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Sports journalists should thank Naomi Osaka.

Athletes create jobs for sports journalists. Sports journalists do not create athletes.

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Naomi Osaka doesn’t want to do after-match interviews for her own mental health, and that should be the end of the discussion. I don’t know anybody who would want to talk to THE PRESS after work, especially after a bad day at work, but we expect athletes to give us soundbytes after they just poured their heart out on the floor.

Tennis is pushing back against her. The French Open wants her to play badly and fined her $15,000. Other tennis players have said Naomi should be gracious and do interviews because they’re in a privileged position as tennis stars and they wouldn’t be able to make all of that money without the visibility the press provides.

But — is that really true?

I like Beyonce because I like watching her perform.

I like Octavia Spencer because I like watching her act.

I like Naomi Osaka because I like watching her play tennis.

I don’t need them to do interviews for me to like them or make them popular. I’m not sure why sports journalists think they are necessary to boost an athlete into stardom. No other entertainment journalists think THEY are the reason their industry stars are stars, but suddenly tennis players should be thankful for interviews?

I’m going to watch Naomi whether she does interviews or not, and honestly, I have literally never watched a post-match press interview in my entire life. I’ve only seen two clips — one where Sloane Stephens talked about how nice the paycheck is and one where Andy Roddick corrected a journalist about Serena William’s greatness.

Please tell a sports writer you know that they are irrelevant and it is THEY who should be thankful for athletes giving them something to write about, not the other way around. Athletes create jobs for sports journalists. Sports journalists do not create athletes.

 

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Athletes

Watch: Australian newscasters know Djokovic is an asshole too.

Candid reporters, an entitled rich athlete, and a hot mic came together for a blessing!

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Let the record show that I have never liked Novak Djokovic. Something about him always gives me Aggressive Weasel. How many rackets has he smashed?

How many tennis balls has he swatted around randomly in anger?

Make sure you watch that entire clip. It’s from Summer 2020 when he, his wife, and three players tested positive for COVID at an event he was hosting because he doesn’t believe in social distancing. Or quarantining. Or the vaccine. But he does believes he’s special and that’s why he decided the rules of the Australian Open should not apply to him. Australia is not happy about it.

So here’s the deal. Novak Djokovic, who makes millions of dollars playing tennis, could have simply gotten two little shots — like everyone else at the Australian Open — and had the opportunity to make millions more dollars playing tennis. He has been flouting COVID restrictions virtually since the beginning of the pandemic and he believes, because he makes millions of dollars playing tennis, that the rules should not apply to him.

He applied for a medical exemption, which left a lot of people wondering what medical condition could he possibly have that would make the vaccine dangerous, while playing five sets of tennis day after day in the summer sun is completely safe. Novak was cleared to play in the tournament, but he was stopped at the airport, because the visa to enter the country itself was invalid. He lied on his visa about his recent travel, declaring he had not been anywhere in the 14 days before arriving in Australia when he had actually been in Serbia and Spain. His visa was revoked, and then a judge overturned it. And that’s why these newscasters called him an asshole.

 

Novak Djokovic is just a little snake who feels like he can do whatever he wants because he’s good at tennis. He tested positive for COVID in December (the basis of his medical exemption) and then did an interview and a whole photoshoot with tennis kids without telling anybody he had COVID. He was travelling while he should have been quarantining — not just for entry into Australia but because he also had COVID — and lied about it on his visa because he’s good at tennis.

Regardless of whether he can legally enter the country or play in the Australian Open, the Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has the ability to revoke Djokovic’s visa even though a judge overturned the ruling. And he should do so! There are Australians abroad who haven’t been able to enter their own country in two years. They’ve experienced repeated lockdowns and restrictions, and allowing this guy into the country is a slap in their face. Novak Djokovic does not care about COVID and Alex Hawke shouldn’t want someone like him running around the country and lying about his activities.

I’m sure they’ll let him play though. Because he’s good at tennis.

 

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Why do female gymnasts wear leotards?

Unitards may become more commonplace in the near future.

