Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Reading Project: The Smart Girl's Guide to Quarterbacks

The Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project is my way of sharing the misery that is reading The Smart Girl's Guide to Sports, which cost $2. Let's laugh at this together.

I think I might be a glutton for punishment. I could have just put down this book after the offensive intro and the questionable chapter about basketball. I'll admit that I learned a few things, but I'm not sure it was worth it. To put this in terms more familiar to the audience of The Smart Girl's Guide, it was like going all the way to another neighbourhood for a sample sale and only scoring one blouse.
(I can't remember the last time I even wore a blouse. I'm more of a novelty T-shirt kind of Smart Girl.)

Anyway, I decided to press on and give the football chapter a read. I had read a few pages of it when I bought the book some years back, hoping to bring my football knowledge a little bit further than "ten yards in four downs." I learned a few things, but I never finished the chapter. Now I know why. Like the rest of the book, it's informative, but quite eyeroll-inducing. Now, it's worth mentioning that the author seems to have a particular fondness for football, if you can call it that. It was her gateway sport - she was surrounded by football fans and decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. You may remember that her gushing about Jerry Rice is what got her in the good graces of a man she knows!

There was quite a bit of information in this chapter. My first reading of it taught me about two-point conversions, because I didn't remember seeing one happen until that point. This reading revealed a lot more information about a few elements of the game, but of course it was all buried under pounds and pounds of mansplaining. One joke gave me hope that this chapter might be different from the rest: "Women tackle problems. Men tackle each other."
"Yeah, let's tackle some problems like the smart girls we are!"
But then the rest of the chapter had jokes about how a man buying a woman flowers and jewelry can facilitate "scoring." I thought that this book was supposed to be for women - did she write it specifically for women who are also characters on Entourage? Is that why there are entire paragraphs about whose butts you should look at and whose butts are not worth looking at?
There are some very useful bits in this chapter (like a guide to rivalries and explanations of a few key terms) but that didn't stop me from gasping in abject horror at the worst things in the whole chapter. Because there are two of them. One: If there are only two things you learn about Joe Montana, the second (and most important!) is that he has "the most gorgeous ice-blue eyes ever seen in the NFL." (The first thing you need to know is that he's good at football.) Two: The author literally gives readers a word-for-word quote of a sports-savvy thing they can say. Which... really? I'm not sure that putting words into someone's mouth is a good idea. Especially not if you're just spotting them one sentence. Who says one sentence and just walks away from a conversation? Smart Girls of the world: Don't say something because someone wrote it for you word-for-word, unless that person is your presidential speechwriter.

If this book was written in 2014: It would probably still be all about Tom Brady, because he's the most quarterbackiest handsomest of all the QBs in the NFL (because the other ones don't have pretty eyes like Brady has pretty eyes.)
Any mention of the Redskins' name would go beyond some Cowboys fans (due to rivalry) "would say their logo is politically incorrect."
I'm not sure what she would say about Peyton Manning's Broncos getting shellacked at the Super Bowl, but I sure as hell wish I could read it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Reading Project: The Smart Girl's Guide to Space Jam

The Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project is my way of sharing the misery that is reading The Smart Girl's Guide to Sports, which cost $2. Let's laugh at this together.
Got to admit, I'm pretty excited that the first chapter of this regrettable read is about basketball - a sport that I both enjoy greatly and want to learn more about. This chapter will either help me know a little more about the NBA or make me never want to watch it again. Let's dive right in, shall we?

I could've skipped the beginning of this chapter, because a lot of it is so incredibly obvious that anyone who's seen basketball in any form (like, even a scene in a movie where people are playing basketball.) Also, the worst thing in the whole chapter happens pretty early on: the author tries to wax poetic about the sport but just ends up sounding... not blatantly racist? I mean, she doesn't ever say anything outright, but she does admire basketball's hip-hop style, its urban attitude, and its jazzy rhythm. As if we don't know what she was implying.

The Fictional Suburban Mom's Guide To Sports
But then she goes on to explain actual sports things. Like the many different shots. (Luckily, we're spared from a simplistic definition like "a shot is how the ball goes from being in the player's hand to not being in the player's hand anymore, on purpose.") Anyway, the author compared shots in basketball to black pants. (I don't think she meant that in a racist way. I mean, the basketball season starts after Labor Day, so no one can really wear white pants then anyway, right? LOL jokes about clothes are so funny when you're a girl.) Why does she compare shots to pants? Because there are so many of them! The author then goes on to list all of the types of black pants a girl should own, like Monica Geller categorizing her towels. Among these categories are "uptown chic," because your black pants belong in a Billy Joel song, and "downtown funky." Let me repeat that. "Downtown funky." I have no idea who this book was written for, because I know plenty of women, and none of them have ever described a piece of their clothing as "downtown funky." If anyone ever has, it was probably Prince. And I'm like 90% sure that Prince isn't a woman.

