It is as simple and evident as nature intended. What girls basketball lacks in terms of height and physical attribute is more than compensated for in terms of pure human grace.
I’m sticking my neck out today, on the occasion of the girls state basketball tournament…out of pure human respect and admiration.
For this blog topic is sensitive for an age where the difference in male and female athletes is asked to be ignored in pure physical terms.
Predation and insecurities over who’s looking, who’s watching, and intent has forced us to become blind to even the “goodness”, the “sweetness” in all people…put us all on edge.
Words like attractive, handsome, and beauty are no longer terms of innocence…unappreciated. You don’t go there where current culture is concerned for fear of being called out.
Say someone is handsome and others become “homophobic”, a term you never heard even a decade ago.
Say someone is beautiful and you might be labeled a “stalker”.
It’s unfair as it pertains to the simple, obvious differences in people and how we accept and appreciate them…unfair in the sense that we’ve lost the opportunity to simply compliment and “be nice” to each other in the process.
It particularly pertains to girls’ sports, and how in this day of cultural mistrust over inappropriate relationships between adults and kids, and comments pertaining to physical looks…where texting and “sexting” have become the worst possible nightmare for parent and coach alike.
And yet, there are times when you remember how it used to be…when it was appropriate to tell someone that they looked good, for their taking pride in their appearance. My grandmother always made it a point to remind me that it was important to tell someone they looked nice. “It’s the kindest thing you can do for someone,” she’d say.
Recently I thought of how it used to be during an interview with a female basketball player on the Press Pros post-game show. Try as hard as you do to ignore the differences between boys and girls, sometimes it’s impossible.
Such was the case on this night when this young lady sat down next to me. She didn’t smell like sweat and four quarters of intense athletic competition. She smelled like…Bath And Body Works! Yep, and trust it…I’ve lived in a house for 30 years where my wife and daughter have tried that company’s every variety. This girl smelled good.
Now I mention this with another incident clearly in my mind…of several years ago my helping to write a column about the then Troy High School girls basketball team that featured no fewer than seven female athletes that were all tall, blonde, attractive, and athletically gifted. They were a very confident group on and off the court…leaders in their school. And I took the liberty of writing this headline about them, following a string of impressive wins: They’re Blonde, They’re Beautiful, And Boy Can They Play Basketball.
You would have thought I’d bombed a day-care center.
A columnist at that time for the local paper immediately jumped on it, saying that it was sexist, demeaning to female athletes, and of questionable motive. “Beauty and basketball have no place in the same reference,” he wrote.
I waited to hear from either the coach, the girls individually, or the parents. I got nothing. So I asked…in particular, one of the parents I happened to know, and know best. Were my words that offensive, or in poor taste?
“Absolutely not,” she assured. “I can’t speak for the others, but my daughter was flattered by your ‘compliment’.” I took note at the time that she used the word “compliment”, and not “comment”.
Later I had the opportunity to speak with some of those girls directly, and asked them…good, or no good, as to my “compliment”. The all laughed and assured me that flattery was still in vogue.
What I’m saying is this…female basketball players can’t dunk, it’s true. But for what they lack in physical athletic attributes is more than made up for by their sensibilities as to who they are, how they play, and how others perceive them with different appreciation.
They’re easy to interview, engaging, candid, and on-topic. And frankly, compared to boys you can talk to them on anything from appearance to free throw percentage and have them understand that you’re just being attentive to the obvious…nothing more.
Imagine sitting down with an 18-year-old male athlete and discussing anything of personal interest, outside of the sport they play. I’ve tried, and it’s often a painful process. I’m not sure that it has anything to do with gender, but there’s certainly a peer-related attitude, for sure. And for that fact I find that girls are more independent and confident in their individuality, outside their circle of friends, than boys.
I once asked one of Tipp City’s best female athletes, and a ferocious competitor on the basketball court, if she thought of herself as being more “athletic”, or “girlish”. Her answer, relative to modern culture, surprised me.
“Oh, girlish,” she said with a broad smile. “I’m a girl first, and then a girl athlete.” Confident, proud of her individuality, and assured as to what that represented, she was a delight to know and interview.
Conversely, I asked one of the top male athletes in the area afterwards if he thought of himself more in terms of an athlete or a representative of male character in his school?
“I don’t want to talk about s— like that,” he said, and walked away, uncomfortable, threatened, and lacking the same confidence of many of the girls walking the same halls.
Without question we live in a day of unparalleled athleticism by both…boys and girls. In boys’ basketball the game at its highest level is played above the rim every night. And while they don’t “typically” play above the rim, the girls’ game is gaining every year in many areas once reserved exclusively for the boys.
And for the record, Brittany Griner, the 6’8″ post player presently at Baylor University, “dunks” anytime she wants.
But still, the typical female athlete gets an unfair rap, and always for the fact that they don’t run as fast, jump as high, or play as aggressively as the boys.
But as I watch the shooting percentages of the boys’ game go down by the year, I can’t help but appreciate the fact that there’s so much more to girls’ basketball than the fact of playing above the rim. They can shoot, yes, but more important, they’re just human beings, with emotions, personalities, and instincts about who they are and what they represent.
We’ve known for years that girls mature physically ahead of boys. What we’ve failed to appreciate is…that they’ve become so much more than the fact of their physical differences ahead of the boys, as well.
No, they can’t dunk, and I’m fine with it. But they can play, and they’re good people, sensible people, at the same time. And isn’t that what matters most?