Lauren Silberman’s pitiful effort during a recent NFL regional scouting combine tryout sparked strong criticism about how Silberman hurt women’s attempts to be taken seriously in football and reignited conversations about how women cannot compete with men in athletics.
I will tackle each point separately.
Katie Hnida, the first woman to score a point in a Division I football game, told USA Today: “Her performance does not have to do with her gender, it has to do with her experience and her preparation. Unfortunately, what's going to happen now is she's going to be looked at (as inferior) because she was female.”
Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com called Silberman’s effort “A delusional, haughty, heartbreaking sideshow.”
Silberman did not know how to properly set a football on a kicking tee or how to approach an NFL-style kickoff.
Why would Silberman be allowed to participate in such an event?
When she did kick, her two attempts traveled a combined 30 yards. Silberman did later withdraw from the combine citing injury.
Kinkhabwala wrote Silberman “disrespected the 37 other kickers in New Jersey on Sunday who've spent lifetimes honing their craft.”
This is a strong criticism, but the fault does not lie with Silberman, but with the NFL.
Mike Garafolo’s article in USA Today said, “Though the league reserves the right to deny a registration, it apparently made no attempt to determine whether Silberman had a chance to put forth a good effort. Now, other young women likely will have an even tougher path to gender equality on the football field.”
These sentences appeared about 14 paragraphs in to his article. This should have been placed much higher. The fault lies totally with the NFL, not Silberman.
From all accounts, Silberman showed no skills that would have justified her inclusion into the combine; therefore there is no mystery as to why her tryout was a debacle.
The league allowed an unqualified individual attempt a difficult task, and lo and behold, the unqualified person failed miserably. The only reason Silberman’s terrible showing made national news is because of her gender. Kinkhabwala wrote, “… to be wholly fair, Silberman isn't the only applicant to be outclassed at one of these combines.”
Why have we not heard about the other failures?
Moving to the second part of this post, recall the claim that women cannot compete with men athletically.
This is claim is almost always true if we look at the sports that are touted in the United States – basketball, baseball, hockey and football. Yes, we can extend this to myriad other sports. However, this critique is incomplete.
We have to examine the political factors surrounding sports in general. For brevity’s sake, I will examine the pathway of control.
First, some simple questions: Who created many of today’s visible sports? Men.
Second, if one group creates a system, is it logical to presume that this group would build a system that accentuates the things it does well? Yes.
Building on these premises, it is not fair to place women into men’s ideas of sports. How could they ever succeed when the games are essentially rigged against them?
Why doesn’t anybody ask could men outshine women in sports created by and designed for women? Perhaps this question needs to be asked the next time there are discussions about the athletic abilities of men and women.
-- Steve Bien-Aimé