Sorenstam undermines progress in athletics

Sorenstam undermines progress in athletics

by David Morain

During Women’s History Month, sports writers all across the country have brought up female athletes and the feats they accomplished from years gone by.

Martina Navratilova accumulated 19 Grand Slam titles on the tennis circuit, posting an astonishing 160-7 record in 1982. Cheryl Miller was the greatest female basketball player of all time, winning the NCAA tournament twice (1983-84) while being named player of the year three years in a row (1984-86). Swimmer Jenny Thompson’s eight Olympic gold medals is the most by any American woman, and her world records in the 50-meter and 100-meter fly, as well as the 100-meter individual medley, still stand.

Women like these have laid the foundations for today’s female athlete. Their work, along with the implementation of Title IX, have made it possible for every female in the United States to be able to pick up a sport without fear of being labeled a tomboy. However, all this work is slowly being undone by one of the best female athletes in the world.

Annika Sorenstam, regarded as the best female golfer in the world, is slotted to play alongside men from the PGA in the Colonial Open in May.

At first glance, this seems like a brave endeavor for the 32-year-old Swede to take on. Sorenstam has the chance to shock the world and prove that women golfers are just as good as men. As great an accomplishment it would be to make the cut at the Colonial and tee it up with Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, Sorenstam is doing more harm than good when she intends to transcend gender boundaries in sports.

Babe Zaharias, the greatest female athlete of the first half of the twentieth century, was the first to break the barrier at the 1945 Los Angeles Men’s Open. How often do we hear about it?

Ann Meyers Dreysdale achieved even more than that, becoming the only woman to get drafted into the NBA back in 1978. I doubt most people have ever heard of her. Sorenstam’s rounds at the Colonial will only be a spectacle, something for the nation to stare at for two seconds before turning to something else.

While Sorenstam may think she’s moving women’s athletics forward, she’s actually pushing them further back. After her announcement, a golfer by the name of Brian Kontak wants to cross the gender barrier as well, only he’d be playing on the LPGA. Sounds pathetic, right? Well, is this any more ludicrous than Sorenstam wanting to play on the PGA?

Sure, he’d be a laughing stock, and he may not win every tournament, but he’d win enough for the women of the league to wish they’d go back to a strict separation of genders.

Though Sorenstam may have had her best intensions in mind when she said she’d play the Colonial, she didn’t stop to think about how it detracts from the successes of others in her sport that will not compete against men. What would happen here at Simpson if our athletic department were to cater to such a request? Would the benefits of such an exhibition outweigh the costs?

What if, say, Sara Sonderman, a senior standout guard, were to have joined the men’s team this year? Can we honestly say that this would have been a great achievement for women everywhere? Sure, she’s got the smoothest three-point shot I’ve ever seen on a woman before, but the amount of distraction she would cause would deter from the team aspect of the game.

Women that try to cross over into men’s sports are trying to show others how great they are. In reality though, they are simply reinforcing the belief that a woman has to challenge a man to prove something.