A saucy female perspective on sports pop-culture

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What do the following words have in common:
Duke Catholicism Georgetown
Ivy League Lacrosse Gay-Bashing
Strippers High Price Lawyers

Besides being case elements in Collin Finnerty’s trial, (the accused Duke lacrosse player), all of these elements are frighteningly “white,” “fraternity-oriented” and “right-wing.” It should come as no surprise that as shocking as the allegations are, this case is quickly turning in to a study on race and culture. The current allegations surrounding Mr. Finnerty are horrendous and abysmal. What I find so hypnotic about the story is the fact that his world, and the circumstances surrounding it, are terribly familiar at Ivy-League campuses across the country. It begs the question: is this case an anomaly or did one of the “boys” commit a crime that no amount of hush-money could morally and ethically cover up?

Having spent every year of my educational experience in private institutions, all of the words above have distinct symbolism for me. Although not Catholic, I am Caucasian and attend a Methodist church. I was enrolled in private non-secular schools for seventeen years of my life and one of the few sports I ever played was lacrosse. In fact, my high school didn’t even have a football team, but we had award winning boys and girls lacrosse teams. Similar to my own upbringing, Collin Finnerty was raised in privileged surroundings, attending an all-boys Catholic prep school in Long Island, New York, and was an A-student on the boys high school lacrosse team. It should come as no great surprise that when it came time for Mr. Finnerty to go to college that he would choose a program on par with his background.

I never attended Duke or Georgetown, but they were on my “list” before I was accepted to Northwestern University. You could easily compare all three schools, but the kids that went to Northwestern were the exact same kids that went to both Duke and Georgetown. The environments of the schools are nearly exact replicas of each other. All three schools maintain standards of academic excellence, athletic pride (well, basketball pride for two of the schools), religious traditions, and seek “diversity” among its community. What also characterizes these schools are their overabundance of privileged white students. It may not specifically list this demographic in the student-brochure, but it is abundantly clear when you walk on campus. It’s nearly impossible to overlook the cracker-white glow emitting from the quad. If you fail to recognize the Burberry plaid draped on every girl, then the obvious sign of men wearing Polo shirts tucked in designer jeans should give it away. Mr. Finnerty was one of these students. He was apart of a larger conglomerate who were raised in middle to upper class homes, drove around in sport-utility vehicles, and pledged eternal allegiance to either a sports team or Greek organization. I know these boys because they were the ones I grew up with: the dashing class presidents, consummate golfers, and jugglers of blonde girlfriends. On campus they were the ones that filled the Economics department and sponsored tailgates before football games. On Saturday night you could spot them rolling beer kegs in to cars for fraternity parties and by Sunday morning making the “walk of shame” home from the sorority quad. Post graduation they took jobs at equally ambitious and competitive firms like Lehman Brothers and McKinsey or worked in Washington before attending law school. These boys were your “Zack Morris” types who could charm the pants of girls, argue their way to an “A” and still make their mothers proud with a hangover.

With class comes privilege, but with any position comes responsibility and duty. I could count on two hands the number of times I witnessed that “fall from grace” over the course of prep-school and college. I recall students being expelled for drug use and trafficking, only to watch the parents transfer their kids to the private school down the street. How about the cases of “don’t ask, don’t tell” that follow many college frat boys? I could list numerous male friends who would insinuate that certain fraternity rituals were far from the community service standards their houses advocated. Often times, the crimes of those committed could easily be rectified by mom or dad and a friendly call to the dean of students. Should the crime be so offensive that reinstatement to the school was impossible, then parents simply put in calls to other institutions who would be willing to turn a blind eye to a tarnished student record in exchange for the affiliation of funds and a family name.

It should come as no big surprise that rumors have arisen of the expelled Duke lacrosse players seeking transfers to Georgetown. Ironically, Mr. Finnerty’s name has resurfaced in the news in connection to Georgetown, but not because of his academic record. Before he was arrested in the Duke-Rape case, he was accused of assault in the Georgetown area, (and arrested with a Georgetown lacrosse player), for an alleged gay-bashing incident. He had agreed to enter a diversion program as his sentence, but that was contingent upon him keeping a clean criminal record, one that was tarnished upon his arrest last week.

