By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Is Barry Graham ("Les Go, Mercury," July 31) threatened by the physical ability of women on the basketball court? Would he write a similar column about a gay football player?
I go for the sport because of good players playing a good sport, doing a great job. I enjoy the fans because they, too, are having a great time rooting their home team on to victory.
So what if they are lesbians, so what if they are homosexuals, so what if they are heterosexuals? We are there for the enjoyment of the concert of human life, enjoying the game together. Get into the game of life, or leave everyone alone!
There is so much more to women's basketball than the composition of the crowd. To reduce it, as Barry Graham did, to "a bunch of lesbians" having a party is ignorant. The women athletes are wonderful, and to reduce all of their training and ability to "curiously sexless, unaesthetic bodies" is typical male insecurity. They play for the sheer joy of being able to show the world that women, too, can be terrific athletes. They don't have the "gifts of a Jordan, Rodman or Barkley"? Hell, yes, they do, and it's wonderful that the world can finally see that. Women's basketball is sheer ability. And guts. And desire. It's sick to look at it by the makeup of the crowd. Look closely at the makeup of the people who go to watch the men play. Whew.
To attack the "bunch of dancers that come out in the quintessential motif of European gay cabaret" is moronic. These are, again, talented folks and dancers who are there for the joy of it, for being able to show the world how to have fun. Or, is having fun more like having large breasts, makeup as thick as mud, bodies built like French whores, "dancing" around to show the common world what moronic truly is?
This is not simply "show biz," the "breeders" against the nonbreeders, as Graham puts it. This is finally a chance for women to be able to get out there and be counted. To matter. And it matters to a lot of folks, not just those who have been targeted. Many of these women are married and have children--not that that matters. But, with all this ridiculous publicity, if I were one of them, I might be tempted to quit. And it would be for all the wrong reasons.
Women's basketball is where it should be. And women have had to fight for their place in this world for far too long. I am a woman physician, I should know. Stop all this foolishness, this ignorance. Just let it be--it speaks for itself.
Teri L. Goslin
Barry Graham writes as a firmly entrenched chauvinist with a trembling fear of women, particularly if they enter a "man's" arena of professional sports, and that he is bluntly homophobic. He postulates criticisms about the Phoenix Mercury, the WNBA enterprise and women in general, intending to debunk and debase, but succeeding in presenting a stratum of dogma that is offensive and simply irrelevant.
Graham takes issue with the Mercury making money, citing a fleecing structure which includes inflated prices in parking, concessions and merchandising. He admits that the same marketing structure is built into NBA games, but when women are factored in, "it feels different, worse, tackier." This is paradoxical, since Graham cites Dennis Rodman (well-known for his thoughtful social poise and grace) to illustrate the "personal charisma and athletic prowess" demonstrated by the male industry. Rodman is a prime example of vicious commercialism. All fans of the NBA have, for 20 years, "felt hands in their pockets." Why, then, are the WNBA and the Phoenix Mercury singled out for indulging in the same rules of business? According to Graham, the answer is to cater to the entertainment needs of lesbians.
Since the women of the Phoenix Mercury are strong and talented athletes coming dangerously close to the prestige enjoyed by their male counterparts, then by default they and their fans must themselves be asexual or lesbian. More dangerous, this belief extends inclusively to all women in sports. "The Mercury players, like almost all female athletes [letter writer's emphasis], seem curiously sexless while they perform. That appeal is not to heterosexual men." This seems frighteningly misogynistic and patriarchal. Graham ignores the traditionally feminine appeal of such athletes as Florence Griffith Joyner, Gabrielle Reece and Steffi Graf. He blunders onward to suggest that because a woman exhibits athletic prowess, she is instantly stripped of her femininity. Graham is quick to attack the spectators, criticizing them if they should cheer, disapprove of a call, generate excitement for their team--in short, behave as the fans of male sports do. Graham even notes that some fans "smell strongly of cigarettes," as if this attribute would be absent at a male sporting arena. In short, anyone who would attend a Mercury game and thus support female sports falls too far outside Graham's good, old-fashioned, male-chauvinist bell curve of normalcy.
Barry Graham's "Les Go, Mercury" is extremely disturbing. Graham's "insights" on the impact the WNBA has had on the sports-fan community in the Valley reminded me of that of the high school freshman who cannot be sure he will ever score a date with a girl, so he decides that all of his female counterparts must be "lesbians." Graham misused his power as a writer by trying to pass off his own insecurities as academic reporting. Call it what it was: a display of covert bigotry.