Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Flip Flops at the White House. A Good Idea?

Should a certain type of dress be expected for special occasions? Should a person be required to dress a particular way when an event is considered formal or semiformal?
What would you wear on a visit to the White House?

I don’t mean your everyday tourist visit. I mean a formal, official meeting with the President of the United States.

It has become a tradition for the President of our country to invite members of various championship sports teams to the White House.

I don’t know when the tradition started, or which President started it. Honoring champions at the White House makes for a nice photo op and allows the athletes and coaches to receive recognition for a job well done.

However, a recent visit has raised the eyebrows of some.

The Northwestern University Women’s Lacrosse Team won the 2005 NCAA Division I Lacrosse Championships. Subsequently, they were invited to the White House to meet President George W. Bush and be honored for their achievement.

According to all reports, everything went well. Everyone had a great time, and the athletes and coaches were given an experience they would never forget.

As in any event, the participants stood for a photo. President Bush was in the middle of the group, surrounded by these fine, young women and their coaches.

The photo was sent out over the wire services, and that is when the questions started.

It seems that some of the young ladies chose to wear flip flops.

None of the ladies seemed to be dressed inappropriately. They all wore nice dresses, blouses and skirts, or pants and shirts.

The question that has been brought up and been asked by many; are flip flops acceptable footwear for a formal visit to the White House?

Do shoes really matter? Does an occasion dictate your selection of footwear? I would have to say that it does. I feel that certain events dictate the selection of footwear.

Would a man wear running shoes to his wedding? Would a woman wear house shoes to the opera? Would a person wear flip flops to a job interview with any major corporation?

The answer to all three of the above questions is a resounding “no.”

In today’s society, many things are just brushed off as unimportant. It is obvious to me that this issue does not rank up there with the War on Terror or the cost of a gallon on gas.

What it does bring to mind is what is acceptable in today’s society. Some have stated that flip flops are acceptable footwear for today’s youth. They view flip flops as comfortable, stylish, and as a fashion statement of their generation.

One of they young ladies was quoted in saying that the flip flops that were worn were not the cheap kind. They were brown, decorated with sequins and had a cost of about sixteen dollars.

All of this really doesn’t matter. The offending young ladies should have made a better choice of footwear. The coaching staff should have insured that the ladies were properly dressed. The university should have a dress code for athletes when they are representing their school.

I know many athletic teams, whether they are professional, college, high school or club, have dress and attire requirements when they are representing their organization.

I know of a long time high school swimming coach, who has coached swimmers at every level from novice to national champion. She always has a dress code for her athletes, be it at practice, competition, or travel.

She would tell her athletes they represented four entities: their coach, their team or school, their parents, and themselves.

Society has placed an unwise idea in the youth of today. Allowing them to believe that people shouldn’t judge them on their appearance and that they have the right to self expression with their choice of dress, will do more to hurt them in society then they will benefit.

People are judged on their appearance. Even if it is something as simple as wearing flip flops to the White House, people do judge you.

In reaction to the furor, some of the young ladies have said they will donate their flip flops to the White House, to be auctioned off to benefit a young fan who has brain cancer,

Whether they came to their senses about their inappropriate choice of footwear or are trying to make an unfortunate situation better is unclear. What is clear is they have thought about the issue and are trying to rectify the situation.

Perhaps the university’s athletic department will enact a policy concerning appropriate dress for their athletics teams.

Perhaps the coaches of these young women will enact a team policy concerning appropriate dress for their athletes and coaches.

Perhaps the young women involved will think about appropriate dress and footwear for activities and events they are involved in.

After all, this isn’t brain surgery. It is about some young people making a poor choice. They will all live through it, as we all will. I hope this will take them, along with many others, use common sense when it comes to appropriate dress and footwear.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

IOC Removes Softball from Olympic Games

When the announcement came out of the International Olympic Committee meetings in Singapore that softball and baseball dropped were being eliminated from the Olympic program in 2012, many including myself, were stunned.

I could understand why baseball was eliminated. The fact that Olympic teams do not include the best players in the world was one of the major factors in that decision.

Major League Baseball has no vested interest in the Olympics. Why should they? Participating in the Olympics would not give the teams, players, and owners any benefits that would be tangible. Could you see the owners shutting down the season for a few weeks so some of their best could participate? I think not!

