to smooch Steve, but in this clip I wanna slug him! The trailer also teases plot lines about Billie Jean's love life. She kept her sexuality private for a very long time, as almost every professional athlete has done pretty forever. I got to meet Billie Jean King a few years ago at a luncheon. She has always been an inspiration to me so I am really looking forward to this movie. Hopefully Emma Stone's cultural baggage doesn't weight this movie down, but we'll see won't we?

18 April 2017

For Academic Success, We Need to #ProtectPE [sponsored post]

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

My favorite class was gym or PE. Even though I got As in math & science, gym was still my favorite. I loved being able to run around, hit balls, jump, & just move. Now I know I can thank gym class & recess for my good grades. See, research shows that kids who are physically active, even for just an hour a day, do better in school. For many years my daughter’s school did not have recess and only weekly gym class. That is why I joined the Protect PE campaign as I see all physical activity as part of restoring and maintaining our children’s overall health.

Sadly, when our public schools have their budgets cut, physical exercise – gym and recess - is one of the first things to go. According to the Voices for Healthy Kids, only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. And we all know whose budgets get cut first – the schools in communities of color. With those budget cuts come no PE and perhaps after a doubling up on reading and math because these are the same schools that likely score low in those areas. It’s a vicious cycle for children of color. The less PE they get, the less likely they can focus to score well on tests, and then the more likely time sitting at desks in those classes increase. Not to mention, less PE sets our kids up for a more sedentary lifestyle that can lead to an increase in heart disease and diabetes later in life.

This is why it is encouraging that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes PE in its guidelines. ESSA is different from previous federal education laws because it includes PE and health as part of a well-rounded curriculum.

This federal law requires that all states must develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. ALAS! This does not mean that all states must include PE in the plan. That is where we come in. As parents, teachers and community leaders, we can advocate for PE to be included in our state’s plan. We need to advocate to our state leaders that they must not just create a plan of action, but they need to put physical education into the plan and get access to significant federal funding to support PE.

First step is to find out if our kids are getting enough PE. We can do that by joining the PE Action Team. If we find out our kids are not getting enough PE, then start working in your community to increase PE. For resources, please visit http://physicaleducation.voicesforhealthykids.org/

We need to talk to our principals, school boards, fellow parents, and elected officials.

We can do this! This is not about world peace! This is getting our kids the necessary PE they need to be successful students and reach their fullest potential.

So PE on three…ONE…TWO…THREE!!! PE!!!!!!!!

25 October 2016

For Cubs fans past and present

 I have been an emotional wreck since Saturday afternoon.

After we got done with our daughter's soccer match (for the record they lost) I focused on game 6 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS). My Cubbies were heading into the do or die game in a few hours. And yes, while I know there was a game 7, I knew that momentum is on the victors side. If the Cubs somehow lost, I can imagine the Dodgers steamrolling us in game 7 and thus crushing all of Cubs Nation once again. Nerves overcame me. Anxiety was all I could feel. Nausea replaced any appetite. My husband landed last minute tickets and I immediately regretted it. Despite the historical nature and "once in a lifetime" nature of the game, I started to say, "I don't want to go. I can't go." I had the same feeling, times 10, that I get just before the Superman roller coaster starts. I told our daughter, "If they lose, you'll have to carry me home." I knew I would not be able to handle being there to watch our dreams evaporate.

My husband, our daughter, and I got on the Red Line and headed to Wrigley Field. My husband asked many times if I was ok. Apparently anxiety stole the remnants of my summer tan to leave a ghost. I swallowed and said, "I'm ok," in an attempt to convince myself.

But once we got into view of the Friendly Confines its magic started to set in. This was my happy place, despite being there for far too many losses. This is the one place I definitely want my ashes spread. We walked around to look at the merchandise, but committed to not buying anything until "this is all over." Not after we win, but when it is over. No jinxing allowed. I did take a photo of the Eamus Catuli sign because I knew it would change no matter what.

Now we are safe inside one of the holiest places to me. Our rally towel in hand, my scorecard purchased, and a peek at batting practice. Kudos to the crew who picked the music. It's all perfect. As the game moves along and I'm keeping score, watching us take out the Dodgers 1-2-3 each inning, the feeling starts to build. This might happen!

Then the life flashbacks start to happen. Am I dying? Nope, the Cubs are merely inching closer to winning. The entire game I wished my dad was with me. He's the reason I am a Cubs fan. Many summer days were spent watching games on TV. Many days of school were spent ditching to head east to Wrigley Field. Ironically the Dodgers were one of our fave teams to go watch as I was a kid during FernandoMania. When we would sign guest books on vacation he'd add, "Go Cubs!" But he moved to North Carolina almost 20 years ago and there wasn't time or money to get him to the park in time.

I also thought of my mom who died 13 years ago. The long-suffering spouse to a Cubs fan who had daughters who grew up as Cubs fans. She eventually learned to love the Cubbies and enjoy coming out to the park with us...as long as it wasn't an icy Opening Day. How she would have enjoyed watching us lose our mind over this season.

