Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Doing the right thing

There is a girl who wants to play baseball, and I have mixed feeling about this issue. One is the fact that her parents filed a lawsuit to allow her to try out. Can't we stop the insanity?

In a way, I'm all for this. I have 4 nieces who are all great athletes. One of them was a swimmer and kind of gave it up, but she was good. The other three play (or played) basketball, softball, volleyball, participated in track, pretty much anything they could.

Of those three, the middle one plays youth football. She's the only girl in the league, and is the best player. Middle linebacker, because she likes to hit, and running back. They don't really keep records at that level, which is probably good, but she would have most of them. The youngest one throws a baseball harder and more accurately than any boy her age, or even a few years older. If she wanted to play baseball, she would be the best pitcher in the league. I hope my daughter plays sports, as she will be tall and athletic like her cousins. The one who plays football wants to play in high school, but her size might limit her.

But this is where I have the dilemma. I'm all for her playing football, if she wants. Because my hometown doesn't have a football team for girls. They play volleyball in the fall. So, if she wants to play, let her. As far as the younger one, she doesn't want to play baseball because she plays softball with her friends. To her, its more of a social thing than being competitive. Until they start to lose, then slowly back away from the 10-year old.

But isn't this what Title 9 is all about. The girls being given an equal opportunity to play sports as well. I'm all for that, but I'm concerned about a couple of issues here when boys team are forced to let girls play for them, when there is an alternative.

1. Most high school freshman are 14 or 15 years old. What about the boy who doesn't make the team because this girl does? What about his rights? What are his options? Does he get to then try out for the girls softball team?

2. Are the courts really prepared to rule on this, and if so, what will it be?

That the sports are equal and there is no gender bias allowed. If that's the case, then don't they have to let the boys play on the softball team. I can see that being a big issue.

Or that boys (or men/women for college) sports are of a higher level than the girls, and in essence, its a move up to go from the girls team to the boys team, and boys can't go down? I can see that going over well with the women's groups. I'm sure Oprah will be all over it.

3. How about a freshman boy who doesn't want to play football, but does want to play volleyball? Will he be allowed? How would that lawsuit go?

I hate to use the phrase "separate but equal" because of the image it conjours up of Jim Crow, but is it necessarily a bad thing when its gender based sports that are readily available for either sex. I'm not trying to equate softball and baseball. I've played both and they are unique variations of the same basic game. And the lawsuit says:

that baseball and softball aren’t really the same sport, so girls should be able to try out for baseball.

The suit seeks to have the IHSAA rule thrown out based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and Title IX, the federal law that mandates equal educational opportunities for boys and girls.

I'm not the smartest guy in the world, I just think I am. I'm pretty sure the idea behind Title 9 was to give girls the opportunity to play also. My high school didn't have girls sports until 1976, and only then because of Title 9. And while there have been court cases in the past that ruled that girls could play a boys sport if there wasn't a girls team available in that same sport (which is okay with me), I don't think the intent was to start mixing the sports.

And what happens to any boy who sues to be able to play on the girls team? Is that what we really want out of high school athletics?

As of today, this really probably isn't an issue, because there really aren't that many instances of girls wanting to play on the boys teams in baseball and basketball (or the others both genders play), and I'm actually okay with her getting a chance. Maybe she does have the "right" to play. But what about the rights of the kid she knocks off the team? Doesn't he have some rights also?

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