The hubbub late last month about Annika Sorenstam playing in a PGA tournament led verbal combatants to choose up sides: yes to women competing against men, no to such competition, not many in the middle.
Here's one time where I'm in the middle. With no clear biblical warrant on the issue, the question is one of discernment or perhaps even taste, and here's mine: I don't see any problem with ladies and gentlemen going up against each other as long as, when doing so, they can remain ladies and gentlemen.
For example, it's fine for girls to join boys in Little League baseball, should they and their parents desire that. (Little Leagues generally have rules against runners slamming into catchers.) It's not fine, in my opinion, for girls to play Pop Warner football, because training almost-teenage boys to tackle and aggressively block girls works against instilling gentlemanly behavior at exactly the time it's most important to do that.
It's fine for girls who can run like the wind to compete against boys in the track part of track and field, but memories of Soviet shot-putters make me reluctant to endorse pursuits that require females to bulk up muscle mass enormously. Fitness and athleticism are great, but God made men and women different not only in reproductive systems but in musculature.
Of course, customs vary. One North Carolina woman tells me, "Maybe in Texas sports etiquette is inbred, but here it's all a contact sport. There's a high school soccer team we play, all brawny mountain boys and two girls. We lose every time because our guys have been taught to play as gentlemen; they are too gingerly with the girls and the mountain boys move in for the kill."
Whether they receive gingerly treatment or not, physical differences make it difficult for the best women in many sports to defeat the best men. Sympathetic but condescending press reports concerning Ms. Sorenstam crowed that she finished third at the Colonial tournament in fairways hit off the tee, but the only stat that truly counts in golf is the score, and there she finished tied for 96th. Driving the ball far requires muscle, and in that category she finished 100th. Could a weight-lifting woman with excellent technique finish 80th? Sure, but what price limited glory?
So it's good to have a Ladies PGA Tour where a woman with the skill and gracefulness Ms. Sorenstam displayed can finish first-but if she wants to play in another PGA event, welcome! She is doing much more for womanhood than the screechy Martha Burk, who failed in her attempt to add mistresses to The Masters.
It also was great to watch the Women's College World Series that concluded on May 26 with UCLA as softball champion, and we'll cheer if one of the quick-handed, slash-hitting infielders tries to make the transition to professional baseball with the hope of someday hitting the major leagues. Of course, there's the issue of take-out slides at second ...