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Less than three months after the Olympics, the 2021 World Championships took place in Kitakyushu, Japan last week. At the Worlds following an Olympic Games, you would expect to see the next crop of athletes to look for over the next four year cycle. In some cases we did. Leanne Wong and Kayla DiCello missed out on competing at Tokyo but took home Silver and Bronze, respectively, in the All-Around. Since this competition was so close to the Games due to the COVID delay for the Olympics, a lot of the athletes who ended up on the podium were holdovers from August. All-Around winner Angelina Melnikova finished third in Tokyo. The Floor Exercise winner Mai Murakami also finished third in Tokyo.

One new bright spot of particular note: There was a full unitard on the podium.

Germany’s Pauline Schäfer placed second on beam at the 2021 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, and she did so while dressed in something rarely seen at women’s gymnastics meets: a unitard. Earlier this year, German gymnasts debuted these long-sleeved, long-legged leotards at the 2021 European Gymnastics Championships, and they wore them in other competitions such as the Tokyo Games.

(cont. Yahoo, UK Style)

This is her routine from podium training, but if I see the scored routine uploaded, I’ll edit the post.

I couldn’t find any other instance of a female gymnast winning a medal wearing a full unitard and I hope this marks a turning point in women’s gymnastics where the athletes feel more comfortable bucking the trend of a leotard and choosing more coverage if that makes them feel more comfortable.

Men’s gymnastics made its debut at the 1896 Olympics, but there was no women’s event for the sport for another 40 years. In 1936, women got their chance to show off their athletic prowess in the sport, but the qualities looked for in judging greatly differed from their male counterparts. Georgia Cervin, former gymnast and author of Degrees of Difficulty: How Women’s Gymnastics Rose to Prominence and Fell from Grace, says, “When the sport was developed for women, they adapted the men’s sport to make it ‘appropriate’ for women. Women were expected to do soft, rhythmic, flowing, graceful movements that emphasized beauty and flexibility. [Men] were expected to emphasize strength instead.” This was a time when intense physical activity was discouraged for women, because their primary job was to bear children and run a household. Medical science of the day thought strenuous exercise negatively impacted fertility.

The remnants of that graceful, feminine requirement are most evident in beam, with its many flourishes, and floor exercise, where women perform to music and men do not. Women were expected to dance and show grace and poise, while men were expected to tumble. After a marked shift in gymnastics in the 1970s, women too are focused on tumbling. Simone Biles performs acrobatics that many men will not attempt, yet she’s expected to smile, dance around, and show how graceful she is in addition to the athletic tumbling now required.

(This is me saying men should be able to perform artistically to music if they want, and women should be able to just do a straight out tumbling routine like the men if they want.)

Anyway, if your job, as an athlete, is to show how graceful and feminine you are, you are performing marriageability and attractiveness. Part of that will be a competition outfit as revealing as cultural norms will allow while also being able to move about.

Material science has progressed and norms have allowed for higher cuts, so now the standard attire for a female gymnast is a high cut leotard that you aren’t even allowed to adjust. (Seriously — there’s a deduction for adjusting your leo, so you can’t even pick a wedgie out of your butt.) I’ve watched gymnastics my entire life and I’ve always known deep in my spirit that if I was a 16-year-old girl, I would not want to be on worldwide television in what amounts to skintight underwear. My best friend was a gymnast growing up and she basically said the same thing — she was uncomfortable wearing them.

The leo isn’t required though. There’s nothing in the code of points that says you have to wear one, so why is it the standard? I asked Bestie this morning if the girls weren’t aware they could opt for a full unitard and this is what she had to say.

Me: I wanna write something about the women’s gymnastics unitards. Did you know back when you were doing gymnastics that you didn’t have to wear a leotard? I feel like most gymnasts don’t even realize it’s an option, or if they do know, it’s so far in the back of their mind they wouldn’t even consider it, because everybody else is wearing a leo.

Bestie: It was never an option to not wear a leotard. Even during practice, like now some can wear the small shorts and such, we weren’t allowed to do that. (But that was all pre and up to 2001 for me.)

I think the hard thing is that when you’re representing the team you have to wear the team leo, and if they don’t even make the unitard version you’re in a tough place. So if you’re on a team, you’d have to run it up the flag pole very early that you want a unitard because I assume it will be more expensive (you pay for your own leos—unless you’re sponsored, I think—and they probably will take longer to make/need to be made custom plus use more material). This could all have changed since though.

