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Archive for Life

March 25, 2023 — World governing bodies are finally acting

It was back in 1976 when an opthamoligist named Renee Richards shook up the world of sports by seeking to compete in the U.S. Open women’s tennis tournament after a gender reassignment operation.

After nearly 50 years of inaction, and a number of athletes in sports from track to ice hockey to soccer competing as transgender, there has finally been some movement on regulation and definition from where it should have come from in the first place: individual sport governing bodies.

Last June, the world governing body of swimming effectively banned transgender women from swimming in women’s events unless their transition occurred before the age of 12. And this past week, the IAAF, the international body for track and field, introduced a similar ban but also included a testosterone level regulation for transgender athletes to be able to compete in women’s events.

It’s befuddling to me to see how long it has taken the lords of swimming and track to have figured this out.

Usually, sport is out in front of societal change; Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby integrated baseball decades before the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But then again, when you look at the sordid history of world track and swimming since the start of the Cold War, it was the doping of female athletes by Eastern Bloc countries which saw the mining of medals in individual events as a key to winning the medal count.

East Germany, which had a powerhouse women’s swimming and track team in 1976, mined the system for 40 gold medals and 90 overall at Montreal.

Thing is, people in the swimming and track communities knew this was going on, and the IOC, FINA, and the IAAF looked the other way for decades. And when you notice the list of athletes whose medals were revoked over the years, there are still only three entries for the 1976 Summer Olympics — all in weightlifting, none from East Germany.

I’m not trying to change the discussion about transgender athletes into one over doping, but it bears mentioning how out-of-touch and how behind world governing bodies of sport are when it comes to dealing with the situation.

I’d like to think that the ham-fisted attempts by state governments in the U.S. to ban transgender athletes from schools (much less school sports) is prompting these actions.

March 19, 2023 — Pernicious “bots” causing trouble

I’ve noticed something weird over the last three or four days when I try to use the Internet to search for field hockey stories.

If you go through Google News, searching for the term “field hockey,” a number of the results refer to events which have already occurred, and a bunch of unfamiliar sites have taken these stories and have redirected them to foreign websites with nothing to do with field hockey.

I tried changing my browser, and I find the same phenomenon: if you try to sort field hockey news stories by date, you get a lot of junk rather than the latest and greatest from the world of field hockey.

Oddly enough, I don’t see this happening in other sorts that I have done, such as for lacrosse. Why this is so, I have no idea.

All I know is that the marketers and hackers from all over the world have somehow targeted the game of field hockey for their nefarious schemes.

Makes you wonder what the next kind of world wide weirdness will be.

Jan. 27, 2023 — What are we normalizing?

This evening, the news was all about two body-camera videos. One was taken from a group of five Memphis police officers who have been fired for the brutal murder of Tyre Nichols, and the other was from a San Francisco officer confronting a domestic terrorist who was beating Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a hammer.

There is a public interest reason for releasing this type of video footage. One, of course, is to keep public servants like the police accountable, and to corroborate their statements when they make them to the courts. It is also to ensure transparency of policing, city governance, attorneys general, and the courts.

But in an odd way, these two clips are part of a normalization of the very crimes that are being perpetrated on the screen.

Police brutality has been a problem in many American cities since Reconstruction. Powerful leaders in cities from Tulsa to Charleston have used not only the police but armed gangs of white men to engage in racial cleansing of bustling Black-owned businesses and the areas in which they operated and fostered neighborhoods. It didn’t start with Rodney King or George Floyd or Amadou Diallo. We didn’t need to see the Nichols video to know that the five police officers engaged in official misconduct.

And in the Pelosi video, the domestic terrorist, a person who believed the 2020 election was stolen, is now going to be forever shown assaulting the husband of the third-ranking public official in the United States. It is video which is going to be spread amongst the conspiracy theorists who were responsible for the Jan. 6th insurrection, and there will be conspiracy theories attached to that video as well. We didn’t need to see the fact that an assault occurred on an unarmed senior citizen.

This weekend, these videos are sure to appear on social media platforms, web presences, and news sites. So will hundreds of other videos showing everything from police arrests to citizens loudly berating waitstaff to speeding cars crashing into highway obstacles. There are entire TV networks now devoted to this type of content, one of which covers police shifts like an NFL game, complete with pre-shift and post-shift shows.

They’re called “content” by some people. But these reality-based videos aren’t, and shouldn’t, be for everyone. And from a policy standpoint, they’re troubling because it tends to normalize what is being shown rather than saying that it is an aberration. Or, just plain wrong.

