HolyCoast: You Want Equality in Sports? Here You Go

Saturday, November 19, 2011

You Want Equality in Sports? Here You Go

Unintended consequences:
During his first-period broadcast Monday, the Norwood High athletic director Brian McDonough congratulated Will Higgins for breaking the meet record in the 50-yard freestyle the previous day at the Massachusetts South Division fall swimming and diving championships.

McDonough chose not to mention that it was a girls swimming championship.

“I didn’t want to get into that,” he said.

Anthony Rodriguez, another boy on the Norwood girls team, heard a grace note in McDonough’s omission.

“If people hear that you set a record, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s awesome,’ ” Rodriguez said. “But if they knew you were competing against girls, they wouldn’t have as much respect for you.”

Higgins, a senior, and Rodriguez, a sophomore, are among roughly two dozen boys competing on girls teams in Massachusetts because their schools do not have boys swimming programs. They are able to do so because of the open access amendment to the state constitution, which was voted into law in the 1970s and mandates that boys and girls must be afforded equal access to athletics.

Boys have been members of girls swim teams since the 1980s, but until recently they were mostly a sideshow. It has only been in the last year or two that boys have swum well enough to draw attention — and people’s ire. The epicenter of the debate is the 50-yard freestyle, an event in which strength can trump talent or technique.

At the Division I state championships on Saturday at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there are eight boys in the 28-swimmer field in the 50 freestyle. Although Norwood’s Higgins was ruled academically ineligible Friday and will not compete at the state meet, two of the top four seeds in the 50 freestyle are boys, giving rise to the possibility that a boy could be the girls state champion.

Sarah Hooper, a senior at Needham High who is the fourth-fastest female entrant, finds the situation difficult to swallow.

“It’s really frustrating to see how athletic directors and school administrators aren’t doing anything,” she said. “They really aren’t advocating for us. I understand there isn’t an opportunity for these boys, but it infuriates me that they can’t combine two schools’ boys to create one team or have them compete in separate heats. The way it is now, the boys are taking recognition away from girls who have worked hard and deserve it.”
At the college level Title 9 has resulted in the cancellation of men's teams across the country in schools where they couldn't get as many women athletes to compete as they had men who wanted to. The demand for equality actually lessened opportunities for many men. That's what happens when you demand equality in this manner.

Every summer the World Series of Poker takes place in Las Vegas, and sometime back they started a Women's event within the tournament.  Both men and women can enter most of the events, but apparently somebody wanted to make sure there was at least one women's bracelet winner.  However, some men objected to a ladies-only event (there's no men's-only event) and so men have taken to entering the women's tournament.  Thanks to the state's anti-discrimination laws the WSOP can't stop them.  No man has won yet, and the ones who enter are generally booed by the crowd, but someday there just might be a male winner in the ladies event.  That would be entertaining and would probably end the idea of a sex-segregated tournament.  Certainly poker is not a sport where sex should make any difference, but so far no woman has made it to the final table in the Main Event.


Larry said...

Why don't they expand Title 9 to include the rest of what the schools of higher learning do? You want a Womens Studies program? Fine, have a Men's Studies program too.

Anonymous said...

Since the events are timed, would it really be that hard to simply group the boy's times together and select a winner that way? Obviously this wouldn't work for relays, but for individual events it seems like that would make more sense. That way the boys could still train, participate, and get the joys of being in a competition and on a team, yet still allow for the separation. Men DO have larger hearts and lungs, not to mention greater muscle mass, which is why they are better at sports! Equality is nice, and it's great that there is a way for all people to participate, but the sexes ARE different.