Students at Georgetown want nothing to do with Duke lacrosse players. In an article published by The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, an editorial from April 25, 2006 shed light on the rumor that Georgetown’s men’s lacrosse coach was recruiting three of the fallen Duke players. The students have no desire to be associated with the scandal or individuals involved in the Duke case, and no PR department would want the uphill battle. What’s hard to ignore is the fact that many of these players posses talent, skill, the intellectual standards of a Georgetown student, and family lineage. I would hate to imagine the potential “monetary pledges” some families might be willing to donate to a school’s annual fund to secure their blue-blooded son a place at an alternate institution.

When faced with adversity, it is easy to turn on one of your own, it happens in Washington all the time. It is obvious that these players would fit in well at Georgetown, but no one wants to be associated with a person or program that comes with such a bitter aftertaste. More so, what’s to say the same thing couldn’t happen at Georgetown? Already one player is directly associated (and arrested) with Mr. Finnerty. The point is these boys are just like the boys at any other blue-blood, Ivy-League schools. The difference is, these boys got caught. No one knows how many times crimes of this nature have been committed and how many times the accused got away thanks to the right connections. Of course it is a disgrace to the school, to the family, and to the student, but it is about time that someone is made an example of. Am I proud of the fact that I went to Northwestern? Of course. Am I proud of the fact that I associate myself with this particular social class? Not always. I’ve seen too many guilty faces run free thanks to privilege and lessons are never learned when a consequence goes unpaid. This may look like a problem among young adults, but the corrupt nature spreads to government and corporate America, Enron is a perfect example. When looking at photographs of Mr. Finnerty, it’s hard to picture a 19-year old committing such egregious crimes, but don’t let the blue blazer fool you, a hate crime or a sex crime is still a crime and deserves a punishment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ok...I know I haven't written in a while, but a friend convinced me to enter "Next Great Sports Writer" competition. I am going to continue my blog there, which means I'll HAVE to write more check it out:

Wish me luck...and vote!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Two posts in one day...can you handle it?

Below is a link to a fabulous article by one of my all-time favorite journalists, Chuck Klosterman. I hope you enjoy it!


For Love and the Game

We all know that it helps to have love and support in the stands when you take to the field. Guys love the girls cheering on the sideline, it’s part of what gets them going, and visa versa. Think of great sports movies, The Natural, Varsity Blues, even the classic Major League where Tom Bergen goes running over to Rene Russo after the Indians win the big game and she’s the first thing he goes looking for. Sports and sex is nothing new. In fact, it sells! Who would Andre Agassi have been without Brook Shields in the stands? What about the stories of Derek Jeter and Mariah Carey? Would Anna be the same if she didn’t have Enrique? Would anyone know who Tony Parker is if it weren’t for his adorable girlfriend, Eva? The right girlfriend or boyfriend can be a marketable quality which can help promote you, or hurt you.

Star athletes and their significant others can be odd pairs. Some choose to stay loyal to the honey who supported their broke ass from street ball to professional play. Other athletes choose to “upgrade” and go by way of the model or actress type. Perhaps the most risky and rarely witnessed coupling are the power athletes who date other superstars in their own field. Agassi might not have made it with Shields, but he seems to have made it just fine with Steffi.