The next morning I walked out to our alley and ran into the woman who lives behind us. "The Cubs won last night!" she reported. I told her I knew, we were there. "We finally had enough angels to make it happen." Her husband who died a few years ago was a huge Cubs fan. I couldn't bring myself to say, "Frank would have loved it." I can barely type it! I remember my husband & I talking to him shortly before he died about maybe, maybe the Cubs would win before he passes. Alas. Then I thought of a friend whose dad recently died. Then I was drowning in ghosts of Cubs fans before me. Thinking of those of us who were carrying our lost dads, grandmas, and best friends into the stadium or sitting with us on the couch.

For most of us, we cried on Saturday night because we never believed we would live long enough to hear the words, "The Cubs are going to the World Series!" But we also cried for those who did not.

Go Cubs!

17 October 2016

A GIF recap of Cubs - Dodgers Game 2

The Cubbies lost game two and instead of moping, I bring you my recap of the game in Steven Universe GIFs:

We started the game off with three up, three down. We felt good then, right?


And then the Dodgers hit a homerun. I wasn't going to let it get to me too much:


Joy at the Cubbies solid defense getting us out of a jam:


When Zobrist caught that ball!


More joy after Javy made a genius call to let a hit ball drop so we can get out of an inning:


Trying to will my Cubbies to find their mojo, juju, whatever magic they used to win over 100 games this season:


Mad at the ump and frustrated at our lack of hits:


And then we lost...


Now off to LA and game three. Good luck, Cubbies! Go get 'em!!


15 April 2016

EVENT: espnW Comes to Chicago

The pay gap that the US Women's Soccer team plays under has been an issue for decades. The team went on strike in the 1990s. Even as the team was fighting towards their third World Cup the media covered their wage gap. Now the team is fighting for fair pay. But soccer is not the only sport that shortchanges women players. Equal pay is just one topic that should be discussed at an upcoming event in Chicago on women's sports. The inequity of women athlete salaries is often dismissed to the lack of fans who attend games, thus less sponsorship dollars and on and on. But it trickles down to unequal playing conditions in high school too. Hopefully this gathering of women's sports influencers will craft some sort of plan to tackle the inequities of not just salaries, but media attention that often drives fan attention. If I can see developmental league basketball on ESPN, I should be able to see professional softball and basketball.

On April 20th, 2016, espnW will host the first-ever espnW: Women + Sports Chicago event.
Inspired by the renowned espnW: Women + Sports Summit, this one-day event will unite
a powerful group of sports leaders, marketing executives, professional athletes,
and influencers in the women + sports space.

While tickets are $595, if you are a student you can email ESPNw for a discounted rate. 

15 November 2015

Soccer Sunday Season's End

This fall Ella moved from playing recreational soccer to a club team. This means she's playing with and against girls who are serious about their soccer. We still have a continuum of seriousness as well as skill. But overall it has been a good fall season.

At 12, Ella has moved from being a big fish in a small pond to being in a much tougher pond. And for the most part she has handled it beautifully. Ella is still learning to be a better soccer player, and she is doing it by learning from her fellow players. That point is really a highlight to this new league. Playing in a competitive league could have lead us to a group of girls and their families where players are cut throat. All the girls are between 11-13, prime middle school catty time, right? But the players on our team seem intent on winning, so that means making sure all the players are ready to win too.

Today was their last match of the fall season, which they won. It was a tough one too, but that makes winning it that much sweeter. Now we get a well deserved break until January. Whew!

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10 June 2015

Support Women's Sports....Join TakePart.com

As you all know, I'm a big sports fan. I started a Facebook community for people who pledge to attend just one women's sporting event a year during the 2008 Winter Olympics. Since then the issue of supporting women's sports continues to grow, but still a conundrum. I noticed last year Chicago's local ABC outlet began to regularly give our Chicago Sky's (WNBA) score in the highlights. And while other stations do as well, ABC is more likely to show a game clip too. So they are getting the props here today. Occassionaly, our NPR station will mention women's college hoops scores or the Chicago Sky's, but I feel like it is just when there were a lack of men's games the night before.

Currently my family has full World Cup fever. Which is why I am excited to share TakePart.com’s newly launched “Equal Playing Field” campaign. It features an original documentary with US National Women’s Soccer team star and Chicago Red Star Christen Press and interviews with Julie Foudy, member of the 1999 US Women’s World Cup championship team, and produced by Frank Marshall, this mini documentary exposes the challenges that professional female soccer teams endure due to the inability to receive the same funding as professional mens soccer teams.

I truly appreciated this mini-doc not just because I am a fan, but I'm raising a soccer player. When you ask Ella what she wants to be when she grows up, she says, "Professional soccer player." And she means it. While we aren't going all Béla Károlyi on her, we do offer her a lot of opportunities to become a better player. Since I am her mom, she also gets a healthy dose of sports politics. I showed her the mini-doc as soon as I was done watching it. Which was also just hours after Press scored the winning goal during the first World Cup match. TIMING IS EVERYTHING!! Since we do go to a lot of women's sporting events, she sees the crowds. She knows the Bandits don't play in front of tens of thousands of people like the Cubs. Same with the Sky and Bulls. But she also sees how engaged the fans are at these games. Having Christine Press make the economic case for supporting women's sports is exactly what this feminist mama needed.

When I have talked with women sports journalists, they cite the lack of attendance for the lack of media attention. But as Julie Foudy says in the mini-doc, without media attention people don't know there's a team to cheer on. My Chicago Red Stars use to play at the same field as our men's pro team, but after the second league busted, they moved to college stadium. This allows them to have a small crowd, but look huge.

