Monday, March 4, 2013

Pioneering Ain't Easy

I don't have the heart to mock
So here's the story that will make the snorting conservatives in our world all too happy. Lauren Silberman, a 28-year-old club soccer player and consultant who had told the NFL Network that she could hit 60-yard field goals, lasted for just a few minutes at a regional combine before suffering an injury and taking a seat. Before getting hurt, she tapped out at, um, 20 yards. Which is to say, not much more than the people they pull out of the stands for promo events.

Now, I'm not going to pule on to Silberman; if she got hurt, she got hurt, and that's just unfortunate but life is unfortunate. (And if she's just someone getting her 15 minutes of fame, that hardly makes her unique, either.)

I'm also not going to say that a female player in the NFL in my lifetime isn't going to happen, or that kickers aren't the reasonable place for them to go. It's certainly the place where the size discrepancy is smallest, and the one where you can see the breakthrough happening. (Although, frankly, I could easily see a big and angry woman playing guard on the offensive line, too.)

But honestly... kickers have to tackle, or at least make an attempt at tackling, a lot. They also have to be durable, since no team is ever carries a back up on the active roster. (Frankly, I'm always a little amazed that teams in playoff games don't just send a practice squad guy at the kicker hard on the opening kickoff, in the hopes that they can get a nice in-game advantage, or that teams aren't more willing to sell out for a 15-yard flag on a PAT, since the "bonus" of kicking closer to the end zone doesn't really matter all that much with the absurd kickoff-tastic current NFL.  But that's probably another post for another day.)

Football is, well, not the best sport for a woman to enter. I realize it's the only sport that Americans really care about anymore, and the one that will make the most media impact, but it's a game with immense contact all the damn time. It's got the smallest number of games, the worst lives post-career, the most concussions and so on, and so on. It's the game that parents worry about their kids playing the most. And if either of my daughters wanted to try it, my wife and I would just say no. (Yes, even to kicker. You want your daughters spending that much time around football players?)

The clear place for a woman to break through is in non-contact games, which means baseball (I'm really imagining a lefty, side-armer or knuckle-baller), or soccer. Maybe even basketball, with a Steve Kerr-like three-point shooting specialist, or Maunte Bol-ish woman from a distant continent. 

But the NFL should, and will, be last. And I'm guessing it won't be for a woman with a wealth of other employment options...

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