Behind Home Plate: Considering a Woman’s Place

league3In my hometown, girls who wanted to play in Little League played on co-ed baseball teams until the 5th grade. Despite being the generation that watched “A League of Their Own” in the theaters, there weren’t many of us who wanted to be Dottie Hinson (played by Geena Davis). We were evenly distributed across all the teams, and that meant that most of the time there were no more than two of us. I wanted to pitch, but a coach told me: “Girls don’t pitch.” But I had a good arm, so I was put in right field (well, that was the justification for it, anyway.) Girl 2 on the team was also put in the outfield… a fake position called “center right.”

Often at practice, Girl 2 and I would out-slug the guys. But when it came to setting up the order, we were always placed at the bottom. Come game time, when we’d get up to bat we were heckled by the boys on both teams — by our teammates and by the opponents. The male coaches never did anything to make the boys shut up. If I struck out, which I did a lot (and no more than the boys), I’d be met back in the dugout with “what do you expect from a girl!?”

When I was finally old enough to join the all-girls softball league, everything changed. I became a starting pitching, a top-of-the-order batter, an All-Star. When we’d play co-ed softball in gym-class, I was a first round draft because I could out-everything the boys.

There was no more heckling. There was just the game.

1923570_528551231932_5298_nI remember being in pre-school and wanting to be a boy. I’d try to pee standing up (I learned after one attempt that we’re just not built for that.) I guess it’s a phase all children go through — that phase when they’re trying to understand what makes us different from the other kids on the playground, and then trying to appropriate some of those differences… because the grass is always greener on the other side.

Maybe that’s why I preferred a hammer, nails, and a block of wood to dolls when it came to toys. My school folders had cars on them instead of “My Little Pony.” As I got older and moved into sports, I always played with the boys. I’d swim in the boys’ lanes, or go to their practices in girls’ off season. I fight the boys in karate and bout with the boys at fencing practice. In college, I majored in Economics. I did my problem sets with the boys and go for morning runs with the boys.

And then I’d throw on a pair of high heels, a bedazzled shirt and some eyeliner and drink beers with the boys. The boys would often still be in their gym clothes.

The battle of the genders begins from day one. There’s only a short, sweet time when the playing field is level and then the realizations kick in – boys and girls are not the same.

We fall from Eden.

Putting aside basic biology, what is it that makes men and women so different? To me, it’s all about experience. We fall from Eden not because we realize our nakedness, we realize we don’t have access to the same opportunities. The boys on my little league team were never told they couldn’t pitch because they were boys. As we think of what makes us strong as women, so much of what empowers us is how we learn to define ourselves in relation to the boys — even if we don’t want to admit it. What if my little league team had been 50-50 boys and girls? What if my coach had had daughters instead of sons? Would I still have been told “girls can’t?” Would someone have said “boys can’t?”

 

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Some Weekends, I wish I wasn’t a Sports Fan

These are the kind of headlines I’m used to as a New York sports fan…

When it comes to reading the newspaper, I tend to leave out all the sections that highlight “bad” news: News, Business, International, and frequently, Metropolitan. When I’m done sorting “bad” news sections from “good” news pages, I’m left with Sports and Arts/Style. Probably, to most people it would seem I get very little “real” news at all from my daily New York Times. Of course I beg to differ.

Sports and Art are the core of my being and the principle sources of my income, after all.

When you’re a New York sports fan, you’re not used to getting bad news. Mediocre news. Tragic news. Great news. Yes, all of those. But not bad news. And certainly not bad news on a regular basis about all your favorite teams at once. It’s one of the great advantages to being in a metro area with a professional sport franchise in every division in every league — even when one team in one sport is having a losing streak, another team in another (and sometimes the same) sport is on a winning run.

But then Mariano Rivera twisted his knee.

It was the domino that started the cascade. Sure, a day later the front page of the section ran with that quintessential photo of Mo running to the field from the bullpen and the headliner quote: “I’m coming back. Write it down in big letters.”

But that was the only spark of good news.

Rangers Fall Flat

Bats Go Quiet as Yankees Lose Again

For Rangers, Questions and Negative Answers

End is Likely for Knicks

Back when the Knicks Won One

I felt like someone had swapped out my Sunday Sports for the week’s Wall Street Recap. Were these articles secretly about Enron and Goldman Sachs? Because surely, they couldn’t be about my Yanks and Rangers!?

Luckily, by Tuesday, thanks to an overtime goal and 10 runs in Kansas City, the sports section is once again safe to read and chock full of good news.

I’m Sorry, I Can’t Meet You for a Drink. It’s the Post Season.

I travel with a Yankee garden gnome named Jorge.

Most girls would scoff at the thought of staying home on a Friday night to watch a baseball game in lieu of meeting a witty, model-good-looking, 6-foot, D-1 ball player turned Ivy-League Law student turned successful litigator for drinks.

But then again, I’m not like most girls. I’ve got my priorities straight.

The first app I downloaded was MLB Lite. I travel around the world with a Yankee garden gnome, tenderly christened Jorge. There are 3 pictures on the pushpin board of my office at work – one of a Japanese maple, one of the old Yankee Stadium, and one of Alex Rodriguez at the plate, from behind.

Is it really a surprise that when faced with a choice between the first game of the American League Division Series, the NY Yankees vs. the Detroit Tigers, and a first date with Mr. Perfect on Paper that I would chose Game 1?

The photo hanging over my computer at work -- A-Rod at the plate, from behind. Thank you telephoto lens

My diehard allegiance to the Bronx Bombers has been both the impetus and executioner’s axe of many a potential relationship. I once dated a boy who worked for the YES Network with the principal aim of securing season tickets. “What team do you root for?” is one of my 10 essential “get to know a person questions.” I can accept Phillies fans. Mets fans I have little tolerance for. Blue Jays fans I forgive because they’re probably Canadian and have no alternative home teams to root, root, root for. Red Sox fans?

Well, see exhibit 1:

Me: “I’m tired of dating smart boys. Enough with Rhodes Scholars. I want someone stupid.”

Friend: “Well then, I’ve got the guy for you. He’s a Red Sox Fan!”

Me: “Perfect.”

It's the Post Season, and my team has a 28th World Series to win

To some men, a girl who rain-checks dinner because she wants to watch “the game” at home with her friends (and garden gnome) is the holy grail. To others, it’s confusing — who wears the pants in this romance?

As the grounds keepers pulled the tarp over the Yankee Stadium infield Friday night and news filtered in that the game would be postponed, a friend turned to ask if rescheduling drinks with Mr. Perfect-on-Paper was worth it?

“Did you see C.C.’s last inning?” I cried.

To this she could offer no retort. A first drink with Mr. Perfect-on-Paper wasn’t going to be the only date rescheduled in October. It’s the Post Season, after all, and my team has a 28th World Series to win.