You have to admit it’s adorable to see someone like Shaq married to his petite long-time girlfriend, Shaunie. It’s not like Shaq needed any more publicity with having a trophy wife to go along with his Championship, All-Star, and MVP trophies. On the flip side, one guy who has definitely made a name for himself thanks to some shameless girlfriend-flaunting is Tony Parker by way of Eva Longoria. Thanks to her devotion in the stands of the San Antonio Spurs, Tony Parker is as household of a name as his Desperate Housewife. Honestly, I think the two are an odd pair, but you love to see them together. They always appear to be so in love and divinely happy to be in each others presence. Of course, this is all speculation, but let’s be honest, Tony wasn’t helping out Eva’s career, and the sparkle in her eye when they see each other truly is genuine and not something one can fabricate with the help of a PR specialist. Secondly, since his relationship with Longoria, he has catapulted not only as a recognizable face in the game, but as a key player himself, breaking records, containing key opponents, and ultimately winning championships. Love can be a powerful drug, and in this case it’s been a positive boost on both the professional and personal front for this b-baller.

Not all relationships can be so harmonious. Perhaps Kanye West put it best with his famous lyric “Now I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold digger, but she ain’t messin’ with no broke n*$^#r.” (Since I am a 25 year old white girl, I have no allowance to say that last word.) Case in point: Kris and Anna Benson. Now Kris Benson is a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. Anna, his wife, is known for being an obnoxious, large breasted, former stripper that likes to make lude and outlandish public remarks. Her poker name “Gold Digger” should spell it out for you. One of her choice public mutterings was a remark to Howard Stern saying she’d sleep with the entire Mets organization (whom her husband played for at the time) if he ever committed an infidelity. Ironically, shortly there after, Kris Benson was traded to Baltimore in a move many credit to his wife. Some, in the media world, felt that his loud-mouthed wife had over-stepped her welcome as a baseball proponent and was making the team look bad. She, of course, claims it was all for business. Not surprising, the happy couple is now seeking a divorce and poor Anna will have to find some other attention-starved millionaire with whom she can cozy up to and make a name for via bad publicity.

So what does the “perfect girlfriend” really come down to for an athlete? Are these men looking for love as a means to an end, or as a publicity spin machine, or just to fill in the gaps? Are the women who date these men in it for the love, the money, or the game? Maybe it’s a little of both. I have always had a desire to date a football player. I know, I can hear you rolling on the floor laughing. It’s not that I think they are sexy. (OK…I think Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer and Joe Germaine and a few others are pretty hot.) I’m attracted to the sport they play and their talent and that’s what makes them sexy. I don’t think Steve Nash is all that attractive but his TALENT makes him hot. Sure, there is a lifestyle that is appealing and maybe I have a desire to see what goes on behind the curtain of professional sports. Talent and confidence are hot and that’s what sells half of these athletes to the blond B-list models and actresses.

On a final note, if you are going to be one of the girls who assumes the role of “arm candy” to a pro-athlete, you better be willing to pony up when the time comes. Case in point: this past weekend at a NASCAR event, rivals Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle found themselves at the center of a spinout and then found their girlfriends in the heat of an argument. In a “stand by your man” moment, Biffle’s girlfriend was so pissed, she marched up the Busch box and had it out with Kurt’s girlfriend in front of fans and friends. Now, I have to give credit to the ladies for having the guts to manifest the on-track match to a crowd-pleasing side-ring debacle. As they say, all publicity is good publicity and these women not only defended their men, they made front-page news! Way to go girl, you bitch-slap your way to a headline! Would I have even noticed a little NASCAR scuffle if it hadn’t been for the women who make these men look good? I hardly think so. Although, I’m not sure this was really the best way to fight for love and glory, but at least it caught my attention.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Where is the love?

College basketball is all over. Florida took the national championship for the first time ever and it’s a shame I didn’t bet money on my prediction of Florida taking it 73-68. The real time final score was Florida over UCLA 73-57. I’m sure someone out there hit the nail on the head with their own prediction, but as a basketball novice, I think I did pretty well for myself. No, I didn’t win my office pool, or any of the other free pools I entered, but I truly enjoyed myself as I witnessed the anarchy that erupted this past March.