One of the shots, as you may know, is called a "slam dunk." Maybe you've heard of it. If you haven't then please let this book teach you that it is similar to dunking a cookie in a glass of milk, but it's done with more pizzazz! You know, just like how Prince is similar to a regular human, but with more pizzazz. Raise your hand if you've ever done this to an Oreo:

Me either. I am not an All-Star.

Throughout the chapter, the author reminds readers that Michael Jordan was the greatest of all time and such, but she doesn't even mention Space Jam. Now, if you want to learn about basketball but don't already know that Michael Jordan was very good at it, you might want to rethink the whole "Smart Girl" thing. Like, you have to at least have heard of Space Jam. I know the book doesn't mention it, but if you haven't heard of Michael Jordan or Bugs Bunny, there is something very, very wrong.
I don't even remember this movie that well, so, please clear my schedule for tomorrow evening.
Anyway, when the time came for me to read Michael Jordan's profile in the Legends section, I was blown away. It actually made this book worth reading. Not only were there a few things about his life story that I didn't know, but the author presents them in a really fascinating way. These profiles are the best part of the book so far - and yes, that is a compliment. They make up for the questionable quality of just about everything else because they get right down to what being a sports fan is all about - being a part of history, and watching some incredibly talented athletes get to do what they do best. She makes readers want to know more about these players, to scour YouTube for highlights of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dr. J. 

Now if only she had nicer things to say about Kobe. The edition of the book I have was written in 2004 or 2005, right in the wake of Kobe Bryant's sex scandal. Now, I do not blame her at all for deciding not to put Kobe Bryant on a pedestal. No one was at that time. It's just weird that the strong, feminist Smart Girl in her awoke at exactly that moment but remained dormant for everything else I've read so far. "Whoopee - he's only an adulterer, not a rapist." Her anger is justifiable, it just seems out of place. The author doesn't mention any other incidents where pro athletes did unsavory or illegal things. Tons of athletes cheated on their wives before 2004, and tons have done it since. Wouldn't they be worth talking about, too? I guess we'll see how she treats bad or illegal behaviour going forward. It just feels awkward that she singles out one athlete, rather than the entire culture of professional sports.

The chapter ends with a glossary, which contains 2 unfunny sex jokes, 1 unnecessary story about the author, 1 "women be shoppin'" joke, 1 reference to players as "hotties" and surprisingly, minimal racism!

If this book was written in 2014: It would probably be ripe with reminders that Kim Kardashian was married to a basketball player for 72 days. And LeBron James' writeup would be more than speculative. He betrayed an entire fanbase and ended up winning two rings because of it. And ladies love rings!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams

I know that to some people, it seems ridiculous to mourn a famous person that you knew only from their work onscreen, that you never met in person. I've never felt this way. I think it's okay to feel attached to someone you know and love just because of movies, television, sports, anything. Judging by what I've seen online in the last day or so, a lot of people agree with me. Every death is a tragedy, and it seems surreal to lose someone you thought you would always be able to see on your TV screen, someone who is alive every time you hit the "play" button.

Robin Williams wasn't just a celebrity. He was even just alive onscreen - he was larger than life. He was beloved by audiences, by his contemporaries, and by anyone who saw him and was inspired to pursue whatever it is that they're best at. You've seen it in your news feeds and on the faces of your friends when they find out he passed away. My father was saddened when he heard the news - his English isn't that good, but he watched Mrs. Doubtfire with us when we were growing up and loved it as much as we did. Williams had an incredible impact on so many of us - the generation that grew up watching him wasn't the only one who loved him.

I'm part of that generation, but now that I'm growing up and learning more about comedy, his death is affecting me even more than I thought it would. I've been trying to learn what makes a comedian great. Sometimes it's clear that comedy is hard work - so many people that are incredibly funny spend inordinate amounts of time practicing, rewriting, and performing in order to improve, and they never stop improving. They just keep working. Hard work and tenacity are what can make a good comic into a great comic, and a regular laugh into the kind of laughter that makes your face hurt, that makes you forget you even had anything else on your mind before the joke started. Others are just born great. Robin Williams was born great. I know he spent a lot of time observing, learning, thinking of ways he could be better, but it seems pretty obvious to anyone who's seen him that that's not the whole story. He was born with incredible talent. He was special. He had a gift, and we all were fortunate enough to see him use that gift and turn into something brilliant and unique.

There will never be another comedian or performer quite like him, but there are legions of people who'll never forget him. He will be missed.

