The last few months have seen many big names across all industries brought down by accusations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. It has been served as the hot topic at many lunches and dinners in my social group recently with a lot of debate and opinion. A very serious topic that, for sure, deserves serious conversation. Amid all the mealtime debates, a question was posed to the women at the table: Who can count themselves in the #metoo campaign? This, of course, being the campaign where people hashtag “MeToo” in order to signify that, at some point in their lives, they have either been sexually harassed, abused, or felt the effects of gender discrimination. Eira and I have been the only ones over several meals that profess to not in fact had that real, obvious experience...until now!
I want to be clear up front. We at The Distillery, Inc. take the #metoo campaign seriously, so the story that I am about to tell does not diminish in our minds anything that any woman has gone through. But, it does show how deeply ingrained gender discrimination is in our society.
We arrived at the sports field on Sunday for our boys’ flag football game. Things on both sides of the field are improving, meaning that I am progressing as a neophyte sports mom and our sons are learning more and more of the game. I got my canopy chair and brought snacks for the whole team…although not wrapped in neat, brown paper bags like some other moms do But, it is a start. The kids are starting to really get into playing. The one thing that still seems to need help is our coach - who has great intentions but is still struggling. Remember the coach’s son from a couple of blogs back? The one who didn’t want to play on the first day? Well, the coach let us know a couple of days before last game that he would be missing the game on Sunday for that same son’s birthday party. WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Not only is it game 3 out of only 6, but it is PICTURE DAY! The day when the kids take a picture on their own but also with their whole team... including their COACH!!! I don’t begrudge the man or his son the right to celebrate his 5th birthday but, come on, it is not like the coach didn’t have the schedule even before we did.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the point. After a bit of chaos and some help from the substitute coach (another dad on the team) and another father, the boys have their individual pictures taken. It was now time for the group photo. Wanting to ensure the picture had at least a couple of “coaches” in it like the other teams did, the substitute coach grabbed the other dad and brought him in to strike a pose. No problem. But, then, for some unknown reason, it seemed like substitute coach wanted to one-up the other teams and asked another father to join in and strike a pose. Ok, excessive but fine. And, then substitute coach went one step too far.
My husband was standing behind Eira and me watching the scene unfold when the substitute coach started waving to what seemed like Eira or me. Hands were waving and the “hey you” started to float in our direction. I gestured back pointing at myself as if to say, “you talking to me?” No clarity from the group. So, after another few seconds of this, I started to walk over and, as I got closer, they said, “No, not you, the guy behind you. Tell him to come get in the picture.” Uh, excuse me? There are 6 kids there with only 4 dads in attendance, and you only want the dads in the picture? My husband, who was totally uninterested in being the picture, reluctantly went while Eira and I were transformed into two lionesses, stalking their prey back and forth and ready to pounce as soon as they were done smiling for the camera. How DARE they exclude the moms from this picture?
The moms who, most likely, took the time to sign the kids up in the first place. The moms who had all shown up all three weeks. Only one of the dads in the picture had been there for the three games, and it was not even my husband. The moms who organized the snacks for the kids each week. And, at least one mom, that being Eira, who pushed the substitute coach in the first week to step up and help out our fumbling, first-time coach and gave feedback to the coach and the league! It was pretty shocking the idea that only the men should be in the picture with the kids came so unabashedly naturally to these guys.
Now, I don’t think our substitute coach had any mal intention. I just think it has been so ingrained in our culture that certain sports are for the guys and the women’s participation is more as cheerleader than anything else. We did a whole show on women in sports and the facts are showing a completely different story. But, for sure, a shift change in thinking is still a long way away if this type of gender discrimination still pops up on the football fields of youth sports.
