You play ball like a girl.
Aside from “You know, if my dog was as ugly as you, I’d shave his butt and tell him to walk backwards,” and “You’re killing me Smalls!,” it’s probably the most memorable line from the 1993 cinematic classic, “The Sandlot.”
But apparently, University of Delaware grad and Chicago Sky forward Elena Delle Donne doesn’t find comments like that very funny.
Even though she by no means “plays ball like a girl” (she’s the reigning WNBA MVP).
Even though she definitely isn’t small (she’s 6’5”).
And even though she probably won’t be asked to walk backwards anytime soon (she’s not ugly).
In fact, Delle Donne didn’t appear to be much of Sandlot fan at all in an interview with “The Cut” earlier this month, when she went all “The Beast” aka “Hercules” — James Earl Jones’ terrifying dog that eats all the baseballs in the movie — on sexist remarks about her looks, her height and her ability.
She went on to voice her frustrations with the apparent double standard, citing male athletes like Tom Brady not having to face similar problems regarding his own... face. And she has a point.
After a career high 45-point performance and overtime victory over the Atlanta Dream this summer, she started trending. But no one seemed to want to talk about her performance. Or the game. They wanted to talk about her looks and the fact that she’s a woman — and an attractive one at that.
“I’d rather watch paint dry,” “that doesn’t look like a kitchen to me,” and “where is the oven,” were just a few of the headlining responses to an ESPN tweet that Delle Donne read off her Twitter page in a post-game press conference.
I’ll admit to laughing at a couple of them, and if you watch the video you can see her cracking a few smiles as well. But while I doubt most of those somewhat-anonymous Tweeters were actually being serious, it does raise the question of what is and isn’t sexist when it comes to sports.
Last year, when I found out that female athletes at Indian River High School were against being referred to as the “Lady Indians” rather just “Indians,” the term was put to rest in the sports section of the Coastal Point, just like it was on the front of their jerseys.
Why should they be called the “Lady Indians” when in turn none of the boys teams were being called the “Gentlemen Indians” or the “Indian Dudes.” By referring to all of them as just plain “Indians,” we eliminate the possibility of anyone getting offended (except of course like, actual Native Americans).
Likewise, Delle Donne has been public about wanting to be referred to as simply a “basketball player” rather than a “female basketball player.”
She’s also been public about advocating that the WNBA lower the rim in an attempt to draw new fans, or at least to lure all the apparent fans of the “Home Depot Paint Drying Championships” from ESPN 12.
But is that sexist? Treating athletes differently because they’re female? Even though that’s kind of the definition of sexism, maybe it’s not.
No one seems to have a problem with female golfers hitting from the women’s tee. Or the net being lower for women’s volleyball. Or there being fewer sets in women’s tennis, etc. etc., the list goes on.
Maybe it’s because that’s just the way it’s always been. Or maybe it’s because even when being treated equally, the fact of the matter is that men and women are different, and as a result, so are men’s and women’s sports. There doesn’t seem to be a reason to pretend otherwise.
On average, men are taller, weigh more, throw harder, run faster, and in this case, dunk easier. That’s not to say that their aren’t exceptions. I’m sure Delle Donne could take quite a few NBA players in a game of 1-on-1. And while I’d never admit to it publicly, I’ve been embarrassed athletically by many a female athlete in my day.
From that girl on the “Red Team” back in my youth soccer days at the YMCA, to the one that made me cry during my first tee-ball game, I’ve been beat by them all. And trust me, when I was getting scored on and struck out, I wasn’t thinking “Wow she’s pretty good for a girl.” I was thinking, “Wow, that girl sure can play ball.”