Jan. 19, 2023 — A birth-month to remember

For several years, one of the things I loved to do was to help facilitate a birthday celebration celebrating three generations of women in our family. Each of them had birthdays within two weeks of each other in January, and having a cake and candles was a bright spot in a cold and wintry part of the year.

But the last few years have been sad ones when it comes to these three figures. My mother died in 2011. My sister, like me, is now a cancer fighter. Her daughter, the third generation, is an adult who is fighting for her mental health.

We got together a month ago for a few days during the Christmas break, and it was good just for us family members to be together, surrounded by nature, sports events, and the occasional game show.

Our family is, in a word, complicated. It has been a difficult few years without our parents, the rocks on which we relied for so much in our lives. But sometimes I can hear the voice of my mother or my father in my ear when I’m making a difficult decision. They were always so good for guidance, and their counsel remains with me to this day.

Jan. 16, 2023 — A prime example of service

Today, about a thousand families in Columbus, Ohio are being given new pairs of shoes thanks to a partnership between Samaritan’s Feet and Ohio State University senior Emma Goldean.

Goldean was the first female student-athlete to work with Samaritan’s Feet through a name-likeness-image agreement.

Given the fact that many NLI agreements have been used to build up small fortunes to benefit the athlete, this charity work that Goldean has been doing is remarkable. Giving back to underserved communities, such as people in poor areas of the rust belt, is something that is exceedingly rare for athletic teams except in rare instances of disaster.

The goal, according to one report, is to give away as many as 25,000 pairs of shoes, If you would like more information on this effort, feel free to click here.

Jan. 3, 2023 — Remembrance of a formative incident

Last night’s collapse of Buffalo defensive back Damar Hamlin of a cardiac arrest took me back about 35 years.

It was my first month as a professional journalist, and I was covering a Saturday evening football game between two suburban Philadelphia schools.

During the halftime interval, a coach from one of the teams collapsed and died in the locker room.

As a sportswriter, I had absolutely no idea what to do. I was able to get a quote or two from the other head coach, but I came home without a story. The person on our police desk was able to put together what happened. Because that person had more — much more — experience than I had. Instead of knowing what to do upon receiving report of the coach’s death, what did I do? I shrank.

Perhaps it’s because it was the first time that “real life” had ever intruded into my space as a writer. Perhaps it was my own first realization of mortality.

But also, perhaps, it was the realization that there was something wrong with how I did my job. I wasn’t ever trained to act in situations like this. Then again, from what I’ve seen in the news business these days, there is no training for what happens when a game is postponed because of a sudden incident.

It’s where the NFL is right now at this moment as Hamlin is lying in a hospital bed at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. There is literally nothing in the rules, nothing that you can train for, to account for a situation like this.

Jan. 2, 2023 — When “retail therapy” becomes a workout

Yesterday, I trundled down the steps to my car, ready to drive to a couple of locations in order to pick up some things we needed.

Part of the return to normalcy (such as it is) after the global pandemic is the fact that shopping centers, which were seen as a possible center of the spreading of Coronavirus, were back open to pre-pandemic hours. Near my apartment is a mall which runs about 3/4 of a mile from one end to another.

The mall says a lot about us as a civilization. There are colorful stores which are meant to gain the eyes of small children. There are brightly-lit stores with thumping music meant to attract young people. There is a bar, several restaurants, and a couple of places that sell bubble tea.

It’s a lot of sensory overload.

But I did notice that there were a couple of spaces in the eastern end of this shopping center which had been walled off from the central hallway: these were a pair of big-box stores whose corporate overlords have seen better days.

As I’m a child of the mid-60s, I spent a lot of time as a teen in malls. Time in a mall was time to explore, to get lost in a retail fairytale space, to get enraptured by new technologies.

But everything in this mall is spread out, with empty spaces interchanged with themed spaces which might look like a children’s playground, others which look like a Swiss ski lodge, others which look like a Las Vegas bordello in the days before the big hotels came.

About an hour into my trek, I started feeling really tired. I wasn’t sweating, my heart wasn’t going over its usual rate. But I didn’t sleep well the night before, mostly because of a small virus (non-COVID-related) which takes away from my ability to go into a deep sleep.

About five minutes later, I got back up and looped back to where I had parked my car.

I drove home, got a cup of ginger tea, then plopped back into bed.

Sometimes this retail therapy thing can be exhausting. But nothing that I got yesterday were readily available via an on-line delivery service.

Well, except the pizza.