Now what do I do? The official baseball season opened up yesterday, I guess I could start following the Cubs, Mets, Yankees, Reds, and Indians…but then again, who cares? Why does the single most boring sport have the longest season? Sure, I love going to see a baseball game, that’s the only time I really enjoy watching the sport. Well that might be a lie, I do like to watch the series…IN OCTOBER. I mean, what gives? They spread this sport out over 7 months in regular play, but you have to tack on an extra two months for all that “spring training” crap. Baseball fanatics get to watch this “American Pastime” for nearly nine months out of the year while those of us who love football or basketball are stuck with limited seasons roughly last five months, with a small lap-over which forces you to pull double-duty. Okay, I suppose you could argue that I can indulge in college sports for a full 8.5 months, from August kick-offs to early April spring football games, but what am I supposed to do over the summer? At least when we have years that fall on Olympic calendars, I can get in to the Summer Games like swimming and gymnastics. This summer I can either take up baseball, get in to car racing, or follow golf and tennis. I think tennis will take the cake, but it will be pro-tennis, which is enjoyable, but things just aren’t the same without the heart of college sports.

For example, what made the US Open so invigorating a few years ago? It wasn’t watching a nobody come up and take the title, it was watching Agassi, an aging star, try to reclaim his youth. I actually loved watching that tournament simply because you felt like you were caught in the early 90’s watching your favorite tennis star take command over the sport that he once dominated. We got to witness heart, rather than a flashy blonde who’d rather make out than make a tournament final. Even the Olympics are enjoyable because you see the human spirit in every match, heat, and medal ceremony. Where is the heart in baseball? Where is the heart in golf, for that matter? It’s no wonder a show like “Dancing with the Stars” was so popular last summer. People were dying to watch some athleticism mixed in with desperate personalities wanting to make an impact and prove themselves worthy. I can’t say I got the same excitement out of watching Michael Campbell at the US Open. (Who? Exactly! All people remember is Tiger choking.)

April 29th will arrive shortly, and for one day I can live some college football and check out the spring games of the top collegiate teams, but after that, I better find something to believe in or else it will be a long summer.

Monday, April 03, 2006

NCAA Championship Game:

Florida vs. UCLA

Prediction: Florida 73-68

Friday, March 31, 2006

I know, I know, I know...I've been a horrible blogger this week. I am very sorry. It's been one of those weeks where I've been trying to do too many things at once. Before I hit the weekend, I wanted to leave you with a few thoughts:

1) The Flutie Effect...truth or myth? Guess George Mason could find out depending on how well they continue to play this weekend. More to come on this topic next week.

2) Final Four - Predictions:
George Mason vs. Florida - Again, it's hard to take the underdog when Florida has been playing so well, but with George Mason used to playing Giant-slayer, it's hard to not bet against them. Final: 64-59, George Mason

LSU vs. UCLA - Having witnessed LSU loose a 14 point lead to OSU in the final two minutes of regulation this December, I feel like they are due to screw up. UCLA stunned Gonzaga with a nail-bitting coming back from a 14 point defecit to make it to this Final Four. Final: 78-64, UCLA

Clearly that puts George Mason vs. UCLA for the Championship Game...would anyone have predicted that? Guess we'll find out.

3)Steroids and Baseball
Clearly since the only evidence you need here are photographs of these beastly men, why aren't we investigating steroids and football, or wrestling, or any other number of sports where it's painfully obvious that no man was built or made the way these athletes perform. Is the crime here illegal drugs or is the crime that records of old have/are/will be broken by chemically-enhanced men, giving them an advantage over past players who had a natural ability? What would Babe Ruth had done if he was pumped up with Mexican steroids? Again, more to follow on this!

