What it Means to Play Like a Girl

Girls playing Soccer

You know about my advocacy of Girl Power.

My card-carrying membership in the Male Feminist Society.

The fact I love my girls three, and all they do, girly or not.

Some of that hits the surface only. It’s easy to be the advocate or card-carrier or love my girls. But to really immerse myself in this life of girl-rearin’, I have to kind of roll around in it and live in it.

I’m not about to reveal that I’ve been using their lip gloss, swooning over One Direction videos with them, or ordering my chicken nuggets with ketchup. But to raise girls, It helps to understand girls. (Like when Josh Hamilton’s character in “Outsourced” struggled to effectively manage a call center in India until he stopped to understand India, rather than run it as an American office. Recommended Netflix viewing, by the way.)

It’s not a new concept, after all. As a sports writer, I always appreciated the female rendition of games, and their contrast to what the sport looks like when my gender tips it off/tees it up/kicks it off:

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Women’s basketball: Played beneath the rim, yes, but with greater patience, commitment to passing and fundamentals;

Men’s basketball: Played above the rim, with score-in-droves urgency, with commitment to flair and showmanship.

Women’s golf: Predicated on the safer lies, the smarter approach, the reliance on a strong short game;

Men’s golf: Predicated on a belief that with a titanium driver, personal trainer and dry-wick polo shirt, we can drive a golf ball right *through* any quarter-mile thick grove of trees and *over* any major body of water hazard that dares stand in the way of us and a double-eagle.

Women’s soccer: Played with smarter defensive tactics, not just rough play, and with winning the ball at a premium;

Men’s soccer: Played with more of a prison hierarchy of defensive tactics, with punishing your opponent near your goal at the premium.

Want to know why the male cardinal is red, why the male mallard has a shiny, green head, or why those little green lizards puff out their throats whenever there’s a predator, male rival, or semi-attentive female around?

Want to know why we men have to buy a bigger grill, an automobile with more horsepower, a drill set with more drill bits?

Why we can’t stand to order lunch without supersizing?

We feel we have to go big, or go home, as it’s been said.

Sports icon

And it’s precisely why, when we play sports, we try to kill it.

Mash it.

Crash it.

Wind up in a SportsCenter highlight.

I’m as guilty as the next.

I couldn’t understand why my throw in Wii bowling would curve so severely, and wind up toppling three pins despite the thunder I brought with the hardest fling of the controller I could muster.

Grr! That should be a strike!! I remembered days of my youth bowling for real, with materials, not computers, when my friend Nathan’s goal wasn’t a strike or a turkey or a 300 game – he simply wanted to break a pin. Just one. Break it because he’d thrown the heaviest ball he could muster as hard as he could.

Now that’s a story.

Anyway, Marie set me straight and bled a little of that caveman mentality out of me.

“You don’t have to swing so hard, dad,” she pointed out, then demonstrated a more effective – dare I say feminine – throw, which wound up with her on her toes, Wii controller pointed heavenward. (No, I didn’t add that flair).

I did take some mustard off, though.

3d,alleys,bowling balls,Fotolia,games,knocked down,lanes,pins,rows,spares,sports,strikesAnd bowled a strike.

This lesson played itself out on the disc golf course, too, where I’d unconsciously squinted my eyes and put my entire being into a tee shot, somehow believing I’d actually slice *through* any trees in the way, and my disc would land safely inside the basket on the other side. If only I threw it as hard as I possibly could without producing a hernia, hemorrhoid or aneurysm.

I began tossing to spots. Throwing with my arms and shoulders and pivoting my waste, instead of taking a running start like a javelin thrower on Benadryl.

My game improved immensely. I even began bagging long putts, and nearly nabbing unreasonably long shots, from 60-plus yards. Trees everywhere celebrated their safety in silence.

Again, a little mustard saved.

A little less puffing out of the red throat bubble.

An understanding that you can look the girl at the counter in the eye at Five Guys Burgers and Fries and say, “I’ll have a “little bacon cheeseburger,” and not believe you’re simultaneously forfeiting your man card, but that it says volumes about your reasonability; that it doesn’t mean you’d never make it through a round of ancient gladiator action, and  that you’re still a prince, or a badass, or whatever it is you aspire to be.

After eyeing a tough lie for his disc, sitting in a wooded area with a substantial oak tree between him and the pin, a player at the World Disc Golf championships turned to me, the official spotter of hole No. 7, and said, “I’d better just play this one like a girl.”

Edison Disc Golf

He did. And finished the hole in three strokes, not four, as he might have had he reeled back and tried to kill it.

Play beneath the rim.

Defend smartly.

Throw/drive to spots.

Because when you take a little mustard off, sometimes, it’s all gravy.

It’s All Fun and Games, Until Someone Gets Hurt

fun and games
photo credit: Storm Troopers Searching for Remaining Rebels at the Examination School of Oxford via photopin (license)

My girls play through it all. Brutal weather. Corrupt referees. Clueless coaches.

They’ve won and lost games in shootouts. Scored colossal goals. Been party to enormous collapses and stunning comebacks.

They’ve taken verbal abuse from opposing parents, been roughed up by overmatched opponents, and could fill a thousand goals with all the post-game crackers and cookies and chips and Powerades and Gatorades they’ve demolished.

Does the game involve a ball? Expect grace, skill and confidence from my girls.

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