Friday, August 8, 2014

It's About Time

USA Today broke a story today about a new show set to premiere on CBS Sports. It's being sold as a "sports talk show" hosted, produced, and directed by women.

This is huge. And it's about damn time.

I may not know the title, who is hosting it, or when exactly it's slated to premiere, but I definitely plan on watching it. I don't even know if I can get CBS Sports in Canada, but I'll try. I'll plan a road trip across the border to watch the premiere if I have to. It's going to be an important moment for a lot of sports fans, and I want to be there when it happens.

Even the most seasoned female sports reporters don't always get the recognition they deserve. I'm very proud of TSN for hiring so many female anchors, but even that is proof that women have to work incredibly hard to be taken seriously. It's time that women got a big stage, one that doesn't have a glass-top desk. It's time that they're given a chance to truly shine, or to yell, or to fuck up, because male analysts get to do that all the time. I'm not saying that all male sports anchors or analysts are bad at what they do, but the culture of sports broadcasting is a certain way. It's a boys' club, and women have made great strides to change that, but there are still better opportunities for meatheaded former players, or guys who like to talk really loud, than there are for a lot of women regardless of their work ethic and their level of intelligence.

It's time that women are given these major roles - we've seen such great work from a lot of female sportscasters, and they deserve to get their due.

When the show premieres, I'm hoping to see lots of in-depth discussions, segments I can learn from, and a few good laughs. But, to be honest, I'll settle for seeing myself a little bit better-represented on television. I know that there's a chance that the show might disappoint me - television is just like that sometimes. And that's okay, because we've seen that happen before, and in some cases, we see it happen regularly. (ahem, Coach's Corner) But no matter what, it'll be nice knowing that there's something different out there, and that women will be working hard to produce it. It'll be nice to see a new perspective on the sports world. And it will most definitely be nice knowing that the show was produced in an environment that might be a little bit more welcoming than some other media outlets out there.

And if they want to hire me as an intern or a proofreader, that would be nice, too.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer Reading Project: The Smart Girl's Guide to Introductions

The Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project is my way of sharing the misery that is reading The Smart Girl's Guide to Sports, which cost $2. Let's laugh at this together.

My introduction to the Summer Reading Project didn't include a summary of the book's introduction, because, well, I could probably write a series of posts on the introduction alone. The author has the best of intentions, but then again, so do grandmothers when they try to set you up with the nice young man who works at the grocery store. Or at the bank. Or at the pharmacy. Or... well, luckily those are the only places my grandmother goes.

The introduction starts with a story, wherein the author talks about how saying a random sentence about last night's football game immediately won over one of her male co-workers and suddenly they became the best of friends! You see, before she had mustered up the courage to say something about how good Jerry Rice was at sports tasks, he thought she was just another dame coming into his workplace and interrupting his scotch-drinking. But she's cooler than all those other women who didn't say a sentence about sports that day!

Now, I have a similar story, wherein someone from my office didn't like me very much when I started working with her - I was new and still learning the ropes, and this girl is insanely good at what she does, so she had no time for me to make beginners' mistakes. I thought she hated me. A few months later, our office had a karaoke night. I sang a Destiny's Child song and suddenly she was on my side! We've been getting along very well ever since. Maybe I should write a book called The Smart Person's Guide to Beyoncé.
If you liked it then you should've put a championship ring on it
Basically, the author implies that the only way to combat sexism, whether in the workplace or elsewhere, is to buy into it. You'll "instantly win respect" by knowing one thing about whatever sport the men are talking about, and then you can "drift out of conversation and go back to thinking about what you're going to wear tomorrow." Knowing about sports will make you better than other women and help you knock the ball out of the park and straight through the glass ceiling, apparently!

No, thanks. I choose my outfits in the morning, anyway.  Now, I'm no scientist (because that's another thing that's for boys, right?), but apparently you "don't need scientific evidence to know that men have a sports gene." I think what I love most about this book so far is that it was written by a woman, but it rarely sounds like it. I didn't know that mansplaining could also be done by women! What a great accomplishment for us all. Who run the world? Girls! (But only the ones who are smart enough to talk to men about sports and then write a book about it.)

She ends her intro with some "Hip Tips To Enjoy Sports!" Her first piece of advice? Find a player who you find attractive. Because being a smart girl is nothing if not giving in to the biggest cliché that female sports fans find themselves fighting every day.

So, let's get ready to read the rest, and release the sports goddess within us!

(That's an actual thing she says in the intro, so something tells me this woman owns hardcover copies of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy because they're super well-written and romantic.)

Every time I finish a chapter, I'll summarize it and tell you about the legitimate advice, spelling mistakes, gender-based stereotypes, and everything else that a smart girl would need to know about sports.