Enjoy the weekend and I promise I'll be better about my posts next week!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It’s been several days since my last post. I deeply apologize. You see, I was in mourning, mourning the loss of my beloved bracket. Perhaps it’s my own fault. It was me who wrote that posting a few weeks ago laughing at the thought of a No. 1 seed loosing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Sure, it was a funny thought, a fabulous daydream, and a tragic foreshadowing - look who’s crying now. The aftermath of last week’s losses sent people’s brackets into a tail-spin and ultimately an untimely death. My office pool is done, just like most pools because who would have ever taken George Mason to the Final Four? Well, according to Sports Illustrated, 1,854 out of 3 million entries in an ESPN sponsored bracket pool did pick GM to go the distance. Of those entries, 284 people have George Mason winning the title. Now let’s be honest, you know those 284 people have to either be alumni of the school, or multiple entries by the players’ families. (You can bet someone’s mom must have entered at least five times…my mom would if it were me on that court.) It also makes you wonder…what were the other 1,570 people thinking? This is the team that lost to Hofstra, twice! I am convinced they got their “Georges” wrong. I mean, in this year’s tournament we had George Washington, Georgetown, and George Mason. According to Russell Peasant, one of four people in the ESPN pool to pick all four Final Four contestants, that’s exactly what happened to him. He intended to pick George Washington to go to the Final Four but accidentally picked George Mason. Hey, at least he’s honest and chalks it up to dumb luck.

I don’t think anyone expected to loose all the No. 1’s before the Final Four. Of the No. 1’s, I had a feeling UConn would not make it. All of their games had been such nail-biters and come so close to the final buzzer. Duke was an obvious pick to choke, evident because they didn’t have the charisma to win the championship. I’m fairly indifferent on ‘Nova, but I thought Memphis had lots of potential. I like the small fry schools, they always stand such a good chance of spitting in the eye of any Goliath. I had a gut instinct about Memphis, predicting they’d fare the best among the targeted No. 1’s. I know, I had UConn to win, but that was before really watching the teams play. I also thought Gonzaga would last a little longer, but who would have thought they’d blow a 17 point lead to UCLA? 1980 was the last time a Final Four was set with no No. 1 seed in the lineup. For that matter, the last time a No. 11 seed even made it to the Final Four was in 1986. What we have witnessed is somewhat historic. It also begs another question…were the No. 1’s overrated or where the small fries underrated?

Being No. 1 is tough. You are wearing this gigantic target because should you loose, it’s not just the loss that hurts, it’s the upset factor. Your pride is stomped on because you lost, but you lost to someone who was considered to be inferior. It’s like watching a girl take on a guy. You cheer for the girl because what hope does she have of defeating a guy? But then again, you love to bask in the embarrassment of some guy getting his ass kicked by a chick. Being the big cheese, the top dog, the No. 1 seed is the perfect set up for disappointment. With all this said, and all our No. 1’s now losers, what made them No. 1 anyhow? George Mason, a small commuter school in the DC suburbs easily showed Michigan State, UNC and UConn that they didn’t need a huge student population, a cushy endowment, or a premiere collegiate athletic department to earn a ticket to the big dance. George Mason, the cranky Cinderella, is what makes this tournament so fabulous. Although I hated watching my bracket disintegrate, I loved watching this team win. I can’t say I’m nearly as excited about LSU, Florida, or UCLA. Would I like to see George Mason take it all? Of course…this is the stuff that writes Disney movies and creates classic moments. The human interest story of “the little engine that could” begins to steam roll the competition and will build momentum for this school. (It will also lead to an increase in applications to the school for next fall, just watch!) George Mason has already won because they proved themselves worthy and took it to any opponent who challenged them. They never backed down, they showed courage under fire and persisted. I can’t say Duke came out saying “Dammit it, we’re the best and we’re going all the way!” No, I’d say most of the No. 1’s took their number for granted. As a No. 1, you feel a sense of entitlement, like you are owed a place in the final. When you’re the underdog you have nothing to loose by going balls to the walls. As a No. 1 you have it all to lose and if you don’t protect your turf, you’re bound to see it conquered by that lowly seed who’s waiting to rain on your parade. Seeding causes some teams to be overrated and others to be underrated, but the true test comes on the court when each team gets a chance to prove its ability and worth. George Mason proved they belong, regardless of a No. 11 seed, and the No. 1’s proved it takes more than clout if you want to survive.