You know that old saw? That one about ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?’ [Hint: It was a chart-topper for George Santayana in 1904 or so.]
Not everyone does.
Remembering history has other benefits, too – when you recall the past, you avoid hyperbole that makes you look like a fool.
The issue at hand is the LPGA Tour’s new requirement that all athletes be proficient English-speakers. Not an unreasonable request, but the LPGA’s mandate could have been formatted, communicated and implement better.
But that’s neither here nor there – this is an education site, so we’ll focus on history.
Roy S. Johnson calls it the “Dumbest Rule Ever.”
Dumbest rule ever? Really? Dumber than mandating that all players be white? If I had some cash to waste, I’d invite you to speak to a few of the surviving Negro League players who visit the Hall of Fame here in Cooperstown – provided that you explained to them how requiring players to learn English is truly the dumbest rule ever.
As far as indignities in professional sport go, this one isn’t in the top 10. Get thee some historical perspective post haste, Roy. And if your editor, and not you, wrote the title, give him/her hell for it.
Linda Lowen, who writes the About.com Guide to Women’s Issues, calls it “Racism, Nationalism, Sexism.” The case for racism is misguided, but one has to understand that she argues it because of the high number of Korean-speaking golfers on the LPGA Tour, who represent the bulk of those affected by the ruling. Requiring those who grew up in Korea and who don’t know English fluently to become proficient with the language is different than racism.
Nationalism? Well, the LPGA just wants its athletes to communicate with the English-speaking, English-driven American market. I can understand that request. It has nothing to do with the United States and everything to do with the LPGA’s economic sustainability. That’s different than nationalism.
Sexism? Oddly enough, she doesn’t mention sex in the article – she just quotes an unhinged, illogical Bob Ford [not the one who shot Jesse James] who sees this as a slippery slope:
“Will there be a required physique for the tour? Will there be a sexual-orientation requirement to appease those lusty sponsors? Why not? You get the impression the LPGA would dress them all like Olympic beach volleyball players and have them drive the beer wagons during the pro-ams if possible….
An organization dedicated to women that perpetuates the stereotype that how a woman talks and how she looks is more important than what she accomplishes has lost its bearings.”
Relax, Chicken Little. I’ll let you fire a few neurons and figure out why this language requirement isn’t sexism. Even Ford’s characterization of golfers as cigar-smoking old boys has historical counters, like the PGA’s reception to Babe Didrikson-Zaharias – the other The Babe – all the way back in the 1940s.
The LPGA pretty much wants to make sure the athletes can do things like… conduct interviews easily. If you want to make a solid argument over this issue, argue that the LPGA was irresponsible by mandating before it had implemented a voluntary, well-supported effort to give its athletes the resources they needed to learn English. That’s a fair, reasonable argument. Freakouts about racism, nationalism and sexism are not.
Sportswriters are notoriously awful at two things: statistics and history outside the sports they cover. They’re probably hopeless with the former, but they could at least pretend to work on the latter.