by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Let’s face it. Even though men and women live together, work together and sleep together, they are not always on the same page.

MAN (watching Three Stooges): Ho! Haha!

WOMAN: I’m leaving you. MAN: What’s that, hon–HAHAHEEHEE!

Nowhere is this difference more apparent than in the world of sports, where men will tell you, on the scale of Truly Important Things In Life, there is 1) the 1975 World Series, 2) who was better in his prime, Magic or Bird? 3) the polio vaccine.

Whereas women have it all backward.

Believe it or not, there are women out there who, given the choice between tickets for the Super Bowl and a chance to bring about world peace, would opt for the world peace thing — and not even ask what row.

Until now, we have accepted this as a defining line of life, like people who like Barry Manilow and people who don’t. The business world may be mixed, same for politics, but the playing field has always been a safe haven, where men could wage war against men — and women could point and laugh their heads off.

But things have changed.

Wednesday, in Tampa, a 20-year-old woman played goalie for the first time in an NHL game.

And tonight, in Las Vegas, Jimmy Connors, once the most ferocious male tennis player in the world, will play Martina Navratilova, once the most ferocious female tennis player. The winner will take a $500,000 prize. The promoters smell big ratings.

I smell trouble. Having fun vs. serious business Now, I am all for women’s sports. I am all for men’s sports. But mixing the two can be dangerous. Take this tennis club I belong to. You see women on one court and men on the next. The women are usually casual, taking their time on every element of the game, including the very important Removing The Racket From the Case, which could take 27 minutes, depending upon the conversation.

The men, meanwhile, burst onto the court the moment their hour begins — and if the pair who were on before them dare to go a minute over, the new men club them over the head. Then they begin their “warm-up.” This consists of each man trying to whack the ball hard enough to make a small hole in the opponent’s thigh, while one yells to the other, “Oh, man . . . (whack, hope I kill you). I’m so tired today (whack, die scum, die!).”

Meanwhile, the women are having such a good time taking their rackets out that they decide to do something really wild, like Open A Can Of Balls. And when they do — oops, a ball drops out and rolls onto the men’s court.

At which point the men immediately halt, drop their rackets, and make faces that suggest you are the Hatfields and they are the McCoys and they have a shotgun. And they say, in that Why- are-we-sharing-the-planet-with-this-species tone, “DO YOU MIND? WE’RE TRYING TO PLAY HERE!”

This is when they are next to each other.

Imagine when they’re on the same court! It’s confusing when left is right

Which brings us to tonight’s match between Connors, who does Nuprin commercials, and Navratilova, who once worked out with the Dallas Cowboys. As you can see, the lines are already fuzzy.

They get fuzzier. Because if you are a man, you are confronted with a perplexing question: For whom do you root, Connors or Navratilova?

Being a liberated male — I am, really, I got my card in the mail last week
— I am torn. So are most men I know. They have been taught that equality is good, barriers are bad. They have been taught to root for the underdog. They have been taught that Jimmy Connors, except when being paid by PaineWebber, is a pompous jerk.

But they also know that, underneath it all, they are still guys. As in:
“Hey, Vinnie’s throwing up behind the schoolyard! Get the guys! HEY, GUYS!”

So tonight we have a war inside the male brain (assuming there’s one in there). The left half looks for the politically correct; the right half looks for a pair of dirty socks to wear.

RIGHT: We’re rooting for Connors tonight. LEFT: How can we root for Connors? He’s a jerk. RIGHT: Have you checked out his opponent? LEFT: What’s wrong with Martina? RIGHT: She’s wearing a dress. LEFT: So? RIGHT: I said she’s wearing a dress! HEY, GUYS! LEFT: Look, your socks are dirty. . . .

You see what inner turmoil this can lead to? Why, right in the middle of the match, a man could get all glassy-eyed, and when his buddy says, “What’s wrong, dude?” he says, “Oh, nothing, I was just thinking.”


By the way, as for the female goalie in Tampa, I say anyone nuts enough to watch hockey in Tampa deserves a little shock. Also, a guy I know who hates the idea of female hockey players, said to me, “What’s worse is, she’s a babe!”

If you can figure out that logic, call me.

As for tonight’s tennis duel, my recommendation is to skip the thing entirely. Be safe. Rent a video. I suggest “The Three Stooges.”

Then again, I would.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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