Jewish World Review March 16, 2004 / 23 Adar, 5764

Felice Cohen

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Consumer Reports

Taking a bad shot | Marching into basketball madness, a madman on the loose in Indiana is adding his own dose of insanity into the craziness of basketball.

John Massie, a forklift driver for Home Depot, was recently denied a tryout for the Women's National Basketball Association's Indiana Fever because of his gender. Massie wanted to join the Fever because he thought it "was an easy way to make 40 grand by working a couple hours a day." And, no surprise, he sued the WNBA, claiming his civil rights were violated. But what Massie doesn't realize is that he has another option: The NBA. That's the league for men.

Maybe the WNBA should counter-sue Massie for defaming its players. Did he think because he's a man, he would automatically be better than women and therefore make the team? I was insulted — not just as a female athlete, but as a female. If he thinks playing professional women's basketball is an easy way to make money, why settle for 40 grand? Why not shoot for an easy $40 million and try out for the NBA?

During March Madness, the top collegiate basketball players compete for a chance to go to the Final Four. It's basketball at its purest, where Cinderella teams win over powerhouses, and players unselfishly dive for loose balls, play through sprained ankles and dream of winning that glass slipper.

For the women, after advancing to the championship, it used to be the last stop on the train here at home. Playing professional basketball meant traveling overseas, where they faced unknown languages, unrecognizable foods and few friendships. For the men, even though only a small percentage made it to the NBA, at least their option was more reality than fantasy.

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But times have changed. Today, the opportunity for women to play professional basketball in the U.S. is a dream come true. The WNBA's veterans know all too well the sacrifices that were made, witnessing previous women's leagues struggle before collapsing. Each season they get to suit up is a gift. Last year, when WNBA players threatened to strike while demanding better pay, taking that risk was neither easy nor something new. Women have always fought for rights men take for granted, like voting, receiving an education and even shooting hoops in their own backyard.

Not to be outdone by Massie, women have tried to compete in men's leagues. Reaching the top of their game, some women want to take it a step further. If competing against the best players in the world means sometimes playing against men, doing so can only help the women's game. The message this sends to young female athletes is not that men are better but that we're different. Is it fair to say a male heavyweight boxer is better than a male lightweight boxer just because he would scramble him like eggs in the ring? No; we don't even compare the two.

As for Massie, who has since dropped his lawsuit, too bad he didn't stick a forklift in his quest sooner. He was obviously done before he started.

Comment on JWR contributor Felice Cohen's column by clicking here.


© 2004, Felice Cohen