I think Major League Baseball’s transparent drug policy might also have had something to do with the decision.

Participation in the Olympic Games would require all professional players submitting to year round, mandatory and random drug tests. The Players Union would never go for that.

My belief is “so what.” The Olympic didn’t need major league players. Participate with those that wanted to follow the IOC rules and to play for the love of the game. But none of these statements mean anything now. Baseball is gone from the Olympics.

However, none of this relates to softball, but some will try to tell you it does.

In the nine years since softball was included in the Olympic Games, I have never heard of a softball player testing positive for performance drugs.

Softball is participated in over one hundred countries around the world. Girls are gravitating to the sport in record numbers. The sport is gaining in leaps and bounds at the local, national, and international level. In the past three Olympics, all games were sold out to record setting crowds.

Prior to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, I was in Columbus, Georgia for the 1995 Superball Classic. It was the first international softball tournament I had ever covered as a journalist.

Not knowing what to expect, I arrived in Columbus, notepad and camera in hand, with the naiveté of a novice softball reporter. It didn’t take me long to realize that softball had gone big time, and this was not the softball that I knew.

I remembered softball as the old slow-pitch variety of my youth. The games played in Columbus were the softball of the future. The girls were athletes, with the skills reviling many professional baseball players. However, that is where the resemblance ended.

It is very possible that members of the IOC thought of softball and baseball as the same sport. It is also possible that many of those same members had no idea what softball was.

If they did lump the problems of Major League Baseball in with softball, there could be no greater crime.

The IOC has stated on numerous times their desire to increase the participation of females in the Games. So why did they eliminate one of the most popular team sports in the Games?

If any of the IOC members had ever picked up at bat, stepped up to the plate and faced the likes of Jennie Finch, Christa Williams, Lisa Fernandez, or even a Cat Osterman, they would know the love, intensity, and competitiveness that many feel for the sport.

They would have understood that softball gives many young girls and women the chance to achieve their goals, and how their success on the diamond would carry over to their everyday and future lives.

The IOC really missed the boat on this decision. I wonder how many of those members would own up to their true votes. The IOC did not release the voting tallies or the outcome of the votes. I wonder why?

If they truly cared about Olympic ideals, increasing female participation in the Games, or even had a sense of fair play, they would reinstate softball immediately.

Only time will tell if their decision was correct. I am sure with the passage of time, history will view their decision with the same disgust and disdain that it deserves.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Canada Defeats USA 2-1 at World Cup of Softball

by Robert H. Kelly

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK. (July 14, 2005) Using six of their eight 2004 Olympians on their roster, Canada scored two unearned runs in the first and third innings to hold off the United States to take a 2-1 decision in the first game of the 2005 World Cup of Softball at the Don E. Porter Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The win marked only Canada’s third victory over the USA in the history of international play.

Walking into the stadium one had to wonder if the players, coaches, and fans had something on their minds other that the tournament.

Just a scant one week from learning that Beijing would be the last Olympic Games in which softball would be contested; the players took to the field and tried to give the fans what they came out for, a softball game.

Both Canada and the USA, playing before a crowd of 2, 014, seemed at times, to be playing with less enthusiasm than normal. Nonetheless, both squads gave the fans a match that produced three runs off ten hits, along with five errors.

The fans didn’t seem to mind, as they understood that much was on their minds other that the game. But in the words of show business, “The show must go on.”

Canada struck first early in the first inning, off a single up the middle by Sheena Lawrick, which enabled Kristy Odamura to score from second.

The USA answered back off a Jessica Mendoza single through the right side, allowing Caitlin Lowe to take the score to 1-1 at the bottom of the first.

Canada came back in the third, with Kristy Odamura singling to third base off an Alicia Hollowell pitch. Odamura advanced to second base off a throwing error, which lead to her second score off a Lawrick single to center field.

The USA had one hit in the fifth of a fielding error by Canada third baseman Megan MacKenzie. That ended the American’s offense for the game.

Canada didn’t seriously threaten the USA after that and the score remained the same thought the seventh inning.

Canada finished the game with two runs off five hits with two errors. The United States tallied one run off five hits, along with three errors.