Thursday, August 04, 2005


Skating with Pork Chop

I've previously written about getting my ass kicked during the school year by middle-aged hockey moms. This summer, on Wednesday nights, I get my ass kicked by Pork Chop.

Pork Chop is my new favorite hockey player. She's in her mid twenties, she's big -- it's hard to guess someone's size when they're in hockey gear, but I'm going to put her at about 5'8", 155 lbs – and she's very fast. I love her nickname, and the fact that she introduces herself to you as "Pork Chop." It seems like such a great hockey name. Clearly, she prefers it to her given name, Bridget.*

Wednesday night is the more advanced hockey scrimmage I play in. I'm starting to hold my own out on the ice on Tuesday nights with the hockey moms, but in the Wednesday night game, I'm barely keeping up.

Pork Chop may not be the very best player out there on Wednesdays, but there are only a couple of guys who are better. She's the most disciplined player, always trying to make a team game out of it while the more skilled men tend to do more of a "playground ball" routine, hot-dogging their way down the ice in one attempted fast break after another as if passing and setting up a play had not yet been introduced to the game of hockey.

I want to get better at hockey. I could say, "My goal is to play like Gretsky," but that would be out of character (see the subtitle of this blog). I will, however, proclaim this: My goal is to play hockey as well as Pork Chop. Undoubtedly, a goal that exceeds my grasp, but not to the point of being unimaginable.

Standing in the way of my goal, however, are certain social facts that we could refer to collectively as the "reverse Title IX paradox."

Title IX (the federal sports equity law for publicly funded educational institutions) is a symbol of the fact that due to discriminatory sex stereotypes, girls have had far less encouragement and opportunity to get involved in organized sports than boys. That's changing, of course, but one of the artifacts of this discrimination is an informal network of adult learning opportunities for women interested in sports. If I were a grown woman, I could take some skating lessons and get on a hockey team where I would receive structured coaching in a supportive environment that tolerated my learning curve. The teams my women friends play on practice twice a week.

For a man, there is really no established structure for adult learning for sports like hockey. There are men's teams, but at the lowest level – the only level at which a beginner could find anything remotely approaching tolerance of his learning curve – there is no coaching. They don't even practice. My friend who skates on one of those teams tells me that there is a nominal player-coach whose entreaties to the team members to actually pass the puck to one another or to play in position are routinely ignored.

Under the "reverse Title IX paradox," a man at my age is already supposed to know how to play hockey, because he should have been playing since at least age six. That's the dominant fact for a grown man who wants to learn hockey. That and the fact that, around sports, most men are a bunch of assholes who pretty much despise anyone who can't play well.

So if I'm going to reach parity with Pork Chop, I've got my work cut out for me.

*Pork Chop, if you ever read this, I'm using a pseudonym for you to sort of protect your privacy. I know what your real name is.

Couldn't you dress in drag and crash the beginning women's team? I mean, it worked so well for Dick Solomon on 3rd Rock From The Sun.
You go, you learn from Porkchop!
Running: I get the feeling you really wanted to tell me "you go girl!" but you stopped yourself.
What a challenge! I wish I had your courage -- I grew up in a rural area in Wisconsin that doesn't have hockey in schools, or anywhere else local. I didn't miss it at the time, but over the years I've had a few informal experiences on the ice and think team hockey would be great fun.

However, I'm not about to invite the very discrimination you describe, that expectatoin that an adult male should already know how to play, or he shouldn't be there. It's so easy to revert to childhood and infer an extension of that -- 'if you try and don't do well, we'll beat you up!'
pork chop - that's awesome and good for her!
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