- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

'Creepy' coach

"NBC specializes in adulterating hard-core Olympic sports into treacly mush, so when the U.S. women's gymnastics team competes in Sydney, Australia, next month, the network will undoubtedly torture viewers with endless images of Bela Karolyi bear-hugging his teensy-weensy acolytes.

"These Karolyi squeezes at once heartwarming and creepy have become the money shot of the Summer Olympics. In 1984, Mary Lou Retton became America's darling when Karolyi leapt a barrier to snuggle her. In 1996, Karolyi assured the immortality of the 'Magnificent Seven' women's team when he told Kerri Strug to vault on a gimpy leg, then scooped her up and carried her to the podium to collect her gold medal… .

"In November, the national gymnastics federation lured Karolyi out of retirement to serve as national team coordinator a kind of Ubercoach. He has been conducting training camps for the elite gymnasts at his Texas ranch all year… .

"Karolyi, the David Koresh of the gymnastics cult, is one of the very few folks to successfully reconcile the values of Eastern bloc communism and American capitalism."

David Plotz, writing on "Bela Karolyi: Can he save U.S. gymnastics again?", Aug. 25 in Slate at www.slate.com

Double standards

"Did you know the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) season just ended? Did you know there was one? Do you care? If you're like most normal Americans, the answer is no to all three questions.

"But there is one thing that you should care about, that you should question. Which is: Why do this ludicrous 'league' and other girlie sports get to practice racism and sexism that men would be virtually hanged for?

"For example, did you know that the WNBA is targeting black women and little girls, trying to make them alcoholics? … WNBA 'star' Lisa Leslie is allowed to endorse alcohol, something that no current male pro athlete is allowed to do. Because the major leagues, including the NBA, which owns and operates the WNBA, are afraid that player endorsements will encourage more imbibing by fans. And the leagues don't want to be associated with alcohol abuse… .

"Female athletes want it both ways. They say they want to be treated equally, but then ask for special privileges… . They say they can compete equally, but then when they get the chance … they wimp out. Can you say, 'double standard'?

"It's time for silly, feminist girlie sports sideshows to go."

Debbie Schlussel, writing on "Time for Racist, Sexist WNBA & Other Feminist Girlie Sports Sideshows to Go," Tuesday on www.Jewishworldreview.com

Adulthood lost

"Armchair anthropologists will note that the cultural meaning of a baseball cap has shifted in 20 years; it used to be the equivalent, for an adult, of a flashing sign reading 'I'm not serious.' Today it is ubiquitous.

"The phenomenon of 'casual Friday creep' is elbowing business attire out of the rest of the week and 'casual' is slipping from khakis and loafers to jeans and sandals. Most grownups dress like they're headed to a play date.

"A corresponding shift is happening at the other end. Grammar-school girls used to wear puffed sleeves and a sash in the back. Now they wear skirts and knit tops, miniature versions of their moms' outfits… .

"The loss of separate clothing codes for children and adults is interesting, because it reveals the general loss of markers for adulthood. It used to be replacing your baseball cap with a Homburg told the world you had achieved grownup status. Now the boundary line for adulthood is less distinct … eternal childishness sounds like fun but, in practice, it feels queasy.

"A life without honor and self-respect is aimless and anxious. Uneasy lies the head that wears a baseball cap."

Frederica Mathewes-Green, writing on "Every Day is Casual Friday," in the July 10 issue of Christianity Today

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