Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Thursday, April 1, 2004
Updated: April 2, 12:23 PM ET
Women should not be flying high

By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist

I apologize for being the voice of reason here, but this sports fan has almost zero interest in seeing women dunk a basketball. It's a nice little novelty act that has a very short life span.

In fact, female slam-dunking as a spectator sport died this week when Candace Parker won the McDonald's All-American slam-dunk contest.

Candace Parker
Candace Parker became the first female to win the slam dunk contest at the McDonald's High School All-America game.
Yes, I'm well aware that the PC crowd -- and the men and women who measure gender equality by women's ability to become more like men -- hailed Parker's victory as a giant leap forward for womankind. ESPN.com even led its site with a photo of her dunking.

It was just another leap backward.

No disrespect to Ms. Parker, but she was handed the title. Her dunks were unspectacular. She won because the boys in the contest failed to complete their dunks.

Her participation, in fact, undermined the credibility of the contest. Why take it seriously? The people running the all-star game didn't. Eventually, neither did the judges.

Hey, I don't want to sound as intolerant as Vijay Singh. But this is different than Annika Sorenstam visiting the PGA Tour. Sorenstam has the necessary skill to compete with the men on the PGA Tour. Parker has almost none of the skills it takes to compete with boys her age in a dunk contest. I'd rather see Parker compete in the men's game than the dunk contest. She'd have a better chance competing in a game than a dunk contest.

Seriously, Parker dunked as well as an old Larry Bird -- when he had a bad back.

I realize that Parker was being used to drive interest in the event. I realize that sports -- even high school sports -- are nothing more than a vehicle to drive TV ratings. It's all entertainment. I was just disappointed with the unrealistic news coverage of Parker's victory. It was condescending and patronizing.

Her pedestrian dunks didn't advance equality or women's basketball. The judges and the crowd treated her like she'd performed with a disability. Seven judges gave her a perfect 10 on her final dunk. Had a healthy boy completed the same dunks in an all-star dunk contest, he might've been booed off the court.

Is that the equality we're looking for?

Parker is one of the most talented female athletes in the world. She's worked as hard as any boy to hone her skills. So it means little when she wins a contest tilted in her favor. That's degrading. And so is the subsequent patronizing news coverage.

The story could've been told straight. No one had to pretend that this was some sort of historic moment in sport. But that's not what we do when it comes to women's sports. We overhype everything. We create monumental myths. There are people who still believe that Brandi Chastain and the U.S. women's World Cup team pulled off the equivalent of the Miracle on Ice.

That's because there's a strong, militant and active segment of our population that too often measures women by the same standards as men. And who says that's a good thing?
Tim Duncan
The stone face in pure form.
Think about it. Men's basketball has overdosed on the slam dunk. American players don't have fundamentals because, among other reasons, they spend too much time working on dunks. There are many people who would argue that the dunk has been slowly killing American basketball.

But we see the dunk as an advance for the women's game. Why? Because some women -- in the name of equality -- are dead set on doing every dumb thing we do. The women's game shouldn't be played above the rim. That's not where women excel. It's not what they do best. Their game is different. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Why do we insist that women repeat the same stupid mistakes men do, and then call it progress? Men do really dumb things. We see weapons of mass destruction where there are none. We over-emphasize sports. We place athletic achievement ahead of academic achievement. We spoil and pamper child athletes and then complain when they act spoiled and pampered as adults.

Do militant feminists realize just how stupid we are? No, I'm being serious. For the life of me I can't figure out why any woman would see equality in being anything like me or any of my friends. We have no relationship skills and even less patience. We're a walking, talking, eating, somewhat educated weapon of mass destruction. We pretty much tear apart everything good in our life out of fear that the good things are really bad things just waiting to get us.

It's a vicious cycle that women would be wise to avoid.

(And, yes, I have major drama in my life right now. I just wanna curl up in a fetal position and tell my mama all my problems. But she doesn't care. She probably doesn't like me, either. I didn't mean that mama ... if you're reading. I know you love me ... I think ... Don't you? Call me on my cell.)

Where was I? Oh, the dunk contest.

Why can't we just celebrate Candace Parker's game? She has lots of game. She's not the best girls' prep basketball player because she can dunk. She has soft hands, quick feet, great vision, a nice shooting touch, good moves around the basket. That was good enough to make Larry Bird a superstar. It should be good enough for Candace Parker.

She shouldn't have to hide her eyes in a horrible Dee Brown dunk imitation to be considered a star.

Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at ballstate68@aol.com.