Archive for March, 2012

Chance encounter

March 27, 2012

Fourteen or so years ago, my brother and I cut across a parking lot by Thompson-Boiling Arena on the way to a Tennessee/Notre Dame football game. We wove among tailgaters talking about our mom’s cancer having come back, trying to make sorts of the crushing news and the next thing I knew my brother was sprawled (and I do mean sprawled) out on the ground having been taken out by a kid. I looked at the kid to make sure he was ok, smirked at my brother and in with in a second was paralyzed by fright. A voice said something like this “Tyler, I’ve told you a hundred times”. I REALLY made sure the kid, one Tyler Summitt, was ok. The last thing I needed in my life was my brother harming the prince of East Tennessee. Everybody knew Tyler, everybody knew Pat and now my brother was sprawled out on a parking lot having taken out a kid. Great.

The first thing Pat Summitt did was make sure my brother was ok. | stood there stunned. Pat made Tyler apologize, then she apologized and we parted ways. As we walked away, I looked at my brother and said you had better be grateful you didn’t harm Tyler Summitt.

Since I went to my first UT game in 1988 until last year, one thing was the same. Pat would prowl the sidelines, barking at her team, the officials, Smokey and just about everybody at TBA. This year has been nothing short of painful. Every game, every venue opposing fans would pay tribute. Reporters from major outlets have talked about how Pat Summitt single handedly changed the perception of women’s athletics (with a major assist from Title IX). As clearly as I can see the fantastic title game in Kansas City, I can see the painful losses – the national title game in Philly where they carried Geno around … and the back door cuts after back door cuts. The loss in the 2001 regional semi final where I was so mad, I went out at got something good that was orange. A cat (really) – it’s how Jackson came into my life. He was almost named Pat – but I had a nephew Patrick and well, Jackson is a boy.

Pat Summitt has done it all in her sport: the first Olympic Captain for women’s basketball, 1098 career victories, more than one court named after her, legions of fans, a 100% graduation rate: last night 3 graduate students started for Tennessee. I turned the game off at half time. I couldn’t watch it anymore. Tennessee was going to lose. I couldn’t see through my tears. This wasn’t the most talented team – Baylor deserved the win. I wanted a fairy tale ending. I wanted one more title.

The answer is that this is the legacy of Pat: more teams are more competitive than at any other time in women’s basketball. Stanford, Baylor, UConn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Duke, Maryland, Notre Dame, LSU, Georgia all have or are building in the case of Kentucky, deep basketball traditions. Women in sports are becoming more the norm: I work with a former DI hockey player. My niece is a fantastic ball player. A daughter of a friend is on a traveling volleyball team. There were other programs that embraced Title IX (Anson Dorrance at UNC leaps to mind with soccer) but basketball is a sport that most individuals will probably play (from H-O-R-S-E to competitive) at some point during their lives.

I watched the clips from Holly Warlick and Kim Mulkey today. Both were fraught with emotion and near tears. At some point, Pat will step down. Probably this off season. It hurts. Alzheimer’s is an ugly, brutal disease that does nothing but rob people.

As I’ve thought about how much this feels painful, I remember that crisp October afternoon. A chance encounter with an iconic figure. And oh, how she will be missed.

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Yup. It’s the profile.

March 24, 2012

There was a moment where I became acutely aware of my internal racism. We all have it: others can and will wax more poetic about the self-realization. Walking down a sidewalk in Cape Town, South Africa, I found myself in a sea of black men. I was aware of my internal panic. And I caught myself: I was in South Africa. That momentary rise of panic…where I fell prey to the images that had been portrayed in my middle of America upbringing caught me.

I shrugged it off. And I was (probably) wearing a hoodie. I usually wear one: I have a few “work” hoodies (really) and head to the gym most mornings with a hoodie on instead of a coat. They are a uniform of sorts. As I type this, I’m wearing a hoodie. Not as a statement but as a Saturday evening watching hoops sort of thing (Ohio State hoodie: Ohio State game).

By tomorrow night, 4 teams will have punched their tickets to the Final Four: this will involve roughly 48 student-athletes. In 2009, 243 African American men were murdered between the ages of 12-30 in the state of California alone. It’s a genocide of sorts: I don’t use that term lightly. I’ll never know what it means to be a racial minority in this country (well, maybe but the power nexus is still Anglo). I can grasp what it means to be an under represented person. However, racial stereotypes are far greater, the gaps far wider than that of being a woman and at least where I live, being gay (it doesn’t make the intolerance any less acceptable).

It’s Lent: a period of time of reflection in the Christian community. For all the hate filled politics, the politics of changing the power structure in this country and it rattling the foundations of many, we need to take a collective breath. President Obama was correct: Trayvon Martin would be his son if he had one. By all accounts Martin was a good, normal kid who was murdered because of fear.

What disturbs me the most is the lack of an immediate outcry. The lack of a proper investigation. Following the story a bit this week, hearing people discuss having to talk to their children about what to expect when they are stopped by the police left me wondering. What have I done? Not enough. I haven’t spoken up enough when people make remarks on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. I haven’t said this is my line and you are over it enough.

I have 3 nephews: 5, 13 and 15. The middle one lives in his hoodies. It’s a sad commentary that I know he is safe wearing his hoodie because of his blue eyes, fair hair and freckles. All children should be safe: and nobody should have to have a conversation on how to avoid harassment from the police. We should be above this. The real tragedy will be when we don’t learn the lessons. This isn’t about confirming a fictional character to the Supreme Court: this is about a child murdered for merely being in the wrong place, wearing the wrong item of clothing.

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March Insanity

March 20, 2012

I usually enjoy March: the days getting longer, the fun of the basketball games and the general awakening after a usually long winter.

This year? I think I might start by pulling my hair out. I’m over the war on the non-white heterosexual male. Over it. The latest shot? The a legislature in Idaho asking if a woman really would know if it’s rape or not.

Really? Between Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood, this simply has to end. Where are the men speaking up in defense of the reproductive choices for the women in their lives? Where are the brothers, sons, fathers, husbands saying my spouse is my partner: she is as strong as I am, she is worth as much as I am, she has the right to make her own choices regarding her health. And yes, stupid representative from Idaho, somebody knows when she or he has been raped.

Where are the men? The silence of the so called liberal men disgusts me almost as much as the conservative war on women by the right. Men, by sheer luck of being an XY instead of an XX, are part of the ruling elite: even if they are not part of the 1-15%. Conservative dialog is part of the process: hatred is not.

Equality is intimidating. It’s time for the men who say they are liberal, who say they are for women’s rights to stand up and shout back to those who seek to oppress the rights of others “this is unacceptable.” The era of Nixon’s Silent Majority is long gone. The stakes are much too high.