I hadn’t thought about the team aspect and that makes perfect sense. You need to look like a unit and, even if you’re uncomfortable in the leo, you might not raise that objection because then you wouldn’t look like a team. The German team all wears the same unitard, because they decided as a unit to eschew the leo, but some gymnasts prefer it. Have you ever wondered why some gymnasts have chalk on their legs, particularly before floor exercise? It’s for the grip. You want to be as tight as possible to complete your rotations in a piked position and the chalk helps you grab your legs. Getting that same grip on a leg covered in fabric takes some adjustment.

Will we see more winners in full coverage like Pauline Schäfer? I think so! Gymnastics as a sport (in the USA particularly) is having a reckoning with sexual assault, and while a leotard doesn’t keep you safe (you can be assaulted in anything, this is not a “well, what was she wearing?” moment), it does put you more firmly on a path of bodily autonomy. Being able to say you’re not comfortable in a garment is an exercise in asserting yourself and claiming ownership over your own physicality. The more we see unitards on the winners podium, the more young girls will opt to train in them, and the more we will see elite athletes who are used to (and more comfortable) competing in them.

It’s all about choice, and Pauline Schäfer’s win is a reminder to female gymnasts that they do actually have a choice in what they wear.

 

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Athletes

Hot Takes: Untold – Malice at the Palace

Racism really just shows up everywhere doesn’t it?

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1. Just like The Last Dance from last year, you don’t have to be basketball fan to enjoy this excellent — excellent — hour of television.

2. From what I understand, Untold is a new sports documentary series by Netflix (by the same guys who did Wild, Wild Country which is my favorite Netflix doc) focused on changing the narrative or exploring the details of major sports dramas and controversies. I’ve only seen the first episode and it exceeded my expectations. I thought I knew about the Pacers-Pistons brawl from 2004, because I grew up watching basketball with my parents and my dad was a huge Reggie Miller fan. From what I remembered, the Baller Formerly Known as Ron Artest started a fight with a Pistons player which spilled into the stands. After that, some fans got into it and a whole bunch of people got suspended. Artest was a loose cannon (who was eventually booked for domestic violence and had a malnourished dog taken away from him) and nobody was surprised he started a riot at a game. That’s not exactly what happened. Watch the documentary to see what actually went down and how it transpired.

3. If there is an opportunity for white people to use the word “thug” they will do so frequently, loudly, and with great relish. My pulse was up watching the news clips included in the documentary, and that’s not hyperbole. I was so angry at watching the narrative being created immediately after the fight and it felt (as it typically does) like the largest part of White America was just waiting for a reason to punish Black people for something. They had to put these players in their place. They had to characterize the NBA as hip-hop loving gangster wannabes (their actual words!!) who showed their true colors by beating up on innocent fans.

4. Everything I know about Metta Sandiford-Artest (formerly Metta World Peace and Ron Artest) is negative for the most part. He was an aggressive player who always had a chip on his shoulder. He abused his wife and his dogs. He got suspended for a riot. The Metta in this documentary openly talking about his mental health reminded me that we don’t know the people behind the antics. We see celebrities and athletes acting out or behaving badly, but we have no idea why they’re doing what they’re doing. I remember laughing at the jokes when he changed his name to Metta World Peace. Now I’m embarrassed for thinking it was funny.

5. Reggie Miller participating in this documentary and not being bitter just shows how nice Reggie Miller is. I would probably still be pissed if my last shot at a championship was ruined by some hotheads on my team.

6. When I tell you this is an excellent hour of television, I mean that! I can’t vouch for the series as a whole (they have an upcoming episode about Caitlyn Jenner that I am 100000% uninterested in), but these guys know how to make compelling television. Everything from the pacing to the score is placed perfectly to enhance the tension of the moment. You know what’s going to happen (I did at least) and you’re still on the edge of your seat. If you like sports, drama, correcting a narrative, or quick documentaries, pull this one up sometime.

7. After you watch, you can read this little article about Metta being friends with John Green now. I’m more of the Stephen Jackson school of thought: “Give me my $3 million back and maybe we can talk about being friends.”

Score: 9/10

Edit:

The Christy Martin episode is also a solid 9. Excellent series so far.

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