By Fermin Liu Ku
Looking on Facebook and listening into conversations, I can honestly say that all my friends have caught Olympics fever. Conversations about going swimming on a hot summer day somewhat find their way to talking about Michael Phelps and Ryan Locke; complaints about bad hair days end with someone quoting Gabby Douglas about never changing her much criticized hair. What is it about sports that has that effect on people? If we look at the Olympics, the Soccer World Cup, and other global sport events, we realize that every few years, when our countries’ men and women congregate to compete in a sport, people all pay attention, non-sports fan included.
Through people’s enthusiasm about and passion for big sport events, we have to come to the logical conclusion that sports are more than just physical activities. Athleticism entails willpower, honor, and strength. Great sportsmanship does not come from being a skilled player but being a rule-abiding and hard working player. You must be wondering why you are reading about sports on this blog. After all, shouldn’t you be reading about women empowerment and girl power instead of about sweaty men running around with a ball? Well, that’s the thing about sports that I want to talk about. Sports is not just sweaty men running around with a ball; it is also sweaty women running around with a ball. Sports is the great equalizer that makes spectators appreciate the strength and power of both men and women.
The other day, when I was on my auto ride to work, we drove past a basketball court. I was expecting to see teenage boys playing horse or shooting hoops. Instead, I was blown away by the scene of five girls playing basketball, decked out in basketball jerseys, shorts, and shoes. Something about girls playing basketball in sports gear really struck me. Somehow, whenever I see girls all veiled and covered, they seem so small, weak, and almost invisible. However, in basketball shorts and shoes, they seem sure of themselves and liberated. The basketball court is one court where, since they have been allowed to play sports, women have followed the same exact rules as the men. A three-pointer is a three pointer, no matter the sex of the player who made the shot.
Maybe this is why some activists pushed so hard for a women’s basketball league and women’s cricket teams. The purpose was not to show that women are as strong as men physically (we know that biologically, this is unlikely); the purpose was to show that women are as strong as men emotionally and had the same hand-eye coordination to play sports and the same honor and willpower to abide by the rules of sports. Seeing men and women struggle and persevere in sports arenas leaves the critics speechless. It makes the cynics and pessimists acknowledge human potential, and it makes the patriarchs, the sexists, and the racists realize that we are all human beings with great potential, and thus human beings are all equal.
For the longest time, I thought that sports were a show of manliness and P.E. classes a chance for people who were physically gifted to show off. After seeing those five girls, who were of different heights, statures, and athletic abilities, play for that brief moment in traffic, I have completely change my mind about sports. Sports build character, alleviate pain and stress, and make us all a bit more human. It is on the field, arena, or court of a particular sport that people, not just men, show teamwork, perseverance, and strength. During a game of sports, there can be violence and unsportsmanlike behavior, but true sportsmanship is revealed in the passion of the players and their ability to play fairly and win fairly. We may still be rooting for men and women to play in the same league, on the same team, but the fact that men and women are playing the same sports by the same rules and showing the same human greatness as a result are proof enough that men and women are equal and that most people acknowledge this. And though sports may be extremely patriarchal and male-dominated, spectators watching have to realize, consciously or subconsciously, that women can play and do whatever men can.