Dec. 25, 2022 — A “bubble” Christmas

This Christmas morrning, I’m waking up in a hotel room in New Jersey, one which is a short drive from my sister’s place.

A handful of our family are spending time there today, but, in a situation that can only happen during a global pandemic, the location is a “bubble” of sorts. My sister is very immunocompromised at this moment and she wears a mask in the house whenever there’s company.

I’m doing the same, and not just because of my unwillingness to spread germs. Her house, and my hotel room, are very dry places, and last night I developed a dry cough. It was a persistent cough that made it difficult for me to sleep.

That is, until I wore a cloth mask in bed. What that did was trap moisture from my lungs, and I was able to breathe better.

I also had a Coronavirus antigen test on hand, and the test came out negative.

I’m still going to listen to my body and try another test in a day or so, but I think I can spend time in my sister’s bubble with confidence that I won’t get her sick.

Now, there’s been a lot of discussion and debate over the last 30 months over the use of medical masks in our society. It’s a debate which has seen misplaced arguments and disinformation. But all of the static does not disprove one important fact: they work. And not only that, they have been adopted by certain countries on a much more widespread basis.

During the winter, it is not uncommon to see senior citizens in Japan wearing surgical masks on the subway. It’s not just because of the lack of personal space on public transport, but there is an ethic that the masked citizen should protect others from anything that s/he has, rather than have a mask being a sign of fear or weakness.

I’m heading to the bubble today without either. And I’m wearing a mask.

Oct. 31, 2022 — Remembrances of a weekend

Your Founder spent parts of Friday and Saturday immersed in events surrounding the National Women’s Soccer League’s 10th championship final.

The numbers of scarf-clad supporters coming from all 12 league cities are a testament to the staying power of the league, in direct contrast to what had happened in the previous two USSF-sponsored Division I leagues, the WUSA and WPS. Both of these leagues had only about six or seven teams, and they had front offices with little clue as to how to build a long-lasting fan culture amongst people in the host cities.

I saw some folks I had not seen in a while, people who I have been in the wars with while watching games involving two iterations of the Washington Freedom, the Washington Spirit, and the U.S. women’s national team.

But the most surprising and pleasant reunion I had over the weekend was with a member of the Kansas City Current’s front-office staff, who was a lacrosse player of fine repute when I was in the dailies. She would go on to play Division I soccer at Loyola College in Maryland.

“I still have all of these binders of articles you wrote about me,” she told me.

I take a lot of pride in that. I worked for a decade in the world of daily journalism in the smallest city in America with two competing daily newspapers. We had to get our information out in the morning, and we had to get it right. We got scoops on each other and we found ways to make our coverage in the sport better.

Today, the newspaper I wrote for is a shell of its former self. Journalists file stories from home with little of the accountability required from being in a newsroom for eight hours or more. These days, it’s all turnkey journalism, where box scores are automated and very few newspapers are printed since the data is now all on the World Wide Web.

My mind goes back to a staff meeting in 1995 when the publisher of the paper (il capo de tutti capi, you might say), told a room full of writers and editors, “People don’t want to read a newspaper on the Internet.”

That was a fateful misstep.

I feel lucky to be in this space, pretty much being able to write as I please, take an historic view of the sport, and break new bounds in scholastic sportswriting.

And I’m proud of the body of work done in the last 24 years.

Sept. 28, 2022 — A visit from Ian

This site has kept an eye on natural disasters that have affected the U.S. field hockey and girls’ lacrosse communities over the last 24 years. Some have even put your Founder in a spot of bother over the years, including a tropical storm that struck during the week of a U.S. women’s national team game in the 2003 World Cup.

But this one, Hurricane Ian, is more personal. My niece is down in Pinellas County as an essential government employee and will be not only riding out the storm in the greater Tampa Bay area, but will be on the front lines of helping the citizenry in the aftermath of the storm.

I’ve seen my niece grow up from being a sassy six-year-old who loved sparkly sneakers and jeans to a full-on professional, and it’s been quite a journey. Years ago, I brought her to a field hockey game at the local high school and I gave her a mini-stick. She didn’t seem to want to be a player: she instead wanted to be a coach. This is when she was about six years of age.

My niece’s athletics career did not amount to much at the local public school, but she was able to parlay her education into a berth into law school, then started working with a private firm before joining the general counsel’s office for the county.

Starting today, there is an awful lot of work to do — not only when it comes to rescue and recovery, but other items involved in public administration. I’m hoping that my niece will be able to succeed in whatever task or tasks she is assigned over the next few weeks.