And, while we, meaning Eira, pounced on our worthy substitute coach and gave him an earful at how ridiculous the scenario played out, I think the only way to create a shift change is for sports moms to take bigger roles. We should step up and coach more…heck, I know way more about football than my husband. We should put ourselves in a position to run the leagues…they always need more volunteers. We should show our kids that stereotypes can and should be broken for their sakes, not ours, because limited thinking limits everyone. I know I want my son to think big in his life. So, watch out flag football…you may see a new female coach next time around and her name is Mommy!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
4 teams, 2 playoff games, 2 incredible endings, 2 different outcomes, but 1 common theme: NEVER GIVE UP. Our mantra at The Distillery Inc. is “sports is a metaphor for life.” When you study sports and athletes, you are looking at a microcosm of each and every one of our worlds...for better or for worse. I think this is one of the reasons that we love sports so much. My partner Eira and I see ourselves in those moments of victory or defeat, challenge or synchronicity, that happen in every sport in every part of the world. Those moments help us make sense of our daily lives. I think is why Sunday’s NFL divisional playoff games sparked something in me about life that is clearly seen in sports all the time: it is important to NEVER GIVE UP.
In both games on Sunday, the teams had to persevere until the very last seconds to come from behind and have a shot at winning. In the Vikings vs. Saints game, both teams had to overcome significant deficits at different times. The Saints were behind by 17 points at the beginning of the second half, yet came back and took the lead with about 3 minutes remaining in the game. In those short 3 minutes, the teams traded field goals, leaving the Vikings 1 point behind with 25 seconds to go. Yes, I said only 25 seconds with the ball on their own 20-yard line! Impossible one might think! That doesn’t even seem like enough time to make it into field goal range, despite the very talented athletes on the field. 25 seconds…think about what 25 seconds are. Even with the ability to stop the clock, that really is not a lot of time. And, yet, somehow, without seemingly thinking about how impossible it was going to be to even get close, the Vikings strung together 4 plays that culminated with an often practiced, rarely executed, pass toward the sideline that inexplicably resulted in a touchdown with zero seconds remaining on the clock. Proving, without a shadow of a doubt, that one can NEVER GIVE UP!
In the Steelers vs. Jaguars game, the Steelers were down by two touchdowns with only about 5 minutes left to play. One wouldn’t even think it feasible to overcome that kind of insurmountable deficit, or to even get a chance to win, with such a small amount of time left. The Steelers struggled the whole game, at times down by as much as 21 points. Every time it looked like they were completely out of the game, they would rally until their deficit was ONLY 10 points with 1:45 to go in the game. NEVER GIVE UP…this sentiment must have been going through the players’ heads as they stepped out onto the field. Even though their outcome was not to be the same as the Vikings’, Pittsburgh managed another touchdown in that last minute, giving them at least a shot of tying or winning the game. NEVER GIVE UP.
This scenario plays out in sports all the time – teams fighting back against ostensibly overwhelming odds. Whether on to victory or not, athletes are trained from their early days to know, not just believe that they can win a game no matter how far behind they are or how little time is left. The actual outcome of the game is almost irrelevant, meaning a win is what they want but they know that it may not happen. It doesn’t matter what the outcome might be…NEVER GIVE UP. That mindset is what makes athletes unique and what provides the drama in sports that we all love to watch.
Can you imagine how that kind of mindset would play out in your life? If we lived by a certain number of innings or had a clock running with a certain amount of time on it, what choices would we make differently? Would we tap into and hone our natural skills to a higher level? Would we push ourselves harder in those moments when we are falling behind or be more comfortable being uncomfortable? Would we be more willing to let go of the outcome and be satisfied with just leaving everything out on the field? Would we be more excited at the prospect of having to come from behind? Would it be easier for us to never give up?
In a real way, and without being too morbid, we do live our lives against a clock, but we don’t always have the “two-minute” warning or a sense that you are in the bottom of the ninth to, perhaps, push us to elevate our “game.” I think that is the lesson I learned from watching football this weekend. We all have the opportunity, probably every day, to never give up on something that is happening in our world. If we take a cue from athletes and exercise our muscle of never giving up, of letting go of the end result and pushing onward no matter what, we might see our lives evolve in a completely different way.
So, get out there…channel your inner athlete, and NEVER GIVE UP! I’ll bet you will be happily surprised by the results.
By: Wendy Rosenthal
We had our son late in life. While I was pregnant, even though I didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl, I constantly talked to my nascent child and reminded him that he was being born into a family of passionate sports fans. I would assure him that, while I would love him no matter what, he might find it more comfortable joining our family if sports were something he was interested in. Well, he entered the world and, by the time he was three, it became very clear that sports are indeed a passion for him - which makes me very happy and a little nervous. Why a little nervous? Well, because now I am going to have to be a Sports Mom. I will have to be a part of the legions of parents that stand or sit on the sidelines and watch their kid win, lose, not play well, get hurt, feel the highs and experience the lows. Can I handle it? I didn’t know until today, when my son started to play in his first league…flag football.