I try to get to at least one Red Stars, Sky, Force and Bandits game every summer, but it's hard with our busy lives. Especially with the short schedule the Force plays. And one year I swear I'll get season tickets to at least one of them!

But first up is a cross-town bout in Chicago roller derby and then we're off to the World Cup. OH YEAH!!!!!!!

26 March 2015

The Power to Offend: Why Dan Bernstein Says What He Says

The latest case of foot-in-mouth disease, Chicago sports radio personality, Dan Bernstein.

Wednesday night, Bernstein took to Twitter to question the ability of a woman sports reporter's abilities. He woke up the next morning with a Twitter hangover. But unlike the young man who called Mo'ne Davis a slut, so far Bernstein has gotten off scott-free.

The Chicago Tribune reports that "Bernstein admitted on air he didn't realize he was in the middle of a blazing social media firestorm until he woke up Thursday morning. Only then did it hit him that making Twitter comments about a woman sports anchor's appearance probably wasn't a good career move." Ya, think?

What was his offending tweet about? Boobs

Since he joined the radio station in 1995, we can assume that he is not a teenage boy unaccustomed to seeing women or women's body parts. So what would make a grown man say something, never mind it was on Twitter, about a colleague's appearance in such a gross manner?


As a white male in a white male dominated industry, he has immense power. He has also been the co-host of his current show since 1999. That means that the powers that be at WSCR know him very well and appreciate his work. That gives him more power. This type of institutional power exhibits itself in many ways in other arenas - this is what gives people the sense of invincibility and they are often correct. We are far more a society of forced apologies than having real conversations about what the offense really was about.

This is why the Starbucks "Race Forward" campaign was such a flop. As a society, we have little skills to talk about racism, sexism, homophobia and all the other 'isms a rational level that does not involve those in power (usually white heterosexual men) to be offended.

For me, as someone who studies organizations and why some continue to be safe havens for racism and sexism, the first thing I wanted to see if there were any women on-air at the station. Here are the line-ups:

OK...maybe not hosts. I get that women are often the side-kick or side-line reporter, let's see what that looks like:


And then I noticed a link above the hosts line up.

WSCR EEO Report: Click here.

Oh....So yes, I clicked right on over. In a simple PDF form, you can see how CBS hired all their openings for one year. I restricted my quick research project to WSCR. Over the course of July 23, 2013 – July 22, 2014, they hired eight individuals.
(11) Local Sales Manager (WSCR(AM)) Internal Candidate/Promotion
(12) Account Executive (WSCR(AM)) Referral (Employee, Industry, Personal)
(13) Account Executive (WSCR(AM)) Referral (Employee, Industry, Personal)
(14) Account Executive (WSCR(AM)) Referral (Employee, Industry, Personal)
(15) Promotions Manager (WSCR(AM)) Internal Candidate/Promotion
(16) National Sales Assistant (WSCR(AM)) Referral (Employee, Industry, Personal)
(17) Board Op Sounds Producer (WSCR(AM)) Internal Candidate/Promotion
(18) Content Producer (WSCR(AM)) Internal Candidate/Promotion
And you get to see where they got their interviewed candidates. I could not find information on their actual resume pool, but given what we know of the job market, I think it safe to say there were more than 54 applicants for eight openings. And where did WSCR get their interviewees from?

28 from internal applicants
17 from personal referrals
9 from the CBS job website
1 from an outside job website

And 100% of the jobs were filled with people who were referred to the openings or internal candidates. It is true that it is who you know!

Back to Bernstein...People are now wondering what should happen. Fired? Suspended? Whichever is fine with me. But what we really should be talking about is how did a radio station, even a sports radio station, get to where there are NO women on their photo staff roster? Well, I think I just showed you.

When you rely on internal and personal networks to fill open positions, you often replicate what you already have. The way humans works is that we too often associate with people who look just like us. It is comforting. Which is why some organizations make it harder for those in hiring to hire who they know. It does not always work, but at least it pushes people to reach outside their inner circle to look for applicants. And given the long list of diverse organizations that the ads were listed in, there should had been applicants who were good enough for an interview.

Organizational culture is very hard to change. But it can change with enough will from the top. I know some will wave off this incident as just more frat boy sports radio antics and they are right, But it does not mean we should ignore it. Women are sports journalists and they deserve a workspace that is respectful of them as human beings. It can be done, but not if we focus on apologies instead of actions.

18 February 2015

First Woman to Head MLB Doctors Group

As a sports fan, I have always been intrigued as to why women dominate the medical field, but not sports medicine. You rarely think of them until you see your quarterback get knocked down or someone slides into second base and catches their cleat on the base. This is why I perked up when I learned that Dr. Kathleen Weber is poised to become the first woman to lead the Major League Baseball (MLB) Team Physicians Association in 2016. She is the Director of Primary Care/Sports Medicine and Women's Sports Medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

This was an important interview for me for two reasons. The first reason is my daughter. She is 11 and aspires to make soccer her career. She has a big wall sticker of soccer phenom Alex Morgan above her bed and wears a pink headband like Alex. I want to do whatever I can to help her reach that goal, but I stop short of being overbearing and pushing too hard too soon. Being able to speak to a professional who has seen what pushing too hard looks like was a gift.

