The (Mis)-Match of the Sexes
Count me among those males who have competed against women in high school sports. When I played tennis for Oxon Hill High School, there were no girls teams in Prince George’s County. However, a couple female players did pop up on their school’s team. And sure enough, one fine day six years after the famous Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes,” I had to square off against a young lady from Crossland High.
Had I not been a male, she would have wiped the court with me.
It’s my junior year. I’m ranked #4 on the team. Across the net stands Crossland’s #4 player, a prim, petite and, yes, pretty brunette. (Sue me. I was a teenage boy.) I want to say her name was Judy. I mention Judy’s slender build to make the point we were not talking about a female who was six months out from joining the Marines. Instead, a fit, trim teenager in white tennis skirt.
I wasn’t a terribly skilled player. I learned on the public courts near my house. No tennis camps for me. But I was fast, with a potent two-handed backhand born of years of baseball, and a habit of putting odd spins on the ball because I could rarely hit the ball the same way twice. Just get the ball over the net one more time than the other person, even if that meant diving head-first, sliding, flying into fences.
I knew going into the match I wasn’t going to go “easy” on Judy For one thing, as we rallied back and forth to warm up before the match, it was very clear Judy knew what she was doing. I was likely in serious trouble. For another thing, although I might not look at her as I would a male opponent as a “FOE THAT MUST BE VANQUISHED IN MANLY COMPETITION!” I was also too much of a sportsman to disrespect her by lightening up.
Besides, once someone hits or throws a ball towards me, I’m a puppy dog. “BALL! BALL! BALL! GO GET THE BALL!”
Right before the match was to start, a teammate of mine came up. He happened to know Judy, and conspiratorially he told me, “Watch out, she loves coming to the net. Keep her back.”
The Match Begins
The match begins. I do my best with the rallies to hit deep, keep her in back of the baseline. But Judy is like a machine. Smooth, picture perfect swing, placing the ball where she wanted. Effortlessly returning most anything I hit, as if she were a backboard. Sooner or later, I’d hit the ball too deep or wide or flub it into the net. The match was still fairly close, but Judy was racking up games and took the first set.
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As the second set got underway, and was starting out the same way, I finally noticed something. If I didn’t hit the ball quite right and it landed closer to the net, forcing her in toward the net, I tended to win the point. I could power it past her. Or if we were both ended up at the net I was much quicker.
My teammate had lied to me! And because of that I am losing. My team was in danger of losing. Sure she was cute and likely had no idea what her friend had done, but, dang, that wasn’t right. I reverted to my normal style of play, overpowered her, ran her ragged, up and back, left and right, basically swarmed the net and through sheer physicality stormed to even the match at one set each. The third set was a breeze.
Her skill was simply no match for the natural advantage I had in size and strength and speed.
I sealed match point and in what I suppose was a young man’s idea of chivalry, jumped over the net to spare her the walk. Judy was very gracious in defeat.
I was not so gracious to my teammate when I tracked him down. “Why’d you tell me she loved coming to the net!” “I’m sorry,” he said. “I wanted to give her a chance.”
Even though she was far more skilled, more experienced, and probably in better condition, Judy would not have had a chance because of my biological advantage. He knew it. Deep down, we all know it now.
Title IX a Win for Those Like Judy … That Win is Being Taken Away
Judy knew she was going to be playing against boys. It was her choice. At that time, Title IX was relatively new. If Judy wanted to play high school tennis, entering every match at a disadvantage was the price she was willing to pay. Bravo to her for competing. Thankfully, because of Title IX, her daughters and granddaughters would have the opportunities to compete against only women. To enjoy fair competition. Until now.
When a biological male enters a girl or women’s competitive event there is nothing sporting about it. He makes the choice to play or swim or wrestle with that biological/physiological advantage. An unfair advantage. It violates the spirit of competition. It is playing while juiced. It is government-sanctioned, school-sanctioned cheating. Contorting Title IX to allow transgender males to compete against women is to pervert the law’s meaning. And pervert the spirit of sportsmanship.
The Judys of today want nothing more than to fairly compete and represent their schools. And they deserve better.
Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream, chief barista for The Brew and former sweaty player on the Oxon Hill High School tennis team.