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By TED SILLANPAA
on Twitter @TedSillanpa 

Raising a daughter has me paying a great deal more attention to women’s changing role in society than I would’ve paid 20, 25 years ago. So, on Sunday afternoon I was ready to pronounce it the biggest weekend for women in sports ever.

I’m glad I held off and gave it some thought.

Danica Patrick finished in the top 10 at the Daytona 500 and proved, most certainly, that women can succeed in NASCAR. Ronda Rousey attracted a huge pay-per-view audience and won her first UFC mixed martial arts fight, indicating that there’s an audience for women who want to fight in combat sports.

The acceptance of Patrick and Rousey by American sports fans would mean more if they both weren’t beautiful, sexy, charismatic and, generally, everything the average American male sports fan finds appealing in women. They’re really good at what they do, but they were hand-picked for the roles they played over the weekend because they’re … smokin’ hot!

I still hope my daughter winds up growing up in an America where women can be accepted anywhere in any sport … regardless of what they look like.

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Comments

18 Comments

  1. Gary Lipking

    You are dead wrong about Danica being hand-picked because of her looks. She is a great driver and has earned her position in NASCAR. I’ve never heard of Rousey and not interested.

    February 27th, 2013 5:47 pm

  2. Skippy

    How piggish of you to notice that these women are more feminine in their appearance than Mickey Rourke. So you’re saying that, until a woman that resembles Quasimodo is a sports champion, we are doomed to live in a nation where looks trump talent?
    “Sure, she did things no woman has ever done, but the explanation is simple: physical beauty.”
    Spare us your jealousy and contempt for successful women. Each of my 3 daughters has achieved things far beyond those of mortal men, and focusing on their looks is a cheap sexist cop-out from a warped, frustrated old man. Until you can appear on the world’s most popular TV show; earn a Bronze Star and care for 2 lb. babies in a NICU, try looking past your stereotypes and prejudices. And quit looking at their boobs, if you can.

    February 27th, 2013 5:50 pm

  3. Nigel

    You’re absolutely right about Danica. Lots of TV and press exposure that eclipses the ZERO time she has spent in the winner’s circle. Rousey is the first female Olympian to medal in Judo and her Wikipedia page has some of the most impressive credentials ever seen in a female athlete. Rousey is the real-deal while Danica is the product of great PR (yet still manages to give terrible interviews?). Not to mention those awful, awful GoDaddy commercials.

    February 27th, 2013 7:05 pm

  4. overtime

    Nigel…Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it. However … they’re both really good at what they do … the point is that they’re are lots of women who are good at what they do in male-dominated sports but we typically see the attractive, eloquent women get things like the first women’s UFC fight or an IndyCar ride followed by a NASCAR deal. I’m not comparing them beyond that … they’re attractive, charismatic and ground-breakers in sports where I know there have been other good female race car drivers and even Olympic medalists in judo who didn’t pass the pop culture “eye test” those in positions of power use. TED

    February 27th, 2013 7:54 pm

  5. overtime

    Skip…So, you read what I wrote…now you’re telling me what I meant? That’s an interesting approach. I don’t need the sports radio talk show snark OK, bud? I’ve got four kids and I saw their mom give birth so…seriously…save the lecture. You read the part about my having a daughter … and nah! I’m asking too much for you to have let what I wrote get in the way of you rushing to be a wise guy.

    You could’ve explained how it turns out that two pleasing-looking females became the women who got first crack in male dominated sports instead … you waste our time with snark. Snark does come easier than a reasoned explanation of your opinion. TED

    February 27th, 2013 7:59 pm

  6. overtime

    Gary…Thanks for reading. I talked to 8 women race car drivers who are part of a ground-breaking race team in a variety of racing divisions. They were at the IndyCar races near here. They ALL agreed that looks and poise and intellect plays a huge role in which women get NASCAR and IndyCar rides. I imagine you know more about it than they do, though. TED

    February 27th, 2013 8:00 pm

  7. Skippy

    Ted, your point is taken. My apologies to you. God bless you and your family.

    February 28th, 2013 7:43 am

  8. Mike

    Ted, your lambasting of Skippy with the typical sportswriter “I’m right, you’re wrong’ is so tiring. And it also doesn’t change the fact that you are the one that’s wrong. Danica was in a solid third place going ito the final lap at Daytona, the very first time she’s been in that race. She finished ahead of many long time professional, talented male drivers. But according to you, it didn’t mean as much because it was obviously her hair, her boobs and her model good looks that was piloting the car. It was her good looks that won the pole position. Rediculous. Go bash someone who really does have thier job due to good looks, and not talent like Erin Andrews or Darya Folsom. Danica was the story because of what she accomplished, not what was handed to her. You chose a poor subject for your personal soapbox.