My other reason for talking with Dr. Weber is professional. As someone who works with and studies about women in science, I have sometimes been told, "At least medicine isn't an issue anymore." Clearly, there are still systemic issues in medicine in regards to when it comes to women beyond their representation in medical school. To realize that in 2015 we are still celebrating and marking "firsts" for women doctors is remarkable -- and not in a good way. I hope that Dr. Weber's work will inspire young women who aspire to be athletic trainers and physicians and practice in any locker room and sideline.

I recently chatted with her about sports, being a first and the difference in athletes by sport:

VLF: What does it mean to you to be the first woman elected to be the president-elect of the Major League Baseball Team Physicians Association?
Dr. Weber: It is a great honor for my work to be respected by my colleagues. It is a privilege for them to trust me with this leadership role.

VLF: What do you hope to accomplish in this role?
Dr. Weber: I plan to continue the community and leadership that our organization provides. This includes continuing to improve our academic meetings where we discuss issues such as safety. Safety is a big issue in baseball.

VLF: We know that in terms of safety, concussions are a huge issue with football, but what are the big concerns in baseball?
Dr. Weber: In baseball it is mostly overuse issues. Hamstrings, pitchers elbows and rotator cuffs. Concussions are an issue, but not as big an issue as in football. But there is research occurring to develop a cap for pitchers to protect them from balls that are hit straight back to them. We also are always working on ways to better protect the catcher.

VLF: How influential is your position and organization? Does MLB listen to your opinions on safety?
Dr. Weber: I also serve on the Medical Advisory Board which does present recommendations to MLB. We do find that they listen to our findings and expertise.

VLF: I was impressed that you work with so many different teams from baseball to basketball, but also women's football. What differences to you see between the sports and even between men and women athletes?
Dr. Weber: To me they are more alike than different. For one, every athlete wants to win. Their common denominator is that they all have a high drive to be their best. They all work very hard. I will say that the difference is how they express frustration and emotion. But male athletes are just as emotional as female athletes.

VLF: As the mom of an 11-year-old girl who plays soccer and dances, what advice do you have to keep our children in shape?
Dr. Weber: First of all, kids should be having fun. Once you stop having fun you lose the urge to compete. Also, your daughter playing soccer and participating in dance is good. Kids shouldn't specialize until they are much older. Specializing too early is what causes repetitive injuries.

VLF: What advice would you give kids who have Olympic or professional sport dreams?
Dr. Weber: I tell kids that they need to work hard and have fun. Learn to eat well and rest well. Kids need to learn how to recover from injuries. They should enjoy their family and do well in school. As for parents, you need to give them access to good coaches. If a coach shows you that he or she is a jerk, walk away.

Note: Interview is from notes, not a transcription. Ideas were summarized and/or combined for space.

14 May 2014

Sterling and Racism in the USA

My mouth dropped when I heard NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, announce that he was suspending indefinitely, the owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling, over his racist remarks which were recorded. At first I was happy that he would no longer be able to conduct business with the team, but then I realized that this was the worst outcome for the anti-racism conversation.

No, I do not want to see his smug face on the sidelines with whomever he happens to be dating this week. But let us step back and examine what has happened. Truly examine what message this explusion from the NBA says about racism in America. It means keep your mouth shut.

Mike Florio thinks that this is a big signal to sports owners across the country. You are on notice! Your racism will not be tolerated. But he is wrong. Racism is tolerated. Racist remarks recorded on a phone is not tolerated. We must be honest and forthright about the difference.

And this difference is why we see Sterling trying to apologize his way back into control of the Clippers.  Of course, he can't even manage a decent apology. How else would someone think they can say what they said, do what they did and think an apology will make it all better? Because Sterling was only sanctioned when he was caught on a recording saying racist things.

From all accounts, Sterling has been an open racist. From his slumlord actions to plantatation mentality, I do not believe Commissioner Silver when he responded to a question at his press conference that he had no idea Sterling was vying for racist of the year. I believe Elgin Baylor when he says Sterling wanted white coaches and black players. Racism within sports is not a new conversation. The NFL has a rule that a team must interview at least one minority candidate. MLB does not automatically offer translators to their Spanish-speaking players, despite the fact they make up at quarter of the players in the league. Not to mention the number of racist team names we still have embroidered on jerseys and hats (psst...Washington DC is not the only team either).

No, the actions the NBA took were decidely not anti-racist, rather it was an act to sweep racism under the rug. And the reactions of "good riddance!" just confirm my judgement. The purging of one bad apple does not mean the rest of the barrel is clean. Sterling exhibited racism and sexism over the course of many years. The NBA and other big sports need to take this moment to truly address their global racist and sexist actions.

Big sports (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL) need to chart out a method to investigate ethical questions that is independent of the powers that be. Let's look at the NFL and their attempt to whitewash concussion research. Instead of working with medical professionals to understand the issue and find solutions, they hired medical professionals to release poor scientific papers and wooed mom bloggers with safety tips. The next time (and we know there will be!) a professional athlete is accused of rape, bring out the independent investigator. Heck, we don't need four, just one mega independent investigator to sort things out.

