Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Shot hoops for about an hour today, then spent the balance of the afternoon reading Katie Hnida's Still Kicking: My Dramatic Journey As the First Woman to Play Division One College Football. I haven't read many sports books since going back to grad school, and this will probably be it for the year. It only took a couple of hours to read, but I think the content will linger with me for awhile. I know a lot of people questioned both her kicking ability and her honesty when left Colorado, but I have to say--Katie's story rings true for me. I suspect any girl/woman who has ever played on a boys'/mens' sports team will recognize at least part of her experience.

Playing on a boys' team in junior high was embarrassing (I'll never forgive the coach for making a big deal out of the chest block drill); playing on a boys' team in high school was mostly humiliating (crying in front of my teammates when I blew out the ligaments in my right ankle isn't one of my favorite memories); and playing in a mens' league my first two years of colleage was traumatic (even before one of my teammates knocked me out cold with a soccer ball, my first concussion). In theory, there were two other women on the team, but they were apparently smarter than I was and left well before season's end. I don't know...I remember being struck mute from finding mens' hands in inappropriate places, being called inappropriate names, being constantly derided or patronized. I was literally unable to open my mouth when Anka asked me what was wrong after practice. I stopped talking to her completely, because how could I tell her about the things my teammates were saying and doing? God, I hated that team and everyone on it.

Anyway, how much worse was Katie's story? If I still feel like vomiting twenty years after relatively mild harassment, what must she be going through? I think my own blog is a testament to the power of sport to drive a person to do incredibly stupid and dumb things--play even when concussed, play with a broken bone, play even though you know you're moving one step closer to permanent disability. So, I understand what kept her coming back to game. I was willing to sacrifice my mental and physical health for recreational sports; imagine if I'd had real talent, if I had been good enough at anything to play Div I. Well, Katie Hnida's stronger than I ever was--I stopped playing soccer by my twentieth birthday, and she kept working to make football happen, even after being raped by a teammate. I'm just sad that she had to work so hard, and that Div I football protects its abusive behaviors so well. Hasn't anyone in athletics learned anything since I was a freshman 20+ years ago? Apparently not.

No comments: