I had to absolutely sweat blood to write this week’s opening essay. Even now I’m not sure I got it right. If you think it’s terrible, or if you think I’m an idiot, please keep it to yourself; I don’t know if I’ve ever had such difficulties producing a coherent 500 words. As always, this post appeared first at RandBall, your home for weekend sports columns that nobody reads.
Cast your mind back to last summer, and the Women’s soccer World Cup. You might remember the USA-Japan final, because you probably watched it; at the time it was the most-Tweeted event in the history of Twitter, eclipsing even the royal wedding and the death of Osama bin Laden. And if you watched the game, you might remember USA forward Alex Morgan, who scored the first goal of the game, a tremendous goal that any striker would be proud of.
You also might remember Morgan for being wildly popular during the tournament for her attractiveness. Seemingly hours after the USA’s heartbreaking loss to Japan, Morgan was making red-carpet appearances back in the States. And she was in the news again on Friday, as she was interviewed and pictured by SI.com because she’s in the upcoming Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
This bothers me. Not because I have any interest in telling Alex Morgan what she should and should not do; if she wants to be photographed in nothing but bodypaint for SI, that’s her business. And not because I’m holding myself out as the last bastion of enlightenment, a seawall holding back the crass sexualized tide of popular culture. But at some level, it seems like the popular reaction to women’s sports is more about the attractiveness of the participants and less about the attractiveness of their play.
You could cogently argue both sides of the debate about celebrating female athletes for their looks, and I don’t wish to re-fight that battle. And female athletes certainly don’t have to make a choice; they can be both athletically talented and good-looking at the same time. But I do know that reducing Alex Morgan – fourteen goals for the national team, and the potential to star for another decade for the USA – to a cheesecake magazine spread feels wrong somehow. I’d like for our athletes to be more admired for what they do on the field than what they look like in a state of undress.
On with the links:
*Could football’s concussion problem really kill the game in America? Economists Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier think so – and they have a fascinating look at how it might happen.
*Remember when Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was going to coach the L.A. Lakers, and then changed his mind, purportedly because of an email from a student? That student, Andrew Humphries, takes a look back at the hoopla – and explains why the experience, in part, pushed him away from Blue Devil hoops.
*Will Leitch has an unpopular opinion: Gus Johnson has become a terrible college hoops broadcaster. As much as I’ve written about how great Johnson is, I can’t really disagree here.
*Zambia is in the finals of the African continental soccer championship, which has occasioned much passing around of Leigh Montville’s Sports Illustrated story about the 1993 plane crash that claimed the lives of the entire Zambian national team.
*And finally: Shawn Fury, of the TVFury blog, thinks that in order to save the Super Bowl halftime show, it’s time to send in the ROTC.
That’ll do it for me. Enjoy your Saturday, especially tonight’s battle between the Timberwolves and NBA sensation Jeremy Lin’s New York Knicks, which is on (checks schedule)… Well, I guess this one isn’t on television. Take that, fans who wanted to watch the most interesting Wolves game of the near future!