If Commissioner Silver is truly commited to heading a league that reflects high morals and values, he will have zero tolerance for rape, sexual harassment, and racism on and off the court. With or without a recording. Yes, with real evidence, but we don't need a smoking digital file to take action.

If we are truly disgusted by Sterling's comments, we should be equally disgusted by his off court actions - even if a court cleared him of wrong-doing. And we should not let this be about one conversation, but rather a series of events and actions that Sterling and others like him do every day. We need to continue to pressure every team to remove racist mascots from their franchises, hats and baby onesies.

We cannot let the conversation about race in sports end when Sterling cashes out.

01 January 2014

Book Review: League of Denial by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago during the 1980s means that the team of all teams was the 1985 Bears. Walter Payton flew over defensive lines and on occasion did land on his head. To us, it was amazing. To his body, it was brutal.

"League of Denial" [P | I] provides amazing detail into how brutal the game of football is to the human body. On page 5, the Fainaru brothers cite a physicist who calculated a Dick Butkus hit as equivalent to the size of a small adult killer whale. HOLY CRAP!

Ultimately, the Fainaru brothers tell the story of how football players were paid a king's ransom to play a boy's game, but their bodies and brains paid the real price. The NFL told players that they were special. Weaker men, who would be hurt by concussions, had been weeded out. They were the cream of the crop in more than just playing skills, but in how their bodies reacted to injury.

Many of the men highlighted in the book clearly were full of regret for not hurting themselves, but hurting their friends, their brothers in arms. Story after story involves not just brain injury, but loss of employment and ultimately the destruction of many families due to violent behavior and/or economic strain. Even agents, such as Leigh Steinberg, began to question what the hell they were doing.

They also tell of a vast conspiracy that bled into children's lives. See, in an effort to keep NFL players in the dark, the NFL created a whole team of scientists and studies that said, "Concussions? No need to worry about them! They rarely happen and when they do, no big deal." Yet, helmet makers wanted to create the concussion-proof helmet and when they felt they did, they marketed it to parents and youth leagues too. The other issue with the helmets were not just that they didn't protect one from getting concussions, but it left players with a false sense of security -- to hit harder!

And this conspiracy began by an accident. Concussions were never under scrutiny. The chance that one former NFL player happened to die on a day when a curious corner was on duty spurred this whole discussion. Outside of one or two people involved in "discovering" the extent of the concussion issue, all the scientists involved were strong football fans. They wanted to help the NFL make football safer and to keep players as healthy as possible. They never wanted to kill football. Yet, the league quickly dismissed them and framed them as quacks, when they should have worked with them right then and there.
If only 10 percent of mothers in America begin to conceive of football as a dangerous game, that is the end of football. - page 206
And if you're the NFL who do you turn to to make sure this doesn't happen? Mom bloggers. Yup, in 2012, after a change in leadership, the NFL invited a select group of mom bloggers to NYC to listen to their side of the concussion story. The moms listened to other women: Holly Robinson Peete (Judy Hoffs from "21 Jump Street," wife of a former NFL Player and mom of 4 children), a neuropsychologist & consultant for the Chicago Bears, and a health communications specialist for the CDC (page 322). And yes, the mom bloggers live tweeted that football was safe. One mom blogger, then-Dumb Mom-now-DudeMom, blogged that her concerns arose from the fact her young son started playing tackle football:
I worry that something will get broken, or pulled, or torn, or strained, or sprain. But mostly, I worry that he will be concussed.

And that, friends, is a legitimate worry.

Because kids do suffer concussions on the football field. And, sometimes coaches and parents and other adults involved in the sport aren’t educated enough to keep that from happening; or to respond to it appropriately when it unfortunately does.

That is knowledge I acquired when I went to the NFL offices and sat in on a discussion with USA Football, the CDC, and prominent physicians to learn about a program they call Heads Up Football.

It encourages coaches to teach boys a new, head’s up way to tackle (no leading with their head) and it’s helping to spread awareness about concussion treatment and prevention.

It’s helping parents, coaches, players, and physicians really understand the severity of having your brain bounced all around in your skull in a way that has never before been done.
She goes on to bust concussion myths, but at the same time gives her thumbs up to young people playing tackle football. While this is an individual choice, I wanted to point out, yet again, why word of mouth stuff must be taken with a grain of salt. But we must ask why would the NFL go to this trouble? Because of this quote: "If only 10 percent of mothers in America begin to conceive of football as a dangerous game, that is the end of football." I asked DudeMom if her sons are still playing and she said yes. She hasn't read the book, only scanned the part where she's quoted.
The things I have learned via my work with Heads Up Football about being a proactive sports parent have helped me make this and a multitude of other decisions when it comes to my sons and their athletics.  They are passionate about the game and I support them in this by being involved and working with the league and our local team to create a better, safer playing experience.
Because the concussion issue does bleed into soccer (Ella's sport of choice & amazing skill), I get why it is important to be a proactive parent. I am merely asking all of us to question the type of junket that DudeMom was a part of.  In soccer, we are advised to not allow for players to head the ball until they are older than 10. This type of precaution is not a part of football, as far as I could find (as always, correct me if I am wrong!). If US Soccer invited me to the same type of event, I would expect you to push me too.