We expectantly waited for this moment for about three months: January 7th. My son knew the date by heart and asked everyday for several weeks when it would arrive. As dawn broke on this Sunday morning and my son awoke, I realized that life was going to change a lot for the next several years.
I was smart enough to order the league shorts, so he knew at least half of what he was wearing. It was the fastest he has ever gotten dressed. I got the checklist of things we needed to bring: mouthguard…check; practice football...check; water bottle...check; snacks…check; light-up sneakers…um, check? Maybe I should have bought some cleats. Oh, well. Starbucks…check. We are ready to go.
My son is nervous and, when we get to the field, I feel a little jittery myself. To make matters worse, the coach hasn’t shown up. Um…where is he? All of the other parents are wondering, too, as we are watching the other teams get organized with new jerseys and practice drills. How is my son going to learn and be able to compete? He is missing practice time!!! Calm down…remember, he is five. Phew! The coach finally shows up. He seems nice, although a bit scattered and distracted. You see, his son is supposed to play on our team but is instead in tears because he doesn’t want to. So, our coach is now spending a good bit of practice time cajoling his son to play. Ahem…what about the rest of our kids? They WANT to play…focus on them! Oh yeah, they are five. Right. But, we will have to have a chat with the coach…maybe later.
As practice finally begins, I notice my son is struggling with his mouth guard. I say it out loud and another parent asks if I got the one that you boil and mold to his mouth. HUH? One that you boil? Ummm, I didn’t see that in the instructions. When I told the parent that I got the mouthguard at Target, he literally rolled his eyes and cracked up. He said, “Have you heard of Big 5?” Of course I have, but who knew that there are special mouthguards that you can mold to your kid’s teeth? That note wasn’t include in the equipment list that the league sent. Then he asked to see our practice football. Yikes! I asked him as I handed it to him, like a young Jedi asking Master Yoda, if the ball was ok because I also got it at Target, much to my chagrin. He smiled, chuckled, and said I had done well, despite the store that I bought it at. Thank goodness. At least I got that one right.
Next faux pas, I ordered a small shirt for my son, which came down to his knees - not particularly good when you are trying to run down a football field. I swear they didn’t have the option for an extra small on their website. At least I could switch the shirt out for a smaller one! The weather forecast had said that it was going to be about 60 degrees, so I came bundled up. After the first hour, the sun was so hot that all I wanted to do was strip down to my underwear. I am sure that is something the league would have frowned upon and, for sure, the other parents would not have been too excited about. Now I see why those seasoned parents bring umbrellas and folding chairs with awnings. Ok, that will be on the list for next week!
At last, after all of this, they start the game. They needed one of the kids to sit out because they play 5 on 5. Who volunteers first to sit out? You got it... my son. What?! I have waited a lifetime for this moment...to see my child playing in a real game. And he volunteers to sit out?! The thoughts race through my head. Why would he want to sit out? Why doesn’t he want to play? Why?! Then I remember to take a deep breath and realize that he is five, he is a bit nervous, and he is unsure. He just wants to check things out. Remember, this is not about you, mom. This is about him. In that moment, I learned my first lesson of being a parent with a kid in sports. This is about the kids. It is about building their confidence, making sure they have fun, helping them to see that they can do it, and helping them see how important it is to work as part of a team. So, I took a deep breath and encouraged my son to watch the game so he would be able to see what he was going to do when his turn came up. And, guess what? On his first play in the game, he made a touchdown. A real touchdown. I was in absolute tears, literally crying! I was so excited for him as he got the high fives and pats on the back, feeling like a part of a team.
I am sure this path of a sports parent will be paved with tears - some created out of sadness and pain for my son’s journey as much as from joy and pride for his accomplishments. I am excited and still a little nervous, but truly happy that my son had fun, got involved, and learned a lot. After all, isn’t that what it is all about?
By: Wendy Rosenthal