Skirt The Issue - Calling A Foul

Calling A Foul
How I created a battle of the sexes when comparing ODU Women's and Men's Basketball

By By Kristen De Deyn Kirk

My sweet 10-year-old boy said exactly what I wanted him to—“Can I go with you, Mom?”

I had just finished announcing that I planned to attend two Old Dominion University basketball games. I wanted to compare the experience watching the women’s team and the mens. I was curious for a number of reasons, but mostly because I wanted to find grounds to brag that the women were better than the men and deserve a bigger following, especially early in the season.

The first glitch in my plan occurred the next day. The son hadn'’t listened to everything I said. He didn’t hear the part about “watching a women’s basketball game.” He whined and didn’t want to go when I clarified.

But I got him there, after parking in a nearly empty garage and purchasing excellent mid court seats moments before tipoff—for less than the price of a movie.

Despite himself, my son’s eyes grew big. He loved our seats and the anticipation of the players being announced. As he watched the players running back and forth and getting a bit physical with the other team, he smiled.

“They’re getting feisty!” he said. He looked at the program, and with help from the crowd—a significant number of whom seemed to be regulars because they obviously knew all the players—he started referring to them by name. The boy was into the girls’ game! He even recognized Karen Barefoot, the coach’s name, when it appeared on the JumboTron scrambled as part of a contest.

However, he did have a few complaints—the women weren’t dunking the ball, and they took frequent timeouts.

I had to agree with him about the timeouts; the momentum would just start, and then it would stop. I was also surprised when two players were on the floor fighting over a ball at one point. That seemed more “middle school” than nearly professional ball.

The team looked good to my untrained eye— yet not great, as I had anticipated. Or so I thought. The next morning I learned that Tia Lewis had a careerhigh scoring game with 30 points. She also had 10 rebounds, and freshman Ashley Betz-White had a career-high with seven assists. Plus, the women had been 3-9 before the game, so a win of 68-59 was an impressive step in the right direction.

I just wish this all had been frontpage news; instead it was page-three news, while a story about men’s player Trian Iliadis’ previous early-season struggle to maintain his status as the team’s “designated 3-point sniper” was on the front of the sports section. The headline: “ODU’s Iliadis has found his touch after shooting slump.”

Ironically, when we went to see him and the other players that night, he scored two points. The team lost 63-54. However, we had a blast watching.

The only tickets we could get, purchased the night before, were nearly 60 percent more than the women’s and located in the end zone, but we soaked up enthusiasm from the much-larger crowd—this time mostly students and families, versus the seniors who dominated the women's game. Everyone was loud, and the action was fast. Feet were squeaking, arms were flying, and far fewer timeouts were called. While the women impressed, the men dazzled.

I felt horrible thinking that, and more so writing itb—until I realized there is nothing wrong with testing a theory and reporting honest results.

What was wrong was my competitive approach. Both games were enjoyable; both featured talented, dedicated athletes; and the managers at the Ted worked hard to make both games “experiences” with fun routines, contests and giveaways.

Why had I put a competitive spin on it?

Can I say I wanted to drum up more support for the women? Maybe. But more likely, I wanted a battle of the sexes. And that is not right. Note to self: Encouraging support = good. Seeking to set up a competition in hopes of putting down men = bad.

What I would love to see as frontpage news: The ODU women don’t deserve a bigger following throughout the season because they’re better than the men: They deserve a bigger following because they’re good and perform athletically at a level that 99 percent of us never could. Male or female.