University of Arkansas Softball Game – Fayetteville, AR
As we were divvying up tasks a couple of weeks ago, Mark said, “Oh, you can write the Arkansas Softball piece. Since you’re a girl, you’ll have a better perspective.”
Mark knows better than anyone that I have the ability to take a sentence or even just a few words and analyze them beyond normal measure and as such, his seemingly innocent statement offended me. Why would I, a person who never played team sports (until a kickball league at age 26), have some unique perspective that he could not have? Moreover, I’m a person who has quite publicly denounced the game of baseball, which is very similar to softball. Why would he automatically assume that I would prefer to write this piece?
And he didn’t mean anything by it. He’s not sexist or bigoted or even opposed to writing the piece himself, but there was something on the surface (well technically below the surface) that made him automatically assume that I would prefer to write it or be better at writing it.
Perhaps that’s why I was off-put. I feel that from the outside many people see girls playing sports and they put it in another category. Women’s sports are somehow different from general sports. The thought was because I’m a woman, I should write the piece about women.
I thought about using this as a platform to hash out Title IX and the sociological implications of Mark’s innocent comment. First, I heard a few imaginary people groan in my brain, and then I decided that it’s been done much too many times before and much more eloquently than I could ever imagine (see here, and here).
That being said, we still live in a time where we cannot and should not ignore the fact that women are playing sports. The fact that this particular game and sport is played by women is exactly what the environment and the experience of this day was all about.
After driving The Highland Flinger through the hilly campus of University of Arkansas, we pulled into the Bogle Park parking lot, which was entirely devoid of vehicles. We were three hours early, so we had the pick of the spots and chose to take one (well, three) boasting a full view of the softball diamond and the immaculate facility.
For the next two hours, we did what we do – made some breakfast, caught the U of A open wireless network (thanks!), until suddenly we heard “Party Up!” by P!nk blasting through the stadium’s sound system. More cars had shown up, but we assumed these were the players and coaches’ cars, as there were still no spectators in the stands.
So I got worried.
We’re doing this piece on softball, a women’s sport, and I feared that it was going to be a bust and I was going to have to talk about how this sport was not popular and has no fans.
Turns out the lower attendance was due to spring break for the students of University of Arkansas, but it was definitely not spring break for the student athletes on the Razorback softball team. The willingness of a college student to skip a week at the beach in March speaks volumes about their work ethic and the commitment to their responsibilities. The hard work that the Razorbacks put in was full on display this day against the Florida Gators.
I was impressed with the force that pitcher Chelsea Cohen exerted with each throw (I think my and Mark’s arms would fall off) and with an ERA of 2.95, she hasn’t been figured out too often this season. Additionally, players like Clarisa Navarro, Devon Wallace, Amanda Geile proved that they not only can hit the ball (each have 5, 6, and 6 home runs this year, respectively) but they also made some great plays in the field as well. And to be fair, let’s not forget the opponent, the Florida Gators. We saw Michelle Moultrie hit her second home run of the weekend.
These displays of athleticism do in fact attract a crowd, even during a break. The stadium was about half full of “Pig-Sooie”-ing fans – mostly locals, family members, some traveling Gator fans, and a few noticeable groups of young softball players who were there dressed as a team, enjoying the game.
Seeing teams of young girls got me thinking about Title IX and not just equality in sports, but the encouragement to play them. It is imperative that young players are invited and encouraged to watch their older counterparts compete at a high level in order to inspire them to achieve excellence and advancement in a sport they love playing, to reinforce that sports aren’t just for boys, and to see the type of support they should expect to receive from their schools. We all have role models and the Razorbacks athletes took their role seriously, spending time with children after the game. The University itself is also proving to be a great leader to which other schools can aspire to be like.
Bogle Park on the University of Arkansas’ campus consists of a 1,200-seat stadium equipped with graphic scoreboards, skyboxes, lights, media center, locker rooms, an indoor practice facility with batting cages and a full infield. The total cost of the facility totaled $8.5 million and had its inaugural season in 2008-2009 (arkansasrazorbacks.com). Creating a world-class facility for a women’s team shows a substantial commitment to women’s sports and the athletes who play them by the University of Arkansas.
Though the Razorbacks lost the game that day, their achievement within their program should be a continuous source of pride. WOO PIG SOOIE!
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To see all of our photos from the event click HERE