Friday, March 30, 2007

Women's Sports Week: She is the Champion, My Friend

I figured we hadn't had enough classic song titles as blog titles on here yet. Ah, so much easier to twist the work of another to make a cute title than rather thinking up our own, eh? That said, let's talk about female sport champions.

I didn't want to post on this to start the week. Usually, most of us are controversial enough without help, thanks much. But I dislike how little emphasis there is in women's sports on achievement and winning the championship.

The standout example to me is women's tennis. In 1999 or so, the sport had a chance to set up rivalries that could last for a decade. And what happened? Ask the players themselves. Are you Martina Hingis, the Williams sisters, Anna Kournikova? Well then, you are a marketer's dream, and you should spend more time on fashion/movies/travel/becoming an entertainment superstar than on actually improving your tennis game. I know they had some injuries as well, but I really dislike how they used tennis as a stepping stone. On the other hand, are you Lindsay Davenport? Well then, you should prepare to be made fun of because of your looks, and have your accomplishments ignored.

Eh, I could go on and on about this, but it's Friday, and the last thing you need is to hear me rant and rave. I think the issue is clear. I would argue that any time a women's sports league or players attempt to focus more on appearance, style, and sexiness rather than the outcome of the game, it has been a negative in the long run. Sure, it's a short-term boost for the gate if, say, the left midfielder for your women's soccer team appears in a laddie mag; but there's no permanent benefit. Please, feel free to contradict me if you wish with examples. I'm arguing a principle more than providing across the board evidence. But I think the evidence may favor my argument as well. Sure, for marketing, say, a new perfume, using Anna for an ad will probably sell more bottles than using Lindsay would. But there's also the principle of honoring a champion for their achievements, and that is lacking.

So in oh-so-weak retaliation, today I am posting pictures of more obscure women champions over the years. No ring or medal earned, no picture.

Courtesy of here , Lindsay Davenport, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and winner of all the big tournaments except for the French Open:

The great Laura Wilkinson, who won a gold medal at the Olympics for diving despite a broken foot. She has a great page that you should check out; I especially appreciate the video interview after she won the medal.

Erin Buescher, who it's very hard to find a picture of. Unlike the other players on this page, she's a role player, not a star. But she does so very well. She won the 2005 WNBA title with the Monarchs, and then turned around and made herself the Most Improved player in the WNBA the next year. She's also a really great person: one of the few athletes I've ever gotten to e-mail back and forth with until her site closed down. Erin, if you're reading this, send me an e-mail; I'd love to have an interview for here too :-) Hey, can't hurt to try, right? Shh, it's a rhetorical question.

Cynthia Cooper, 1997-2000 WNBA title winner and Finals MVP winner several times. Very underrated performer. She never really got much appreciation because of Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, but they haven't been able to win without her.

Ok, and with that we end Women's Sports Week. What did you think of having a running series like that; any preferences as compared to my random posting? I was going to have more text, but I was boring myself, so I became more picture-centric as the week went on. Or did you want more verbiage?


  1. Coop was amazing. I'd quibble with your assessment of her, though: during her playing career, she wasn't overshadowed by Thompson. Swoopes had more mainstream love, but the experts gave Coop the edge. Even now, TT's still trying to come out from under the shadow.

    She was our Jordan, she really was. Icewater in her veins, shots from anywhere on the floor, and she read the passing lanes brilliantly.

  2. You may be right about CC. (and SS, and TT...that's a lot of alliteration for one team). I would always hear her name mentioned, but never actually could find a picture or find anything out about her when she was playing in the league. Maybe it was because she was an older player when she entered the league, and wasn't a former Olympian.