Archive for Thursday, May 20, 2004

Opinion: Let sports be sports

May 20, 2004

I'd like to believe I'm an old fashioned American male.

I like spending all-day watching sports. I like cold beer and meals that include as much red meat as possible. I like golf, hate shopping, and would rather have my eyelids stapled shut than spend one millisecond watching Oprah or Dr. Phil drone on about feelings.

I like the loyalty of a fine dog, songs by Frank Sinatra (the epitome of red-blooded Americana) and movies that can be quoted from a thousand times and still be funny. (Think "Old School", "Animal House", and "Caddyshack".)

Having said that, I admit I'm fairly liberal in my thinking. I think America has too many guns already and shouldn't legalize citizens carrying them. I think the death penalty is an absurd notion that doesn't deter crime. I think an amendment banning gay marriage is homophobic and contrary to equal rights.

I think large corporations are inherently evil and that farmers, next to Native Americans, get the shaft more than anyone else.

More to the point, I'm against going with the grain just because the way things have always been. So, it was with great interest that I read a story on the Web Wednesday about a female being hired to coach a professional men's basketball team. In case you haven't heard, the expansion Nashville Rhythm, an ABA team, hired 22-year-old Ashley McElhiney as the first coach in team history.

Like I said, I'm progressive as the next guy, but this move irritates me for several reasons. And no, it's not because I believe women can't coach men. To my knowledge, there hasn't been a successful case study of women coaching men in any of the three major sports, but that doesn't mean it won't or can't happen.

My gripe with the hiring is that more successful female coaches are out there and may have jumped at the chance to break down the gender barrier.

If the Rhythm wanted a female coach, they wouldn't have had to look far to find her. Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols, has been coaching forever, won more games than 90 percent of coaches -- male or female -- and has as many championship rings as J-Lo does wedding ones.

Summitt was sitting in the Rhythm's backyard, yet they hired a 22-year-old former player from Vanderbilt, who hasn't been a head coach at any professional level before.

In today's sports climate, we have a tendency to push for the next historic trailblazer. Most of the time those searches are misguided.

Take Annika Sorenstam playing against male golfers in a tournament last year as an example. She didn't make the cut but because she beat a handful of male golfers she was somehow anointed the second coming of Jackie Robinson.

We all know Sorenstam is an amazing golfer but the attention she received by beating some hacks in a lower-tier tournament was unnecessary. I saw it as more of a slam against women golfers -- all that hubbub over beating a few dudes? I never believed for one second female golfers couldn't beat male golfers and it's a backhanded slap at players like Sorenstam when they receive major hype for doing so.

I hope the Rhythm didn't hire McElhiney as a publicity stunt because if they did, it would be a disgrace against not only professional basketball, but also prove as a setback to more deserving females coaches.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.