Monday, June 18, 2018

When Winning Isn't Enough

This flag football season has provided me with arguably the most fun and excitement that I’ve ever had engaging with youth sports. My son was one of the best players on an excellent team and getting to watch him develop as an athlete and a leader on the field was extremely rewarding. My daughter is the youngest and smallest player on her team but she has proven herself (I hope) to be a worthy member of her own team—one that sits a single game away from a championship.

As thrilling as this season has been for me, though, it has been equally disheartening and disappointing. Sarah’s team finished the regular season as the only unbeaten team in the K-2 Gold division, which should be laudable in its own right—and ordinarily would be, if it didn’t happen to be a team comprised of all girls.

I try to keep my opinions to myself and limit the frequency with which I proffer them—particularly on divisive issues. Personally, I feel like, collectively, our society has become way too sensitive; too many innocuous statements and situations get blown out of proportion—diluting the overarching message and dampening the underlying cause by drawing all of the attention onto the seemingly menial issues and instances.

I hope you’ll take my word for it that what has happened this season, with this team of young women, is not trivial or dismissible. Instead, it is atrocious, disgusting, and indicative of what a sham the purportedly progressive purviews are that people claim to have regarding women in this country.

Throughout this season, this Broncos team has been scoffed at—derided and outright dismissed by everyone from kids and parents from other teams to competing coaches and, sadly, even the commissioner of the league who, on SEVERAL occasions, had the gall to pompously predict that the girls had “no chance whatsoever” of beating the team in front of them.

And yet that’s all they did. Repeatedly. Girls’ teams, coed teams, all boys teams. Whatever team they faced, they didn’t simply defeat—they absolutely destroyed them. These weren’t fluke victories—squeaked out with some miracle occurrences: they were blowouts. The Broncos more than DOUBLED the entire scoring output of the combined efforts of EVERY TEAM THEY FACED. They outscored their opponents 190-78 based upon the posted scores (which are actually underreported).

Despite all of this—yesterday at the field, my wife overheard several different parents—some even on my son’s team—saying after they lost, “well at least we didn’t lose to THEM [the Broncos].” That’s been the sentiment all season—that this team somehow doesn’t belong—that they’ve had things handed to them. People are saying that a Super Bowl victory would be great because it might engender an all-girls’ league.

To me, that’s utter bullshit. This Broncos team is proving exactly why there SHOULDN’T be an all-girls’ league or division. They’ve beaten more all-boys teams than all-girls ones. Why, then, shouldn’t they have the opportunity to compete with “the best,” (a.k.a. the boys) when they’ve not only demonstrated an ability to win but dominated?

The reason why is simple: too many men in the world still think of women as being inferior. Whether it’s in one tiny way like their driving skills or a more egregious, deep-rooted sentiment that speaks to the very core of their capabilities, misogyny is like a virus that is thriving in this country.

“What’s the big deal? It’s just sports, man.”

What’s the big deal? These girls are between 5 and 8 years old, they’re playing in a RECREATIONAL sports league—one that’s supposedly all for fun—with absolutely nothing at stake. No cash prizes, no national press, no glory other than the sheer joy of competition. Despite ALL OF THIS, they have faced nothing but dismissive commentary when they’ve won, questions about the very validity of their playing in the first place—snide comments, hurtful “jokes,” complaints about their schedule—all of this because they are winning. Because they are beating boys teams. Because they are ruffling the feathers of the long-established tradition of males playing out on the field and females being relegated to the sidelines.

The saddest part in all of this---and certainly the most telling—is the fact, from its inception, this has been a coed league. Some of the best players have been girls but apparently, in small doses, that’s acceptable—probably because there are other equally talented boys to capture the adulation and adoration. There’s never been an all-girls team like this one and a sickening majority of men are incapable of recognizing the beauty in what they are achieving.

I’ve heard people say, “Well they don’t have daughters so they just don’t understand,” and, while that is true, it’s still a cop out. Many of these men have sisters and female cousins and most, presumably, have or had mothers, aunts, and grandmothers—women who have had to face the same type of vitriol that they themselves are spewing. But here’s the kicker—the worst part: all of these men that are engaging in this conjecture have kids playing in the league…which means that most of them if not all of them have wives, girlfriends, or even exes who are women—the mothers of those children.

If these men can sit there in judgment about a group of 5-8 year old girls, then what the hell do you think they really feel about those wives—the other women in their lives? If they are rankled by the idea of young girls succeeding against their sons, then what are the odds that they would champion adult women earning positions and higher salaries in male dominated professional industries? Breaking barriers in professional athletics? Securing equal stature in damn near anything that ACTUALLY matters in life when they can’t even do so with a group of kids in a just-for-fun football league?

You want to know why it matters and why it bothers me so much to have experienced this this season? It’s because this is just the start of what these girls are going to face in their lives. It’s the molehill that’s going to precede the mountains that each and every one of them are going to be forced to climb simply because too many men are too fucking insecure to admit not only that women might be equal to them, but that they might actually be superior to them.

This season has been a microcosm of what the rest of these girls’ lives are going to look like. When they’ve been faced with a challenge, they’ve been told that they stood no chance to win. When they’ve succeeded, it’s because it’s been made easier for them—that they were somehow gifted an advantage of either an easier schedule or a team not having all of its players.

If they win the Super Bowl, I’m sure it will be more of the same, but if they lose? The thought of the sick, smug delight that so many of these fathers will rejoice in fills my veins with acid.

But I guess that’s just something they’ll have to get used to, isn’t it?