Sunday, July 11, 1999

You Kick Like A Boy

"You kick like a boy!!!"

That should be the new standard insult on playgrounds all across America after the US Women's Soccer Team won the World Cup in dramatic fashion on Saturday. They are the living embodiment of the spirit of Title IX.

Not only was this game the most-attended women's sporting event in history, with over 90,000 watching in the Rose Bowl. It was also a pretty good TV draw, getting a 13.3 rating and a 32 share, equaling about 40,000,000 people. That's more than watched the men's World Cup final five years ago. That's more than watched the NHL Stanley Cup finals. Hey, that's even more than watched this year's NBA Finals!

It's also the first time in history that an athlete named Brandi has scored the game-winner. She's the one who ripped off her jersey at the moment of victory. Nice abs!

These women deserve the title of America's Team.

When it comes to females and sports, our nation has accepted cute teenage gymnasts and pretty tennis competitors for a couple of decades, but there was always something ugly lurking underneath.

There was a time not so long ago that a girl who liked playing sports would be called a tomboy. If a group of athletic women got together, their sexuality would be called into question. Sports was something the guys did, not the gals.

Not any more.

In case you missed it, the US Men's Soccer Team won exactly zero games in the World Cup. The Women won 'em all.

Robin Roberts of ABC/ESPN said at the end of Saturday's telecast, "I never thought I'd see anything like this." I was sitting at home watching it with my five-year-old daughter feeling proud that she did see it. I hope it stands up for her as a momentous occasion in the history of sports in this country.

She didn't just see two teams of women playing on an international stage for the championship of the world. She also saw thousands of girls and women cheering and shouting and chanting in the crowd. With smiles and vigor and exuberance. With their mothers and fathers celebrating with them. With commercials for Adidas, Chevy, and Bud Light, right alongside spots for Monistat.

Maybe they're a flash in the pan. Maybe they're not going to become the endorsement machines that some male athletes are. Maybe they'll fade from view now, only to reappear at next summer's Olympics in Sydney. Maybe the idea of a women's pro soccer league isn't a huge moneymaker. But if the only thing this drive for the cup accomplishes is encouraging young girls to, as Mia Hamm puts it, "Go for the goal," then they have something to be proud of.

There's one other good thing to reflect on, and that's the crowd at the game. Males no longer have the monopoly on the field, and we no longer have the monopoly on looking goofy in the stands. The female fans in the Rose Bowl had logos and flags painted on their faces and the letters U-S-A on their bare midriffs -- a lot more attractive than your average shirtless guy with his hairy beer gut hanging out at an NFL game, by far.

Even more proof of something we all should have realized a long time ago. The more women in the stadium, the better!

Wednesday, July 07, 1999

Toss It In The Pool

Last week, my wife and daughter were enjoying an afternoon at the neighborhood pool when they heard from one of the other moms that some kid had thrown up in the water. They were both surprised to hear that the lifeguards had neither made an announcement nor closed the pool. All they did was go over with one of those skimming nets to clean up the mess. But no one was told to get out of the pool.

Granted, it was a very hot day, and the pool provided much needed relief.

Still, shouldn't the policy be that when anything solid is expelled from the body of anyone in the pool, you close it down -- even for a minimal amount of time...say, twenty minutes? -- and clean that sucker out?

You don't have to over-react and drain all the water as if it's the Baby-Ruth-in-the-pool scene in "Caddyshack." But how about a whistle and a heads-up to the other swimmers when some kid has hurled chunks?

At the very least, give the impression that you're doing something. Bring out a big tub of chlorine and dump some in. Act like you're testing the delicate pH balance of the water. Get one of those floating Valdez oil-spill containment rings set up around the spewage. Anything!

We're all aware that the pool isn't a hyper-clean environment to begin with. Every adult knows that unsettling feeling of swimming too close to a group of toddlers and suddenly sensing that the water in that area is a little warmer and it's time to reverse engines.

While on the subject of kids and pools, how about that decision last month by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall dive sticks? Those are the weighted, brightly-colored plastic rods, about six inches long, that you throw into the pool and then dive in and retrieve. Endless hours of fun for kids of all ages.

Unfortunately, this government agency determined that dive sticks are too dangerous because -- out of 20 million sold -- six boys and girls have been hurt while playing with them. The kids apparently didn't throw the dive sticks far enough into the pool, and when they jumped in they were impaled -- in exactly the body parts you would least like to have impaled.

Yes, that's a terrible thing to have happen, but a total recall -- and ban -- of the product after there's been a problem with only six out of twenty million? That comes to .00003%!!! I'll bet more kids are hurt in horrific swim-noodle accidents each summer. Not to mention the number of youngsters tragically lost during Marco Polo games.

So what's the compromise between the lifeguard's lack of action and the government's overreaction? I sure hope it's not kids diving for tossed cookies.

One last swimming item. This week, a guy was found nude and dead in the killer whale tank at Sea World Orlando. There were no bite marks or bruises on his body, so it’s assumed that he drowned after jumping in for a swim with the big beasts. Which makes you wonder, what part of the name “killer whale” did he not understand?

Oh, wait a minute. Please don’t let this be some sexual thing. That would bring new meaning to the word “blowhole.” And maybe he thought it was a sperm whale. Ah, jeez.

Okay, now can we clear the pool?