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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Girls & Boys & Sport

Team USA Members Celebrate Their 2014 Evian
Championship Juniors Cup Win
September's been a busy month for sports fans.  In golf, the co-ed Team USA rallied to defeat the Czech Republic squad and for the second year in a row win the Evian Championship Juniors Cup at Evian-les-Bain, France.

It's not a small matter, the Evian Championship Juniors Cup.  It's an event designed to showcase the best international junior golfers representing 20 different nations.  It's also a co-ed event.  Teams are comprised of two male and two female players born in or after 2000 and in order to be eligible players must be nominated by their national golf federation or union.

There's no money involved in winning the Evian Championship Juniors Cup.  It's an amateur event.  But the amateurs who compete there could give most of us a good scrubbing at our local links!
Billy Horschel's First Selfie!
Then there's Billy Horschel, who won the BMW Championship one week and, pulling out in front of Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy, won the FedEx Cup the next.

After hoisting his FedEx trophy Horschel barely got back home to Florida in time to join his wife, Brittany, in welcoming their first child, daughter Skylar Lillian into the world.

Horschel tweeted, "my heart is bursting" as he introduced Skylar to his fans with his first-ever selfie, and vowed to begin getting her ready to win the 2032 NCAA women's golf championship for the Florida Gators, his alma mater.

At a more personal level, my friend, Travis, shared an amazing snapshot of his daughter, racing toward him, exuberant after scoring her first soccer goal at a Y game, seconds before she leapt into his lap and knocked his lawn chair over backwards!

Billy Horschel and Travis are my Hero Dad September nominees, and they go along with Brittany Lincicome's mom, who gets my Hero Mom September nomination because she follows Brittany's golf shots down the fairway and lets-go with a secret whistle to let Brittany know whether or not she hit the fairway!

These images seem so at odds with those currently emanating from our national fall passion.  NFL September headlines seem to be more about who hit, battered, dragged, and brutalized who than about touchdowns and field goals and amazingly thrown and caught passes and daringly dramatic end runs.  The dominant theme: male on female violence with a few young victims thrown into the distressing recipe.

Ray Rice is only the most recent and visible symbol of the distressingly high incidence of violent behavior among pro football players.  Adrian Peterson's been indicted in Texas on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, and it's not the first time.  Petersen is said to have used a tree limb, or was it a switch, to discipline his child.  The incident resulted in contusions that required medical attention.  The instrument of discipline probably wasn't a switch.  Jonathan Dwyer head-butted his wife after she refused to have sex with him and is alleged to have assaulted a young women and her 18-month old child.  Greg Hardy was convicted of domestic violence and Ray McDonald's been arrested on a charge of felony domestic violence.  Quincy Enunwa's been arrested after a woman accused him of pulling her off a hotel bed by her hair.  I have a feeling there's more to this shabby story that's yet to be revealed.

What is it about football in general, and pro football specifically, that has forged this tragic link to male-on-female violence?  What is it about the culture of football that fosters tacit acceptance if not explicit approval of male-on-female violence?  What does this say about the NFL, about professional sports, and about monitized sport?

What are the cultural messages we want to send to our young boys and girls?  If we want them to know that they can meet and compete on the playing field as well as in the classroom, the office, and the Board room, and if we want them to know that competition and partnership are not mutually exclusive states of being, that skill and strategy and collaboration are more effective than raw power in facilitating human relationships, we need to provide and support sporting opportunities that offer those lessons.

Should there not also be swift consequences attached to violations of prevailing norms?  So Yeon Ryu kicked her putter in anger, bent the shaft, and was disqualified from the 2014 Evian Championship.  NFL players, who are four times more likely to be arrested for domestic violence (and other violent crimes) than their non-pro athlete cohort peers, rarely suffer such official sanction.  Few are actually released by their teams.  They're simply too valuable.  Some are benched for a game or two.  Most continue to collect their paychecks.  How is it that we can ignore the linkage between the sport Americans venerate and the enormously negative impact of that sport?