This update is written with a heavy heart, as yesterday the IOC voted to include golf and rugby in the 2016 Olympics at the exclusion of softball and several others. This means that the soonest softball would re-emerge on the Olympic stage will be in 2020. I like to consider myself an optimist, but times like these challenge my ability to see the silver lining in things.
We all knew that the battle would be difficult and that there was a lot of resistance within the IOC and the Olympic movement. For whatever reason, it seems that the IOC President Jacque Rogge had it out for softball. He worked hard to ensure softball was NOT included (or so it seems).
I tip my cap to the Back Softball campaign and all of those who supported softball’s efforts to get back into the Olympics, whether directly or indirectly. I know people like Donna DeVarona, Michele Smith, Jessica Mendoza, and many many others spent months traveling and spreading the “softball gospel” throughout the world, and can only imagine their immense disappointment considering their personal investments in the effort.
Speaking for myself, I am sad on a personal level, but my overwhelming emotion is related to the future of the sport, and the young girls around the globe who have seen their Olympic dreams dashed. I pain for the Kaitlin Cochran and Ashley Hansen’s of the world, the “next generation” of USA Softball players who were on track to represent our country on the Olympic stage. I pain for young girls in Argentina, Italy, Japan, Botswana, Jordan, and in-numerous corners countries where tears were shed and hearts were broken by the decision to exclude softball.
So, we pause to mourn softball’s defeat, and likely the pain will last for quite some time. But, we must also continue to move forward, to build and develop and nurture softball here at home and abroad. The efforts must continue, though likely not on nearly as large of a scale, to introduce softball to countries and continents that may not otherwise have been exposed. Professional softball, whether it be the PFX Tour or the NPF, must continue to foster and legitimize softball post-college.
I read Jennie Finch’s blog this morning about the IOC decision, and was struck hard by the observation her son, 3-year old Ace, noticed. “Mommy, where is your clubhouse?” The gender inequities in sport are vast and often seem unconquerable. Should we even waste our energy imagining a day when female professional softball players will be negotiating $100 million dollar contracts? Is it worth our time to consider a day when 20,000 fans show up to watch a women’s basketball pre-season PRACTICE? Being honest, there are times where I think it is ridiculous to imagine that day, considering how unbelievably far we are from even being in that zip code, being anywhere even moderately close to that day.
Then, after I slap my own face and wake myself out of the “oh poor me mode”, I lift my head up and answer my own question. YES. Yes, it is worth our time, energy, heart and soul. It may be far off, but without our vision and determination, the gap never will be closed.
And I must clarify that when I speak of equality, I hate when we get so bogged down by the money, by the dollars and cents of the inequities. Yes, I believe the pendulum must swing in terms of the numbers if women ever want to see success. But, I do not believe its all about the money. Its about opportunity. Its about the way in which women are respected (or not respected) for their contributions to sport. Its breaking the stigma that “men’s sports are more entertaining”. And its about women supporting women.
So, as I sit back and look to the future, I really do believe it is about you and me, each one of us. Olympic softball may be temporarily laying on a gurney, but softball is by no means dead. It did take a big blow to the head, but it is not dead. We will continue to scratch, claw, and fight for our sport. And some day, we will look back on August 12, 2009 and say, “That was just the beginning. I remember how broken-hearted I was that day. But look at us now…”
I can’t wait for that day.
As always, Dreaming BIG,