The Unifying Power of Sports and the Undeniable Divide
Though I never believed it would happen, I have become a die-hard sports fan. I watch football, baseball and golf (yes, even golf on TV I find thrilling!). I followed March Madness for the first time last year and checked the standings regularly. I cheer wildly in my orange and blue t-shirt with my kid’s name on the back at every water polo game; (indeed, there is nothing that will keep me from those matches and no decibel level I won’t reach.)
And I even started playing golf a few summers ago–a game I once derided as “getting a very small ball in a tiny hole hundreds of feet away.” Today, I find the game a wonderful pursuit of irrelevance. Sure, the subsequent thought to hitting a great shot is “hey, maybe they will want me in the LPGA” followed by the quick demise of any hope for golf fame with a string of errant shots.
What my new-found love of sports has taught me is that sports are a great equalizer. We can all follow the games and get the scores. We can collectively cheer for our favorite teams and players and together we mourn their failures on the field, the mound and the green. I’ve seen sports connect two of my boys who could not be more different, and I’ve seen sports connect kids from across the country with the combined JCC Chicago and JCC Palm Beach 16U Baseball team bringing home gold from the 2019 Maccabi Games.
And, yet, there is a divide. Last weekend, my husband and I were paired with another twosome at our favorite 9-hole course. My tee shot was fantastic, one of those LPGA-bound moments. My husband said, “Wow, that was great! With all these people watching you, too!” He’s right, attention when I’m on the tee box makes me nervous. Beyond wanting to do well, I don’t want to embarrass myself and stand out as the “girl” in the group.
While I hate to admit it, the thought in my mind as I inched forward to take the shot was that there’s less pressure on women. Our tees are closer; we don’t hit the ball as hard; it’s ok to mess up. When the shot was good, all three guys were audibly surprised—they certainly didn’t expect my shot to be the best of the bunch. While I felt good in the moment, I was left wondering how it is that I aligned my own expectations with failure. I almost caught myself…
Truth is, I catch myself every day. I dress for work, I’m on time, I always contribute. I’ve had a strong first year in my new role and still feel the pressure of the daily test. At the same time, girls in our Project Teen-Seed 613 business and entrepreneurship program make it a point to connect with me each time at I’m at Camp Chi. On my desktop is the draft agenda for our annual meeting where we’ll induct only the third female board chair in agency history. We’re an applicant for the inaugural Women inPower initiative in partnership with JCC Association and the 92nd Street Y in New York. These examples and many more speak to the commitment to realize equal footing for women.
My husband is thrilled I now share his passions and that the TV is permanently set to Sports Center or the Golf Channel. It’s fun to talk sports with all three of my boys who stand many inches over me and are a hundred times as strong. I love soaking up the sun and scenery on the golf course and even made golf the focus on our summer vacation. And, even though that voice inside me wonders if I will really ever measure up, I am going to keep playing, keep pushing myself and continue to find joy in the game I now love.