Overall the book will make you think twice about letting your child play football. It will also make fans look at the game differently. I wince when I see guys take a huge hit. I admit to letting out, "ohs!" in the past. In fact, I still do. I do not think that we can take tackling out of football. But we can try to minimize the injuries, especially reducing helmet-to-helmet hits. Ultimately, as fans we must question our role in the fact that our favorite players, such as Jim McMahon, and most hated players, such as Bret Favre, can not remember large parts of their lives.

The book is not perfect. As a scientist, I think they minimize the scientific process, especially the peer review process. That said, there are always points in the process that can and should be questioned. 

The racism that is evident in how Bennet Omalu is treated during the evolution of the concussion debate is often minimized. It is something that should be better fleshed out, as the sexism that Ann McKee faced was.

The cult of masculinity is the real enemy in this puzzle. The hardest part of the book was the section on Dave Duerson, a beloved member of the 1985 Bears, and his evolution from defending the NFL to ultimately committing suicide by shooting himself in the chest so his brain could be studied. His story includes all the tropes - wondering why some players are whining, that "I'm ok, why aren't you?" and on and on. We are told the tale of a smart and loving person who spins out of control. Outsiders see a washed up athlete who can't handle retirement, when in fact he is a deeply wounded person. How often did he get 'his bell rung" and sucked it up to stay in the game for job security?

As a football fan, I wondered if offsides are a function of concussions? Has anyone looked at this? Considering how former players described the sensation of "shaking it off" and heading back in for the next play, I would bet that offside calls could be a detection point.

This is a must read for every football fan and every parent thinking about letting their young children play tackle football. You may still enjoy the game, I do. You may still allow your child to play, as DudeMom does. But at least you will know a likely reason as to why Junior Seau spun out of control in retirement and killed himself.

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book through Powells or Indiebound.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from a publicist. 

05 September 2013

Review: American Masters Billie Jean King

DVR alert!

You must set your DVR or your calendar to be home on Tuesday, September 10th to watch the premiere of PBS American Masters documentary on Billie Jean King.

When Billie Jean King's childhood friend asked her if she wanted to play tennis, she didn't know what tennis was. "You get to run, jump and hit a ball." King knew that was her game as those where her three favorite things to do. We learn that King and her brother were raised by very typical 1950s parents who also happened to be very progressive. Her parents instilled a sense of fairness and justice in them. So much so that when King got serious about tennis, she immediately recognized that it was an elitist game. In the documentary she claims that she then rationalized that if she were to become the best player in the world, it would give her the platform to fight for justice. As much as that came true, I wonder how much of that plan is true.

But I could care less.

This documentary paints the portrait of a fighter. It documents King's fight for equal pay in women's tennis, first by helping to found a rival women's league, then unionizing all the women after she realized that fighting as one entity was the way to go. Where the film fails is seeing her dream of equal pay to the end as we learned in the espnW film, "Venus Vs." While King does not, herself, "win" equal pay, it is clear that her mentorship of the Williams sisters is what was the key.

Also missing in the film is any mention of her advising of Julie Foudy of the pre-1996 Olympic strike by the US Women's Soccer team in their quest for equal pay, as seen in "Dare to Dream." Clearly her legacy is not just the achievements of the 1960s and 70s she played a leadership role in for women's sports, but her ongoing mentoring of current players as women sports continue to fight for equality.

That said, this is a great documentary of Billie Jean King during her playing days. She fought a lot of battles, important battles whose ramifications are still felt today. Throughout the film I was keenly aware that during those days King saw most of her actions as political actions. This meant that she had a reputation as a troublemaker and most likely cost her some money. But while some tennis players kept their mouths shut and smiled for the cameras (King smiled plenty too), King was winning them bigger purses and respect.

Excerpt of which airs Tuesday, September 10, 2013 on your local PBS station:

20 August 2013

Congrats Ryno!

The familia & I took a short vacation last week (let's use that as the reason why this blog was so quiet, ok?) to the LA-Anaheim area. So it was sometime late in the day on Friday that I found out that my favorite baseball player, Ryne Sandberg, was named interim manager of the Phillies. It took until Sunday for him to notch his first win as a manager and Monday was win number 2!

As a Cubs fan, my heart broke when the Cubs didn't give Ryno a chance to manage. Heck, even seriously consider him as the manager! It broke even more when he was welcomed in Philadelphia and just knew that he would be manager one day. Am I a Phillies fan now? Nope. But I will be rooting for Ryno to turn the team around and a world of success. Now to get me some tickets for the homestand at Wrigley.

23 July 2013

#NineforIX Interview with Christine Brennan

This summer espnW is celebrating Title IX, the federal law that has provided girls and women access to athletic programs, with nine films. One film, "Let Them Wear Towels," which premiered July 16, documented the rise of the woman sports journalist and their biggest hurdle to success -- the locker room.

Today we don't bat an eye to see journalists, like NBC Chicago's Peggy Kusinski, grab an athlete right after the game and pepper them with questions. Sometimes she's in the locker room, sometimes she's on the sideline. She goes where she needs to get the story. And that is exactly why in the 1970s and '80s women sports journalists fought to gain access to the sweatiest and grossest place in sports. Earlier this year, to former Chicago Bear Jim Harbaugh for questioning the policy to not let women into locker rooms. If we had to rank the feminist battles of the 20th Century, and some people like to do that, this might not be in the top 10. But it no less important than other glass ceilings that continue to be shattered.

