Women’s Sports Comparisons

Lindsey-Vonn-world-cupAn otherwise very good piece by CSM’s Christa Case Bryant detailing Lindsey Vonn’s impressive third straight World Cup victory drifts into one of my pet peeves:

This is Vonn’s third straight overall title, a feat unmatched since Austria’s Petra Kronberger won her trio from 1990-92. Vonn’s 11 World Cup wins this season make her second only to Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Proell, who won 14 in 1988-89 and 62 in her career. While Vonn is only at 33 so far, that’s a new US record, beating out five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H.

Vonn is a terrific skier and her accomplishments deserve celebrating.  But her career is in no way comparable to that of Bode Miller or any other male skier.  As a wise man once said on an only tangentially related matter, they’re not in the same league — they’re not even the same sport.

We have no way of knowing, save conjecture, how Vonn would do in competition against men.  But, presumably, there’s a reason that downhill skiing is, like most other sports, gender segregated.

The same is true of coaching.  For example, Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit’s career has been quite impressive.  But taking it to the next step — comparing it to John Wooden’s or Bob Knight’s or Dean Smith’s — is silly.  Summit may or may not have been wildly successful coaching the men’s game.  But she hasn’t done it.  And the women’s game, where two schools have dominated since time immemorial, simply isn’t comparable to the men’s game.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Sports, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Benedict says:

    I believe you’re looking for Bob Knight there, James, not Pat.

    And I agree completely. One of these days, we might get to test the theory if UConn gives Geno Auriemma a shot at the men’s program.

  2. Rick DeMent says:

    Yes but even though Vonn would not be able to compete with men, that doesn’t mean her feat in not comparable to a guy doing the same thing in his league. while the level of competition between leagues is not the same, the level of competition within each league is on par.

    I mean lets talk about Bobby Knight you could argue his accomplishments are not worth discussing because he did them in what essentially is a minor league. The level of competition in the NCAA is crap compared to the pros. You might like the collage game, but those guys are not even close to the level of even the worst pro team.

    So why is collage football and basketball so popular when it’s a minor league not even as good to their respective sports as AAA is to Baseball wich draws flys in comparison? Why talk about Bobby Knight at all he a minor league coach?

  3. B. Minich says:

    Geno Auriemma, UConn women’s coach, recognizes as much. He refuses to be compared to John Wooden and UCLA, which everyone is trying to do since he’s established his program as the one with the longest winning streak in women’s college hoops.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Does Joyner’s wife read this blog?

    Does he have a comfortable couch?

    1
  5. Brett says:

    I’d hesitate to hold that point in the case of Vonn, James – while we’ll probably never know how she’d do in the Men’s Skiing competition, she is supposedly exceptionally strong (and uses men’s skis instead of women’s).

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but while I definitely agree with the point vis a vis basketball, is there really that much of a gender difference in skiing?

  7. just me says:

    I am pretty sure there is a big difference between men and women skiing-at least at the elite level. Men are stronger, bigger and faster-also men often skii a more challenging run (the men’s and women’s downhill are not the same, and the men’s generally is more challenging).

    Although I am not sure you can’t compare a woman’s success among women to a man’s success among men in the case of skiing to say she is currently the most successful US Alpine skier. She has in fact done something of note-won three straight world cup titles. I also don’t think that kind of comment comparing her record to Miller’s implies Miller would lose against her in a head to head competition.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    Coaching in women’s college basketball is very different than in college men’s basketball. First, the differences between whites and black players is smaller in women’s basketball. Also, since there is not real professional league, women stay for four years and having a star player does not limit recruiting other star players.

    UCONN in women’s basketball can recruit the first and second best high school seniors each year. In men’s basketball, the ten best players will end up at ten different schools because they do not want other stars on the team to limit their statistics.

  9. Bill H says:

    So, what is your point? I think you might find that there is a big different between weight lifting championships too. So what? Men are different than women; I have known that since I was about six years old. I find that quite exciting in some respects, but skiing and basketball are not them.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Yes but even though Vonn would not be able to compete with men, that doesn’t mean her feat in not comparable to a guy doing the same thing in his league. while the level of competition between leagues is not the same, the level of competition within each league is on par.

    How do we know that? Beyond that, we don’t compare, say, baseball results and football results.

    I mean lets talk about Bobby Knight you could argue his accomplishments are not worth discussing because he did them in what essentially is a minor league.

    But I’m not arguing that Vonn’s accomplishments aren’t worth discussing. Indeed, I say they’re very impressive, indeed. I don’t even argue that they’re less impressive than Bode Miller’s — merely that they’re not comparable.

    Does Joyner’s wife read this blog?

    Does he have a comfortable couch?

    Yes and yes. But she agrees on this topic.

    Pardon my ignorance, but while I definitely agree with the point vis a vis basketball, is there really that much of a gender difference in skiing?

    I’m not a close follower of the sport. The fact that women compete separately would lead me to believe there’s a reason.

  11. Triumph says:

    Lets get real–women’s “sports” is some politically correct manifestation of the Pelosi Feminazi movement.

    Watching chicks try and participate like they think they be athletes is pathetic.

    If broads want to be sports ladies, they should participate naked.

    I would totally watch that. Beach volleyball comes the closest and it is far and away the best dames sport.

  12. Brett says:

    If broads want to be sports ladies, they should participate naked.

    I’d totally be down for athletes performing in the nude (in the summer sports) like the Greek Olympics of old.