    February 28th, 2013 12:05 pm

  9. overtime

    Mike…I didn’t say I was right and Skippy was wrong. I suggested his opinion is valid, means as much as mine, so why the snark and name-calling? I don’t get that from readers or society in general. And, where did I ‘bash’ Danica Patrick? You’re reading into what I wrote. I didn’t question either of the women’s talent. Not once. I questions the process the folks who run sports use to open doors to talented women. Seriously, if you read my stuff much, you’d see I let and encourage folks to express opinions at length…I’m not big shot expert. I’m human, though, so reading a guy bashing me like he knows me just prompted me to ask him to offer his opinion. TED

    February 28th, 2013 12:52 pm

  10. overtime

    Skippy…In fairness, I sounded like a bit of a schmoe in responding. I value your opinion…it means every bit as much as mine, for sure. I’m alway happy to hear what you think. TED

    February 28th, 2013 12:53 pm

  11. Skippy

    Thanks Ted, when the bar is set higher for anyone it rankles my sense of fairness. Gals can fly and drive as good as guys, but the shotput may remain a male sport due to simple physiology. Equality to me means opportunity, not outcome. There was a NASCAR driver that won 7 championships before he won his first Daytona 500. It’s a singular achievement that many never achieve, despite decades of frontline competition. For families, NASCAR is still the best sporting event to attend. Less cussin’, less drunks, less confrontations. Good manners migrated from the South on those haulers and has defined every race I have attended. No Black Hole psychos; no PacBell parking lot beatings; always a delight. Those RaceGirl t-shirts have a whole new meaning now! See you in June at Sears Point. And go Jr.!

    February 28th, 2013 2:25 pm

  12. Owen

    Unfortunately beauty has been a sought after commodity time immemorial. But in modern America talent, outside of pop culture, rises to the top. People as Madeline Albriight and C. Rice are but two examples of brains being recognized and valued without regard to the packaging

    February 28th, 2013 4:55 pm

  13. Loneraider78

    Obviously, Patrick is good at what she does. Finishing in the top ten prooves that, and I give her all the credit in the world. But…..

    I also agree 100% that she was the pick of the litter because she was the most marketable. Afterall, being an athlete in todays landscape requires the ability to sell things, including themselves.

    Along those lines, I think she does her credibility no favors by objectifying herself. If she really wanted to push the doors open for all women she’d say “No” when Maxim and GoDaddy ask her to take her clothes off. She’d take herself seriously as a driver and competitor and say “No! Go ask Jeff Gordon to wear a bikini.”

    That, of course, is a matter of opinion. I’m sure most guys who like racing (or don’t) still like to see her wearing less, and don’t fault her one bit for it. But I’m sure there’s also people who think like me, and would rather see her advertising things that don’t require her to be sexy but only a driver.

    February 28th, 2013 6:49 pm

  14. Loneraider78

    Just one more thought.

    None of this is Patrick’s fault. She’s just a woman with a talent and she took an opportunity when it presented itself. But she does need to be mindful of how she allows the people navigating her career to present her.

    That is all.

    February 28th, 2013 8:43 pm

  15. overtime

    Raider…Thanks for your thoughts, as always. When I did a story on the 2 women IndyCar drivers one mentioned that, maybe, Danica was aware that the track to the big ride and sponsors involved using her looks and so forth.

    http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20120825/SPORTS/120829645/0/search

    A young driver named Shannon McIntosh, who’s part of an all-woman race team, said of her path to success: “My appearance is part of it. It’s just part of the business. I understand that how I present myself, my appearance, is important. But, sponsors want drivers who will compete well.”

    Nobody said anything is Patrick’s “fault.” Women racers I’ve written about all have a general look about them and they know that their look and demeanor is part of the deal they need to address. TED

    February 28th, 2013 9:45 pm

  16. overtime

    Raider…2 separate issues. Yes…Danica Patrick’s a good driver. Yes…most men like to see pretty women in bikinis. We can’t say what ad endorsements we’d take or why until we have the millions Danica’s been offered on the table in front of us. I begrudge her nothing. Admire her talent. Her looks and stuff…different deal. My point was just that the people who run the racing outfits and the fight groups are going to make sure the women they feature have a level of appeal. TED

    February 28th, 2013 9:47 pm

  17. overtime

    Owen…Can’t argue with that. Might point out that Eleanor Roosevelt did some good things politically without much “packaging” decades ago. If Americans (particularly men) are going to pay to watch women in a male-dominated sport if the woman doesn’t have a certain look and style. I don’t agree with the reasoning and don’t think it’s fair. And, heck, it doesn’t even apply solely to sports, as you note. TED

    February 28th, 2013 9:53 pm

  18. overtime

    Skippy…I’ve covered stuff at Sonoma for a long time and it’s always a pleasure. I wrote specifically about women in racing during the IndyCar weekend out there last year. There’s a generation of female drivers being groomed to make a big impact on the sport. However, I’ll tell you now that a man who notices this type thing will note they are all jaw-dropping attractive. Ted

    February 28th, 2013 9:55 pm

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