She Plays Like…
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, Robin Roberts and ESPN have come together for a series of documentaries produced by women filmmakers about women in the sports world. There are nine films and each one takes on a different groundbreaking moment. Tonight (7/30) the documentary Swoopes will premiere. Swoopes will take a look at the career and personal life of the basketball legend Sheryl Swoopes. Just like the rest of you, I haven’t seen the film; I don’t have those types of connections yet but I have however read a couple of reviews of the film and there was in particular that made me roll my eyes HARD after four paragraphs. The “she plays like a guy” statement was pulled. Sigh. It’s really one of those things that you know is coming when speaking of any dominant woman athlete but it still can’t stop the inevitable sucking of your teeth. Swoopes is one the greatest basketball players in history, period. She is a great athlete who constantly came through when the moment called for it and success followed her throughout her career. From leading Texas Tech University to the 1993 NCAA Championship, in which she scored a record 47 points to helping the Houston Comets inaugurate the WNBA with a dynasty of four straight championships; Sheryl Swoopes is a proven winner.
One paragraph after the tired line of playing like a guy was pulled; the term diva was brought into the equation. Really? The reasoning for calling Swoopes a diva was prefaced with the writer’s observation that Swoopes comes across as cocky in the film due to some of her statements. Statements like calling her Nike deal the best deal the company has ever done or saying the WNBA was her league after being the first player to sign a contract. How many times have we not only heard men players make such statements but applaud them while listening? What’s the difference with Swoops supreme confidence? The craziest thing about the review is the fact that it was written by a woman. Chea, a woman thought it would be appropriate to explain a confident woman athlete as an arrogant diva. There are ‘cocky’ athletes of both genders but the way that the media likes to portray them and spectators take them is very different. The term ‘diva’ is thrown around for women as if them knowing there worth and having supreme confidence is something that needs apologizing. And whenever it is used for men it is meant as an insult. Some of the greatest men’s players are endlessly praised for that same exact passion and their unwillingness downplay their talent for anyone. Sheryl Swoopes is an athlete. Her swagger and personality are what make her the distinct legend that she has become. There’s no need for Swoopes or any other woman to apologize for not only showing they have the game but letting you know through their own commentary. With that being said, here’s what’s really good.
The idea that men should always be considered the standard is harmful and for other women such as the author of the review to continue to uphold it is painful. It’s annoying. It’s steeped in patriarchy and is just plain stupid. The truth of the matter is that when women of any sport steps onto their respective fields, the last thing on their minds is playing like this or that guy. They are only thinking of playing their games and winning. If you are one of those people who constantly needs to compare one sport versus another, that’s your issue. Maybe you need to take more time to actually appreciate the level of whoever is playing the game and base your respect on that aspect. Otherwise, turn your television off and take some time to grow up.