Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fair Play: Making sports interesting

WOMEN’S beach volleyball is one of the hardest sports I have covered. It’s quite difficult to keep up with the play and the scores with the sun in your eyes, the cute girls in the gallery, and the scantily-clad females on the “beach.” (The men’s game is the easiest, you just get the final score and you’re done).

And I have the wise guys at the FIVB, the world’s governing body for all forms of volleyball, to thank for that. (May my Gender and Society professor forgive me for this).

In early 2000, in the most significant rule change in all of sports, FIVB decreed that female players must wear bikini bottoms. You know, to go along with the atmosphere.

And it’s just not any bikini. The Wise Guys (it couldn’t be a female) ruled the bikini mustn’t be wider than two and a half inches at the sides.

How wide is that? The word “Sportstalk” above this page is exactly two and a half inches.

I remember when the news hit the wires, the AP sportswriter took a step further and calculated that the new rule means bikinis must NOT cover more than 40 percent of the behind. (Hmmmm.. I wonder who makes sure that players expose the other 60 percent? Another entry for my list of dream jobs).

I’ve always wondered how the writer came up with that figure since in my Internet research, and even in the FIVB guidelines, there was no rule on butt exposure percentage, only the two-and-a-half inch requirement, but the figure has stuck.

Now, what are bikini bottoms doing in this page? Oh well, in case you thought that Fair Play meant football, it doesn’t. It simply means, for this column, anything remotely related to sports is fair play.

The just-concluded Madrid Masters also reminded me of that rule. You see, the Wise Guys at Madrid borrowed beach volleyball’s concept and no they didn’t require players to wear bikinis (it’s a men’s contest) but rather had models as ball girls, or ball women to be precise.

If beach volleyball had the women in bikinis, running, jumping and diving, resulting to a unique “bite,” the Madrid Masters had women in very, very tight shirt, shorts and even skirts, chasing a ball. Ever wondered why Baywatch always had a Pamela-Anderson-is-running-in-a-bikini scene in every episode?

It’s all about the ratings.

These two adaptations made their events interesting, but I guess these also show that the Battle of the Sexes in Sports is a one-sided fight and will look that way for a really, really long time.

(I wonder when the wise guys at WTA will come up with beach tennis)

CESAFI. The University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars were a point away from winning their fourth straight Cesafi title before the University of Southern Philippines Foundation managed to snatch it, scoring four straight points to win the fifth set, 16-14.

The loss was especially tough on Genie Sabas, who a week before had to scramble to finish her game and attend her graduation rites. Because of the late start of the other events (Cesafi parlance for non-basketball events), the players have to juggle exams, graduation rites, and their athletic duties.

Now the volleyball season is over, while the rest are winding up, I hope next year Cesafi will try not to schedule any games during exams and graduation rites.

How about letting the rest of the events start together with basketball? Or a week later if Cesafi still wants to show its preference for basketball?

Still, despite the eschewed schedule, players like Sabas, and scores of others, managed to do well as a student and as an athlete, and I think it would be a good idea for Cesafi to recognize not only the MVPs, Best Strikers or Best Liberos, but also the student athletes who are also great students.

(mikelimpag@gmail.com)

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