NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
I saw a lot of comments during the Little League World Series that upset me. Comments on social media sites as well as people commenting on news sites about how baseball is NOT a girl’s game.
I’d like to see them hit Mo’ne Davis’ fastball or curveball.
In case you were living in a place without internet at the time, Mo’ne Davis is a player for the Taney Dragons from Philadelphia. Her team, backed by her 70 mph fastball, reached the semi-finals of the LLWS in Williamsport, PA last month, before falling to Las Vegas.
I’m sorry, but if a girl can throw 70 mph at roughly 13 years old, she should be allowed to play whatever she wants to play. Even though Davis lives in Philadelphia, and her fastball is 10-15 mph beyond that of most kids her age, this still applies to the State of Michigan, most notably in MHSAA play.
The MHSAA does NOT recognize a difference in softball and baseball, forcing every girl who grew up playing Little League baseball to switch to an unfamiliar ball, unfamiliar bat, while on a field not much bigger than the Little League field they played on growing up. My Little League team that won the citywide championship when I was 11 had an outstanding player on the team, probably our BEST player. I will call her Daisy. Daisy could play any position, and was our #1 pitcher. When we went to high school, she was forced into softball. You could see the difference in her ability in her freshman year, and she never regained the dominance she had as an 11, 12, 13 year old kid.
Daisy was just another victim of gender bias. Plain and simple.
According to www.cksbaseball4u.com, there are many differences in just the size of the ball, the bat, the game length, and the field size, but softball.isport.com mentions several more, including rules on tie-breaking and leading off. Most softball leagues employ use of a double first base, as well as a designated player rule and even an extra player in short center field.
Then there is a marked difference in professional salaries. Yes, there is a professional softball league…with FOUR teams…whose players average $2,000 to $5,000 per SEASON in the National Pro Fastpitch league. In comparison, last years MLB average salary: $3,386,212. The league minimum in 2014? $500,000…to play what people call “the same game”.
You may wonder still why I have an issue with this topic. Gender bias is wrong, period. To see any girl get slighted on a dream because of a school sports association saying that two sports are the same, when they indeed are not, is painful to watch. I watch it now, with my oldest daughter, a high school freshman. She has always learned how to play with a baseball, partly because I played and partly because she is tiny and cannot fully grip a softball. Last year, her school told her under MHSAA rules, she cannot play baseball, that she has to play softball. Now, she is no Mo’ne Davis, but what about ALL the girls who want to play baseball because it is the more difficult of the two sports to master? What about the girls who want a challenge?
It goes BOTH ways. The MHSAA bars male student-athletes from participating on teams that generally only include females. This kept yours truly from playing volleyball in high school. This also disqualified Lakeview High’s cheerleading squad in 2011 from a statewide cheerleading competition. Their defense?
“Boys may not participate on a girls team in MHSAA sponsored postseason meets and tournaments. Schools have adopted this position to preserve participation opportunities for the historically underrepresented gender.”
– MHSAA statement to WXYZ, 12-16-2011
At the same time, that statement set a double standard, because girls COULD participate on boys teams…unless there is an alternative team for girls. When the MHSAA equates baseball and softball as the same sport, it makes a boys team (the baseball team) and the girls team (the softball team). Even though Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments reads “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” the MHSAA and other other associations still designate certain sports as girls-only, boys-only, co-ed mixed, or co-ed separate.
The National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) allows boys to play on girls teams, and for girls to play on boys teams, and they oversee every high school sports association in the country, yet in Michigan and a few other states, the gender inequality still exists. With no real just cause, outstanding female athletes are told “You cannot play baseball because you are a girl”. Outstanding male athletes are being told “You cannot play volleyball because you are male.”
What this tells me is that, in the case of girls, the MHSAA is so worried about a Title IX lawsuit that they are letting girls play football, hockey, sports that are traditionally “boys” sports, but boys cannot play “girls” sports, and at the same time, equating two sports that are similar, like lacrosse and field hockey, softball and baseball, to separate the genders even more.
Who cares? If someone can play, if they can help you win, let them play. Anyone remember Manon Rhéaume? In 1992 she broke the gender barrier in the four major sports of North America when she signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. She appeared in two exhibition games and spent the rest of her career in the minors. But the Lightning at least took the chance to see if she could help them win. Women have been knocking on the door of the NBA and MLB for a long time as well. To see organizations like the MHSAA prevent more young women from growing to their full potential is wrong and antiquated thinking. Title IX was passed 42 years ago, and it seems quite a bit has changed, but under the veil of roses, there lies hypocrisy.
The argument has been made that women’s sports draw less viewers than men’s. MAYBE if there were more women’s professional sports leagues, it would attract more viewers and more sponsors. If you expand the abilities for women and men to play the sports they want to play, and just get rid of the gender barriers, there will be more viewers because those athletes, those who are not talented enough to be a pro, will watch later in life. More viewers = more sponsors = more money.
For girls as talented as Mo’ne Davis, boys as talented as Brandon Urbas, the cheerleader from Lakeview High, I hope the NFHS steps up and threatens to not sanction any state association that shows gender bias in any sport. If someone of the non-typical gender for a sport can perform just as well as the typical gender, they should be allowed to play.
As far as my daughter’s scenario goes, she still plans on playing baseball, and my wife and I have her back, even if it leads into a lengthy court battle that prevents her from ever playing baseball in high school, just so her younger sister, 8 years her junior, can play at that level alongside her twin brother.
Featured Image courtesy of sportsclipart.com, used with permission