Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Coed Sports

First things first, I have to say a few words about my poor husband. Poor Jeff has been sick and suffering for the last two weeks. He's been coughing, wheezing, and in pain. What started as a cold has been getting worse and worse. This morning we finally decided that he should go to the doctor's office. And not surprisingly he came home with a diagnosis of bronchitis. I've had bronchitis enough times in my life to know exactly how miserable it is. The constant coughing, the chest pain, the shortness of breath. So I have to say, considering all of this, he's been a real trooper. Hopefully the meds he got will help. Until then at least they will help him breathe.

Because of his illness, we decided to take last night easy and stay home. I caught up on some writing, helped him with a paper, did my exercises, and watched the women's basketball final. For those of you who missed it, UConn won, not surprisingly. Although early in the game that was a bit in doubt. Halfway through the game Jeff said something that got me thinking. He wondered how UConn (the women's winning team) would do against Duke's men's team. How would the best women's team in the country do against the best men's team? It's a game I would happily watch for no other reason than to see what happens. I know that men and women tend to play different styles of basketball but I would be interested what would happen. How would the scoring go? I would bet that many others in the country would be willing to watch a game like that as well (Hint, hint NCAA!!).

That question got me thinking about a conversation that Jeff and I have occasionally: Why are some sports or activities still sex segregated? Particularly sports where strength doesn't matter. Like bowling. Or darts. Or archery. I know that physiologically there is a strength difference between men and women. But I think that many women have become just as strong if not stronger than some men. A Sport Science episode compared the hit rating for a male and female boxer. The punches were identical in terms of force. But even for sports where strength isn't involved as much, there is little competition between the sexes. We are finally starting to see a more coed approach to racing (auto racing that is) but even that is unusual. I would love to see how some of the women golfers would do against the men golfers. So I'm asking, is it just that it would be hard for a man to be beaten by a woman? Is it still the old mistaken stereotype that women can't compete with men? What do you think?


Salt said...

Women golfers use closer tees, 'cause they are not as strong.

Men's Basketball is a whole heckuva lot more physical than Women's Basketball. I'm not saying it's non-physical on the Ladies side, I'm just saying it's different...and some people don't like that style. In my opinion, comparing the two styles is fine on separate courts, but I don't think you could just face them off (but I'd watch, if they did).

Like the whole "Battle of the Sexes" Tennis thing from 1973 ( ). I wonder if Sports organizations don't set this kind of stuff up anymore.

Dan Cook said...


I think you've got a point when it comes to sports that rely more on skill than strength: archery, bowling, etc.

But when it comes to sports like Basketball or even Golf where physicality and strength are more involved, I don't think there's much competition.

If you put the UConn women against the Duke men, the Duke men would run them off the floor. I'd conservatively put the spread at Duke -30, and that's only because I think they'd take it easy late in the game.

In golf, we've seen women like Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie try to compete on the PGA Tour. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think a woman has made a cut yet.

Lon and I have debated Tennis in the past. I think the "Battle of the Sexes" was valuable in terms of advancing women's sports, but it wasn't exactly an even match. King was 26 years younger than Riggs at the time of their match.

It's my opinion that if you matched Serena Williams against Roger Federer, Federer would win easily. Serena would win some games, but I think she'd be lucky to lose a set 6-3.

Just my 2-cents.

Cat B said...


I would agree with you that there are definite strength differences between men and women. I know I play from the short tees in golf because I lack the strength to play for length. I wasn't familiar with the Battle of the Sexes tennis match. I find that interesting. I would have watched (wasn't alive). The same way I would watch now if they did a battle of the sexes in other sports. I just surprised in our world of sports ratings that no one has thought to duplicate the 1973 stunt (unless they have and I haven't noticed).

Cat B said...


I agree with you on basketball. There are some sports where men and women probably can't compete. Just looking at the difference in score between the men's and women's basketball finals will prove that. And you are right when it comes to golf, women have not made the cut.

Perhaps this is my feminist persona bristling at the lack of coverage of women's sports or the often quaint coverage given. Or I'm just confused why some sports (fencing, bowling, billiards...) which don't require any sort of strength still stay segregated. Then again, those sports hardly get any coverage at all.

Dan Cook said...

I think you answered your own bristling in a sense. Those sports don't get any coverage because the interest is so low.

Admittedly, as someone who works in the media, I'm biased. But I've never really understood this notion about teams "deserving" more coverage. Newspapers, TV and Radio are businesses like any other. They respond to demand.

If there were people clamoring for more coverage of those teams, the media would respond. But if you look at the number of empty seats at the Women's National Championship last night, I think they pretty much speak for themselves.

That game was on ESPN, had build-up with highlights on SportsCenter and promotion throughout the week. Yet people didn't show up to watch, and the ratings weren't very high.

That's not the media's fault. That's just the way things are.

I'm certainly not against women's sports. I want everybody to have an opportunity to compete and enjoy all the wonders that sports provides.

But I believe coverage is a simple matter of supply and demand, not a "right".

Just my opinion.

Cat B said...


And I would agree with you that coverage is not a right. I started out in media and know that coverage is for sports that are well attended and will be watched. And perhaps women's sports are at a distinct disadvantage that way. I always find it sad to see something like last night's game with empty seats.

I wonder if there isn't a vicious cycle in there. No one attends a women's event so no one bothers to cover it. Without coverage it is seen as less important and is even less attended. Just a thought.

This came to a head with me recently when I flipped on the channel to find women's water polo on one of the lesser ESPN channels. I realized that I've never seen women's water polo on TV. Then I thought about how I didn't even realize there was a women's division for water polo.

I will agree with you. Media is all about demand. If people want coverage they will vote with their remotes. And just as sadly people apparently didn't want to watch the game last night. Now if it had been an exhibition game against Duke's men's team, I bet all those seats would have been filled. :-)