So there was this guy, right? A hotshot junior tennis player in Alabama who had a couple of scholarship offers to some small schools, but because his dad was sick at the time, he stayed home and went to the big college in town: a Division I powerhouse. The hotshot (or so he thought he was) couldn't keep up with the guys on that team, but he knew the coach and his own instructor used to play there, so he got to hit with those guys a lot. And he got to pretty much be a practice partner for the women's team, which was also very solid.
Well, one day the men were out of town and the women were playing their own practice tournament. The junior played with them to help make the draw even and was paired against the assistant coach. Let me tell you, though: This dude thought that any guy, especially one of his caliber, could beat any woman player, even if the coach was the winningest player in conference history. The junior went on to promptly be blasted off the court by said coach and from that day on, his perspective about women in sports was changed forever. Actually, the junior can tell you the moment: The two were playing on Valentine's Day, and after the coach won, she shouted to the team: "I was feeling romantic, so I beat him six-love!"
And if you couldn't guess it by now, then that junior was me!
Why did I tell that story, you might ask? Well, I was checking out the results in the tournaments on the professional tours yesterday, and I saw a scoreline that really caught my eye: Stephanie Dubois (CAN) d. Ashley Harkleroad (USA) 6-2, 6-3.
Now, if you know Dubois, then you get a gold star because I sure don't. Everyone is supposed to know Harkleroad, though, since she's currently the cover girl on the latest issue of Playboy. But what has that Playboy cover accomplished? Nothing. What will it. Nothing.
See, my past eye-opening experience has made me more aware of sexism and the way it manifests itself. It's sad that Harkleroad thought this was going to pay off for her, maybe build her "Q" rating, so to speak. (I'm personally not buying the "want to show off an athlete's body" line she's throwing around.) A co-worker of mine that doesn't follow tennis and I were discussing it when the news broke. A month later, he couldn't tell you her name to save his life. What female's been in Playboy at the height of their popularity? It's always some last-ditch move or publicity stunt when they pose. Harkleroad was at that stage in her life? Trying to win matches and improve wasn't good enough? I hate to see someone feel that's the case.
Plus, the decision to pose isn't going to do much to get guys that are like I was to change their minds about things. A person always wants to be respected, but a move like Harkleroad's makes it hard.
I hate to sound like I'm proselytizing because I'm not a complete angel (I did see the pictures and the article, after all!). And this little posting of mine can even be perceived as sexist ("Who's this man that thinks he can say what a woman can do with her body?") I just hope that a woman wouldn't feel she has to sell her body just to get a few extra mentions in newspaper articles, when her main priority should be trying to win matches.
An old friend of mine and I used to talk tennis for hours, whether it was our own games or what was happening in the pros. I've started Tennis Talk, Anyone? to, well, talk tennis with an even broader crowd! My name is Van Sias and I've been playing for 20 years now, and not only am I player, I'm a huge fan of the game as well: pro, amateur, you name it. I'll post links to news items related to the sport, and offer my own personal opinion, predictions and hopefully get some of yours as well.