I had the honor to speak to award-winning journalist
Christine Brennan about the early part of her career, what the future holds for women sports journalists and how young women can take inspiration from her generation's battle.

VLF: I have to say that I watched what your generation had to endure in the locker rooms and am in awe. The poise you had in the face of some awful treatment and harassment is inspiring.

CB: Thanks, there were times when I would be the only woman in the press box. But most of the women in the film were ahead of me by a few years, five to seven years. They opened a lot of doors for me. I personally do not have any horror stories, at least not like what the other women went through. I was pretty lucky. In fact, I often I didn't notice I was the only woman. I wasn't looking for it. I was honestly blissfully ignorant that I might be the only woman in the press box. I was so focused on my job, that nothing was getting in my way. It was the men who would usually be the ones who pointed it out to me.

VLF: "Let Them Wear Towels" is set in the 1970s and '80s, yet there are still fields where women still feel as one of the few women. What message could today's young women in those fields, especially science and engineering, take away from this documentary to help them with their lives?

CB: I feel that if you have naivete and gumption, if you can combine those two then you got what you need. You can't always sweat the small stuff. Continue to do your job and hopefully do it very well. The women in the film were my mentors. You can see that they had great spirit and that nothing was going to stop them. This film is about winning. We won! If you can persevere, you will be fine. You are on the correct side of the issue. Inclusion will always win.

VLF: Yes, this film is about a huge win. BUT... to what extent are the highest echelons of sports journalism still a boys' club?

CB: I was just at the Association of Women in Sports Media conference. It was the 25th anniversary conference and had the largest turnout. That said, it certainly would be wonderful to have more women as sports editors and directors. Billie Jean King likes to remind us that we need to be charge. I do want to point out that the largest circulated sports section is at USA Today and our editor is Mary Byrne! But we can still do better. With that in mind, we need to remember that budget constraints are hindering the hiring of women sports journalists. We will get there, but it will take time.

VLF: What responsibility do you believe women sports journalists have to women's sports?

CB: For me, I cover far more men's sports than women's sports. But I did calculate my work for 2012, 25% columns were about women and that was in 2012 an Olympic year. Olympic years always see an upswing in reporting on women's sports. I do see myself as being aware of what is happening, alerting editors and writing about it. But I am not a promoter of only the good news. No one was more critical of Tonya Harding or Marion Jones than I was. I do not promote women's sports, but I do cover them. When I was at the Washington Post, every year they covered the men's US Open, but not the women's US Open. I went to my editor, pointed this out and he agreed that we should cover it, so I went. Over the year, eventually the golf writer took over the coverage, which was a good thing. When they're not writing glowing pieces, but covering the event.

I did express my disappointment in men coaching women's sports, especially when US Soccer hired a man as a head coach. He's a great guy, but his hiring sends the wrong message. The US women's soccer team is the most visible team and to have a man as head coach, when we have plenty of qualified woman after a generation of them playing and coaching soccer, it is just the wrong message. Girls who look up to players like Alex Morgan should see her being coached by a woman.

VLF: It is clear that there is a strong sense that one needs to be beautiful to get a broadcast job, even in sports. I was watching a sports talk show and half of the men were very schleppy looking -- wrinkled polos, beer guts, not clean shaven. When will we get women on sports shows that look like that?

CB: I hope we don't, cause that's gross! I have to say that we're closer than people think to seeing parity in sports talk shows, including having women who are not traditionally beautiful. Yes, we see beautiful women on the sidelines and I root for them. And I am especially rooting that when they are 50, that they are doing as much TV as they are now. I do not have beauty pageant looks, but I am doing more TV now in my 50s than ever before.

I know that I am getting all this TV not because of looks, but talent, brains, and opinions. Looks come and go, but you can't lose your brains, smarts, talent. We have been blinded by some hiring -- but I still root for them -- but I really think we are almost there at parity. Just look at all the veteran women who are thriving on air. I think you need to be smart to be on TV. Sure, we still love good-looking people, male or female, but sports is welcoming of veterans too, the not-so and good-looking.

Tune on Tuesday, July 23rd for the next installment of the #NineoforIX  series with "No Limits," the story of Audrey Mestre who died on Oct. 12, 2002 while attempting a world-record free-dive off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

Cross-posted at Gapers Block Tail Gate

16 July 2013

Review: "Let Them Wear Towels" a film by #NineforIX

This week's installment of espnW's Nine for IX documentary series is, the story of a small group of pioneering women sports reporters who dared to enter the locker room.

How bad was it when women decided they too wanted to report on the goings on in sports? My childhood hero,
Dave Kingman once threw buckets of water on Jane Gross and cussed her out. Hey, I wasn't even four when he came to Chicago to play for my Cubbies, so I forgive myself. Then there was a time when a hockey player lifted & escorted out another woman reporter.

The old boys club was still located in the locker room, so most men in sports did what they could to maintain that power differential.

Consider what a sports reporter has to accomplish in their daily reports and you can see where the power struggle fits in. If a player blows a save in the ninth inning (something us Cubs fans are far too familiar with), you have to ask what happened. And that asking usually happens in the locker room.

In "Let Them Wear Towels," we hear tale after tale of women trying to just do their job, but being told to stand in the hallway. Sometimes the team's press person would bring a player to the door for an interview. Other times, she would send her questions with a sympathetic male reporter. Melissa  Ludtke outlines how difficult it was for her to do her job without being in the locker room. Often guys would get to her in the hallway exhausted and would apologize, then go home.

Some felt it was easier for women to ask questions of the sport as they did not have to appear as if they knew it all, as men needed to do.They also felt they changed the way questions were asked. Instead of just asking, "What happened when you threw that curve ball that went for a homerun?" the women would ask, "How did you feel when you gave up the winning home run?"

Despite the hostility that these women faced, they did have some strong allies. Tommy John was fine with women reporters and even helped to gain one reporter access to the locker room but once Major League Baseball's commissioner heard about it, he rescinded permission. He claimed he needed to get permission from players' wives.*EPIC EYE ROLL*

Claire Smith had a super-ally in Steve Garvey. Once he came out into the hall and stayed there as long as she needed. But that's not all. He filed a grievance with team as to how they treated her. Garvey saw it as an issue as to how they communicate to baseball fans. Smith was his conduit to the fans, so why exclude her from doing that?

The women sports journalists quickly learned that access is not enough. Once inside, women were harassed. They mostly assumed that access would result in respect for the job and for them.

I highly recommend this for everyone to see. The battles fought were huge and done on an individual basis. It is also a huge testament to the need to engage men in feminist issues.

Tune in tonight at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT (seriously, you really want to watch the All-Star game!?).

01 July 2013

Review: Venus Vs. - A #NineforIX Film by Ava DuVernay

Venus Vs. Premiere Date | July 2nd at 8:00PM ET on ESPN

People, pop the popcorn, grab your sodas and get comfy because "Venus Vs." is a must watch film. And no, you don't have to be a sports fan. Let me tell you why.

I love tennis, but I don't follow it very closely. When the Williams sisters arrived on the tennis scene, I fell in love. They were brassy and definitely not "country club" players. In Serena William's memoir, she discussed some of the racism that the sisters have experienced at the professional level. In "Venus Vs." this racism is addressed via the and other incidents.

But most of this film focuses on Venus' decision to take on the decades long battle to obtain equal prize money for women players at Wimbledon. When Billie Jean King won Wimboldon in 1968, her prize money was equal to 37% of the men's pay package. In 2005, Venus joins the off-and-on fight for equal money. And in 2007 when women finally go equal pay, Venus is the one who wins the championship.

What truly had me glued to my screen was the fact that Billie Jean King kept going back to the idea that women's tennis needed that "one voice" to bring about this equality. Chris Evert is shown saying that the unequal prize money wasn't really a big issue for her, showing that even a superstar like her went along with the inequality. And when Venus came along and took the issue up as her cause, stuff got done.

Perhaps it was all Venus. She is definitely a superstar who did command attention to the issue. So much that the women of Parliament joined her. There's one amazing scene where the power of the red jacket is shown and now I need to get myself one. But do things really get done because of one person? Was it the right voice at the right time? Was it the right catalyst to get others moving on the issue? Who knows. But it's an amazing path to watch.

So if you are a tennis fan, sports fan, fan of women's equality or hell, even the political process, you are going to love this film. After the film, leave comments here or head over to the "
I Pledge to Attend a Women's Sports Event" Facebook Page to discuss.

Venus Vs. Premiere Date | July 2nd at 8:00PM ET on ESPN

Director | Ava DuVernay
Producers | Ava DuVernay, Howard Barish, Tilane Jones, Libby Geist, Deirdre Fenton
Cast | Venus Williams, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe

18 June 2013

Review: Nine for IX -- espnW's documentary series on women sports

Get your DVRs ready! Because ESPN is bringing us nine tales of women's sports this summer, Nine for IX. The series will premiere July 2 on ESPN and air consecutive Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m. each week.

To kick off the series, espnW is bringing us the short documentary, "It launches today, so I'm excited to learn more about this powerhouse. Scroll down to view it here! It's amazing. She is amazing.

But I am ECSTATIC about the full series. My daughter can't wait to watch the film on the '99ers. She just loves all things soccer and I hope to take credit for her admiration of Julie Foudy. 

I did watch the first half of the July 2nd film, "Venus Vs." and it was great. I'll have more to say after I finish watching it all as I have some issue with us always waiting for "that one champion" to push us towards equality. Well, like I said, more later. It should make a great companion to
Serena's memoir.

Whether or not you have pledged to attend a women's sporting event, know a girl who plays, or is a season-ticket holder to a women's team, these films will be must-watch TV.

The air dates are as follows (listed with each film's director):

July 2: Venus Vs. (Ava DuVernay)
July 9: Pat XO (Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters; produced by Robin Roberts)
July 16: Let Them Wear Towels (Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern)
July 23: No Limits (Alison Ellwood)
July 30: Swoopes (Hannah Storm)
Aug. 6: The Diplomat (Jennifer Arnold and Senain Kheshgi)
Aug. 13: Runner (Shola Lynch)
Aug. 20: The '99ers (Erin Leyden; produced by Julie Foudy)
Aug. 27: Branded (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady)


This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.
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